August 31, 2009

Better (Stick A Fork in) U

Because I am done.

I fly back to Dallas this evening, and I will spend all day tomorrow eating fruit and clambering about on the torturous treadmills of the Cooper Institute for Being Super Healthy.

The American Heart Association wants to weigh us and measure us and look at our blood (mine and the blood of my fellow BetterU Bloggers over at Mama Law) and see if we are Better. I feel better, Lord knows. BUT! Tomorrow we will see what my blood has to say. Blood is known for its honesty. Blood does not tell lies. If Blood chopped down the cherry tree, Blood would go to its father and say so directly, with no shilly-shallying or buck passing.

Meanwhile, since I KNEW I was in the HOME STRETCH and was about to be held accountable and be weighed and measured and de-blooded by strangers in another city, I decided to try and undermine 11 weeks of virtue in six days. I was ambushed by mallowcreme Halloween candy, which is COMPLETELY UNFAIR because this is AUGUST. WHY is it even in stores to tempt me? I had my internal resist-mallowcreme clock set to go off in SEPTEMBER, and considering Halloween is the LAST day of October, seemed overly cautious and excessive even to ME. But no. There it was, WHOLE ROWS OF IT in Kroger...

I’ve been doing all this crap with the good eating and the fruit and the careful choices for MORE THEN ELEVEN WEEKS NOW, yes? My HABITS are better. In general. And I’ve been working not to soothe the savage CRAZY via food. Why, not two hours before the Mallowcreme incident, I QUASI-passed a VERY difficult restaurant challenge.

I went out to eat post-church with a bunch of friends, and I KNEW THE RIGHT THING TO DO WAS TO was to not focus on the food but enjoy the company and have this spangled with virtue salad with low-fat dressing that sat ALMOST ALONE on the teeny sidebar heart healthy part of the menu... That would have been WIN. But I WANTED a bacon cheeseburger. At last, my vitals all aflutter in a pathetic internal MENU DITHER, I compromised by having this California shrimp salad. Here in Georgia, "California" means a salad has bacon and avocado...SO I got that, but I ordered it with NO bacon and I had the full fat delicious dressing on the side and ate less than a tablespoon of it. I felt pretty good, even though I blatantly stole three French fried from Maisy. So, maybe not WIN, but certainly a decent push.

Then at Kroger, I ran smack into a cruel Halloween display and my hand reached out like I had lost my OWN good hand in a terrible buzz saw incident and at the hospital, UNBEKNOWNST to me, I was given a transplant hand that had come off a murderer.
A murderer who really liked candy.

That evil hand grabbed a bag of mallowcremey, plastic-y, glossy looking haystacks and pumpkins and cat faces and witch hats and put it in my cart, and deliberately moved the bag from my cart to the check out, and then moved the bag from the check out counter to my home, and then the Bad Hand popped that sucker open and a host of Mallowcremes fell out. I ate of them and ate of them and ate-ate-ate of them until my tongue had sugar burn and I felt violently ill in the very pit of my stomach.

It was awesome.
In fact, I’d do it again. RIGHT NOW.
For BREAKFAST I would do it. Were there any left. *burp*

In other I SUCK news, I have not made it to a BOOT CAMP in a week now due to various schedule conflicts and a little 24 hour Clamminess virus that came home with Maisy and worked its way through the entire family, day by day. It was not very interesting, as Viruses go. (This is a good thing, considering that the INTERESTING viruses make you bleed out through your eyes and die. This was just a little blip.)

One by one, we got weak and headache-y and whiny for 24 – 36 hours, and we would have alternation bouts of having a low grade fever and being unpleasantly clammy. I could nto go to Boot Camp as I was home with Clammy kids or very busy being clammy myself. I did paddle my elliptical, but home work outs are just not as good. I don’t PUSH.

Blah blah, whine wine, excuses, excuses. I had a bad week.

Here’s the thing. I am not sure it matters. Really. So I attacked a bag of Mallowcreme. Eh. No one DIED. No one lost an EYE. And this morning I am up and back on the path of virtue, having a banana and a skinny latte and heading off for an early morning boot camp RIGHT NOW. Even my WAGON-FALLINGS are less bacchanalian and less gluttonous than my old REGULAR FRIDAY NIGHTS. I think that my actual HABITS may have changed over the course of this twelve weeks. I even think it’s possible that some boot camps and a bag of mallowcreme can’t derail me.

I think? I may actually be a little, a little, a little...better.

Posted by joshilyn at 5:20 AM | Comments (12)

August 28, 2009

In Which No Winners Are Eaten

OH best beloveds, I am devastated to report that you did not all win the single copy of THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE that I have in my possession.

ALAS. Perhaps I should be like the hideously dishonest, vicious, and pathologically jealous lady who came with her roommate before King Solomon. They each had a son, and one child had died in the night. Solomon offered to cut the baby in half for them. The real mother declined, natch, but the vicious one said, “Sure, cut up the baby. But I want the top half.”

Perhaps I SHOULD hack the book into 106 equal pieces and mail you each a chunk. But then the ones who got cover bits and no sex scenes would say I played favorites. SO. I will roll the bones instead.

Only one of you won the book, and one got the pin and tats, and two got tats and magnets. As for the rest of you, I AM SORRY! SO SORRY! To see you so bereft hurts me in my teeny pink internal puffy rabbit. (Yes. I have one. He has taken up residence in the soul-spot where most people keep their love of beautiful mountain vistas and the ability to be emotionally effected/moved by music. The rabbit is a squatter. He sidled in because the space was mostly empty; I had only a wizened, bored raisin taking rattling about in there. I think he ate it.)

ANYWAY, it HURTS me in my rabbit to have only one winner, but the GOOD news is the first book is paperback. Mass market. Not at all spendy!

Due to rabbit pain and in the interests of fairness, I cannot PICK a winner. I have known many of you for a long long long time. I leave the cruel business of winner-picking up to the gods of Random They are vicious, number-y mathy sorts with long supercilious noses and cold stares, not really our kind, but what else can I do? If you did not win, I feel for you---those exacting bastages hate me too.
I never win anything.

I think I never win anything because of the Candy Bucket Incident that happened when I was in first grade. My scumbag brother, a fifth grader, was asked by his school to sell ten raffle tickets. The winner of the raffle would get a pumpkin ---a BIG pumpkin, mind you---hollowed out and carved and chock full of candy. My brother, who did not wish to go door to door and who was told by his teacher in NO uncertain terms that he must unload TEN of these handmade tickets at a BARE MINIMUM, finagled me into ravaging my piggybank, denuding it of all its monies, and leaving me with the tickets.

My mom and dad tried to UNDO his dastardly deal, but I was adamant. I believed my tickets would win. I believed with all my rabbit. I believed so hard and so truly with my WHOLE pink rabbit that my LIFETIME STORE OF LUCKINESS stepped in and squandered itself on a punkin fulla Bit-O-Honeys and mini Milky Ways.

Add that to the trick-or-treat loot I garnered, and for WEEKS I was able to eat candy til I was sick-sick-sick, beginning a lifelong tradition of gluttony that has ended with me needing to do the American Heart Associations BETTER U Program. HEH. And now the Lotto is over 300 mil, and that candy is long gone, and I need to go get on the elliptical and continue candy penance and not plan to buy an ISLAND any time soon.

My point is only this: you didn’t want those grapes anyway, I am sure they were sour and HAD you won , you have tripped on the book, greatly harming your toe. You might even have fallen into a door and concussed yourself and lay for hours in a near coma before finally dying, at which point your cats would have eaten you.

It is better this way.

Unless of course you are Anne Marie, in which case, the number gods like you, I am SURE you will not be eaten by cats, and in any case, you won.

The gods of random have done spaken:

Comment 71 wins the book (posted by Anna Marie at August 26, 2009 1:37 PM)

Comment 11 wins the pin and Tats (Posted by cheryl at August 21, 2009 9:39 AM)

Comment 48 wins tats and a magnet. Heather of target="_blank">Based on a True Story (Posted by Heather at August 26, 2009 10:56 AM)

100 wins tats and a magnet. Ginger, who is BETTER Uing. Huzzah!
Posted by Ginger at August 27, 2009 3:17 PM

If any of these people are you, email your snail addy to Joshilyn at Joshilyn Jackson dot com, and Lo! Your lootage shall be mailed to you.

Posted by joshilyn at 9:16 AM | Comments (9)

August 25, 2009

The Girl Who Was Selfishly Sorry (CONTEST) (edited)

YAY the blog is back. ALL the parts of the website SHOULD be working now. I actually posted this Friday, but it did not show up, and now BOTH times I posted have showed up. With comments and everything. HEH. SO! I removed the old one, and now I am putting the 5 comments up from there onto here and...oh my. I am glad the BORK part is over.

Edit: I fixed the date. This SHOULD have ended on Tuesday, but since it just now went up, that seems...ridiculous, to end before it ever posted. Only time travelers and advanced mathematicians would be able to enter. SO.

Edit 2: Betterness will happen THURSDAY, as Tuesday was about making my computer better.

I am so, so sorry that Stieg Larsson died. SO Sorry. Most importantly because he left behind a woman who loved him and lived with him for thirty years and a some family as well. Also because he was an idealist and a rampant feminist and into Social Justice and because he was very young, only 50, when a massive surprise heart attack took him out. I am sorry for all these reasons.

I am also sorry for ME, and for readers like me, because he died with only 3 of his planned 10 Lisbeth Salander novels finished. Larsson said that Salander was based, in his head, on a grown up version of Pippi Longstocking, and I LOVE that. I can COMPLETELY see that.

This is a Pippi who grew up in a harsh world indeed, and she is the most interesting character to come along in series fiction in forever, joining Jack Reacher, Tess Monaghan and Harry Bosch as one of the few made-up people I will follow from book to book to book. I almost always prefer Stand Alone books to series, but Lisbeth Salander is just as unendingly fascinating as Jack, Tess and Harry, and I would follow her ten books and beyond.

(Hm! I just realized that in a few key ways, Salandar is LIKE Reacher. If Reacher was a teeny little Swedish girl, I mean. They both step INTO a punch instead of away and move forward, unflinchingly, toward approaching trouble, instead of away. Away is where *I* like to go in relation to trouble, so maybe that’s one reason I find both characters so compelling.)

Lisbeth’s freakin’ crazy. She has a rigorous ethical compass and NO morals. And Lord help the misogynist who blips even faintly on her radar. OH! STIEG! Combine this fresh and fascinating mess of a character with intricate plots and a moral foil of a journalist named Mikael Blomkvist, and I am yours yours yours yours yours.

Knopf offered me a give-away copy of the second book, THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE and some very cool THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO temporary tattoos. I think the publicist found me because I had mentioned Larsson’s book in glowing terms on my blog before. I just finished the second one, and I think I liked it even more than the first. Maybe. Hard to tell yet. Too fresh.

I usually do not do this kind of promo. I like to do author interviews here and give away books that way, but I generally delete e-mails that say, HERE IS A PRODUCT, PLS SAY A NICE THING AND HURL A FREE ONE!

I agreed to this for two reasons. 1) I LOVE these books and I unselfishly wish to share the pleasure. And then – not so selflessly---2) the first ten people to agree would get ARCs of the third book. AND I NEED THE THIRD BOOK IN MY HANDS RIGHT NOW. NOW I SAY. Alas, I was not one of the first ten to sign up. No GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET’S NEST for me til next year, when it comes out. *curses and fumes*

If I wasn;t so diffident and ridiculous, I’d be hunting down whatever editor has the book and asking if they would find an early blurb from me even slightly useful. Or, what about a kidney? If anyone at the pub house needs a kidney I seem to have an extra and I am not doing much with it....

SO! The contest: you leave a comment, I will enter you for a drawing to win a hardback copy of THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE and a couple of these snazzy temporary Dragon Tattoos so you can pretend to be a lone psychotic 4 foot 11 inch ball of rage against injustice. I will send a couple of runner ups the other temporary tattoos and a magnet and one will get a snazzy BETTER U pin. I steal the rules from my bargain hunting friend-site, Want Not, as per usual. Contest closes Thursday, August 27th, at midnight EST, so comment early, but only ONCE pls.

Meanwhile, just in case you DO win, go get a copy of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO because these books should not be read out of order. You need to read the first one. First. Really.

(I listened to it, unabridged, and I highly recommend the audio version. The reader was very very good, except he had a funny way of saying “condom” that drove me mad. “Con-DOM,” he would say. And there are, cough, several condoms and a heaping scoop rampant violence in both these books, so do not enter if you are a kid. If you are a kid, go read Pippi Longstocking instead. It’s awesome, too.)

Posted by joshilyn at 5:15 PM | Comments (108)

August 20, 2009

From the Purely Theoretical FAQ for Writers

Remember how I was going to have an FAQ page? And I carefully blogged each question and then was going to put them all up on 2 FAQ pages, one for writers, one for readers-writers-cats-retiredNorsegods-everyone so I could answer the FAQs I get by email by saying “HEY! I HAVE AN FAQ PAGE, and the lookit, the answer is ALREADY THERE FOR YOU!” instead of sorting through my Sent File for an HOUR and not finding the answer I already wrote in response to someone else who asked the same question (hence the name ‘frequently asked’) and NOT finding it, so rewriting it for the umpty-th time?

Yeah. And remember how I was going to organize my closet? And have a mailing list? And stop accidentally closing MS Word to play 4 hours straight of World of Warcraft? And how I was going to paint the kitchen goldenrod and stop eating any food after seven PM and clean my office and organize the HEAPING CABINET full of loose, well-shuffled family photos and find a new hairdresser (Mine retired FIVE months ago, yes, five, when she had her fourth little darling baby...) to get my hair cut and colored and how I said I was going to learn to make REAL French cook-it-all-day authentic cassoulet?

Well. I am sure I am going to do ALL THESE THINGS. Any second.

In fact, just today, I went to my HELL PIT of a closet and dug through all my tops, and put the ones that no longer fit but are nice in a pile for Good Will, and put the ones that are irretrievably stained and raveled in a pile for rags, and then I came down to here to CHECK EMAIL really fast and ended up sitting here writing THIS for more than half an hour now, abandoning those careful piles of sorted tops on the floor of the closet to get kicked around and dug through to find the shoes under and mixed in with the laundry and put right back in the closet to be sorted through again another day when I have more moral fortitude and do not come down to check e-mail and find an FAQ in there.

Here is the FAQ that just came to my inbox via my MOMWRITERS yahoo group:
For you published authors, are you still seeing room for improvement after [your book] is published or are you blissfully happy that it is "done"?

Okay I have a three answers here. A craft answer, a mystical butthole answer, and a pragmatic truthful answer.

CRAFT ANSWER: I spend 75 – 80% of my writing time on revisions. I draft in huge awful hunks of steaming word poo. I start when I know the characters and they have gotten very LOUD in my head, and when I have such a strong sense of the PLACE that I can smell it. Then I I draft very, very quickly, discovering the plot as I go, trying to hear snatches of voice, just putting words on paper and giving myself total permission to let Every. Single. One. of those words relentlessly suck.

To me, drafting is like going out to a fetid, sludgy slow-moving, bug-infested creek in the 100 degree swelter of a Georgia August and using my HANDS to dig out nasty hunks of silt-y clay. Revising is getting the clay back to my airconditioned studio where I have China Green Tips tea and wafer thin cookies waiting on for me and a cat is asleep on the floor by my feet purring and pretty birds are chirping sweetly just outside, and I shape the clay into something that pleases me.

Your mileage may vary, but I think revising SHOULD be fun because it is probably going to take up more time than the writing. It can be VERY VERY satisfying, like that high flying feeling I USED to get from the act of creating/drafting, until I got some DISTANCE from my own work and became savvy enough to recognize my drafts were raw and only conveyed the story to ME, the person who could see it all in her head ALREADY.

Now I get that flying soar thing from making bad sentences into good ones that say precisely what I mean and do several jobs, or when I find the exact metaphor that makes a moment clear or amusing or chilling, and I call that feeling BEING IN THE ZONE. Being in the zone is better than cocaine. A lot of younger writers I talk to only GET IN THE ZONE when drafting, but you can absolutely get there revising, and if you find that ZONE, you won’t care how long the revising takes, because the ZONE is why we do this. That flying feeling where we make it so, Number One.

MYSTICAL BUTTHOLE ANSWER: It is done when you know it is done. This is very cryptic and makes me sound like I’ve been smoking ZEN and eating heaping spoonfuls of MYSELF until I am SO delightfully full of ME that I need to be paddled and told to get real. But it is also true.

There comes a point when your story says what YOU want it to say. Sometimes it is not what you THOUGHT you wanted to say, but it is TRUE. You see it is true and right and good. You can SEE this point approaching in a more practical, less ZEN-SMUG way when your crit partners are not HAVING TROUBLE FOLLOWING or getting bored by backstory or saying HERE YOU TELL WHEN YOU NEED TO SHOW or complaining about CRAFT ISSUES.

At some point their crits will be mixes of praise and ways you could make your work more like what THEY would write, because there isn’t anything else to say. But that’s just a road sign that you are approaching your destination. When you get there, you will learn to know it and you will say, “Yes , this is my place, here I stop."

PRAGMATIC ANSWER (and my favorite, because I am pragmatic to the point of mental illness): The book is DONE once I sign off on the COPY EDITS. When book is going to press and each WORD change costs Hachette THOUSANDS of dollars and I have signed a paper SWEARING not to change any more words, THEN the book is DONE.

This is a good stopping point. Publication as opposed to SHOPPING. If you SHOP a book so DONE feeling that you would rather kill yourself than revise a single line, then you are going to be a huge diva-pain in the behind of your editor, and your editor ONLY wants to make your book better and help you be more successful.

SO before you shop it, get it as perfect as you can, but stay open to ideas and input---stay INSIDE the world of the manuscript. Keep it familiar and in that MUTABLE stage where you can go in and feel organically how to change a line without tumbling your whole house. Keep the MS alive and the world you created accessible and open to you. Keep it like that, close to you, until Copy Edits are done. And then you STOP. Forever.

The WAY you stop is, you fall in love with the NEXT book, and spend your time and hope and love on making THE NEXT BOOK say exactly what you want it to say.

Are my finished books perfect in my eyes? No. But they are what they are, and I am rightful-proud of them. If I do see flaws in an earlier book, my focus is not on regret, but on not making that mistake again in my CURRENT book. Moreover, I doubt I would change the published books even if I could. I COULD look back and say, IF I WERE WRITING THAT PARTICULAR BOOK NOW, I MIGHT DO THIS OR THAT OR THIS. But I seldom do that. Because NOW I would not be writing that book ANYWAY. My thematic interests refocus from year to year as I grow and think new things and ask new questions, and NOW I am writing the book I am writing now.

I learn and go on, and when I look back at done books, I say only, “I made that! I MADE THAT WITH MY BRAIN! And wow, but I FREAKING love that thing I made with my brain. Yay. And NOW? Now I will go make something else.”

Posted by joshilyn at 8:52 AM | Comments (15)

August 18, 2009

Better tUesday: Push and RePush Are Eating a Boat

(Psst, a whispered aside to you, only you: The above title makes convoluted sense in my head. Just go with it.)

Have you ever seen that movie, Cloverfield? Scott and I are HUGE fans of any movie featuring rubber puppets attacking from space or brain worms or swamp monsters, so we were ALL OVER Cloverfield. It was the best, most original bit of horror I had seen in YEARS and to this day, we have a standardized, canned, TROPE of a reaction to any mention of the film.

When someone references Cloverfield or we see the box at Blockbuster, our eyes widen, and we get very blinky. By this I mean, we blink too much for a human of average intelligence. We blink like FAWNS do, or Care Bears. And then we say to each other, in hushed, awed whispers, “This is the story of Cloverfield, the monster. He eated EVERYBODY.”

(Psst. PSST over HERE...this whispered aside is to only, only you: I am going to get emails from earnest horror film loving anal retentives who will not be able to stop themselves from painstakingly explaining to me that the monster is NOT named Cloverfield. I think I will reply by saying, “Wow, did I blow THAT one, and guess what? I ALSO just heard from another source that there is no such word as “eated!”)

As you can probably already tell from my tone and the dearth of new blog entries, last week was a VERY bad week.
I was Cloverfield.
The Monster.
I. Eated. Everybody.

I popped the heads off my children and ate them for tiny infractions. I yelled at people who thwarted my desires in traffic. I wept copious lava-hot tears as I downed baggies full of Ghirardelli. I made chocolate martinis ALONE IN MY HOUSE and drank them ALL BY MYSELF until I SAW Pete and Repete sitting in a boat, and Pete fell out, and then I ate Repete and the boat. Pete drowned and I ate his body.

It was a VERY hard week, what with school starting and the 6 foot 4 inch 200+ pound bag of sanity I had the good sense to marry going out of town for 8 days. I made EASY goals to avoid ABJECT failure and subsequent loss of hope. They were:

1) WORK OUT EXTRA to relieve stress.
2) Don’t eat junk food, but do eat a bunch of fruit.
3) Don’t shoot anyone or become a raging alcoholic.

I am pleased to say that in spite of all the horror, I met SEVERAL of these goals. I worked out extra, anyway. I ate a bunch of fruit. Pay no attention to the mounds of freshly turned earth in the back garden, and ignore the clinky-clack of the wine-bottle laden trash bags I am furtively zooming out to the curb.

And on a physical level, it WAS a push. I did not gain any weight. I did not lose any weight. Not an OUNCE either way. I ate five servings of fruit and vegetables every day, neatly balanced by five servings of candy and liquor. I worked out assiduously and very hard. I did not start smoking again or get arrested for any murders or acts of cannibalism I may or may not have committed.

This is, in a way, my third week of PUSH. I have stayed the EXACT same weight for 3 weeks now. One of those weeks was average in terms of eating and exercising, one week I was a GODDESS of virtue and nailed it, and then last week I was the devil. No reaction from the body. I am taking this to mean that my body has a new SET POINT, and I am calling this victory. THAT SAID, I would like within the next 2 weeks – the last weeks of Better U before I fly to Dallas to be re-blood worked and reweighed and measured and re-fitness tested---to see some progress.

And this week is already BETTER. I rocked out yesterday, refinding patience with my loin-spawns, not yelling and turning purple so much, eating beautiful nutritious foods and going to a VICIOUS Boot Camp that has left my muscles all trembley and apologetic. I feel like I am ready to have actual goals again. And since I already quit smoking years ago, as we have discussed these goals are going to be CARRY-OVERS from week ten, which I all but skipped due to being a total MONSTER, which is about role modeling healthy habits for your family.

This week, I made a deal with Scott--- he is NOT going to eat fast food at lunch ANY MORE, and in return, I am not going to Eated Everybody. If he forgets to pack his lunch, he will go to Subway for a sammich that does not feature any form of Salami or Bacon, or to Chick-Fil-A for a multi-grain bun grilled chicken with fruit for a side. Also, he and I are really stepping up the cooking and eating together as family. Last night he made Lime-butter Tilapia and green beans. It rocked. Tonight I am making Salsa Chicken with a Crazy Farm Box watermelon for dessert. And I am encouraging him to get the bike back out and hit the Silver Comet with our son.

Two weeks to go before I am OFFICIALLY BETTER. How Better? We’ll soon see.

Posted by joshilyn at 9:18 AM | Comments (15)

August 15, 2009

Color Coded

I have always said that the cure for racism will be a generational, but this cure has to be a conscious choice. I know my parents made a VERY conscious decision NOT to allow their parents to use certain words or express certain ideas around me and my brother. Period. They didn’t want us poisoned. It is one of their best gifts to me.

Here in the quasi-rural south where we live, the schools are still pretty dern segregated. This is not helping. That’s one of the many reasons I send my kids to private school; I didn’t want Sam and Maisy at a school that was 95% white, or 95% black, or 95% Hispanic/Latino. It’s not what America looks like, and either way you go---putting your kid in a school where all the kids share their race, or putting them in a school where they are a tiny minority-- it can create the mindset that your race makes you an insider or makes you an outsider. We don’t need any more of that mindset here, thanks. We have plenty.

The school my kids attend is a jumble of colors and cultures, and this is so normal to them it’s not worth remarking on for them. I see this as a step forward from my own generation. For me, it WAS worth remarking upon. For example, as a teenager/ young woman, if I saw an interracial couple, I had an emotional reaction, like an internal HELLZYA THINGS ARE CHANGING THINGS CAN CHANGE YAY feeling. My kids don’t have ANY reaction. An interracial couple is so regular to them, it does not blip on their radar, either positively or negatively.

They react to the couple as people, not as a political statement, and like them or dislike them based on the things that REALLY matter. Such as: Will these folks let me pet their dog, do they have kids my age and can I play with them, do they now or will they soon have share-able cookies?

My children are not CAREFUL about race. I still am, sometimes. A lot of people in my generation are. I am not, for example, even a tiny bit comfortable NOW, as I try to explain the complicated relationship folks of my generation have with race issues in the New South.

gods in Alabama is in part a story I told to explore the complicated relationship GEN X Southerners have with generational racism. I was asking mself, how do you love someone, a grandparent, say, when you grow up and realize they hold a worldview that is anathema to you? And yet, can you STOP loving the person who baked you cookies and kissed your skinned knees? Neither of you will change... What's the compromise? Should there be one? Where does love bend to principle, where does principle bend to love... It is MUCH EASIER for me to exlore these things via STORY than it ever is to approach them directly and try to have a conversation about them.

I don’t see this awkwardness, this need for indirectness, in my children or in the children of my friends, and I celebrate the HELL out of that.

For example---A girlfriend of mine got called in for a parent-teacher conference because her child had done something “Offensive.” The teacher was in a whispery panic, but my girlfriend kept asking questions that eventually led to the fraught disclosure that her child had done something the teacher deemed....racist.

My friend---an expat Canadian living in the south---was horrified. She leapt in her car and went down to the school to kill and eat her child, and then digest him and make him watch 14 hours of diversity programming on PBS.

The child’s offense? He had drawn himself playing on a playground, and one of the pictured kids he was playing with had deep brown skin and a big 70’s style afro. In other words, the pictured kid looked exactly like ONE OF THE CHILD’S ACTUAL FRIENDS.

My friend killed and ate the teacher instead. And yes, the teacher was off base, but I can sympathize. She is not comfortable with race issues, and she was so scared some racism got in her when she wasn’t looking that she overreacted. She was trying to be CAREFUL, and she will probably be careful her whole life. Meanwhile, my friend’s son was simply...comfortable. Comfortable drawing himself inside his own skin, comfortable drawing how his friend looked inside of his. Race issues did not blip on his radar.

Last week, my own girlchild came to me with an extravagant portrait of a brown-skinned, flame haired beauty wearing what looked like a ruffled flamenco dress. We had the following exchange.

Her: Here Mommy, I drew this picture of you!

Me: Oh, how pretty...That’s me?

Her: Kind of! It is you as a Mexican Black Spain person. With red hair.

Me: Of course. Um...what is a Mexican Black Spain person with red hair?

Her: It is a person from Mexico who moved over to Spain. Except you are black. With red hair.

Me: Obviously.

Her: Yeah, Momma. DUH!

Things like this, they give me hope for my homeland.

Posted by joshilyn at 2:10 PM | Comments (20)

August 12, 2009

Better tUesday: Push

I am WILLING it to be Tuesday. I do not hear you on the subjects of “LATE” and “Wednesday.”
In defense of my stance that today is ABSOLUTELY Tuesday, allow me to tell you it is the first week of school here, and my husband is frolicking about in Rhode Island, eating rare Rhode Islandish delicacies like Mango Coconut Conch Fritters and drinking Papaya Hoochie Punch while basking in a hammock and watching young, trim-waisted Rhode Island girls in grass skirts sway their hips to sound of distant drums.

Scott says that he is actually working on a trade show (right) and that Rhode Island is technically NOT an island speaking geographically, and CERTAINLY not an island in the same exotic rum-rippled blue sky and sea way that, say, The Virgin Islands are islands (a likely story), But here, smack dab in what would be the MIDDLE of back to school week if it was Wednesday which, SHH, we have covered that, it is NOT, trying to single-mommedly juggle bag lunches and laundry and the demands of my own life and job, I am BEHIND.

I think I could have handled it better if it weren’t for the fact that Scott’s absence is causing RAGING INSOMNIA.

(DIGRESSION: OKAY! Yes, three portion controlled meals + two snacks = perfectly adequate fuel for a 16 or even 18 hour day. But my day is stretching to 20 or 21 hours, and I begin to be REALLY hungry. I get four or five hours past dinner, and I am ready for DINNER PART II: SON OF DINNER. I keep calling my buddy Jill and hollering, HELP! I WANT TO EAT THINGS. I WANT TO EAT THEM IN MY MOUTH.)

I am not crating the dog (so that he can protect me when evil murderers or cannibals break into the house, unless of course the evil people have brought cheese cubes, or an ear scratch, or a kind word, in which case his plan is to wag happily at them while they strangle me in my bed.)
But it makes me FEEL better to have him out, and Scott is going to come home to find a Bagel-Dog shaped, shed-fur filled, sumptuous hole in his usual place in the bed. Even with this living pillow, I AM NOT SLEEPING.

While it is true that I DO need 20 hours in the day this week, it does me no good to have the hours available if I am going to be glassy eyed and brain-dead.


In point of fact, there were no cannibals. The contact in the back door appears to be faulty. It went off again for no reason, same door, yesterday, racheting my exhausted nerves up to ELEVEN. (That’s one louder.)

It also did not help that LAST night (which coincidentally also appears to have been Monday Night since today is CLEARLY Better Tuesday) but anyway, last night, very very late, AFTER the alarm had already freaked me out again by spontaneous whonking so I had to DISABLE IT and I was alarmless and vulnerable, the dog LOST HIS MIND and started telling me, emphatically, that there WAS actually a marauding band of cannibals, in the backyard, near the VERY door that has been saying it is being broken into. He was wild-eyed and ADAMANT. The kids were in bed, it was DARK AND LATE, and I was freaked enough by this point to go and GET THE GUN I used to learn to shoot in order to write Backseat Saints.

Then I told the dog to shut his pie hole and went out in the night to kill everyone who was on my back porch.

It was a POSSUM. A huge, slavering, befanged, foul, balding, hissing possum, yes, but even that kind of possum is not a Mortal Peril situation requiring firearms. I came back in, exasperated, and while I was unloading I said so to the dog, and he said, “Marauding band of cannibals, Possum. Po-TAY-to, po-TAH-to. The important thing here is, I SAVED YOUR LIFE! May I have a whole, raw chicken?”

IN OTHER WORDS, I have not even looked at the plan for this week, and here it is, already TUESDAY! (Cough) So, my goals for this week are:

1) WORK OUT EXTRA to relieve stress.
2) Don’t eat junk food, but do eat a bunch of fruit.
3) Don’t shoot anyone or become a raging alcoholic.

If I can achieve these things, we will call this week a push.

Posted by joshilyn at 7:01 AM | Comments (18)

August 9, 2009

Double Irish

Scott says my Miff and my Irk have gone missing. He says that for the last few weeks, I have been going straight from “cheerful-perky” to “Slaughterously Enraged.” Zero to Warp Five temper in less than a second.

This is a fair assessment.

I NEED my Miff. I NEED my Irk. If I can’t refind them, I am going to end up in prison. This is assuming killing really really really irritating people is a crime. WHICH IT SHOULD NOT BE. There are people around who seem like they need some killing, OKAY?

But without Miff and Irk, I am not even letting folks GET to the point of justifiable slauterizing. Each day it seems more likely that I might PRE-enrage and kill someone who I suspected was JUST ABOUT to become irritating. It isn’t nice to murder folks as they waffle between being helpful and deserving to be killed and cooked and eaten. My rational mind believes they should be allowed to choose, first, but these days my double helping of heaping Irish temper is trumpeting, “KILL EM ALL AND LET GOD SORT THEM OUT.”

For example, yesterday morning my son woke up with the start of a brand new ear infection. LAST time he got an ear infection, it was ALSO a Saturday, and the on-call the nurse refused to even ask the doctor to phone in a prescription, though I asked nicely, and pointed out it was Saturday, and I was on vacation in another state, and my only options were a phoned in script or the emergency room.

She asked me how I knew it was an ear infection. I said he was 12, and this was his 24th one, and at this point, I could spot them coming from SPACE. I SAID IT NICELY! With a little laugh, like, being funny and cheery. I was not snarky at all, because it never occurred to me she would not do this simple thing.

She got very superior and snippety with me, saying that Sam needed to be SEEN in as we were at the beach so it was likely just SWIMMER’S EAR, and the 100.7 fever might be something UNRELATED and HOW WOULD WE KNOW IF A DOC DID NOT SEE HIM and we should bring him to see Dr. Carter on MONDAY.

I said, still reasonable and cheery, that Sam was prone to these infections and assured her that if she would just phone Doctor Carter, (who has been Sam’s pediatrician since he was a baby) he would call in a script for that pink Cat Medicine antibiotic and Sam’s usual drops. I told her that he could nto wait until Monday, explaining that without that pink cat medicine, his ear canal would begin to look twisted shut and crusty, his eyes would grow hourly more puffy and haunted, and within 12 to 24 more hours he would be in agony with a dangerously high fever.

“That’s unlikely. It is probably swimmer’s ear. Put alcohol drops in it and tomorrow if he is worse, take him to emergency,” Nurse Butthole said.

Within 12 hours, he was in his usual, predicted, non-swimmer’s ear agony, fever of 103.8, and so I had to pay a 250 buck emergency room fee and Sam and I had to Marinate for five hours in a waiting room full of contagious people oozing their fungal disease spores all through the flaccid air, all so a harried Doctor could find 90 seconds between fending off rabid addicts seeking pain meds and clumsy folks who decided to do home repair with chainsaws and who were now spurting arterial blood to peek into Sam’s twisted shut, crusty ear canal and say, Hm. It is an ear infection,” (Oh. You don’t say.) and write a script for Pink Cat Medicine antibiotics and those drops.

SO now yesterday I saw another ear infection coming to land on Sam from space, and as I got dressed and fed the cats and took the dog out and hunted the phone to dial the on-call nurse I realized I was ALREADY grinding my teeth and making up long impassioned, abusive speeches that I planned to scream directly INTO the nurse the second she said “HELLO.” My LIPS were already moving, forming angry, knifelike words into gut ripping sentences. AND I HAD NOT EVEN DIALED YET.

Then I remembered what Scott said about my missing MIFF, my awol IRK, and I tamped it down and phoned and within 30 seconds Nurse Not-A-Butthole (not her real name) said she would call Doctor Carter, and Lo and Behold, he phoned in cat meds and drops and now Sam is feeling fine and ready to start school. I could have KILLED that woman, and she was perfectly professional and nice.

What is WRONG with me? I am growing a deep double line between my eyes that looks like ANGRY HORNS. I really need my MIFF back.

Posted by joshilyn at 1:22 PM | Comments (28)

August 6, 2009

Writer Humor

I have a new favorite joke, sent to me by Anne Lovett, a talented chick from my writer's group.

So how many writers does it take to change a lightbulb?

One to change the light bulb.
Four to say that they'd already had the idea for changing a light bulb, but they didn't want to show anyone what they were doing until they'd polished their light-bulb-changing.
Two to point out that someone else had already changed a light bulb, so changing another one was unoriginal and thus not worthwhile.
Three to call light bulbs a new technology that was going to be catastrophic for traditional candlelight-driven writers.
And one to figure out that writers are lousy at math.

Posted by joshilyn at 10:27 AM | Comments (9)

August 4, 2009

BETTER TUESDAY: What Time Is It? (Hint: Not Hammertime)

Now that I am getting my fitness and nutrition under control, I need the AHA to come out with a system to make my disorganized BRAIN better....I am trying to organize my calendar for the next six months. I started this process at six am. It is now almost eleven am. I am NOT EVEN a third of the way done. I need a breakfast martini. It should be made with icy, icy Grey Goose and, in lieu of olives, it should come with little pimento stuffed Prozacs on a green plastic sword.

Or maybe I just need a secretary? YES? I want her to be named Beatrice and I want her to have a neck-bendingly massive, forehead-skin-stretchingly tight, rigorously stern, iron gray bun. She should wear black Birth Control eyeglasses. She can make the martinis. I believe she would vigorously pound the Vodka and the IDEA of vermouth (no need to mess up perfectly good Grey Goose with actual vermouth...) around in the shaker with hard, cruel ice until the vodka is SO SO SO COLD AND SORRY for all its wrongs that it becomes extra delicious.

Also she should have a savage wooden ruler that she uses to spank my palm whenever my brain begins to steam from the horrors of organizing my calendar and I try to sneak away to soothe it by looking at Lolcats. She can administer spanks and martinis in turn, until I am either fully organized or too drunk and palm-sore to care.

I am to the point where I am about to start turning down invitations just to NOT HAVE TO GET THEM ON MY CALENDAR. That means it is time to STOP trying to understand what 7 mountain time transfers to in REAL time, and close my day timer and WALK AWAY.

ASIDE: Some people call REAL time a weird acronym....something like “EST,” but that is insane. Honestly, if the rest of the world would just agree that 9 am in Powder Springs Georgia is 9 am EVERYWHERE, including Greenland, then updating my calendar would not be such an issue. IN FACT, I am deploying Beatrice to beat the crap out of everyone in Greenland until they agree to go to the Real Time system.

Okay! Calendar closed, and it is time to look at what I am going to do this week, this now, this today, to become Better.

Heh. I seriously just looked, and GUESS what WEEK NINE is about! ORGANIZING YOUR TIME so you have time to work out and cook healthy meals. Not kidding! I had no idea when I started whining as I had not looked at the week 9 program.

But now, my tool is (rather pointedly) telling me, “This week, think about why you don’t use your time as wisely as you would like. For example, are you unorganized? (yes) Do you let others control your time? (yes) Do you have too many responsibilities? (I dunno?) Do you procrastinate?" (I will procrastinate tomorrow, I am too busy to procrastinate today.)

They suggest this goal: "I will identify my priorities this week and develop a chart of: “Must Do” (high priority), “Hope to Do” and “Will Do if I have Time” (low priority) activities, making healthy eating and physical activities Must Do’s."

I think this could be LOOSELY interpreted to mean that I should abandon my calendar and go paddle about on my elliptical while watching game-show network. Then I should eat fruit.
So it is written, so shall it be.

I do like the MUST.HOPE.MIGHT. list. Unfortunately, the way this week's calendar looks, "Make a MUST HOPE MIGHT list" will have to go on the MIGHT part of the theoretical list. HEH! I will, however, keep my old goals. Track food. Boot camp 5 times. Elliptical 90 minutes.

GOOD LUCK, fellow Better-ers.

And, beloveds, may I just say THANK YOU so much for the NICE THINGS you said to me about the “Before and Midpoint” photos I posted on the Southern Authors Blog.

I’m a little frustrated as I have lost over ten pounds--- gone down an entire dress size--and no one from my regular, everyday life has noticed. A whopping TWO people who have not seen me in ages made comments. But no one from, say Church, and none of my playdate mom-friends.

I guess because these people see me too often and the changes have been too gradual? I keep dressing trampier and trampier, wearing tighter and tighter sweaters and sucking in and striking poses with objects, gesturing to things like I am Vanna White and hollering, “ Hey! Everyone! Look at this um...hydrangea bush! It is full of beautyness LOOK! OVER HERE! LOOK, LOOK AT ME WHERE I AMA STANDING! LOOK AT ME LOOK!” And they look at the bush and say, “Uh yeah, that’s a nice bush, you whack job.” And then on they go, and they completely fail to notice that I am Becoming Better.

It’s disheartening.

When I get my new cholesterol number which I truly believe will be LOWER and SUPER GREAT, I am considering having it tattooed on my forehead. People will notice THAT.

Posted by joshilyn at 12:18 PM | Comments (25)

August 3, 2009


I have rammed headfirst into the wall of research on the new book. I need to know some weird and esoteric things that Mr. Google cannot tell me, and that are SO weird and esoteric, I am not even sure where to begin looking.

---If you know a family courts type lawyer or social worker or anyone having to do with fostering, custody, and what happens to kids who come to the attention of the state in Mississippi, I would LOVE it if you would send me contact info and/or hook me up with an intro so I can request an interview. I also need to contact info and/or introductions to:

1) Some small town cops AND at least one state trooper in Mississippi,
2) Someone who works in forensic pathology, especially, but could also talk to peeps who work/teach in osteology, anthropology, and/or forensic science.

If you can help with any of the above please give me a holler at JOSHILYN AT JOSHILYN JACKSON DOT COM. Thanks.

Hi! Remember me? I got SO sick on Friday. I suspect food poisoning, as I had no fever. I was out of commission from one in the afternoon until almost noon on Saturday, when I emerged from our master suite as trembly-legg’ed as a freshly minted fawn and querulously demanded low sodium chicken broth for breakfast. Saturday I sat around in pajamas alternating video games with naps and bracing sips of cool water. If you subtracted opposable thumbs and added kibble, I would have been living a cat’s life.

Sunday, I took a brief hiatus from my busy video game and snooze schedule to go to church, then came home and...napped. Then I got up and played more video games.

I make weekends SO MUCH FUN!

Last night, as if the last three days had never happened, I went to meet my writing group for sushi in Virginia Highlands. I snarfed down White Tuna Sashimi as if I believed Salmonella was a shade of pink and E. Coli was a Pepsi product. So far I have no regrets.

ALSO, can some math-tastic physics-head please to explain to me how 24 hours of near-mortal illness, 24 hours of shivery recovery, and another 24 hours of unmitigated, rampant, willful goofing off can leave me about SIX WEEKS BEHIND on cleaning out my in-box?
AH well, here are the winners of EVERYONE SHE LOVED, and thanks for playing! Send me a snail addy and a note telling me if you want the book signed PLAIN or inscribed to anyone in particular, and Sheila will mail the book right out to ya! No worries if you did not win this time. We will play again, as people seem to be enjoying these interviews. And---although I have NO interview, I do have a very strange sort of bookly give-away to do a little later in the week. If I can log off World of Warcraft.

88 – Blairzoo. Yes. Blairzoo. I include no other identifying marks like the time and date the comment was posted, because HOW MANY BLAIRZOOS can there be? I suspect Blairzoo is like Highlander, only with less beheading.

60 – Heather of Muirnait’s Musings

44 – Mit of MitMoi

And now, by way of apology for abandoning you, I leave you with my favorite geeked out reason why I want to go back to Disney World. The VADER SPANK move kills. KILLS. You are welcome.

Posted by joshilyn at 9:51 AM | Comments (20)