March 31, 2009

To Rabbit or Not to Rabbit, that is the...3 Questions with John Jeter

The discussion went like this:

Me: Can I have a rabbit?
Him: Yes. For about fifteen minutes. Then the cats will kill it.
Me: Do you REALLY think the cats would kill a rabbit?
Him: Absolutely.
Me: But that New York rabbit was a BIG rabbit. Bigger than Boggart and very STRONG in the feet. Our rabbit could defend himself.
Him: The cats would kill him.
Me: Maybe HE would kill the cats.
Scott: Maybe. Like if they choked on him while swallowing his inside parts.

HEY! Remember the FAQ I was building via blog posts? ME NEITHER!
Remember when I used to do THREE QUESTIONS with other novelists? ME. FREAKIN’. NEITHER. But I am going to do both again. I will start today, with an interview with John Jeter.

He and I have the SAME initials, which means I will use first names since otherwise the interview would read like..
JJ: HI!
JJ: Hi back!
JJ: Which JJ are you?
JJ: Who can tell? Just go with it.

A little about John’s book…


"The Plunder Room's characters are vivid and believable, while the sense of setting and place are beautifully rendered and true to the modern-day South. Any Deep South venue is refreshing, particularly when tour-guided by an author with John Jeter's skills. But it is the author's sardonic wit, expressed through Randol's conversations, that sparks and livens the book into a good read."--San Antonio Express-News


Joss: Do you think of yourself as a Southern writer, and what does that MEAN to you?

John: To me, the South is and always has been fertile soil, not just for writers and creativity. To mix metaphors up real good, the South’s also a deep well for artists to draw on, especially artists in search of allegories for the national zeitgeist. After all, what better place than the region still haunted by the humiliation of the War of Northern Aggression -- ring in the shopworn Faulkner quote here -- to reflect on Going Home Again, especially with our tail between our legs, to face … whatever needs facing?

It delights me no end to have been born, by the grace of God, in Georgia, while Dad was stationed in Fort Benning, only to move around the country (and Europe) while he served for 28 years in the military. And then I wound up back in South Carolina, where I could plunder my family’s roots, 350 years’ deep in the Piedmont’s red-clay soil. So, yes, I do consider myself a Southern writer, not only because I live here and my family’s cemetery and chapel are here, but because I love it here and treasure the South for the creative richness it has to offer the rest of the planet.

Joss: I know you are an an "organic writer," (someone who writes their way into a book instead of working from an outline) Can you talk a little bit about your process and what you thought the book would be versus what it became?

John: My name is John. And I . . . am . . . a Recovering . . . Journalist. I spent 10 years addicted to Adrenaline, namely the high-octane Deadline Adrenaline brand. After breaking free of that Addiction, which took another 10 or so years, I must let my right brain take over. Which means God does most of the work. I tell people that I simply do the typing. A friend calls the process moodling. I moodle primarily in the shower and on the way to sleep.

THE PLUNDER ROOM was written almost exclusively away from the laptop, with explosive epiphanies during periods when I was wet, naked or horizontal. The words were actually typed later, over three months. After the protagonist’s name is determined and begins to take form and shape and voice, so follows the plot. The protagonist and I begin to have lengthy discussions. The protagonist usually gives the most powerful direction about which way the story goes. About two-thirds of the way through, usually four-fifths of the way, just before reaching the climax, where trouble’s going to get serious, there’s an explosive breakthrough - and the twist-at-the-end comes in a flash. After all, I am related by marriage to O. Henry and I own William Sydney Porter’s silverware, so I suppose there’s some flatware osmosis. The book usually gets served up to me the way it wants to, not necessarily the way I think it’s supposed to.

Joss: Tell us where, internally, you think THE PLUNDER ROOM came from?

John: In his brief, dense and brilliant treatise, “Indirections, for those who want to write,” Sidney Cox says you write because you’re upset about something - and that you should have fun. He says a lot of other things, too, but those two points are crucial. A few years ago, my father gave me a box that contained reams of mementoes my grandfather had saved. I loosely based the war hero in THE PLUNDER ROOM on my war-hero grandfather, the greatest man I’ve ever known. I got to thinking about Grandfather’s virtues, as an officer, a true, valiant, chivalrous Southern gentleman.

And about his Greatest Generation. And about the pierced Goth kids and Britney Spears wannabes who patronize our rock club, The Handlebar. And I got to thinking about Grandfather fighting the Battle of the Bulge in his “noble” war. And about my father’s two tours as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam. And about Iraq. And George Bush. I didn’t get “upset,” as Sidney Cox wrote, I got pissed off. So I wrote THE PLUNDER ROOM, using the South as an ideal location and quirky Southern characters for an allegory about the nation’s slow slide, the corrosion of our core virtues over the last several decades. Per Sidney, I also had a lot of fun.

THANKS JOHN, for reminding me to have fun as I stutter and rumble into a first chapter again. Meanwhile, in LAPINE NEWS Gilbert (owner of the NYC RABBIT) sent this video response to Scott’s argument:


Posted by joshilyn at 11:57 AM | Comments (14)

March 30, 2009

Potty-Mouth Crustaceans

Prefacing disclaimer: The following is a DIRECT warning for those rebels who refuse to heed the implied warning in the title, placed here lest they rush on headlong forward, all pell mell and willy to the nilly, and bang their heads hard into an unexpected profanity:

This blog entry contains A Very Bad Word Indeed.

My office is a square room, painted a pale and lovely green called Crocodile Tears. Against the back wall is my pretty cherry desk, which I got on DISCONTINUED SALE FOR ALMOST NOTHING at Pier One. The desk’s placement puts my back SQUARELY to the windows, facing me away from the light, almost as if I were a pallid, mushroom-colored, blinky-eyed novelist instead of a wildly sexy international assassin, as you have always supposed.

And indeed, that desk IS where I used to write novels. Now I use it to answer emails and noodle around Facebook complaining about the STUPID new interface which is STUPID and play Pathwords and World of Warcraft.

I write novels on this laptop (and in spite of my WHINING over at Sothern Writers blog, I AM actually writing one. YAY! Well, not today. But over the weekend I OFFICIALLY began.) The laptop is much better for novel-writing because it will not RUN Pathwords. And I can take it to remote locations, like this Starbucks, where I am currently ensconced NOT writing a novel even though there I left my key logger at home and can’t get INTO World of Warcraft from here. *sigh*

Anyway, Thursday night, I was sitting at my desk, facing the wall. Catty corner to me, facing his own wall, sat Scott, also playing World of Warcraft. In the empty corner between our two desks, our 12 year old son sat in an old comfy office chair watching us murder orcs with our monster plus plus swords of double dorkitude in Loerderon. FOR THE HORDE!

Sam would have dearly loved to join us and make it Dork-Trifecta, but alas, it was Thursday and he is not allowed to play videogames during the week. He likes to watch US do it after Maisy goes to bed, living virtually vicariously, until such time as weekday play does not cause him to plummet off the honor roll at the speed of sound. (I think that will be about the same day that Flappy the Pig straps on skates and flies down to hell to do a couples only whirl around the ice pond with a foxy demon.)

At any rate, Scott's little animated fella attacked JUST about as many fel orcs as he could chew. Sam was watching intently, very very involved in the fight, and all at once a whole ANOTHER squad of fel orcs spawned right on top of Scott, putting him instantly into Deep. Hot. Cheese. When Scott’s toon bit the dirt, my son’s mouth opened, and two words popped out into the air, whole and completely distinct. The first word was a perfectly innocuous “Oh.” The second word, oh my best beloveds, the SECOND word, I shudder to tell you, was, “Shit.”

Immediately, my hands and my husband’s hands dropped from our keyboards. Our office chairs swiveled in tandem, so meticulously choreographed that if there was Olympic Synchronized Office Chair Spinning, we would have instantly qualified for the American team. We turned toward Sam with all four of our eyebrows lowering, and both mouths opening up to blast him with a barrage of NON-PROFANE WORDS asking what the HECK was he GOSH DERN FREAKING THINKING unleashing the S word into the air between the two people who best remember the long past day when his mouth was pink and perfectly round like Cupid’s Sunday best bow and all it could say was “Kitty.”

Sam’s eyes were practically bugging out of his head in horror. His shoulders came up, turtling around his ears and his neck retracted – it looked like he was trying to pull his whole head down safely into his chest cavity. Before Scott or I could even begin, Sam hollered out, with the desperation of the drowning, what has to be the WORST and STUPIDEST lie ever perpetrated by an adolescent.

“SHRIMP!” He yelled. “I meant to say, OH SHRIMP!”

There was a pregnant pause, and then Scott and I EPIC FAILED parenting and just LOST IT. I laughed until TEARS came down my cheeks. Because COME ON???? It was just so DESPERATE and SILLY. Who on earyh says OH SHRIMP! All opportunities to make it a teaching moment were utterly destroyed, but good LORD, OH SHRIMP? I died. I am STILL unable to stop chuckling every time I think about it.

We had the SPRING CHICKEN RUN this weekend, a 5K which raises money for a local shelter and food bank, and when we saw it was POURING out, Scott turned to me and said, “Oh, Shrimp.” When I dropped a FULL cup of milk, wrecking my freshly mopped floor and putting the dog into a state of lapping ecstasy, what did I say? “Oh, SHRIMP.”

It is my new Most Favorite cuss. And Sam has been allowed to live. At least until I catch him dropping the F Bomb.

Posted by joshilyn at 8:48 AM | Comments (28)

March 26, 2009

Make Clicky?

Wheee -- I have a lot of potentially deadly rivers to look up. THANKS! You guys are are the brown sugar crumbles on the oatmeal of my life.

MEANWHILE...

Today I blogged (and here we understand that blog is a verb meaning “to hatch rabid kittens”) over at Southern Authors

Posted by joshilyn at 6:36 AM | Comments (9)

March 25, 2009

Queries

Oh pish, Beloveds, you are sweet to worry, but I am not going to sit around and wait to see if I have mouth cancer by whether or not I die of it later. I will get it taken care of, for reals and pinky swears, and as quickly as Aetna will allow. But am I going back to THAT doctor? Hells to the NOS, Beloveds. Do the wave, stand back up, do the hokey pokey, turn yourself around, do the macarena and then say it with me: Hells to The NOs, Amen.

Also if it makes you feel better (and LORD KNOWS it makes ME feel better) the differential diagnosis was that is was an unspellable, benign thingy and if it is the thingy he said, then basically you don’t treat it at all and it either goes away or not as it pleases, no harm no foul either way. The thingy he thought it probably is is made of a bundle of veins all crammed up together in a wad, and it is quite harmless, except you COULD sprain your frontal lobe trying to pronounce it.

That’s not to say I am not going to get it biopsied, just in case. I AM, I AM, JEEZ, MOM. But not at a place where the doctor won’t return phone calls and the front desk chick pulls information-free and basically non-responsive answers out of her butt, looks at them, decides they are golden wisdom nuggets, and chucks ‘em at me. I feel like I can do better. OH YES I CAN.

MEANWHILE, I need some HELP! I am starting a new book---or rather I have started one, and I have the characters strong in my head yammering but PLACE is eluding me. I need a good river for drowning people in. In the south please…shocking, I know, but this book is set in the south. DON’T JUDGE ME! I just wrote one that takes place in 90% Texas and California! YAY! And it took two years and ALMOST KILLED ME. So I want to go back HOME for this one. I need a town near this murderous river…a small one, nothing remotely urban. I feel pretty strongly that they aren’t Georgia or low country people, either. Not that vibe. Nothing in either Carolina, I don’t think. I can see them more WEST AND VERY SOUTH like the bits of Louisiana or Mississippi that have a coastline. I could even go as far east as the westest southest bit of Alabama… like that.

I've been relentlessly googling RIVER DROWNINGS and it is making me depressed. I prefer all my drowning victims to be fictional. But I need to find a REAL river and town so I can go there and LOOK at it and smell it and hike around and get a feel for the VIBE of a town on a river like that

Know any potentially DEADLY rivers in LA or MS? Like big ones with sections you DEFINITELY can’t safely swim in, but that people might fish or boat down or picnic beside? I need a small town --- really quite small, on a river like that. WAY open to suggestions…

PS I may look like I am sitting here at starbucks blogging and not writing on the book and drinking way too much caffeine and goofing off reading blogs and looking at river maps and on some level it is true that I am accomplishing VERY little. But on ANOTHER level, AS I SIT HERE I AM MAKING CHICKEN VINDALOO.

Or my crock pot is. Even so, I am counting it as a credit toward earning my Multitasking Mom Merit Badge.

Posted by joshilyn at 1:01 PM | Comments (54)

March 24, 2009

Denterrors

I have come home from days of halcyon pleasure in New York to a PANTHEON of horrors. Chief among them, DENTAL TROUBLE. Or, oral surgery trouble, which, really, if you are coming at my mouth with latex gloves and sharp gleaming silvery objects, you are, in my mind, a dentist. Which is to say you are juuuust about as spooky as a clown doll with long, long, long droopy cloth fingers like spider legs and pointy teeth. The kind of clown doll who comes alive at midnight and prances in Slo-Mo toward my bed saying, “Giggles…..wants…to…plaaaaayyyyyy.”

But ANYWAY, I have this weird little swollen place on my tongue. It has been there for a bit, and my dentist wanted me to go see an oral surgeon in case it is a FATAL tongue spot (I am ABSOLUTELY positive it is, Best Beloveds.)

SO I WENT, and he put on latex gloves and came at my mouth, and AFTYER he peeled me off the ceiling, we tried again, and then he told me I need a biopsy and made me sign a sheet saying I understand that MANY terrible things can happen during a biopsy, such as brain damage and death and permanent nerve damage to the tongue. “But these things are not LIKELY,” he said. “Not at ALL.” And then he pulled out a box full of kittens and gobbled one up alive.

OKAY maybe he didn’t do that. BUT HE WAS THINKING ABOUT IT. You can always tell. I was so freaked sitting in the EVIL DENTAL STYLE CHAIR with the rubbery aftertaste of LATEX in my mouth that I could not pull myself together and ask intelligent questions.

I said something like, “BRAIN DAMAGE! CHECK! SUPER! GOTTA RUN!” and bolted out of the chair like a rabbit on amphetamines and scampered away home to jam myself under the bed and practice post-dental procedure zen breathing and meditation. (I am in a meadow…I am in a lovely meadow!)

That afternoon I realized I DID have MANY questions, and I called the doctor’s office back and explaned who I was to his assistant desk nurse/surgical assistant type object and said I DID have questions.

Her: Okay. What are they?
Me: You mean, I should ask you?
Her: Yes.
Me: Not the doctor?
Her: I can answer most questions.
Me: Okay! Part of my job is public speaking and reading aloud --- is it possible this procedure could cause my speech to be impaired?
Her: Yes. That is certainly possible. But not likely.
Me: But it is possible?
Her: Yes. It is possible.
Me: How possible.
Her: Possible, but not likely.
Me: SO…what’s my worst case scenario if I elect NOT to have the procedure?
Her: *as if she is talking to someone very stupid* Then you won’t know what that bump is in your mouth.

THANKS!
I think I can live with that.

Posted by joshilyn at 7:04 AM | Comments (20)

March 20, 2009

In Passing

New York is, as always, super great and fun.
Even more so, now that it has a RABBIT.

The Lapine Menace (as we call him) is out of his hutch to enjoy some morning bounce time, and has dragged a hapless book off the windowsill. They are currently under the bed where the book is being cannibalized or ravished or both, judging by the sounds. It is a very naughty rabbit. It is also very SOFT and comes and sits by me and nibbles my sock and poops out round, inoffensive poops like pebbles and flattens down to a relaxed and happy pancake when petted.

luvrabbitses

I want one.

My niece is CRASHED still – we were out late seeing South Pacific. It was old school Broadway done right. Were enchanted. Earlier in the day, we went to MoMA to be puzzled by Pollack, amused by Duchamp, engaged by Matisse, and slightly creeped out by Klee. MoMA rocks. Then my editor showed Erin around the pub house and took us to lunch---it was very VERY cool of her and Erin was really interested in the whole thing. They have promised to save her an internship.

I don’t know what we are doing today – completely free until theatre time. We did culture yeaterday, what with all the fine art and the publishing stuffs – perhaps today we will explore NYC’s cheesier side. Also I want Erin to taste REAL NYC greasy flat orange=sauced street pizza. Also falafel.

AH WAIT! The bedroom has gone suspiciously silent. A peek under the bed reveals the hapless book is dead and abandoned. Somewhere a naughty rabbit is perpetrating more naughtiness. I have to go track him down.


Posted by joshilyn at 8:49 AM | Comments (16)

March 18, 2009

Test Driving

In October of Last year, I sent a letter to my very favorite niece (She is also my ONLY niece, but if I had 100, she would still be my favorite. Secretly.)

Dear Erin Virginia,

Joyful felicitations on reaching your fifteenth year! Scott and I are proud of you and your accomplishments, both artistic and athletic. Sam and Maisy Jane think you hung the moon. You are an awesome human being.

When your brother turned fifteen, we gave your parents our old Honda, so that he could get practice with his own car on his learner’s permit. Alas, we have no spares cars lying about at this time, but we did something special for Daniel’s fifteenth, and therefore I did not think throwing a 20 dollar bill in a card would be fair to you. So, for your fifteenth birthday, I asked BJ what she thought you might like.

I was going to get you a pony, but she assured me that what you REALLY wanted was a book about human Psychology. So here you are! I got it at the used books store, as these are hard economic times, and it only cost a dollar. The knowledge inside is, I am sure, priceless, especially for a budding writer.

Still, it’s not a car is it? Alas. The only thing other than this book I can think that a budding writer TRULY needs is experience---a chance to the see the world. How about you and I fly up to New York together for three or four days and get you some of that? We could see a show on Broadway, maybe drop by my publishing house and let you see how the book industry runs, eat weird food, bum around Central Park, bounce through The Met, etc. NYC is about to become a snowy misery, we should go this spring. Manhattan in spring has its own heartbeat. I’ve already cleared this with your parents. Sit down with them and look at your plans for spring break or the summer as soon as school lets out, before it gets too hot. Let’s nail down dates and get planning.

We ALL Flat love you, beautiful girl. Happy birthday.

And here it is, Spring Break already! I am headed to New York for the rest of the week. I don’t know if I will have internets because I am staying at my friend Gilbert’s apartment while he is in Florida with his family, and I forgot to ask for his wireless password. OOPS!

I am going to see my editor and hit Broadway HARD and go to Central Park and MAYYYYbe go to MOMA instead of The Met (REBEL!) and teach my niece the fine art of not being murdered by taxis---- ALL that NYC stuff I love. I am VERY excited. But.

My friend Gilbert has a rabbit in his house.
I am disproportionally excited about meeting this rabbit.
Hugely. Disproportionately. Excited.
I am going ON VACATION. To NEW YORK, and what do I keep talking about?
Meeting this rabbit.

LOOK! Here is a picture Gilbert sent me of the rabbit, after I questioned him relentlessly about the animal’s habits and preferences and how I could best court the rabbit to be my friend and what treats it might like and what it does with its spare time and if it likes pina coladas and getting caught in the rain:

rabbitrabbit.jpg

I AM COMPLETELY CHARMED BY MANY THINGS ABOUT THIS RABBIT.

1) This is a rabbit who is allowed UP ON THE BED! See in the picture? That looks like SHEETS!

2) His yellow mustache has completely escaped his control and grown up over his nose and cheeks.

3) The rabbit is named Rabbit. Gilbert says we are welcome to call him by some other name, and I DID consider Ferdinand for a bit, but I love the generic goodness of a rabbit named RABBIT. It is so BASIC, and I smell SO many John Updike RABBIT RUN, RABBIT AT REST jokes on the horizon it is not even funny. NOT EVEN THE FIRST TIME. And yet I will do it anyway, relentlessly, until my niece kills me.

4) Gilbert says Rabbit is much stupider than a cat. May I say, speaking as a person who is currently experiencing life with a very clever cat (Boggart), I cannot think this is a bad thing.

5) Gilbert says Rabbit likes to be petted, but not lifted off his feet. SO! How did Rabbit GET on the bed, I wonder. Does Rabbit CLIMB? Does rabbit LEAP? Does he SNEAK up onto beds when you are not looking and no one ever knows how?

Later in the week, Karen is taking us to some sample sales around town for a little shopping, and every time I have called her to co-ordinate, I end up talking more about the RABBIT than HALF PRICE DESIGNER SHOES.

Her: Land’s End is having a sample sale, but I don’t think you like that kind of---
Me: Do you think he will LIKE ME?
Her: Who?
Me: RABBIT.
Her: I think he is a rabbit. Now, also on this week’s list of sample sales there is a---
Me: I hope he isn’t scared of me.
Her: I hope you stop talking about Rabbit.
Me: Do you think he likes people in general as OBJECTS? Or individuals? I bet as OBJECTS. Like, I bet his whole life people have ever only been nice to him, and maybe it won’t occur to him to be scared of me even though I am new.
Her: I will just email you the list of sample sales.
Me: Have you ever met Rabbit?
Her: I was going to take you to dinner for your birthday. But now I am buying you a big old box of therapy instead.
Me: THANKS! Does Therapy come in blue? I look good in BLUE. Do you think rabbits just POO in the house or do they use a litter box?

And so on.

I have talked about this rabbit in relation to the trip so much that last night Scott said, “You know, I think this trip with Erin is a great idea, and I do not begrudge you the plane ride and the theatre tickets, but you ARE aware, are you not, that you could have met a RABBIT in Georgia?”

Here’s the thing, though. Remember, how I was lobbying for a new cat that does not SUCK? Boggart is hell’s twinkie and he has DEMONS where the cream filling should go. I was pestering for a GOOD cat and then I found that GREAT deal on a Saturn Vue and I told Scott if he bought me the car I would name it The Good Cat and stop asking for any other cats at all for ten or fifteen years until Boggart mercifully dies of old age and we shook on it and he even got me a personalized license tag that says Good Cat? Remember?

Yeah. Me too. And Scott CERTAINLY remembers. But…
I never promised not to get a RABBIT.

Posted by joshilyn at 6:34 AM | Comments (36)

March 16, 2009

MIR-MEME

This is meme from MIR and let me SAY…There are some questions in life that you do not TRULY want answered. If you have kids, you can try this meme at your OWN RISK. Basically you interview your kids…about YOU. Yikes. My son is 12. My daughter is 6. Both have been raised to be hideously honest, a fault I intend to correct.

1. What does your mom always say to you?
Son: Do not butt into other people’s conversations. Say WEXCUSE ME like you were raised to HAVE A MANNER!
Daughter: Peace, Peace, be still.

(HA! Her answer is from a song – an OLD TIMEY GOSPEL SONG. It’s about Jesus calming the storm and sometimes when my children start TALKTALKTALKETTY TALKING like tiny Word-filled machine-guns, I sing the chorus really loud until I can’t hear them.

2. What makes mom happy?
Daughter: When I do what you say!
Son: The Good Cat

(The Good Cat is my orange Saturn Vue. He is called The Good Cat because he is the same color as BOGGART-Kitten, who is DEFINITELY the BAAAAAAD cat.)

3. What makes mom sad?
Son: When someone dies?
Daughter: When there are no new LOLCATS up.


4. What does your mom do that makes you laugh?
Daughter: *accusing tone* You are a tickler!
Son: You tell really good “someone walks into a bar” jokes.

(Of COURSE I do, son. I’m Irish.)

5. What was your mom like as a child?
Daughter: I bet you got your way a lot.
Son: Cheerful and happy. Not a care in the world.

6. How old is your mom?
Son: 40
Daughter: 41

(I always secretly liked him better!)

7. How tall is your mom?
Son: I’m not sure – like 5’6” (He is CLOSE – I am 5’7”)
Daughter: I don’t know. About…some inches. I think you are about the size you are when you are 41 and you are a girl.

8. What is her favorite thing to do?
Son: Write books and hang out with your family.
Daughter: Play World of Warcraft with Daddy and Watch Mystery Science Theatre 3000 with me and Sam.

(Outed as a total old school geek! ACK!)

9. What does your mom do when you're not around?
Son: Maybe work, but probably you play World of Warcraft.
Daughter: You sit and miss us.

(No, wait, I always liked HER better, I meant.)

10. If your mom becomes famous, what will it be for?
Daughter: Writing books!
Son: Being the world’s best author.


11. What is your mom really good at?
Son: Getting involved in church stuff – you love Church activities.
Daughter: You’re good at writing books, but I already said that, so I will say you are good at smiling.

12. What is your mom NOT very good at?
Son: Staying calm when high pitched beeping noises happen. You hate them! You verbally explode!
Daughter: One time you were on the phone and I hid in the dining room and you must have let out the crazies on somebody because as soon as you hung up you called Miss Karen and you said, “I shouldn’t have let out the crazies! I let the crazy out!” SO you must not be good at not doing that.

(WOW. Little pitchers. Big ears. BIG SNEAKY EAVESDROPPING EARS. Note to self: Go outside to talk on the phone when daughter is home.)

13. What does your mom do for her job?
Daughter: Writing books
Son: Write books.

14. What is your mom's favorite food?
Daughter: Broccoli
Son: Sushi

(HEE! See also: Chocolate. I think she thinks it is broccoli because I am such a VEGGIE CHEERLEADER trying to encourage her to eat a NIBBLE of a healthy substance.)

15. What makes you proud of your mom?
Son: I really admire you and look up to you because you’re a good influence and you are nice, and you’re my mom.
Daughter: She presses on to the goal to finish her book on time and she does not let her book down!

16. If your mom were a cartoon character, who would she be?
Son: Ben’s Gramma from Ben Ten – she’s smart. And she is actually quite pretty for her age. (ACK!)
Daughter: You’d be a pretty good Vicki the babysitter for looks, but you aren’t that good at torturizing. You are too nice. Maybe you could be that powerful one who makes storms!

17. What do you and your mom like to do together?
Son: Game night. Also, I will like it when like it when you take me on a trip to New York when I am 15. Right?
Daughter: We like to sing together.

18. How are you and your mom the same?
Son: I have your eyes, and we both yell a lot.
Daughter: We are both girls and I have a uterus which is where to grow a baby!

(Guess what we just recently discussed…)

19. How are you and your mom different?
Son: I’m a bad driver. Well, wait. You are a bad driver, too, but I don’t know how. So, you at least know how. *he sees my face* Wait. Maybe I should just say I have short hair and you have long hair.
Daughter: You are 41 and I am much younger.

(Now I am not sure WHICH is my favorite…maybe the dog.)

20. How do you know your mom loves you?
Son: You express it with what you say and how you treat me.
Daughter: You let me have candy. Also you let me go to do the sports and activities I want to go to. And mom? Can I have horseback riding lessons?

21. Where is your mom's favorite place to go?
Son: Church.
Daughter: Starbucks!

22). Where is your mom’s LEAST favorite place to go?
Son: On long car trips. Last time you were chanting BOREDBOREDBORED and dad said he should drug you like a pet before long car trips.

(I have more than one EAVESDROPPER, I see…)

Daughter: You do not like to go to that food place that quit making the good dumplings because now they have stupid dumplings like everyone else’s, exactly alike, when it used to be special.

(She means PF CHANGS. And she is exactly right about them ---they STOPPED making Shanghai Street Dumplings and now they have the same kind of crap dumplings you can get ANYWHERE. *sigh*

Posted by joshilyn at 6:14 PM | Comments (14)

March 15, 2009

Grumpy McGrumperson’s Guide to Good Grumping

WARNING --- I am SO grumpy. If you have nothing nice to say...come sit by me. *grin*

Alternate title: Five Things I Purely Hate.

1) Boundary testing. Beautiful Maisy who is about to be barely seven has entered a PHASE---you know the kind. The other day I told her to do some minor chore and she resisted and flopped and wailed like the Sabine women and asked WHY she had to do it, and why NOW, and WHYYYyyyyy in the particular way I wanted it done, why why why, until I finally pulled rank and intoned, “WHY? BECAUSE I AM THE BOSS OF YOU. AND I SAID. THAT IS WHY.

She rolled her little eyeballs upward, pursed her mouth into a pious wad, and said, “I have a better boss than you, Momma. My boss is The Lord God Almighty.”

Not just plain God, you understand. Not The Big Guy, or Jehovah, or The Man Upstairs. Not even I AM or Supreme Being. She unleashed the WHOLE formal title and job description on me. THE. LORD. GOD. ALL. MIGHTY. Eh-herm. I see.

I was raised ARMY, Oh my best beloveds. That dog, as we say in Georgia, will not hunt. I took her gently by the ear in a Spock-hold and sat her down and explained CHAIN OF COMMAND, where God is God of all, but he is MY direct supervisor, and that almost seven years ago He placed her via her birth DIRECTLY under my command, and now she had ten seconds to get her patootie upstairs and begin the chore or I would declare a Righteous Parental Patootie Open Season and begin laying about with the spanks.

The chore itself took less time than the discipline…

2) The new Facebook homepage layout. BEFORE it had little FORM that began with your name and IS (Joshilyn is…) and you could fill it in with whatever you WERE. You could fill in with an emotional state. Joshilyn is...grumpy, for example, or you could get detailed and say things like Joshilyn is ...ready to trade in long-term investment PARENTING for a more IMMEDIATELY rewarding career, like Circus Clown who Follows the Elephants with a Giant Pooper Scooper.)

NOW it says “What’s on your mind?” And then it has the space where you type. When you FINISH typing, it seems to expect you to press a button labeled SHARE. Um, I will share my cookies. I will share space to sit on the bench. I will chant the word SHARE at my squabbling children in the backseat as we drive the 3 hours home from Unicoi State Park today, O YES I WILL, I will chant the word SHARE as if it is a MANTRA.

But …I am not going to SHARE my feelings. I refuse to self actualize my personhood on FREAKIN’ Facebook, and when did Facebook go all LIFE ON MARS and wake up in the 70’s. Dearest Facebook, love you, love yours aps, but FACE it, I’m Okay, You’re…Not.

3) AH! A TWO FER!

A) I hate being called Josh. Hates it, preshus. The H in my name is silent, and the short version is Joss or Jos.

B) EVEN MORE THAN THAT, I hate that I have never YET found a way to correct people who begin calling me Josh without mortally insulting them. I don’t mean to mortally insult them, I just don’t like being called a boy’s name. If your name was JULIE ANNE and I kept calling you JULIAN, and if it bugged you, then I would WANT you tell me, and I wouldn’t think you hated me if you told me how to pronounce your name.

4) AMAZON is eating reviews. I was blog-bouncing and read about this guy who had his book reviews eaten, so I googled, and found even more writers who had lost reviews, so I went and checked my own books. HMF!

gods in Alabama used to have around 130 reviews, and a ranking of 4.5 stars. NOW alla sudden, it has 102 reviews….and a rank of 4 stars. OKAY. I get that sometimes computers glitch and things get eaten, BUT REALLY AMAZON???? Did you have to munch exclusively on FIVE POINT REVIEWS? I would not have begrudged you a EVEN few of the really nice fours...if only you could have also chocked down a couple of the less, er, glowing ones and left the delightful 4.5 AVERAGE intact? I know 2 star reviews taste like CRAP (believe me!) but perhaps they are good for you, like beets or shots of B-12 administered directly to the buttock. WHY eat the ones by folks who REALLY liked the book and lower poor gods's overall rating? WHY? WHY?

(and now I sound like Maisy! I have whine-regressed to NOT EVEN SEVEN!)


5) Waiting to hear what my editor and agent think of the new book.

OH WAIT! I think I am about to have a flash of 70’s style actualization insight!!!

DO you think MAYYYYBE number 5 has something to do with why numbers 1 – 4 are GETTING TO ME and making me so gruuuuuuuumpy?

Heh. Please remit chocolate.

Posted by joshilyn at 8:34 AM | Comments (22)

March 12, 2009

Suh-Suh-Suh-Somethin’ from the Comments

Remember The Show with Ze Frank? (It’s ABSILUTELY and ONLY for grown-ups. But not, like MATURE grown-ups who mind pooping jokes and naughty language. It’s for the OTHER kind.) If you DO remember, then the title is a reference! Or an homage, possibly. If you do not, then… I made that clever blog title up. >.>

BOOK TITLE: I said that since this is a companion book that grew out of GODS IN ALABAMA, a good title might mimic the structure of that title, but using the word SAINTs instead of the words gods.…Saints in….SOMETHING. While I think you people are hilarious, and I DOUBLE HEARTED suggestions like Marla’s “Saints in Somnia” (Rimshot!) and Marty’s “Saint Booties Bar and Grille” (I would totally eat there) and Laume's “Saints in Schrodinger's Box” (or ARE they?????) we never QUITE got it, did we?

BUT THEN! Superman’s mommy suggested “Saints in the Backseat.” That’s really good. The word backseat has the right kind of dirtyness to it and it has the word I requested and the right structure...

But I am not crazy about the cadence. I don’t like the article THE in there. But Saints in Backseats doesn’t work---too plural and diffused and the sheer VOLUME of the S sounds makes me want to hit myself in the face with a stapler. You get more than two s sounds gathered together, and it starts to sound like a bunch of snakes making out. NO ONE WANTS TO SEE THAT. I mean, how many times have you found yourself hollering,. HEY! SNAKES! GET A ROOM? Right? Me too.

Then I thought, what if I give up the idea of making it have the same structure as the other title and just use the words I like.

BACKSEAT SAINTS.

Short.
Ratta-tatty.
Only two S sounds.
Thematically appropriate.
I dig it.

I put it on the MS and e-mailed it off to my editor and agent today. We’ll see how it flies, eh?

APPROPOS OF NOTHING: In the last month, I have spent almost 300 dollars in co-pays for doctor visits, and a further 100 dollars on prescription medication, for a total of $400.

I THOUGHT TAMMY asked me to set my next book “north of the Mason Dixon line and/or west of the Mississippi?” I thought to myself, SMUGLY, Well! Backseats Saints is set MOSTLY in Amarillo, Texas and Berkeley, California. SO! DONE ALREADY! I psychic-ly live to pre-serve!


APPROPOS OF NOTHING:
Two Broadway Show tickets (really good seats) can easily run 400 bucks.
A middle aged but decently producing Jersey Milk Cow can go for 400 at auction.
Giving 400 dollars to the Red Cross costs EXACTLY 400 dollars
A family Weekend getaway to a State Park costs about…400 dollars.

I realized she meant the book TOUR, not the setting. I need to LRN 2 REEEED, as the young kids say on the interwebs. I already do psychic-ly live to pre-serve though, still. For the girl who stopped swimming I went to New York, Illionois, Califoria, Oregon, and Washington and some other of those square states in the middle that do not have the word Dakota in them. I forget because of nine pounds of the mucus currently strangling my brain.

APPROPOS OF OTHER THINGS PREVIOUSLY APPROPO’D: Did I meantion Maisy missed school today?
Still sick.
Did I mention I went back to see my vet today?
You know why. BECAUSE I AM STILL SICK.
400 cannot, it appears, buy “stop coughing.”

Posted by joshilyn at 5:44 PM | Comments (17)

March 10, 2009

In Which I am Potentially Justified

SO remember how I have now been sick for MORE than a month and I can’t kick it, no matter what, and Maisy is having the same problem and we have BOTH been to the people vet multiple times and medicine either does NOTHING or causes life threatening extreme allergic reactions and I finally just stopped mentioning it because of my amazing nobility and fortitude? Me and my amazing nobility and fortitude have chugged along, politely asking Death to wait on the porch while I finish the novel, not whining…

And here we understand, Best Beloveds, that when I say I “stopped mentioning it” I mean I stopped mentioning it HERE ON THE BLOG. Scott, were he under oath, and if there were not laws preventing husbands from having to take the stand against their wives, could testify that my nobility and fortitude may have reached dizzying heights here, TEXTUALLY speaking, but when it comes to “words I say with my mouth,” I MAY have mentioned my ongoing illness a few ----*cough* thousand *cough* ---- times.

A day. *cough*

Come to think of it, I may be misappropriating some nobility and fortitude. It is SCOTT after all, who has had to listen to my ENDLESS string of self diagnoses, several of which have been fictional, many of which have been antiquated and unlikely, and all of which have been potentially fatal, and he has EVER EVEN ONCE smothered me with a pillow.

I have run theories past him all day long for 34 days now, ranging from,
“I must have a brain cloud. I am DYING OF A BRAIN CLOUD IN MY CHEST!” to
“Can you get lower respiratory leprosy?” to
“I truly believe I have contracted a galloping case of black lung.”

He has responded by saying calm, wry, good humored things like,
“Do you need Meg Ryan to throw you into a volcano?” and
“No. You cannot get lower respiratory leprosy. Because there is NO SUCH THING,” and
“Absolutely. This is black lung. If only you hadn’t been born a West Virginia Coal Miner….oh. Wait...”

But I HAVE stopped whinging here on the blog. Mostly because WHAT IS THERE TO BLOG ABOUT beyond, “Hi! Still sick! Maisy is still sick, too! Phlegm sucks! Not being able to work out sucks, and in the spirit of OVERSHARING, would you like to know that if I exercise and get my heart rate up over 110 I get excessively short of breath and dizzy and cough until I vomit? IT IS SO SUPER!”

It starts to sound fictional, you know? Like I should either just be diagnosed with the Percolating Lupus and DIE already or stop whining about what is essentially a long, debilitating, boring cold.

WELL – This weekend, Maisy got worse. Again. That’s how the lung leprosy works. You get a little better, but never ALL THE WAY better, and then you get worse again. Over the weekend, Maisy’s cough worsened to the point that no one in the house was getting any sleep, and the poor roo had had huge pink PANDA BEAR eye circles.

I said to Scott, “I am taking that child BACK TO THE VET on Monday, and PS, I think this is because I smoked all those years, and some deadly ninja form of stealth emphazima has HIDDEN down in the bottom of my lungs plotting to kill me and it GOT OUT AND ATTACKED MY CHILD.”

Sunday night, my friend Julie called. Her son, who has been fighting this same endless “cold” for about the same amount of time, was in the emergency room. With the FRICKEN WHOOPING COUGH. Yes! Yes! Pertussis! An ANTIQUATED yet SERIOUS illness---- just the sort of thing I might have self diagnosed if it had a more romantical and fatal sounding name. I mean, whooping cough, for the love of Peter Rabbit, just sounds silly.

Turns out a strain of it here in Georgia has grown itself into some new mighty and sideways shape that can get PAST the vaccinations and sicken you ANYWAY. I took Maisy to the vet yesterday. WHOOPING FRICKEN COUGH! The vet had just gotten a CDC alert about this... SO. Maisy got the proper meds and MERCIFULLY SLEPT and woke up this morning, after just one day of them, with her pink eye circles reduced by 60%. PS: The vet says we are no longer contagious as we’ve now had it more than three weeks….

I made a vet appointment for myself, and so hopefully by the weekend I will be on the road back from The Brink of Death, 1895 style.
Is it TERRIBLE of me to be so HAPPY that I prolly have pertussis?
It makes all the whining feel (somewhat) justified.

Posted by joshilyn at 7:31 AM | Comments (31)

March 6, 2009

The Care and Feeding of Novelists

SO you are considering adopting a stray novelist! Well! Novelists are challenging creatures, but if you take the time to learn a little about them, they CAN make satisfying companion animals.

Your novelist is a solitary creature, and thrives best when it has its own tank aquarium with a T1 internet connection and many, many filled bookshelves. It DOES like to be taken on walks, however, to meet other novelists for frolicksome gambols, generally in venues where alcoholic beverages are served.

The novelist CAN be somewhat sexually indiscriminate, especially if young or hugely successful: Consider having yours fixed before it goes and makes MORE novelists. It helps make them tractable, and as we all know, the unhappy novelist is a biter.

All novelists are attracted to shiny objects, like agents and royalty checks, and will scamper away toward these things if let off the leash in the wrong environment, such as New York City.

You can feed your novelists safely after midnight---in fact, most novelists are nocturnal and would prefer a midnight meal to a nutritive breakfast. Almost all of ‘em like chicken wings, except the vegetarian ones, and those can safely be fed on soy-licious chickenesque wing-shaped objects.

When involved deeply in a book---or approaching deadline---your novelist may forget to do some of the things you are generally used to seeing them doing. For example, bathing. Don’t be too intimidated to get a scrubby and a bucket of sudsy water and do the job yourself---a single overripe novelist can stink up an entire house.

With only exception, you should never ask your novelist this question:
HAVE YOU FINSIHED THE BOOK YET.
The exception, is of course, is if you know beforehand and for a fact that your novelist HAS finished the book. Asking prematurely can result in a blood bath and your novelist may be have to be put down.

But when that long awaited and glorious day comes----as it has for ME, Oh my Best Beloveds---the day when your novelist types the scintillating words THE END at the foot of a completed work--- then, then, then, oh MAGNIFICENT THEN is when you may---no SHOULD! ask that question, over and over, to give your novelist every possible chance to mine the rich pleasures of leaping about the yard at two in the afternoon, still encased in its food crusted pajamas, its limp and greasy hair flapping behind it , its mushroom-pallid skin going into shock from the unaccustomed exposure to the sunlight, as it screams

YES VIRGINIA, I HAVE FINISHED THE BOOK!

Posted by joshilyn at 12:11 PM | Comments (52)

March 4, 2009

Are We There Yet

Talking over a scene in the book with Scott, the topic of babies and their first words came up. Scott was driving, and the back seat was full of children.

Maisy, the wretched little eavesdropper, piped up and said, “What was MY first word?”
I said, “Dada.”
Her eyes got round and she said, “Not…Mama?”
I said, “No it was Dada.”
And she said, “Well! THAT’S certainly awkward.”

I am raising yet another gradeschooler who talks like a forty year old accountant.

Sam piped up with all the wisdom of twelve and said, “Not really, Maisy. You want to know MY first word? It was ‘kitty.’ Now THAT’S awkward.

Speaking of the book, I have to turn it in nine days.
Speaking of the book, I am VERY tired of the question, “Is it done yet?”
Speaking of the book, I STILL have no title that pleases me, although considering its companion book status, I am thinking that if I could MIMIC the structure of the gods in Alabama title, that would be cool. But not use a state name.

SAINTS are very important so I was thinking of something like “Saints in_____” where _____ is NOT a literal place, and also sounds slightly NAUGHTY and incongruous, like a non literal place where saints defnately are NOT.
Saints in …Furry Handcuffs?
Like that. Only, maybe not THAT naughty. And also it would be good if the thing that is emphatically not FURRY HANDCUFFS were in some way, you know...Relevant to the book.

Speaking of the book, did I MENTION that I am VERY tired of the question, “Is it done yet?”

It ALMOST is. Almost. I will be sure to tell you the second it happens, but in the mean time, I am begging you, beloveds, for your own protection and the sake of your structural integrity, don’t ask.

My favorite barrista at Starbuck’s asked me three days ago and in response he got a wild eyed glare and I snarled, “NO AND STOP ASKING IT THAT WAY YOU SOUND SO ACCUSING WHY ARE YOU LOOKING AT ME WITH THOSE ACCUSING EYES I WILL FINISH IT I WILL I WILL I WILL GET AWAY FROM ME!” And then I foamed at the mouth so much I turned my latte to a cappuccino.

Alas, he did not learn.
He asked again today.
I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chi-YAN-ti.

Posted by joshilyn at 5:14 PM | Comments (47)

March 2, 2009

The Best TV for Not Sleeping

Warning: WHIIIIIIiiiiiiine incoming.

I REALLY need to be sleeping. I have a busy day tomorrow, and I am still sick, of course, though that is hardly worth saying. At this point, more than a MONTH after my stupid ZINC first failed me and I got that pesky cold, staying I am still sick is like mentioning that I still have blue-green eyes, that I am still female, or that I am still an inhabitant of planet earth. It’s such an essential truth that I am BFF with mucus, why bring it up?

(That was probably rhetorical, but the answer is, BECAUSE I AM WHIIIIIIiiiining.)

Sunday night at 1 am there is a HORRIBLE DEARTH of watchable television. Almost everything on has David Hasselhoff in it, or is the second half of a movie no one liked the first time, and WHO IS UP, I ask you, at 1 am on school night who wants to watch the Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl? NO ONE, I hope, but there it is, taking up space on a perfectly good cable channel that COULD be showing RERUNS of NCIS and PS why did no one ever tell me what a great show that is?

It seemed highly unlikely it would be a good show because

1) It’s a spin off

2) OF JAG (which GRANTED I have never sat through more than 45 seconds of JAG at a stretch but it always kinda struck me as a TV show for gently medicated Catholic grammas who like men with UNBELIEVABLY HIGH levels of sex-drive-free nobility and heads shaped like cereal boxes, but HEY, I was SO wrong about NCIS maybe I am wrong about JAG, too? Say it ain't SO!)

3) that features a six foot tall twenty year old supermodel-slash-forensic scientist with Betty Page bangs and scraggled pigtails. But I accidentally watched five minutes of it one time, and realized that Michael Weatherly was on it (I like that guy), so then I went and watched a whole episode on PURPOSE, and I Netflixed SEASON ONE, DISC ONE and started watching the WHOLE show in order. I am most of the way through season four and I love everything about it. Love the writing, the chemistry, the ensemble cast feel, and I love the Betty Page Supermodel-slash-forensic scientist SO much that I have suspended disbelief WAY OUT over a pit of vipers and disbelief is welcome to die there.

It is such a good show that SCOTT will actually watch it with me, and he hates all television that doesn’t feature wise men in birth control glasses explaining quarks or sharks or Mayan history. We call it “Watching a GIBBS.” A Gibbs can mean an episode, as in, “I'm going to go watch a Gibbs, want to come with?” or a whole disc of episodes, as in “Netflix sent a new Gibbs today, want to watch one?”

I like it SO much that I am, in fact, trying to teach my children to say, “ON YOUR SIX, BOSS” When I say, “WITH ME, CHILDREN.”

It is not taking.

I also am really digging DOLLHOUSE. Joss Whedon is a long range planner who thinks in terms of YEARS LONG story arcs, and I love the set up and the cast and all the things that have so far defied my expectations, and I hope more people will stop having LIVES on Friday night and sit home and watch it.

My favorite show on TV right now is LIFE. Period.

I also quite enjoy THE CLOSER and on the lighter side, as far as shows with a low body count, I dig 30 Rock and The Office.

You know what ALL these shows have in common?

They are not on right now.

Posted by joshilyn at 2:00 AM | Comments (34)