Friday, November 28, 2008

GCC Presents: Jessica Brody

Today I'm pleased as punch (how pleased can punch be, you ask? Plenty, I reply!) to present Jessica Brody, author of The Fidelity Files (St. Martin's Press, June 2008). Jess interviewed me for her other site (Free Book Friday) about a month ago, and is just an absolute sweetheart.

About the Book: The Fidelity Files (Jessica's debut novel) hit the Denver Post bestseller list as the number two bestselling paperback in Colorado last June. Now she’s aiming her sites at the global book market with a recent release in the UK and upcoming releases in France, Germany, the Czech Republic, Russia and Taiwan.

The provocative novel strikes a sensitive chord in readers, telling the story of a charismatic, young woman who goes undercover as a “fidelity inspector” to test men’s loyalty.

Jessica recently flew to London to promote the November release of the book’s UK edition (published by Random House UK) which debuted in WhSmith’s (one of the country’s leading booksellers) top 100 bestselling paperbacks list. The title continues to sell across the pond, gearing up to outperform even the American release.

The Fidelity Files confronts the thorny issue of infidelity head-on with its controversial main character Jennifer Hunter. Operating under the code name “Ashlyn,” Jennifer leads a double life. Her friends and family all think she’s an investment banker who’s too busy to date. In reality, Jennifer is hired by suspicious wives and girlfriends to test the faithfulness of their partners. Her job has made her pretty cynical about her own love life. But just as she’s ready to swear off men forever, Jennifer meets sexy, sophisticated Jamie Richards, a man who might just pass her fidelity test. However, before she retires her secret agent self forever, she takes on one last assignment – a job which will permanently alter her perceptions of trust, honesty, and love.

A gripping story of one woman’s quest to come to terms with her past, find her future, and—most of all—rediscover her faith in love, THE FIDELITY FILES was chosen as one of USA Today’s hottest summer reads and has recently been optioned for television. St. Martin’s Press and Random House UK have already purchased the sequel (yet untitled) to be published in the fall of 2009 and Jessica has recently sold two young adult novels to Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
Juicy! Congrats on your successes, Jessica...Well-deserved. She graciously provided a peek at her behind-the-scenes habits below:

1) Now that you are published, what (if anything) have you changed about your writing routine?
I hate to say it, but I tend to procrastinate a lot more now than I ever did before I got published. I think there’s something about that desperation for a book deal that keeps you on track. Now, I just find so many other things to do. It’s really bad! In terms of actual writing, I think I’ve definitely grown as a writer since I got published and I’m learning to trust my instincts more when it comes to what is working and what isn’t. I used to fight that voice inside that says, “This scene really sucks,” convinced that I wasn’t experienced to know what I was talking about. Now, when I hear that voice, I listen and start pounding on that delete key.
2) Do you listen to music while you write?
I am so envious of people who listen to music while they write. Something about that just feels so poetic and wonderful. For me, on the other hand, it had to be absolutely silent otherwise I get all flustered. Plus, whenever I listen to music, I tend to really focus on the lyrics and the meaning behind the songwriter’s message, so clearly you could see how this would interfere with my ability to form a sentence. In fact, I tried to turn on music when I set out to complete this interview, but that idea went out the window pretty quickly.
3) Have you found that as you've developed your writing and story telling skills, you watch movies or read books 'differently?'
Oh my gosh, DEFINITELY! I am the worst person to watch a movie or television with. Just ask my boyfriend. I sit there and tear things apart. Especially story development. And I’ve found that I have a certain knack for completing character’s sentences when we watch TV. I guess when you write dialogue for a living, you start to get a sense of where other writers are going with their dialogue. I’m sure it’s terribly annoying. I’m actually surprised my boyfriend is still with me.
4) What vacation would be most inspiring to you as a writer?
Well, I’ve always wanted to rent a house on the beach in Hawaii and write there. There’s something very glamorous and romantic about writing on the beach. Although, I have to say, if I did have the funds to be able to pull that off, I doubt I’d get much writing done!
5) What is one of your strangest / most quirky author experiences?
Hmm…this is a tough one. The only thing I can think of is how I tend to be psychic when it comes to knowing when my agent is going to call. She claims I have a sixth sense about that. Like I’ll send her an e-mail inquiring about the status of something just as she’s receiving a phone call with news. It’s really weird. She calls it psychic, I call it desperate writer syndrome.
Thanks, Jessica! Her award-winning book trailer follows:

I'll be back on Monday night, after I've recovered from Thanksgiving a bit.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Shopping and First Snow

First, a spot of good news: I saw the first copy of Driving Sideways that included my AUTHOR PHOTO in the back! And here I thought they forgot. Aw, gee. Now I'm all warm and fuzzy. (Or is it the booze?)

This weekend I spent some time shopping, which reminded me that sometimes, despite the crowds and germs and lines and other irritating hindrances, in-person shopping can be preferable to online. How else would I have seen the woman--despite the 25 degree temperature--in short shorts and high heels at Fleet Farm? And how else would I have seen the woman in fur, crimped hair, heeled clogs and baggy gray sweatpants at Target? And finally, I would have missed such a delightful exchange between a forty-something woman and her eighty-something male companion (her father perhaps?) in line to check-out at Festival Foods. As they loaded their purchases onto the conveyor belt, she turned to him and said, "How are you at sacking?"

He was wearing a hearing aid, and the store was quite loud, so you can't blame him for saying, "What?"

"How are you at sacking?" she repeated.

He looked puzzled. "What?"

"SACKING," she said again, patiently but loudly. "How are you at SACKING?" This time, she accompanied her question with some awkward hand gestures.

He appeared to get it. "Oh. BAGGING."

Now here's what I'm wondering. Who refers to this process as sacking? The guy at the end of the line is not called the "Sack Boy." (Although don't you kind of wish he was?) The guy at the end of the line, the one carelessly tossing pineapples and gallons of milk on top of your eggs, is called a "Bag Boy." Because you BAG your groceries. You do not SACK them. You can sack a quarterback, but you can't sack a can of Spam.

This is the rule.

Also, look what we woke up to this morning:

It's all very lovely, but my back muscles are already bracing for the shoveling. Also, my potted sage and thyme had been eking out the final days of their lives near the garage, but now it looks like curtains for my herbs for the season. So I'll have to return to Festival for a sack of sage before Wednesday.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

GCC Presents: Saralee Rosenberg

First, about my last post? I'm not referencing a FUNNY event, rest assured. And I probably will disclose everything here in a month or two, depending. Now, let me move on to the next GCC author in the queue, Saralee Rosenberg. I've heard lots of wonderful things about her fourth novel, Dear Neighbor, Drop Dead. And apparently, good things come in fours, because the book is now in its fourth printing!

About the book: Nora Ephron Hates Her Neck. Big Deal! Mindy Sherman hates her whole body. In Mindy's yoga-obsessed, thirty-is-the-new-wife neighborhood, every day is a battle between Dunkin' Donuts, her jaws-of-life jeans, and Beth Diamond, the self-absorbed sancti-mommy next door who looks sixteen from the back. So much for sharing the chores, the stores, and the occasional mischief to rival Wisteria Lane. It's another day, another dilemma until Beth's marriage becomes fodder on Facebook. Suddenly the Ivy League blonde needs to be "friended," and Mindy is the last mom standing. Together they take on hormones and hunger, family feuds and fidelity, and a harrowing journey that spills the truth about an unplanned pregnancy and a seventy-year old miracle that altered their fates forever. Dear Neighbor, Drop Dead is a hilarious, stirring romp over fences and defenses that begs the question, what did you do to deserve living next door to a crazy woman? Sometimes it's worth finding out.

I haven't picked this up yet, but now I'm really looking forward to it. Plus, Saralee provided some of my favorite answers thus far to a selection of GCC interview questions:

Q. What was the inspiration for your new novel?
A. Of my four novels, DEAR NEIGHBOR, DROP DEAD is the only one that was inspired by, well, me! This story is based on my first novel, ALL IN THE CARDS, which was never published, but did take a very exciting journey to Hollywood. Back in 1997, Bette Midler optioned it for a feature film (she was looking for a follow up comedy to “First Wives Club”). Exactly! Wow! First time out and it’s a homerun. Sadly, the reason you never heard of it is because ultimately, Bette and her partner couldn’t get financing or find the right screenwriter to adapt it. Bye bye Bette... Now fast forward to a few years ago. My novels, A LITTLE HELP FROM ABOVE, CLAIRE VOYANT and FATE & MS. FORTUNE had done very well but were about single women looking for love in all the wrong places. I wanted to write about my “peeps” in the suburbs and pitched my editor on letting me rewrite ALL IN THE CARDS. She was hesitant because she wasn’t sure Avon was the right publisher for a suburban/soccer mom story with bickering neighbors. Then came “Desperate Housewives” and suddenly it was, get me suburban/soccer mom stories with bickering neighbors. Timing is everything.... So although DEAR NEIGHBOR is an incarnation of my earliest novel, it is a much richer, deeper, funnier story and is resonating with readers of all ages.

Q. When you got that first phone call announcing you had sold a novel, how did you react? How did you celebrate?
A. Phew. You can’t imagine the relief. I had given up a successful career writing non-fiction, which had sent me on two national book tours, including an appearance on Oprah (heaven!!!!), only to have my writing life come to a screeching halt when I switched to working on a novel. It took me three years to write A LITTLE HELP FROM ABOVE, another year to find an agent, and the agent a year and a half to make the sale to Lyssa Keusch at Avon. In theory, the sale should have been one of the greatest events of my life, if not for the timing. I got word that the deal was done exactly two days after 9-11, and because I live in the New York area, the grief and shock was all I or anyone could think about. I let family and friends know, of course, but run out and buy diamonds or book a cruise? Didn’t happen. And interestingly enough, all of my book celebrations since then have been, not subdued as much as put in perspective. I’m sure that my joy and satisfaction will always be tempered with the memory that life is so full of yin and yang. And maybe that’s for the best.

Q. Do you put friends in books? Have any of them recognized themselves?
A. I get asked all the time by family and friends to be in one of my novels, but I tend not to go there unless they’re willing to buy several dozen books in appreciation for being immortalized (if Girl Scout Moms can bribe, so can I). Once I did give in and named a character after a friend, only to describe the character as a philandering shoplifter. She was horrified and wanted to know how I knew? I didn’t know, I made it up, but boy did that make things interesting afterwards... Also, my husband’s business partner had been prodding me for years, to which I would say that a character who sold insurance, played golf and visited his grandkids in Florida would not exactly be memorable. But finally, in Dear Neighbor, to get him to stop bugging me, I did name a minor character Steven Hoffman. I made him a lawyer in Portland, and it really made Steve’s day... then he asked why he wasn’t a major character and could I feature him again in the next book? Men!!!!

Q. If Oprah invited you on her show, what would the theme of that show be?
A. Sigh. I’ve actually had the distinct privilege of appearing on Oprah to discuss my non-fiction book, 50 FABULOUS PLACES TO RAISE A FAMILY, and I gotta tell you, it was awesome. She was soooo nice and I and my husband/co-author were treated like royalty. We got the limousine, the fancy hotel, the nice dinner out, hair and make-up and a souvenir coffee cup that still sits on my desk as a pen holder. And Steadman was there, too (he smelled so good!) Would I love to be a guest again? Are you kidding me? It would be a dream come true to be invited back as a best selling novelist. In fact, I had a dream scene in DEAR NEIGHBOR, DROP DEAD that involved my character Mindy being on the show to talk about what it was like to live next door to Beth, the bitch. It had to be cut because of space limitations, but trust me, Oprah is always on my mind. Nobody sells a book like her.
Q. What is one of your strangest/most quirky author experiences?
A. My first three novels are a trilogy in that they all deal with the super natural. All of my main characters have funny and intriguing encounters with the other side, the after life, and/or a ghost. But never did I expect that I would personally have a strange encounter with the spirit world while I was hard at work. And yet... I had been writing my debut novel, A LITTLE HELP FROM ABOVE over a three year period, and as you can imagine, was very very tired. All I wanted to do was cross the finish line, have a good cry and eat a box of Mallomars... One night, I was working on the final pages and was so bleary eyed I convinced myself that the ending was terrible but maybe my editor wouldn’t notice, or would say to me, no, this is great, don’t change a word. But just as I was fixing the last page, we had a power outage and the whole house went dark. It was so strange. There was no storm, no reason to lose power. But when the lights came back on a minute later, I had lost the latest version of the ending. It literally disappeared and I freaked out and cried. How could this happen? On a whim I called my neighbors to see if their power had gone out but it turned out ours was the only house that did... Clearly it was a sign from above. The next morning I started over on the ending, and when I finished, it was so much better, so much more rewarding. This time I cried from joy. I had finished and it was great.
Thanks, Saralee! Who was on Oprah..................swoon.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Fine ShArt of Blogging with Boundaries

Once again, I find myself wanting to blog about something very personal, but I CAN NOT because I have very stupidly been writing a PUBLIC BLOG for the past three years. (At first I typed "Yars," like a pirate, but all that Somali pirate shit isn't FUNNY. You need eye patches and peg legs and striped hankies tied around your bald heads for that.)

So because this is a public blog, and the people who control my paycheck and the seating arrangements at family holiday gatherings read this, I must censor myself, which stinks worse than the shared bathroom on the third floor of my office building. I can't tell you when I'm really ticked about something (unless it's innocuous, like ridiculously imcompetent waiters or how my hair looked like a giant owl pellet at an important event). Nor can I tell you certain hilarious things that happen in my day-to-day because I might end up divorced and penniless, sleeping at my parents' place on a cot under a blanket knit from cat hair.

I recently told a book club I met with (see how I dropped that in there, all nonchalant, like I'm cool?) about an embarrassing event I once wanted to blog about because I found it disturbingly hilarious, and based on their semi-horrified responses, I'm glad I didn't write about that one. So sometimes the censorship ends up being a good thing. For everyone, really.

Anyway, I am experiencing something right now that is the emotional equivalent of enema by nailgun: painful, mildly humiliating, and quite possibly my own damn fault. I may end up telling you about this in the weeks and months to come. I may end up starting a new, completely anonymous blog. I may end up doing nothing at all but eating a bag of Sun Chips in front of a Big Love marathon.

I'm going to pilates tonight, and I really hope someone rips one during class.

When I'm in a mood,
It'll take something crude
For a new attitude.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

GCC Presents: Kelly Parra

I don't know how it happened, but I got way behind in my author guest-touring commitments.* So today I am presenting Kelly Parra, now promoting her second novel, Invisible Touch.

About the book: Kara Martinez has been trying to be "normal" ever since the accident that took her father's life when she was eleven. She's buried the caliente side of her Mexican heritage with her father and tried to be the girl her rigid mother wants her to be. Not even Danielle, her best friend at Valdez High, has seen the real Kara. Because Kara has a gift -- one that often feels like a curse. She sees signs, visions that are clues to a person's fate, if she can put together the pieces of the puzzle in time. So far, she's been able to solve the clues and avert disaster for those she's been warned about -- until she sees the flash of a gun on a fellow classmate, and the stakes are raised higher than ever before. Kara does her best to follow the signs, but it's her heart that wanders into new territory when she falls for a mysterious guy from the wrong side of town, taking her closer to answers she may not be able to handle. Will her forbidden romance help her solve the deadly puzzle before it's too late...or lead her even further into danger?

And now for the author Q&A with Kelly:

1) Now that you are published, what (if anything) have you changed about your writing routine?
I used to write whenever I felt like it. There would be weeks when I wouldn't write at all. Now I can't go more than a day before I itch to write or the current WIP is calling to me.

2) Do you listen to music while you write?
Funniest thing, I never used to. Silence was fine with me, until I got my iPod and was able to make playlists that I enjoy. Now my music can really set the mood I need for a particular scene.

3) Have you found that as you've developed your writing skills, you watch movies or read books 'differently?'
I used to be able to watch a movie and just enjoy it! Now I babble to my husband about ordinary world, conflict, and journey. LOL. He just nods his head and tunes me out. Books, I can still manage to lose myself in, but every once in a while I'm nitpicking a choice for a description or how I would have wrote a scene. I annoy myself.

4) What vacation would be most inspiring to you as a writer?
Actually, just the outdoors inspire me. I'm closed off to the world so often that I lose connection to my basic sensory of vision, scents, and touch. I can get inspired by going to the beach and taking the atmosphere in.

5) What is one of your strangest / most quirky author experiences?
I'm not sure, but overall I think readers or some people I've come in contact with have a strange perception of authors. That maybe we're eccentric or moody. I'm just a regular gal and sometimes people are shocked by that. :) Thank you for having me on your blog, Jess!
Doesn't Kelly sound like a real sweetheart? Best wishes with the book!

I am returning to pilates class tomorrow after a six month hiatus, so I'll report back late Thursday night. (I'm sure to pull or bruise something.)

*I suspect this is because I am LAY-ZEE.

Monday, November 17, 2008

My New Health Kick

There have been a few things going on lately that are frustratingly beyond my control, so I have retreated to my usual chaos-inspired attempt to regain control in my life: a health kick. You might be thinking, what are you, f*cking crazy? You are a VEGETARIAN! Your colon probably greets every day with song and dance!

Oh, how wrong you would be. So after spending a delightful day with my sister and 14 month-old nephew (dear GOD is he cute....of course, I forgot my camera), we stopped at the Outpost Co-Op and I stizzocked-the hell up. When the checker rang up the total I had to do a double-take, but you don't expect my health kick to include red wine made WITH sulfites and pesticide-laden grapes, do you?

Anyway, some of the healthy items in my cart included: kefir, omega-3 capsules, Tofurkey, brown basmati rice, dried cranberries, "perfect protein salad" and "Thai peanut pasta," baby spinach, two kinds of dark chocolate (one with lavender and blueberries), two containers of organic soup (cuban black bean bisque and sweet potato), almond milk, a homemade granola bar, and some other healthy shit I can't remember right now.

All of these grand efforts probably mean I'll still contract some horrid debilitating disease (related to stress, no doubt) and die before the rest of you, but at least I'll have fun torturing my husband while I'm still here.

Why, here's an example: on Thursday I made some garlic-bean and spinach chowder for dinner. We made the mistake of watching the Food Network while we ate (which is akin to watching you-know-what while doing you-know-what), and unfortunately, Paula's "Deep Fried Thanksgiving" was on, featuring a parade of deep fried meats on sticks, deep fried veggies, and one very rotund Walter Payton (as helper, I assume). At one point, his low-fat/high-fiber soup balanced pitifully on his lap, J turned to me with giant Precious Moments eyes and whimpered, "Can we change the channel please?"

Now, I'm not vegan (because Wisconsin might revoke my state citizenship if I gave up dairy), but I just discovered a new blog that has me salivating: Post Punk Kitchen Blog. The shot of those savory tomato rosemary scones has me reconsidering my ban on scones-as-gifts for the coming holiday season.

Family and friends, consider yourselves warned.

EDIT: thanks to Manic Mom and J, who just informed me that Walter Payton is DEAD. It was actually Refrigerator Perry. Who will probably die soon too, after consuming all those deep-fried meats on sticks.

Oh, the humanity.

Friday, November 14, 2008

A Winner and An Offier

Hey, Pumpkin Pie! You guessed closest to the grand total in the Price is Right Piggy Bank Signed Book Giveaway Contest, at $92.44. The actual total was $100.07, which shocked the hell out of me. So Pumpkin, to claim your prize, shoot me an email at jess(at), and be sure to tell me your address and who I'm signing the book for.

I had been dreading the actual discovery of how much money those piggy banks contained, because they had no stoppers in the bottom, and I'd have to break them with a hammer to get the coins out. So I devised a very inefficient method of busting each bank with a hammer in an open gallon-size bag, sifting the coins with a slotted spoon to get rid of the thousands of tiny glass shards, and finally depositing them in another bag. I unwisely did this on my kitchen counter, getting bits of glass and glass dust all over the place. So if I die of intestinal bleeding this weekend, it's because glass dust found its way into my mac and cheese.

After I stopped at the bank with my sack-o-coins, I went to the post office to mail a box of 18 signed books to someone. I was hoping to use the reduced media rate, so I told the woman at the counter that my package was full of books. "Anything else in there?" she asked, surprising me.

I thought for a minute. A small sheet of bubble wrap and a handwritten note, which I included almost as an afterthought. "Um, just a card?" I added.

"Oh, then you can't use the media rate," the postal worker said smugly, applying the higher shipping cost.

The next time I mail books anywhere? There will be no handwritten notes accompanying them. *wink wink nudge nudge*

A final note: for anyone having trouble finding Driving Sideways in bookstores, I'm sad to say this is probably going to be more common than not...we have already sold 80% of all copies in print (Thank you Thank you Thank you!!!!), leaving about 5,000 copies in bookstores or warehouses nationwide. Typically, books have a 3-month shelf life at stores after their release; after that point (unless a title is selling really well), bookstores will start shipping books back to the publisher, because they have to make room for new books. I heard that there are something like 17,000 new books published EVERY DAY in the U.S., so if this figure is remotely close to the truth, you see what bookstores have to contend with. (Authors as well--you tend to feel an obscene amount of pressure to load all of your publicity activities into the first three months of your book's release, because you know the clock's ticking.)

Some major bookstore chains will continue to carry one or two copies of a particular book if it sold relatively well, and re-orders are driven by sales data.

SO. If you are looking for a copy of Driving Sideways to give to someone for the holidays, your best bet is to order online, or ask your local bookstore to order it for you. And if you want that copy signed, email me: I can either send you a signed adhesive bookplate, or you can send me your copy of the book plus a self-addressed, stamped return envelope and I'd be happy to sign the book itself and pop it back in the mail for you.

Have a fanfreakingtastic weekend....Cheerio!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Hey Economy!

Quit being such a dick!

Here's what I will do to prepare for hard economic times:

1) Learn to make my own yogurt and cheese. Hey, it could happen!
2) Grow more of my own food. This is already happening, with mixed results. Despite a hard frost a few nights ago, tonight I picked some fresh sage leaves to toss with my pumpkin gnocchi, walnuts, and maple/brown sugar/butter sauce. (Yes, it was delish. We had roasted brussel sprouts as the side, and I'm still stuffed.)
3) Downsize. The next step down for us is 'Large Box.'
4) Telecommute to work more. This will not only save on gas, but also on personal hygiene products.
5) Watch more YouTube videos of puppies playing, to cheer myself up. Daisy sat on my lap and watched a few with me tonight, growling and punching the screen with her nose.
6) Think of happier times. Last night as I was falling asleep an old babysitter of mine suddenly popped into my head. Her name was Vicki, and she had a son my age. He and I would watch GI Joe, Jem and the Holograms, and Scooby Doo while playing with Hot Wheels cars. I was always the black Trans-Am, and I constantly tried to get his car to go on dates with mine.

I remember Vicki bought products from Shaklee and Avon and Amway and the Schwann's man. She had a mini-trampoline in the living room, and I would dance on it to The Pointer Sisters' "I'm So Excited" and Eddie Rabbit's "I Love a Rainy Night" while Vicki watched The People's Court.

Can you believe nobody punched me in the face during this phase of my life?

Oh! I almost forgot: I was also a compulsive hand-washer during these years. I didn't know it, but I was trying to pre-emptively wash away years of bad taste in music.

7) Stop buying shit I don't need. Unfortunately, the nearest Target is only about a mile from my house, so this is not likely to happen.

What are your penny-pinching hints?

PS: Speaking of pennies, you still have 'til midnight on Thursday to enter the Price is Right Piggy Bank Signed Book Giveaway Contest. (You can enter in comments for this post, or scroll down and comment there. I'll check 'em all.)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Something to Do on Tuesday, plus a Contest!

This weekend I was invited to do a signing at my first 'trade show' type event, and overall, it went well. The strangest thing was that 40% of the books I sold were to people with kidney transplants (or loved ones with kidney disease), which became a bit unsettling after awhile. Forty-percent! What are the odds of that???

Most shoppers were very friendly, many had bangs sprayed into angles and dizzying heights not seen since the late eighties, and one woman in particular will be memorable to me for a long time, and not because of her Extra Large, Extra Pouffy hair:

"Oh, I love to read!" she gushed. "I read everything."

She picked up a copy of Driving Sideways and began to read the back cover.

"What are you reading now?" I asked.

"She Who Laughs Last. It's really inspirational, such a good Christian book. So moving, so inspiring."

Just as she said that, it was as if I could hear a distant countdown to the point where she'd reach the line about the swingers in my jacket copy and carefully back away from the potty mouth before her.

Ten...nine...eight....AAAAAAND we have contact!

She looked up at me and smiled. She blinked. "Well good luck to you," she said softly, and drifted off to visit the swingers-free zone at the nearby Mary Kay table.

J spent most of the day in the sports bar attached to the banquet facility, watching college football and drinking beer. Thank God for that, because he would have probably withered and died in the presence of so much estrogen had there been no ready masculine escape hatch.

Speaking of J, I gave in yesterday on the Pile of Change Stand-Off. It was day seven, and that pile of filthy pennies may have been the catalyst to a day-long cleaning frenzy the likes of which our house has never seen. I vacuumed the walls and ceilings. I scrubbed behind the toilets. I married half-empty bottles of lotion. I watered plants, put away laundry, packed Halloween decor into boxes, and organized a pile of bills that was beginning to growl at me whenever I walked past. (I didn't pay them, but their overall appearance on my kitchen table is much improved.)

Hey! What are you doing Tuesday night? I'll be at the West Bend Community Memorial Library for a chat and reading at 6:30 pm. It's Veteran's Day, so if you are a vet (or in a relationship with one), go get your free dinner at Applebee's and come down to see me afterwards. And thank you for your service to the country! If you're not a vet, you won't be getting anything in the mail tomorrow, so why not spend the time you would normally dedicate to tearing up credit card offers or flipping through the Money Saver at the end of the work day with me instead?

PS: The filthy pennies are now in this gallon-size Ziploc bag, next to two completely full piggy banks. I will be taking the piggies and the baggie to the bank on Thursday. Want to guess how much all of this comes to? The person who comes closest will win a signed copy of Driving Sideways. For you, or I'd be happy to personalize it so you can give it to someone else as a gift. You have 'til midnight on Thursday to enter!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Resistance to Change

J has off this week, so of course my inner dictator came out. When I got home tonight, it appeared that my house-minion had only achieved half my plan towards world domination: the living room was vacuumed and the dishes were done, but I was greeted at the door with, "Hey, what's for dinner? Are you hungry? And just look how clean the kitchen is!"

I gave the room a cursory inspection. "I see that pile of pennies is still on the kitchen table."


"Are you leaving that for me to clean up?"

"But I voted for that change! That's change I can believe in!"

I had to hand it to him. It was cute. "I'm so going to blog about that."

"No, you're not."

"Yes I am! I don't have any good blog stuff to put up."

"Why don't you write about how poopy you feel again?"

"Will you get my camera so I can take a picture of that pile of pennies for the blog?"


So there you have it. My cold is back, which is screwing with my creativity (aka "making me feel poopy") because a conversation about a pile of pennies on the kitchen table actually seemed amusing enough to blog about. I also had a lovely and mildly interesting conversation with our office cleaning lady Dorothy Salter, who is 86, constantly perplexed by foolish people in her life, and probably in better health than me. Apparently, another woman in the city was also named Dorothy Salter, and she recently died. Unfortunately, some of OUR Dorothy's acquaintances got confused by the obituary and began to spread the news that our Dorothy was the one who passed.

"Yah," Dorothy shouted at me today, "This neighbor lady sez to me, 'I thought you were dead! They said you died a month or so ago!" She shook her head and dropped her voice. "She sent me a Christmas card this week. I think she's losing it. Not so right in the head." The conversation then abrubtly segued to a pear tree she planted with an unknown accomplice many moons ago, and the fact that it bore very hard fruit this year, a dozen or so of which she gave to our office. (Click on Dorothy's name for an adorable photo of her. She was recently featured by the local paper, and is horribly embarrassed by all the attention.)

Tomorrow I'll be speaking with a local businesswomen's networking group, followed by a meeting with this lovely woman's book club, and on Saturday I'll be at the Suamico Ale House all day hawking my wares. And by hawking my wares, I mean selling that book with the feet on the cover. Mr. Riley will be my lackey for the day. Isn't that nice of him? And I didn't even tell him about the Pancake and Porky breakfast in the morning!!

PS: For a real post, Malena Lott invited me to guest-blog about "la dolce vita" at Athena's Bookshelf this week to help celebrate the launch of her new novel Dating da Vinci. (I'm the one wearing green on hump day, blabbering on about George Bailey and David Sedaris.) Congrats, Malena!!

PPS: The pile of change is still on the table. Let's see how long it stays there, shall we? It is now day three.

Monday, November 03, 2008

It? Has been Busy

Hello there! Do you hear that dragging noise? That's my ass! In the last week, I met with two book clubs, gave presentations to roughly 60 college freshmen in three classes, attended two work meetings, carved three pumpkins, handed out candy to 66 trick-or-treaters, enjoyed a night out with 10 other women (one of whom was subjected to an incredibly humiliating birthday treatment at a local Mexican restaurant), and along with 140 other people, attended a baptism party for my friend L's son. Unfortunately, we didn't all fit in one vehicle.

I was half an hour late for the Tuesday night book club meeting because I got Horror Movie Lost due to the fact that my Mapquest directions were butt-cobbled together by blind, insidious elves and I am an idiot who did not remember to ask for my host's phone number. Luckily, just as the light was fading from the sky, I finally found the address, and the attendees were simply gracious and wonderful. We had an absolute blast despite my tardiness and my sweaty pits and the slightly-crazed look in my eye from driving around and around like a maniac looking for the correct turn.

I know I promised some Halloween-related photos last week; they're a little late, but Daisy insisted I show the world what a mean dog mom I can be.

The only way Daisy will let you brush her or pick dingleberries from her bum or put her spider Halloween hat on is if you lift her up onto the washing machine. This way, her mobility is completely dependent on you, the human. So is her dignity.
Two of our jack o'lanterns. Yes, we cheated and used patterns. Eight years ago I actually designed three original carving patterns. Do you know how much work that was? It was a nutty amount of work. Absolutely nutty.
The cartoony version of Vlad. Hey, is anyone watching HBO's True Blood? Did anyone else laugh hysterically after last night's episode like I did? (So ... Sam is a ... COLLIE?!?!)
Daisy, without her spider costume but with some of her dignity restored.

Daisy and I would like to wish everyone a Happy Election Day on Tuesday...I still remember my mom taking me into the voting booth with her when I was a kid--it felt like we were going into a curtained phone booth to turn into superheroes. I vaguely recall that she let me push a few of the buttons for her (we were probably the only family in our county to vote for Carter back in 1980), and now that I think about it, I may have been so enamored with the whole process that I 'played voting' with my Barbies afterwards. God only knows what THAT entailed.
So vote on November 4 (if you haven't already ... and don't forget to pee first and maybe pack a snack, in case the lines are long). Also, it's NaNoWriMo: National Novel Writing Month. Butt-in-chair, five to ten pages a day, and you'll have a novel by December first. Or, at the very least, a series of frustrated journal entries with chapters titled "What should I write about today?" (week one) or "BlahblahfartstinknothinginspiringpoopwhydidIdothistomyselfIhatewriting!" (week three). Have fun!