Sunday, August 31, 2008

My Mom Rules

Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Thursday night I raised that ruckus I was telling you about at the Appleton Public Library, and my gracious host recorded it for future posting as a podcast on the library website. Later that evening, when I told my mom about it, she said somewhat skeptically, "What is that? A podcast. I don't know what that is. I don't even know how to get on a pod!"


Saturday was my nephew's first birthday party. Here he is picking out his favorite present.
Later, after gifts were opened and summarily ignored by the boy-child in favor of the packaging in which they came, we shared a delicious meal prepared by my future brother-in-law. There was cake, of course: a delicious carrot cake that was moist and dense and chewy and I had to fight an urge to steal four pieces and shovel them furtively into my face in the corner. And the best part? He didn't follow a recipe. So everyone was raving about that fact, and he modestly replied, "Well, I cook eight hours a day at work, so after awhile it's just instinctive."

My mother lit up and contributed, "And if any of you ever end up in prison, I can compute your release dates for you!"

It's important to have talented relatives.

I turned to my mom and said, "Mom, I'm totally going to blog about that."

"No, you are not!"

"Aw, come on! Please?"

"Well, okay, fine."

It's even better if they give in to the whining of their grown children fairly easy.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Late-Season Garden Tour

Last night I had dinner with two old friends (I mean, talk about the gray hair!), and first let me say thank you to Samantha, who gave me the first real celebrity moment I've experienced in my life. (The guy sitting to your left? I based the character of Wes on him.) Second, if you haven't yet been to Becket's in Oshkosh, please do check it out. Great food, great atmosphere, and I need this one to stick around because they have not one, not two, not three, but something like FOUR vegetarian entree choices. This is a small miracle in many northern Wisconsin communities.

Anyway, this was the first time I'd seen M & J in years, so we spent a great deal of time catching up on 'what we've been doing as productive or entertaining members of society.' I wracked my brain to come up with exciting (non-book-related) things that I've done in the last decade. I was starting to feel like a bit of a wanker--I mean, my best friend volunteered for a month at an orphanage in Thailand...other friends and siblings are similarly well-traveled or have advanced degrees OR ARE NOW PARENTS, which is a pretty big deal. What have I been doing? Blogging and using British words like 'wanker.' And then it struck me. I HAVE been doing lots in the last few years! I've been PLANTING SHIT! Just take a look:

My yard. Where the Jolly Green Giant sharted after eating a bag of frozen chimichangas.

My yard. Where the Farmer's Almanac exploded.

A very brave bumblebee. The flower's all, "Hey bee, I dare you to land on my stabby cone spikes to suss out those little flecks of pollen!" And the bee's all, "Look at me on your stabby things! Loser!"

One of the bebes from my monarch ranching project? Perhaps.

The tomato plant that ate the garage. And a small bird. Come to think of it, I haven't seen Daisy in awhile ...

Um, I'll let you caption this one. (It's an EGGPLANT, people!! Honestly, get your mind out of the gutter.)

Things to do, places to go:

If you're in Appleton on Thursday evening (August 28th), I'll be creating a ruckus at the public library at 6:30 pm. (A 'ruckus' just sounds more exciting than 'reading and discussion,' doesn't it?) Friday I'll be posting my final blog entry over at the Debs. I may get all sappy, so bring your tissues.

Monday, August 25, 2008


Saturday evening we attended J's high school reunion. I met many interesting and friendly people. When I thought about it later, I realized that I hadn't met one woman who was not a mother or stepmother. (At least it seemed that way--it's possible I met one or two in passing who simply didn't reveal their parent or non-parent status to me.)

The next day, I went to my friend Fee's baby shower. She and her husband are adopting a beautiful little boy, and the highlight of the day was watching video footage of their first moments with him at the orphanage in Siberia. Their son is just a doll, and it was obvious how overjoyed they both were to meet him and finally spend time with him after months and months of waiting. There was barely a dry eye in the room while we watched Fee hold her son for the first time, and with a keen sense of comic timing for which I adore her, she narrated what happened in the next scene: "Oh, I'm not there at that point because I got really bad diarrhea. There wasn't any toilet paper in the bathroom so I had to wipe with face blotting papers, and then the toilet didn't flush."

(Her new son already fits in perfectly--in addition to the words "Mom" and "Pop," one of his favorite words is "Toot!")

This Saturday I'm attending my nephew's first birthday party, and already I'm hoping the week blasts by just so I can see him again and smell his soft baby head (which is already getting that Big-Boy-On-the-Go scent).

I've been on the fence about having kids for a long time, mostly because I wanted to push my book-baby (a miracle I've been waiting a lifetime for) out into the world first. And now that it's out, and I'm almost finished with the next book, what was once the quiet ticking of a tiny, temperamental wristwatch has evolved into the regular tocking of a very reliable clock on the wall.

Of my five other college friends in attendance at yesterday's baby shower, only two already had children; the rest of us were kind of whispering together about it, trying to gauge the plan for us 'late bloomers.' Solutions we discussed included the freezing of eggs, employing our younger sisters as surrogates, and well, that's about as far as we got because there were lots of adorable distracting babies at the shower who kept scooting up to our shoes and staring up at us: You want one of me, don't you?

Yes, but I also like sleeping 'til nine on a Monday morning and watching Bob Saget specials on HBO any time of the day.

To be continued, I'm sure ...

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Think of These Nuggets as Bits on a Kabob

Tonight I checked my voicemail messages, and the second message went something like this: "Hello, can I please speak to Miss Rileeee.....oh." *error discovered, fade out, and CLICK* I love when telemarketers punk themselves.
You know what always creeped me out? The way Daniel Tiger wore a small gold wristwatch on Mister Rogers Neighborhood. A tiger has no business wearing a wristwatch. Toe rings, either.
I'm on the home stretch of my next novel--in the zone again, and I'm loving it. So this is just fair warning to anyone I will be socializing with in the next month and a half. I have a pen, I have scraps of paper in my purse, and if you say anything remotely amusing, poignant, or interesting in the next few weeks, I'll probably be writing it down to put in the book.
It's been an off year for monarch ranching. We've released as many as 15 so far, but there have been two chrysalis that did nothing, and another poor little dude who malfunctioned during the precarious transformation between caterpillar and chrysalis. It's amazing to me that I don't have more two-headed butterflies or insect tongues that don't roll out or what have you, given how complex and speedy the process is.
Daisy escaped for the first time tonight, and nearly got into a dog fight on the corner. Luckily, we got her under control and quickly carried her back in the house. She is now grounded from use of the car for three weeks. I'd take her cell phone away too, but that just seems a little extreme.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Today on the GCC: The Fabulous Ellen Meister

I'm pleased to present Ellen Meister, featured author on the GCC tour today. Her new novel, The Smart One, was just released by HarperCollins on August 5th. About the book:

Beverly Bloomrosen has always been the smart one, the middle sister sandwiched between Clare, the beautiful and popular older one, and Joey, the rebellious rock-star younger one. But she’s hit a bit of a slump lately. Now 35, she’s embarking on a new career as an elementary school teacher and not exactly living up to her family’s expectations (“Maybe she can work her way up and eventually teach high school. That wouldn’t be so bad,” her mother helpfully comments). Bev has moved back into her parents' home on Long Island while waiting to see if a job opportunity in Las Vegas materializes, seeing it as her chance to start afresh…but before she knows it, life back at home starts to get very interesting.

Kenny Waxman, Bev’s childhood neighbor—and the boy who almost became her high school boyfriend until she found him in bed with Joey—returns. Now a successful comedy writer in Los Angeles, he can still make her heart pound…and the attraction is still mutual.

Things take a turn for the sinister when a pregnant woman’s body is found in an industrial drum buried in the Waxmans’ backyard. As Bev and her sisters begin to unravel some mysteries of the past, some secrets of the present are revealed: Bev learns that the perfect Clare may not be as perfect as her glamorous, well-coiffed suburban life may suggest, while rebellious Joey is still attempting to exorcise some of the demons that have haunted her for years. In the end, the curse of being the smart one may just turn out to be a blessing.

About the author: Ellen Meister grew up in the heartland of suburban Long Island. She spent her early career in advertising and marketing, and later worked as editor for a literary magazine and published numerous short stories. Her first novel was Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTA (Morrow/Avon, 2006). Meister lives in New York with her husband and three children. To find out more, visit her website at

Jane Green called the novel, "Wonderfully funny, irreverent and entirely unexpected. " Booklist dubbed it "the perfect beach read," and Library Journal described it as, "Character-driven ... fast-paced and features great dialog." And Ellen herself piqued my interest with her answers to my GCC questionnaire (I particularly loved her answer to #5):

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

So little has changed in my writing routine ... or my life! Though before I was a published author I drove a green minivan. Now I drive a red one.

2) Do you listen to music while you write?

I need quiet. I guess I'm too easily distracted.

3) Have you found that as you've developed your writing and story telling skills, you watch movies or read books 'differently?'

Yes! It seems like very book is a learning experience for me, even if it's not something I particularly like. There's always some gem of discovery that helps me become a better writer.

Of course, the downside is that a lot of storytelling becomes transparent and that can detract a bit from enjoyment. It's the old "if there's a gun on the mantle in act one, it will go off by act three." Writers notice the gun on the mantle in every scene, even if it's obscured.

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

The one where I meet the most interesting people!

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

My new novel, THE SMART ONE, is a sister story with a plot inspired by a real life crime that happened in my home town. And while I didn't intend to use the actual facts of the case in my fictional story, I wanted a good handle on what really happened, and so I telephoned the police detective who worked on the case and had an ... uh ... interesting conversation.

In the real crime, a homeowner got ready to transfer his house to a new buyer by removing a 55-gallon industrial drum that had been in the crawl space since before he lived there. When he pried off the lid to see what was inside, he made a grisly discovery: it was a mummified body. Forensics later revealed that it was a young woman nine months pregnant, and that she'd been killed thirty years before. They identified her as worker from a factory belonging to the original homeowner, now retired and living in Florida. The police flew down to interview him, and when asked for a sample of his DNA so it could be tested against the fetus's, he refused to give it voluntarily. So the police got a warrant for the sample, but before they could serve it, the man went into his neighbor's garage and shot himself in the head.

In my phone conversation with the detective, I asked if they were able to get the DNA sample and he said, very matter-of-factly, "Oh, yeah. There was brain matter all over the floor."

I think I went mute after that.

At any rate, many facts from the actual case found their way into THE SMART ONE but I don't want to reveal any spoilers, so I won't tell you which ones!
Thanks, Ellen! I'm looking forward to reading The Smart One.
Tomorrow, thoughts on tigers, hand gestures, and more things I found in my yard.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Flashback in a Beer Tent

Last night J and I found ourselves at a good ol' Wisconsin party in a field. My hair went from sleek-n-smooth to licked-a-live-wire in sixty seconds, but other than that, we enjoyed ourselves. Because the party was called The Big Deal (how often do you go to parties with NAMES?), and it was a benefit for Big Brothers / Big Sisters. As such, there was a considerable amount of beer present. And kickball! Beer, live music, and a giant kickball tournament.

Also, have I mentioned the men in kilts? Yes, there were some of those, too.

At one point in the evening one of the party organizers hopped on stage to announce the winners of a raffle. Upon hearing the names, a disgruntled drunk in the crowded beer tent shouted, "I never win nothing!"

I couldn't help myself. In the relative quiet between his statement and the announcer's next, I pushed my sheets of Brillo Pad hair from my face and shouted, "Double negative!" I quickly slapped my hand over my word hole to keep other grammar police phrases from slipping out.

J frowned. "Honey, you're talking about drunk people in tents."

"I know! My kind of people!"

Later, when the crowd had thinned, a spontaneous wrestling match broke out in the beer tent between Some Dude and a well-known but somewhat womanizing local musician. The blond girl standing nearby watching was clearly his latest victim I MEAN GIRLFRIEND, and she was also sick. Sneezing nearly non-stop. (As one who is still suffering from an excess of mucous, I am well-versed in these symptoms and felt particularly empathetic toward her.) So, patiently she stood there, sneezing and trying to smile at her idiot boyfriend's antics. Have I mentioned he's, like, seventy? Okay, he's not that old, but he's more than slightly balding and has no business wrestling in a beer tent at a Big Brothers / Big Sisters fundraiser.

Later, I watched them leave. He didn't hug her or put an arm around her once! No gesture of concern, not even a head tilt in her direction to indicate that he may have asked, "Hey, how ya feeling?" He just walked next to her, arms swinging awkwardly like a self-absorbed boob of a monkey.

This seemed like a complete injustice to me, and I ranted about it for awhile to my patient husband while he drove home, gnawing on a piece of BBQ a friend had given him in the parking field. When we got home I ate pickles right from the jar and then went to bed, glad to be alive and relieved that I no longer dated self-absorbed monkey boys.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Tender Memories and Such

The Chinese women's gymnastics team is taking some heat about the purported age of several team members. I did catch the women's team finals, and I thought several of the girls looked around three years old.

Yes, Olympic rule-makers? Isn't it called "WOMEN'S gymnastics?" Per Olympic rules, young women must be sixteen years of age to participate. I don't know what the age of consent is in other nations, but if they want to call it WOMEN'S gymnastics, don't you think that participants should be able to vote, marry without parental consent, serve their country in the military, and/or sign a legal release form for Girls Gone Wild? (Which should really be called Women Gone Wild, if Joe Francis wants us to believe the participants are either willing or 'of age.')

Every year I pretend like I could care less about the Olympics, but then I'll watch some silly event and end up biting my nails, yelling, jumping on the couch and occasionally covering my eyes, saying, "Oh God, I just can't watch. Tell me when he nails it." I went with friends to the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, and we watched the US Men's Volleyball team get spanked by Brazil. This is only memorable to me because I got a giant black stain on the back of my white t-shirt from the damp stadium seating and had to change into an Olympic t-shirt, the only time I have ever attended an event festooned in clothing that celebrated that same event. The next day we watched men's water polo, which was much more interesting, but for other reasons...later, I drank Leinie's Berry Weis for the first time and rode on the shoulders of some Australian guy, waving the Australian flag and singing along to the live band busting out hits like "Brick House." Afterwards, as we rode the MARTA back to where we were staying, my friend Becky shouted, "Alright, whose breath smells like kitty litter?!?!"

It's the tender moments you remember, really.

Years earlier, when I was maybe eleven, I loudly declared during a family get-together as we watched the Olympics that someday, I would be a world-class swimmer. I would! I really would! Just watch me!

That worked out well for me, didn't it?

(PS: I was going to post a photo of our motley crew from 1996, but I realized I was wearing a fanny pack in NEARLY EVERY SHOT. So, sorry. No photos of me in a fanny pack will be allowed online.)
My deep gratitude to the excellent staff at Harry W. Schwartz bookstores, who hosted an amazing event for me last night. I had such a blast; thank you to everyone who came out! Plus, I got to meet some long-lost family...(hi Margaret and Morgan! You are both absolutely charming!!!)

I'm posting at The Debs tomorrow on my daily routine (how exciting should THAT be?), and if you're in Appleton, Wisconsin this Sunday the 17th, stop and see me at the Barnes and Noble from 1-3 pm. (4705 West Grande Market Drive)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

What Day is it, Anyway?

First of all, who signed me up to receive Field and Stream magazine?

Second, some occurrences: Today our neighbor pulled into his driveway with “Children of the Sun” by Billy Thorpe blasting at full volume from his speakers. Yes, I had to Google the artist. He turned his engine off, but left the key a click forward to continue to barrage his (and my) eardrums with this irritating song, which sliced through a perfectly peaceful afternoon which had, until minutes before, only contained the faint chorus of crickets and the sweet, begging chirrups of the goldfinch fledglings following their parents from tree to tree. It had been quiet in my neighborhood. A rarity, as most days are filled with sirens, motorcycles, airplanes, car alarms, broken mufflers, public domestic brawls, endless barking dogs, and the low shudder of blasts from the quarry a block away.

So his intrusion into my peaceful day pissed me off. Fully irritated, I climbed into my car to run some errands, and guess what was blasting from my own stereo, nearly at full volume?

Yep. “Children of the Sun” by Billy Thorpe. Thank you, WAPL.

I drove right to Target for the weekly financial bloodletting, and of course I had to see if my book was in. It was! One copy left. I slipped a signed book plate in the front cover and perused the rest of the books on display…no, I wasn’t lurking about, hoping to pounce on an unsuspecting customer! I know it totally looks like that, but…well, okay, maybe just a little. But I wasn’t there more than fifteen seconds, I swear. Just then an adorable young woman and her boyfriend entered the book section. “I know, but I don’t want to buy a hard cover,” I overheard her say. And you can guess what I did next.

“Hey! Looking for a good book?”

Yeah. I’m shameless like that. Later I told J and he said, “God, you’re such a nerd.”

“Why? Just because I nearly jumped in her lap and read her my book?”

“Well, that, and…many reasons, really.”

It’s important for your spouse to support you. Never forget it.

And speaking of book stuff, you probably won’t believe me (even I’m skeptical of myself at this point), but I just heard Driving Sideways is going back for a fourth printing. I know! But I’m telling the truth, really. After hearing the news I sent my editor an email: “Yay! I feel like the little engine that could!”

J’s response? “God, you’re such a nerd.”

Oh! And I’ve discovered one benefit of having a summer cold. When you take your dog to the dog park and she urinates on a bird carcass and then rolls in it? You can’t smell her on the way home! And you can’t smell her while you’re brushing her for her bath, either.

Where I’ll be Wednesday, August 13:

Harry W. Schwartz Bookstore
10976 N. Port Washington Rd.
Mequon, WI

What time? 7 pm sharp.

What for? A reading ... and stuff.

Why? Because I’m amping up the entertainment level to compete with the Olympics.

Aren’t you still sick? A little, but I’ll bring hand sanitizer before I sign your book.

And isn’t it your mom’s birthday? Yes! I’m bringing a tasteful and useful gift.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Too Much Nyquil + A Taxed System = This Post

One trip to San Francisco, two trips to meet with book clubs mere days after my return, and the price to be paid? The worst cold I have had. In my life. Ever. It's day three, and I've already blown through (literally) one entire box of tissues. I am eating crushed raw garlic, consuming more herbal teas than any human being should ever have to consume in his or her lifetime (plus any lifetimes after that), avoiding sugar and fried foods, drinking f*cking MUSHROOM BROTH (it is, indeed, as disgusting as it sounds), pounding the NyQuil, becoming intimate friends with both the Zicam and Coldeze fine family of products, and spending some quality time with myriad lozenges designed to dial the raging, raw pain in my throat down to a dull roar.

One of the lovely book clubs I met with.

Little did I know what wrath my immune system was about to release...

Dear Immune System: Yes, hello, Immune System? I would like to file a complaint in the category of "negligence." Where have you been the last week and a half?! It is AUGUST. This is not supposed to happen in the last few heavenly weeks of summer! Blowing one's nose 'til it is chapped is an activity best suited to January, in case you hadn't heard.

Dear Jess: Pot calling the kettle black much? I can't do the heavy lifting on my own, you know! Maybe a little less with the martinis and hiccups at the grand piano after a certain cocktail party and a little more time on the treadmill, a little more hydration at the end of the day?

Jess Replies: Did you not get the vitamins I choked down religiously on the trip??

Immune System: Uh, yeah. They were, like, A YEAR OLD! And try washing your hands more.

Jess: I ALWAYS WASH MY HANDS! I had something of a compulsive hand-washing thing going as a child, as a matter of fact.

Immune System: Oh, I remember that. You had the most chapped hands in your entire kindergarten class. Miss Barb even made an example out of you.

Jess: Thanks for the memories. Now please, shut your pie hole and go do your job.
I'm doing a reading and signing this Wednesday, August 13 at the Mequon location of Harry W. Schwartz Bookstores at 7 pm...if the virus continues to have its way with me, I should be nicely medicated, so it could be even more entertaining! Location: 10976 N. Port Washington Rd., Mequon, Wi.

Also, I'm still looking for entries in the Chicken Soup for the ____ Soul rejected book idea contest! You have 'til Friday to submit.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Presenting GCC Author Jackie Kessler (and some other stuff)

Today I'm pleased to present fellow GCC author Jackie Kessler, for whom I recently did one of my favorite interviews ever. Clever girl, that one! Jackie is blog-touring to promote her new novel Hotter than Hell (book 3 in the "Hell on Earth" series) and the mass market re-issue of Hell's Belles, on-sale in September. Publisher's Weekly called Hotter than Hell "Sexy and bold," and Romantic Times gave it 4.5 out of 5 stars and named it a Top Pick for August. The plot:

In HELL’S BELLES and THE ROAD TO HELL, Jackie Kessler brought readers into an unforgettable Underworld populated by alluring demons and sexy devils. Now Daunuan, the most irresistible incubus of all, is facing one Hell of a challenge...So whose soul do you have to damn to get a promotion around here? Daunuan was never the ambitious type. There's so much to love about his job just the way it is—mind-blowing sexual prowess, the power to seduce any human, excellent dental plan. But now Pan, the King of Lust, has offered to make Daun his right-hand incubus—a position other demons would give their left horn for. All he has to do is entice a soul destined for heaven into a damnable act of lust. Should take, oh, seven minutes, tops.

Then he meets his target, Virginia Reed. She’s cute. Funny. Smart. Unfathomably resistant to his charms. He can’t understand it. But Daun has centuries of seduction to his credit. He’s the best there is. Sooner or later he’ll transform this polar icecap of a female into a pool of molten desire, and every instinct tells him she’ll be worth the effort. Meanwhile, he has to deal with a plague of rogue demons Hell-bent on taking him down, sent by an unknown enemy with a serious grudge. And one other problem: the dawning realization that he’s falling in love—that unholiest of four-letter words—with the woman he’s about to doom for all eternity...

Does that not sound fun?! And on to the interview with Jackie:

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

Now there’s promotion, too, not just the writing! Happily, most of the promotion, like doing blog tours, is fun. But between the promoting, the writing, the editing, the day job, and the family, there just isn’t a lot of time left for sleep.

2) Do you listen to music while you write?

Whenever I write a club scene when Jesse is dancing, absolutely. And sometimes, to set a scene, I’ll play music for atmosphere. Very helpful.

3) Have you found that as you've developed your writing and story telling skills, you watch movies or read books 'differently?'

Dialogue tags and overall story structure. More often than not, too many tags will pull me out of the story. If there are only two people talking, you don’t have to throw in all the “he said”/“she said” tags. Related to this, non-said verbs. I’m okay with not always using “said,” but I find using too many non-said verbs in dialogue really bothers me.

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

Vacation? What’s that?

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

Huh. I guess I’m boring. I haven’t had anything strange or quirky happen to me. Well, not counting the time I went to a strip club with my Loving Husband to do research for my first novel…

Thanks, Jackie! Now that she's got your attention, be sure to visit her website at


Announcements, miscellany, and a small contest of sorts:

I'll be at Bookworld in Manitowoc, Wi (907 S. 8th St.) this Saturday, August 9 from 11 - 1, just around the corner from the Farmers' Market. Have I mentioned how well an autographed copy of Driving Sideways goes with heirloom tomatoes and a bouquet of freshly picked sunflowers and cosmos?

Also, a new Driving Sideways review! From Book Room Reviews: "I flat out loved this book! Driving Sideways is full of adventure, humor, hope and most of all love. It will make you want to grab your best friend and go for an adventure and experience this wonderful life that we have." (Swoon!) I think there's still time to enter to win a signed copy, as well...enter here.

Driving Sideways is also listed as one of Betty Confidential's Top 10 Beach Reads. (Stay tuned for details on how to win a signed copy from the awesome crew at Betty.)

Friday I'm posting about Danielle Younge-Ullman's brilliant debut Falling Under at The Debs. (For some shots of our frivolity at RWA, click here.)

I'd like to end this post with a thought on the Chicken Soup for the Soul books. They're everywhere, as you already know. And it has come to my attention recently that there is a Chicken Soup for the American Idol Soul book.

Are you f*cking KIDDING me?

Next, expect the Chicken Soup for the Athlete's Foot Soul. Or Chicken Soup for the Chicken Soup Lover's Soul. I'd like to hear your ideas for Chicken Soup books. I will send the author of my favorite idea a little token of appreciation. It probably won't be the tiny plastic arm I found in my garden.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Deplaning, decompressing, and destuffing my brain

(Or, “I Left my Fart in San Francisco.” And Wisconsin deserves it’s own popular song on the radio.)

Okay, I’m finally back home. And let me tell you—San Francisco may have at least three songs written about it (as popularized by Tony Bennett, Journey, and Scott McKenzie), but when I deplaned in Milwaukee and was hit by the smell of fried cheese wafting from the bar & grill near my gate at General Mitchell International Airport, I almost sunk to my knees and wept. And when I walked onto the tarmac to hop the teeny plane for the final flight from Milwaukee to Appleton, I actually said out loud, “Oh my God, it’s MUGGY out! And WARM! I’ve MISSED THAT!!!”

On my flight home I sat next to a very sweet and lovely woman who lives in the same city as my next book club visits; since I’m in her city two nights in a row for back-to-back meetings, she kindly invited me to stay overnight at her house so I wouldn't have to do so much driving.

And I was swept by a wave of homesickness, because only in Wisconsin will you find people who JUST MET YOU ON THE PLANE and are generous enough to invite you to actually spend the night at their home, with their family, three nights later.

(Disagree? Your state is simply lousy with generous, thoughtful residents as well? Want to give Wisconsin a run for its money? Prove me wrong, people! Share your stories of the kindness of strangers in the comments.)

Impressions from last week:

San Francisco? COLD! And dry. And redolent of auto exhaust. Also, loud. At one point, we became convinced that the fire trucks were just racing around, sirens blaring, simply to deafen the tourists. I did enjoy the snapping electrical sounds the cable cars made, though.

Fisherman’s Wharf? Skip it. I saw the same things in Wisconsin Dells: the Ducks (!!), a Ripley’s Believe it or Not ‘museum,’ endless shops full of cheesy T-shirts, irritating families in fanny packs, nacho stands, etcetera ad nauseum.

Also? San Francisco is expensive! As I sipped a martini that cost $14, it hit me: I used to routinely receive WEEKLY PAYCHECKS FROM KB TOYS in that amount. Also, I have a hard time bringing myself to spend that much on an ENTIRE BOTTLE OF WINE back home.

Posing in the downtown San Fran Borders. Joining the fantastic crowd on the autographed copy shelf...

Turning the corner to nearly step on a pigeon pecking away at a pile of orange vomit is…one of the grossest things I’ve ever seen in my entire life.

I know all kinds of juicy tidbits about some of our favorite authors’ sex lives. Get me drunk and I might share.

If you win an award, please don’t thank Jesus in your acceptance speech. Because that implies that not only did Jesus have something to do with your selection, but he gave a middle finger salute to the other contenders for that award. (And everyone dying in Darfur, rape victims, children with cancer, etc.). Also, you never see the losers blaming Jesus in the post-event interviews. For the sake of consistency, I think that should be a new rule.

Nothing is more humbling than hundreds of writers and readers approaching you at your signing table with a look that clearly says: “And, you are ….??”

Oh, maybe this is more humbling: after being approached by one pensive woman who reads the back of your book, after you enthusiastically (and probably somewhat desperately) tell her, “It’s a raunchy woman’s road trip story! It’s Thelma and Louise with a happy ending! Funny and heartwarming!”, she gives you a skeptical hairy eyeball and slowly says, “MAY-be…” and then walks away.

I’m in love with Kate Veitch’s debut novel, Without a Backwards Glance. She and Danielle Younge-Ullman (fellow Deb & author of Falling Under) read from their novels last week at Books, Inc., and I can’t recommend both books highly enough. Excellent stories, bravely and deftly written, and…uh, some pretty hot scenes, if you catch my drift. I'll be blogging about Danielle's fantastic debut at the Debs this Friday.

Look! There’s Danielle! Isn’t she beautiful?

Also, I’m thrilled to share a few more reviews of Driving Sideways...From The Internet Review of Books: "Riley deftly weaves a story about such potentially depressing topics within the framework of a funny book without being insensitive—no easy task."

And from Books and Cooks: "DRIVING SIDEWAYS is the most entertaining book I’ve read all year. I loved it! If you’re like me and you love sarcastic humor, you’d enjoy this book too. There were times that I’d laugh until I had tears in my eyes."

All I can say to that is...."Yaay!"