Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Giving Thanks, in June

(Before I commence with the post, I have to tell you that the ice cream truck has been tooling through my neighborhood playing "We Wish you a Merry Christmas." And I thought "Pop Goes the Weasel" was the ninth circle of auditory hell....)

Currently, my brain feels capable of little more than generating Charlie Brown teacher mwah-mwah sounds, so I thought it would be a good time for one of my illustrated hodge-podge posts. First, some exciting news: My gratitude goes out to EVERYONE who picked up a copy of Driving Sideways because thanks to you, I just learned that it will be going into a second printing! I'm beyond thrilled by this news...I'm somewhere near ecstatic and shocked, actually.

Thanks are also due to Julie over at Booking Mama, for the most excellent review and interview. (I heart that woman!) She's also sponsoring a book giveaway, and I think there's still time to enter.

There's also still time to submit, right here on this blog, your favorite strawberry recipes--I'm taking them with me to my first book signing this Saturday in Cedarburg, Wisconsin, during Strawberry Festival. If I get lonely because people are speedwalking past me and fervently avoiding eye contact while I sit at my little table with my little pen, I will look at my strawberry recipes and think of you, my dear, talented Internet Friends.

Also, guess who this is with her very own copy of that book I'm always telling you about?

No, that's not my aunt's Al Franken's lovely wife Franni! I could faint. (Thanks to my awesome aunt Dottie for the picture.)

And because Daisy is being insolent and refuses to pose for a photo with the book (she is SO in the dog house right now), my new favorite dog is my cousin Lindsey's pooch Lucky, curled up with ... you guessed it, that ubiquitous book again.

This post comes to you courtesy of my mother, who gave me the armillary and just enough of her green thumb not to have killed the stuff growing in that flower bed...yet.

More from the "I Can't Believe I Haven't Killed It!" of my windowboxes. They really take a beating when it rains, because we have no gutters to catch the run-off.

My first experiment with clematis. I ran out of space to plant horizontally, so I had to go vertical. There are pink roses planted beneath, but they're not blooming yet. Drat the timing...

And finally, a very dear friend of ours showing you what the Cool Kids are driving these days. (This photo may have a short shelf life, as I may be asked to unpost it. But I couldn't resist.) This Friday I'm posting at The Debs; stop by and say hi, if you get a chance! Next week, a recap of the Strawberry Fest signing and I shall FINALLY announce the winners of the DS book pimping contest. I promise.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Irreverent, Poignant, Rebel, Satirist, Patriot, Gone

I had all kinds of blog ideas tumbling around my head for today's post (my fondness for Gordon Lightfoot, the time I broke my arm, my 16-foot-tall summer reading stack, why a squishy floor around your toilet is a Very Bad Thing), but then George Carlin died. He was only 71, which seems incredibly young to me. J and I never missed his HBO specials: they were EVENTS to us, something to TiVo and look forward to for weeks ahead of time. I even used one of his CDs (the one on euphemistic language) in class with the inmates I worked with years ago, during one of our language lessons.

I loved how Carlin called out the hypocrisies, the ridiculous, irrational, and absurd in American society. He gave us that brilliant and critical gut-check when X, Y, or Z would happen (fill in the blank, the list is endless), and you'd look at your spouse or friend with relief: "Okay, I'm really not losing my mind. This really is happening, and it really ISN'T okay. And somebody is not afraid to actually call bullshit on this, and do so in a way that's simultaneously hilarious, compassionate, and mildly unsettling."

Speaking of which, George? We owe you for calling bullshit on censorship.

One of my favorite Carlin quotes is all over the net today, but I'm going to post it anyway: "I think it is the duty of the comedian to find out where the line is drawn and cross it deliberately."

(My second favorite: "The reason they call it the American dream is because you have to be asleep to believe it.")

George, thanks for the honesty and the laughs. You'll be missed.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Books & Berries (I need your recipes!)

Thank you, first of all, to everyone who chimed in on my question concerning cohabitation before marriage. I asked because I am fascinated by the subject, actually. I love hearing people's decisions and opinions on the matter. Full disclosure time: I lived with J before we tied the knot. Having been married once before, marriage was not on my immediate agenda at the time, whatsoever. Our decision had much to do with logistics (distance, finances, etc), because I'm a pragmatist at heart. And yeah, I kinda liked the guy.

Now for the REAL blog post:

Well, what began as a severe determination to not let my entire writing career be thwarted by a stack of rejection letters has finally led me to the store in which I spend a generous chunk of my monthly paycheck.

Me, possibly crying, definitely not crapping my pants.

Look! My eyes are glistening a little. Maybe I’m crying, kind of. I don’t recall. But remember a few days ago when I predicted I’d crap my pants when this moment finally arrived? Well, I’m pleased to tell you I didn’t! I’m sure you’re all relieved. (But either way, I guess my response to exciting events is a regression to the age of three.)

Here’s what actually happened: I asked a nice young stock boy if I could sign them, and he was like, “That’s you? You wrote that book?”

And I’m all, “YES! Can you believe it?”

And he’s all, “Hey, let me call my LED (or LOD or something…may have been LSD: Lead Sales Dude) and ask if you can sign them!”

Okay, I really don’t talk like that (with the ‘alls’ and all), but I’m still a bit high on the moment as I remember it. I'm kind of reliving it. And all.

The Lead Sales Dude arrived and was so excited along with me that he said, “Hell yeah, sign ‘em all! And I’m going to buy this copy myself!”

“Great!” I said, “You’re going to love the bathroom humor!”

(This is the point where I post the PSA: If you ever plan on being seen in public with me, you’ve been warned.)

And a sweet woman was eavesdropping while she examined another book in the next aisle, smiling a little, and then she made eye contact (her first mistake—bet she’ll never do that again). I practically slapped her in the face with the book: “HEYAREYOULOOKINGFORAGOODSUMMERREAD? IJUSTSIGNEDTHISANDIWROTEITANDEVERYTHING!” She seemed a little afraid of me. Dear Green Bay Target shopper: If you’re reading this? I apologize for the enthusiasm…I was caught up in the moment. Don’t feel bad if you reshelved the book when I walked away.

Next week, I shall announce the winners of the Pimp My Book contest. THANK YOU to everyone who donned their feathered fedoras to help promote Driving Sideways!

And now, I have another challenge for you. Next Saturday, I'm doing a signing at Creekside Books in Cedarburg, Wisconsin during Strawberry Festival. I'd like to give a collection of favorite strawberry recipes to anyone who buys a book that day, so if you have a tried-and-true strawberry recipe to share, please tell me in the comments. Or you can email me: jess (at) In return, I'll send you the whole collection (which may include a delicious addition from the talented chefs at Savore). I'll probably add some clip-art, which will make the entire thing totally worth it. (Don't worry, I won't include the creepy little people like I did with my scones recipes.)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Now THIS is what you call 'Random Thoughts'

I recently went on an ARC-requesting bender, clicking willy-nilly on ads posted on (Try it! Let’s all get free books!) And then I logged onto my account for the “Quality Paperback Bookclub” to decline my main selections, only to learn that my tardy response for the month of May would result in the home-delivery of two books I had not selected: Tom Perrotta’s The Abstinence Teacher (which I’ve actually been meaning to read), and a book I’d never heard of before: Mr. Sebastian and the Negro Magician.

Oh, Jesus, just what the hell is this, I thought, and then I read the synopsis:

There’s never any shortage of magic with Daniel Wallace. The author of the beloved novel Big Fish is a master of conjuring up colorful characters and spinning emotionally enchanting yarns. Mr. Sebastian and the Negro Magician is his most spellbinding story yet—an American epic that weaves its way through the Deep South of the 1950s with wit, wonder and wizardry.

Henry Walker was once one of the world’s greatest magicians. Now this dark-skinned prestidigitator has been reduced to a novelty act in a traveling circus. But when this one-time master of the disappearing act disappears himself, it’s up to a motley crew including a private detective, a strong man, a carnival barker and Jenny the Ossified Girl to piece together the puzzle of his life. It’s an adventure that starts with a childhood deal with the Devil and only gets stranger. As the true cost of his Faustian bargain is made clear, is his very identity the greatest illusion of all?

Filled with surprises and starring a freak show of fascinating characters, Mr. Sebastian and the Negro Magician is an entrancing examination of the choices and prejudices that make us human—and the love, loss and magic that makes us something more.

Intriguing! Lately, I’ve kind of been in the mood for freaky carnival fiction with a Ray Bradbury feel to it. (Even though my tardiness in responding to a QPB mailer last year netted me a Ray Bradbury novel I still haven’t read.)

But the real lesson here is that I just need to stay away from mail-order media clubs of any kind. I still have a bad taste in my mouth from the BMG fiasco of my college days. Inevitably (and the mail-order people are counting on this), I miss a response card deadline and am sent some goofy-ass garbage I didn’t want. And when you try to remedy the situation, you end up with a bad mark on your credit report and collection agencies calling you.

Actually, that last part didn’t happen to me, I always did the pantywaist thing and paid for the stuff I didn’t want to AVOID that outcome, but it did happen to a few of my friends.

In completely unrelated news, I want to hear your thoughts on cohabitating before marriage. Yes, no, maybe so … would you do it? Do you do it? Did you do it? Why or why not? If you do or did live with someone without the ring, would you do it again?

PS: Thanks to the PKD Foundation for interviewing me--check it out here.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

My excuse? I'm really, really tired

The floodwaters have receded here in east-central Wisconsin, and today the streets are mostly dry. However, the curbs are piled with water-logged carpeting, plaid sofas, and boxes of damp holiday decorations unfortunate enough to find themselves in basements across the city last week. As for me, this is yet another time that I thought, "Gee, sometimes it's good to have a crawl space unfit to store even a box of old roofing nails instead of a more luxurious basement in which I could store an old ping pong table."

Here's an animation of what's been happening in the midwest over the past two weeks. See all those scary-looking black triangles in Wisconsin, and how they kind of multiply like Gremlins by June 15? Yeah. Those freaky bastards are prolific. It's supposed to rain again tomorrow, so count on more of those sharp little buttplugs to pop up by the end of the week.

(Did I actually just type that? See what being overtired can do?)

The rain stopped long enough for us to meet up with some long-lost friends in Racine on Friday, where we were witness to an Elvis impersonator to shame every Elvis impersonator to ever don sequins and eat a sloppy sandwich. He sang, he shimmied, he draped sweat-soaked silk scarves over every single woman in the vicinity. (Did you enjoy all the alliteration? I promise I'll never do it again.)

I do confess that I also ended up with a sweaty silk scarf. I particularly enjoyed the fact that Elvis by Night cut them apart with pinking shears. This was a man dedicated to his craft. This was a man who clearly paid attention to detail. (Does anyone remember when Ramona Quimby cut her bangs with pinking shears? LOVED THAT.)

Today we celebrated Father's Day with J's family. We gave my awesome father-in-law the complete box set of Band of Brothers, and after the gift opening, we were all slightly horrified to discover that a pube had been shrink-wrapped against the metal tin container. A commemorative pube from Steven Spielberg, perhaps? (Or to steal my mother-in-law's joke, "Part of Tom's Hank.")

Don't you just love her?

Other events from the weekend included a 2 a.m. feeding frenzy at George Webb, a late-night viewing of the Tavis Smiley show on PBS (How do you know you're old? You're watching Tavis Smiley in your motel room after a night of drunken debauchery instead of leaving behind trace bits of DNA), and some drop-in stock signings of Driving Sideways in area bookstores. It was sold out at the Stevens Point Target, so I haven't officially seen it on Target shelves yet. (Though we did take photos of the bare shelf where it once was, as the label indicated.) I can't wait to see it in the Target down the street from me. I may pass out. I may crap my pants, accidentally knock over a display of men's underwear, and then pass out. It could be like the thimble-crashing scene from Mr. Show with Bob and David. Except it will be a rack of men's underwear I pull down with me. Not as funny as a decorative shelf full of thimbles, but that's how the store's laid out. Men's undies are right next to the books.

Okay, I'm going to sleep now before I write any more weird stuff.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Rain? It Can Stop Anytime. Truly.

Once again, it is raining. We have gotten 8 inches of rain since the weekend. 30 streets in my city are closed due to flash flooding, as are local highways, and manhole covers are EXPLODING INTO THE AIR. There are large pieces of FURNITURE floating in the streets, occasionally butting up against water-logged AUTOMOBILES. One of our living room windows is dripping as I write this, and my dog is going absolutely out of her mind at the thunder and lightning. My husband is somewhere out there investigating the flash flooding with a friend--perhaps he too has drifted away, leaving me with nothing but a barking, insane dog as a consolation prize. As local meteorologist Cameron Moreland said on the news, "Turn around. Don't drown."

The times? Oh, so good.

I didn't set out to write a final, desperate post before my house was washed away by the Fox River--I actually wanted to complain about something that has truly been bothering me lately.

And it is this: Joe Francis? Damn you to hell for ruining the kettle drum for me. Local commercials touting hot tub & spa vendors or weight loss products have been airing recently, and this I have no beef with. But they use the KETTLE DRUM in the background music. And what do I think of when I hear the kettle drum?

That's right. The Girls Gone Wild videos.

The kettle drum has forever been ruined for me.

Thanks alot, Mr. Smut Peddler. Do yourself a favor and stay away from the oboe. I'm just saying.

Also, you've seen Juno, right? Most excellent work, that. Talented & gorgeous screenwriter Diablo Cody was in the latest issue of Writer's Digest (the cover story no less!) discussing some upcoming screenplays, including one for Universal called Girly Style. What is it about, pray tell? A raunchy women's road trip.

*Sound of my head hitting the keyboard*

It's a good thing the new issue of Mother Jones came today to distract me. There is a special section on the prison industry in America, and since my next novel features characters who work in a prison, I read it eagerly. I wanted to share my favorite highlights of the bit on prison labor with you. Not only are some of America's 2.3 million inmates making human-silhouette targets and custom dentures, but:

"Starbucks subcontractor Signature Packaging Solutions has hired Washington prisoners to package holiday coffees (as well as Nintendo Game Boys). Confronted by a reporter in 2001, a Starbucks rep called the setup 'entirely consistent with our mission statement.'"

"Boeing subcontractor Microjet had prisoners cutting airplane components, paying $7 an hour for work that paid union wages of $30 on the outside."

"Texas inmates produce brooms, bedding, toilets, sinks, showers, and bullwhips. Bullwhips?"

"In 1997, a California prison put two men in solitary for telling journalists they were ordered to replace 'Made in Honduras' labels on garments with 'Made in the USA.'"

"Its inmate call centers are the 'best kept secret in outsourcing,' Unicor (Federal Prison Industries) boasts. In 1994, a contractor for congressional hopeful Jack Metcalf hired Washington state prisoners to call and remind voters he was pro-death penalty. Metcalf, who prevailed, said he never knew." --Caroline Winter for Mother Jones

PS: I'm happy to report that my husband has safely returned from his Adventures with the Flood. The dog? Still going out of her mind.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Catching up, and a Chat with Melissa Senate

I am FINALLY reconnected to the Internet after three long days offline--our modem was fried by the batch of storms / flash floods / lightning / hail / tornadoes / four horsemen of the apocalypse that rolled through Wisconsin over the weekend. But I can't complain--did you see news footage of the houses washing into Lake Delton in Wisconsin Dells? (A moment of silence for the Tommy Bartlett water show, which I've heard will still go on despite the fresh absence of the, uh, you know, the lake. My question: will the waterskiers shift to four-wheelers and rollerblades?)

I'm still recovering from the launch party and catching up on emails, so now is a fantastic time to tell you that I'm thrilled to have joined the Girlfriend's Cyber Circuit (GCC), which is the brainchild of the talented Karin Gillespie. I will be visiting the blogs of other author-members of the GCC in July, and hosting them here for a Q & A when it's their turn in the spotlight over the next few months.

Today I'm pleased to present Melissa Senate, who I first learned about in a Newsweek article featuring her debut novel See Jane Date, which was later made into a movie featuring Charisma Carpenter (doesn't she have a fabulous name for an actress?).

Melissa is the author of seven novels, including her YA (Young Adult) debut Theodora Twist. A former editor of romance novels and teen fiction, she lives on the southern coast of Maine with her son, his Pokemon card collection, and their two witchy black cats. She’s hard at work on her next young adult novel for Delacorte, and just sold her next two adult novels to Pocket Books. Her newest novel, Questions to Ask Before Marrying, was just released on June 1. About the book:

A very popular New York Times article lists fifteen questions couples should ask (or wish they had) before marrying. Ruby Miller and her fiancé, Tom Truby, have questions 1 to 14 almost covered. It's question 15 that has the Maine schoolteacher stumped: Is their relationship strong enough to withstand challenges?

Challenges like…Ruby's twin sister, Stella. The professional muse, flirt and face reader thinks Ruby is playing it safe. And that the future Mrs. Ruby Truby will die of boredom before her first anniversary or her thirtieth birthday, whichever comes first.

Challenges like…sexy maverick teacher Nick McDermott, Ruby's secret longtime crush, who confesses his feelings for her at her own engagement party.

But before Ruby can plan the wedding that may never be, Stella announces she's pregnant by a one-night stand whose name might be Jake (or James? Maybe Jason?) and who lives somewhere under the glittering lights of Las Vegas. Ruby and Stella hit the road to find him—with a lot more than fifteen questions.

And after three thousand miles, a stowaway relative and hitchhiking teen lovebirds bound for an Elvis wedding chapel, the Miller sisters might get some answers.


(I love a good roadtrip novel!) And now, let's commence with my interrogation:

1) Now that you are multi-pubbed, what (if anything) have you changed about your writing routine?

Not a thing! It seems like something should have changed, but my process is the same: I write a detailed synopsis, around 10 pages, in the character’s voice, and then I break up the synopsis into chapters and then scenes. I always need that road map, always need to know my last line so that I am writing to it, toward it. There are always detours and the roads less traveled that make the writing process so interesting and frustrating and wonderful and hard, but I need that trusty map. And map and all, I struggle like crazy with the first 50 pages, to get the voice right for me, to know and understand the character well enough to write her. I wish I could just write a crappy first draft and just get it all out on paper, out of my head, and then go back and do the flesh and blood work, but I need to write and revise and polish as I go or I can’t seem to move on to the next scene. I actually hate this about my process and need to work on changing it!

2) Do you listen to music while you write?

I wrote my first novel, See Jane Date, to Sarah McLachlan’s Fumbling Toward Ecstasy CD, but that album was very much tied to what I was writing about, feeling at the time, and that’s never happened since with me and music and a book. I always try to find a soundtrack CD for my manuscripts, but I keep coming up cold. Oh, to have a musical muse once more!

3) Have you found that as you've developed your writing and story telling skills, you watch movies or read books 'differently?' (I pay WAY more attention to dialogue, plot structure, and character development now.) If so, is it harder to lose yourself in a story now?

It’s funny that I’m usually not conscious of structure and development while I’m reading/watching, but just the other day, I was very uncharasterically struck by Kung Fu Panda (yes, I have a five-year-old!) and how perfect (too perfect, really, which is why I think I was so aware) the storyline was in terms of hero and anti-hero, the emotional angles, the journey. The villain’s back story stole the show for me, and I was surprised when he was vanquished instead of “rehabilitated.” I suppose that was a good surprise; when you expect something stylistically and don’t get it. I was also so surprised recently by a book I’m loving, Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos, and how she, as the author, speaks directly to the reader. I couldn’t stop thinking about that as technique and it made it hard for me to concentrate. But usually, I’m just lost in a story/show/movie and don’t think about the “work” until it’s over.

4) What vacation would be most inspiring to you as a writer?

I’ve been to Rome three times and could go three times in one year and want to go back again. I’ve never been as struck by a place, never been almost unable to breathe as I was in the Vatican Museums. There’s an angel statue on the steps of one of the amazing ornate buildings that so captivated me I just wanted to sit next to it for an hour. From the amazing food and wine to the history and beauty and art and very handsome men, Rome makes me want to sit on a tiny balcony with a good glass of red wine and write. Rome makes me feel.

5) What is one of your strangest / most quirky author experiences?

Oh, the stories I could tell about the people who’ve come out of the woodwork when I became Google-able as an author. From ex-boyfriends who had manuscripts (of course!) to my very first best friend from the third grade, to a half-sibling I’d never met (hmm, that just might have inspired my next book!)

Thanks Melissa! Isn't she lovely? This Friday I'll be posting here again as well as over at The Debs, where I'll be gushing about hot authors.

Monday, June 09, 2008

The Post-Party Post

I FINALLY HAVE AN INTERNET CONNECTION AGAIN! So now I will post a recap of the book launch party, which despite tornado warnings, torrential rain, lightning, flash flooding, damaging winds, and hail, went off with nary a hitch on Saturday night. (Thanks to the gang at Encore! You are creative, clever, thoughtful people and I am going to need the recipe for the spinach-artichoke-cheese ball. I've got the DTs from cheese ball withdrawal already.)

First, a non-party photo taken in Schuler Books & Music in Lansing, Michigan. Recognize any of the books on this display?

I know! Jimmy Buffett and Jen Lancaster!!

A long shot of the buffet at the beginning of the evening. See the map? Each dish represented a state my characters drove through on their roadtrip. (PS to the Encore gang: Also? I'm going to need the recipe for the honey honey hazelnut triangles from Utah.)

These are some actors I hired to come to the party so it would look like I had a bunch of friends.

Everyone--turn around and look at the camera!

Here I am reading a particularly juicy part to the actors I hired. Would you believe me if I told you I flat-ironed my hair before the night began? Yes, it was THAT humid.*

One of these lovely young ladies was the real-life inspiration for Jillian. Care to guess which one? I took half a dozen roadtrips with her, and will be taking another small one to Madison with her this Thursday. (Now that gas is $4 a gallon, it's official: any trip longer than 40 minutes is really and truly a road trip. Pack the cooler!)

Me and my lovely sister-in-law, who took the photo from Schuler's bookstore above. She's my Michigan Connection and she is also very Awesome.

Look who totally surprised me, braving the tornadoes and rain and flash flooding, driving all the way from Chicago: Swishy, Manic, and special guest Trish Ryan!!! (Her first book came out recently. You should go buy it.) This was the first time I met Trish, and she is absolutely lovely and charming. You guys are crazy for driving through that stuff, but I love you for it and I'm glad you made it back safely.

(Also, don't we look like we should be the signal bar in a Verizon commercial?)

Other highlights from the night: so many of my Minnesota connection making the trip (love you guys!), my dentist AND my gynecologist attending (I had both ends covered), and my most-adorable nephew adding sound effects during the reading. As the night wore on, a confused-looking elderly couple wandered in and asked, "What are you advertising?"
I replied, "I'm having a book launch party! I wrote a book!"
They were non-plussed and still somewhat confused. I sensed a need for further clarification. So I said, "Look! We have snacks! Help yourselves to the buffet!"
Which they did, and then they left.
Thank you to everyone who braved the weather to help me celebrate!! I feel like the luckiest girl in the world.
*Not really. My hair truly is this curly if I leave it to its own devices when it's muggy out.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Do I need to Re-Post the George Carlin Tribute?

So the book launch party is tomorrow and I'm all in a tizzy, cleaning my funkyass house and wondering what chemical compounds and acts of God my hair will require to not frizz up into a giant brown nest an hour into the evening.

I don't like to shop, but this week I headed straight for the trusty local JCPenney to see if I could find a top to wear for the party. (See, you wear "tops" with your "slacks." And I went to JCPenney because, well, the only other option is the outlet mall, and I simply didn't want to cross the highway because I am LAY-ZEE.) I have been absolutely disgusted with this season's fashion offerings at the REAL mall (the magical indoor one 20 miles away), so I wasn't holding my breath. But to my surprise and delight, I did manage to find two cute shirts.

I liked one so much I put it on the next day without washing it first. (This is a really bad habit of mine.) J came upstairs and wrinkled his nose. "What smells like an old lady?"

I sniffed and identified the origin of the odor immediately. "Oh, it's the JCPenney on my shirt."

I'm washing the shirt today.

Also, now that a few people have read the book, the feedback has begun to trickle back to me, directly or indirectly. And I'm thrilled, over-the-moon humbled and ecstatic to report that most of the feedback has been very positive. But I have also heard:

"It's a little racy."

"I just wish there wasn't so much swearing."

"It's too girly."

Hmmm...racy and foul-mouthed and yet--AND YET--too girly.

Can you guess which comments were made by relatives and which came from the host of a radio show on which Jerry Springer recently appeared?

I haven't thickened my skin enough yet to process these types of reactions beyond the point where it feels like I'm hearing, "You know, your child isn't very bright or attractive." But I'm working on it. My own personal feeling is that when a character is at the end of his or her emotional and/or physical rope, he or she should get a little more leeway when it comes to self-censorship. Ultimately, it always boils down to character, and how willing an author is to let him or her be his or her true self. (And how willing the author is to look in the mirror and say, honestly, "I'm writing the story that I want to write.")

Anyway, instead of 'racy,' I prefer 'earthy' or 'salty.' Salt of the earthy. But I think I've discovered a solution that will make everyone happy. My next book will feature a Mennonite detective with quirky habits like an addiction to Bubble Yum and an affinity for practical jokes. Instead of swearing, he will say things like, "Oh sugar!" or "He's out of his cotton-picking mind if he thinks I'm going to miss choir practice for that!"

Wow, that sounds awful.

In all seriousness, how do you like your books? How much cursing is too much? How racy is too racy? Where are the boundaries of your personal comfort zone? (On the same tangent: what do you think of devices like the ClearPlay DVD Player or the TV Guardian Filter?)

Tomorrow! The official Driving Sideways book launch party! 6-9 pm at 146 Algoma Blvd in Oshkosh. I have it on good authority that there will be cheese.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Bloggy Love and Breakfast Cake

It has come to my attention that I am old because I use the word “slacks.” Also, because I talk really fast like a gangster from the 30’s and append every statement I make with a nasal, “Look here, see?”

No, I don’t really do that. But I think I might from now on.

What I HAVE been doing--for real now--is hanging around these awesome blogs:

View From the Cloud

Suburban Turmoil

Conversations with Famous Writers


Luanne--A Bookworm's World

Three of them will be giving away copies of Driving Sideways, so if you still haven’t discovered the beauty and amazement that is the Rip VanGina, pop over and enter to win.

I have also been trying to get my husband to eat the first broccoli raab I ever grew FROM SEED and harvested from my very own yard. My first suggestion, a pasta dish with capers, artichoke hearts, and sautéed broccoli raab, was met with this rebuttal: “How about YOU eat that, and I’ll eat some pizza?”

After processing several days worth of onion rings, frozen custard, burgers, frozen burritos, pancakes, scrambled eggs, a greasy reuben, French fries, and bratwurst, his cardiovascular system had to be near the breaking point. You could see it in his eyes. Like the eyes of a junkie, they were glassy and desperate for their next shot of trans fats...but also? They seemed to be quietly, urgently searching for something...perhaps...could it be...for some antioxidants? For an infusion of foodstuffs that had less to do with stuffs and more to do with the actual absorption of fiber, nutrients, and a form of user-friendly, head-of-the-class protein that wouldn't litter, loiter, or leave graffiti as it made the long journey through the human digestive system?

Also, there was a frightening moment when J nearly convinced me that this breakfast cake would be fun to make. It sure SOUNDED fun to make.* I know I laughed. Twice, even. But it was time to get some vegetables into his system by any means necessary. So in the end, I threw the sautéed raab on some pizza.

(Sidenote regarding pronunciation: is it broccoli RABE? Or broccoli ROBBY?)

*Full disclosure: I could not FIND the site with the breakfast cake when I wanted to revisit it so I could share it with you. So I Googled “sproing vomit breakfast cake mow lawn.” That didn’t work, so I had J find it for me. Thanks, J! Tell your body it’s very welcome for the vitamins and fiber.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Blame it on Culver's Custard

I thought I'd share a few recent Google searches that led some unsuspecting readers to my blog, because they segue into something that happened to me this weekend. And I am feeling too full of Culver's frozen custard to think of anything to write that doesn't involve me whining, "Why did I eat the onion rings, too?" and "I'm never getting the raw cookie dough again!" and "Where's my slacks extender tab?" So without more of this annoying ado, let the random search phrases commence!

“Pictures of me and my neighbor”

Sorry, I don't really have any. How about a picture of me and my nephew instead?

He was on sale for just $4.99!

“The spelling of pubic”

PUBIC. Pee, you, bee, eye, see. PUBIC.

Dose an egg that’s been in the frige hatch if you keep warm afterwards

I'm sorry to say that after rigorous childhood research (as documented here), the answer to this question is, "No."

Cairn Terrier shaking head all the time

Yes, well, that would be Daisy, when she’s disgusted with my antics. Which is nearly always.

Advanage the Wonder Cleaner

One of my more inadvertently popular posts. I have a long and sordid history of being a sucker for door-to-door salespeople, also documented here. And this Saturday, I had another visit from one of the Magazine Pushers. He was like listening to a favorite mix tape of all the greatest hits: "Don't be sorry, that's a board game!" and "If you're going to pass, where's the football?" plus the all new and extra-special insult, "You should support me 'cuz I'm cute--not like your hair!"

Ah, it was like a trip back to the second grade, without leaving the comfort of my own front porch.

Cloudy Tea

I can't tell you how to avoid cloudy tea. In fact, I tell you how to make it, here.

Adjectives Beginning with the letter N

You sound like the kind of person who might enjoy the adjective 'nice.' But here are a few bonus words for you: neurotic, noisy, nutty, nappy, nerdy, nascent, needling, nuanced, nervous, niggling, natural, narrow, naked, nautical, negative, nubile, nostalgic, and nude.

If you can think of more, leave them in the comments. Let's really get a list going.

Congratulations on being an aunt.

Why thank you!