Thursday, February 28, 2008

The 'Mooing' and 'Baa-ing' Are Extra

There comes a time in every young woman’s life when she reaches a very special milestone. It’s something she might look forward to her entire life, if she’s a certain kind of girl. Other girls may dread it. It can be messy, it can be awkward, it can be nothing like you imagined, but it’s always special.

I’m talking, of course, about the first time a young woman totally geeks out in front of a Celebrity / Writing Hero. Or in my case, in front of two of them.

Tuesday evening I attended (with the always-awesome dynamic duo of Swishy and Manic Mom) a book signing and reading for none other than the witty, gracious, and lovely Eileen Cook herself. It was thrilling to meet her, because I have gotten to know her via email over the past year, and I just adore her … (I also met her best friend Jamie—who is spunky and cute and awesome in person, and the multi-talented and elegant Ruth Kaufman, who sat next to me at dinner, and later I re-met the adorable and funny Kristabella, who ALSO enjoys wine and is therefore excellent in my book…but I digress).

After introductions, I tried to keep my Crazies on a short leash, and I mostly behaved … until Jen Lancaster showed up—yeah, that’s right, you heard me, THE Jen Lancaster, Chicago blogger and author extraordinaire who provided me with the awesome cover blurb for Driving Sideways…and then I (probably) just got downright creepy, all giddy and “Oh, can I sit next to you?” and “I am so starstruck that you’re here!” and “Who here watches Rock of Love II?”

I’m just glad I didn’t start petting her hair. But I think I rubbed Eileen’s back a little while posing for this picture.

(Sorry Eileen, I sincerely hope I didn’t creep you out! It must be said that back-rubbing is a very common gesture in my family, which is meant to convey sincere affection. But not in a weird way.)

Fast-forward to the wine bar after the reading. I am partially deaf in my left ear by this point, what with walking through the arctic Windy City without my sensible earmuffs on. Lovely (and thick! Quite thick!) wine menus are provided to us, and immediately I am confused by the Flights of Wine.

“Flights of wine?” I brayed, “What’s a flight of wine? Come on, I’m FROM A FARM.”

Yes. That’s right. You heard me. I’M FROM A FARM. I continued with, “This is all too confusing for me. Because I’M FROM A FARM.”

Okay. I’m not REALLY from a farm, but…well, let’s just move on. Best not to dwell. Later, I asked if anyone had heard of the gentleman who, while biking down a rural Wisconsin road, encountered a dead deer carcass, dragged it into the woods, and made sweet, sweet love to it. I’d just read about this in the local newspaper and, apparently, I was itching to introduce the anecdote into my next sophisticated conversation.

SO! For everyone keeping track, I’m from a FARM, and I tell stories about NECRO-BESTIALITY in classy wine bars.

Next, I used a sentence that may or may not have included the phrase “meat whistle” in it in reference to the last time I ate meat. As in, “Does the meat whistle count?” I’m not sure, but I may have even referenced a “skin flute.” (You can ask my brother what was actually said: he was cringing next to me with his face in his hands.)

But--BUT!! It must be said that I was NOT the person who ate the truffle that fell on the floor.

Alright, in all seriousness, Jen was generous and funny and lovely and offered some very helpful advice about writing, despite the atrocious things coming from my mouth at irregular intervals. And Eileen was just sweet and loveable and witty as can be. For more and BETTER pictures of the evening, please visit Manic or photography skills are limited, as you might imagine, because ... I'M FROM A FARM.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Gimme a (spring) break, Gimme a (spring) break...

Break me off a piece of that ... snickers bar. (For you Office fans out there.)

Well, we still have lots of snow. How about a photo of Hypno-baby to cheer us all up?

You will do every-zeeng I command…
zoon eee-nough I shall have an entire aaahmy at my dizpozal and you weel all wor-ship me!!

Oh, wait. Those of you who know me already do. My bad.

Tomorrow I am going to Chicago to hang out with these wonderful writers and bloggers. I shall do a special “Tomfoolery Summary” blog post this Friday to tell you if the festivities are as wild as those I enjoyed last weekend, which included: dancing (and singing along) to We Are Family with a bar full of drag queens…pushing a small SUV out of a snowbank…and rubbing my eyes in disbelief at the fact that the lead singer of a hair metal cover band was wearing a black velour TWIN SET over his tight jeans, which were missing the back pockets and had lace-up sides. He was, in effect, a poor woman’s Vince Neil. And really, isn’t the original already at a steep discount?

There was mood lighting. There was ‘fog.’ There were so many pairs of tapered-ankle jeans mincing about on the dance floor that it looked like a fundraiser for People Shaped Like Upside-down Triangles Awareness.

I have also been fighting the “joke birthday candle” of colds. Just when I think I have it licked, it flares up again. In my corner: garlic, enough brown herbal teas to tie-dye a parachute, Zicam, Cold-Eeze, and all kinds of goofy holistic hippie broths. In the cold’s corner: a black belt in viral mojo, skill with nunchucks, and training in the dark arts of stealth-mucous deployment. I feel a new battle breaking out in my left nostril as I write this.

The cold is also fighting my will to work, which is concerning to me as I have two hundred-page Grants That Want To Kill Me due the day after Easter. Isn’t that thoughtful of the grant distribution people at the United States Department of Education? To make them due the day after a major holiday around the time when my clients will be on spring break—and thus unavailable to me when I need them most—for a week?

I have heard rumors of this mythical “spring break” creature. In fact, if memory serves, I once ENJOYED one in Myrtle Beach somewhere around 1995. But I haven’t seen a “spring break” in nearly a decade. What color are they now? Are they too shaped like triangles?

More on Friday, kiddos!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Local girl becomes weather-induced shut-in.

Greetings from balmy Wisconsin!!
Since this photo was taken, the pile of snow behind Local Girl and Devil Dog has grown by another foot.

To my readers in northern states: Doesn’t all this snow we’re getting make you feel like a kid again (well, minus the shoveling and driving in it parts)? Because when you were a small, short person, those snowbanks were like mountains! And now as somewhat taller adults, they are mountains once again! Remember how much fun a day in those snowbanks could be? Clambering over them, sliding down them on plastic saucers, arranging them into forts, hiding behind them during epic snowball battles…forget that nasty business about them sucking your boots off, or that one time you could have sworn the snowbank had teeth, that you saw it winking at you and licking its chops, that it actually snaked a snowy foot out to trip Jimmy Kohlman before eating his moon boot AND sock and then it gave Sara Welsh a facewash that made a pound of raw hamburger look like the gold standard for complexions?

To my readers in southern states: I’m sure there have been one or two moments in your life, perhaps in your youth, when you caught yourself thinking or saying, “I should like to see this snow substance they speak of “Up North.” But then you promptly forgot all about it and crawled back into the hammock strung between the two palm trees near your backyard pool.
I just love that story.

And here's what I love even more: when an inch of snow falls in certain climes and the local stores sell out of bottled water, batteries, generators, canned goods, and propane tanks and the snow melts before everyone gets back home, which takes an hour longer than usual because everyone is driving like marbles and banana peels have been scattered all over the road surface.

But back to the feet and feet of snow that we’ve received to date this winter. As I wrote this blog, we were expecting another foot of snow before nightfall (plus freezing rain and sleet and giant ice crystals the size and shape of He-Man’s magic sword). When so much snow is falling or anticipated to fall, your ability to just get out and about takes a nose dive, unless you LIKE frostbite and wet socks and calling tow trucks to tug your risk-taking ass out of the ditch. When the weather forces you to be housebound, terrible things can happen, such as:

Your husband is playing a new game on the Xbox. And at first, you think, Gee, that music is so soothing and relaxing! But don’t worry—this is just because the first fighting sequence hasn’t happened yet. There are fighting sequences every four seconds. After two hours of this, your right eye will begin to twitch, and your right hand will begin to make an involuntary stabby-motion. It’s a reflex, really, and at first you attribute it to chopping too many carrots for dinner (Because, oh, I don’t know, you eat lots of carrots when it snows), but then you notice the stabby-motion speeds up when you get near the XBox. And guess what? You can’t leave!! BECAUSE YOU ARE HOUSEBOUND.

You have a bottle of red truck wine in the kitchen. As you watch a movie called Sunshine (which is not blown up anyone’s ass…it’s actually a fantastic sci-fi flick starring the delicious Cillian Murphy), the wine begins to call to you in a soft siren. Small dogs start barking two miles away. So you heed the siren’s call and pour a glass. Or two. Or three. Soon enough, you find yourself weeping upstairs as you put away laundry. Your husband comes up to hug you and declare, “You get like this every year right about now.” Which you violently deny; really, you got this way just this once, just tonight, BECAUSE YOU ARE HOUSEBOUND.

(And drank a lot of wine, but whatev.)

All of that wine wakes you up at four thirty-seven the next morning. You arise, because your bladder urgently needs to be voided. (Speaking of, who came up with that one? “Voiding” the bladder. “This bladder is null and void in Tennessee, Maine, and New Mexico.”) After the voiding, you decide to take a vitamin and some aspirin. You don’t have a headache yet, but you can feel one weighing its options in the back of your skull, deciding whether or not to submit its application. You return to bed. Your husband, sleeping so peacefully when you woke up, has decided it is now time to Commence with the Snoring. Your right nostril has decided it too wants to join the program now in progress, and begins making killdeer calls with every exhalation. Two and a half hours later, you finally twitch off to sleep, your right hand making the stabby-motion again. When you get up later that morning, you think: what a great day to do some badly-needed shopping! But when you pull up the radar on weather underground, you realize you can’t. BECAUSE YOU WILL BE HOUSEBOUND.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

I call this post to order

First order of business: Okay, Winter? You can go away any day now. Ehh-neeee day now.

Second order of business: Clarifications and corrections. Last October, I went out on the town with my best friend and her sweet, wonderful sisters. We had a grand old time, but that evening happened to be the one in which I spent far too long listening to someone at the bar drone on about his life without demonstrating one iota of reciprocal interest in my life. He was, in short, an All About Me. Unfortunately, I did not clarify WHO this particular All About Me was. So. These dear, sweet wonderful sisters (one of whom will be thanked by name in Driving Sideways for her insightful feedback on an early draft) thought my AllAboutMe post was … ALL ABOUT THEM.

“We thought she liked us!” they said, and I wanted to rush over and soothe them with hugs and chocolate martinis and buckets of reassurance. I wanted to weep, because they are the furthest thing from an AllAboutMe--they are AllAboutYOUs, thoughtful and empathetic and kind and funny in a warped way that I'm particularly fond of. “Do we really talk about ourselves all the time? We don’t, do we? We were about to adopt her and make her an honorary sister, but now she’s back in the foster kid pool!”

Make that the ugly red-headed stepchild foster kid pool.

My best friend told me these misunderstandings are bound to happen because Mercury is in retrograde until next Tuesday.

In other news, when a bell rings, a new angel has gotten her wings. Also, if the bottom of your right foot itches, you are going to take a trip.

Third order of business: Pimping. Pimping of books, to be more specific. And to really pin down exactly where I am on this issue, pimping of friends’ books. I was lucky enough to read Unpredictable months before it came out, and I must say: my dear friend Eileen Cook has created one of the sweetest, quirkiest, and loveable protagonists I’ve ever encountered between the pages. (Between the squires and knights, too. *echo, echo....* And we wonder why my stand-up career never took off.)

Anyway, this is her official ‘launch’ week over at The Debs, so each day will feature a post singing the praises for Unpredictable—and deservedly so, as it has just hit #24 on the Barnes and Noble trade paperback romance bestseller list! And our fellow Deb Jenny Gardiner's Sleeping with Ward Cleaver just hit #32 on the B & N mass market romance bestseller list!

I tell you, I am feeling the LOVE for these books. Especially since they have bumpy covers. You KNOW you want to feel those bumpy covers, you tactile lover of textures you…go on, treat yourself to some bumpy cover love—and prepare to laugh and wince along with the characters between the covers as they fall in and out of love, mess their lives up, and sort it all out in the end in a way that makes you want to email the authors to tell them that you love their work, and maybe you could be friends if they ever came to your town, maybe you could get together for coffee or dinner, but you’re not a stalker, no, you’re just a really, really big fan, and even though that word is derived from FANATIC, it truly doesn’t apply to you, you just love their work and do they like footrubs? No! Wait…that just slipped out, you’re just an average, everyday kind of person, a reader, a lover of books, and you ALWAYS carry binoculars and duct tape in your trunk, it in no way relates to how much you LOVE their books, and no, you had no idea that “Cockadoodie” was one of Annie Wilkes’s favorite expletives!

Anyway, in all seriousness, even if you only buy books featuring the faces of grouchy white political commentators, you should think about buying these books. And they're not even paying me to say this.

Well, not much.

Thank you, go in peace.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Please Tell Me I Didn’t Write That

Friday night found me digging through my old school papers for blogging inspiration, because who wants to read yet another post about work-related stress? Not you! That’s who. Anyway, I ended up laughing hysterically over some of the things I found. First, a note my best friend passed me in eighth grade. Scribbled outside the folded note: “Don’t show anyone!” So let's keep this between me and you, m'kay?

I’m just so sick of life!!!!! I have no idea what I’m going to do for the demonstration. I’m in a really bad mood. My uniform doesn’t fit, and L. keeps starring at me! I refuse to wear that shirt. I’m gonna wear my gym shirt. I don’t give a shit what L. or S. say about it. At least there uniforms fit them. I’m just so PISSED OFF!!!! I hope you do great on the 800. I know you will. WELL GOOD LUCK and come by my locker when the bell rings. Thanks. (Sorry so sloppy)

F/F, C____

PS: I think I’m gonna demonstrate how to make a punch or something like that!

And now let’s fast forward eight years: to a rough draft for a college paper I wrote about A Midsummer Night’s Dream, circa 1995:

Love is one peculiar human emotion that has both intrigued and disgusted us over the years as we try to dissect it.

(Really, Jess? Looks like I was one pen stroke away from comparing love to a segment of lower pig intestine blanched in formaldehyde.)

And love does have edges that can wound one to the bone when it enters the equation unrequited.

(This is probably one of the worst sentences I’ve ever written. Well, that’s what I thought before I read a bit further.)

Just ask Helena. The poor girl has basked in Demetrius’s affection only to have it stolen when his wishy-washy feelings shift without warning when he spots the lovely Hermia. Perhaps the adage “We want most what we can’t have” has some truth to it, since Hermia would never return Demetrius’s attention as she’s hopelessly besotted with Lysander.

(There is only one word that could possibly be associated with this paragraph. And that word is: “Trite.” Wait. No, I think "Revolting" would apply, too.)

Helena’s soliloquy in Act II reminds us again that “love can tr. …..”

(I have no idea what I was actually going to type there, but it was probably another piece of shit cliche.)

In other words, love is more blind than Stevie Wonder in a closet.

(Dear God. Please. PLEASE tell me I didn’t actually write that in my final paper.)

Here is a ‘helpful’ critique I wrote about a fellow student’s short story in a creative writing class I took in 1996:

I couldn’t help but wonder if the priest in your story was actually Jerry Springer. What a bunch of crazies! They made for really interesting reading. You created a very entertaining story, and it flowed quite well. I can tell that you have a very vivid imagination!

My favorite part of this story is not only the concept itself, but the wonderful detail and almost hilarious crimes committed by the priest’s “clients.” I kept turning the page to see the next weird dilemma the poor man would be faced with.

Other than a few grammatical errors, I don’t have too many suggestions for improvement. I’m not too sure about the ending, because I got the impression that the tone of the story was more along the lines of a satire or comedy, and the suicide of the priest sort of disappointed me. But that’s just my opinion. You have a great, entertaining story.

This constructive criticism gives new meaning to the phrase “phoning it in.” Also: “But that’s just my opinion.” Nothing says “Hi, I’m from the Midwest and don’t want to hurt your feelings” AND “I’m a disingenuous boob” quite like, “But that’s just my opinion.” And it's a good thing the unexpected suicide of the priest only "sort of" disappointed me.

And finally, some notes I wrote to myself on a story idea I had over ten years ago. Thankfully, it was never—and will never be—written:

Don’t put too much sex in; be judicial. Think of your readers. Who wants to read all that crap? An inch of leg below a hemline is sexier than buck naked.

Two hard returns and: Do I want to keep Neah as a porno actress?

I'm at The Debs on Friday--swing by and help me kick off the weekend if you're so inclined.