Hot thing one: Today I am talking about my (mis)adventures in Hot Yoga over at Five Full Plates.
Hot thing two: I remembered to tell you I was over there. For the first time in WEEKS. Perhaps my cold, dead, flu-brain is reviving? *hope*
Hot thing three: I’ve been putting reviews and blurbs up on the BACKSEAT SAINTS page as they come in rather than trying to make all of you read every nice thing anyone ever says about Saints for the rest of pre-pub---but this one from LIBRARY JOURNAL kinda has me over the moon and I really want to share it:
On the surface, she’s Ro Grandee, dutiful wife of a handsome Texan with ready fists. But underneath her flowery skirts and painful bruises lurks Rose Mae, a fierce Southern spitfire who’s already escaped an abusive father. These days Rose seems resigned to taking punches, working in the Grandee family gun shop, and waltzing with the vacuum cleaner until an oddly familiar airport gypsy foretells a fortune that is murder—literally. Rose’s husband is going to kill her, unless she manages to kill him first. Rose takes her dog, Gretel, and her Pawpy’s old gun and runs for her life, blazing a harrowing trail from Texas to Alabama and on to California and exhuming a heap of family skeletons along the way. VERDICT Jackson has resurrected a character from her best-selling gods in Alabama and crafted a riveting read that simply flies off the page with prose as luscious as sweet tea and spicy as Texas chili. ---Jeanne Bogino
The true truthful truth is, IF I had a Netbook, THEN I could write this book. A Netbook has FIVE hours of battery life, and I truly believe in my pink heart that in NetBookSpeak, five hours means at LEAST four hours.
It would fit inside my big purse so it would always be with me, like my phone, but with MS WORD on it. But better than my phone, because my phone’s keyboard is indeed QWERTY, but it says in teeny teeny teeny print so teeny no one human eye can detect it, “This keyboard only for use by gnomes, sentient hummingbirds, and the prehensile thumbs of adolescent girls.” No one can be expected to write a book on a Crackberry, but the NETBOOK is like if Crackberry and a laptop had a perfect perfect baby who made writing novels a simple and delightful sugarplum laced dream. With skipping. And cake.
Meanwhile, my current laptop is thwarting me and ruining my serenity and leeching out all my writer-mojo. No wonder I am having difficulties, trying to CRAFT WORDS on this an ancient and unweildy Laptoposaurus. My back is ablaze from carting its enormous haunches and its five pound battery about. AND Laptop battery hours are like dog years, in that “two hours” means “mayyyybe, 45 minutes, assuming you sacrifice a helpless, virgin squirrel to the proper dark gods.”
So I can only work in places that let me plug in, which means NOT THE GOOD SUSHI/TEA HOUSE and I have to tote all these impossible yards of various cords, all of whom pretend to go neatly into the bag in tidy coils and the SECOND I shut that bag, they begin trying to impersonate The Ouroboros playing a fun game of Twister with some frantically mating earthworms.
Just thinking about trying to sort those cords out has pre-defeated me. I have gone all brain soft from technological despair and I read on Web MD that is a REAL thing that makes you too FLOPPY in the leg regions to go to the coffee house and work and PS IT IS RAINING. I think I shall allow myself to be dragged by my kids down to the basement to watch Harry Potter and the Billions in Marketing Tie Ins while eating about a POUND of asparagus and Scott’s Orange-Rosemary Glazed Pork Tenerloin.
But...IF I HAD A NETBOOK? I would have finished the book by now. This is just true.
I am having a hard time finding the will to DRAFT. This is reasonable, because I HATE drafting. You don’t see me springing out of bed all eager to clean out my garage, either. One day in late October, I started working out, and I said to myself, SELF, I said, The front part of the book is in pretty good shape. It is TIME. Today! I draft. In a little. First I will finish my work out. BUT...I shall DRAFT as SOON as I am done.
I worked out for two and a half solid hours.
I would think, “Go draft, or 40 more push-ups?” Then I would choose the push-ups. I finally did go work on the book and drafted a thousand words, but the NEXT day I was SO sore I just decided I couldn’t possibly lift my arms to draft. You see how I am?
It’s not like I have stopped WORKING. I open my novel file, virtuously, and several hours later I find I am still tinkering around in, say, the back half of chapter two, trying to get the voice perfect, and not forging ahead. Noodling. Unraveling and re-raveling are MUCH more fun than the part where you have to do the initial RAVEL. This is the part I LIKE....Oh how I LIKE to revise. I like to revise so much it is probably unholy.
SO, I thought I would sign up for NaNoWriMo. The idea is, you write a 50K novel in a month. You are not supposed to start until November one...oops. That said, if I GET 50K I am claiming winnerness and marching about triumphantly lofting pompons and hooting.
I signed up under a secret name because, er, I am CHEATING. I am a big old stinkly cheater who cheats. By cheat, I mean I already have the front chapters written. NaNo has rules, and you can go read them and they will tell you that beginning your NaNo book before November is cheating.
I think it is fine to cheat as long as I man up that I am cheating. More than that; I shall cheat with aplomb and glorious pride. Panache, even. If I can use NaNo as a carrot---or a stick----to get THROUGH the part of the book I do not like doing (drafting) so I can get to the part that makes my little red boat bob up and down all happy in the water (revising) then hellzya I am going to cheat, and I will Sleep. Just. Fine.
NaNo is a tool for writers---not a contest. I am not taking anything away from anyone else by cheating. The only prize for winning is crowing that you won. If I get 50K drafted I will crow like a glorious rooster on fire with hen-love at dawn of the first day of the new millennium. I will also crow that I cheated, that I had already started the book. Larlarlar.
I think I am fine with it because I see NaNo as a tool. You USE tools to accomplish things. In this case, my goal is making a novel. My goal is not “using this tool correctly.” Maybe with POWER tools you have to follow the manual or risk cutting off your thumbs but in THIS metaphor it is more like...um...a screwdriver. And I use screwdrivers to whang the side of tight jam jar lids so they will unscrew. Which is not what it is technically FOR, but if it WORKS, I get jam.
And everyone likes jam.
But I still want to WIN, really really win even though the book is not fresh, so I will not count those PRE-November words. Instead I will try to draft 50K words here in November. I already have 4,444. (I have claimed 4,445 on my NaNo page because the REAL number word count gave me seemed so IMPROBABLE.) Some of my NaNo friends list are barely pushing 3K. Of course, some are at 13K or even 15K, but I am pretending not to see them.
My friend Thomas was at 3,875 yesterday, while I was at 3,550. When I got to 4,444 I sent him a loving little note that said, “I AM AT 4,444 SUCK ON THAT,” or something equally ladylike and charming. Then I went smugly off to sleep.
I am SO competitive, NaNo may actually work. I woke up this morning just NOT IN THE FRICKEN MOOD to draft. (No shock there.) I was front lining excuses, saying to myself, SELF you could draft but you REALLY need to get a jump start on Christmas shopping, when this little Thomas-Bomb email landed in my in-box.
“Excuse me while I clear my throat... ahhhhhem....5,546. BOO-YAH!!!”
I would love to discuss NaNo some more with you, Oh best beloveds. But I have to go draft. 6K or DIE, Thomas, and oh yeah, this is ON.
I’m trying to make SRS progress on the new book while at the same time doing final page proofs for Rose. Which I keep calling Rose, even though the title is BACKSEAT SAINTS and I love that title. But I think of the book as Rose because she owns it so completely. It’s a different kind of book for me --- I usually have a Broadway cast of thousands mucking around and making problems. Rose mucks around enough to carry what is, in a lot of ways, a one-woman show. There’s a supporting cast, of course, but it’s not a true ensemble piece like Between or TGWSS. (WOW, how was THAT for an immediate digression?)
To continue to digress with fluffy abandon, gamboling like a feckless rabbit through the mind meadows when REALLY, Beloveds, I should be working on one of these two books...it’s interesting doing these proofs with my head SO deep into THE OTHER MOSEY SLOCUMB. Usually when proofs come I ABANDON the new book and try to get my head all the way back into the old book. But Rose was VERY close to me---maybe too close some days--- so it seemed smarter to stay in MOSEY. I like having the distance here as I try to make absolutely sure of every line. A lot hinges on VOICE in Rose’s book, and I want every word to be right.
I think I am calling it Rose’s book because it feels less mine and more hers now, even though, yes, FINE, I suppose technically, she doesn’t exist---hey, THANKS for pointing that out, mentally well person in the back row, and please do not let the door hit you in the butt as you exit.
I always try to personally release a book before the pub date comes and publicly releases it for me, but this is an early break-up. I mean that figuratively; I DO try to think of books as boyfriends. I always worry about novelists who call their book their “babies.” Novels are not offspring. You do not SELL your offspring.
I want to say to them, My friend, that is not your baby. I would lie down on a railroad track for either of my babies, but heck, if the only paper copy of a fresh book of mine was tied down to the rails with Casey Jones steamrolling toward it, and I was offered the opportunity to take its place, I think I would wipe away an errant tear and wave a fond goodbye. I can’t open a bottle of shiraz, hook up with my best fella, and re-grow the magic animals that are Exactly-Sam and Exactly-Maisy. But I can, after all, always write another novel. If you truly think of a novel is your baby, I suggest you learn to love it less.
To write a novel, then, for me, is less like pro-creating and more like engaging in a moderately self-destructive yet extremely passionate relationship. Me and my Book-in-progress, we fight and weep and make up and forge onward. When it is good between us, oh, when it is good, it is so very very good. And when it is bad? Horridhorridhorrid.
I have been known to foam and scream and disappear so thoroughly chasing the pretend people that I can wreck my actual interpersonal relationships. Mir once told me she spent the first half of our friendship being absolutely positive I was on-and-off secretly furious with her, as a month would go by without me calling, and when she called me, I would sound distant and pre-occupied. It wasn’t madatherness. (Totally a word.) It was just that thing high school girls do when they have their first boyfriend----they kinda ditch their friends. I realized I never LIKED those girls in high school, so I try not to be that girl anymore, and I make sure I am keeping in touch even in the throes of deepest over-involvement with imaginary people.
But those imaginary relationships are SO absorbing, more delicious and yet less physically destructive than the most delicious drug. While in the deeps of it, I have been known to obnoxiously crow one hour and flail and bite the earth in a violent rage the next. To weep and stamp on myself for pitifully failing to capture an image one day and be unendurably smug as I exult in my obvious genius at capturing it so perfectly the next. I have also been known, on the bad days, to eat whole crowds of comforting Cheetos and bitterly repent of them when the Salt Bloat comes and I see how long my fingers retain that unnatural orange taint.
And then I finish. Completely. Then it is time to have an amicable break-up, and let the book go. And I mean TRULY amicable. If you are proud of the book, if you like it, this is easier. I am VIOLENTLY proud of Rose’s book, so this may be why I have let go slightly early. It’s like an ex-boyfriend that you will always feel love and admiration for, but it was just TIME, you know? You hope that boyfriend will go on to have a long and successful relationship with someone else, say, the New York Times bestseller list. But you will never be with him in that same way again.
Part of letting go is being open to fresh love. I have to get deeply involved with my new book, accepting that the published ones are never going to be “mine” again in quite the same way --- no longer mutable, no longer under my control, out in the world talking back to readers instead of talking back to me.
Mosey and Raymond Knotwood and Big and Liza are becoming VERY real to me – especially Mosey and Raymond. Reading Rose with this amount of distance and release-of-ownership already at work, it/she feels separate from me. At the same time, we are not quite done with each other, Rose and I. She is still real enough in my head to be allowed to own the book.
Doing both these things at once (drafting TOMS and page proofing BACKSEAT SAINTS) also means I have been in my fantasy pants---huge balloon shaped Indian print draw-string monstrosities, most with holes in the seams---for days and days and days. When I MUST leave the house, I do it quickly, in carefully planned and sharply executed sprints. And HERE at last I stop digressing and we come to pajamas----what I THOUGHT the blog was going to be about before I decided to do an interior landscape painting instead that clearly shows my mental illness number hovering highhighhigh above the flatlands of my brain like a full moon.
SO! PAJAMAS! And not leaving the house except in sprints. Some of these sprints don’t require me to change into actual pants. Yesterday I did bank/pick-up-kids/drive-through-liquor-store-window-for-Shiraz-and-Diet-Coke without anyone but a few seen-much-worse, high-perched professional truckers ever seeing anything below my shoulders through the Vue’s window. If my little uber-mammal children didn’t require another gallon of milk every other minute I might not put on pants again this month.
For the record? The drive-through window liquor store only has Milk Chugs. No actual gallons or even quarts. REALLY, Liquor store? REALLY? Okay then, why bother carrying chocolate infused Vodka if you do not have MILK so people can make grown up rabbit-free Quik? Silly people.
TODAY a moistened slump of cardboard box was sitting on my porch (stupid rain, stupid late Friday delivery) but when I opened it, the inside was still magically DRY and WARM, it was like TOAST in there, and nestled safely in the cardboard depths were a couple of advance copies of TGWSS in trade paperback. IT. IS. SO. PRETTY.
The blue is SO blue. The feet are SO FOOTY---real chipped-toe-nail-polish authentic thirteen footy. You canâ€™t see from the pic, but it has that kind of double cover thing going where there is a beveled edge, and you open it and there is an UNDERcover, so pristinely blue it looks cool and refreshing â€“ maybe even chlorinated, with review quotes.
I think itâ€™s sexy.
It wonâ€™t be in stores JUST yet, but SOON! SOON! May 26th is the release and they generally start dribbling into stores before that. The physical book, existing in my hands is always sych a good feeling, especially when it is SO pretty and touchable and inviting. OH, how I hopehopehope people who do not know me from Adamâ€™s off ox will be tempted by its beauties to pick it up and look at the reviews and read a few lines and think, â€œoh, yes, this is my kinda thingâ€ and buy it. <---This is my most secret and beautiful hope. I am only telling you.
I am also telling you that B and N has a discount on pre-orders right now. SO you could, for example, pre-order it to ship to your momâ€™s house, and then give her a Motherâ€™s Day card with flowers on the front, chock full of both touching Hallmark-style poetry and the knowledge that a fresh new copy of a book she will surely like with all kinds of MOTHER DAUGHTER THEMINESS is coming. In fact, you really want to do that. HEY! Look at the swinging chrysallis. Look at it sway! You are getting sleepy. Also, your best friend has a birthday coming up. You want to get your best friend one, as well. Sleepyâ€¦sleepyâ€¦And you, yes, you there in the back, I remember you said you were going to wait for paperback, and lo! That glorious time is here. Yes! Yes! Take two, they are small.
When I tap your shoulder you will sit upright feeling rested and pleased, secure in the knowledge that you were all ABSOLUTELY CORRECT about Maisyâ€™s stinking caterpillars. They are, in fact, the dreaded tent worms. They are, in fact VERMIN. Horrible. reviled, defoliating, awful vermin.
When you told us, we were LOATHE to believe, but Scott went and looked at your sites you recommended and then we went and stared bleakly in at the worms and sure enough: We have a box of vermin in our kitchen. The next thing that happened only confirmed it. They tented up in the aquarium, and now it looks like we are nurturing a herd of pet hair balls.
Scott: Do you think the children would be permanently scarred if they see me burn their little pets alive?
Me: Yes. I do. I suggest that after the pets hatch you take the moths to go â€œlive on a farm.â€
Scott: Do you mean that glowing red farm lapped in flames in the black pit of deepest Hell? Where everything burns up cleanly and doesnâ€™t lay 1 billion eggs and destroy every tree in Georgia?
Me: That exact farm, yes.
We brought in new leaves yesterday for the last untented vermin (I think it is either Hookah or Mookah) and a NEW caterpillar was in those leaves. He has a black body and white fur and a red face and cheery liâ€™l deedlies on his head. We tried to get a picture but he is VERY TINY. Hopefully he will become a NICE thing.
After the Tent Worms go to He---the lovely farm, I am not sure what we will raise in our aquarium. Maybe a mated pair of darling roaches. Or plague rats. Maybe we can get some Waterford crystal culture bowls where we can host colorguard trained flag-waving teams of Ebola virus. Or we can fill the tank with yellow, scientific FLUIDS and incubate carnivorous soulless sheep. The cloned kind. That eat people. After tent worms, these things are really all a step up.
I got a weird mail yesterday, weird in TONE, from a person with a gender neutral name, asking me why this blog almost NEVER has cussing in it, and when it does the entries title WARNS that bad language is about to ensue, and YET in gods in Alabama I felt a need to allow a TEEMING PLETHORA of double-plus naughty words to BREED and infest every chapter (I may be paraphrasing, rather than quoting here..) and yet the language in Between is only NAUGHTI-ESQUE, becoming FULL ON offensive only a couple of times, and then Person said he-or-she loved the books but wished I would eat soap and BY THE WAY, while Person was at it, decorum insisted that Person SHOULD pause to mention that especially considering the MILDER vocabulary, the SEX in Between was a wee bit on the GRAPHIC side, and did he-or-she-the-reader really need THAT level of detail about What Sometimes Happens Between Married People In The Bathroom? (Answer: Yes.)
Person and I back and forthed in email for a little, had a civil and very interesting talk, and I asked permission to blog about it. Person was fine with it. So.
I feel a blend of pleased and mildly exasperated. Itâ€™s as if a drive by shooter came and blasted away at a butt ugly flower pot that I had long been meaning to throw away and then sprayed an extra four bullets into my dead azalea bush before zooming off. Because, on the one hand, she (letâ€™s make Person a she so I can quit with the hyphens) bought the books. Both of â€˜em. Even after ONE had offended her, she found enough in there to love to buy the other. So. My first reaction is, ISNâ€™T SHE PRETTY????? And then my second is, PERSON! THANK YOU, but if it bothers you that much, why are you READING it? I think I must feelâ€¦Pleasasperated?
I mean, far be it from me to discourage anyone from reading my books. I think EVERYONE IN AMERICA should read my books, and then buy gift copies for all their European friends. I donâ€™t want to lose sight of that as I address her concerns here. PERSON BOUGHT MY BOOKS. I LOVE PERSON. FOREVER. THE END. But itâ€™s VERY hard (impossible, actually, because here I am, saying it) to not say to her, â€œPERSON! When the first sentence of a book is, â€˜There are gods in Alabama: Jack Daniels, high school quarterbacks, trucks, big tits, and also Jesus.â€™donâ€™t you think you should maybe feel a mild frisson of precognitive warning that this is not going to be a particularly sugar-mouthed narrator?â€ ESPECIALLY given that Person IS the sort of person who doesnâ€™t like to look at the letters BEE EYE GEE TEE EYE TEE ESS in conjunction with each other?
As for meâ€¦cussing? I donâ€™t believe in it. I mean, I do not believe there is ANY SUCH THING. A word is a word is a word. I do not think there are any words that should be taboo. I have a wide vocabulary that can alternately make my SAT coach from 11th grade or a drunk sailor on leave sit up a little straighter, clearly impressed.
And I donâ€™t think cussing is the sign of a poor vocabulary. Knowing only one word for vomit, say, is a sign of a poor vocabulary. Or not knowing what a prestidigitator is, this is a sign. Knowing cusses is just knowing more words. More words = more nuances of meaning so you can more accurately shade a sentence to express a thought.
I donâ€™t think any combination of letters can BE intrinsically BAD or GOOD. A word is either appropriate for the moment and the company, or not appropriate. Any word can be USED for good or ill (both Pol Pot and Ghandi frequently employed â€œandâ€ for example) but the word itself is inert and blameless.
While I have NEVER been one to accept situational morality, I AM, I confess, a situational LINGUIST. If you are alone in your garage and you bang your thumb with a hammer, there is only ONE word that EXACTLY expresses the moment, and it starts with an SH and ends in a gender-neutral pronoun. If you bang your same thumb with same hammer in front of my five year old daughter, then you better suck it up and say, â€œOH! POO! OH! OH! BIG POO!â€
I have WEIRD ideas about propriety, BUT I try to ERR on the side of MANNERS. If a word MIGHT offend someone present, I think you choose not to say it. Period. My right to use the Very Bad F Word with mad abandon ends where the hearing range of the rigorous Catholic ears of your delightful granny begins. I think you donâ€™t tell someone to grow up and get over it. You respect their sensibilities, and you choose another bleeping word. If you donâ€™t, then I think you are a boor.
Also, you donâ€™t cuss in front of kids because people my daughterâ€™s age are not yet capable of making decisions about WHEN it is appropriate to use particular words. As soon as she is capable of making those distinctions for a word, she can use that word. For example, the VERY bad Eff Wordâ€¦if she thinks it is EVER even REMOTELY appropriate for it to come out of her cupidâ€™s bow mouth in the range of MY hearing, she is not ready. Saying The Very Bad Eff Word in front of your own personal mother is poor choice and can only end in weeping, heartfelt repentance and a mouth full of Zest.
Right now, ten year old Sam and I are negotiating for use of the word â€œCrap.â€
Sam: *drops his Yu-Gi-Oh cards* Crap.
Me: You canâ€™t say crap.
Sam: Is it a bad word? Because you say it, Mom, alla time.
Me: Crap is not a â€œbad word.â€ You can say it secretly in your room alone NOW. You can say it in front of me when you are 13. Also, you canâ€™t say WHAT THE---- and then stop. It doesnâ€™t sound NICE. You can say What the heckee, if you like, or you can say Great Googley Moogley. Yes. Say that.
Sam: Mom. I am NOT going to say Great Googley Moogley.
Me: Fine. But you canâ€™t say crap.
Sam: What does the word Sexy mean?
Me: HEY! LOOK! SOMETHING SHINY!
No, actually, I explained what SEXY means and we negotiated terms for when it is an appropriate word for him to say. I was going for â€œSexy may be used by Sam when he is over 35, assuming he is married, and assuming he is speaking to his wife, and assuming his mother is dead.â€ He negotiated me down quite a bit from that stance, so that he is allowed to sing the RIGHT SAID FRED song, but NOT allowed to refer to GIRLS, even ANIME ones, as sexy. Because it is not appropriate. AND ALSO because he will be sued for sexual harassment.
NOW this is all SPOKEN word stuff.
In a book, I think I am free to use whatever word best suits the moment. My books have covers that you must exercise free will in order to open, and they are shelved with the adult books at your friendly neighborhood lit-vendor. I use whatever word is needed for the sentence to do its job. Arlene? She had a MOUTH on her ---- Iâ€™ve talked about that on this blog before, why it was important on several levels to let Arlene talk that way.
In Between, Nonny Jane had a HUGELY different vocab from Arlene. Not just on the level of CUSSING; Nonny was not as educated (or as sophisticated, or as jaded) as Arlene, and her word choices reflect that. THE GIRL WHO STOPPED SWIMMING is written in directed third person, so there is LITTLE bad language in the text, but in the dialog everyone talks like they would talk. Some of the characters *cough* Thalia *cough* are not, shall we say, mouth-nuns.
Here on the net, I am more circumspect. I know there are people who come to this blog who would find the language in my books harsh and troubling, and since this is ME talking, not a character, I curb any tendency to be foul-mou----foul fingered?? or I warn you in the title that the vocab, she is going to get a leetle bit racy. Also, my OWN personal mother reads FTK, and remember the rule about F words and mothers? I donâ€™t need any Zest and repentance today, thanks.
So what do you think I should say to my gentle-eared reader and others like her who ask me these things?
I am inclined toward something like this:
THANK YOU FOR BUYING MY BOOKS. I HEART YOU! LETâ€™S BE BFF! PLEASE BUY THE NEXT ONE TOO, WITH THE UNDERSTANDING THAT IT MIGHT HAVE A SMALL BUCKET OF CUSS IN IT! ALSO A SMATTERING OF NAUGHTY MARRIED LOVE STUFF. XXOXOXOOX
And leave it at that.
But I would like to hear yaâ€™lls opinions on wayward language. Are some words just BAD words? Should all words be useable in all places? Where are your lines? Is erring on the side of good manners prudent? Or merely prudish?
Seriously, I want to KNOW. I found your capitalist pig suggestions to be hugely helpful in deciding what avaricious acquisitions to give in to (TOWELS? Put on the Christmas list!!!! Elliptical---BUY IMMEDIATELY BEFORE MY BUTT INVADES FRANCE! Bedroom Furniture â€“ tabled for further discussion! IPOD â€“ Dude, I donâ€™t like SONGS. What was I THINKING! Dyson? Watching Want Not for a link to a deal on a refurbished purple monster!) so Iâ€™d like to hear you chime in on this issue.
HI! I am drafting.
I had a prologue and a first chapter but I have successfully whittled them down to only 2,000 words by throwing out all the bad sentences. *sigh*
I hate drafting.
I hate starting a new book.
I never remember how to WRITE books right at the front and so I usually begin them by calling my friends a lot and weeping that I have lost the knack for it and then I try to get them brainstorm with me about other jobs I might be good at and eventually we work it out that I am essentially useless in ALL OTHER WAYS.
â€œUnless you want an exciting career in the medical test subject industry,â€ they say, â€œYou should hang up and go write a book.â€
SOON I will have enough CRAPULANT DEVIL WORDS to where I can STOP drafting and revise. On that day, Best Beloveds, I shall be happy. Till then. I need regular infusions of Shiraz and cheese popcorn and kindness and to be left alone at night to watch 3 episodes of ALIAS on DVD in a row.
NOTE: I never watched Alias when it was on because I thought it was some serious actual SPY show full of politics and DEEP THOUGHTS. Um, no. It is essentially XENA, but with gadgets instead of magic. It has kitten-headed pretty boys who are in love with Jennifer Garner, AS WELL THEY SHOULD BE, and even better, it has REALLY a LOT of outfits. I HEART it. It makes all the hamsters on their million tiny wheels inside my brain GO AND SIT DOWN AND SHUT UP.
Anyway â€“ hereâ€™s the drive-by and then I have to go back to staring musingly at this blank page and thinking up optional other careers and what friend I can call next to discuss in depth my potential as a stock trader or cowboy:
I was flipping though my usual Christian Pop stationswhich is almost all I listen to when the kids are in the car. When they are OUT I listen to audio booksâ€¦ It was all COMMERCIALS. So I flipped over to see what was happening on Dave FM.
Burning Down the House.
Ahhhhh the living sound of my misspent youthâ€¦.
Me: Kids! Kids! Listen! This is the Talking Heads. They are THE AWESOME.
Sam: *musingly* I like that song. I wish we listened to Dave FM all the time. It seems like it might be ALL rock-n-roll and no education.
Hehehe. My kid likes his music LEARNING FREE, thanks.
As my mental illness number approaches the little 8 tilted on its side, I have decided to ask you for help.
I've forgotten how to tell a story. I'm all bogged in sentences and carefully explaining things.
So. That. GENTLEREADER. Understands.
Screw that. I'd rather go watch television.
I have been working in a manner so unabated and insane that I've lost track of what I LIKE about this novel, which, I have realized WAY too early, is much too personal to ever let another soul read. I know, right? Just to be perfectly clear, this is not autobiographical. Just...personal. Big dif, but it doesn't FEEL all that different from where I am sitting now, in the middle of it. I'm so freaked that that I am messing up things I normally excel at, like motherhood (impatient with INTERRUPTING COW JOKES MUCH? Recently, yes.) And Public Speaking, which I usually enjoy, but is currently so terrifying I am turning down gigs I would normally LEAP at.
gods and Between are neither at all autobiographical but both SO personal and I didn't realize HOW personal they were until they were already out on the world and I was burying myself in a NEW novel to not notice how much of my inner Grendel I'd exposed. Now? I already am seeing terrible parallels and desperately trying not to learn valuable life lessons or come closer in some way to understanding myself. SO NOT INTERESTED. Because, really, my naval lint makes me cranky and exhausted. I'd MUCH rather watch television. And yet here my navel lint is. Pestering me to explain VERY CAREFULLY TO BELOVED FACELESS READER OF MY NOVELS what it all means, when really, it's just a damn good story.
Here's how I write: I get bored, and so I tell a story to myself. Then I tinker around with it because I want to know what happens next, and I want what happens next to be the right thing. Faceless Reader and Judgment comes later, and should be, to some extent, a surprise and completely disconnected from the initial process. NOW? I'm discombobulated and am vowing never no never not never notnot shall i ever do things out of order again. It's just a damn good story, I say to myself. It's just a damn good story..
Now all I have to do is remember how to TELL one of those.
SO, anyway, for the last two days I've been doing a lot of watching television. I love TV. TV shuts the brains off and the heart slows down and one approaches a state a being that is perfectly contained as itself and nothing more, like the platonic ideal of a sofa.
When my brains approach permanent hiatus and I begin to sneak up on flatline, I go watch the show at zefrank.com. Ze is sort of like television, only smaller. And low rez. And he has both more thinking and more poop jokes, so if he ran 24/7, always on tap, I think I would be a happier person. I would put in little earphones and project his GIANT TALKING FACE onto the inside lens of my glasses. Total escape into duckies and a vehement desire for peace and the 4 second cut away....Lint? What lint?
I haven't even been telling stories here, on FTK. I've been talking ABOUT stuff. I've lost my innate sense of Beginning. Middle. End. I've lost control of language.
Screw it. If you need me, I'll be watching television.
If you want me to TALK, I can talk ABOUT things. Mostly I can talk ABOUT TV, since watching it is what I do now:
1) Lorelei would NEVER have gone and slept with what's-his-bucket. That's just DUMB. DUMB way to end a season, DUMB hole to have to get out of in the final season.
2) SATAN has the reins at project runway --- VINCENT? BACK? Come ON! And you KNOW they will bring him back AGAIN at fashion week, right, like they did last season, as a HELPER. What kind of help is THAT? Couture glue bottle, anyone? It is Vincent without end, AMEN.
3) Super Password is the best rerun going on Game Show Network. Yes. Game Show Network. You know things are desperate here as I wait for the season premiers that aren't on Fox to kick in. I mean, DUDE when is MEDIUM coming back????
4) Except maybe Match Game. Because I think Gene Rayburn was crazy sexy. And I heart me some Fanny Flag.
I could go on like this for a very long time. Back to the novel I am not currently writing due to my full TV watching schedule....I dream these people. I swear to you this is the best novel I have ever not written and it is marching endlessly around in my head. I go to sleep with them. I wake up with them. Laurel and Thalia, Thalia and Laurel. I have a draft. It's currently in vivisected chunks on my floor because I had to tear out a whole wrongful section. NOW I have the missing pieces in my head...I see what should happen.I see the story, in my head. And there it stays.
There's a fundamental disconnect going on here. I HAVE the story now. I just can't tell it. People who love me are watching me snatch myself baldheaded and are telling me I need prozac or a trip to the mountains or to exercise more. Okay. I can try all that. But I suspect it's crap.
I look at FTK over the last few weeks, I sure have been talking ABOUT a lot of things. That's' the problem. I've forgotten how to tell a story. I've forgotten how to do the FUN parts. It's sort of like knowing how to be PREGNANT with all the attending vomiting and enormous butt-getting, and yet you go all Agnes of God and only see doves flapping if someone asks how the sex was, and THEN you NEVER ACTUALLY GET THE BABY.
So, I am taking the rest of the week off to watch some lovely television, and you, oh best beloveds, if you are kind and delightful and want to virtually pet my hair, are going to remind me how to tell a story.
No comments---let's do this via e-mail for the shy among you. Ask me a question. Tell me an anecote from your grandmother's life. Send me a link to a picture. Write me a Haiku. YES, I said HAIKU. These are desperate times, and I am willing to even try poetry. Send me ...Something. Give me a jumping off point. For the rest of the week, I will tell stories about the things you send me. Some will be true. Some will be foul lies. I just want to have FUN.
Writing has been work recently. If I wanted to WORK for a freakin' living, I would have become an environmentalist lawyer or a hooker. SO. Rest of the week is about PLAY. I'll blog here, and exercise more, and take a day trip to Stone Mountain. I'll even take my own homemade version of Prozac, which involves drinking Pomegranate martinis all day long on Saturday while watching a COMPLETE BACK TO BACK season of America's Next Top Model on VH1.
I have one. (If you are asking, "One what?" then see above.) I HAVE one, and it is sneaking around, mythologically (and craftily) EATING my life and disjuncting my relationship to time. Not that time and I were ever, like, really, really, really tight. But still. I have a metaphorical monkey on my back, and I think he stole my watch.
In Lee Child's Reacher novels, the main character has this uncanny ability to set an inner clock, and his military training and internal clockiness allow him to doze for, say, an exact hour and then wake up just in time to slaughter bad guys and make fierce rompy, dog-man love with one of Child's signature competant female characters who has already rescued herself, thanks, but now needs help to go back in and eviscerate evil. (I like those books a LOT, can you tell?) But I myself am the anti-Reacher. I have the uncanny ability to not realize it is March for WEEKS. Some years I don't realize it is Monday until long after a completely different Monday than the one I think it should be has rolled around, and I am now smack in the middle of the following Wednesday. (I'm also not like Reacher in that I don't know 56 ways to kill a man with my bare hands. I only know 9.)
I say all this to try to explain this freaky thing that's happening: I'm losing time.
Let me rephrase. I'm losing much more time than is normal for me. I VERY OFTEN lose a minuet to blank staring, or misplace an hour or two, forget a day maybe here or there, every now and I again I space out and drop a week. Now I am losing whole MONTHS. Seriously. Did you know it's June? Well, you are one up on me, buddy.
If you watch too many Law and Order reruns on USA and BRAVO (and I do, Lord KNOWS I do), you might begin to believe that the ONLY logical explanation is that I have Multiple Personality Disorder. I woke up feeling full this morning, which either means I ate too many baked Cheetos while watching the UNSTOPPABLE GRINDING DEATH METAL TRAIN WRECK that is the Janice Dickerson Modeling Agency Show on Lifetime or Oh! or some channel that REALLY ought to know better, OR, and this seems far more likely, the spooky serial killer personailty I keep stored in my occipital lobe (along with the frigid librarian and the innocent child and the promiscuous snakey man-ho) manifested at five am, and I spent a coupla hours next door, paddling about in a kiddy pool filled with blood and grilling myself of tasty steak-of-neighbor with family dog sauce.
When they come to arrest me, I hope they send Vincent Donofrio. Because, Yum.
ANYWAY, for those of you who are equally afflicted by Space-Time-Contumium-Disaffected-Disorder, I have a Newsflash: It's JUNE.
On the THIRD of the month that it now is, gods in Alabama came out in paperback. And I MISSED it. I did not go to my local bookstore to look at it. I did not even KNOW. I am still back in MAY, hoping it will do well when it comes out, hoping my launch into the word of having a paperback goes well. Yeah, well, already happened. I was in some sort of cosmic bathroom, powdering my nose for daysanddaysanddays. I missed the thrill of seeing the display on the first fresh day, but on the bright side, I also missed FOUR days of frantically pacing around, hoping my baby is faring well and, if not flying off the shelves, at the very least leaving them at a brisk trot.
PAPERBACK! OUT! NOW! GAHHHHHHHHHH! I'm going to go look this afternoon and buy a celebration Iced Caramel Coffee Drink. As for you, this would be a good time to go buy one for everyone you ever met.
To digress again, immediately, even before I start in on the actual interview, Oh My Best Beloveds, if you will please to CRANE your eyes THISAWAY
and then down a inch or two,
You will see the BIG! YELLOW! BUTTON! is back, now under a shiny small picture of BETWEEN, GEORGIA. Ah prepare for DEJA JA VU VU as I say.....
That button will take you to an ORDER FORM. This link will take you to my TOUR DATES and LOCATIONS. If you can't make it to an actual tour event ---and I hope you can, I promise you will have a good time, and I hate it when it is just me and the bookstore cat, blinking at each other---BUT if you cannot because you WILFULLY chose to prance off and live in MONTANA, even though YOUR MOTHER TOLD YOU NOT TO, never fear. It doesn't mean you are destined to die alone on a rickety Montanian cot, weeping as you slip this mortal coil because you never got a signed, inscribed first edition hardback of BETWEEN, GEORGIA. You can thank The Alabama Booksmith, a fantastical indy, who has set up a VIRTUAL SIGNING that will take place on FRIDAY, JULY 14th.
Just order before that date (now is good, lest you FORGET!), and the form will let you order a copy that says practically anything. Just THINK of who has a birthday this year....why, everyone you know! May I humbly suggest you pre-get your favorite person's present? Think how HAPPY you will be on October 15 or whatever day they decided to appear into the world, when you HAVE their present all ready to go and signed and filled with charming felicitations I have penned per your instructions using the UNIBALL VISION ELITE pen I tote with me for just such an occasion. And get your mom one! And get you one! The books beg you to take one home with you as if they were the blinking bookstore cat's foundling kittens, except the book won't stromp great gaping holes into your sofa and mewl for you to clean out its litterbox.
NOW AT LAST, the LAUME Interview:
Laume: How much time do you spend actually writing? - that is, sitting at the computer or notepad writing the first draft or revising. Not answering e-mail or writing your blog or sending notes to your editor. The actual story.
Me: Not a lot. I write the way 9 year old boys pick at scabs---as if it's fascinating in a yicky, painful way. I feel compelled to do it. I write maybe 3 hours a week? Tops? I spend a good 10 - 15 concentrated hours a week REVISING the hideous crap I pumped out during the miserable hours I spent writing. I also spend an uncalculatable amount of minutes here and half hours there toying with sentences and paragraphs and pages and scenes. If I get fifteen minutes of quiet, I run to my computer and niggle and nudge some horrid sentences until they line up and do right. That's sheer pleasure, making the mess become pleasing language that furthers my story.
Laume: How much time do you spend working out your story that is not actual writing? For instance, working out plot issues while driving in the car, doing research on places or technical points, discussing your work with your writer's group.....
Me: I can't calclate that either. I think about it all the time. I write novels because I have SUCH a horror of being bored. That, to me, seems like the worst part of being buried alive. Yes, the terror and the oxygen slowly fading and the darkness and the aloneness and the possible bugs touching you is ALL VERY BAD. But when I think of being buried alive, it's the sensory deprivation that REALLY gets to me. If I ever DO get buried alive I hope my serial killer puts a penlight and some Flannery O'Connor in the box with me. Or buries me with a good conversationalist.
When Scott and I did our living wills a couple of years ago, I couldn't sign off until I had mapped out with him very carefully the sort of entertainment that would need to be provided continuously for my inert form. My lawyer was like, "You get that I am paid by the HOUR, right?" as I went over this witrh him in excrutiating detail. But we got it done, to whit: If I am ever in a coma, there MUST be TV or a book on tape on for me at all times. And I was terrified there would be some sort of letter-of-the-law MEAN nurse who likes to sit SOUR and BAKE in the quiet, and in my imagination she would PUT ON the TV as requested, but turn the sound down to ZERO. This fictional nurse really BUGGED me, a I HATED her, untilScott implemented a headphone clause and minimum volume requirements. I also specified that the TV could not be on CNN or, Lord help me, the DISCOVERY freakin' channel, and I didn't want to listen to books about WHO STOLE MY CHEESE or financial planning. My unresponsive braindead body would prefer to have PLOT with its iron lung. Crazy, huh?
SO. Yeah. All the time I am thinking about the book I am writing, or the book I want to write next...It probably pops into my brain with the same frequency that Psychology Today says adolescent boys think of sex.
Laume: Do you set daily goals or weekly goals?
Me: Not really. I have to turn in AT LEAST one or two new drafted chapter to my writing group every two weeks, but that could men 10 pages or 35. If it was always 35 pages, I woudl finish a book in 5.7 months, so CLEARLY there are many times when it is more like 12 or 15.
Laume: Despite your best intentions, do you end up having to do one or more marathon sittings away from the family to make things happen?
Me: Yes. And it's not IN SPITE of my best intentions. My intentions are to have these times scheduled from the get go. Scott takes my kids to some grandmother infested paradise in Alabama or Florida, and I grunt pump out 10 - 30K TERRIBLE words in a weekend. Then I spend the 1 - 3 months revising those words, and Then I kick Scott and the kids out again.
And I would like to point out to you, OH JADED SPOUSE OF A WRITER, yes, you, in the back, SNEERING at your spouse's "hobby"....that I always kicked my family out for weekends, even before I was publishing or making any money at all from my writing. Scott took my writing time as seriously as he took the time he spent on HIS job, and did his best to protect it and create it and be respecctful of it, and I wouldn't have finished my FIRST novel yet if he had not. SO. What do you say to THAT, OH Mr. or Mrs. WRITERSPOUSE?
Laume: And is shutting the office door really enough to allow you to work without wondering who's sitting on the cat or making that horrible screeching sound elsewhere in the house?
Of course not. Unless I have a sitter there, then yes, and I assume she will come get me if anyone is spurting arterial blood or is actually on fire If it's me and the kids, I can't draft. Especially since my cat is so huge that if he decided to sit on them back they would smother. I revise in spurts and dribbles during days when I have a kid or two in the house.
I was silent all weekend because I was at a conference in Monroeville, Alabama, which is pretty much Mecca for southern scribes. Harper Lee and Truman Capote grew up there, side by side. Harper Lee still lives in Monroeville in the winters. She is in New York right now which, on the one hand, I was sad because I have always secretly hoped that one day i would meet her. Not that I would have expected to see her at a literary conference, but I MIGHT have run into her while walking through Piggley Wiggley with someone from town who knew her. See? ALL CASUAL AND ACCIDENTAL, arranged and ordained by The Lord. But there was no chance of it. I took comfort in the idea that there was ALSO no chance I would hear anyone say, "Joshilyn, this is Nell Harper L----oh my. It's okay, the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser can take those stains right off," as I puked on her shoes out of sheer nerves. SO. How's THAT for a bright side?
The house Harper Lee grew up in is now a BURGER STAND called MEL's that sells DREAM CONES (!!!!). Alas, Karen and I did not ever stop and GET a DREAM CONE. I wonder what on earth it is? I bet it's just fancy talk for that puffy-airy styrofoam-infused ice cream like you get at DQ. I hope not, though. I hope it's something SHERBET-Y or creamsicle-ish, striped orange and white and chock full of opiates. I hope those who pause to eat of it are like Lotus People: They wake up three weeks later, having seen The Future and The Truth, but they are not quiiiiiiiiiiiite able to express how it was, exactly. You can ask, and one will say, "Well...THE FUTURE was like a great glowing metaphorical lynx, but made of prisms and refracting into a thousand points of rainbows, but not really, and then it diffused into bands that leapt out and touched my face so that my eyes caught fire, but I kinda liked it." And then the other says, "No, it was not. That was The Truth. The Future was that OTHER thing."
Yeah. I know. The actual DREAM CONE was bound to disappoint. We went past the place at least four times, but each time, I kept driving.
We got out of the car encrusted with the filth of a thousand miles (even though we had technically only driven 180 miles, Karen and I are so naturally VILE that we were ABLE to accumulate the ACTUAL FILTH of 1000 miles in 1/5th of the time it would have taken, say, some young mission workers.) Tom Franklin was sitting out in the lobby and he said HEY to me. I looked like the very wrath of God so I half waved and galloped past him. I dived into my hotel room, hoping to SCRAPE some filth off before having an actual conversation with a writer I admire. Then I kept realizing I had left invaluable filth-scraping materials like my SOAP and my HAIRBRUSH in the car. I headed back out, and I still looked like mucusy bile and he was still in the lobby. I was incapable of bringing everything I needed in. THREE TIMES I made the journey, each time half waving as if I thought he had leprosy, but really, I just didn't want him to look directly at me and go BLIND from horror. He was very nice about it, later, when I appeared coifed and smelling faintly of roses, and we both pretended like he had never seen me with threads of Processed Cheese Food entwined within the greasy locks of my Car Hair.
The first night, Karen and I stayed up until about 3 am drinking pomegranate martinis (because they are chock full of antioxidants and other highly nutritive goodnesses! The fact that they are 192 proof is not relevant.) The very talented Cathy Day was there, and she told us that MARASCHINO CHERRIES stay with you. EVERY maraschino cherry. They... ADHERE to your intestines? They CLING? They SEDENTATE? They...sew little intestine pockets for themselves and button themselves in? Something very permanent, so that you even now are carrying with you every maraschino cherry you ever plucked whole from your sunday's whipped cream or excavated from your cocktail ice. Can you IMAGINE how many they found when they autopsied Elvis?
I wish I could remember exactly how the cherries imbed themselves. It was very scientific when CATHY said it, I am sure, but remembered through the rosy haze of, um, antioxidants, I have lost some essential details, I feel certain. Like, where do the cherries get the buttons? Also, there was something about Maraschino Cherries being made OUTSIDE in huge vats and if birds fly over and poo in the vats (and they DO!) and if older birds fall dead and plummet out of the skies and LAND in the cherries (AND THEY DO!) or if intrepid possums are drawn to the sweet smell of preserving cherries and mount an expedition to CLIMB the cherry vats and LICK UP SYRUP with their long POSSUM-SUCK COVERED TONGUES (and you KNOW! You KNOW!!! they do!) then the cherry makers shrug and say, "So it goes," because I guess a little dead bird never hurt anyone, eh? A little possum suck adds protein. Why not.
We all listened to her very earnestly and then fished around in our martinis and pulled out the cherries and ate them, because as Karen pointed out, with an alcohol content as high as is oftentimes found in the drinks *I* make, the cherries had been thoroughly sterilized.
This was in Suzanne Hudson (who KILLED at her reading KILLED!) and Joe Formichella's hotel room, the default party room for both conferences I have been to where the Fairhope Posse was in attendance. Tom Franklin was there. Tom left the next day, EARLY, and Karen and I had not yet gotten our books signed! WAIL! He had to go get therapy though, I betcha, to recover from seeing us in all our glorious filth. And of course Sonny Brewer was there. And the awesome Rick Bass. And there we also met Warren St. John, the staff writer for The New York Times who wrote that story on Sonny I linked you to earlier. He's got a book out now called Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer which Jake at the Alabama BookSmith (a fave indie store of mine) has tried all his wiles to get me to buy---Jake swears by this book.
I avoided those wiles for a YEAR (not easy, Jake is a supah-charged-bookseller from the way back back and he haz vays of makink yew READ) because FIRST OF ALL it's non-fic (I rarely crack NF unless it's pretty dern PLOTTY, like Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, say) AND I thought it was about football, and all I really know about football is that it is one o' them things the boys call "a sports." BUT After hearing Warren talk at the conference, I realized it was NOT actually about football. It's about FANDOM, and, speaking as a girl who is afraid to meet Harper Lee lest I puke on her shoes, that's something that interests me, so I got one that I SAID was a gift but I started reading it accidentally andd now I want to keep it. HEY! Did you know Bama fans SOAK maraschino cherries in PURE GRAIN alcohol for YEARS and eat them by the fistful. They are called BAMA BOMBS because they are RED like the TIDE. Dude. You have to kinda RESPECT that kind of fandom, you know? The kind that bravely says, "Sterilized possum suck shall not deter us, OH NO, we will eat the diseased bird carcass encrusted colors of our team and carry them with us, intestine-ly speaking, FOREVER...."
And that was only night one. Day two, which followed, was moderately painful, in that the SUN came up and TOUCHED MY EYES, but after twelve cups of coffee and a Vitamin B injection, I was good to go...MORE LATER. I have to tell you about the NALLS and getting to speak in the REALLY FOR TRUE Monroeville courthouse with Homer Hickam (!!!) (Like about 20 million other people on this planet, I love his work) and etc, unless I forget and it all settles down among the pink socks to breed itself into a hundred other stories that don't seem related, but are.
Have I told you the thing about how every time I write a novel (and this is the fifth time I have done this, so pernicious novel-writing is beginning to be a habitual thing with me) I have to have a complete nervous breakdown?
Yeah, about 1/3rd to 1/2 of the way in, I suddenly realize I am bad, and stupid, and evil, and as much as I love my characters I am too worthless to possibly get them to go sit on a page and LIVE and BE NIFTY they do in my head and WHAT IS UP with this PLOT because what I thought would happen has NOT happened and instead I let my mental people do haring off and perpetrate completely other ideas and so now that I am stuck they decide they to have no idea where they should go or what they should do, and I fume and flail around snarking for a couple of weeks, just stomp around suffer and suchlike, and then after 10 - 30 days of grinding out bad rewrites of a single bad scene, I culminate in a big huge screaming weep.
I call everyone I know and brainstorm for a new career path, and pule about how I am going to try out for Project Runway because even though I can't sew a LICK and I put outfits together by going to Ann Taylor and pointing at a mannequin that I think doesn't look too matchy-matchy and yet is still pretty and saying, "Give me that please" and then once it's in a bag I go to the SHOE STORE which is the only part of the whole process I care about anyway....BUT WHO CARES because Tim Gunn NEEDS me and fashion is CLEARLY my life and my calling and I know this because it dern well sure is NOT writing. Or I could be a zookeeper! Or a nun! Or a business woman in a power suit who ruthlessly downsizes weeping middle management!
Once everyone I know has patiently explained to me that these are not actually viable career paths for a disorganized married crazy fashion-sense-free mother who is actually kinda SCARED of lions, I lie on my bed and scream to the heavens and cry WHY WHY WHY and generally act like a 2 year old on crack, and a spoiled one at that. This part wastes another day or so. Then I get up and write the rest of the book.
Yeah, well, this time, here on book five, I decided to, you know, maybe not do that.
I quit writing right before I went to New York. Just....stopped. I thougth maybe I was not writing because I was out of town, but no. I quit. Hacked 10K out of the book, and left it there to bleed to death with one quarter of itself removed. When I got home it was dead as a congealed spill of paint to me, and I decided to not care. Decided I would put a new 10K back in when I was good and freakin' ready THANKS MUCH. Because EVEN THOUGH it was clearly time to have a nervous breakdown and make everyone who loved me miserable, and THIS TIME, I decided to opt out.
I remember when I was writing Between, Georgia, this point came about one third of the way into the book, outside a hospital room where my main character runs slap dab into her awful genetic legacy personified, and even then I knew it really OUGHT to be a turning point. The scene would have to rachet the tension up a good ten clicks and make several relationships in all their tangley ugliness become horrifyingly clear. And instead, I wrote FORTY PAGES of this one scene, over and over, read it to my writing group I think three times....it gave me HELL. And I went mental and quit writing and vowed I would be a world class aviatrix or some such twaddle and lay around and flopped and after the 14th TOTAL rewrite of this scene, I went into the final phase (full panic alert mode) and called my friend Lily.
ME: *WAIL* I CANNOT GO ON.
Her: Oh. Are we here now?
Me: *actually, shockingly listening* What? Where?
Her: The part 1/3rd to 1/2 of the way in where we have this conversation about how you can't go on an d it makes no sense and there is no way to resolve this this or that blah blah and we do this for a couple of hours and then you go write the book.
Me: I do that?
Her: Every book.
Me: Do you tell me I do this every book?
Her: Every book.
Me: SO not only have we had the conversation where I say I can't do this anymore, but we have ALSO had the conversation where you say I always say this?
Her: This is the fourth time, yes, and to make you do the math I will ask you, How many books have you written?
Me: This is the fourth.....And we really have these two conversations every time.
Her: Well the first time we didn;t have the conversation about how we have had the first conversation but otherwise yes.
Me: I have no memory of this.
Her: Mine is very very crystaline clear.
Me. Huh. Interesting.
SO this time, I decided to simply NOT. I went to New York. And then I came home. And I did not snark at my family or worry. I also did not, in fact, write. I have basically been playing World of Warcraft for a couple of weeks and really concentrating on important MISSIONS, like getting my foot skin looking supple and moisterized because sandal weather is coming and working out and cooking nutritious meals for a sit down family dinner every night and going around being quietly pleased instead of shaking with horror and screaming. I have lost 4 pounds of the eternal five I always gain and lose and the big THRILL moment for the last fortnight has been finding the perfect shade of hot pink toe polish to match my wedgie sandals with the daisies on the side. My life has been chewing its cud in a placid meadow. My life is a cow.
Then The Terrible Thing With A Snake happened. Which I will tell you about tomorrow, though it is very terrible, and you may not want to hear it. OUT OF TIME.
DO NOT FORGET that MIDNIGHT your time tonight is the deadline to enter BLOGGING FOR BOOKS!
Your special guest blogger this month is Autumn, a former B4B finalist who pens Perfection on a Curve. She will narrow the entries down to seven.
If you are one of the seven finalists, your entry will be read by author E. Lockhart, whose new YA book, Fly on the Wall : How One Girl Saw Everything tells the story of a girl named Gretchen who gets to BE a fly on thew wall...in the boys locker room. It's Kafkarriffic!
Let me just say -- THANK YOU SO MUCH for linking to B4B. I appreciate it more than I can say...
Last night I did an internet chat with Writing to Publish, a web group of like-minded writers who are working hard both to hone their craft AND to pursue traditional publication. It's hard to break in, sohats off, dudes, and may your queries find the right agent on the right day. This is the talk I gave, and I thought I would post it here for the writers who hang out in the Kudzu....
One of my favorite playwrights, Anton Chekhov, once said, ""If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired." Well, okay, but I think that if you've got a pistol hanging right there on the wall, you should probably rip that sucker down and start blasting away in scene one.
Actually Chekhov is being much deeper and smarter than I am pretending he is being---he's talking follow-through and that's vital. But you see my point---Don’t hold back, because in a first novel especially, you need an opening that hooks readers on page one in at LEAST two ways.
1) Establish voice. If it's first person or even a closely directed third, that means your character's voice. Voice is TONE and LANGUAGE and RHYTHM and STRUCTURE. Make her SOUND like who she is.
If it's a sliding or omniscient third, the voice you have to establish is YOURS. And if you are writing in first or directed third, you STILL have to do this, but UNDER your character's voice.
One way to know if you are writing in your own voice is to read EVERYTHING aloud. Mulitple times. Every draft. You are writing the book only you can write, so make sure you tell the story in your own voice, even if you layer a character voice on top of it.
No one can tell you how to write in your voice. You write until you find it. Trying to explain how it feels is like trying to describe an orgasm to a person who has never had one before and has no point of reference, "Sort of like sneezing, but lower. And um, better. And um, not at all like sneezing." When you are writing in your own voice, you know it. You recognize it.
I had so much trouble getting my second novel, BETWEEN, GEORGIA to be MINE that way. Nonny’s voice was so strong in my head she overpowered mine. I wouldn’t show the book to my editor until I had MY voice underneath hers, in every line. I knew I'd gotten it when my editor said, "This book is nothing like gods, the narrator is nothing like your narrator for gods, she doesn't talk, think, or act like her...and yet it's so obvious you wrote both the books. It’s YOU. How did you do that?"
The question was rhetorical, I;m sure, but I answered it. "Well," I said, "It's a little like sneezing...."
2) IMMEDIATE Conflict. Nothing boils people down to their essential selves as quickly. I think the best way to let the reader meet your characters is to put them all in a room and then light one of them on fire. When I see how all the characters react to the blazing person, I begin to know who they are and how they feel about each other. Start a big heap of trouble and then watch and see what your people DO.
If that's not possible, you have begun your book too early. Cut everything away, EVERYTHING, no matter how well it is written or how much you love it, until you begin this story where the main conflict begins. Be brutal with yourself so that agents and editors don't have to be.
Me, I am so interested in conflict that I tend to start books too LATE, which is also no good. The first thing I wrote when I started GODS IN ALABAMA ended up being Chapter 2. It was Arlene Fleet at 15, creeping up to the top of Lip Smack Hill to beat football hero Jim Beverly to death with a tequila bottle.
I realized later that I could NOT start 12 years in the past – GODS IN ALABAMA had to begin in the present with the 27 year old Arlene because her present goals were going to drive the story. So, I wrote an opening chapter, but the first lines of the book telegraph the central conflict. Here’s the opener:
"There are gods in Alabama: Jack Daniels, high school quarterbacks, trucks, big tits, and also Jesus. I left one back there myself, back in Possett. I kicked it under the Kudzu and left it to the roaches."
Arlene’s wry dark humor and smarts shows in that first line, and nothing says immediate conflict like dumping a dead body…
NOW! Go look in a mirror. If you see Pat Conroy looking back at you, feel free to begin with a description of landscape and, really, if you ARE Pat, you can natter on about it for pages and pages if you so desire. If you see a slightly less established writer, you need to cut that beautiful tree paragraph.
I'm being a little facetious, but just a little. ANY established author can take more liberties with an opening because they have a fan base. You pick up an established author's novel based on what that author has delivered in the past---good characters, interesting plots, satisfying resolutions… With a first book, you have to give a reader a TASTE for what you have to offer, and you have to do it in the first few sentences. GOOD LUCK!
I had a bad day yesterday. I bruised my hip and broke a glass, and then I missed my church's luncheon and ministry fair to go to a booksigning. I put on a cute skirt and fixed my hair, but when I showed up, I was about as welcome as an unwashed goat at a wedding. I walked up to the signing area and there was a store employee there putting out books for the signing and four other authors milling around.
SO... I stood there and stood there while they talked, a closed unit, and looked at me sideways as if wondering why I was standing on the edge waiting to introduce myself.
Employee: "Can I help you?" subtext: you crazy nut bag who is hanging around like a derelict.
Me: "Hi. I'm Joshilyn--I'm here for the signing."
Employee: OH! Great! Well, just a second, we are almost set up.
SO then the other four authors start trying to give me promotional material and asking me who I am there to see. I am confused. I don't get it. Then I notice that they have set up four chairs at the table and are setting out four books....none of the books are mine.
SO I think, maybe I am in the wrong place.
Me: Am I in the wrong place? I'm Joshilyn Jackson. Here for the booksigning?
Store Employee: Nope you are in the right place. This is the booksigning.
So I wait. The other four authors begin to look at me like I am a leper who is hanging around their table to gawk at them and not buy their books.
Author 1: Are you...missing something?
Me: Yes, I am missing my book.
They stare at me like I'm crazy, all clearly thinking that there is a table full of books right in front of me and any ONE of them could EASILY be mine, signed and everything, but right now I am just looming over the table and scaring the nice people away. I am beginning to think I AM crazy.
Just then the events planner who arranged for me to be there comes up and gently takes my arm and says "I need you to come with me." I am led away like a lunatic who is bothering the paying customers, my cheeks on fire. I don't think a single one of the four authors realized what was going on---it just looked like a manager came and mercifully took the weirdo off.
The events planner walks me away and gently explains that she was unable to order my book. See, it's three months before the paperback comes out, so the call for buy backs already happened, and it flummoxed her computer. She forgot to follow up with her Warner rep or, indeed, with me (I could have easily gotten them for her had I known), and then apparently forgot that I was coming at all, so subsequently she forgot to call and tell me that there was no reasons for me to be here AT ALL, primped up in my nice skirt, missing my fair, and looking like a whack-job.
I tried to be gracious about it but I think I failed. I was standing there, you know, kinda pole-axed. I wasn't sure what to do.
Note to self: I SHOULD HAVE JUST GRACIOUSLY SAID OH WELL OOPS IT HAPPENS AND LEFT.
Note to you: IF YOU ARE EVER IN THIS SITUATION, GRACIOUSLY SAY OH WELL OOPS IT HAPPENS AND LEAVE.
Because trust me, nothing that follows is going to get a even a tiny bit pleasanter. It's like gettign whacked with a hammer and then staying by the mad carpenter's toolbox, wondering if the screwdriver through the eye will feel better. Hint: it won't. But ALAS, I did NOT graciously say, oops well it happens, and leave. I was busy being flummoxed and standing like a cow with my mouth hanging open.
The computer said they had one copy of my book in, so the events lady (who was SO nice to me and apologetic, I have to say) went to find it so I could at least sign their one book's worth of store stock. I waited, thinking I would sign that one book and then do the gracious oops thing and leave.
A woman I think was the manager came up.
Her: We don't have your book in stock, huh?
Me: Nope. Paperback is coming out soon, so this happens.
Her: *condescending, slightly preachy tone* Maybe if you set it up in advance, we can have a signing for you here when the paperback comes out.
Me: *re-pole-axed* Um...what? Oh, um...okay.
Her: *clearly offended* Well, you don't sound very ENTHUSIASTIC about it...
Me: I'm sorry. I'm not trying to be ungracious, I just..It's no big deal, but I am missing my church function to come do this. I wish someone had called me, you know?
It becomes clear to me in the middle of this conversation, while the manager is looking at me like I am both a MORON and a JERK, that she has NO IDEA I have been INVITED. She thinks I have just WANDERED in during the middle of them trying to pull of a HUGE in store event with 4 LEGITIMATE authors and give-aways and drawings and balloons, and demanded to be included, and then gotten all shirty and hateful because they didn't HAPPEN to have twenty copies of my year old book on hand.
Just then the poor events manager creeps back to tell me that the one copy of my book they have has apparently been shelved wrong and she can't find it. We stood there looking at each other, perfectly in accord in our wish that the earth would open and eat us. Hell would have been a more comfortable environment at that point. I think I felt about three inches tall, if that. I think she felt about two inches tall.
The manager, meanwhile, still hasn't realized I was actually invited...
She asks the events planner: Did you call her? (She means Did you call her to INVITE her.)
The events planner says, sheepishly: No. I didn't. (She means, she forgot to call and CANCEL)
At that point, I cracked my hollow tooth, drank the lethal droplet inside it, and mercifully died. Or I straightened it out with the manager that I had been invited, agreed with the events planner that we would have to do better for Between, Georgia, said goodbyes all around, and walked out to my car feeling like my spine was on fire. I got the door shut and started the car, and I swear to you, the fact that I was two blocks away before I burst into tears is the one thing about all of yesterday that I can reasonably be proud of.
PS: Yes, Virginia, I DID just end a sentence with a preposition. I feel I EARNED it.
Another blurb came in for Between, Georgia, and I have to tell you, it has made me COMPLETELY repulsive. I keep calling my editor and asking her to read it to me v.e.r.y. s.l.o.w.l.y.
LET'S LOOK AT IT, SHALL WE? Lord knows I haven't stopped looking at it since it arrived....
“BETWEEN, GEORGIA is a small miracle, and Nonny Frett is the most engaging woman who ever lived in the pages of a book. Joshilyn Jackson is an enormously talented writer.”
Anne Rivers Siddons, New York Times bestselling author of SWEETWATER CREEK
Can I tell you that when that arrived I burst into tears? I have been a full-on Anne Rivers Siddons fan for more than twenty years --- ever since I read Heartbreak Hotel.
The day the blurb arrived, I was FOUL! I got this SOCK PUPPET of my daughter's...he is named Socky, but I put it on and named it Mrs. Rivers Siddons and I kept asking it OBNOXIOUS questions.
Me: "WHAT ABOUT EMMA??? You know, JANE AUSTEN'S EMMA?"
Puppet: "HMMMMM...yes very engagaing...but.... I prefer Nonny!"
Me: Okay but---what about, say, Lily Bart? How could any fictional creature be more engaging than---
Scott: THIS IS THE POLICE. YOU ARE SURROUNDED. SET DOWN THE SOCK PUPPET AND BACK SLOWLY AWAY.
I have to tell you, READERS are quite simply the coolest part of this whole "being a novelist" thing I seem to be doing. I love hearing from total strangers in, say, DES MOINES who have read my stuff and it has in some way been meaningful and entertaining for them to the point that they feel compelled to take a minute to tell me about it. And even though asking for blurbs is nervewracking, having other novelists I have long read and admired read MY stuff and ACTUALLY LIKE IT... Oh my Lord. Think about it. Anne Rivers Siddons read MY LITTLE BOOK. Come on, how COOL is that? You can forgive me the sock puppet, can't you? I mean, COME ON! ANNE RIVERS SIDDONS REALLY LIKED MY BOOK!
In other news, sorry I have been silent this week, but reading the audiobook is kicking my butt. It makes me so SLEEPY! I have been fast asleep before nine every night this week. Weird, huh? I sit in a box for 7 hours, and then come home, eat a pork chop or some shrimps, and pass out.
Now that I am past the mortal terror, I have to tell you, it's SO FREAKIN' FUN. It's REALLY making me miss acting---I am currently reading some (very fine, very smart, very layered) Quinn Dalton short stories as I am too freakin' PHYSICALLY TIRED to keep up with a novel, and I find myself reading the shorts aloud, making acting choices, and enjoying the CRAP out of it. I hope the external product (the audiobook) makes me feel half as pleased as the internal process of reading it does...
And SPEAKING of internal processes, you will be pleased to know that IN SPITE of my foolishly ordering EXTREMELY spicy Cajun food for lunch, I have remained (gastro-intestinally speaking) blameless...although we did have to do some line rereads for stomach gurgling noises when we waited too long to order lunch. ONE MORE DAY and I will be out clean.
YES I KNOW THIS IS TMI, but 'fess up! You WERE wondering.
They had to tape a minute of silence yesterday in the studio where I read the first 105 pages of Between. Why, I wanted to know. To fill in or create holes, they said. To put in pauses that are silent where right now you are putting in pauses where you breathe or pauses where you move or pauses where your stomach makes an odd gurgling noise that yes, we out here in the studio DO all hear, and PS thanks for not farting. You are least fartiest reader we have ever had.
But it has to be silence from that room? I asked.
Yes, they assured me. Silence is a fingerprint.
No other silence sounds like the silence in the small space I spent more than six hours yesterday. Any other silence, even silence from another studio, wouldn't sound like the silence in that one room in this small space of time.
Now, look, I've been doing this WRITING thing for quite some time, and I BETCHA that if
1) I had a soul and
2) if I wasn't gearing up for 6 - 7 more hours of sitting in box ASSIDUOUSLY NOT PASSING GAS, I could come up with a way to make that an interesting metaphor about, you know, life, and how the quality of silence being as individual as snowflakes and etc etc but Lordy, I am JUST not up for it. You make a metaphor for me, okay, and please let it be less cheesey than the sample one. I REALLY want to make one, but I'm too dern tired. This party is strictly BYOM.
For the record, I have not passed gas. EVEN ONCE. Furthermore, if I do? You will know by process of deductive reasoning. If, for example, you hear that I have driven off a cliff to my death tomorrow afternoon, you will know that I have failed in my objective. Why this matters to me so much, I have no clue. But I have weird ideas about propriety. I am violently uncomfortable right now telling you that I DID NOT pass gas, as it seems the WHOLE subject ought to be somehow taboo.
And yet I laugh like a crazed loon everytime a dog, in my presence, does the universal "pass gas and then turn their whole bodies to stare in a puzzled and accusing manner at their own back end" thing. I think it's the GAS IN GENERAL, GAS IN PERSONAL thing. Dog tooting or therotical fart-joke tooting is amusing. Someone's personal actual intestinal tract...their own individual private tooting, I feel they should keep that to themselves. I don't need details, and if I DO hear them, I get terrible sympathetic embarrassment and want to die FOR the tooter. So.
I sent Scott out two days before we began to buy both Beano and Gas-X to pre-emptively medicate myself to safety. He feels the cashier looked at him in a manner both pitying and snide. She is probably tellign all the other cashiers about Gas Guy. He came home sour and said, "You need me to go buy Midol? I'll go buy Midol. THIS was a bit much." Without missing a beat I said, "Can you run back out and get me some Depends?"
I. Am. So. Tired.
The producer said I am doing a very good job. I said REALLY? He said yes really. I said, NO BUT REALLY? He said, Yes. Really. And I said REALLYREALLYREALLYFORTRUEREALLY? And he said, No, I was lying to make you feel good, and I said, REALLY? and he said, NO. You are an excellent reader and I said REALLY and he said DEAR GOD YES YOU ARE DOING A GREAT JOB I NEVER EXPECTED TO BE THIS FAR INTO IT I LOVE THE CHARACTER CHOICES YOU ARE MAKING YOU HAVE GREAT ENERGY AND ARE LIVELY AND IT'S GOING EXTREMELY WELL, DAMMIT. I said...Really? And he picked up my own discarded shoe and beat me to death with it.
Except for that one beating to death part, he is a joy to work with and he has SWORN he will not let me read the character of Henry as if he were Elvis, which is the ONE thing I fear more that passing gas in that tiny box where Max, the sound board guy, had to adjust the mike so they wouldn't pick up MY HEART BEAT.
Henry is the problem. Because he is probably my favorite male character, and I get scared trying to make him be all I see in him. So far I have read two of Henry's lines, and one was "Me Neither" and one was "It's terrible to be robbed, of course." NOT LONG LINES. But I have read both those lines OVER AND OVER 15 times each with new Bobly instructions each time, telling me NOT sound like Elvis, to NOT sound like Dennis Quaid in the Big Easy, to NOT sound like a muppet on crack. I don't know what Henry sounds like, but at least he doesn't sound like THOSE things.
The producer said: Why is Henry so hard -- Jonno sounds great, so you can do men. Why are you balking at Henry?
Me: I don't know.
Bob: The uncle sounded good, this is just another man.
Me: I want to do him right.
Bob: So you are intimidated because you LIKE him.
Me: I MORE than like him. I want to have sex with him. And I want to read him so well that YOU want to have sex with him, too.
Bob: Well, we have a ways to go, then, don't we. Try the line again.
Me to Max: Um, were you taping when I said that 'I want to have sex with Henry' part?
Max: You betcha.
Me: (muttering) At least I haven't farted yet.
Max: PS, I am STILL rolling...
SORRY I have been a SUCKY BLOGGER this week. In my defense, I had a HUGE novel revelation, had to cut almost three entire chapters and then rewrote them and a bonus one, so it has been a grand week progress-wise with the new novel and I am as sleepy and pleased as a cream-filled cat.
Meanwhile, here on Kudzu, how do you like the TITLE of this entry? PING! PING! the pR0n seeking Googlers come a-rollin' on in! HEHEHEHE. Betcha my hit counter gives itself vertigo flipping around today....I should give every entry such a name. Alas! It would be gratuitous to give a long prattling spiel about, say, recipes a name like "Oh Baby, YES, WOO! WOO!," so I will have to wait until days when I actually AM writing about good sex. Like, say, today. As the by-the-hour hookers in Vegas say, "Let's get to it, shall we?"
Old School Kudzu Regular DAVID wrote in and asked, "Do you remember making a reference during a discussion with another author recently, wherein you (I think) referenced some book in which the love scene was said (by one of the conversants) to be " ...the most realistic and emotionally moving I've ever read." or some such? Title was short, maybe two or three words. Possibly it was a proper name. I'm hoping your memory is better than mine."
My answer: Um....no? A lot of things come out of my mouth. I don't generally LISTEN to them.... *grin*
DOES THIS RING A BELL WITH ANY OF YOU? I can't remember a specific book or find it in the archives. I read a LOT. If you know what David is referencing can you kindly leave it in the comments?
David is a fellow writer, so I suspect he is asking because he is probably struggling along through the miserable process of trying to WRITE a dern sex scene. I personally have bright red cheeks the whole time I am trying to draft or revise sex scenes....and I have spent a fair amount of time on it for the last two books because the images and language used in the sex scene have been, for both gods in Alabama and Between, Georgia, key in making some underlying (HA! Everything sounds so NAUGHTY when you talk about writing sex) thematic connections.
WARNING: If you have not read gods in Alabama yet, I have heard you CAN be sent to Hell for that. No, hehehehe KIDDING! You go to Purgatory. For several million years...NO NO, I meant to say, If you have not read gods yet, here are a few mild spoilers about who has sex with whom and how the sex WORKS thematically in that book to be found in the following paragraph. If you hate to be even MILDLY spoiled, = SKIP down to where it says SPOILERS OVER in big bold font, OR, better yet, trot out, buy a copy of gods, read it, and then come back and pick up HERE:
BEGIN MILD GODS IN ALABAMA SPOILERS!
I wanted Arlene to grow into an understanding of unconditional love and take the first step toward becoming a person who could have a good marriage in all ways, including a healthy, happy sex life. Given her, um, colorful past, that was a BIG FAT STEP. I knew there would have to be...sex. YARP! Now, I like to write BAD sex scenes. Bad sex can be horridly funny and train wreck un-look-a-way-able. BUT! I hate to write GOOD sex between people who love each other because I feel so EMBARRASSED. Like I owe my characters a closed door and an hour of alone time. Plus, the GOOD SEX scenes were almost impossible to write in gods because, given Arlene's past, there was NO WAY to have a from Here to Eternity type encounter with romantical imagery and purple vocabulary and have it be anything but laughable tripe. Can you even imagine Arlene trying to sell that???
"AND THEN! WE SPROUTED WINGS! AND ROCKETED TO SPACE! AND I SPOKE IN TONGUES! FRENCH MOSTLY BECAUSE IT CAN SOUND REALLY DIRTY! IN A GOOD WAY! IT WAS LIKE CHOCOLATE ONLY SWEATIER! NO! REALLY! THAT GOOD! TO INFINITY AND BEYOND, BABY, HE SAID AND I WAS SO ENRAPTURED NOT EVEN AN ANIMATED MOVIE REFERENCE COULD DISTURB ME FROM MY ROILING WAVES OF LAVA HOT BLISSFUL LOVE FEELINGS!"
Yeah, my butt, Arlene. If I read an actually well written version of that from ARLENE, of all people, I as a reader would assume she was lying...she does that sometimes. *grin* . At the same time, there had to be enough contrast between the earlier sex and sex with Burr to make it clear that huge progress is being made, that they will be able to to end up with a ROCKING married life... I chose to do it with language, with vocabulary, and excruciating DETAIL. SO. I braced myself and I allowed Arlene to be INCREDIBLY foul, frank, dismissive, droll, mocking, amused, graphic and above all clinical and dispassionate in the earlier sex scenes. Her somewhat brutal honesty probably cost me some readers and have forced me to open every speaking engagement by saying I PINKY SWEAR THIS BOOK IS NOT AT ALL AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL!!!!!... But it was the right choice. Because then all I had to do in the sex scenes with Burr was to let her talk in a straightforward, nonpejorative, understated and loving way. Less was SO MUCH more because of how far I'd taken the earlier scenes. Of course, I had to go into therapy when the book sold and I realized my MOTHER would READ those earlier scenes, but it was the right choice and I stand by it, pink cheeked but DERNIT SO (artistically speaking) in the right.
Anyway I think the KEY to making a sex scene work is to have the sex scene do MORE than just describe sex. I don't NEED a writer to describe sex for me. I have two kids, so it's a given I have had the experience myself at LEAST twice. AND I saw Angelina Jolie and Antonio Banderas in Original Sin, so I know possibly a little MORE about what sex LOOKS like than I strictly needed for scientific purposes. Or at least, I know what it looks like when two physically perfect specimens attempt to have it in an old fashioned wooden bathtub...
In a Romance novel where a hot sex scene is part of the point, or a Manly Gunplay book that I buy in the hopes that it WILL get a little bit deliciously gratuitous, you don't; have to justify your sex scenes. BUT! In literary fiction or book club commercial fiction, I think a sex scene needs to be doing at least two jobs or it should be cut. The first job is the job of EVERY scene, to move the book along from ONCE UPON A TIME to THE END. BUT, like every other sentence in the book, a sex scene should have at least one other job. Here are some possible jobs you can hire sex to do: 1) MAKE PLOT AKA the sex itself (not just the fact that they HAD sex) should move the plot forward in a real way. If the act itself moves the plot forward you can indicate they are about to have sex and then close the door. But if something happens DURING the sex that's key, by all means, leave that door cracked. 2) ENRICH CHARACTER, aka The sex should reveal something key about AT LEAST one of the people having it. 3) The imagery should connect to and enrich the book's theme.
If you can give sex four or five jobs and STILL have it evoke mood and not violate voice, then you are great, and I want to read your dirty, dirty book.
MEANWHILE, David is looking for GOOD SEX. In books, I mean. If you have read a book where the sex is doing a BUNCH of a jobs, PLEASE put the book's title (and author if you know it) in the comments for him. Not for ME, of course. I would MUCH prefer to read about lovely posies reproducing by pollen transfer or perhaps something pithy about deeply spiritual mystic men who sit alone on mountain tops and contemplate truth. That's more my bag than whatever sort of filth you try to induce David to poison his mind with. *glows with holy light*
If you, like David, want to read a good sex scene....Let me think. The best sex scene I have read recently is in a book I got in MS form to read for a blurb. It isn't out til May, dernit, but you can pre-order, and if you like the kind of fiction I try to write and the kind I spend most of my reading time devouring, then you should REALLY like this book. It was RIGHT up my alley: Plot heavy, twisty, and character driven enough to make excellent pleasure reading, but also the writing is fresh and interesting with an individual and unwavering voice, and the thematic layers are there if you want them. I think that's my favorite kind of read because I am such a rereader. I like a book to propel me along for the first go through, and then I like it to be layered enough to allow me to go back through and kinda soak in it. ANYWAY, this is book is ALL THAT, and as the bonus bag of chips, it has some heart-swellingly hot sex in it.
You can pre-order it from my friends at LOVELY POWELL'S and I am sure it will go up for Pre-order many other places any second now, just search for WATER FOR ELEHANTS at your fave online book buying spot. I'll remind you when it comes out for truly, in case you forget or your fave online store doesn't have it listed yet or you prefer to buy at a physical store.
I am right now, in honor of Philip Seymour Hoffman reading IN COLD BLOOD, a brilliant book, but not exactly famous for it's white-hot scenes of unbridled French kissing...so I am depending on comments to help David find something that has a little something-something in it right now....READY! SET! GO!
A blurb for BETWEEN, GEORGIA, has landed, and it's from a writer I quite admire (her debut made my top seven---yes, seven this year instead of ten due to attention span problems and memes) so, I'm excited.
“Funny, wrenching, and pitch-perfect, Joshilyn Jackson’s Between, Georgia explores the ways people belong to each other and how far they’ll go to keep what’s theirs. I’ll carry Nonny and her family—the whole tangled, fierce, devoted lot of them--around with me for a long, long time.”
Marisa de los Santos,
author of Love Walked In
AND LOOKIT---here is the UK cover, sort of based on the American one, but all different-like. I dig it. Can you dig it?
We now return you to your regularly scheduled medley of blather and panic.
Oh Best Beloveds, I have returned from VACATION, sleepier and fatter and loaded with fine, fine baggages that are brimful of Christmas loots. Tomorrow, I return to WORK. I had a huge epiphany about my Novel-In-Progress while I was stuffing myself sick with ham, and now must rewrite the first five chapters, but I am beginning to get this growing, inescapable feeling that I am "experiencing growth as a novelist." I try NOT to experience growth of ANY KIND as a matter of course, but I am not sure I can help it with this book. This book is turning into a leap, faithwise, and I feel challenged and fairly buzzing with hope and light. Perhaps it is just post-Christmas afterglow, but I don't think so. I think this book....Ah well, I do not want to jinx it. I only hope I can carry it off as well as it deserves.
I am having a discussion on a list serve of mine about WHAT makes a novel Southern Lit, and since I am deeply engaged with WRITING SOME, I wanted to bring the discussion here...
I say: Southern Lit springs from Voice and a SERIOUS sense of place. Just ask Faulkner.
Period doesn't matter. Thematically, it's hard to get clean through SL without at least tapping Jesus or race or both as you go by.
Haven Kimmel, by the way, says she writes it. I accept that. Digression the first: I am having a t-shirt made for myself to work in that says "WHAT WOULD HAVEN KIMMEL DO." If you have read Kimmel's second novel, SOMETHING RISING (LIGHT AND SWIFT) it's an even better shirt.
There seem to be two kinds of Southern Writers; those who can't live here but cannot stop writing about it, and those who cannot live anywhere else and can't stop writing about it.
It has to do with Anger. Almost all Southern writers, are, I think, both angry with the South and in love with it. The ratio of Anger to Love determines which of the two kinds of Southern writer you will be. As I squat here in the Georgia cotton, picking my teeth with a weed, I think it is obvious that I am in camp B. I love it more than I am angry with it, but Lordy, if you think I am NOT mad, then you are buying my veneer. And who could blame you?
I am a southern woman. And NO ONE, not even those flat-faced corpse-eyed guys on WORLD POKER CHAMPIONS, can Veneer like a Southern woman. The problem is, you won't know if we are masking weakness or enough strength to remove you from the earth, yea, verily, you and all your get, down unto the seventh generation, until you get past that veneer. We tend to hide our strengths as if they WERE weaknesses, because to be strong is not... ladylike. It's one of the reasons I love the South, and ALSO one of the reasons I am SO dern mad at it.
And the other reason I am so mad at it is, of course, the racism. One bit of crit I got about gods was that the kind of racism I was dealing with was DEAD in the New South. I heard this from a couple of book clubs of URBAN Southern ladies with 125 dollar haircuts (not counting the highlights, just the CU|T, mind you), and I had to politely cover my mouth with a napkin to keep a loud BRAY of shock inside. They do not live in the same South I live in. (AND YES gods was set in the 80's and 90's and yes that makes a dif)
BUT! Just the other day, at an (educated) friend's (well paying, middle class) place of work, one of her co workers (who looked completely homogenized and American in her ubiquitous Gap sweater and khakis) said, of her engagement, "The only thing that worries us is that by the time we have babies, there won't be any PURE babies left for them to marry when they grow up." Allow me to say, YIKES. And this place of employment is SPITTING DISTANCE from Atlanta. But we are NOT Atlanta, or even a suburb (yet.) We are a small town, and it's like Palmolive, the racism is, Madge. We are soaking in it.
It is a weird and specific thing, Southern racism --- every place has racists, but ONLY in the south is it SUCH a black/white issue. The racists I met in Chicago freakin' loathed EVERYONE who wasn't their personal favorite race. Southern racists are for the most part either whites who hate blacks or vice versa, and then they have this ODD, slightly patronizing but accepting neutrality toward everything else. You almost don't count as a separate race if you aren't black or white, which is ALSO racism I suppose, but not the kind that will cost you a job or a house in the neighborhood or anything TANGIBLE. I'm not even sure it is RACE based -- you would get the same attitude from these people for being a lily-white Yankee as you would for being Japanese.
Digression the Second: We tend to call all Continental U.S. Dwellers who are not Southern, "Yankees." My friend Karen is from PHILLY and insists that means she is not a Yankee, but Oh Honey, oh CHILE, in Georgia she SHORE is. If you aren't SOUTHERN, and you aren't from from California, you are a Yankee. If you ARE from California, I believe the Southern Term for you is "Pot smoking Communist Nutbag."
Judaism is seen more as a religious ussue than a racial one to the Southern racist. The Jewish faith is mostly seen by Southern racists as a little STRANGE but certainly not OFFENSIVE --- kind of a PATRONIZING feel to it, as if to say, "Many nice folks are Jewish -- too bad they are so obviously hellbound. Like, say, the Catholics." But, you know, quite a few Church of Christ folks think the BAPTISTS are obviously Hellbound for believing ONCE SAVED ALWAYS SAVED, so it is not RELIGIOUS PREJUDICE exactly. It's more like religious prejudice's second cousin: You can be obviously hellbound and still be considered a good neighbor.
Here in my small town, we have a Methodist church, a Church of Christ, a Jehovah's Witness Temple, and about Nine Baptist churches. Almost EVERY church is all black or all white, or CLOSE to all back/ all white.The closest Episcopal church is 40 minutes away with no traffic. There is NO Catholic church or Temple within a half hour's drive.
There are also BLOOD racists in the south, creatures I have NEVER seen elsewhere, although they may exist somewhere. EXAMPLE: I have a cousin who adopted a mixed race child, and everyone ADORES that cousin and that child---that child is simply family. NO hint of racism in their love for and treatment of that child. I have another cousin who gave BIRTH to a mixed race child, and several of my relations (ones who LOVE the adopted child) will no longer speak to her and treat her baby like a disgusting, leprous worm. The rationale: The BIRTHING cousin has MIXED their personal blood with the blood of another race, and can't be forgiven.
Given all this, how can I NOT be angry? At the same time...how can I not love it? You have to love it, for the way we treat our lunatics, if for no other reason. If you don't know what I mean, read THE PRINCE OF TIDES. There's a chapter in there that sums up the best of us in a nutshell, and HOLY GOD but Pat Conroy understands the love/hate relationship Southern writers have for this chunk of land -- understands it better than most writers breathing.
Ah well, I have spent a lot of time on the worst of us here, but can't give equal time to the parts I love--I am out of time today... I do not read Southern Lit when drafting as it screws with MY voice, but I quit work for Christmas and so finally got to sit down with Paula Wall's THE ROCK ORCHARD. Go read WALL---She understands what is best about us, way down deep in her BONES she understands. I am her new big fan.
Well---that title may be optimistic AND premature. I WILL become him, anyway. Any second. Not actually HIM, you know. More like a POOR man's Stephen Hawking. Very poor. Like, a destitute, starving, oxygen deprived, nearly dead, boil covered, prehistoric, low-browed, grunting man's Stephen Hawking. But still.
It's because I realized I have to have an understanding of Chaos Theory in order to write this book because the main male character is a pure-math geek turned engineer. And in order to understand Chaos, turns out, you have to understand PHYSICS. Which, allow me to say, "Yikes."
This is, seriously, the BEST THING that has ever happened to Scott. He is SO HAPPY. Remember how there are things he sometimes REALLY wants to tell me, but I REALLY do not want to be told? Like, say, allallall about Hoover Dam?
Well, CHAOS THEORY is another topic I have with malice of forethought actively and perniciously avoided learning about. I figured I heard enough about it from Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park to last me the rest of my life. Plus, I got to look at Jeff Goldblum, which made it more palatable. Tall dark haired and geeky? Check! Why Dr. Livingston, I believe we have discovered MY TYPE. So I watched Jeff Goldblum explain the way a drop of water rolls and then not get eaten by dinosaurs, and really, that was about enough for me. My chaos pocket was full. I thought possibly forever.
But no. I had to pop a big fat mathematician in the middle of this novel, so he needs to sound like he has a vague idea what he is talking about. SO here I am, watching all the documentaries about Chaos and Quantum-ness that I SWEAR TO YOU my husband ALREADY HAD TAPED OFF THE DISCOVERY CHANNEL and kept SITTING IN THE BASEMENT betting against all odds that the frabjous day would come when I would look at him and say, "I really want to learn about CHAOS THEORY, and possibly also PHYSICS."
That day, ladies and gentlemen, was yesterday.
So he is trying to explain to me about how Schrodinger's cat goes in the box blah blah, and is it a dead cat or an alive cat or does it exist and somehow this is related to or he segued into the theory that the more you know about VELOCITY the less you can truly posit about LOCATION which seems counterintuitive but as he also told me, Physicists seem to think a point of light CAN be in two places at once, so they INVENTED counter intuitive, so okay, Velocity, smeared half dead or living cat in a box, yeah, blah blah, and I accidentally quit listening right then because I started thinking, "If I put MY cat in a box I could easily posit the alive-or-deadness or existence of him by the yowls of rage and the ripping foreclaws shredding the steel allowing pretty much the whole cat to come bursting out to treat me to multiple wounded one-eyed baleful looks, but at least this theory gives me an excuse to name the cat who appears in the novel "Schrodinger," which has HUGE appeal." I want to get a whole another really cat just so I can name him that.
In a bit of news COMPLETELY unrelated to physics (but related to pet names, so there's the only segue you are likely to get today. Enjoy!) my friend Lydia is getting a PUPPY for Christmas (or as soon as he is weaned) and they have already met him and named him. His name is -- brace yerself Bridge, really -- his name is:
Now, the PREVIOUS best pet name (which has been practically unchallenged until now) was a friend of a friend's African Hedgehog named, improbably, Pigling Bland. But the PUPPY name is giving P.B. a run for his sleepy, prickle-covered money. In fact, it is SUCH a great pet name I wish *I* was a pet just so I could be named Marzipan Go-Go, and also so I could be excused from trying to understand even the tiniest CORNER of Quantum Physics. Being a pet gets you out of a LOT, I would imagine: "Oh, sorry, I can't vacuum the house, or drive to Eckerd, apply Occam's Razor, or practice The Method in the local community theatre production of Our Town---did you not notice I am a Budgereega?"
Ah well, if you truly want to understand Schodinger's cat, you can go to someplace like MIT and spend nine years getting a slew of advanced degrees. BUT if you want to play an amusing interactive game that explains the cat in layman's terms AND gives you a SAVE THE CAT option should your dice roll the wrong way, then you can SKIP MIT and CLICK HERE.
Last night I dreamed I was working, and I wrote this little slew of FRAGMENTS, and they were SO brilliant, I mean SO SO brilliant that I stopped and closed my file and typed them again in a separate window, where their succinct beauty and deep meaningfulness gobsmacked me into awe.
I realized the fragments said EVERYTHING! Everything worth saying, ever. EVER! EVER! My editor was there suddenly, the way people are in dreams, and she was wearing an extremely hot vintage Chanel suit and an up-do, and she asked me to print the fragments because, really, that was all she needed, thanks. And off she went with the sheet.
We weren't even going to title it. She was just going to print the fragments as my next book, and the cover would be a deep, cerulean blue and say something like, "EVERYTHING WORTH SAYING, EVER. I was SO relieved because I realized I could TAKE OFF the next day and get my TREE up instead of writing 2 or 3 thousand words this morning (DIGRESSION: of which, in reality, I have written ZERO so far and if I do not get my stinkin' Christmas tree up this week, my children will trade me in for that soft-bosomed brit from Super Nanny, but Chapter four is giving me fits...)
BUT, back to the dream, had this been a MERCIFUL dream, I would have woken up NOT remembering what the fragments were, just remembering that they had been BRILLIANT, and then I could have smugly lived out my life convinced that I am the universe's premier GENIUS but unfortunately only SUBCONCIOUSLY, and so the world would never get the full impact of my astonishing insight.
It was not, however, a merciful dream. I remember the fragments PERFECTLY, and brace yourself, Bridget, because I am about to share them with you. The fragments read thusly: "She monkeyed! Oh, Monkeyed! Monkeyed with pranceful conjoinings."
Oh, how I wish I was kidding. I don't even know what that MEANS. The dream interpretation machine is decidely unhelpful, only dealing with MONKEY as a noun, and saying it means deceitful people are surrounding me or maybe I am immature, which, SHUT. UP. Also, it has NO entry for the words "pranceful conjoinings." Imagine!
Although a literalist might say this is a dream which means, "If you were thinking of becoming the world's premier genius, perhaps you should not give up your day job just yet."
If you read comments, you know Cornelia Read, right? She also writes for Warner, and her first novel, A FIELD OF DARKNESS is coming out next summer, and LORDY but it is good. SO anyway, for no reason, I have taken to calling her "Paris Hilton." Yes, to her face. She calls me Nic. It has been going on for so long now, I think I may have to go blonde. It has been going on for SO long now, I think Cornelia and I should get our own show. WE NEED TO HAVE A SHOW. It would have segments about books and segments about newts, and segments about stalking Joss Whedon that would lead to us having a puppet sidekick named "Mr. Eel" who would be made out of one of Joss Whedon's used tube socks.
And now YOU say, "Joshilyn, you are avoiding work by nattering on about Paris Hilton and socks and having a show. GO! Write Chapter 4."
And I do not answer, because I am sure I do not know what you are talking about....
ANYWAY I told Paris about my shameful behavior with the boots and the multiple BEERS (I don't even LIKE beers!!!) at the Myrtle Beach Writer's Conference, and SHE asked Lee Child (who was there drinking a suspiciously clear liquid out of an icy rocks glass) if I did any table top dancing or woke up in the sand with a mime and several trained dogs resting their heads on me as if I were a pillow or whatnot, and LEE CHILD, who is an internationally best selling author, BY THE WAY, said I behaved like a PERFECT LADY. Mostly. So, are you going to DISPUTE LEE CHILD'S GOOD WORD? No, of course not. Therefore, wipe away everything I told you about Myrtle Beach. I mostly sipped tea, pinky extended, and talked about my charitable works with The D.A.R..
And anyway, why are you bringing this back up? CAN YOU NOT SEE THAT I AM TRYING TO WRITE A BOOK HERE---I know it LOOKS like I am lying on my sofa in my work out togs (having not yet worked out) hooking back halloween Mini-Twixes and watching game show network, but NO! I AM A WRITING A BOOK. Secretly. In my head.
Also, I need a baby. Yesterday my baby said UTERUS and that makes her officially not a baby anymore. It happened in this way... She said, "God made me?" And I said, "Yup." And she said, "How did he make me?" And I said, "Mommies have a special place in their belly, called a uterus, and that's where babies grow. And I grew you in there, until you were all ready to come out and be Maisy, and then we went to the doctor and got you out." And she said, "Do I have a uterus?" And I said, "Yes, you sure do, because you are a girl." And she said, "One day I will make a little tiny baby in my uterus" and I said, "Oh that will be fun, but just first finish your masters degree and marry a nice man who really likes you." And she said, "Okay," so THAT'S all settled, thank God, but then I realized she had said Uterus and therefore she cannot be a BABY anymore AND I HAVE NO BABY AT ALL. Just CHILDREN. WAH!
And now YOU try to make some sort of noise about how I currently have no time to BREATHE and do I really want to have a ba---
And I say, SHUT UP, I DO TOO need a baby. And I can totally write a book and have a new baby. In FACT, I am writing a book RIGHT NOW. I am writing a book on the INSIDE. Where it counts.
And now you should probably offer me a cookie. Or a sedative. And send me back to bed.
PS. If you are someone who shouldn't be reading this, like, say, MY EDITOR, don't panic. I am not knocked up. And I AM writing a book. I totally am. I am writing a book IN MY HEART.
May I offer you a Mini-Twix?
Okay, You know I have been dorkily excited ever since foreign rights started selling on gods because I wanted to see all the different covers? Yeah. Well. Double dern the eyes of Anne Twomey, but her cover design was SO good, every other country has been USING it because...how can you beat it? You can't. Look, here it is in SPAIN:
And you saw the UK one, which looks VERY like the Warner edition because British is a VERY similar language to American. Why, you can hardly tell those two editions apart.
Thank God for De Boekerij bv in Amsterdam! PEEP THIS:
They may not USE this cover on the finished book (The book is not out yet. That's just an image in the catalog, and that Anne Twomey cover is just. so. sexy. that they may use IT.) I like this one, and small wonder. My editor AND her assistant AND my husband took one look at this cover and said to me, "I bet you wish you owned those boots." And you know what? I am a little bit in passionate love with them. I would also like that skirt to go with them, and I have nothing against the moss green cardigan, either, while I am shopping off my cover. The title translates as THE THREE PROMISES OF ARLENE because I am not sure "What's new in Alabama" is a hot topic in the Netherlands.
In fact, the first time my editor at De Boekerij brought the book up at a staff meeting, the publisher said, "Alabama? Hrm. Do they still have that over there in America? Hrm, I think, NO." So she couldn't buy it. BUT! She brought it up the next month. And the next. And the next. And the NEXT, until it was clear that she was really passionate about it, and then they changed the title and now here's my book, all dressed up in a new cover with orange boots on. That's what a good editor does -- fights for your book in the house. I was so blessed and lucky that my book made its way to Xena-Warrior-Editors at Warner and Hodder in the UK, and now look, here is another one. I seriously want to mail her some chocolate or one of my children.
AND this edition has-never-before-seen blurbs! Martha O'Connor, author of The Bitch Posse, apparently said THIS: "Koop DE DRIE BELOFTES OF ARLENE! Je zult er green spijt van krijgen."
I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THAT MEANS! Heck, I am not sure MARTHA knows what it means. But I sure like looking at it.
Here on the home front, I am awaiting a special delivery of "pieces of lizard." I am not enthused.
What happened was, yesterday Sam said, MOM! LOOK! A HUMONGOUS LIZARD!
So I ran into the den just in time to see a TRULY HUMONGOUS garden lizard run under the sofa. This lizard was 4 or 4.5 inches long JUST IN HIS BODY with another 2+ inches of tail. When he stood up tall on his legs, he was a good two inches high. HUMONGOUS.
Now look. I LIKE lizards. Actively. I find them charming. I LIKE reptiles and amphibians of ALL sorts really. ANIMALS get a BIG TIME pass on my "Nature bores me" soul-deadness. I LOVE habitats and little alive things that creep about. Heck, my house is full of NEWTS. On PURPOSE. I can't tell you how often I have to stop here in our wooded, stream-filled neighborhood and get out of the car and carry some stupid turtle or another the rest of the way across the street before a less reptophilic driver mows it down. And we've had MANY snakes, both great and small, show up in the back garden, and my response has been to say OH! EDUCATIONAL! LET'S GO IDENTIFY IT! Except the one time it was a copperhead, and then I calmly separated the head part from the body part with a shovel. The end. So. Reptiles don't freak me out. A WHOLE lizard in the house, even a humungous one, sounds like a fun opportunity to play lizard rodeo and release him somewhere more appropriate.
I told Sam to watch him and went and got a broom (to chase him out from under the sofa) and a bowl (to catch him in) and prepped for Operation Rescue Humongous Lizard. Maisy followed me with worried eyebrows:
Maisy: That lizard is big.
Me: Yes. Humongous.
Maisy: Mommy, you catch him. Catch that big lizard, and put him in the trashcan.
Me: Lizards are nice! We don't put lizards in the trashcan.
Maisy: Okay. ... Mommy? Can you put him far from me?
So maybe reptiles aren't HER bag. But Sam and I, we like 'em FINE. Sam got so excited that he left his post to see what was keeping me. And when we got back with the Lizard Round-Up Equipage....there was no lizard. I have No idea how something so MASSIVE could vanish that fast. But it did.
And so now I am expecting "parts of lizard" to show up. Probably in my bed. Because my cat, Schubert, LOVES me, and he likes to bring me things. Or parts of things, anyway. His opportunities for gifting me so are limited as he is an indoor cat. But he has every now and again managed to escape to the great outdoors and play woodsman to my evil queen, bringing me back his version of Snow White's heart in a box. Except it usually the whole chest cavity, and he forgoes the box and places it directly on my pillow.
With a lizard this big, all I can think about is how MANY pieces it could be divvied up into for multiple gifting fun. A lizard that size could be vivisected into up to TEN large-enough-to-be-recognizable pieces. Maybe TWELVE. That's enough to ruin my pillow and a sheet set and the comforter and all my dern shams and mayube even the DUST RUFFLE if he works it right. I am, frankly, horrified. I am trying to keep the cat in the same room with me and monitor him until the lizard resurfaces. Wish me luck.
3) GAH! SO out of time. I will tell you WHAT THOSE HOLES ARE FOR tomorrow.
Think about this: I like quizzes, but this, courtesy of Lani Diane Rich over at Literary Chicks, is SICK.
|Your 80s Heartthrob Is|
Scariest of all? Out of ALL THE POSSIBLE HEART THROBS, he is the one I think is cutest. So. Either the 80's needed Taye Diggs and Orlando Bloom to hop in a time machine or take massive doses of human growth hormone, OR...I have strange taste in men? Scott votes for A.
Look at this:
YAY! THE BETWEEN COVER HAPPENED! And they got Anne Twomey to design it. She did the cover for gods, and once again, she's used an image that never literally happens in the book, but it perfectly captures the book's mood and themes and, uh I hate to get gooey and say HEART. Instead let's say it captures the book's...um... um...DERNIT! HEART is the only word for it. So, fine. Heart. IT CAPTURES THE BOOK'S HEART, are you SATISFIED? No, I don't want to cuddle now. Even though I look at this cover and I get a big HAPPINESS BUBBLE growing in my body.
Consider this: Things are VERY idyllic --- practically pastoral --- in Newt-opia. We now have two fully mature Newts living on land, gill free, and either Fig is really Figinella or Spotty is really Spottina. Because under the Arc de Triumph (Scott made it out of yard rocks) are SIX, count them SIX gelatinous, transparent egg sacks, each with thirty or forty shiny egg specks suspended in the goo.
WHAT SHOULD I DO? Hint: The answer is NOT " get 30 more aquariums and hand raise 187 newts" Here are the choices, as I see them.
a) Scoop them all out with a Dixie Cup and put them quietly down the toilet, thus deferring the "Where do baby newts come from" conversation with Maisy.
b) Scoop them all out with a Dixie Cup and release them theatrically back into the Newt Pond in the yard while explaining ecosystems in such a loud voice that my toddler can't ask me sex questions.
c) Scoop all but ONE out with Dixie Cup, put scooped sacks in the pond, give Maisy the POLLEN talk, and let my children experience the miracle of life, hoping to capture and release all 30 or 40 of the fetal newtlets later.
d) Pretend I didn't see the egg sacks, and hope that newts are cannibals. I could save a good 30 cents in Newt food if they are! Although Jill reminded me of the legend of the WENDIGO. Supposedly, if you are a pure cannibal for long enough, you turn into a constantly starving super-naturally gifted hunter, and you get a lot of bonus gifts, like excessive body hair and fangs and eternal life. She says, "And do you really want your Newts running around in the dark woods of Minnesota, killing people?"
Well, no, I don't. But wouldn't a newt Wendigo relentlessly hunt other NEWTS? I don't see why they would switch to people. Also, and I cannot overstate this, they are THREE INCHES LONG. Even if they became mighty Wendigo with the hair and fangs and eternal life and speedy quickness, how would they even GET to Minnesota. And once there, I think they would go for prey that didn't have TOES bigger than them. About the only way they could successfully off people would be simultaneously running up your nostrils and plogging up your breathing pipes. Heh. Now I've creeped myself out. And I am about to have 187 of these dern things if I don't get DECISIVE with the egg sacks...
THANK YOU, PRETTY INTERNETS. I took y'all's advice in the comments. That is to say, I called my production editor and begged for Clemency (the 6 hours of copy editing a day were making me want to lie on the sidewalk pressing a fork to my forehead and hoping a passing pedestrian-slash-aspiring-lobotomist would pause and kick it into my brain.) She gave me a week's extension. LET US NOW COMPOSE HYMNS IN HER HONOR. I got through the first read through and then threw the copy edits in a BOX to NOT THINK ABOUT for 48 hours.
(Digression: My copy editor, code name: Harold, would WHIP OUT THE PURPLE CRAYON and stab me with it, were she here! She would NEVER tolerate me getting THROUGH a read THROUGH and then THREW-ing. I love Harold.)
Then I hid the rest of my to do list from myself and sat down and had a big fun time writing me some BRAND NEW BOOK. I have an abysmal chapter one now, and the first ten pages of a putrescent chapter two. I already see that about 6/7ths of this draft must be destroyed before it poisons the land for mile around with its radioactive awfulness, BUT I can see the spine of something forming in the soupy and gellid bio-hazardous mass of words I have produced. I have learned (OH THANK YOU, THANK YOU, ANNE LAMOTT!) that most every good novel comes out of a crappy first draft.
Drafting, for me anyway, is an act of faith. Maybe not faith in myself---they were out of that at Kroger last time I checked---but faith in PROCESS. I assume that the bones of a good book will grow themselves themselves way down in the manure and mud I am writing now. But this will be my third novel (and the fifth I have written) and thus I have emperical evidence that if I keep generating crap and then digging out and tossing away the smelly parts, I will find the skeleton of my book, and then I can build a working animal around that frame.
It is a terribly inefficient way to write a novel, but it's the only way I know. I think a better process would be "Sit down and allow genius level prose of humbling beauty to drip langorously from my fingers as the rest of me writhes in uninhibited ecstacy to be in the presence of something so immediately perfect." That's kinda how I imagine Nabakov does it...
MEANWHILE, as a thank you for giving me commently encouragement to throw all my responsibilities out the window and do what I wanted to do anyway, I am going to give you a glimpse into....NEWTOPIA!
We cleaned out the tank, and Scott took a basic aquarium set up and, with the help of HIS CLEAR SIGHTED VISION FOR A BETTER NEWT-MERICA (and rocks dug out of the yard and a stick or two) made this newtly paradise with a big island and multiple climbing rocks and an arc de triumph and a log for getting under and basking places. He decided we needed more of a LAND MASS because Fig and Spotty have DROPPED their gills and become all LITHE and CREEPY. They now go STRAIGHT UP THE GLASS on their sticky little feet, even though I dearly wish they wouldn't. I have asked them very nicely not to, but they are strong-willed, or possibly non-native speakers. AND Sam and I took a field trip to the newt pond and after clever stalking caught ourselves a POSY FLOWER NEWT, a little Daisy Flower sized addition. Since Fig and Spotty are acting like MAMMALS (if mammals were hairless and slimey and could run straight GLASS UGH!) and barely deigning to stay damp, Sam worried Daisy would be lonely in the water.
In a totally unrelated tangent, lookit! This is my BEFORE picture. This is me and my mutants standing ready for church on Sunday. (Digression: Good grief but Sam is getting grown up and good lookin'!)
Notice how in that last pic I am cleverly hiding at LEAST half of my butt fat behind my charmign son. There's so much of it, I may have detached a wad and stashed it behind Maisy. Sure, that's probably child abuse, BUT if I stare into ALL of my butt fat at once, head on, I suspect I will GO BLIND. This is as much as I can take in.
OKAY, YES, THAT IS COWARDLY! Let us go back a few days in time to the QM2 and see a FUZZY picture of me speaking. Perhaps the BLURRY SOFT FOCUS caused by the relentless puke-making motion of the ocean will help me not go blind:
ARG! I am going to look and look and look at these very current pictures any time I want a COOKIE, because I am beginning 100 million years of virtue today. 20 days won't do it, so. In 100 million years, we will take an after picture, and AS GOD IS MY WITNESS you will all start begging me to come back to Milan and do runway. My after picture is going to look JUST like THIS:
Except I hope my skin won't be so GLOSSY. Why do fitness people always insist on OILING themselves? THEY ALL DO, and I am against it. Oiled people always look to me like THEY could run straight up the glass...But to get back on POINT. VIRTUE!!! DO YOU HEAR ME? I AM GETTING BACK IN SHAPE. VIRTUE AND THEN MORE VIRTUE FOR 100 MILLION YEARS! NO MORE with the buttered rolls.
So I have written it. So shall it be.
Note: I wrote this at 7 am, but my blog has not let me post for 3 days now. Server issues? Spam bomb? No clue. It decided to let me, so I am rushing to slap this up while the slapping is good.
Hi! Remember Copy Editing? I sure do!
This is the working definition of NOT FUN. I call my copy editor Harold because she uses a purple pencil...and uses it...and uses it... I must just exhaust poor Harold. I need to send her a big bottle of Vodka and a coupon for some free therapy. I FEEL for her. I mean, if you read this blog at all, you have learned by now that I am NOT A GOOD PROOF READER. And I am also not a good TYPER---I type using one thumb and three fingers, and it's all about speediness---accuracy be damned. I am also not careful or consistent. I can spell a word right 9,000 times and then suddenly decide to switch out all its E's for A's and add a silent P, or sometimes my brain will cramp up and I will completely forget how to spell some average, work-a-day word. You know how you can be writing and then a regular word you use constantly (say, LITTLE, for a painfully personal example) will just LOOK wrong to you? Yeah. Me too. Only I never go to dictionary.com and check it, do I?
My CARELESS mistakes aside (and it would take a BULLDOZER to move all of them to the side), I have not given up my love affair with the word little. Many, many, many, many things in this book managed to be little --- hands, tables, smiles, gestures, bits, feet (and their correspondingly little shoes), caterpillars (like anyone has ever seen a nine inch caterpillar!), fingers, children, noses, lips, all just as little as little can be. I could have saved myself a world of trouble if I'd simply set the whole thing in Lilliput. Also? I have split SO many infinitives that infinitive marriage counsellors cite ME as the number three cause of infinitive divorce. (The first two are money and sex, um duh.)
AND! I got home on Friday and found my copy-edited pages waiting for me. They came shortly after I left, so they want them back FIVE DAYS after I returned. I have spent six solid hours Saturday and another six yesterday STET-ing a few especial pet grammatical errors that I feel are part of voice and OK-ing fixes to the THUNDEROUS AND HUGE PRE-PIONEER-BUFFALO-HERD sized ARMY of careless errors.
I got up at 5 am this morning and got my own colored pencil and went right back to it. And I am still only about halfway through the FIRST read through. I like to go through copy-edited proofs at LEAST twice because asking for changes in galleys feels like bad manners.
AND I HAVE STILL NOT ANSWERED THE 150 ANSWER NEEDING -MAILS that piled themselves up while I frittered away ten days on sybaritic pleasure cruising and the pernicious eating of buttered rolls.
And I have a crit to do for Liz (she won that auction and so I want to REALLY do a good job for her).
And I need to make worksheets up for a seminar I am going to teach on writing punchy openings.
And find an hour every day to get my sweat on so I can lose five pounds of buttered-roll-butt.
And I need to do my GCC interview with Natalie Collins because she is not only in the GCC with me but a FINE writer and a friend.
And then I need to mom-taxi my little dangling participles to karate and boy scouts and tap dance and choir and pre-school and etc etc.
AND I have this STORY pressing against the bones of my skull, wanting OUT. I am supposed to be on a break and begin this new novel in November, but this novel doesn't want to be begun in November. I am DREAMING about it, and almost driving off the road and into the gorse because I am thinking so hard about it, and RIGHT NOW this second, every time I BLINK, I see the long, snakey arms and stripey liquid eyeliner of Thalia, my narrator's sister. I can SEE her imprinted on the backs of my EYELIDS, and I so so so want to write about her NOW. Today.
The upshot is, I can never go on vacation again because I don't see how to dig my way out so I can get to the part where I get to write this burgeoning book. The book is like Pillsbury biscuit dough, confined and thwarted, wanting only to puff and hump and grow, and I am the cardboard cannister, longing to be cracked sharply against the counter.
Okay. That was too much. Did I just employ TURGID BISCUIT IMAGERY? Time to SHUT UP. Bah I really want to write today, BU|T NO. Instead I shall copy edit all the whole morning, virtuous as a carb-free nun, and THEN I shall go to tap class with Maisy and THEN answer AT LEAST 30 e-mails and THEN do some more copy editing and then get Natalie's interview ready for tomorrow before waving romantically at my husband in passing and dropping unconscious to the sheets. This is my solemn vow.
So Gentle Reader? The OTHER upshot is, I am not proofreading this blog at all. Embrace the typos, oh my best beloveds.
And Harold? Sadly? The OTHER other upshot is, I will FLIP you for the free therapy coupon, but I am DERN well keeping the Vodka.
The results are in! This month's Blogging for Books winners have been chosen by our lovely guest judge, Melanie Hauser. All three winners will be receiving signed copies of Melanie's novel, CONFESSIONS OF SUPER MOM.
Ready? Here's what Melanie had to say:
Thanks so much for inviting me to judge this month's Blogging for Books. I confess, I had no idea how fun - and difficult - it would be. I'm amazed at how differently everyone responded to the vague subject matter of "superheroes." I just love authors, and the things their crazy minds come up with! Sheesh! Enough of all the Serious Author Blather! Without further fanfare, I'm so happy to announce the winners of this month's Blogging for Books:
Third place goes to The Downside of Saving the World by Holley of Mean Teacher. This was so funny, and the twist at the end made me laugh out loud.
Coming in at a close second was Is the cape required? by Amy of Excrutiating Minutiae. This was a terrific view of superheroing from the most unsung superhero of all, Mom. (Something I know a little about!)
First place goes to A Hero of Sorts by Vicki of Outside In. I loved this entry! I loved the restraint, yet obvious compassion, that Vicki used in writing about her son. This moved me, yet never made me feel sorry for the subject, and that's a very hard thing to do. Congrats, Vicki!
I'd like to thank Joshilyn for hosting B4B, Mir for doing all the hard work, and Jay for coming up with this brilliant idea in the first place. And for all you superheroes out there, thank you, be careful of that cape (especially when entering and leaving revolving doors), and don't forget to floss!
At final tally, we had 21 entries for this month's Blogging for Books contest. I hope that folks will read all the entries, if they haven't done so already.
When I was asked to help pare the entries down to a list of seven finalists, I was flattered, and figured it would be fun and easy. Well. It was fun, reading everyone's entries. It was not easy. There were a lot of wonderful submissions and I now have a lot more empathy for Jay and our guest judges.
Anyway, this month's theme was SUPERHEROES. With that in mind, I tried to pick the entries that I felt were not only the "best" or "most entertaining," but that most fully embodied the theme. I would like to thank Joshilyn for taking over as contest host, and Melanie for her upcoming final judging. In addition, thank you to EVERYONE who submitted.
Without further ado... here are the top seven entries in random order:
1) Playing With Boys by f-i-n of sunshine state.
2) Is the cape required? by Amy of Excrutiating Minutiae.
3) Who Will Save Us Now? by Sleeping Mommy of Sleeping Mommy.
4) The Downside of Saving the World by Holley of Mean Teacher.
5) SHOUT It Out! by Deb of Red Shoe Ramblings.
6) A Hero of Sorts by Vicki of Outside In.
7) SWOOP, Unmasked by Jamie of Selkie.
And because I've never been very good at following the rules and limiting myself, I'd also like to note the following entries for Honorable Mentions: September 11 by Karry at The Smiths in Florida; Who's Going to Save the Day? by sp8cemunky of Livejournal; and Climbing the Walls by Elisson of Blog d'Elisson.
Congratulations to all of our finalists, and here's hoping Melanie has an easier time with her decisions than I did with mine!
Hello lovelies, Mir here with important Blogging For Books news!
[Funny story: I thought Joshilyn was going to do this post, and she apparently is experiencing technical difficulties in another country, or something. Hahaha! Why aren't you laughing? *crickets chirp* Um, yeah, ANYWAY, we apologize for the delay....]
To refresh your memory, read Joshilyn's post explaining how she's taking over for The Zero Boss for a while. Long story short: Blogging for Books is here, this week, hosted by the lovely Joshilyn, judged by the charming Melanie Hauser, and, uh, micromanaged by yours truly. So! On with it!
This month's theme is SUPERHEROES; whatever that means to you, go for it. Melanie is somewhat of an expert in this area, I hear. Write like the wind, my pretties, and remember to keep it to 2,000 words or less.
Starting now, you have until midnight next Monday (September 12th) (that's the stroke of midnight Monday morning, not the following midnight which is actually Tuesday) to leave a link to your essay in the comments. I will narrow the entries down to the top seven, and Melanie will select three winners from those.
In the interim, perhaps Joshilyn will find a power converter for her computer. STAY TUNED!
I AM SO FREAKING CHEERFUL I MAY POP!
I was looking in the newt tank today and noticed a TINY TINY SNAIL tracking around with his adorable little feelers out, industriously cleaning the newt tank. A MYSTERY snail! Where did he come from? I gave serious thought that perhaps those 4th century BC scientists may have been onto something with that whole "Spontaneous Generation" theory....But then I remembered that a couple of days ago we got some underwater banana plants at PETSMART, and I betcha this snail was secreted in the leaves. Now he is named Mycroft, and I sincerely enjoy him. I enjoy snails in general. I like 'em in the garden, I like 'em in my newt tank, and heck, I even like big fat French ones cooked up in butter and garlic.
Mycroft is The Snail of Good Omen, because right after I discovered him, I got a note from my UK editor...gods in Alabama has been officially out for about two weeks there, and it just today showed up on HEATSEEKERS. That's a list of the fastest-selling books that missed the best seller lists by a snail's breath. AND GODS IS NUMBER THREE ON IT. *pant pant* Let's say it together, shall we? In a breathy little Marilyn kind of voice:
Great Britain, oh my best beloveds, is named GREAT Britain for a reason. I state catagorically and as undisputable fact that the UK flows with honey and the milky milks human kindness and everyone likes them best. If Great Britain was a color it would be SUNSHINE YELLOW, and if Great Britain was an Animal it would be a sentient lion, and if Great Britain was a girlfriend of mine she would wear my size shoe and she would NOT look fat in those pants. And obviously, I mean, so obviously that it hardly need be said, if Great Britain was a JRR Tolkien Character, it WOULD NOT BE A HOBBIT. It would be Legolas as played by Orlando Bloom. (Sidebar: Yum.)
All this, and a FREE SNAIL! I am having a VERY good day.
ALL THAT SAID, there are people who are not having a good day today. Not at all, at all. I'm so horrified by what's going on in New Orleans that I finally had to turn the TV completely off and go watch Mycroft instead. It's blackly awful. I am very conscious today of my blessings...not least among them, knowing where everyone I love IS in the world. We are not currently in mortal peril. We are dry and comfortable. We have fresh water and working toilets and a nice home to come to whenever we get done doing our little businesses out in the world, and I when they arrive, I will have fixed them all Laura's Organic Beef cheeseburgers on Whack-job Spelt buns with cauliflower and a nice salad. Thousands of people right here can't say ANY of that, and those are just the BASICS. That doesn't even get into the perks and blessings, like access to the internet and new, sassy boots and Godiva Chocolate.
If you want to help, you can GO HERE.
We interrupt my usual incessant rambling about newts and the fat content of wheat-free oat bran juice sweetened safflower oil soaked organic cookie-ish product, (and momentarily suspend the titular HOBBIT YACKET) so I can shake my international groove-thang. gods launches in the UK/Australia in the middle of this month, and there's fun stuff going on across the pond. Not to mention---this is gods' first non American release. Allow me to say, Huzzah! YAY GODS! And also, YAY THE BRITISH! Because THEY ARE BEING NICE TO MY BOOK!
Glamour Magazine (theirs) has picked gods as its Must Read for August. Here's a nice chunklet of the SPIFFY review:
"Now there's a new southern talent, and Jackson's debut is a startling page turner... This is a beautifully crafted, sassy novel, where nothing is quite as it seems, and the way the final pieces of the jigsaw slot together in the closing pages should surprise even the most jaded of readers."
ALSO? Ottakar's (one of Britain's leading book chains) has picked gods as its Book of the Month as well. And I want to kiss them on the mouth for it, quite frankly. Here's hoping the personification of Ottaker's would look like Taye Diggs with a British accent. I'm just saying.
REALLY LASTLY, the rights to gods sold in THAILAND last week! So gods will be out there in January, 2007! Lift a bowl of spicy Tom Ka Gai with me.
MEANWHILE, since we are all closing our eyes and thinking of England ANYWAY, I forgot to tell you this thing that happened on vacation....my folks were watching those special forces type guys track down one of the bombers in Rome (CNN or FOX, not sure which....) I was in and out of the room, kid-wrangling and making myself a sandwich. So I was distracted, but I was listening, you know, and they had these two (American) journalists talking about what we were seeing as the Special Ops guys were calmly and methodically strapping on various equipment, just completely focused and ready to go RISK THEIR LIVES to bring this guy in alive, BUT on one trip through the room, I thought I heard one of the commentators say, "Yes, well, the British are like hobbits..."
I stopped, nonplused, and said, "Did he just say...The British are like HOBBITS?!!???"
My father was looking at the screen with a faintly puzzled expression. "Surely not," he said. Dad is a little hard of hearing so we always have the captions on. We waited a moment and sure enough, across the screen, we see the words, "Yes, well, the British are like Hobbits..."
We collectively boggled. The PM was already calling the White House to sever diplomatic relations WHEN, astoundingly, THE GUY KEPT TALKING. "Yes, the British, they like to stay home, comfortable in the Shire, but when true evil approaches, they take their feet down off their hobbit cushions and and rally and BLAH BLAH BLAH."
So. On behalf of my nation, I wish to say:
DEAR THE BRITISH,
You are not at all like Hobbits. No one who is not simultaneously on a) crack and b)24 hour news television would ever think so. Please allow me to apologize on behalf of my nation, and also on behalf of whatever booby-headed mouth pooter they let talk on TV that day.
If I ever decide to move to Wales forever, this will certainly have been a factor.
PS Allow me to pre-emptively and authoritatively say, we do NOT feel the French are anything like Wood Elves.
gods in Alabama made the Quill's Award pre-list for ROOKIE OF THE YEAR award, or best first novel. There are quite a few on each nominations list, and they are going to cut each category down to five or so, so I am not holding my breath that I will get to BE ON TV come October, but it is pretty dern cool to be on that list, you know? I'm pleased and quietly preening.
ALSO You know the QUILLs are getting BUZZ--- it's the Oscars for books. I CANNOT WAIT TO SEE THE SHOW. It's the working definition of MUST SEE TV. Not only because I am a rabid reader and am bound to have strong opinions about who should win what etc--although that's a factor--but ALSO because writers are JUST AS NUTZY FANDANGOED as actors. We are ALL just the teeniest bit SQUIRRELLY, except for those of us who are outright ravers, but we don't have stylists and personal trainers and publicity teams telling what we can and cannot say/wear/do in public. DYING TO HEAR THE ACCEPTANCE SPEECHES AND SEE THE FASHION. DYING.
Also -- You know how jewelry and clothing designers DRESS the award noms for the oscars? WHO IS GOING TO DRESS THE WRITERS??
E Reporter: So, who are you wearing?
Writer: Um what?
E! Reporter: Who did your dress?
Writer: Oh...uh...I got it at Rich's? Can we talk about my book for a second?
E! Reporter: You wrote a book?
Also? They don't let a lot of us on TV for a reason. Here is my DREAM, my COMPLETE BEAUTIFUL BOOK AWARD SHOW DREAM!
E! reporter: SO, who are you wearing??
Crazed, Foaming Lunatic-Slash-Writer: I am wearing a dress I made myself by safety pinning bath towels I stole from hotels to protest capitalism and the Paris Hilton media frenzy. Also, NO PANTIES!
E! Reporter: Oh um...
Crazed, Foaming Lunatic-Slash-Writer: I CRAP ON ALL AUTHORITY! THESE AWARDS ARE OPPRESSING MY MUSE! WANT TO SEE MY PIERCINGS???
E! Reporter: Oh Dear Father in Heaven, no. Please no.
*Merciful cut to commercial*
OKAY PROBABLY NOT. That's actually what would happen at the Performance Artist Awards. WHICH IS A GREAT IDEA. Bravo, are you LISTENING??? And then you could take all the winners and put them on an island with only primitive weaponry and whoever lives gets a HUGE! NEA grant.
Honestly! I should quit this glamorous life I am leading and go write for "unscripted" TV.
I've broken out of a funk I didn't know I was in. I'm working! I'm happy! I'm totally insecure! These things are almost always true together.
Although officially? I am on vacation and officially NOT WORKING and I have barely any child-free hours because it is summer and I am leaving town for ten days on Thursday (3 days of book promo, week of vacation) and I have not packed for me and I have not packed for my little children and I must have the reasoning skills of a stage four a crack-addict because APPARENTLY sometime a week or so ago I thought it would be a good idea to invite ten people over to my house for dinner on Wednesday night and my house is a wreck so of course, OF COURSE, yesterday was the PERFECT time to hole up in my office and spend four hours writing the opening of a brand new whole nother novel.
And so I did. I started the novel I am not actually officially really for truly supposed to even THINK about until November because --- as I was WAH WAH WAHing on the phone to my agent only day before yesterday --- there hasn't been a time in the last six years where I haven't been frantically WORKING ON A BOOK to some insane deadline I came up with. Which is true, but it ignores the fact that I have spent the last six years being mostly, well, you know. Happy. And fulfilled. All that junk. I'm lazy, and if I am allowed to sit down for too long, I forget that I thrive on frantic-ness. I forget the boundless joy I eat from a too full plate.
My editor called in the middle of my working and I was so OVER THE TOP hyper and thrilled with myself that I think I used A Very Bad Word. And not just any old A Very Bad Word. This was the queen mother. What one might call A Very Bad Word Indeed. And I SUSPECT I used it about four times. Loudly and with joyful abandon I used it. Casually, even. For no reason other than my children were out of earshot and I was hip deep in story and drunk with it. AND I AM NOT EVEN SORRY. SO THERE.
I love my job I love my job I love my job. It's a shame I have zero faith in it. Or me. Let me clarify: The writing I trust. But the JOB of it and the ME of it. Not so much.
Yesterday, working, I was in the zone and completely pleased. Today...business. My domain name is expiring. I got a RENEW THIS OR DIE e-mail this morning and sat staring at it, paralyzed, until finally I called Scott to have him walk me through re-registering it. Not because I need help with the forms. I know how to spell Joshilyn. I even know how to pronounce it. I needed help with the faith.
Me: *timid stupid mouse voice* Do you think I should go ahead and re-register for two years instead of one? That seems to me to imply that I think I'll still be doing this in two years. Like, having a website. Needing one. You know.
Him: Is two years the max?
Me: No, five is but...
Him: Do you get a price break with five years?
Me: Yes, a significant one, but...
Him: Honey, you have another book coming out in a year, and in paperback a year after that, and yesterday you were so crazed with frantic book love for this new book that you followed me all over the house reading sentences aloud and cackling, and ps NOT PACKING, blah blah reason reason common sense reason.
Me: But what if I never write another book and gods and Between go out of print three years from now? What if THAT? And then we've paid for this WHOLE ANOTHER TWO YEARS and instead I go out of print and NEVER WRITE ANOTHER BOOK AND HAVE TO GO TO A MENTAL HOSPITAL???
Him: You always write another book, and you never go to a mental hospital. You are writing another book and not going to a mental hospital even as we speak.
Me: Yes, but, what if I don't write another book after THIS book, then THEN I go to a mental hospital?
Him: Then that's still three and half years from now plus paperback release a year after that which brings us to four and a half years which means if you go out of print and directly to a mental hospital we've still gotten four-point-five years out of the website, and with the discount, after four years we have broken even ANYWAY.
Me: BUT WHAT IF I DIE? NEXT WEEK!!!! WHAT ABOUT THAT?
Him: Oh honey, death traditionally HELPS books sales. You'll be sure to be in print in five years if you die. Could you try to die in a somewhat spectacular manner?
Me: Like maybe I could get eaten by carniverous snakes?
Him: Now THAT is long-term thinking! Good girl! Go renew for five years.
So I did. DIGRESSION: Is it weird to have one's sanity seven miles away walking around on its own legs and separately processing its own oxygen? I think it is. Oh well. It works for me. PLUS my sanity is a good kisser. Which is pure bonus.
ANYWAY, SO, BACK TO THE POINTS:
1) I am working.
2) I have very little faith.
3) I am extremely happy.
4) Mom, I am sorry I used that Very Bad Word. <--Pst, that is not strictly true. I am a LITTLE sorry I admitted using it here where my mom will read about it, though.
5) I better pack.
See the yellow button over there on your left, just under the thumbnail image of gods in Alabama? If you can't make it to an actual tour event because you WILFULLY chose to prance off and live in MONTANA, even though YOUR MOTHER TOLD YOU NOT TO, never fear. It doesn't mean you are destined to die alone on a rickety Montanian cot, weeping as you slip this mortal coil because you never got a signed, inscribed first edition hardback of gods in Alabama. You can thank The Alabama Booksmith, a fantastical indy, who has set up a VIRTUAL SIGNING...just poke that yellow button and you can order a copy of gods that I'll sign and inscribe this April when the tour plops me smack into the middle of the Booksmith.
IF I AM NOT COMING NEAR YOUR HOUSE I AM SORRY. Please stop yelling at me in e-mail. *grin* I don't get to pick, you know. I mostly go where they point me, and the tour is shaping up to be very SOUTH-focused. (With a few exceptions---I need to update the tour page because I am going to Northshire in Vermont and a couple of stops at cool Chicago indies are in the works but not dead set yet. I am wildly excited about the Vermont thing, I have to say. I have never been, Manchester is sposed to be gorgeous, and I get to meet Robert Gray.)
And SPEAKING of weeping and clutching first editions....my book came. My real, alive, actual book came from the printers, and I will have you skeptics know it SMELLS AMAZING. I thought it would be this DIFFUSED experience---See I was in Nashville when it arrived at my house, and so I KNEW it was there. I came home to it, mentally prepped to see my book for the first time, and I thought I would be PLEASED and all, but you know, I've seen the ARCs and blah blah. So I was expecting a wash of pleasure and hope and to say, "OH! THIS IS NEAT! HERE IT IS! YAY." But there was a lot more melting into a waxy puddle and blubbering than I had prepped myself for. It was so amazing to TOUCH ALL OVER IT. Between you and me? I STILL can't help stopping and picking it up and touching all over it and sniffing at it's clean, papery edges whenever I pass it.
Right after I got it, I left a long, long, long, weepy, incoherent, LONG message on my editor's voice mail. That message -- Oh how I cringe. I was babbling and WRACKED by snuffling --- I strongly considered doing the whole sit com cliche "I MUST GO TO NEW YORK AND BREAK INTO THE TIME WARNER BUILDING AND STEAL HER ANSWERING MACHINE" thing. But I comforted myself that, what with all the gasping and snorking and whimpery noises, she probably assumed that it was just a random obscene phone call and deleted.
SPEAKING OF NASHVILLE (Which we were a paragraph or so ago) A couple of people from the SIGNING at the trade show have SHOWED UP IN THE COMMENTS. (Hey, Ya'll! Welcome!) I sometimes forget this blog is just sitting out there on google. It feels like a closed room, you know? It feels like a secret. I have Faster Than Kudzu separate from the book, and I have the book separate from me.
This blog is personal. Yeah, I talk about book stuff, but mostly I yammer about the cat's weight problem and whether or not he has slimmed down enough to groom his own butt and what happened when I wore the wrong socks to the skate-trail (I swear I will one day finish that story). In other words, this blog is a big cog in the wheel of things that entertain me and keep me out of bars. It's not A NOVELIST talking, it's just me the dork. Because to me a NOVELIST is a fictional person who lives in New York and has BETTER SHOES THAN I DO, not a person in my house who burned up the salmon croquettes last night. But... with the book being a PHYSICAL OBJECT and some actual alive people I met in another state at a BOOK EVENT showing up here, things are changing.
ME THE DORK goes wandering around my house thinking, "Should I have a waffle? Did I remember to tape MEDIUM last night?," and yet I am FLECKED with little bits of this other world where I am a novelist, where this thing I have worked for and wanted for so long is actually coming true, and as the release approaches, it is as if the edges of all these little speckles of book-world things are expanding, and it seems possible that the edges may one day TOUCH each other and blend into my skin and be not flecks of unreality, but just...how my life is.
HEY! I got a bunch of the tour dates up----THESE dates are pretty much SET, but I will be adding the later stops as soon as they are confirmed. GO LOOK and see if I am COMING SOON to a TO A BOOKSTORE NEAR YOU. And then my lawyer (father of the fantastic AYEX THE MIGHTY) has told me I have to include the following paragraph:
By reading the word "DINOFLAGELLATE" (which you just read) the READEE (this is you) agrees that he/she is morally, ethically, and contractually obligated to come and see THE DINOFLAGELLATE INVOKER (this is me) should said invoker's book tour bring her within a 30 mile radius of READEE's house, job, or regular hang-out spot. This contract is legal and binding and READEE agrees that he/she has committed his/her IMMORTAL SOUL to show up, even if on the way to the bookstore he/she crossing the street and a truck knocks him/her down and runs over his/her legs. He/she must suck it up and DRAG him/herself the last few feet.
(Not that I am worried about throwing a party and having no one COME just because this is my first novel and NO ONE in AMERICA knows me from Adam's off-ox and the book will have been out for fifteen minutes so it's unlikely great herds of people in, say, ARKANSAS where I have NEVER BEEN EVEN ONCE IN MY LIFE will have read it yet. NO NO, not worried at ALL! But by the way, my lawyer says to mention also that READEEs who no-show will have their forfeited souls fed to THE FOOT ATTACK CAT DEMON who tore open my instep as I was sleeping because I moved my feet under the covers and IS THAT WHAT YOU WANT?)
When last we spoke, I was prepping to leave town and go speak at a book trade show luncheon in Nashville. I was nervous, but... I DID NOT VOMIT. Point for the home team! The event was held in two-winged GINORMOUS event tent set up by the hosts (a big Nashville book distributor). In one wing there was a huge lunchroom (they fed us and the 300 or so booksellers and librarians who had gathered) and then the other side was a trade show floor where the three writers who spoke did signings and where all the publishing houses had little booths set up with reps and their spring line on display.
I sat through lunch picking all the cheese out of my salad, feeling too nervous to EAT CHOCOLATE CARAMEL MOUSSE CAKE, and worrying about when I should pee so that
1) I would NOT be in the bathroom when they went up to introduce me and hear my name and have to come leaping out with my skirt tucked into my stockings and a long toilet paper streamer waving jauntily from the back like a tail.
2) I would not be dying to go pee the whole time I was talking.
You will be MIGHTILY RELIEVED TO KNOW that I peed at the perfect, optimal moment, and it was smooth sailing after that. IF I CAN STOP WITH THE HEART PALPITATIONS, I think I may end up being good at this! I really do! THANK GOD. The bad part was, I was up FIRST, so there went my clever plan to see what the first person did. And I didn't want to sound REHEARSED and STIFF and READ-ALOUD-Y so I basically thought of the SHAPE of what I wanted to say, wrote seven PROMPT sentence fragments on a sheet of a paper, and took that up there with me to look at if my brain went dead.
But it was all FINE. People were laughing at all the parts where I hoped people would laugh, and in the between-laugh pauses, it got quiet in there, you know? That kind of UN-RUSTLE-Y and COUGH-FREE quiet you get when a large group of folks are engaged and listening. I talked about the book, about my beloved narrator, Arlene, I read a couple of short, funny scenes and basically tried to get the FEEL of the book across to people, so they could see if it was the sort of thing they liked. (When I got back, I immediately hoovered up BOTH my neglected dessert AND the dessert of a Warner VP who had to leave right after I spoke to catch her plane.)
After, at the trade-show, TONS of people came up to my little booth wanting a copy and being REALLY interested in reading the book etc etc. WE RAN OUT!!! The rep had to put down sheets of paper for people to order more copies to be sent to them.
People were saying. "I BET YOU'RE SICK OF THIS, HUH? I BET YOUR HAND IS TIRED." And I would LAUGH because it was my first book signing, and the books were FLYING off the table and people were excited about reading them and um, NO, I WAS NOT SICK OF IT. If I ever DO get sick of it, if I ever DARE to NOT THRILL at the AMAZING OPPORTUNITY to talk to and sign for people who have read and loved and are supporting my book, or who are interested and engaged and eager to read my book, then I will have OFFICALLY become a BUTTHOLE.
My lawyer says to tell you, "Ms. Jackson is not actively pursuing plans to become a butthole at this time."
Number of 24 hour Stomach Flus before gods releases: One. PLEASE GOD, just the one. And just to be perfectly clear, Lord, the flu that laid me low yesterday definately counts.
I am still a little weak-n-trembly today, but busy. I am working on a BACK STORY for gods in Alabama. (It'll be up the week book releases--I'll link to it---and I was VERY EXCITED to be asked!)
Today, I am trying to decide if I should write 1) the external series of events that led me to sit down and start writing this particular book, or 2) a more internal, mystical, muse-infested, warty-fingering-of-feelings and twanging of psychological trip-wires that made these characters bother me about this story until I wrote it. I think the FIRST one, because I have NO FREAKING IDEA about the second one and it kinda gives me the screaming creeps to even consider it. I am the girl who, as you may recall, thinks that the examined life is not worth living, and if I thought about what IT ALL MEANS, what it says about me, where it is coming from, if I kept revolving it all, it all, in my poor mind, I'd have to go sit down somewhere very quiet where I would give up novels in order to write on the soft walls in crayon using only my toes.
(The above paragraph contains an obscure pop-culture reference and an EVEN MORE obscure literary one. Find both, be the first to identify them in comments, and I will say with deep sincerity, 'YOU ARE MY HERO,' and then I will send you a a very small and dorky prize pack containing AT LEAST two things I have sitting on my desk right now. My desk is a HORRORSHOW. I have NO IDEA what I will find on it when I clean it off, but TWO things will be sent to YOU, oh intrepid identifier of references. Heck even if you have to resort to google, you will STILL be my hero -- it's pretty dern obscure. I run in this contest in the hope that I will be forced to clean off my desk. I make it so hard in the equally sincere hope that no one will win and I can leave my desk to fester in peace.)
SO the first one. I think a lot of other writers read Back Story, and the more PROCESS oriented, external story might be interesting to them. AND I have a bee in my drawers about it today: My friend and fellow GCC'er Martha O’Connor was talking about the fires she walked through to find an agent and a publisher for her first novel, and I was surprised by ...how much it surprised writers who are just beginning their agent/publisher search.
I think 95% of the writers who find homes for their novels have taken a long and winding and rocky road to get there. The other 5% were in the right place at the right time and lightening struck, but the vast majority of us will be in therapy for YEARS recovering from the process of getting that first teeny toe hold on a writing career. I think it's REALLY GOOD to be up front about that when talking to other writers who haven't found their agent or their editor/publishing house yet--who are just now gearing themselves up to try.
Some successful writers seem to have forgotten---or maybe they just DOWNPLAY---the ugliness of the road once they get the book contract because most of us artsy fartsy types have a little (or medium, or large, or YAWPINGLY HUGE CHASM-Y GAPING) pocket of insecurity sewn into our guts, and maybe we think, "OH, if I admit how hard it was to get here, if I admit that I had to struggle and toil and I have a packet of rejection letters so thick it's the understudy for the part of "EARTH'S CRUST", then isn't that like admitting I am NOT good enough, pretty enough, smart enough, special enough???"
Well, that's CRAP, and it makes OTHER good writers creep away bleeding after one round of rejections, thinking they aren't good, pretty, smart, special enough. I never want to stop saying, "This IS a tough business, and one in which being a talented writer is NOT where it ends. That is where it starts. People always say that if the book is good, it will find a home, but I think there are PLENTY of books that can compete that will NEVER see the light of day. Because once you are writing really good books, you have to ALSO be crazy-cakes driven to find a publisher, congenitally unable to hear the word no, and you have to dig under that yawping pocket of fear and self-loathing and find your little crystaline core that believes, if not in yourself, at least in your work, and IT IS THERE or you wouldn't have shoved at the boundaries of your busy life and MADE the space and the time to write the book in the first place. Be the kind of writer who, when a publishing house tells you NO THANKS, goes all CHUMBA WUMBA on their buttocks, singing I GET KNOCKED DOWN! BUT I GET UP AGAIN ETC ETC LA LA LA."
*cough* Um, Scuse me. *creeps down off soapbox* So. I better go write that back story.
ADDENDUM: Danielle just GOT the pop culture reference AND she did find a lit ref although not the one I meant. Another one that snuck in there when I wasn't looking. Socrates is tricksy that way, the little philosophical weasel. SO, She wins. BUT I bet I can find MORE stuff on my desk, so if anyone gets the MORE obscure reference, I will send THEM a prize too. Why the heck NOT. My desk is cluttered enough to provide prizes for any ten contests...
ADOUBLEDENDUM: Deb Richardson gets it:
"Footfalls", by Samuel Beckett: reference to May "revolving it all, it all in my poor mind." I thought I woudl have to wait for Waylon and his Yolanda Reed trained theatre brain, but Deb has skunked him! CONGRATS!
gods in Alabama hits bookstores in exactly thirty days. One short month. I am having suspension of disbelief problems. Scott and I have been counting that time off all morning long, trying to find a way that makes it seem REAL.
Scott: Your book comes out in one lunar cycle.
Me: In thirty bowls of cereal.
Scott: Four waking ups and stepping immediately in a slithery hairball.
Me: Ew. You count those off yourself, please. I will count by Gilmore Girls. My book comes out in five more episodes.
Scott: Unless you keep watching the reruns on the family channel. Then it's more like sixty episodes of Gilmore Girls.
Me: I'm not counting reruns.
Scott: Two tanks of gas.
Me: Is that all the gas I use? Really?
Him: Oh, no you are going to Birmingham a couple of times this month---so, four tanks of gas?
Me: Okay, What about nervous breakdowns? I am thinking maybe twelve nervous breakdowns.
Scott: A conservative estimate.
I spent the last week con-less in Connecticut, broken-cabled in Boston, and un-internetted in NYC, so obviously I have a LOT to tell you. I met some really fantastic people and have BOOK RECS for you and I ate my body weight in seafood, but the BOOK part of the trip aside, I made a very important discovery which I will now share with you. Ready? Okay! Here it is:
Nature---you know, the green parts of earth with all the trees and mountains in it and the rivers and all---is actually rather pretty.
I KNOW! If you have been reading this blog for a long time, you may remember that whole thing about me Not Liking Songs and remaining pitifully unmoved by The Wondrous Beauty of the Earth and how among my inner circle it is Universally Acknowledged that I am Dead Inside? (If you are new, run read this before continuing.)
You're back? And no doubt thinking less of me. BUT, tree fans and stream lovers everywhere will be pleased to know that I MAY have have taken three tiny, baby steps toward experiencing a conversion. Yes, indeedy! Something happened this trip that made my wizened wisp of ectoplasmic fluff gasp and stretch itself a little toward the sun --- just like a REAL SOUL!
Before I ever left, my publicist sent me an e-mail and asked if I wanted to take the train from CT to Boston, because otherwise I would have to fly on an 8 seater turbo-prop. I replied, "I ain't afraid a' no little tiny planes." So after a SMASHINGLY FUN dinner (the CT Indie-bookstore-folks were a REALLY fun crowd, and my editor came along too and my agent and a couple of my ALL TIME FAVORITE PEOPLE from Warner and we ate at possibly the second best restaurant on the planet --I had this swordfish and it came with BUTTERNUT SQUASH RISOTTO so subtle and evocative that the Lord must have been personally guiding the hand of an already preternaturally gifted chef) BUT AFTER ALL THAT....pause to inhale...I went to the airport and climbed onto the Smallest Plane in the Universe. There was NO CO PILOT. There was just a guy named ERIC with a MAP and a COMPASS.
But ERIC IS VERY COOL -- he let me SIT UP IN THE CO-PILOT'S chair. I was terrified of TWITCHING and swiping some vital control and sending us all plummeting forthwith to our spectacular doom, so I folded myself up into the smallest possible wad and sat there barely daring to breath while Eric clicked around 6 zillion incomprehensible levers. I saw I had two PEDALS under my feet and I said to him, "SO that's the gas the that's the brake, but where is the GEAR SHIFT?" and he looked at me like I had suddenly sprouted a thick purple forked tongue and waggled it at him until he realized I WAS KIDDING.
Then we took off. Magical, magical, magical---literally. Science did not have anythign to do with it. Physics was distant and uninvolved. I feel very certain that a fleet of teeny medicine men was secreted in the wing storage compartment, flogging the air with the bodies of freshly killed sparrows to create massive amounts of "lift Juju." Because we just took off and flew straight up into the sky. I wanted so badly to lift my hands up but I was too scared of that whole "Whanging an instrument panel and causing us all to die" thing.
Once we were up, I couldn't stop GOOGLING AROUND like the world's biggest airborne tourist. I spent the whole flight just LOOKING AT NATURE even though I was HALFWAY through a fantastic book I was dying to get back to (BROKEN FOR YOU, by Stephanie Kallos). We stayed at about 700 feet, flying near the river, over gorgeous fields of frozen woods.
I saw the cape off to my right, watched Boston grow on the horizon, and we flew over it and then turned back and approached from the other side. Eric angled us downwards and I watched the ground coming up to meet us, and I wasn't scared at all, it seemed PERFECT, and when we touched, it was like the plane was a Jesus Bug and the runway was water, we SKIMMED our way back onto the earth, lightly, lightly, and I, Princess Dead Inside, was crying like a GREAT. BIG. DORK.
Then I was in BOSTON, but I have to tell you about that tomorrow.
There is the BEGINNING of a VERY interesting discussion over at BUZZ BALLS and HYPE (MJ Rose's blog). If you are a writer (or if you are interested in knowing the behind the scenes guts of how the profession of novelist actually WORKS), that blog is a fascinating read. Here is the entry in question... SKIP NOT THE COMMENTS!
I have not commented...I almost never do on the industry blogs I haunt. I generally don't feel qualified to speak on the topics that come up as I am still 2.5 months away from my first novel's release. I'm DEWY. I BELIEVE things. I speak in hyperbole and am all FERVENT and stuff. It's a bad mix when the base is ignorance. I am likely to have my cheek patted and be told I am awful cute for a fetus and to come and back and sit at the grown-up's table after the book comes out and I have tasted the heady mix of hydrogen, oxygen, and environmental toxins that lies outside of the protective womb of "SOLD BUT NOT YET PUBLISHED." But HERE at Faster than Kudzu, where I CLEARLY don't MIND looking like a dork, I am going to join the discussion.
The question, for you incorrigibly click-shy link abstainers, is: What WON'T YOU DO to get a book deal, or for those already book dealed, to get your next MS approved, accepted, slated for publication. Not in the SLEEP WITH ROBERT REDFORD FOR A MILLION DOLLARS way, (DIGRESSION: That's a STUPID movie premise---most women would sleep with Robert Redford for a wink and a curried shrimp puff.) but in a "what creative line won't you cross, what won't you COMPROMISE" way.
My answer? NOT MUCH.
But. There is always a but, isn't there...I say "NOT MUCH" from my dewy, believing, fervent place of knowing only how one agent and one editor work. And they BOTH have recognized and supported my (and here I blush to say "artistic") goals for my novels (my agent for 4 novels now--- and my agent is an ex-editor who is not shy about asking for changes--- and my editor for 1.75 novels now---We are still doing edits on Between, Georgia, BUT WE ARE GETTING CLOSE!) I get the idea that this is OFTEN not the case. But since for me right now it IS, my answer remains...not much.
In the editing process for both gods and Between, I had a strong sense that my editor understood and liked what I was doing and wanted to help me do it BETTER. Therefore, my attitude has been that ANY criticism my editor makes is invaluable and MUST be heeded. I don't mean I feel I had to do whatever she said, yes boss, *genuflect* yes boss. In fact, I may have radically different ideas about how to RESOLVE whatever her issue is, but THAT is where the discussion takes place...on the level of how the problem can best be addressed. It's a waste of my time and hers to argue on the level of
NO PROBLEM IS HERE.
As far as I'm concerned, I'm Toni Collette, she's Haley Joel Osment, and if she sees dead people, I need to begin researching exorcisms.
EXAMPLE: In Between, Georgia, she did not like my last five or six sentences. The closing image didn't resonate with her. Left her cold. And I read this in her editorial letter and I stood up and I said to the letter, LETTER! I said ARE YOU ON CRACK?!?!?!
I dialed her immediately because GACK! I could see it SO CLEARLY, it was PERFECT, it was GLEAMING, it was DRIPPING GLORY, I had drafted the last fifty pages of the book in a BLAZING WASH OF BAD SENTENCES that took WEEKS of revision before I could even let her SEE them because I rushed through them SO FAST so I could GET to this end and type in the lines I could ALREADY SEE riding white horses toward me from the roseate horizon. I blush to confess that when I FINALLY got to the end and could at LAST grace the page with those lines I burst into tears, rose from my pnuematic office chair, and LEAPT around the house---LEAPT, I tell you, as in JUMPED, as in LITERALLY made two circuits of the house in such a manner that I either had two feet on the ground or was airborne.
THE ENDING (forgive me, forgive me) WAS GLORIOUS.
In my head.
In fact I was so in love with its theoretical beauties that I didn't realize how MUCH I had failed to do THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE BOOK to allow the reader to recognize what the image means, and I was so dazzled by its white-hot gleaming perfection as it revolved enticingly in my brain that I didn't describe it HALF near well enough. I said enough to revive it in all its RADIANT GORGEOSITY in MY head, but the words were touchstones for ME because I already knew what it looked like. A touchstone can only recreate, it can't create, so the image as it stood was only effective for people who had previously seen and understood the image in their own imagination. Assuming my target audience is not PSYCHIC IMAGE-SUCKING VAMPIRES...yeah.
I saw in the editorial letter that she had a problem with the end, and so---after I was finished making the letter take a pee test---I took it on faith that A PROBLEM WAS THERE. Sure enough... on a fresh read-through...I could SEE it.
MAN, but it's a LONG TRIP, from the brain to the page.
To return to the initial question... I don't know what I would do if my situation was different, if I had an editor who either couldn't see or wasn't interested in what I was trying to accomplish and who asked me cut out what I see as the book's living, breathing heart in favor of a more commercial formula, and if I refuse, that's okay, thanks, have a nice career. Elsewhere.
I'd LIKE to say I am FILLED TO THE BRIM with artistic vigor! and principles! and glare down my nose at lesser, more malleable mortals, shrieking, "SELL OUTS! HACKS!" But...it is VERY easy to brim when you are a stay-at-home-mom who's used to living on ONE income, and you aren't in charge of MAKING it. One's artistic rigor-level is probably different if your family DEPENDS on your writing income to buy little luxuries like bread and medicine. And while I am SO HAPPY that Scott is home right now to be SUPER DAD while I am touring, I am ALSO glad he is job hunting, and will go back to work when I am home again.
It's a question I don't have to know the answer to this year, and I may be a fetus in this industry, but I am savvy enough to recognize that I am luckyluckylucky. And for this, I am gratefulgratefulgrateful.
Now if you will excuse me, I have to go mail a letter.
(DEAR KARMIC WHEEL,
I am kind to little animals! And babies!
I promise if I stay lucky, I will stay grateful!
Sincere love from YER FREND!
1) THE NEW SITE IS UP and it is GO so please! take a look at the SPLASH and hit any link to see the content pages and be sure to tell the webmaster if you see any broken links or broken images or other techinical difficulties. It is more GODS-CENTRIC because the book's release date is LOOMING (more on my nervous prostration re: the release later). The whole thing was designed by writer extraordinaire JILL "I am not a web designer" JAMES. I want to hear what you think of it, and also there are two schools of thought on the menu, and I hope you will take a sec to ally yourself with a school...
One school says: The MAIN image is VERY COLORFUL and MULTI-TEXTURED, therefore get the FREAKING KUDZU out of the salmon-colored box with your navigation menu in it and leave the content area CLEAN and SLEEK. The CLEAN AND SLEEK menu is on display here.
Two school says: Oh heck, You can NEVER have enough kudzu! Clean and Sleek is BORING and you NEED a texture stamped into that salmon-colored box with the navigation menu in it. INFEST THE MENU WITH THAT INDOMITABLE WEED! The KUDZU INFESTED menu is on display here.
2) I had to get COLOR PICTURES taken. A magazine wants to interview me (more on my nervous prostration re: magazine interviews later) and they want a COLOR photo, and all the good-enough-quality (which translates to geek-speak as: 300 dpi jpg) photos I have are the super-fantastic 200 dollar hair/professional make-up, lighting by a VERY KIND GOD pictures taken by the 'scrutiatingly talented Elizabeth Osborne. You can see one on the bio page and this Liz Photo will be on the book jacket! But. Liz DOES NOT WORK IN COLOR. So. I had to find a new photographer.
For color, I went first to my hairdresser Amanda who suggested for winter very FAINT carmel and gold multi-toned highlights. I JUST LOVE HER. Then, hair-ready but still quaking, I went to Harris Ponder of Birmingham for the photographs. He always takes my KID's portraits. He's a REALLY good photographer, and my kids' pics always come out GORGEOUS but then, look at the raw material.. So. I am more of a challenge.
He did a VERY GOOD JOB, regardless. I picked out two, and then his e-mail person sent the wrong one, so I have three. I can only send TWO to my publicist because that is what I paid for, and I thought I knew which two but... Oh heck, these are good pictures by a great photographer, but I hate pictures of me, hate having my picture taken, hate looking at them, etc etc. I look at pictures of me and I always see a serial killer or a lobotomized monkey. So. Here are all three in POP UP form, pick your favorite please, or rank them in order from least to most likely to cause you to flee in terror.
1) In which I am a Very Serious Artiste with Issues, but at least I WEAR A COLOR.
2) In which I have CLEARLY just huffed some nitrous oxide, but at least I have definitively PROVEN THE EXISTENCE OF MY TEETH.
3) In which I LOOK RELATIVELY INTELLIGENT, but am unfortunately also evil, and am plotting right now to kill you.
3) My VERY FIRST interview already happened, and it was for PUBLISHER'S WEEKLY (and they used the b and w photo) (and the woman who interviewed me was probably one of the ten coolest humans on the planet and I HAD no nervous prostration because when she called and I said a quavering, "hello" into the phone, the FIRST words out of her mouth were, "Honey, relax! I'm with Publisher's Weekly, and I am not here to hurt you!" I burst out laughing and fell in love with her. ALSO -- she turned out to be a HORSE PERSON, so it was all good, and I think she did a WHIZ BANG FANTASTIC job on the interview) (That was sure a lot of parenthetical digressions! I wonder if you recall where we were in the initial sentence before I went leaping off into the conversational long grass never to be seen again! CUZ I DO NOT, so let me go back and look...) and that interview is in the January 24th issue, OUT RIGHT NOW. On page 119, if you happen to subscribe, or if you happen to be in Borders (a lot of Borders stores carry PW).
I am one of about ten debut novelists in "First Impressions," interviews with writers whose books are PW's picks for possible break-outs. THAT WAS A GOOD DAY. What made it EVEN nicer was that they asked about seven independent booksellers from all over the country for THEIR picks for spring, and ONE OF THEM SAID GODS IN ALABAMA! It was ROBERT GRAY, a fellow blogger -- I like his blog, actually, so I mailed an ARC to him, which was kinda scary because Robert Gray is not famous for being a PUNCH PULLER, if you know what I mean. He isn't at all snarky or UNKIND, but if he doesn't like a book, he is not afraid to say so.
I just got my copy of PW so I am SHAMELSSLY going to quote him here:
"GODS IN ALABAMA by Joshilyn Jackson. As a bookseller I'm confronted every year with new books that I feel I should sell, books that I feel I could sell and sometimes, when I'm lucky, books that I can't wait to sell. Jackson's book falls in to that third category. Booksellers have many devious techniques for talking a potential reader of a book into becoming an actual reader. With this one, all I'll have to do is open it to page one and say, 'Read the first sentence.' [There are gods in Alabama: Jack Daniels, high school quarterbacks, trucks, big tits, and also Jesus.] Done deal."
WHOOPS just noticed there is nothing to vote on here in section 3. So. HMM, Let's see. As you may recall, I decided on January 24th that SPAIN is the new black, but WHO is the new Spain? Has to be either Robert Gray or Jill James...
I wrote this yesterday, very sleep deprived, and it is a little bit rambley and whatnot -- I am in Birmingham, popping in on a superlative Indy Bookstore (The Alabama Booksmith) to get a signed copy of Cassandra King's new book, and I can't get e-mail and BLAH BLAH BLAH, so this was written in the car as I TRAVELLED AGAIN. I will post again as soon as I spend a good 14 hours facedown on a pillow, drooling. Which is the SUM TOTAL of my plans for this evening.
VIVA LA SPAIN
Except in Spanish. SPAIN bought gods in Alabama, and we LIKE Spain now. A long time ago, very long, when I was a FETUS, practically, I went on a school trip to GREECE, and on the flight over Jimmy Carter decided no one could go to Greece because of terrorism, so we were deferred in mid-air to Spain and I spent the time I SHOULD have been cruising the Greek isles in Madrid instead. Madrid is GORGEOUS, actually, so it all worked out.
Here is everything I have to say about Spain:
1) There was a little bakery by the hotel that sold these very thin, faintly sweet BUNS (they were papery and layered and may have actually been considered cookies) of which I was RIDICULOUSLY fond.
2) I will never get that Hemingway thing about bulls. Never.
3) I took a bus out of the city into Rural Spain Proper, so I could go horse-back riding. I had to negotiate the hire of the horses with the 10 year old daughter of the barn's owner. I spoke no Spanish, they spoke no English, but the girl and I both had had 2 years of German, so we worked it out in VERY VERY FORMAL hyper polite German, with terribly FORMAL verbs.
4) The money seemed fake to me. It wasn’t like spending actual money. It was so, OUTSIZE and MULTICOLORED. I couldn’t take it seriously. It is a LOVELY way to feel on vacation---very FREEing.
5) VERY LATER, I went to Italy where I got a pair of TO DIE FOR chocolate brown pumps with rounded, 40's toes and high High HIGH black heels with inlaid gold cats CLIMBING them. OH my they were sassy and if I had understood what I was paying for them in ACTUAL AMERICAN DOLLARS I would NEVER have bought them. I kept them FOREVER, tenderly caring for them so they remained practically IMMACULATE, and then ten years later I got pregnant and my feet GREW AN ENTIRE SIZE, and they never SHRUNK back down to what I still consider to be their true and spiritual size! And of all the shoes I gave away when Sam was twpo and I at last admitted they were permanently LARGER feet, those italian leather pumps were the only ones CRIED to lose. BUT that's not Spain, That's Italy.and Italy has NOT bought my book (yet! Yet! there is hope for your nation still, Italy!) but until they do I refuse to endorse their REMARKABLE ICE CREAM and all the other stuff I REALLY liked there, like, the seeing the pope, and the fact that they have no legal drinking age and, you know, Venice.
But meanwhile, SPAIN BOUGHT GODS! And, this is my first foreign language sale, because the UK and Australia can’t really be counted as a foreign language sale, although, there are thoise in Great Britain who might say AMERICVAN is not really the same thing as English….and they might have a point. BUT HERE IS A COOL THING ABOUT SPAIN: I BET THEY WILL CHANGE THE TITLE! Because it only makes sense. Alabama isn’t a terribly well-known state in Continental Europe. I would change the title, if *I* were Spain So I am DYING to see the cover and what the new title will be. Because, yes, I am a monstrous dork. But you knew that.
1) Here are the images I talked about uploading, handily set into pop-ups so they will not trouble our dial-up friends:
In Which I Have Clearly Been Hit In the Face with a Cast Iron Skillet, BUT OMG peep the boots. (Also, the book I am currently working on features a woman who raises butterflies, so I found this exhibit to be useful, but most importantly, OMG PEEP THOSE BOOTS!)
What you see in Seattle if you fall OFF your very tall and super-fabulous boots and plop all the way down onto your butt and then roll backwards. NOT THAT I DID OR ANYTHING.
The menu from Fourth Story, probably my favorite place I ate because it was INSIDE a bookstore, which, HELLO. Tattered Cover is all about "Coffee bars and muffins are FINE, I 'spose, but come HERE if you want a book with LAMBCHOPS. Which, now that you mention it, I DO.
The menu from the dinner at The Four Seasons in L.A. and HOW did I lose two pounds on this trip?!?! That Warm Asparagus Salad was...I cannot even SPEAK of it.
2) Because THE SOLACE OF LEAVING EARLY is perfect, note perfect, and I just do.
4) I am still sleep deprived, but not so sleep deprived that I would attempt to perpetrate MATH. Instead, here we come back to Haven Kimmel--- I've been discussing her with my friend Judith. See, the thing about Haven Kimmel is, if her prose was HANDS, then God would be Palm Olive and the whole dern book would be SOAKING in it. She writes about people who are REAL people living in the now and yet they are absolutely engaged with God, emotionally and intellectually. It's...astonishing. I LOVE how she writes about God and people who love God and accept God as a given, and yet her people are allowed to live real lives and have real struggles.
Just as an EXAMPLE, and this is NOT to pick on a genre many enjoy but...You look at the guidelines for writing Christian Romance, and you can't have...passion. Not just NO SEX, but no LONGING for it and, um, well. I have to admit, I HATE THE WARM PREMARITAL CUDDLING so often found in Christian fiction. I can respect celibate characters--- The protagonist of my first novel has banked ten years of celibacy --- but LORDY! It shouldn't be EASY! When I run across male characters who are placid, cud-chewing hand-holders who profess to be in love but their deep Godliness makes it a BREEZE to stop after a friendly peck, I always think, "OH, you STUPID Heroine, if that is all the struggle he has with sex, DO NOT MARRY HIM. He CLEARLY lost both testicles in a wheat thresher."
And here I digress, as per usual: REALLY if sex is so easily resisted or replaced by warm, kindly, SOGGY cuddling, then HOW is not having it until after the wedding a SACRIFICE? God doesn't want us to offer him our mild little luke-warm fondnesses. God does not want us to place upon his altar, say, a decent box of crackers and a note that says, "Yo, God, I rather like these with cheese, please open a nice merlot at your leisure!" God wants our PASSION, and any relationship ---with God or another human or, yes, even with a book -- that does not HAVE passion -- Bah. Why pursue it at all?
Back on point: I know I am going to take some flack for this book I have coming out. I often wonder how people from my home church will react to it because, honey, let me tell ya, there's a great teeming multitude of SIN going on in this book. Everyone in it sins every other page. But...that's only because, GOOD GRIEF... people do.
I am back in Birmingham, so I can not access e-mail for a few days...
Right before I left, I got an e-mail asking, "How does one write a novel."
Short answer = I have no idea.
Long answer = I have no idea, but here is how I do it:
1) Draft a horrifying chapter 1 that is bad on every level.
2) Draft a horrifying chapter 2 that is bad on every level.
3) Drafting 2 has given me a break from 1, so I have some distance, and I see it's really MUCH worse than I thought it was at first. In other words, yes, we started at horrifying and have gone down from there. So go back and revise one. While doing that I will learn things that cause me to revise 2.
4) Draft a horrifying chapter 3 that is bad on every level. While drafting, I will learn things that mean I must go back and revise 1 and 2, which will make me learn things that I must use to revise chapter 3.
And so on, with the next step being, draft a horrifying chapter 4 etc etc. The nice thing about working this way is I would estimate I spend 90 - 95% of my work time revising, and the revisions are an ongoing process that shape the part I am drafting. It also means I do not ever have to hold a whole draft of new, raw maetrial in my head. I learn the novel by heart slowly, as I go through rereading, revising, rewriting.
I know people who draft a book and then go back to the beginning and revise it (and they work well this way) but I couldn't WRITE A WHOLE DRAFT in a NaNoWriMo way and have to deal with that much AWFUL, WRETCHED prose. This is because I generally have NO IDEA WHAT I AM STINKING WRITING ABOUT. I have a character and a starting image that flips my cookie in some internal way I don't understand and do not wish to examine, and I write from there, following the person, and themes seem to build themselves out of the story which grows as I revise, and eventually (hopefully long after I have a completed draft because this is a PARALYZING realization) I will come to understand that I am actually approaching something personal, something important to me, via story and imagery --- but if I had KNOWN I writing something personal I wouldn't have done it.
I'm VERY good at NOT seeing the connections between my characters and my themes and my life. I am SO good at it that sometimes I don't learn what the heck I was trying to say until the book has SOLD and my editor TELLS ME. Okay that's a slight exaggeration. Usually my writing group will tell me before that... *RIMSHOT!*
Another advantage of revise-as-ya-go: At any given time (once I am past the beginning) I will have pieces of the novel that are gorgeous and polished and working perfectly that make me prance around the room hugging myself in an orgy of repugnant self-love, and some parts that are in varying stages of PROGRESS, so I can SEE they are moving toward goodness, and only a SMALL percentage very very very very very bad things that make me want to staple an apology to the flesh of my ankle and drink a giant bleach martini. I NEVER want to look at a MOUNTAINOUS PILE of 70K words of MESS that smells like a donkey and try to form it into a good, cohesive whole.
I've been talking with a group of my writer-cronies about the need for specific space (location, ambience) or specific rituals (time of day, objects, colors, quality of light) in order to work. Or rather, THEY have been talking, and I have been nodding and pretending to be very deep in earnest thought and feeling sub-par.
Because I don't have much to add. I feel very strongly that I don't have a muse. If you want me to write? Give me a concrete deadline. I will FIND the mood. Heck, I barely have a process. As far as a special SPACE or location? Well. I like to have a door. If it SHUTS, even better. Like, now, in the new house, I have an office with a DOOR ON IT that SHUTS. This still makes my heart go pittery-pat-pat. SUCH an improvement over the last 3 1/2 years and I am so WILDLY GRATEFUL that I dastn't fuss for anything else. Ever.
In the old house, after I was pregnant with Maisy, we moved my office into the master bedroom so she could have a nursery. Oh good Lord. If I could afford a belief in Feng Shui I would tell you the Fend Shui in that room was VERY BAD. I slept in that room, I worked in that room, and since my husband and the big tv with cable and the game cube and the DVD player and my computer were in there, I did most of my in-home recreating in there. I began to feel like a mental patient, looking at the same four walls every day, all day long, let out for meals downstairs in the inmates' cafeteria. I started to get REALLY squirrelly.
So I took over the dining room. This was our TINY! TINY! starter house and the dining room was a 9 x 9 cube that had two HUGE triple-doorway-wide chunks cut out of the walls. One chunk led into the family/living room and one led into the kitchen. In fact that was the WHOLE downstairs, the kitchen, then my cube, then the family room. So. If anyone was in the house they were bound to come thundering through every ten minutes or so. NOT PRODUCTIVE.
Here? I have a room of one's own. It is a plain room with white walls and no window treatments, no prints hung, nothing, just random piles of my CRAP growing peacefully like a Crap Garden and every avaialable surface coated in paper piles and books and baby shoes and Galleys and McDonald's happy meal toys and Target bags full of only-the-Lord-knows...It is like HEAVEN.
Hmm, but then Ritual?
Nope none of those either. I USED to think I needed to smoke to draft. I HATE drafting. I KNOW the writing is going to be bad in my drafts, and I hate writing bad sentences and bad scenes and sketchy characters and generating 50K of prose that smells so much like dung that BEETLES come sit on it and preen themselves and I have to constantly clean maggots out of my printer. For me, the part that flips my cookie is REVISIONS, but you can't revise until you have something to WORK WITH, so that means DRAFTING. Drafting blows. I used to type for as long as I could bear it and then go stomp up and down the deck, smoking, until I could stand to go back and draft more. But I quit smoking and now I just go outside and stomp. Can "having a temnper tantrum" be considered ritual?
It seems I lack all the qualities that would make one like having rituals or special spaces.
I am not organized (you have to be CAPABLE of doing the same thing at the same time often enough for it to become a habit/ritual)
I associate memory/states of mind with smells and temperatures -- people who associate OBJECTS or LOCATIONS with memories are more likely to feel they need specific items or spaces, not because the items or spaces have any power, but because they help the person access the right frame of mind FASTER. Although---I do write better in cool weather...
I am not superstitious and will happily march under a 50 foot bower made of ladders, stomping hard on every sidewalk crack with a score of black cats parading before me.
I am not sentimental. In fact, I got a new wedding band for my 10th anniversary and have --not less than 6 months later-- COMPLETELY LOST the original one.
It is universally acknowledged that I am dead inside: I do not like songs, so music can be on or off and I won't even notice as I work. And I am left absolutely cold by the wondrous beauty of nature. I don't like looking at sunsets or mountains etc etc. Sorry, but there it is. (I DO like animals, however, and will look at AS MUCH NATURE AS YOU LIKE if you put some squirrels or little deers or silly birds in it.)
I am not a JOURNEY person. I am a destination person. Which ALSO makes me a sub par human, I am given to understand. But, once again, THERE IT IS. What can one do? I have been told the only answer to that is "Do not breed more soulless robots like you." But hey. TOO LATE. And if I am pragmatic and concrete and goal oriented to the point of mental illness, FINE. I think the world NEEDS some pragmatists. The art-fart world especially-- in this haven of the very strangest, I am the weirdo's weirdo. The one who thinks the EXAMINED life is not worth living.
But maybe this LACK is where my writing comes from...When I start a book, it begins with a sentence that grows out of an image in my head. I have no idea what the image means, what the story is about, and if I did, there is NO WAY IN HELL I could write it. I finished writing gods in Alabama two years ago? At least? And I just re-read it in ARC form and was SHOCKED by some of the deeply personal stuff in there --- in this book I say things I had NO IDEA I was saying at the time, or else I would NEVER have put them in writing--writing that will enter the public domain for the love of little furry rabbits.
And I'm not talking about CHARACTER or PLOT -- Arlene Fleet is not me, I am not her, nothing in this book ever happened -- I'm talking about what the book is saying on other levels, about love (how men and women relate to each other and about how family, especially mothers and daughters, relate) about morality (redemption and what sin is and how God works) and about, well, what justice is.
Holy God but I have wandered far afield. Look, if you stuck with me this far, thanks. I will be heading out to begin therapy now! BRIGHT SMILES ALL AROUND!
If you KNEW what I was doing just MOMENTS ago, you would probably come over here with your dog and ask him to bite me. It’s UNENDURABLE.
I’m did it anyway…want to know what it iwas? I’ll tell you, but be advised that ADMITTING TO THIS is making my skin CRAWL OFF MY BODY and drape itself across my sofa as it tries to disguise itself as a throw. My skin does not wish to be associated with this behavior.
Okay here goes: I was practicing writing my name. That’s right. I was PRACTICING my signature, like every fourteen year old who ever JUST TOTALLY KNEW he would one day BE A BIG ROCK STAR and be asked to sign albums and autograph books and naked boobs.
This is not just a random flash of NAUSEATING BEHAVIOR. I am getting ready to sign an ARC and take it over to my local indie bookstore. And believe me, if you ever saw me sign a check, you probably wouldn’t fault me for practicing. In my regular signature, my first name looks like a drawing done by a three-year-old, titled “Three mountains as seen by a man on hallucinogens.” My last name looks like an ink-worm that died in convulsions. There is not a single thing in the whole signature that is REMOTELY recognizable as a LETTER OF THE ROMAN ALPHABET.
Yes, I generally speak in hyperbole. No, I am not doing so here.
So, I took a couple of practice runs at it before defacing the ARC, OKAY?
She said defensively.
I felt so dumb and FULL OF MYSELF doing it that after a couple of attempts that looked like someone wrote the letter J and then immediately had a seizure while still holding the pen to the paper, I gave up and began writing, “Mrs. J.E. Law … Joshilyn Law … Mrs. Jude Law … Joshilyn Jackson Law … Joshilyn Jackson Heart-Sparkle-Diamonds Jude Law 4ever!” AND if you assume that I will NOT continue to make the dots over the i’s look like little daisies (and trust me, this assumption is safe as houses), then I ended up with a legible, natural, easy-to-reproduce signature.
AND THEN I SIGNED THE ARC. Mission accomplished. I better go paste my skin on over my musculature and get on with the business of pretending this ENTIRE DAY never happened.
Imagine this is YESTERDAY, okay? It is yesterday at 10 in the morning and I say…
The gods in Alabama ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies) are here. They are like a paperback version of the book.I am weeping into my hair. I have three things to say about this.
First? It isn't a SLICK cover--it's MATTE. And It FEELS so good and THICK to touch all GRAINY and the title and my name are embossed (raised letters) and the whole back cover is this ROCKING, hugely supportive letter from my publisher telling booksellers that Warner is making this their lead book for spring/summer and why.
Second? The book looks like a PRESENT. A RAMPAGING genius at Warner had this idea to put a glossy paper BAND around the book, this sky blue band you have to BREAK to get into the book and open it. And of course the COVER is gorgeous and the PRESENT look just makes your HANDS ITCH to POP the band and open the book up. The band has the Christina Schwarz blurb printed on one side and a little bit of the jacket copy on the other.
And then THIRDLY I am going CRAZY holding this thing. It's my book and I wrote it and it has my title on it and my name on it in raised warm goldeny-orange-brown letters and it smells like clean, beautiful paper and fresh ink--it smells like a BOOK, like a new real actual book and it is cool and solid in my hands and I wrote it and it is real and in my hands.
I am weeping and weeping and can't stop touching it and turning it and touching it and weeping into my hair.
If you want to see the cover it is HERE. Click on the thumbnail to make it BIG. Right now I have to go tell everyone I ever met ONCE about this now, and tell the people who have known me for years 20 or 30 times.
The bad part:
Now imagine I finished writing that, and the baby needed lunch and etc etc, but I get back to my comp at about 2 PM, and I am spellchecking and whatnot, and SOMEONE, I do not know who, but SOMEONE throws a grenade in my mouth and BOOM! Half my head comes off. Or, anyway, it FEELS like that. Or maybe it feels more like someone took a burning torch and shoved down THROUGH my brain into my mouth. I don’t really have time to get an EXACT metaphor as I am too busy keening and scrabbling for pain meds and being on hold with my dentist’s office.
And you know how I feel about dental procedures…
Oh LORDY. So I spent the rest of the day in a Lortab/Valium haze, drooling onto a pillow, and TODAY I get to go have a FUN TIME getting a root canal.
You know what’s weird? Excruciating pain and impending dental horrors and cloudy waves of drugged sleep could not stop yesterday from being a MAGICAL day. I mean, MAGICAL. And as I sit here alternately typing this and fondling the ARC in my lap, I have to say, today, root canal included, looks pretty SPANKIN’ GOOD to me as well.
Farewell for now. It’s time to pop more Lortab, and then I must go cool my fevered cheek against the breezy beauty of the COVER of the ARC.
BUT! Scott showed me how to access my movable type thing from here. I can't access my e-mail though.
David was talking in comments about the new title. YEAH, I KNOW, I liked the old one too -- the working title of the new book was THE REFRIGERATOR BORDER WARS, which is an attention grabber, but it stopped making sense. See, it was called that because the titular border war originally began when Minor Character #7 got trapped in an old fridge in a spooky junk yard and smothered.
She was in there hiding from the sort of dog that tries to eat MILLA in RESIDENT EVIL -- well kinda. They were like those dogs except they were made out of DOG instead of hell-spawned oozing pizza. Okay fine, mine were regular dobermans...(dobermen?) but we just watched Resident Evil last night and I had bad dreams starring oozing undead dogs all night. ugh. <---digression.
ANYWAY, The point is, I realized that
1) There was no rational way to get that particular character into the yard in the first place. I know this woman. She WOULD NOT GO. I mean, I COULD have gotten her in there. I am the WRITER, so I COULD have sent a big wind to pick her up and hurl her over the fence. I could have teleported her. I could have had her wake up there with mysterious track marks between her toes and no memory. Whatever. But I could not get her in there without MAJOR contrivance.
2) Even if I managed to get her naturally and seamlessly in there...smothering is kind of...dull. Mostly you sit in a fridge and wonder how much oxygen you have left. Ho hum.
So Instead of sending her into the parts yard I sent the dogs OUT to eat her up on the street. Much better. But then I had made my title obsolete. Troubling.
So I TRIED to work a DIFFERENT fridge into the book, believe me. I REALLY liked that title. Several scenes had COMPLETELY EXTRANEOUS refrigerators popping up and trying to LOOK MEANINGFUL... They all failed. It's not an easy thing to do.
PROOF:Think of a famous movie scene, and then stick a fridge in it.
Imagine a fridge looming up behind Obi Wan and Darth as they battle on the death star.
Imagine 12 angry men and one refrigerator.
Imagine the movie producer waking up in his bed, and he rolls over and he sees....a miniature fridge. With a horse head in it.
You can't have Humphrey Bogart change PLAY IT, SAM to GET ME A BEER, SAM.
More lines that won't work:
"Hey. Rain Man, do you know this stainless side-by-side?"
"If you put it in the fridge, they will come."
"I see dead major appliances."
IT DOES NOT WORK.
IT CANNOT BE DONE.
Although I could think of examples all day. It's kinda fun. TRY IT!
So I had to go through the book and de-fridgify it in one great scything revision. It was one of the last three whole-book read-through revisions I did before re-titling it and sending it to my agent. I think I cut out a good three thousand words in that pass-through, all of which were trying VERY hard to make refrigerators seem SCARY, or AWE-INSPIRING, or LOVABLE, or, in one particularly ill-conceived passage, like a MANIFESTATION OF HOPE. The fridge that sprang eternal.
The new title works for the book and I like it, but. Yeah. I do miss it. I will use that title later, betcha, just as soon a thematically vital refrigerator presents itself in a book that, um, has war in it, that um, takes place near a border...
Or not. *sigh*
I am about to leap in the car and gogogo—we are spending Thanksgiving with my folks. I am in charge of making salad (like anyone is going to EAT LETTUCES on Thursday) and a special casserole. I call it Fat Potato FatFat. And it is the MOST DELICIOUS THING ON THE PLANET. It features SO! MANY! KINDS! OF! CHEESE! Also butter. Also heavy cream. Also potatoes are in there somewhere. But mostly? Cheese. I plan to eat four bites at LEAST before my arteries all shut down and I die, grinning maniacally with my cheesy, greasy lips.
BUT FIRST – the GOOD news – I am SO scrutiating HAPPY because MY EDITOR FINISHED THE NEW MS and called me to say all manner of EXACTLY WHAT I HOPED SHE’D SAY. SO I can stop casting about in the murky depths of my shady-internet identity past and relax and do fun things like die of casserole and start writing this book I have had burbling on a back burner in my head. I’ll noodle with it until I get her editorial letter and can wade hip-deep into revising BETWEEN, GEORGIA. (That’s the name of the NEW BOOK! You remember my friend THE NEW BOOK, right? It's that one MY AGENT AND MY EDITOR BOTH LOVE! You know! THAT one! *pant pant dance scream faint*)
I’ve been so freaked out I haven’t been able to concentrate on work – NOT! LIKE! ME! I’m obsessive and I always have a project going. But not while I have waited to hear feedback on this book. You know, in a lot of ways, wanting to be a novelist is like wanting a WEDDING instead of a marriage. You don’t think about anything past the dress and the big day---that bell-filled glorious someday when your MS will find its one true editorial lovah who will gaze sincerely into its papery eyes and say "I DO! I WILL!" in a breathy and romantical voice. And okay, yeah – that’s a big one. That’s right up there on the scale of Life’s Sweetest Moments. BUT.
It doesn’t STOP there even though every NARRATIVE INSTINCT IN ME tells me it’s the PERFECT END! And I am a PLOT girl. I write character driven fiction, and, true, it leans toward the literary, but I LIKE A BIG HEAPING SCOOP OF PLOT. I like twists and entanglements, and I have a GOOD EYE for the right ending. And I have to tell you - that was IT!
You know the story, right? MS meets Editor, MS Loses Editor, MS gets in a terrible car accident and never shows up to meet editor on top of the Empire State Building, editor finds MS again, True Love Ensues. And trust me -- that’s the MOMENT! That’s the picture perfect shot, editor and MS engaging in black and white 1940’s kissing (with no tongue because, you know, yikes! Ever had paper cuts on the tongue? NOTHING worse.) and there Author stands weeping happily on the side like the mother of the bride, and the music swells and hearts burst and DAMMIT… NO ONE ROLLS THE CREDITS! And you actually have to get the elevator and march back down to your office and WORK. Wrong wrong wrong.
Whatever hurdle you jump – getting an agent, first sale, meeting a deadline -- there’s the NEXT one already LOOMING and you haven’t managed a breath yet. It’s crazy-making. And the ONLY thing that keeps you from pulling your eyes out and dandling from their stalks is that….well. Even in the bad parts? The years of rejection and woe and mental illness and blah blah misery-pain and whatnot and LEARNING TO TAKE CRITICISM and actually use it to make a better book instead of using it as a good reason to throw cutlery at people? EVEN THEN?
Writing, when you’re in the zone and discovering things and these pretend people you can’t stop playing with suddenly open up and you KNOW WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? It is the most fun you can have in the whole, whole, whole, whole wide world without ending up pregnant.
That kinda makes up for the no credits rolling thing.
PS Brooks, I will remember Gerrymanders when we return on SUNDAY. Oh! and I still have to tell you about THE MIGHTY PRONG. I will! I SWEAR very as soon as I get home. It will be dark here at Faster than Kudzu til then, unless I can SOMEHOW learn to update from my dad’s comp. Hmm---Magic 8 Ball says, OUTLOOK NOT GOOD.
Goats yesterday, Goats tomorrow, but alas! Alas! Never goats today…I cannot write about Kimmi Hearts Goats because I am SO busy preening. And I have to preen FAST --- I am on a tight preening schedule that will end tomorrow.
Remember I was on tenterhooks all week because my agent was reading my new MS….well, wait.
Between us monkeys? This book, the new one? I freaking love it.
But what does THAT mean? Not much. I mean, I wrote the dern thing. It is my especial pretty bunny I like to pet and pet and pet. Asking me is kinda like asking my MOM. Who, by the way, thinks it is a GREAT book. But … she would probably think it was great if it was 100K words of musings on love and the single hedgehog because SHE IS MY MOM! Her high opinion of her children’s art and four bucks will get you a small latte at Starbucks.
But my agent – he is NOT my mom. He has always played it straight with me and if he thinks things aren’t working he says so. He says it gently and with exquisite manners and with regret DRIPPING from his kindly voice. But he SAYS it. And then he makes me fix everything, and he won’t send the book out unless he LOVES it. Not just likes it, but ROMANTICALLY KISS-FACE loves it.
I respect the CRAP out of that man.
And? Let’s just say he is over-nighting it to my editor. We talked for quite some time, and words like ORIGINAL and ASTOUNDING and PROGRESSION AND GROWTH AS A NOVELIST were bandied about, and for the record, *I* was not the one saying them.
In my usual PRETENDING TO BE COOL manner I was saying “mmm-hmmm, that's an interesting take” and “Ah, I am so pleased you think so,” into the phone and then I hung up and screamed and went leaping from the sofa to the armchair and back again, hooting and whooping until I banged my head into the ceiling fan and had to sit down.
Beautiful Maisy Who Is Mostly Still Two watched me spasm all over the family room with mild interest. She said, “Mommy! Are you pee-tend to be a monkey?”
And I said, “No, baby, I am pretending to be Harper Lee. On cocaine.”
CLEARLY I am going to be UNENDURABLE for the duration.
I spose it is lucky for everyone that the duration will be about 20 hours.
Tomorrow, my editor gets it and I will be revisiting LUNATIC SPIRALING OF FRAUGHTNESS that will require all manner of mental shenaniganisms to keep myself distracted until she finds time to read it. In other words, the goat story WILL happen.
But today? Fugeddaboutit. It’s WOOTY time.
Yesterday? I ate the whole world. There is now nothing but a single lonely sandwich, orbiting the spot where the sun used to be. Before I ate it.
YESTERDAY WAS A SOMEWHAT STRESSFUL DAY, up until I ate it. I ate the day just after an entire sack of Michael Season’s Smoky BBQ Soy Protein Chips and just before I ate FRANCE. France was good. I had it with a Béchamel sauce.
Today I am back on my regularly scheduled pre-emptive strike Holiday diet, and I am sticking to it and relaxed and joyous because, oh my friends and oh my foes, THE NOVEL IS DONE! THE! NOVEL! IS! DONE! I am ABOUT to trit-trot happily off and stick it in the mail.
I am so SMUG and PLEASED that I should probably be beaten like naughty eggs. BUT COME ON! I can have fifteen minutes of smug pleasedness, can’t I? Can’t I PLEASE?
Because really? I have never written a novel while trying to edit and promote the previous novel and with an ACTUAL CONTRACTUAL deadline standing behind me. An anthropomorphized, vicious deadline that loomed over my shoulder as I tried to work, extending its big round head on a long STRETCHABLE neck so it could come over my shoulder and turn around block my view of my monitor and stare me in the eyeballs and grin at me with great big gleaming teeth, you know the kind, LAWYERLY teeth, perfectly square and white, teeth that look like Chiclets, so you KNOW they have to be Porcelain veneers, and say, “I am a contractual deadline. I am zooming toward you in the form of a date. I wonder if you will make it. A REAL writer would make it, you know. JOYCE CAROL OATES? She would TOTALLY make it, and um, HER book would be GOOD.”
And today? This morning? I DID make it. SO THERE, DEADLINE. Stick that in your teeth like an unsightly chunk of spinach and then go grin at someone ELSE. And PS? I just finished reading the book, my last once-over before off it goes…and I LIKE it. In fact, excuse me, but I LOVE it. I do! I love it! Which is good, considering I’ve just spent the better part of fifteen months of my life on it. SO THERE, DEADLINE. And I hope that news is sweet enough to give you a cavity.
It certainly tastes that way to me.
I know I am SUCKING WIND, okay? You do not have to tell me. I am losing my regularly scheduled BLOGGING TIME this week because I am trying to get my MS in the mail by Friday. SO. I hope to suck less wind next week. I am CLOSE! I am to the PROOFREADING point.
By the way---- I hate proofreading. At this point it’s MOSTLY all about AVOIDING proofreading. DIGRESSION: I could proof from now until the fabled cows come home, marry, produce offspring, and die and I KNOW the MS is going to be a FESTIVAL of typos. You should have SEEN the copy-edited MS of gods in Alabama. The copy-editor used purple pencil and the MS looked like BARNEY had come by and personally EXPLODED into chunks and scriggly symbols and splashes and globules that stuck all over EVERY PAGE. So. KNOWING I’m going to DO A CRAPULENT JOB is probably a big part of my apathy.
I SHOULD be proofreading and printing out chapters or at LEAST blogging to keep the blood moving through the chunk of my brain that does the writing, but HERE is what I am doing instead:
2) Contemplating how I shall celebrate World Toilet Day! (November 19th! Do not let WORLD TOILET DAY! sneak up on you and pass you by! Mark your calendars and plan your celebration NOW!)
3) Making lists and searching baby sites for the name that I am going to give THE BABY we are going to adopt because I cannot ever be pregnant again and so am immediately having some sort of HORMONAL LUNACY episode that I fear will only be assuaged by something in a pink woolly blanket that has a sweet-smelling head and teeny, fat feet that look like pork chops. (Front running names: Magnolia, Prudence, Emmaline, Patience, Lisbet. Scott is pushing for Grendelina which shows he is NOT TAKING ME SERIOUSLY. He says MAGNOLIA proves that *I* am not taking me seriously either to which I reply, “If you think I wouldn’t slap Magnolia on a Birth Certificate faster than Miss Scarlett slapped Rhett, you are SERIOUSLY underestimating the strength of this little mental illness episode and you better get serious about combating it if you don’t want to GO TO CHINA.) Digression: In the first draft of Gone with the Wind, Scarlett was named PANSY. Can you imagine! Pansy O’Hara. PANSY just this SECOND entered my top 5, by the way. Too bad, Lisbet.)
4) Watching Season 2 of The Sopranos on DVD. HEY! BY THE WAY! Here is a CUTTING EDGE and EXCITING NEWSFLASH for those you who, like me, apparently entered a broom closet in 1998 in order to play Pictionary with granola-eating, HBO-less cultists while waiting for Hale-Bopp to SWING BACK AROUND:
The Sopranos is a REALLY good show!
5) Doubling up on my cardio and adding reps to my resistance so my abs can look JUST! LIKE! DREA! DE! MATTEO’s! (Actually, I would settle for abs that looked “just like Drea de Matteo’s if she had two C-sections and no personal trainer.” But even that doesn’t seem VERY LIKELY if I won’t stop sneaking into my son’s bedroom and pilfering whole crowds of mini Butterfingers from his pumpkin.)
Those are my excuses for sucking wind in the blogging department. But really they all boil down to this: I am not blogging much because I am very busy NOT proofreading.
Pathetic. Maybe I will go actually do some work.
You go play with Mr. Picassohead!
Julie came over and we took all four of our ratticake sugarhounds Trickertreating last night. A man was sitting out on his porch with a special treat for the kiddies. We approached the porch and he made the offer. Very baldly. It went something like this:
Man: Hey. Kids. Want to touch my piglet?
His exact words. LUCKILY he was clutching an actual alive piglet. So. He was NICE but he needed to rephrase. Badly. At any rate, I took him up on his offer and can now give you a bonafide piglet touching report.
Piglets have very damp, cool noses. Felt like a dog nose, but PREHENSILE. Tiny bit of creep factor there, imagine a long flat damp dognose the squirmed around. On the PLUS side, piglets are bristly LOOKING but softish feeling. This Piglet made very endearing snorky-snorky noises and pushed his head up into my hand. Either he liked being petted or he was an ITCHY piglet.
The touch-my-piglet man made TWO unsubstantiated claims.
1) He said it was a pot-bellied piglet but…it looked like a big old regular meat pig piglet to me. It was as big as a pot belly already and pink and fat and baby-faced and clearly preparing to explode into 40 – 60 pounds of hammy goodness. I think he was SAYING it was a potbellied piglet because they are classified as PETS and our neighborhood is not zoned for livestock. He BETTER NOT raise that piglet in his backyard like a neighborhood dog and then EAT IT.
2) He claimed the piglet was litterbox trained. He IMPLIED IT, actually.
Me: Is the piglet house trained?
Man: He HAS a litterbox.
Me: HAS or USES?
Man: Hey kid, you there, behind. Want to touch my piglet?
Two more things. Absolutely unrelated to, well, anything.
1) Yesterday c asked in Comments if gods in Alabama would be released in the UK. YES! YES IT WILL! And in AUSTRALIA! The rights sold at the big bookfair in Frankfurt. WHEEEEE! I am such a geek that all I can think is OMG!!! WILL IT HAVE A DIFFERENT COVER?!?!?
2) I have this friend I used to play Ultima Online with – really cool guy. He was going to make a new character, and if any of you GAME then you KNOW what a PAIN training a new character is. So, anyway, he made this character and he named him LION CLAW and he spent months working on him and building him up until the character was KICK BUTT and could, like, whup up on dragons and do all manner of quests and such. And then one day he realized that LO, all these many moons ago, he had MADE A TYPO. And his character he had spent hour upon hour developing was NOT NAMED LION CLAW AT ALL.
He was actually named….Loinclaw.
Which does NOT bear thinking about.
So. Anyone want to touch my piglet?
Warner’s art department has made me the most beautifulest cover. EVER. I can hardly go on. I look at it and tremble with love. Want to go see? ONLY go if you have a GOOD, GOOD connection because it is a HUGE file. RUN AND GO SEE like Rikki-Tikki-Tavi! Assuming you are a mongoose with a cable modem.
ADDENDUM: If you are on dial-up you can see a SMALLER fast loading version here! BIG THANKS dej! (dej is apparently the girl-version of Shawn Box.)
So at this cocktail party in New York I met the art director who designed the cover. VERY cool woman. SO cool. I am not just blowing smoke here. She’s cool so deep she’s practically cool on the cellular level. Okay, you know how when Meg Ryan’s husband got kidnapped, Russell Crowe went on and on about how he needed proof of life before they would pay? Well, here below I shall offer you PROOF OF COOL in four words. Ready?
She read the book.
This may seem like a no brainer. I mean, she’s designing the cover, so of COURSE you would think she read the book right? Right? *cough* Well. Let’s just say it doesn’t ALWAYS happen that way. A cynic would go so far as to say it often times does not happen that way. But I am not a cynic. So. Let’s just agree on her extreme coolness and let it go at that.
When I first saw the cover and met her, I GUSHED all over her, “OH! OH! OH! See how the girl is kinda CROUCHED over the wheel, hell for leather, with her shoulders set and tense, she’s all HUNCHED and VOLOTILE, roaring South on a mission with NO SEAT BELT? Well. That’s Arlene! You’ve pegged Arlene exactly!”
And she started laughing and she said, “Do you know what it took to get that shot?”
First of all, they were out in JERSEY because apparently Jersey is “the country” to people who live in New York. (Sticking a Weed in my Teeth and Snickering at Urbanites aside, I have to admit that the rail fence and the rolling green vine-covered hills and golden-brown frondy-wheaty things? It LOOKS like the drive you encounter post-Nashville.)
Anyway they get out to the shoot, and the convertible sent to meet them has headrests. SO it’s no good. One of the tech guys there says “Hey, my cousin has some kind of old convertible without headrests. And he lives out here in Jersey.” SO the whole crew sits around while he goes and steals his cousins car. Then they start driving up and down this little piece of road with the photographer perched precariously on the back shooting and getting ill as hornets with the model’s hair, which is not apparently BLOWING properly.
So they stop driving up and down, and set up all these FANS and the photographer still-shoots it and….the model’s hair will NOT behave. It won’t get behind the project. The hair has NO vision and is not being a team player.
BACKSTORY: Before the shoot I had the following series of e-mails (which I shall paraphrase) with Warner.
Warner: What color is Arlene’s hair?
Me: Long, dark and brown.
Warner: Are you SURE?
Me: Positive. It is long dark brown hair. Brown like a mink. Long like my wind. Dark like the darkling night of the new moon.
Warner: But what about in the sections in the PAST?
Me: Long. Dark. Brown.
Warner. What about the sections in the PRESENT?
Me: In every section in every time, her hair is long and also dark and also brown, it was longdarkbrown when she burst from the womb, she shall die in her bed at 80, surrounded by her grandchildren and her longddarkbrown tresses, she will go to heaven where it will be longdarkbrown into eternity, world without end, amen.
Warner: OKAY! SO LONG AND DARK AND BROWN! CHECK!
Back at the shoot, the Long! Dark! Brown! hair is still displeasing the photographer by refusing to react to wind properly. Finally, they march over to a farmhouse nearby and borrow a leaf blower. They park the car in the most Alabama-y spot in Jersey and rev up the machine and…*click!* Perfection.
In other words? The REASON Arlene-on-the-cover looks so tense and hell-bent and PERFECTLY ARLENE-ISH? Is that the poor model has been hunching around in Jersey all day long while they swapped out cars and drove up and down and berated her hair and she’s exhausted and HAD IT and NOW, JUST off camera, a techman is peeling her lips back and pouring gritty lawn detritus directly into her eyeballs by blasting her in the face with a leaf blower.
Hey. Whatever works.
PS AS SOON as Scott can make me a thumbprint version I will re-do the gods in Alabama page. HEY-- I DID put some of the blurbs up! And um um um! What do you think of the cover? And, um, Can anyone figure out what is showing IN ARLENE'S REVIEW MIRROR?
Yes. It's really a contest.
BACKGROUND: I have to change a character’s name in this novel. (Not gods. The follow-up book, tentatively title The Refrigerator Border Wars.)
I HATE THE FACT THAT I MUST CHANGE HER NAME. *pule* She’s a minor character, so I ought to just change it and SHUT UP, but but but. I do not WANT to. She IS Evelyn Crabtree. Evelyn Crabtree exactly sounds like her.
But she can’t be called that in this book because SOME DORK decided to make a lot of (admittedly FABULOUS) bath products and call his store Crabtree and Evelyn. You would THINK it was TWO dorks, wouldn’t you? One dork named Mr. Evelyn who joined forces with a Mr. Crabtree, and they conspired to RUIN MY BOOK by uniting their names forever in upscale malls all across America. I could have MAYBE forgiven them, because after all, they couldn’t have HELPED being born Mr. Evelyn and Mr. Crabtree. But - get this - they DO NOT EXIST.
The store was founded by ONE GUY. And HIS name was MR. HARVEY. He named the store after AN ACTUAL KIND OF TREE and SOME DEAD CONSERVATIONIST HE LIKED. What are the FREAKIN’ CHANCES? Why couldn’t he have picked Dogwood and Goodall? Weeping Willow and Bellamy? DILL WEED AND FREAKING JACQUES COUSTEAU? But no, he picked Crabtree and Evelyn, and now we hates him my preshusses, yes, we do. But we love his almond massage oil and ALL his gardenia scented craps. *sigh*
So I need a new name. Crabtree is NON-NEGOTIABLE because it’s a whole big family and I have 19 ZILLION of them running around and if I change CRABTREE I have to change EVERY OTHER CRABTREESES FIRST NAME to go with the new last name and it IS NOT BEARABLE. So EVELYN has to go.
CONTEST: Think up a new first name for Evelyn Crabtree. I am flummoxed.
1) A copy of Lani Diane Rich’s* funny and foul-mouthed Chick-Lit book TIME OFF FOR GOOD BEHAVIOR.**It’s not signed but I can FORGE her sig in it if you like. I can give her a really girly-curly signature using eighth-grade-cheerleader script that puts a heart instead of a dot over the i’s. *snicker* No, I am KIDDING. But I will send you the book.
2) Bragging rights, cuz I will use your substitute name in the book. You can get a copy when it comes out and take it to parties and get drunk and flip it open obnoxiously and say “See that name? I named that character. Used to be EVELYN, can you imagine? How dumb was THAT! Evelyn Crabtree! Yeah, like the STORE. HA! Lucky that novelist had ME around!”
Okay now the rules…
You can only enter ONE NAME per entry/e-mail. But you can have up to three entries, just in case you think of a better one later.
It cannot be Beverly. Well, it can. Go ahead and enter Beverly. But you will lose.
(I KNOW! It seems PERFECT on the surface---I mean LISTEN to it with the burr of the R and the nasty undertones of that center V….but it will cost you the contest. Because trust me, it can’t be Beverly.)
Your entry only counts if it is EMAILED to me (No comments section entries, although comments are as always welcomed and checked for 900 times a day)
In the event that two or more people send me the exact same name and I like it and use it, both/all the names will go into a Yankee’s cap my friend Matt sent me (so I could walk around New York and only look like a dorky tourist from the nose DOWN). My non-partisan seven-year-old son, Sam, will pull the winner’s name out.
If NONE of the names work for me, I reserve the right to pick my OWN substitute name and put EVERY ENTRANTS name in the Yankee’s cap and let Sam pick one. You STILL get the book AND bragging rights as described in the list of prizes. In other words, you can PRETEND you picked the name. I will back you up, should anyone ever ask me.
Now, to help you find the right name. Evelyn Crabtree is 15, pregnant, dirt-poor, barefoot, foul-mouthed, and from a small town deep in the wilds of Georgia. The year is 1976. So she can’t be named anything sophisticated. Avoid names like…GWYNETH VIENNA CRABTREE.
*The reason I am giving this book away is that I SKANKED an ARC (advanced reader’s copy). See, I could not BEAR to wait for the book to be released to read it. And it’s a Warner book. So I got Emily (my editor’s assistant) to snag me one, and I stuffed it unapologetically in my purse and dragged it off to my lair to read. When REALLY I should have bought one. Supporting her career and all, since I like both her and her writing. So NOW I will go buy one and give it away and keep my cheesily-skanked free ARC for MYSELF.
**Later I WILL have blog-based contests for signed copies of gods in Alabama , but it isn’t out yet. The ARCs are not printed yet, either, so I can’t skank one of those for you. BUT I WILL! WHEN THEY ARE OUT! FEAR NOT!
Remember how I said in an earlier blog entry that I don’t like songs? Well this weekend, I went to a MOUNTAIN FESTIVAL with my friend Julie. It was a three hour drive to get there through a bunch of…you know. Mountains. And glorious sunsets and trees, blah blah. I tried to cover my absolute un-moved-ness by making appreciative hmm-hmm noises as she clapped her hands in an enraptured manner over what looked to me to be “some bushes.” But Julie was unfooled. She realized that it’s not just songs. I also do not like scenery AKA the majestic beauty of the earth.
It is now universally acknowledged in my circle that I am dead inside.
In my defense? I DO like ANIMALS. I get MISTY over LITTLE DEERS and whatnot. And if you want me to OOOH over some landscape, put a lot of squirrels in it. Squirrels are cheerful. Or a raccoon! PUT A RACCOON! I also VERY MUCH like to sniff the heads of delicious little babies and am charmed and touched when little old creaky couples toddle past holding hands. So. If there was a pee-test for "having a soul," I betcha I could make the little line turn faintly blue.
IN OTHER NEWS!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I JUST THIS SECOND FINISHED the HUGE FIRST EVISCERATING REVISION on my post-gods follow up novel. And HURRAY! HURRAY! I LIKE IT. Thank GOD. About 11 recurring images/things that REALLY had me PUZZLED as to WHAT THE HECK I THUGHT I WAS WRITING ABOUT suddenly GELLED and I realized they were ALL connected and VITALLY THEMATICALLY IMPORTANT and also NIFTY. And the heavens opened and the ANGELS SANG.
LA LA LA LA LA, trilled the angels. Too bad I don't like songs.
I have to go dance around my house and be UNENDURABLY pleased with myself for 15 minutes before beginning the next round of revisions, seeing all the crap that still needs to get done, and sinking into a self-loathing funk.
I may be dead inside, but at least it doesn’t render me incapable of being emotionally unbalanced! And MOODY!
Remember this house that I love? Remember the state of Georgia? That I love? Remember my family and Scott’s family that we love all clotting up the South right near us? And Sam’s good school full of good teachers that we love? Remember my church I love and all my friends I love and THIS HOUSE WE JUST BOUGHT THAT I LOVE? Remember all that? Well. We do too.
We have talked about it and talked about it and talked. And we don’t want to move.
AND WE ARE NOT GOING TO.
Thanks, nice severance package.
Thanks, Warner Books.
We will be RIGHT STINKING HERE if you need us.
Tonight as we look at our finances and run numbers and realize that we don’t have to move, and that Scott has plenty of time – the kind of time that means he doesn’t have to FIND A JOB, but rather the kind of time that means he can be relaxed and particular and FIND A GOOD CAREER MOVE - I am thinking about my agent. Because we’re in this position BECAUSE of the nice severance…and my agent.
It’s a good time to blog him. I sent him to look at the website yesterday, so I feel today it is probably the safest moment to spill the beans on him. *grin* My reasoning: He just visited the site, and he triple-books his life, so he won’t be back for weeks, at which point this entry will have faded into gentle obscurity.
Here’s the thing: I know people always make jokes about their agents, and say they are sharks and blah blah, and it’s true that it takes a certain amount of ….what? Bravado? Aggression? Sheer Animal Will? SOMETHING to be an agent. But I LOVE mine.
1) He’s OLD SCHOOL, handshake, man-of-his-word ethical. We have no contract. We never have. He TOLD me up front what he would do, how he would do it, what his cut was, and how he would work it all out. Then he went and did it. The end.
2) He’s the reason I wrote gods in Alabama. See, before gods, I wrote (excuse me) a DAMN GOOD BOOK called 40 Dead Horses. And YES, okay, YES, looking at it now? I can see three HUGE problems with it. One, I have the end dead wrong. BLINDINGLY hideously wrong. And two, I keep you VERY distant from the main character during two PIVOTAL sections, and if you do not EXPLICITLY understand WHY she is making these two bad choices, you are going to hate her. And three, I have about 10K worth of self-indulgent, prancing words in there that do not serve the whole, they just entertain ME. So. I see why it didn’t sell. But at the time, I REALLY thought it would.
Then it didn’t sell, and I quit writing and sank into a funk and cut every writer (‘cept Lily) I knew out of my life and vowed terrible vows about never putting myself out there to be killed again and wept and railed against fate. And I sat in a pit POUTING like a BIG WANKER and REFUSING to talk to anyone in the industry until my agent, out of the blue, sent me this letter that said, in essence, the following:
Dear Spoiled Brat,
When I am going to see your next novel?
Love, Your agent who picked you out of the slush pile and still likes you and your work even though you are having a MONUMENTAL and RATHER BORING SULK that has gone on MUCH LONGER than anyone who didn’t ADORE YOUR SORRY SELF would put up with.
Okay that was subtext. But still. That was the GIST. And I RALLIED and wrote him back and told him when he could see my entirely non-existing fictional “next novel” and then I put my butt in the chair and WROTE it.
3) And 3 was IN 2, if you were paying attention. He pulled me out of the slush pile. I am one of the few who actually DID find an agent cold querying. Lily and I hit him with a query for a children’s book we wrote together (subtext: drunk.) And he liked us and picked us up and stuck around for four or five years and several failed projects and said things to me like “You really are one of my favorite writers” and NEVER BILLED ME FOR COPYING FEES even though I made him exactly zero dollars for YEARS.
The only thing I do NOT love about him is that he is a good thirty years older than me, and, unless I win 30 mil in The Big Game, he’s going to stinking retire before I do. Although watching him MARCH UNSTOPPABLY across the entirety of Manhattan with me panting and gasping in his wake, you would suspect I might retire first. But probably he will. AND THAT’S JUST WRONG. Because I don;t WANT any agent but him. Ever. See? From April of this year on, any agent who wants to rep me will be looking at my sales record and factoring that into his/her decision. Jacques took me based on my writing. Period. Jacques believed in my work, more than I did at times. And how can I not freaking love the man for that?
So on Sunday I went to lunch with my friend Alice and an interpreter I just met named Bethany. I originally met Alice doing research for a book I am writing right now called The Refrigerator Border Wars. Alice is a 50-something year old woman with type one Ushers syndrome. One of the characters in my book is a 60-something year old woman with type one Ushers Syndrome. Which is a medically accurate way of saying both Alice and my character were born Deaf and went completely blind by the age of 45.
Stop for a second. Think about that. I mean. Crap.
ANYWAY. Because of some thematic things having to do with the family’s shared traits, I needed my Deaf-blind character to be independent and self-sufficient and I didn’t know if you can be these things AND Deaf-blind. Until I met Alice. And um. Yes. Yes, you can. Or ALICE can anyway. She baby sits her grandkids every day while their parents are at work and she does all the regular gramma missions like bakes them brownies and keeps fish and etc.
I don’t get to hang with Alice as much as I would like because my sign is PATHETIC – I can grind out finger spelling and know maybe 30 signs. So we talk on the phone and we go out to lunch whenever I can get an interpreter to come with us. This time the interpreter was Bethany, this certified-to-be-adorable young woman with a yard of glossy brown hair who was SO sweet and funny and charming you could DIE from it. Just the most relaxed, easy going human ON THE PLANET. ANYWAY, Bethany meets me at Alice’s so Alice can show me her TTY system (a Braille teletyper that Alice uses to talk to me on the phone via the Georgia Relay Service). Then we decide to go eat, and Alice wants to go to Cracker Barrel.
I don’t know where it is.
Bethany doesn’t know where it is.
OH NO PROBLEM. Says Alice. I KNOW WHERE IT IS.
Stop for a second. Think about that. I mean. Crap.
Her husband is watching the game so it’s just the three of us and the ONLY ONE who knows where the place is can’t see. Or hear. But okay. Off we go.
And Alice gives us directions. I don’t mean she does it from memory. She doesn’t say “go two blocks to Jerry street and take a left” I mean she sits there quietly in the car and signs, OKAY GO LEFT NOW when she FEELS we are at the turn. And this Cracker Barrel is a good twenty minutes away and we have to do a stretch down highway 75 and she knows WHEN WE ARE COMING TO THE EXIT. I mean. CRAP. I can SEE and HEAR and I get lost trying to find the BATHROOM IN MY OWN HOUSE.
SO there’s a wait and we shop and we all buy a bunch of dorky-cute Halloween stuff because it’s on sale. It’s a good day. But after lunch? I can’t even GET OUT OF THE PARKING LOT THE CORRECT WAY. Seriously. We IMMEDIATELY turned the wrong way. OUT OF THE PARKING LOT. Alice had to patiently fix us and get us back to her house.
I have so much I COULD blog about. What with my continuing spiral into flaxseed meal based madness and all. I can now make salmon croquettes and meatballs and red velvet cake that is crammed FULL of the stuff---I am doing everything but hiding it in my kids’ toothpaste.
Or I could blog about the letter I got from a member of the literati who is tight with my agent. He read the galleys of gods in Alabama and REALLY LIKED IT. In fact he says I am not the illegitimate love child of Joyce Carol Oates and a hen as previously suspected. Says I am CLEARLY the illegitimate love child of Sappho and Ellen Gilchrist. Which, OKAY! SUITS ME! HI MOMS! But then he bemoans my heinous number of typos and crimes against grammar. Best sentence in his letter:
“At one point I was prompted to wonder how a mind so brilliant could be so consistently baffled by something as simple as the possessive plural.”
HA! And I’ll be creeping under the bed to DIE now because HE IS RIGHT. In WARNER’s defense, certainly not my own, let me add that my agent inflicted upon him a copy that had neither been line edited nor copy edited. The raw stuff. AND OH! You should have SEEN the copy editor’s notes. She was working in purple pencil and most of the pages looked like they been attacked by a manic version of Harold, hopped up on a big bowl of crack-loops cereal and out for blood. Humiliating.
But instead I am going to get deadly, deadly earnest and tell you I got a call from the owner of The Alabama Booksmith (a RIGHTEOUS indie bookstore in Birmingham….they have signed first editions of SO MANY Alabama/Southern authors and people like Pat Conroy and Cassandra King are always just, you know, DROPPING BY. It’s a FAB store. If you live anywhere around there, GO GO GO, and also get on their mailing list because they will tell you who is going to be there signing and chatting and hanging. And they do online sales just like Amazon except they have all probably read the book you are ordering... *cough*support-your-local-indie*cough*) Anyway the owner called because he had read the galleys too (Please GOD the copy-edited version…) and he REALLY LIKED IT (and here I pause to say HUZZAH!) but then he asked a question.
He asked which character I most strongly identify with, in my heart. The book is not at all autobiographical, but I wrote it, so I have to be hidden in there somewhere. And I answered without thinking about it, and the answer that popped out was, “I’m Florence.” Florence, you must know, is a 50-something, bitter, pedantic, dried stick of a woman, a virulent racist, tough, bloody-minded, a steel magnolia with ZERO magnolia. More like a steel lump of steel. She’s made entirely out of corners and brickle-burrs and bile.
And right after I said it I thought WHAT DID I JUST SAY??? HELL NO, I AM NOT FLORENCE. But when he asked me, that’s what popped out of my subconscious. So I had to examine it. And you know what? I am. I am, dernit. I am Florence. I’m younger, I’m not a racist, I’m not terminally bitter. But Florence is in me. She is the me I am most afraid of becoming.
See, Florence, long before the book began, lost her son, and that’s why she's Florence. Like her, I am held hostage to the world in the form of my children. Sam and Maisy are the sum total of my heart. And sum total of my heart is even now, EVEN AS WE SPEAK, out in the world wandering around, probably in traffic. It’s unendurable. It’s unendurable. How do we go through every day with them OUT THERE on their bikes, among snakes and lightening and predators and mean kids and rabid squirrels and Hanta virus and all manner of destructive chaos? IT IS NOT TO BE ENDURED.
I remember when I was pregnant with Maisy – I almost never wanted it to end. Even though I HATE pregnancy and would never, never do it if I didn’t get a BABY at the end. Even if I got, say, my own TROPICAL ISLAND at the end, I wouldn’t do it. Nothing but a baby would make me sit through that. Anyway.
With her, I almost never wanted the constant misery to end. Because Sam was already five and bounding around like a goat up mountains and running like a lemming into the sea…and I knew, I knew, even as she kicked viciously at my bladder, that this was the last time I would ever feel I could adequately protect her. It was the only time in her life, when, at every moment, something would literally have to get THROUGH ME to harm her. I didn’t understand that when I was pregnant with Sam. I didn’t understand how he would be so immediately separate from me, so immediately and perfectly himself, and so immediately vulnerable.
But now I can see that that Florence was conceived in me on the morning I first felt Sam quicken inside me, felt that almost imperceptible flutter, the suggestion of a shadow of movement, touching me inside where nothing had ever touched me before. And there is no way to birth her. She is in me. Long after my babies left my body and became these independent and busy creatures who think they are immortal, Florence stayed. And she’ll be with me as long as I am living.
Holy screaming CRAP but I AM ON AMAZON!
Somehow being on a VIRTUAL bookstore is making the book seem REAL. How weird is that? I am TOTALLY having a bunch of delicious kittens. I am practically shooting delicious kittens ACROSS THE ROOM I am SO pleased.
This will change soon, one assumes, but RIGHT NOW it says the book is scheduled to be released on December 31st, 1969. WOW, apparently I wrote the book as a FETUS! MAN but I am good! 1969 release! How many writers do you know who have written a book WHILE BEING A FETUS???!? Just the logistics of getting a computer up into the WOMB are TOO HORRIFYING TO CONSIDER. And yet! I managed! YAY ME! And um --- YAY my MOM, that's COMMITMENT to your child's success, lemme tell ya!
Also, my first Amazon review has already been written by my brother who HAS NOT EVEN READ THE BOOK YET. Since he will not be posting it on actual Amazon, I shall post it here for your enjoyment:
Big G, little g, what begins with g?
Startling and intimately evocative, bound with pathos, yet exotic and
labyrinthine, "gods in Alabama" sets a new high watermark for American
fiction. Freshman author Joshilyn Jackson has instantly revealed herself to be the America's Favorite of tomorrow. This reviewer read the book twice in a single sitting. I keep it handy for reference, or a simple caress, at all times and, such an impression has been made on my psyche, that I cannot bear the idea of being physically parted from my copy. My typing finger is paralyzed by impotence as I seek in vain for the hyperestimatous adjectives fit to praise the merits of this work. I know that James Joyce gnashes his teeth in hell at the literary shadow cast by the appearance of this marvelous book. 5 Stars plus 2.
Can you tell I used to work in PR?
I give him 50 points for the use of hyperestimatous and a farther 300 points for being so. darn. cool.
I have become ADDICTED to Boca Meatless Chicken Patties. Which tastes a lot like chicken. And Michael Season’s Soy Protein Chips. Which taste a lot like chips. And Morningstar Farms Meatless Soy Bacon. Which tastes a lot like Beggin’ Strips.
Soy is MAGICAL. You can make it into ANY shape or color and make it taste QUITE A BIT like whatever it is shaped like. WHO KNEW. Answer: A bunch of Vegans. If only they would make make SOY PROTEIN CHOCOLATE. I could hole up in a bomb shelter with a metric ton of it and FINISH THIS BOOK!
People keep eating my revision time with pesky little things like, HEY EXCUSE ME BUT UM DID YOU KNOW THAT YOUR HOUSE IS ON FIRE.
And I reply, NO, it’s just my KITCHEN and CAN YOU NOT SEE I AM REVISING A BOOK HERE????
Yish people, priorities.
Note to self: When you put eggs on to boil, it is IMPORTANT to keep WATER IN THERE.
Oh, don’t worry. The smell alerted me before anyone suffered actual death or damage requiring insurance forms to be filled out.
Moving on. I said I was going to tell you the Christina Schwarz thing! OKAY! I was just about through with my re-read of Bel Canto when it was time to leave for the airport, so I ran to my bookshelf and did a quick glance through looking for something I had not read in a bit because a plane without a book is like a root canal without valium and gas and hypnotherapy and your childhood stuffed rabbit named, inexplicably, Pink Baby. AKA: Not good.
And so I reached up and grabbed Drowning Ruth, Christina Schwarz’s first novel, because I had very recently reread her SECOND book (which is blackly hilarious, equal parts cruelty and beauty, love and envy-- one of my favorite books of all time.) SO I had my mouth set for her and I grabbed it.
I read it on the plane (and CRIED and got STARED AT by Philistines who clearly had never read the book or they wouldn’t have lifted an eyebrow. I LOFTED it at them and said, “IT’S JUST SO GOOD,” and a non-Philistine sitting near-by said, “It is. It is that good.” So then they stopped looking at me because she was more credible than I was as SHE wasn’t snuffling damply into her copy of SKY magazine. THANKS, Lady in Peach Sweater, for getting my back.)
ANYWAY what I COULD NOT KNOW WAS That Christina Schwarz was READING MY BOOK while I was reading hers! Or just before that. AND SHE LIKED IT!!! And when I got to NY my editor had JUST gotten an email from her saying THE NICEST THINGS EVER and she wrote a ROCKIN’ blurb for it and I am BLOWN AWAY with pleasure. It’s like if you were paddling around playing HORSE in your DRIVEWAY and Michael Jordan walked casually past and said. “Nice Hook Shot.” Like that.
OKAY I have not blogged because I have been VERKLEMPT. The associate publisher at Warner who booked me for that first meet and greet NYC trip called. He invited me back to New York again to meet with more people and talk about my book with them and all that good stuff. I LOST MY MIND. I mean, I can’t really put in words what this means to me. But I shall try.
I LOVE MY DEAR LITTLE BOOK SO MUCH, IT IS LIKE MY PRECIOUS FLUFFY DUCKLING. My ONLY BEST DUCKLING, and I AM SENDING INTO THE YANGTZE TO BE RUN DOWN BY PAGODA BOATS, and when stuff like this happens it’s like NOT having your duckling run down. It’s like having people, people who KNOW ALL ABOUT DUCKS, say, “Yes, this IS a very fine duckling indeed! Let us pet it and feed it on nutritious pellets!”
I can not describe to you how it feels to have other people be nice to my duckling. *Weep* But it is very good.
So anyway, he calls and tells me they want to bring me back again next week, and I immediately start babbling some sort of SOMETHING about how my mom in law is coming for a visit on Friday anyway, maybe she can stay longer and watch my kids so I can travel, except she is a church secretary, and what if she can’t get off work and also no one knows where HURRICANE IVAN is going to land so she may not come at all because she is in Florida in which case I would need my church friends to help me babysit BABBLE BABBLE BLAH BLAH BLAH.
I was just SO EXCITED so of course I had to immediately channel SUPER-DORK. Eventually he gently interrupted my crazed ramblings and said, “So you want me to NOT push the button until you talk to your mother in law?” at which point – I quail to tell you this, really I do -- at which point, I said – and this is an EXACT QUOTE because believe me, BELIEVE ME these words are INDELIBLY printed on my cerebral cortex as one of the three stupidest things I have EVER SAID OUT LOUD IN PUBLIC and I am SO PLEASED ( <-- imagine these 2 words drenched in sarcasm) SO SO PLEASED (<-- also drenched) that I could say them to the very associate publisher at Warner Books who has SO GONE OUT OF HIS WAY to CHAMPION my book at every turn. Oh look, I digressed nine thousand degrees and managed to not tell you what I said to him. But I am going to. Brace yerself, Brigit.
Him: So you want me to not push the button until you talk to your mother in law?
Me: PUSH THE BUTTON! PUSH THE BUTTON! I DO NOT ONLY HAVE A MOTHER IN LAW! I HAVE A MOTHER! I HAVE WHEELS WITHIN WHEELS!
Thank you. I will indeed be here all week. I will be the one with my head stuffed into the electric oven, waiting to starve to death.
So then I called Scott and told him I was going back to NYC.
Scott: That’s great but. Um. Does this mean more shoe shopping?
Me: Of course not. Don’t be ridiculous.
Scott: Oh good.
Me: It’s SEPTEMBER. I must obviously now turn to shopping for BOOTS.
We are going to talk about clothes now. Avert your eyes.
SO I am going to be there three days and CLEARLY I must have boots. SO I went shopping for BOOTS and while in Ann Taylor I tripped and fell into a rack of clothes and got tangled up in this outfit. It LEAPT onto my body while I said ON NO OUTFIT! YOU MUST NOT! But it would not listen. And then once it was ON, well, what could I do?
First of all, imagine this buttery soft demure little clingy pink twin set, paired with a short and flippy skirt in black and pink and caramel. The skirt pattern is kinda geometric 60’s retro funk, but I have to admit that a TWIN SWEATER SET of ANY SORT is very “PRESIDENT OF THE PTA” and if it is a baby-soft pink that is RELENTLESS in it’s pinky-poo-ness, there is ALMOST no saving it. However. It was saved.
You have to imagine the twin set and skirt being worn with a pair of knee-high skin-tight high-heeled black leather pointy toed viciously SHARP cat woman sassy hot monkey love BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOTS.
The twin set saves the boots from saying HOOKER and the boots keep the twin set from saying NUN and the kicky little skirt bridges the gap.
OKAY BOYS, OLLY OLLY ALL COME FREE. Fashion over. Tomorrow I will talk about something manly and/or intellectual. OH I KNOW!!!!!!! Tomorrow we MUST discuss that guy on Jeopardy.
Yesterday I decided to make my run of twos work for me. I had two chapters left to write -- 14 and 15. So. I wrote them.
I grunt pumped out 8,000 words in about seven hours. It was INSANE. I abandoned my children to the ministrations of my husband and shut myself in my office (WHICH HAS DOORS) and I alternated between crazed pacing and muttering to myself and machinegun bursts of frenzied typing. When I finally emerged, I was ravenous, wild-eyed, trailing great drifts of torn-out hair and scalp chunks in my wake. Not pretty. But I was so happy that I ran around and around the house in circles saying LOOKA ME LOOKA ME until my husband tackled me. He all but force-fed me chocolate until I was sedated.
A novel is about 80,000 words…so, hey! I pumped out 1/10th of a novel yesterday. Yipes. From this fact I shall draw TWO (yes two again) scientifically viable conclusions:
1) Maybe I AM a hen after all.
2) NOW that I have DOORS on my office, THEORETICALLY it should be possible for me to draft a complete novel in just over a week. If I don’t mind being completely self-snatched baldheaded. I think this grants me the inalienable right to drive past NANOWRIMO headquarters and yell CANDY BUTTS! CANDY BUTTS! out the window.
You have heard of the The Marshall Plan---or if you haven't, the phrase is a LINK so NOW you have, and if you are anti-link, all you need to know is, it's a method for writing a novel. There are all sorts of methods and plans and books explaining ways of writing a novel, but this chick I know named dej has her own plan.
It's called BITCH OK!
Actually she writes it as BITCHOK, but I can't pronounce that. BI-Chok? buh-CHOK? I prefer to call it BITCH OK! With an exclamation point. Because EVERYONE knows how to pronounce THAT. I also think that if you pronounce it MY way, it implies that it is OK! to bitch about the hideous and somewhat maso-sadi-chistic process of DRAFTING as long as you continue to work as you whine.
At any rate, however you spell or say it, it's an acronym for dej's method of novel writing, and it means this: Butt in the chair, hands on the keyboard.
Sadly, the BITCH OK method is no longer working for me. Did I mention I am packing everything I own because we MOVE on Friday? First of all, YAY. Because dreamhouse etc etc. BUT. I REALLY needed to get a complete draft before I MOVE. Not going to happen.
Unless! Unless I go with a NEW plan that I am going to call.... BITCH OK AT:
butt in the chair. hands on keyboard. actually typing.
Or even, BITCH OK AT YN NAE D
butt in the chair. hands on keyboard. actually typing. your novel, not another e-mail. dork.
I am supposed to have the COMPLETE draft by, um, wednesday. As I sit here actually typing THIS, I have 13 of 15 chapters, 73,000 out of what will probably end up being 80,000-85,000 words. WE WILL JUST SEE THEN WON'T WE. I cordially invite all the people I love to NOT HOLD THEIR BREATH. It would probably end in asphyxiation and doom.
My friend Sara works in her closet. No, seriously. She goes in her closet and pushes aside her clothes and way back in the dankest corner she has a desk and a modem-free computer, and she squats in the semi-dark growling back at the feral dust camels and that's where she works. She is writing to deadline, and if she is OUT of her closet, there are all these CHILDREN she has, plus a husband and TV and internet connections and a horse and a telephone and eleventy hundred other pets and friends and obligations and temptations, and OUT THERE IN THE WORLD who can possibly write? Not Sara....and not me.
I told her we should rename her closet THE SUFFERING ROOM. This is WHY: My brother is a sculptor -- he sculpts the greens that are made into the molds used to make miniatures, gaming figurines and toys. He wears this THING on his head, a JEWELER'S thing, with big magnifying lenses so he can see to sculpt in amazing teeny detail. He looks like he is being assimilated by the BORG and the apparatus pinches his head, so he wears a do-rag as a pad. He calls the do-rag his "suffering hat" because putting it on means he has to WORK. SO therefore Sara's closet is...see?
I need her to make room for me. I am 12K words out from the end of the draft of this novel, and I am about 1K words away from pulling my eyes from their sockets. Chapter 13 is a trollop and the daughter of a trollop and the grandaughter of a pox-ridden, lice-infested, spraddle footed, addle pated TROLLOP.
I feel if i could just get 13 done, then 14 and 15 would be CHARMING, VIRTUOUS, LOVELY and WELL BRED young ladies who would show up ON TIME and bearing covered dishes. I can see them clearly, I know how they will go, but 13 is COY and HATEFUL and is MAKING ME PAY.
I kicked my husband and children OUT so I could work---it;s my version of the closet, SINCE MY FREAKIN' OFFICE HAS NO DOORS and 13 is being SO uncooperative that out of the house was not enough. I made them LEAVE THE STATE for two days. I MUST finish 13 before they return. I started at 8 am and worked til four. At four I had 900 words. I was averaging 114 words an hour. 13 probably needs to probably about 6K words to do all it needs to do. heh. SO.
It's 8 pm, I am just under 3K...so at least my average got better. I think I should go to bed NOW so I can creep back and begin suffering at five am or so.
Pass the good juju, please. I need it today.
SO I have been through gods in Alabama once with a fine tooth comb and am now going through again double checking my decisions. I will be done by Wednesday. I WILL. OR I will hurl myself off the high high cliffs onto the jagged rocks below where I will lie dead and broken until the tide comes in and allows the hungry crabs to eat me. One of the two.
Here are all the things no one ever told you about copy editing, but if you plan to be a novelist, you should know so you do not get blindsided.
1) You are not THAT stupid. AND you can write. Really. EVERYONE's book has little squirrely marks on every page. Or everyone I know and was able to ask SAID they did.
2) It's good to LIE. If you get copy edited and all you have is like, one or two little squiggly lines per chapter, and some OTHER writer calls you weeping and says THIS HAS COMMA SPLICES AND SPLIT INFINITIVES AND CRAP I HAVE TO FIGURE OUT OR DECIDE OR CLARIFY OR CHANGE ON EVERY PAGE your answer is an IMMEDIATE and CHEERFUL, "Of course it does! That is totally NORMAL! Come away from the cliff, we can drop down chicken legs for the crabs!"
3) COPY EDITS are really IT. The END. The LAST CHANCE. Fix everything. Even if you are behind on your schedule for the second book which is due ANY MINUTE, stop. Put it away. Copy Edit. Because once the thing is type-set. that's it. That is pretty much your book. Oh sure you can correct a mis-spelling or whatnot, but it will cost the house a LOT of money and irk them, and at that point you can't suddenly rip out a whole chapter and replace it. The way you send it back to the production editor is the way it will be, world without end, forever and ever, amen. NO PRESSURE OR ANYTHING THOUGH.
4) STET is your friend. By every change you have to write OKAY (as in the change can stay) or STET meaning CLAWS OFF, YOU HARPIES. I was upset because the copy editor unsplit all my infinitives and here down south, we SPLIT them. We also LOVE to end a sentence with a good preposition. In copy editing Rock-Paper-Scissors, I play like this: Clarity drowns Voice, but Voice beats the crap out of Correct Grammar.
Being copy edited is a humbling experience.
In front of the copy edited version of gods in Alabama that I am OKAYing and STETing is a list of every character who appears in the book. The copy editor makes a list of all character names, place names and made-up words so that she can check them for consistency, so she will notice if Jean becomes Jane at one point, see?
I look at this list of characters in the book I wrote a year ago, and I think, who the heck is CINDA? Who is DAWNA? Who is GRETA??? All these people are IN THE BOOK. Perhaps they are waitresses. Or pets. I have NO memory of them and all of them sound like C-cup blondes. I OUGHT to remember them. WHO IS DAVEY BUD FREEMAN??? Wasn't he on LETTERMAN? Well, he is in the book. He first appears on page 211. Oh RIGHT, he is a BABY.
Made-up words that appear in the book include Candy-asses, lookit, nutburger, and unfornicate.
I overuse the word little to an OBSCENE degree. She has taken out about 50 thousand uses of it. I will use the word 5 times a page without blinking. Apparently, I REALLY LIKE THE WORD LITTLE. I also like JUST and EVEN, but NOT half as much as that PRINCE among words, LITTLE.
Also she notices repetitions of words that are close to each other. For example, I ACTUALLY WROTE THIS SENTENCE AND SAW NOTHING WRONG WITH IT FOR 50 THOUSAND REVISIONS:
"The bottoms of his high-tops almost brushed the top of the highest heap."
All in one sentence we have bottom, high, top, top, and high? OKAY! I revised it though! It is now much better and more "Me-ish.". It now reads:
"The little bottoms of his little high-tops littley touched the little top of the littlest high little heap little little little."
11 more chaptters to go! *STET STET STET*
I have before me THE COPY EDITED VERSION of gods in Alabama.
Color me DAUNTED. Pencilled squiggles in various shades are prancing mysteriously across EVERY PAGE. I have yet to hit a page with less than two little symbols infesting the writing. One notable page had over 20. I have no idea what any of these little symbols MEAN. I have to write OKAY or STET by every one of them. Okay means, "Okay to make the change that the little symbol is indicating you wish to make, so it is probably too bad I have no idea what the little symbol is indicating..." STET means "Please get your little symbols off that, thanks, because whatever it is you are objecting to, I did it ON PURPOSE."
My production editor is named Penina. SHE IS VERY PATIENT. I can tell she is very patient because I have called her 90 thousand times to ask about various little symbols and she has not yet dispatched a sniper to put a bullet in me. Or maybe the sniper is hung up at airport security.
DIGRESSION: In Chicago, post grad school, I had a job grading papers for a correspondence school. Scott's job paid our rent, but this little job let me be home with Baby Sam and still afford luxuries like food and electricity.
There were three kinds of students.
1) Home schooled children named Rahab and Malachai who had exquisite penmanship. I could grade one of their perfect essays in about 4 minutes.
2) People in their 30's and 40's wanting to get their diploma. Once again, four or five minutes to grade.
3) Expelled drug-ridden rebel naughty Sloppy Drunk James-Deany-Teenies whose parents had tied them to chairs and super-glued pens in their hands and said WRITE AN ESSAY NOW FOR THIS CORRESPONDENCE SCHOOL OR WE WILL PERSONALLY KILL YOU. These papers could take an EON to grade as I had to make as many corrections to their sheets as the copy editor had to make to mine.
ACTUAL SAMPLE SENTENCE:
"In Oldendays you would have drive an oxen instead of the car of Nowdays."
In an essay entitled "My favorite Pet" I found this gem: "I have a dog. It is a poddle. It is a poddle named Penina."
I got so tickled with this Penina Poddle essay that I showed to Scott, and Penina Poddle entered the lexicon as a Thing to Call Babies. Girl babies were Peninas, and Sam was The Poddle all the way until he was three and became, at his own insistence, a mutant ninja turtle with an invisible pet cow named Ontag. At which point Penina Poddle sort of became a catch all phrase meaning anything sweetsy, and we even ended up making up a THEME SONG for Penina Poddle. You have to sing it like a rat-packer, and it goes like this: PENINA PODDLE! PENINA PODDLE! SCOO DA BE DEE BA! (repeat until death)
Now I have a production editor. Also named Penina. And every time I call her to figure out what a little symbol means (which is about every 15 minutes) she answers her phone and says "Penina" and all the rat-packers start singing the Penina Poddle theme song in my head. SCOO DA BE DEE BA! Not very condusive to making MS decidions that are, as Penina assures me in her cover letter, PERMANENT AND UNCHANGEABLE AND REALLY HOW THE BOOK WILL READ FOREVER AS WE ARE ABOUT TO TYPESET IT IN STEEL AND CONCRETE.
SCOO DA BE DEE BA!
I am beginning to hope the sniper comes soon.
1) There's this thing that happens when your book sells, where you suddenly feel like you are NOT EVER ALLOWED to have any problems EVER AGAIN and whatever problems you do have you should just STFU (which, in my house, which is full of tiny impressionable children, stands for "silence the fussy ululations") because the thing you have been working for for 10 years has HAPPENED. So. SHUT UP already.
2) But you still have problems.
3) FOR EXAMPLE, you have to get BLURBS. How do you get blurbs, you might ask. WELL! Please see number four!
4) Some people say, "Your editor and your agent will do all that! TRA LA LA" And indeed -- they do -- they write letters to other writers that are in your genre, ones that seem like they would like your work and all, and ask them to read the MS, and if they like it, to say a few kind words. And if you your goal is to HAVE A BOOK PUBLISHED, that's just dandy. But. If your goal is "to have a career as a novelist" you don't just sit there and assume your publishing house and agent are going make that all work out. NO NO. You say to your editor, WHAT CAN I DO, and she says "Make a list of every writer who you sincerely admire who has most influenced your work, and then write to them and ask them to read the book, and, if they like it, to say so to me. Preferably using metaphor and comparison and sound-bite-worthy prose." SO, here comes 5....
5) I made a list. 35 writers. And baby, we have some NAMES here. I mean, you are going to list the 30 - 40 people who have most influenced your work, are you going to say "MY SECOND GRADE TEACHER DEAR DEAR MRS. PRIBBLES!" No. You are going to list people whose writing has PUT YOU ON THE FLOOR, weeping in ecstacy, LICKING their books in a rictus of orgasmic worship. You are going to say Alice Sebold. Terry Kay. Pat Conroy. Barbara Kingsolver. Billie Letts. Anne LaMott. Sheri Reynolds. Lee Smith. Jill McCorkle. Anne Tyler....ETC.
6) I could list all 35. There is not a dog in the bunch.
7) SO THEN. You have to go to the 35 people you have ADMIRED most in the last decade, and say to them "HI! I SINCERELY LOVE YOU! READ ME! AND THEN BLURB ME! PS, NO, REALLY, I SINCERELY LOVE YOU. OKAY WELL, YES, I WANT SOMETHING AND YOU ARE FAMOUS. BUT THAT'S NOT WHY I PICKED YOU, SEE, REMEMBER EARLIER WHEN I SAID I SINCERELY LOVE YOU? WELL! I DO! And you feel like you sound insincere and pestilent to the 35 people in your profession that you ADMIRE MOST.
8) ALSO if you are me, you are very dreadful at asking for help from YOUR OWN MOTHER. Much less strangers.
9) SO. Writing these letters -- it is very stressful, so much so that you call your editor's assistant and weep on the phone (you are too embarrassed to call your editor) and you sound certifiable. SO crazy are you, that in a few minutes your editor comes out of IMPORTANT MEETINGS to call you back and talk you in off the ledge. (Notice how I use second person to DISTANCE myself from the lunatic behavior! Where did you learn that, you ask<-- here you means actual you and not me. From TAYARI JONES who, by the way, is on your list of of 35 and whom you are stalking.<---here you means me.)
10) But today...... The last of the 35 letters is not ONLY written, it is mailed. And it has taken about 20 to 40 minutes EACH to get these letters right and you have been working on them for 10 days now. BUT YOU ARE DONE! AND THIS MY FRIENDS IS A ROAR OF TRIUMPH. Here it comes..... YAHYAHYAH.
11) because now you can go work on your new NOVEL instead of LETTERS and OH MY that's SO much easier. REALLY. And too, even if not one blurb comes from it...there is somethign very satisfying in having a) Contacted your 35 all time favorite living writers and b) knowing you have done what you can from YOUR END to help your beloved little book as it is launched into the HURRICANE that is the market.
SO, Guess I better go do that.
Kira and I are currently talking about writing and religion. Often it seems to me that The Arts and Atheism go together like rama-lama-lama-ka-dinkitty-ding-de-dong. Or at the very least The Arts and Agnosticism. But we're both writers, and we're both Christians.
To be clear---I'm not writing "Christian" fiction. I am writing Southern mainstream literary fiction. That said, I think it's almost impossible to write Southern fiction that doesn't have Christians IN it. If you close your eyes and SPIT here in rural Georgia, you are going to hit a Christian.
I wanted to write something that dealt with characters who were Christians, but where religion was not an "issue," or a tool of evil, or an excuse for abuse, or an agenda. It's just a matter-of-fact truth. The family in gods in Alabama goes to church. Everyone prays. Some of them are nice people. Some of them aren't. All of them sin like hell, because, well, people do.
No one in this book comes to Jesus or learns a valuable lesson or experiences an extant conversion. I am more interested in writing a book with a moral center than writing a book with a moral. Morals are easy. Living "morally" is hard. And all the people in this book want to be good people, even the very worst of them. And you know, let me say here, softly, with big-dewy-sincere eyes: I want to be a good person.
Kira says that she finds it hard to walk the invisible Christian line in her writing.
I feel that too, that weird pressure. But really, most times? The conflict was all in my head. SAMPLE: I have this couple and in one draft I had them STOP the entire book, run to Florida and get married really quick, and THEN let them fall into bed, at which point the plot was allowed to resume. Which was just -- It KILLED the pacing and made them WRONG, I mean who says OOPS PASSION IS CARRYING ME AWAY! I KNOW! LET'S LEAVE THE STATE AND MARRY!
I gave it to Lily James to read and she called me and said "ARE YOU ON CRACK!!!! GET THEM FORNICATING! YOU PRUDE! YOU DOOFUS! WHO DIED AND MADE YOU PRINCESS BLAMELESS LAMB???"
So -- the way I ended up handling it was this--I let them go to bed together. They have to---at their age, at their stage of spiritual development, in the situation they are in -- these people WOULD fall into bed. But they don't ignore the fact that its sin, nor do they celebrate it in a feckless LA LA LA! JESUS WANTS US TO FORNICATE BECAUSE HE WANTS US TO BE HAPPY WHOOPEEEEE way. It happened, it will probably happen again, (just between you and me, it will -- in less than 30 pages! *grin*) So they deal with it as Christians and as the people they are. So -- In other words, I took 9 paragraphs to say what Kira said in 4 sentences:
"On the one hand, other Christians seem to think anything
I write should include a plan of salvation. On the other hand, I feel
like I have to defend my faith to people who say "Christian" with the
same contempt they might say "baby raper." But I don't think it's my
place to either defend or evangelize. Truth telling, that's my job."
Right. Tell the story.
I've gotten four e-mails asking how I found time to write a novel and run a house full of little children, and then the topic came up again on a list I subscribe to....
Honestly? I got a cleaning service.
Even more honestly? At the time I GOT the service, we absolutely could NOT afford it. We got it anyway.
It ended up costing 116 dollars a month for a person to scome once every two weeks and battle the sentient mold that was trying to drag my children down into the potty and kill them. It is NO QUESTION the ABSOLUTE best way to spend 116 dollars that you do not have.
I'm a bit of a stickler about budgets and living within one's means -- unless it means I would have to give up my cleaning service. For that I would probably go into debt. I still have to do all the daily crap, dishes and whatnot, but just to have someone come and rinse the house down with bleach so that A) I don't have to do it and B) I do not have to feel GUILTY that it isn't getting done -- it makes all the psychological difference in the world. With the service, I NEVER worry that EBOLA is setting up a thriving colony in my sink drain and we no longer have dust rabbits that are big and bad enough to eyeball the cat as if to say, 'hey -- Bet I could take him.'
It takes the service maybe 2 and a half hours to come in and do it, but that two and a half hours seems to buy ME about ten in writing time.
Sara Gruen -- an astoundingly good writer BTW -- and I are talking about how one POSSIBLY can write another book after selling the first one. It's so absolutely impossible to consider...We are both trying to write the difficult creature that will next year become our second novel. AND YOU KNOW HOW THOSE ARE. The second novel, everyone tells us wisely, TRADITIONALLY SUCKS.
Never mind that our "second" novels are actually her third and my fourth. It's the second one PUBLISHED that sucks.
Sara asked me, "Why do you suppose that is??Do you think it's because
To which I answer...maybe. I have a 2 book deal, and a deadline, and I am CERTAINLY aware of my editor. Aware of my editor-as-audience. And by aware I mean "living in mortal terror she will hate it," so I just do not think about that. I put my fingers in my ears and say LA LA LA.
I am PAINFULLY aware of the need to be "better-than-or-for-gods-sake-at-least-as-good-as." This is actually the FOURTH novel I have written and I think to myself "never have I been SO PLAGUED by self-doubt and self-loathing and RECRIMINATIONS. Is it good? IS IT GOOD? I can't tell. HOW CAN I TELL????"
Because....In my SUBJECTIVE and COMPLETELY WRONG memory, I THINK that when I was writing gods in Alabama, I KNEW it was good. I feel that I knew it all the way down to my delighted bones. I feel that I was THRILLED with myself as the chapters unfolded in all manner of cleverful beautyness and I pranced about joyfully typing streams of gold. But this is, of course, complete crap.
When I talk to my friends, they remember me as PONGING back and forth between an orgies of self-love where I would suck my own toes and declare them to be vanilla flavored, and weeks spent squatting in a dank hole, plagued with self-doubt and self-loathing.
I think I am simply more aware this time through of PROCESS. At one point, when I hit the WEDNESDAY of the book, you know the HUMP-DAY section, that dreadful time when you have all your characters introduced and your conflict SET UP, you are about 1/3rd of the way in, and I could NOT do it. I lay on my bed weeping fetid tears OH WAH WAH THIS BOOK IS IMPOSSIBLE AND NO GOOD JUST LIKE ME AND I HATE IT AND ME AND WAAAAAAAH I CAN NOT WRITE IT.
And I called Lily James and she -- possibly the world's most brilliant writer living -- who has held my hand through three previous books, said "You always do this at about this point."
And I said, "I do?"
And she said, "Oh yes, 1/3rd of the way in I ALWAYS have to talk you in off the ledge... Just quit working for a week, stop REVISING, stop thinking about it and in a few days a glorious solution will present itself and you will call me burbling over and prattling with thrill."
And of course she was right.
And I am hip deep in this dreadful beast, this second-to-be-published, fourth-to-be-written novel, and I am telling you----if I have to stop the sun in tracks like Joshua, if I have to destroy whole villages like Ghengis Khan, if I have to OH PLEASE LORD NO give up drinking like...well, like no one even HALF as IRISH as me has ever done before...it's not going to suck. So there.
Last night the In-Town met. I read a chunk of chapter 6 that I've been re-writing and re-writing. I have rewritten it so much in such a short amount of time that I can not get any sort of feel for how well it is working. The things I felt uncertain about were not brought up by anyone, so either I HAVE it working now OR they felt it was too troubled to be fixed. *grin*
And we talked about violence and how much I seem to heart writing about violence. I said some sort of thing about why, about how what happens after violence always interests me as a writer, especially when ordinary people do violent things. I am not terribly interested in violent people doing violent things. Professional killers shoot people. And then in the aftermath of that they go shoot more people or perhaps get paid. That's not what interests me, unless the professional killers are John Cusack.
I also like writing the violent scenes themselves. I like plunking down a whole bunch of folks in the middle of a whirlwind of random destruction, or more likely, something deliberate, something being perpetrated by someone innocent of the idea that there is cause and effect and events have consequences, or someone who knows and who loses control anyway. And then in the middle of the chaos, I watch and I see what these people will do. Because really, in extremis, that's when characters act the most like themselves, and sometimes that's what it takes for me to see what is at the core of them.
You never know a character so well as the moment after you light them on fire. <--truism.
I like to read crimne fiction -- when I am drafting, I can't read lit-fic, especially not anything SOUTHERN -- I save that stuff for times when I am revising or lying fallow. But I can't NOT read, so I read stuff about cops and detectives and lawyers. And I heart Dennis Lehane. I was reading his Patrick Kenzie books for years before Mystic River made him a household name. And recently, a friend asked me to splain why I like him. SO here is why:
1) He's competent. He's flawlessly beautifully competent. You have that
PEACEFULNESS you get from knowing you are in good hands that allows you
to read with WORRYING whether or not a sentence or a character is going
to suddenly be woefully mishandled in a book-ruining way.
2) He's direct. He doesn't fuss around with LANDSCAPE and and grind at
you until you can not escape understanding that the fading lovliness of
the dying bush is lo, like unto her own fading beauty, WEEP. Like, okay,
I loved Snow Falling on Cedars -- LOVED it -- it was gorgeous and had me screaming YES YES YES at the end -- you have to love a book with such a strong center. BUT.... one thing bugged me...IT WENT SO FREAKIN ON
about the FREAKIN' TREES WITH SNOW ON THEM! YES YES I GET IT ALREADY! MOVE ALONG!
3) You THINK he's plot driven, but really, he is tricking you. He's
absolutely character driven. He does something HUGELY in Mystic River
and QUITE A BIT in his genre fiction that I really admire and that I
tried to do in gods in Alabama. It's where you take this ENGINE of a
plot, a big splashy suspenseful violent can't-look-away train wreck of a
plot that is slippery and slick and clever, it twists away from the
expected like a live thing, and you set it gently on top of a host of
much subtler layers, so that the reader can read on any number of levels
and have a good time. You could read Mystic River for a book discussion
group or on the beach while drinking fruity rum drinks.
4) He writes with a moral center -- his books come out of a place where
there is right and wrong ABOVE the subjective, which means his conflicts
are meaningful, and yet he is totally uninterested in preaching -- just
writing from a place that understands actions and consequences, even if
his characters do not.
There are more reasons having to do with an EXCESS of style and he has a
nice black sense of humor that appeals to me. But I rented KILL BILL. So.
PS Also, although I had been a fan for years before I ever saw a
picture, he is, scuse me, not at all painful to look at it in a
pug-Irish way that's speaks to my potato-covered genomes. And COME ON
that never hurts.
SO -- Go read a A Drink Before the War.
At the pool the other day I met a mom with a daughter the same age as my son. She was carrying a hardback lit-fic book so I struck up a conversation. Plus she had that Former English Major patina I can spot from very far away. I can pretty much spot it from space.
The piecey too-hip-for-the-PTA haircut and the chunky shoes and the type of glasses she wore sent up "I READ THINGS AND AM SMART" rays that are as visible to a fellow reader as the bad smell lines that come off Pepe Le Pew's butt. We readeresquers are a sub-culture. I decided. We have SEKRUT SYMBOLS.
I have MANY coded subculture-approved outfits -- If I blow out my hair wear a V neck black knitted not-quite-sweater-not-quite-shirt thing with the correct cut of faded jeans and extremely expensive black loafers, then people in my subculture look at each other wisely and nod and say "writer."
This chick at the pool was wearing orange.
So. Editor. Obviously.
UNFORTUNATELY I had not put my costume on. I had put on my other one. The I AM A MOMMY one. The one I call FRUMPERELLA. Slouching-Through-Kroger-Wear. I had to TELL her I was writer.
Thank GOD my highlights were fresh or she never would have believed me. *grin*
Yesterday my friend Sara Gruen had to kill some people. Just a couple. But she liked 'em. Meanwhile, I was watching my people have sex in a bathroom.
Honestly? I might rather have been Sara. My novels always seem to get fraught with sex and violence, but its often more fun and usually easier to write about the violence. You can chart violence meticulously, and the aftermath is always interesting. Meanwhile, if you chart sex, it reads like a biology lesson, and the aftermath is always finding your pants.
Truism: You never realize how much sex you have put into novel until the day you know your mother is reading the MS.
I am having "Elizabeth Osborne is a Complete Genius" engraved on my left buttcheek. I just am.
I had to go get an "author photo" taken for the book jacket and like every human being on the planet, I ALWAYS hate pictures of me. There are pictures of me on this very website that make me want to crawl under the sofa and live with the dust camels. So I went to see Liz, a photographer friend of mine from the way back back. Elizabeth Osborne is a total and complete raving genius extraordinaire, which won't all fit on the one butt cheek or BELIEVE ME, I would tattoo it there. She managed to make me look like a grown-up with a real hair cut.
Also I get to put a big fat CHECK by one thing on my to do list. So now all I have to do *checks list* is...
1)Do all Line Edits
2)Write Second Novel
3)Successfully Raise 2 Children to be Kind, Happy Adults
5)Drink the rest of this Shiraz before it goes bad.
eep. Better get right on that. I pick 5.
Today I am supposed to be working on line edits.
Line edits, by the way, are when your editor sends you a copy of your MS that she has marked up with a pencil to show you exactly how many times you have written "breath" when you really meant "breathe." Then you go in and put e's on all of them. You have probably used "breath" to mean "breathe" a humiliating number of times for a person with a masters degree in English. Actually, twice is a humiliating number of times, and you are so far over twice you can not discuss it. Someone might ask you, "So how many times was it, really?" And you won't say.
All this BREATH for BREATHE makes you realize just how OFTEN you, as a writer, tend to update the reader on how well or poorly and with what sounds or intonations your characters are processing oxygen. The breathometer. The people in your head sure seem to SIGH and EXHALE excessively. They snort and puff and gasp and inhale sharply, and one of 'em even freakin' whistles.
You begin to wonder if you ought not off the whistler NOW, here in line edits, where you still have the luxury of changing things like THE WHOLE PLOT, like for example who lives and who dies --- or rather, as you would put it, GASPS THEIR LAST BREATH, except probably sadly truly really you would say GASPS THEIR LAST BREATHE. You begin to wonder if you have a complex. You realize you probably do, because why else would you CONTINUE to RELENTLESSLY refer to yourself in the second person???
*blows air out nose like an exasperated horse*
Did you know ELOCUTE is actually not a word? I mean, you can use elocution obviously, but you can't make it act as a verb. If you put it into SPELL CHECK, spell check says you probably mean EELPOUT. Eel? Pout? Eelpout is a word?!?!? I was so happy to find the word eelpout I should have left it alone. I had to go look it up. It's a stupid noun. Bah. I SO wanted it to be a VERB. "Veronica eelpouted her way through the last half of the party."