April 29, 2009

Potty Talk (or, Three Coversations about Toilets)


Toilet Man: Well, the problem here is you have old, bad toilets. You need all new ones. That will fix a lot of the issues you are having right there.

Me: We have to put the low-flows in, huh?

Toilet Man: Yes. A house this old, you have the big old 3.5 gallon flushers. But it isn’t like these big flushers are doing you much good.

Me: Not much good at all. But I hate low flow toilets. I like an AMOCO toilet, you know, the kind of toilet you used to find at gas stations. You could seriously flush a dead possum down an Amoco toilet from 1987.

Toilet Man: Why would you want to…flush…a…

Me: It doesn’t HAVE to be a possum. You could flush any old dead body. Even a person. Well. If they were in six pieces.

Toilet Man: ….

Me; Anyway, I’m just saying I don’t really care for low flow toilets.

Toilet Man: Get the American Standard ones. You can get a 50 buck rebate per toilet on them now from county because if the drought. And they are great toilets….you can flush a bucket full of golfballs down them.

Me: Flush a bucket full of…? Um. Okay. Why is that less weird than flushing a dead possum? I mean, the GOLF BALLS are USEFUL. My husband would KEEP a bucket of golfballs. NO ONE wants to keep a dead possum. If they could flush it away, they WOULD.*

Toilet Man: Um. OKAY! So, anyway, The low flows will do much better than these you have, and lower your water bill, and in this drought, it’s a good thing to do. Also, you know they aren’t like the old kind that you had to flush five times, these ones have a new system of *insert REALLY A LOT OF toilet jargon about joists and gravels and S tubes and gizzards and other toilet pieces I know nothing about. I tune most of this out because I do not understand it.*

Me: SO what you are saying is, the American Standard toilet is kinda like a PORTHOLE? And when it FLUSHES it’s like when Sigourney Weaver opened that hatch and blew the alien out into space?

Toilet Man: Yes! Yes! Just. Like. That.

Me: Sold.**

*Toilet man is correct and I am clearly in the wrong here. Apparently people DO want to flush golf balls. Go to YOU TUBE and type in “Toilet flushing golf balls,” and you will get a metric…toilet load of videos.
Topical results for “toilet flushing dead possum”?


Me: When does Toilet Man come?

Scott: You mean the plumber?

Me: Yes. When is Toilet Man coming to put in the new toilets?

Scott: He has a name you know. It is Kevin.

Me: Po-tay-to, Po-tah-to.

Scott; *in a resigned voice* Toilet Man comes Monday.


*Maisy crawls into my bed to cuddle this morning. Scott brings coffee. Because he is a saint.*

Me: So, Maisy Jane, how do you like the new toilets.

Maisy: They are SUPER!

Me: *darkly to Scott* Not twelve hundred dollars super. *louder* They ARE pretty cool Maisy. Did you know they are from SPACE?

Maisy: Mom. They are not. They are from MEXICO.

Me: Mexico?

Maisy: Mexico.

Me: Our AMERICAN Standard toilets were made in Mexico?

Maisy: It says so, Mom right on the toilet.

Me: AMERICAN Standard. Made in Mexico. Not Space.

Scott: Space, Mexico. To-may-to, To-MAH-to.

** THIS IS THE KIND WE GOT. The miso disturbs my wah more than the golf balls.

Posted by joshilyn at 10:52 AM | Comments (25)

April 27, 2009


I am in Dallas, currently wearing a VERY fancy cocktail dress and the glossiest lipstick ever invented. MYSTERIOUS DOINGS…but Mr. Husband sent me a picture I thought you might like of our five newest family members.

I like to have little kitchen pets. They are my AUXILARY animals. Many of the kitchen pets come with short life spans, so they are not major commitments that I get all VESTED in for a couple of decades. These are little friendly friends who are not complex enough to go all out on the unconditional love like my dog, or even go HALF out on the highly conditional and emotionally pointy love of my dreadful cats.

But the kitchen pets are never-the-less charming in their own way: they do not rack up vet bills, eat my shoes, and they excrete vile wastes ONLY in the glass box they live in. They tend to like us because we never chase or snatch at them and when we coax them to us with treats they find gentle hands, and we like them right back. They are also useful in forming hypotheses for science projects. Nothing CRUEL! I mean, we aren’t injecting them with ebola over here. Our experiments are more like, “DO GERBLS FIND THEIR WAY THROUGH A MAZE FASTER IF THERE IS A TREAT AT THE END” (Hypothetical answer: Yes. Real answer: Not if they are as fat and spoiled as our gerbils, no.)

Some people have this crazy idea that maybe you shouldn’t have reptiles and rodents bouncing around in the same area where you cook your food, but me, I say, “It probably promotes a healthy immune system via methodology that does not bear close scrutiny.”

We had the NEWT LARVAE on the breakfast bar, remember? And then after the newt larvae (who were cute and transparent and pulsing and who zoomed around the water and popped across the surface like brine shrimp to snatch food pellets) turned into fully grown newts (who basically found a rock and SAT under it, unmoving and impassive as zen masters modeling the sound of one hand clapping) we put them back out in the creek in the backyard from whence they came.

Then we went to PET SMART and got a pair of BROTHER GERBILS. One of whom secretly had a uterus. Heh. Together these brother gerbils turned my kitchen into Philadelphia. Not only did my kitchen have to contend with pets, it also was forced to experience and house the miracle of birth. Eighteen times.

I may have a certain amount of sangfroid when it comes to sharing my kitchen with little animals, but even I am too fastidious to be truly happy about the miracle of life happening where we eat. I mean, I like the miracle of life and all, but you have to admit it is somewhat gooey and fraught with placentas. No one wants to sit down to a savory meal in the presence of placentas. No one.

Anyway, after the newts, we had the gerbils, and now that the last pair of our dear old mice ladies has moved on to a better place, I am going one step down the evolutionary scale – and one step down the ICK factor scale too. My kitchen aquarium is fulla bugs:

You can BUY butterfly habitats and be mailed caterpillars for 30 bucks, but these fellas came off my friend Julie’s strawberry and mint plants and our big tree. They are eating leaves from the tree where we found the first one and pooping and growing. We’ve had them 5 days now, so I think the food we chose is working.


They are called Squirmy (the biggest), Whit (the pale furred one) Hookah and Mookah (Pictured above --the mythology is that they are twins and certainly no one knows which is which. I am charmed by the innocence of Maisy Jane, who has NO IDEA she has named one of her wormies after a type of BONG. In fact, so innocent is she that she would probably think Bong was a good pet name.) and Speedy. (The littlest).

We have NO IDEA what will emerge after they cocoon or chrysalis up. Maisy is hoping for monarchs. I am expecting those irksome little white moths who eat my sweaters. Is the glass half full, or half empty? And when the thing in the glass is BUGS, who is the optimist?

Posted by joshilyn at 4:06 PM | Comments (17)

April 26, 2009

Millionth Verse Same As The Other Verses (and all verses apparently come with butter)

Tomorrow I am going to Dallas to do SECRET THINGS (!!!) but I will tell you as soon as ever I am allowed to tell. I plan to tell you ENDLESSLY, in fact, and to be rabidly obsessed, and I hope that some of you will get all rabidly obsessed with me and do the secret things too. It is part of my ongoing and eternal plan to become a better person.

The plan is like an onion. Or a parfait. Or an OGRE. That is to say, it has LAYERS. I want to be better spiritually and mentally and physically. I do. I am trying VERY VERY HARD to make sure “be a better person” is not merely MENTALLY ILL CODE for "being thinner,” but, you know, some days, it is. Part of my plan to be better mentally and spiritually is to lessen those days and have more days wehn BEING KINDER or BEING HEALTHIER or BEING MORE WELL READ or BEING MORE FORGIVING AND LESS OF A BUTTHEAD is the most important part. I will need shoring up and co-better-personizers to whine with and who will remind me there are more important things-reasons-motivations for change than smallening one’s jean size, things like, oh world peace and not dying of a heart attack before one gets to meet one’s grandchildren.

I would be MORE excited, if only they were not going to weigh me in Dallas. ON A SCALE. Horrors. I do not even let my DOCTOR weigh me…I go in and tell the nurse what the One True Scale told me in lieu of getting on his scale. His scale is a known liar and felon and probably likes to sex up beetles. Yes. It is a beetle pervert, and I won’t deign to put my feet on it.

In general, I prefer to stand only on The One True Scale. The One True Scale lives in my bathroom and was quite costly and fancy and all the paperwork SWEARS it is blindingly, heartrendingly accurate and I stand on it every morning first thing, naked, and it says the One True Number. NOW in order to be a better person,. I am going to have to fly to Dallas (and everyone knows flying makes you retain water, beloveds!) and then stand FULLY CLOTHED and AFTER A LUNCHEON on a HERETIC scale who is probably just as profligate and deviant as the one at my Doctor’s office.

This is VERY wrong. But I am going to do it, because, between you and me, oh Best Beloveds, I have been EPIC FAILING at taking off the ten pounds I gained on book tour, and um, hello, THAT TOUR WAS WELL OVER A YEAR AGO. *gulp* Worse news, recently the numbers One True Scale have been edging upwards, WRONGFULLY, in spite of my fanatical exercise schedule. I blame the Peeps Cake, and I had a very serious talk with the rest of the peeps cake, and put some of it down my children and some of it down the trash, BUT EVEN SO, The numbers have, in fact, been high enough to have me considering liposuction.

I think I should have the liposuction on my BRAIN. The human brain weighs three pounds, so THAT;s a week and a half worth of dieting right THERE, AND with my pesky THINKING PARTS gone, I can continue to eat bacon and not NOTICE that my ‘fat jeans’ have become my REAL ACTUAL JEANS. Yes. My EMERGENCY FAT JEANS have retained emergency fat jeans job title and salary, even though they have CLEARLY been doing the job of my main real actual jeans for more than a year. I can tell because they are WEARING OUT. Worse news – they are beginning to feel juuuuuust a little tight…

SO, I am PLEASED about the secret doings in Dallas, except my flight leaves at 6 am. TO say I am not a morning person is…deadly accurate. VERY deadly and very very accurate. Getting up at 3 AM to head the the airport makes me want to perpetrate cannibalism. I wonder if people can be counted as a lean protein? Perhaps I should only eat marathon runners…

Posted by joshilyn at 3:42 PM | Comments (14)

April 23, 2009

Some Cheerful Pictures (to distract the despairing)



Yes. That would be me.

funny pictures of cats with captions
see More Lolcats

Apparently what is wrong with our plumbing has to do with our toilets being old and tired of their jobs. I am sure burn-out and loss of flushing-enthusiasm is a common thing in the booming “being a toilet” industry. It does not seem like a pleasant job. They want to RETIRE, these toilets, and go down to Florida and golf while wearing black dress socks with plaid shorts. Perhaps there will be bingo, and maybe seafood buffet night. Perhaps there will be fruity drinks served in hollow pineapples. Oh! Toilets! Take me with you!

I think this is karma. This is the wheel of fate. YEARS ago, when we were little more than teenagers, Scott and I were driving around and around in aimless circles after watching the dollar movie at Cinema Tavern. We passed a house with a loose toilet hanging out in the yard, and I got a wild hair and hollered for him to stop, and we flat out stole that toilet. Spirited it away in the dead of night to be our very own.

For the record? In spite of the NAME Cinema TAVERN, we had consumed nothing more intoxicating than full sugar cokes and stale nachos with radioactive cheez-related orange sauce-like jelly. That’s right – we were completely SOBER. So the burgling of the toilet cannot be fathomed or explicked.

(SPELL CHECK is telling me that EXPLICKED is not a word.
I am telling Spell check to suck it.
I LIKE Explicked, and I find that Explicated is cumbersome. It SHOULD be a word. If something is INEXPLICABLE then it stands to reason that that something cannot be….yes. Explicked.

Dear Spell Check,
We shall hear no more from you on the subject. Thank you for playing.

ANYWAY, the toilet went to live in a fenced off corner of the yard behind my parent’s house where they kept the garbage cans. Eventually I used it as a safe house to shelter a cat-wounded crow named Mr. Crow. He was in the yard unable to fly and assailed by yellow tom named Butterball. I chased Butterball away, herded Mr. Crow into the fenced triangle at the back of the yard. There he lived for several weeks, and I fed him on corn and he hid in the toilet when more cats came. So.

As a balm to my bleak horror at the way things continue to break and crumble all around me, I offer you some cute pictures look at. First, the SUNFLOWER CAKE! I made it for the going away party for my pastor who left, and apparently took my working-toilet-karma with him in a baggie:


You have to ignore the fact that PETALS HAVE EYES. If you concentrate on the EYES you stop seeing a sunflower and instead see a “Peeps who belong to a cult that worships Ghirardelli dark chips” cake. Which is fine, too, I think. Either way, it was delicious, because under the icing is a rich yellow cake made almost entirely of butter.

Also, I found this sleeping bag to be cheerful, but that is probably because I am mentally ill. *nodnodnod* Remember in Star Wars 5 when Han and Luke were stuck on the frozen planet of HOTH and Luke had to slit the belly of his Tauntaun riding beast and sleep inside the warm carcass to survive the night?

NO? REALLY? Oh surely you must! Or were you very busy and having a life? Well, not me. I spent Junior Prom in a basement rolling 20 sided dice to see if my vorpal blade would get the monster plus plus bonus as I attacked a lich lord in the stinking sewers beneath the Golden City of Arzhekargath, and I REMEMBER.

Anyway, some insane person has made a TAUNTAUN Sleeping Bag:


Now your kid (or even you! Hey, I’m not judging!) can pretend to be Luke and sleep cozy inside a simulated riding beast carcass. Please note that the INSIDE lining is INTESTINES. People are amazing, aren’t they? WHO THINKS OF THIS? I love people.

I hate toilets.

Posted by joshilyn at 8:36 AM | Comments (34)

April 21, 2009

I am Sad

If I were a book of the Bible, I would be Lamentations.

If I were a movie, I’d be Terms of Endearment.

If I were a flower, I would be a sun-blistered Daisy, pre-picked and pre-wilted.

This morning, I came down and plopped into my office chair and ground around trying to get comfy and write this, and I began to feel dampish and oddly SLITHE-y, and I looked down and saw the chair had been just CHOCK FULL of cat puke to begin with, and I was pretty much LOLLING and rolling about, festooning myself with it. It is an indicator of how my life is going in general to tell you that I didn’t even get UPSET. I just gagged and looked plaintively at Scott and said. “I am sitting in puke. This is not a metaphor.”

If I were your breakfast I’d be the kind of shredded wheat with no icing, and you’d be out of milk.

If I were a color I would be that grey-sludge-green that you see in the foam that collects around the edges of creeks near chemical dumps.

If I were a fictional character, I would be Eyeore.

My pastor’s last day was Sunday, and while the pastor is NOT the church, and I dearly LOVE my church and I have not lost my church…I miss him. We are relatively new to this church, but it has quickly become the center of our day to day lives, and I HATE change, and this pastor had a clear and beautiful vision, an articulate and inspiring way of expressing it, and an enormous heart. He was also slowly becoming my friend, and I don’t MAKE friends easily.

If I were a tree, I might not be a WEEPING Willow, but I’d at least be a sniffling one.

If I were a book, I’d be by Nicholas Sparks

If I were a dessert, I’d be the kind of Tapioca Pudding cup that doesn’t need to be refrigerated and whose three main ingredients are petroleum by-products, troll snot, and lumps.

In the last five months, here is a partial list of things that died:

Scott’s computer.

My van.

Scott’s SUV.

MY computer (this very weekend, the hard drive melted into slag)

That Cross Dressing Poet Tennyson, the second to last of my dear little old mice ladies.

Alice, the very last of the mice ladies.

I always budget plan for one major disastrous appliance/household fixture melt down per year. So we had no worries replacing Scott’s computer. Then, we’d planned to replace the van next year ANYWAY, and we got a good deal, so it was a little early and made things a little tight, but nt stressful. But after that, the only things from that list we could easily afford to replace would be Tennyson and Alice. Tennyson is irreplaceable and Alice was a BITER. So.

Still ---we have to have computers as we both work about half the time from home, and we have to have to be able to leave our HOUSE to work the other half of the time and get the kids to school, so Scott I have redone our budget extensively to make room for this SLEW of necessary purchases. Like most of America, we had ALREADY scaled back on, gee, everything, so now we are re-scaling some MORE back. In other words, we have made slightly optimistic plans to go out to eat again in February of 2012, but as of this morning, something seems to be VERY VERY wrong with our plumbing, so that highly anticipated restaurant meal may have to rescheduled.

This is good news for the country, however, because what with the cars and the comps and the possible PIPES now, I am stimulating the LIVING HAIRY HELL out of the economy. In fact, if I was an illegal substance, I would be cocaine, and the economy would be snorting me. HECK, if my plumbing is half as borked as it seems, the recession could well be over by this afternoon.

Dear America,

You are welcome.



If I were art, I’d be one of those impossibly big eyed kittens with a tear on its cheek that people painted relentlessly onto black velvet in the 70’s.

If I were a note, I’d B flat.

Please. Remit. Candy.

Posted by joshilyn at 8:26 AM | Comments (42)

April 19, 2009

A Winner is You

First off – we have a winner. Congrats to SANDI from comment #40, the Sandi who blogs over at Piecemeal Quilts. She won the roll. Sandi, email me your snail-mailing address please and I will forward it to David Cristofano and he will send you EITHER a signed copy of THE GIRL SHE USED TO BE or a dead fish wrapped in a newspaper. If it is the LATTER, I suggest you phone WITSEC immediately and go live in a small Midwestern town where you will work quietly as a librarian and try not to call attention to yourself.

I can tell from the comments that some of you guys think I sneak about all crafty-like and PICK a winner based on whichever of you seems to be the prettiest or maybe the one with the best shoes or whoever does NOT have naturally curly hair. (Because if you are so blessed as to have naturally curly hair, I don’t want you to win because I am insanely jealous. I always wanted naturally curly hair. *lovelorn sigh*) but it truly is random. I could not pick among you unrandomly, because I like you all best. *blink* Yes? Yes.

You are my very favorite.

Back when we here at Kudzu were very young and new, these contests had 25 or 30 entries, and I would write out names/handles/nommy-de-plumies and put the little slips in an actual hat and have one of my non-partisan children pull out one and that was the winner. But now, with 150+ entries as the norm, that’s too cumbersome, so I do a virtual dice roll. You can’t get more random than that.

I have access to a virtual dice roll program because I SECRETLY play a MMORPG called World of Warcraft…This time I had my Death Knight do the rolling honors. Her name is Pennydredful, which I think is RAWTHER clever, considering my profession. Here she is now, rolling a magical dice (die?) that has 173 sides. She is just like Vanna White, if Vanna White was undead, habitually carried an ENORMOUS axe, and had a gooey looking flesh eating zombie for a pet in lieu of one of those little dogs that fits in a handbag. Which, you know, may all be true.


I say I play WoW “secretly” not because it is an ACTUAL secret. I just mean I don’t bounce around in a “HORDE: IT’S HOW I ROLL” T shirt. Non-gamers seem to think me playing WoW is weird ---except YOU of course, oh my Best Beloveds---because I am not, last time I checked, a fourteen year old boy. They EXPECT me to be a fourteen year old boy, even though the vast majority of the peeps I play with are grown-ups.

ALSO, in an almost immediate aside, I will tell you that my nephew, who is a high school senior and KNOWS these things, assured me that COOL fourteen year old boys play HALO, thanks, and I even if I WAS a fourteen year old boy, I would probably want to keep my WoWing on the down low.

I will also RE-digress and tell you that the last time I was in Starbucks, *cough* working on my novel *cough* I may have ACCIENTALLY closed Ms Word and logged onto WoW (just for a SECOND---mostly because my laptop can’t handle the graphics. Er. No. I mean, of course, mostly because I was VIRTUOUSLY WORKING VERY HARD AS I ALWAYS DO EVERY SECOND.)

An ACTUAL fourteen year old boy was walking past and he saw my screen and double taked (Or Double Took? Tooked? Double TOOKENED? No clue.) so hard his head popped off and rolled away under the Tazo tea display, eyes agoggle, mouth agape, and his disembodied head hollered, “YOU play World of Warcraft???” (Note to my nephew: He did not look like a geek. He looked like A Very Nice Young Man. Even headless.)

I will double re-digress and tell you that OZZY OZBORNE also plays WoW. And he is older than me. I think. Either he is older than me or he is made ENTIRELY OF PLEATHER.

In BETTER news for those of you who are not Sandi from comment #40, I have several more 3Q interviews lined up with signed book prizes, REALLY AWESOME BOOKS TOO, books I ADORED, and when THE GIRL WHO STOPPED SWIMMING launches at the end of May I am going to have a cool give-away thing going every Monday all through June. SO! Fear not. More chances at free cool signed reads coming.

Posted by joshilyn at 7:39 AM | Comments (19)

April 15, 2009

3Q with David Cristofano (and a Contest)

When I was up in NYC with my niece, showing her my publishing house, someone handed me a copy of THE GIRL SHE USED TO BE for the plane ride back, saying, “I think you will really like this.”


Understatement. I loved it. In fact, I have to go back and read the book again. I think I missed stuff, because I read it at such a breathless pace. I HAD to know what happened next, and it was never what I thought would happen. I wish I had a book club, so I could make them read it, because I would dearly love to talk about this book with someone, especially the end...

I contacted David Cristofano, told him I was his new big goobery fan, and asked him to sit in a 3Q. He graciously agreed, AND he is going to donate a signed first edition. You enter simply by leaving a comment before Friday at midnight EST, and I will do a blind drawing for the winner.

BOOKLIST REVIEW: After 20 years in the Federal Witness Protection Program (WITSEC) and eight aliases, Melody Grace McCartney hardly knows who she is. On the run since she and her parents stumbled on a gruesome murder by mobster Tony Bovaro when she was six years old, Grace saw WITSEC’s promised protection fail her mother and father... But before her new case officer can move her from suburban Maryland to rural Wisconsin, Tony’s son, Jonathan, tracks her down to present an alternative: protection from his family and a life of more safety and freedom than she has ever known. While federal officials pressure her to stay in WITSEC and show her Jonathan’s violent side, her attraction to him grows, and she must decide a course for the rest of her life. This is a compulsively readable, skillfully constructed first novel with well-drawn characters and a plot that twists and turns to what seems the best possible conclusion, marking Cristofano as a writer to watch.

--Publishers Weekly, in a starred review calls it an "Intense, romantic debut...Cristofano's mad love scenario sizzles like garlic in hot olive oil."

JJ: Can you talk a little about the significance of your title and how you came up with it?JJ:

DC: I am one of these writers who always liked to invent the title of a book with nothing more than a concept of the story, before even a single word was written. It always seemed like a fun thing to do (like imagining who would play the characters of your story on screen). The original title of my novel was NOWHERE MAN, because at the time it was told from a man’s point of view. Later, after it became apparent the story must be told by a woman, I temporarily changed the title to NOWHERE GIRL, and it just sort of stuck, and was even acquired with that title.

But during the editing phase, the publisher decided NOWHERE GIRL might mistakenly send the message that the book was a YA title. Not to mention the similarity to GOSSIP GIRL, among others. So I was asked to come up with a list of new potential titles. You would think with all the practice I had in the discipline of title invention that I might have come up with a viable replacement, but the best I could do—after weeks of banging it around—was a list of abysmal, flat-lined possibilities that I ultimately submitted with great hesitation. In the end, it was the publisher herself, Jamie Raab, who penned the winner.

And for what it’s worth, I can’t imagine who would play the parts of the characters on screen either. Go figure.

JJ: 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?
DC: Writing this novel was completely organic. I decided against outlining the story from the start because I was afraid it wouldn’t allow me to throw in the unexpected twists and changes—which is standard fare for life on the run. Living in the Witness Protection Program is anything but predictable and stable, and I needed to try to write the story to reflect that uncertainty and the related anxiety. The direction of the story surfaced all on its own and actually helped me to understand the players better. I’d like to say I was in complete command of the characters, but to some degree they ran the show.
The downside, of course, is that it took me longer to complete the project. For me, writing organically means I go through phases where entire pages or chapters get removed, especially in those places where I really did give the characters too much license.

JJ: What's the best STUPID LITTLE perk about having your book published? You must here confess what RIDICULOUS dorky thing has pleased you WELL beyond the scope of it…

DC: Before my book was published, there was a list of things that I thought would be wonderful benefits, but by the time I’d reached those respective points in the journey, I’d either forgotten all about them or they’d become incredibly insignificant. I, like most writers, envisioned the excitement of holding the finished copy in my hands for the first time, or having the story connect with a seasoned reader, and so forth.

But the perk that caught me off guard—and the one that has really stuck with me—was this: My son and daughter, seven and five, are both avid readers, so being in a book store is not an unusual thing for them. But when we all went to our local book store and my son stopped and saw THE GIRL SHE USED TO BE sitting out, he said, “Hey! That’s daddy’s book!” and rushed to pick up a copy. That was the best perk for me. And likely always will be.

Thanks David!

Remember, If you want to enter to win a copy of THE GIRL SHE USED TO BE (and you do) just leave a comment before midnight EST Friday.

Posted by joshilyn at 8:40 AM | Comments (176)

April 13, 2009

The Monster(s) in the Closet

Yesterday, I took the day off to celebrate Easter by an AWESOME and rousing celebratory church service, followed by a slightly less joyful attempt to deep fry a pack of blue rabbit marshmallow Peeps.

It did not go well. Fried Peeps, if you must know, taste like warm, oversweetened phlegm coated in burned sugars. YOU ARE WELCOME! Maybe if the Peeps had been traditional chicks? In yellow instead of blue? But we used the chicks for epic Peep-on-Peep toothpick-sword battles in the microwave. We also tried another Peep-based culinary enterprise that was a MAJOR hit with the 12 and under set (and even Scott) ---peanut butter and Peep sandwiches. On whole grain bread. Because I am all about the nutrition.


TODAY I went back to spring cleaning --- While my child-laborers were gone, I abandoned it entirely to work on the book. But NOW…If you look under my bed, the carpet glows up, virtuous and unmolested by the presence of flotsam, and even jetsam is nobbut a memory. As the great clean continues, let my under-bed stand as a testament to my industry and ruthlessness.

The closet, however…. My closet is a an unbreachable horror.

Demons have infested it. DEMONS, I tell you! Tireless, priapic, writhing REPRODUCTIVE ORGY demons. Since pigs were PROBABLY not available in my closet (although I make no promises – a couple hundred pigs could well be back buried in there SOMEWHERE) the demons chose to hurl themselves into my herd of shoes. They were wildly indiscriminate in their pairings and matings.

They have caused the shoes to combine and reproduce in haphazard and prolific ways. There is not another explanation I will accept for the rampant proliferation of high heeled black sling backs, some with toes peeped, some with toes pointy, that have manifested in the general chaos. A MILLIPEDE going to a wedding would not need this many black sling back heels.

I fled the closet with the bulk of its horrid corners unexplored this morning and am currently ensconced virtuously doing more edits in Starbucks. I am MOST of the way through with edits and may well STAY here in Starbucks until I am ready to turn Backseat Saints in. A good four days, I would say. I don’t think the barristas will mind as long as I keep buying lattes and perfect oatmeals, do you?

JUST PLEASE don’t make go back home and face the SHOES.

How did I end up with umpty thousand pairs? Why are so MANY of them so UGLY? DO I SERIOUSLY still have DYED ELECTRIC BLUE SIZE 7 ½ BRIDESMAID SHOES in there, even though the equally hideous electric blue bow-on-the-tush dress they were dyed to match was dropped off at the Goodwill a decade ago, where it no doubt STILL is hanging, waiting for someone colorblind, tasteless, and on a two dollar budget to pick it out for a Prom? Or perhaps someone’s mother will buy it for them, believing, and rightly so, that the dress is hideous enough to serve as birth control---a butt-bowed bulwark against sin, promoting chastity by removing all chance of male attraction?

And by the way – what irony to inflict something so heinous on a place called GOODwill, as if there was actual kindness behind me dumping it there, instead of a self-preserveatory desperation to poke from my brain (with a lobotomy needle if necessary) the butt-clenchingly SHAMEFUL memories of bouncing rhythmlessly with a groomsman around a parquet dance floor at some reception hall, squidgy on champagne, while a cover band murdered the mortal remains of Wooly Bully.

I have seen at least ONE of those shoes, so there is one left at a minimum. It was peering out at me from beneath a chest of HIDEOUS crew neck pastel cable knit sweaters circa 1992 which also seem to have been demonically multiplying.

The good part: I found another MAISY written bestseller on the floor. It is AWESOME. The child is brilliant. The book is called, “MOMMY DO YOU LOVE ME WRIITEN BY MAISY ILLUSTRATED BY MAISY.”

On the first page is a picture of a little girl who would be pretty if she wasn’t handicapped by the weight of eyelashes as long and thick and heavy as lengths of garden hose. This must be the titular Anna. She is blinking up at her equally long-eyelashed but sadly armless mother.

The text reads:

“Mommy, do you love me?” said Anna.
“Oh Anna! Of course I do!” said Mommy.

The next page, Anna sits with a stick figure daddy, and it reads:

“Daddy, do you love me?” said Anna.
“Oh Anna! Of course I do!” said Daddy.

On the last page, a pious Anna kneels beneath the rolling clouds of heaven, her hands folded in prayer. Her disfiguring lashes have dragged her lids closed.

“God, do you love me?” said Anna.
“Oh Anna! Of course I do!” said God. “More than I love the rest!!!!!!”

God says that last bit in HUGE letters with a lot of exclamation points.
My children (like my closet) may have their little flaws, but never let it be said that they lack self esteem.

Posted by joshilyn at 11:08 AM | Comments (19)

April 10, 2009

The First Rule of Staying Clean

The house is MERELY half-clean---but all the areas that we cleaned have remained perfectly organized. This is because I have no CHILDREN here, which seems to be KEY to running an orderly home.

After only a coupla days of overhauling, my mother called and said to me in accusing tones, “IT IS SPRING BREAK?!??! WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME? I WANT MY GRANDCHILDREN!” She felt I was breaking the child labor laws and offered to whisk my children away for several days and cater slavishly to their whims.

I have my edit letter or BACKSEAT SAINTS and was eager to get to work, so I banished my children to her house with good cheer until Easter. Actually banished is not a fair word. I asked them if they wanted to A) stay here and continue the spring cleaning, or if B) they would rather go to their grandparents house to be fed purely on homemade waffles and buttered popcorn and allowed to play videogames until their very retinas jet blood and then be taken to play golf-putt.

It was a unanimous B vote, and I am already halfway through the first run at the first round of editing. I called to check on them and Maisy says the best part of this little trip is all the NOT CLEANING they have been doing. She was tired of getting “Dust Sneezles” up her nose.

She talks as if sneezes were alive things, little hidden beasts that are roused by the swiffer and who load themselves into one’s nose like bullets and then launch themselves out again. Preferably---in my dream universe---the Dust Sneezles would be launched into a Kleenex where they could recline in the soft crumple like Romans a a feast. I bet to a Dust Sneezle, a Kleenex in the trashcan is very like Florida+ a great place to retire.

Alas Maisy has nto mastered the art of containing a sudden Sneezle onslaught. Her Sneezles tend to land wherever the child’s face happens to be pointing and coating the just cleaned furniture and the dog and the face of her own mother in a fine sneeze-mist.

DO YOU KNOW Craigslist and free cycle are full of FREE RABBITS and FREE cages for rabbits and FREEEEEEE rabbit waterbottles? I am just saying.

But then I say if we got the CAGE free we could afford to purchase a truly EXCELLENT rabbit.

My friend Lydia has a rabbit and she says the secret to good rabbitry is buying a baby one and letting it be raised soley by a two year old human child. This was Lyd’s method, and she says she has a DREAM rabbit who never bites and who is patient kind loyal slow-witted long-suffering and true.

Me: Can people pick your rabbit up?
Her: Yes. By any leg.

OH stop dialling PETA. I am sure she was just being wry.

Posted by joshilyn at 5:08 PM | Comments (12)

April 8, 2009

The Great Clean

Some people hear the words, SPRING BREAK and they think family vacation, national park, camping! Or maybe they just think of school free days of sleeping in. Me too, usually. But THIS spring break, some wild and woolly and here-to-fore unseen-at-my-house form of mental illness came creeping out from under the sofa and said THERE ARE DEAD BODIES BACK HERE! CLEAN YOUR FREAKING HOUSE! And then the Mental Illness sneezed from all the DUST that the bodies had collected.

I marshalled my unwilling, foot-draggy, and whiny little work force. These children are the shining sunlamps of my heart! The dulcet spawns of my loins! But LORD can they WHINE when you wake them up at seven and shove buckets at them and tell them to drop to their knees and begin hand scrubbing the linoleum like orphans in the 1930’s.

Since calls to virtue were failing, I decided to try old fashioned BRIBERY. I promised untold afternoon delights to those who helped me clean out closets and muck out under furnitures in the morning. They have done fine work, and in response have been taken to Monsters v/s Aliens in TRU 3d, to have mid-week sleepovers with their best friends, and to see some other movie about alien teenagers, I forget the exact title, but it is something like Dwayne Johnson Looks Good in Tight T-Shirts. Or no, that’s not it. I think it was called, OOOOH YUM! THE ROCK!

SO far we have done both kids rooms, both upstairs bathrooms, the guest room, and the hideous pit of a play-room/media center in the basement, digging through every closet and storage space and throwing things out with mad abandon, and then CLEANING the rest of the things, and THEN – most shocking of all --- putting them back in an organized fashion that means we might ACTUALLY know we have these things and USE them.

I wasn’t sure what all I would find… Spanish doubloons? A portal to Narnia? Amelia Earhart? But no, nothing that exciting. I DID discover a fossilizing thrown-up hairball about the size of a chinchilla that had CLEARLY been under the art supplies desk since Christmas. I KNOW it was a Christmas hairball because it was so gaily festooned with reams of chewed gold and green and scarlet curling ribbon.

I also have saved our family about thousand dollars over the next ten years, because we will never, in that time span run out of pencils, pony-tail holders, or bars of soap. The soap is especially odd. I found SCADS and SCORES of Ivory soap bar packages all OVER the house, behind towels, clotting up the bed linens, under the galoshes in the coat closet, beneath the kitchen sink, under beds, behind sofas…I can only presume that the build up of odd dusts and pollens have caused the Ivory Soaps in my house to become sentient, and they have been BREEDING more soaps and exploring their universe, setting up brave new soap colonies on the frontiers.

ALSO! All those SOCKS you are missing? They have been at MY house. Perhaps my newly sentient soap girls are easy? And dig socks? Because I have found about 500 SINGLE socks that have migrated from YOUR house to mine. I know they are YOURS, because none of ‘em match the drawerfuls of SINGLE SOCKS we have waiting for the return of their one true loves in every dresser in the house. It is a mystery, wrapped in an enigma, and covered in a fine patina of foul allergens. BUT NOT FOR LONG.

With a lifted mop and a battle cry that proclaims the death of filthiness, I go now to breach the untold horrors of the master bedroom closet. There may be yeti. If I’m not back in three hours, send a rescue party in. Preferably bearing chocolate.

Posted by joshilyn at 8:06 AM | Comments (26)

April 5, 2009

The Eyes to Butt Pleasure Ratio

The title of this did not sound at ALL dirty in my head. But then I see it out there on the blog in black and yellow – yeah---it looks filthy, actually, But the entry I assure you is not foul. Unless you consider “Exercise” to be a four letter word.

Endorphins are my drug of choice. I genuinely LIKE to get my heart rate up and hold it for extended periods. If genetics had been kinder (or if I had a modicum of self control when it came to potatoes) I would have a killer figure. As it stands, however, beneath my delicate coating of red-wine-and chocolate induced lady-padding, you can USUALLY find a fearsome amount of cardio fitness.

I hike, I go to boot camp classes, and I paddle-paddle-paddle my elliptical 5 – 7 times a week. Usually I put SONGS on when I paddle. I do not particularly LIKE songs*, but if I get on the dance channel the fast beat sets my rhythm and clears my head and short cuts me down into the world of my book. The songs fades to a useful background noise that controls the speed of my feet, and I get busy seeing ghosts and shooting things.

But I had that LONG bout of illness where if I got my heartrate over 100, I would cough until I vomited. SEXY! After 5 weeks of Whooping Cough induced sloth, my poor body felt like a sack of flounders. A mere twenty minutes of paddling my elliptical would leave me panting, and after, my body felt like a sack of ANGRY dead flounders, red and sore and pulsing with bad dead fish juju. It was hard to stay on longer than 30 minutes at a pop, and I was doing my evenings of boot camp at a draggy walk, yards and multiple reps behind the rest of the class.

I am bouncing back, though! Oh yes I am. But Slowly. Staying on the elliptical for my usual 45 - 50 minutes has been a challenge. SO…I decided to get some very good things to SEE WITH MY EYES to distract me while I made my muscles remember that they used to work out every day. I netflixed a BUNCHA high energy looking films, including SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE. I REALLY wanted to see it in the theater, but my dates to go kept getting cancelled or superseded by DEADLY (!!!) yet OBSOLETE ILLNESSES.

When it came last week, it was the first thing I put in. The deal I made with myself in my head was, the movie could only PLAY while I paddled. If I stopped paddling, I had to stop watching. Beloveds – I went 72 minutes before my calves started cramping and I had to hit pause and dismount. THAT MOVIE IS SO SO GOOD. I watched the entire long thing in two whopping great sessions, paddling like a crazed loon as it was so suspenseful and violent,and now I am SO sore the flounders have all been replaced by crackling bags of ZOMBIE BEES.

Completely worth it. I have not liked a movie so much since...A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE, starring ALL of Viggo Mortenson, even a couple of his more...er...jouncy parts that I wish had remained a mystery.

You may hear it called the feel good movie of the year, which, okay -- I can see that. But SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE is very violent and upsetting and harrowing. It is a brutal portrait of what it’s like to grow up in the slums of India---and I would NEVER go see THAT film, you know? A REALISTIC PORTRAIT OF HUMAN MISERY! Um...NO THANK YOU! But this film---the director uses Bollywood conventions and Epic Love Poem plotlines as a candy shell, a shell so sweet that after people talk about how hopeful and uplifting and human it is and THEY ARE RIGHT. Mostly. And yet I came away with the same strange feeling of being shown something true and human hidden inside the EPIC POEM-ness of it...same kind of feeling that I had after listening to THE KITE RUNNER on audiobook.

You should see it. I wasn't able to take my eyes off it, and now my butt is reaping the refirming benefits.

*Some of you insist that you are SURE I must secretly really, actually, truly like songs. I think it’s not fathomable to people who REALLY like songs that someone can be as soulless and unmoved by them as I am.

It’s okay. I feel the same way about chocolate:

I have met people who claim that they do not HATE chocolate, and who say they will eat a little here and there with a modicum of bored pleasure, but they say the chocolate has zero to negligible effect on their mood, their pleasure centers, their taste buds, and their post-chocolate-eating emotional state. They say they won’t go out of their way to AVOID chocolate, but they do not seek it out.

THOSE people are all clearly deluded, or perhaps robots. *nodnodnod*

Posted by joshilyn at 6:24 PM | Comments (25)

April 2, 2009

What I'm Doing, and How It Will Impact my Kids' What I Did on my Summer Vacation Essays

Some of you peeps have been (kindly) asking what BACKSEAT SAINTS is about and when it will be out…I JUST turned it in, so expect it in spring of next year, and I can’t tell you how GOOD it feels to know there are folks waiting for this book---I’m REPUGNANTLY proud of it.

It’s linked in a weird ways to GODS IN ALABAMA . Not a sequel, really. Not at all. In fact – it runs ALMOST concurrently with gods in Alabama. You do not have to have read gods to follow it, and indeed, it will be interesting to talk to readers who meet Rose first and THEN go back and read gods. Although, I have to warn you, if you have NOT read gods, I recently heard that you can go to hell for that. I think it’s in Leviticus. *earnest noddings*

If you have read gods, then your hair looks GREAT today and I LOVE your shoes---fantastic! – and you may recall there is a minor character in there, kind of a throw away called Rose Mae Lolley. She is a catalyst who shows up on the main character’s Chicago doorstep looking for her high school boyfriend. Her appearance breaks a long standing deal the narrator (Lena) has had with god, and starts that book down the road to Alabama.

But one night I woke up in the dark, small hours and I poked my husband until he cracked a bleary eye at me and then I hollered, “HONEY! HONEY! I just realized that everything Rose Mae Lolley says to Lena Fleet in GODS IN ALABAMA is a lie, and I KNOW NOW why Rose was REALLY looking for her old boyfriend.”
And my husband said, “…ummmm HI…It is THREE AM…”

So I left him alone, but I stayed awake and began tracing Rose Mae Lolley’s life, and I got more and more interested in her voice, her jumbo crazy, and her fascination with big guns and bad men – not necessarily in that order. BACKSEAT SAINTS is Rose’s story---and in it Lena Fleet is a catalyst in ROSE’S life. They ping off each other and head in wildly different but equally murderous directions. Let me say, it is a wild, dark ride, powered by a new kind of engine for me.

I write mainstream fiction with strong ties to Southern Gothic traditions. The stories grow out of the characters for me. But I LIKE a big old scoop of plot and I am not all that crazy about landscape. You will never catch me waxing on about the begonias, you know, not unless I've hidden a body in 'em. I tend to use the kind of engine found under the hood of the genre fiction I like to read. gods in Alabama and The Girl Who Stopped Swimming had murder mystery engines, Between, Georgia used the engine of a family drama. BACKSEAT SAINTS is the first time I have used a Thriller engine, and it was both hella fun and funna hellish. I’m not sure how to DEFINE funna hellish, but I know it when I am feeling it.

As for me, I am trying to get Rose out of my head by working on the new book, so I can come back and do the edits with a fresh, clean taste in my mouth and some distance. My theory is, you must love the book you are with, faithfully, so you can perform vicious, necessary surgeries on your former Beloved.

I DO like the Mississippi for drowning people in, as it can take a body VERY VERY far – no pesky dams like the Tennessee. If you are drowned in the Mississippi, it may wash you all the way to ALLIGATORS and they may only get a few bits of you back. Wheee! But I;ve also been hearing about the PEARL, a mysterious windy little river that heads down through MS and LA and dumps out in the Gulf (pronounced “The Guff” down where I grew up). Not a lot of population – a few little towns and hamlets scattered down the piece I’d be using, and there is room to slide my own little fictional town in there without the locals noticing.

I wonder how enthusiastic Scott and the kids will feel about taking a SUMMER VACATION to Bogalusa, home of the…something? Not sure what, yet. But I know I want to see it.

Posted by joshilyn at 11:43 AM | Comments (35)