A Letter to the Editor

Local Window Display (photo: Vintage Fairytale)

For the most part, I love where I live.

My home is a 1930s Craftsman bungalow in a small town located deep within the mountains of North Carolina. We have four gorgeous seasons, organic farmers markets, insanely huge numbers of Trick-or-Treaters, and the Blue Ridge Parkway. Even better, we're next-door neighbors to Asheville, "The Paris of the South," one of America's most thriving cities for the arts.

Asheville bursts with art deco architecture, street musicians, art galleries, funky coffee shops, community theaters, street festivals, ballet troupes, cupcake bakeries, fire-eaters, vintage clothing boutiques, independent cinema, and mouth-watering restaurants that take pride in using fresh, local ingredients.

Like I said, I love where I live.

For the most part.

Because once a week, my small town (NOT the city of Asheville) publishes a newspaper. And, once a week, my small town is subjected to editorials such as the following.

(I am not making this up. The following literary abuses -- ALL OF THEM -- are the work of the newspaper's editor alone. I'm only omitting names to provide him with a titchy cushion of anonymity. Which, after last week's nasty editorial about the inauguration, I am not entirely sure he deserves.)

To get the full effect, please read this carefully. Even better, read it aloud! And remember: this was written by the editor.

: Does everything change?

As a student at [X] High School the preferred music of choice was Rock-n-Roll and I fell right into a lot of what people were listening to back in the late 70s and early 80s.

However, my best friend in high school was a Country music fan. Not much of what was currently playing but more of the stuff from the 50s and 60s. I listen when I was ride in his vehicle and was not much swayed by what I heard. Just as he was not swayed when he rode in my vehicle.

Now more than 20 years later, what was deemed Rock back then is now Country and I enjoy a lot of what country music produces this days and none hardly any of what the Rock genre produces.

So what's changed? In my opinion, the entire music scene.

What was Country is no more, what was Rock is now Country and the stuff is now called Rock, well...and guess I'll have to chalk up to the generation gap.

One constant I have notice in Country music is that their still sing about life, love, living in the country, and the highs and lows that come with it. I guess that's what draws me to a lot of the tunes. It's music that I can relate to and enjoy listening.

I guess with time we all change with time, all except my high friend. As far as I know, he's still listening to the stuff he listen in high school. I guess that's make another constant.


Seriously. WHAT? My mind boggles. BOGGLES!!! Where does one even begin? How about the fact that when read aloud it's practically a Mad Lib?

"I listen when I was ride in his vehicle"
"none hardly any"
"One constant I have notice in Country music is that their still sing"

And the last paragraph! Did you catch that two of the three sentences start with the phrase I guess?

"I guess that's make another constant."
"I guess with time we all change with time" (?!?!?!)

And I love the bit with his "high friend." Who would that be? Cheech or Chong? Clearly this is begging for a letter to the editor. Jarrod thinks it should be written in a similar style. Here is his suggestion:

I read your article about the Rock-n-Roll how its the Country now and how its changed with my Friend. I think it was so good and to point this out impact! I lot of the friends I was high with also now relate to it. When I was outside my grandparents house, then in the car. I will appreciate the insightful insight you provide to me about today and how it has changed yesterday.

I lot of the friends I was high with also now relate to it.

Tee hee! My husband is so clever.

What would you say to this editor?


Fantasy Train Rides and Reading Nonfiction

Today I feel like a fussy child.

I am exhausted and cranky, and I could burst into tears at any given moment.

I spent my workday pretending I was elsewhere, alternating between my Darjeeling Limited fantasy (a current favorite) -- where I'm taking a long train ride across India, stopping for spice markets and desert shrines and marigold chains -- and my home fantasy, where I'm wrapped in a cozy blanket with a cup of jasmine pearl tea, and I'm just . . . closing my eyes.

Just for a minute. Or two.

But then I'd be interrupted by some library patron asking where are the badminton books and my daughter needs to learn the Nicaraguan national anthem and will you please show me how to move all of these pictures of battleships onto my flash drive?

I mean . . . HONESTLY.

It's like they think I'm sitting behind the circulation desk to help them. HA!

(Wait. That IS why I'm there? NO! Oh, man. This is really going to cut into my daydreaming time.)

So you know the story. I'm deep in late night revisions again, but -- they're going really well right now! And I confess: I'm in love. I want to give my novel a naughty back rub and bathe it in goat milk. I want to take it on a gondola ride, sing Shakespearean sonnets to it in falsetto, and propose to it with a scandalously large pink diamond.

It's just that other job that's suffering. You know. The one that pays.

But I'm enjoying restructuring the confusing bits, expanding the happy bits, and axing the lame bits. (WRITING TIP: If you have to ask, "Is that line cheesy?" then the answer is most assuredly yes. Delete the sucker.) My characters -- who I LOVE, who I MISSED -- are strutting and chatting and lounging around in my mind's front display window again.


My body still needs some time to adjust to the whole sleep-deprivation thing. This past week it's given me all sorts of strange fits and stops and wails of agony. ("Nooooo! Please tell me we're not doing this again!")

Sorry, body. We totally are.

And my sweet husband is taking even more of the brunt. Once again, Jarrod has become the Head Cook, Head Cleaner, Head Launderer, and Head Dog-Walker. He is also the Head Mocha Latte-maker.

The suit doesn't lie.

Making mocha lattes is Jarrod's most important job. Because without my nightly fix, my brain shrinks into a crusty hard rock and hangs up a sign that says, "Closed. Wake me when you decide to go to the movies. That Waltz With Bashir looks pretty sweet."

(And yes. Mocha lattes! The way I see it, if I'm going to drink coffee, it might as well taste like dessert.)

So, once again, I've given up my favorite things to make room for writing. Friends, films, television, and yes . . . novels. Of course, that doesn't mean I'm not reading anything.

I'm reading nonfiction!

Fascinating stuff, but it won't keep me glued to the page in a what's-going-to-happen-next panic, the way a novel would. ("OH MY GOD! I THINK THAT HITLER GUY IS ABOUT TO START A WAR!!!")

I've got two great ones on my nightstand: Eat Me: The Food and Philosophy of Kenny Shopsin and Prince of Stories: The Many Worlds of Neil Gaiman.

Eat Me is the strangest cookbook I've ever read, made all the stranger by the fact that it's the ONLY cookbook I've ever read cover-to-cover! If you aren't familiar with him, Shopsin is a NYC restaurant owner famous for being difficult and curmudgeonly. Every day, he kicks out customers from his shop, and he has very strict rules (no parties greater than four, one meal per person minimum) that must be obeyed.

He also has a nine hundred item long menu. Nine HUNDRED!

The book is smart. Hilarious. And incredibly profane. There were soooo many parts I wish I could share with you -- lines that made me burst out laughing -- but, alas, I try to keep things clean-ish here. But you can still get the idea from this:

"Anybody who is tempted to question my use of frozen pancake batter might want to stop and think about what pancakes really are. They are flour and milk drowned in butter and some form of sugar. They're crap. As far as food value, you might as well take Crisco, whip it up with powdered sugar, and spread it on your face."

(There's also a documentary about him!)

I loved learning how he taught himself to cook, how his restaurant began, and how he deconstructs classic dishes to turn them into something that makes HIM happy.

There are also lots of weird pictures of stuff he bought on eBay.

And, of course, the recipes. Great recipes. If you consider yourself a foodie -- and if you aren't offended by obscenities -- then this is required reading.

Prince of Stories is one I've been browsing. Very cool, but for hardcore Gaiman fans only. It's a nice (and HUGE) breakdown of his work, and it's stuffed with interesting quotes and interviews, not only with him but also with his frequent collaborators, like Dave McKean and Charles Vess.

Neil Gaiman, by the way, JUST WON THE FREAKING NEWBERY!


This is the sort of news that restores my faith in humanity. The Graveyard Book is brilliant -- basically it's The Jungle Book set in a graveyard -- and it was one of my favorites last year. Which you probably already know, because I talk about it a lot. Which you would definitely know if I had posted my Best Books of 2008 list.

(Which I will! Soon-ish!)

Neil is so talented that I want to climb inside his books and snack on his delicious, crunchy little words. And The Graveyard Book is clever and funny and beautiful and creepy -- the rare kind of story that's enjoyed equally by children and adults. If you've never read him, now is a good time to start.

Incidentally, now is also a good time for bed, and for another train ride through India.

I'll meet you by the spice merchant's stall. I'm the one with the orange shoes.


League of Authors Misapplying Energy

Are you an author? Would you rather dust under the fridge, scrub the shower, or trim your neighbor's toenails before writing? Are you reading this blog because you're avoiding your novel?

WELL. Do I have a deal for YOU!

Laini Taylor and I are proud to invite you to join our club, the League of Authors Misapplying Energy (L.A.M.E.). Just swipe the above seal for your blog, spiral notebook, or bicycle seat, and you're in!

It's that easy!!!!!!!!!!

We won't even charge you four easy payments of $19.99 (does not include shipping and handling). L.A.M.E. is FREE!


Perhaps you've already heard her tell the story. But if you haven't, allow me to fill you in. A few weeks ago, Laini sent me this email:

I haven't gotten any writing done today and now I am just sitting on the couch reading Ten Cents a Dance. I'm so lame.


Now, I'm sure the proper response should have been something supportive like:


But this is what I wrote instead:

Dear Lame-O,

Congratulations! After reviewing your application, we've decided that you're just the kind of person the League of Authors Misapplying Energy (L.A.M.E.) is looking for! Enclosed you'll find: the L.A.M.E. starter guide, an official L.A.M.E. membership card, and a L.A.M.E. badge to pin to your lapel (or pajamas, if you are M.E. and haven't gotten dressed today).

We are thrilled to welcome you to our ranks, and if you have any questions -- any at all! -- please do not hesitate to contact me. Though I might be M.E., such as watching a pop culture countdown or preparing a bubble bath, so it may take awhile to hear back from me.

Congratulations again, Lame-O, and welcome to the club!


Stephanie Perkins
L.A.M.E. President

Luckily, not only is Laini excellent at M.E., she is also fabulously fun. Because later that day, SHE MADE A SEAL. So we're official and everything!

And we would totally hold monthly meetings and invite you to them, but we've got better things to do. Like vacuuming our dogs and feeding our plastic cacti.

Not writing. Heavens no.


So just in case you hadn't noticed, this post is double-y lame. Because not only did I mean to post this weeks ago (see how talented at M.E. I am?), but here I am talking about avoiding writing . . . while actually avoiding my writing.

Ha! I am not the president of L.A.M.E. for nothing.

Here's how I've been misapplying energy this week:

(A) I cleaned the mail and random papers off the dining room table.

These were mainly novel-related papers, cryptic messages written at odd hours of the night that said things like, "BLUE FEDORA @ END OF THAT ONE SCENE" and "MAYBE HE SHOULD LIKE RHINOS."

(B) I re-dirtied the dining room table.

Mainly with new messages like, "GET TO WORK!" and "NO MORE SLACKING!"

(C) I saw
Slumdog Millionaire again.

In my defense, Chris Martin hadn't seen it yet. And since Jarrod and I are rooting for it to win Best Picture at our annual Cheese and Chocolate Fondue Oscar Party (I'm actually telling the truth there), we thought he needed to see it.

So, yes! If you were wondering, things are going GREAT with Chris. No major hangups so far. The only awkward moment was last night at Slumdog, when Chris accidentally knocked over Jarrod's bucket of popcorn.

That Chris! He's all elbows.

Helpful elbow demonstration.

Jarrod was a little annoyed, but Chris promised to bake him a batch of peanut butter brownies this weekend. And Jarrod LOVES peanut butter.

All was forgiven.

I guess the only other issue we've had so far has been with Thom Yorke, one of my other boyfriends. As Laini and Jim helpfully (and simultaneously) pointed out the other day in my comments, Chris is sorta in love with Thom.

But Thom isn't exactly in love with Chris.

In fact, I got this semi-snippy email not long after the 4:30 am attempted break in:

To: stephssecretemail@popculturewhore.com

From: thisisnotthom@radiohead.com

Subject: no no no

i had a surprise visit from chris yesterday.
he says hes moving to nc.
confirm or deny
this really messes up our plans re: this april

ok now im going to eat eggs.


But I'm not too worried. He'll come around once he tastes the brownies.


Birth (of child) + Rebirth (of a novel)

I'm an aunt!!

And perhaps I am a tad biased, maybe, but judging from this picture, I am reasonably confident that my nephew has the world's most perfect hands. Like, someday these puppies will be on dishwashing soap commercials.

So yes! A nephew! Which is exciting, because now I can keep calling him Jack Jack, and I don't have to change it to something like Jill Jill.

Because that would be ridiculous.

Baby and mama are both well, from what I hear. These things can be difficult to judge over the phone, especially when mama is sleep-deprived and exhausted from recent expulsion of a foreign object the size of a watermelon. I'll confirm their health in person next month, when Jarrod and I visit.

For now, I am relying on outside sources.

And for any of you out there thinking, "Blah blah blah, whatever, babies are born every day, Angelina popped out another one two hours ago," please understand my excitement: My sister was my only hope for becoming an aunt. My husband is an only child and my sister is my only sibling, so my aunthood was ALL UP TO HER.

Way to go, Sis! Thanks for this.

(Because I know you totally did it for me.)

In all seriousness, I am very, very proud of my sister. She'll be an AMAZING mother. And I can't wait to meet Jack Jack.

(Jack Jack)

Who really does have perfect hands. Just like his mommy.

In other news . . . it's that time again!

I warned you it would happen. Remember that thing I was obsessed with last autumn? That thing I COULDN'T STOP TALKING ABOUT? What was it called again? Oh yeah.


I, Stephanie Perkins, am revising again. Please prepare yourselves for the following:

(A) Obsessing.

(B) Crazy talk.

(C) Pointless comparisons between celebrities and writing.

These are things I am Very Accomplished at. You can usually find all three in each blog entry! It's like Where's Waldo, but with fewer wizards and missing shoes.

Honestly, I'm thrilled to be revising again. I'm back on that schedule of three or four hours of sleep per day (less than three last night!) until further notice. Which is both terrifying and oddly gratifying.

In a semi-sick way, I've missed it -- those crazy midnight hours in which NOTHING exists in the world but me and my novel. When waking and napping hours blur, and all I think about, ALL I THINK ABOUT, is the book.

There's something special about that relationship.

(If there weren't, you'd better believe I would have quit a long time ago.)

So before this blog is taken over again by revision zombie talk, there's one last thing I'd like to do. Talk about THE NOVEL itself. Lately, I've received a few emails with the following question:

What exactly is it about?

What is it?

Now . . . this is something I am vaguely minorly paranoid and jinxy about. Sure I like talking about the writing process quite a bit. But I don't talk about the details of my book.

I just don't.

And it's not because I don't love you or because I think you're going to steal it. It's because once upon a time, say eight years ago, I had this Idea. Now this was a really, really good Idea. My first NOVEL Idea. So I started writing it.

And I kept writing.

And kept writing.

And kept writing.

And before I knew it, I'd been working on this Idea for six years and wasn't even remotely close to finishing! So just as I decided, "Okay. It's now or never. Let's buckle down and DO THIS THING" . . . it happened.

The book was published by someone else.

It's difficult to express the heartache and anguish and despair of discovering my book -- MY! BOOK! -- amongst the reviews in Booklist. The whole thing was so terrible I still don't want to talk about it. But what I will tell you is that not only was My Idea published, but, get this:

It was published THREE TIMES.

Nooooooo! (by Fabbio)


First by a no-name adult fiction author, then by a NY Times bestselling author, and finally, by a YA author.

Clearly it was not meant to be. Or, more precisely, I had fudged around this Great Idea for so long, the universe decided to send it back out into the void. The idea went up for grabs and, boy, did people grab it.

This is why I cling to my novel like dog fur on my favorite black winter coat. I am terrified -- TERRIFIED -- that somewhere out there, someone has My Idea too. And it's a race to see who can get it written and published first.

And I really, really don't want to lose again.

Interestingly enough, the swoon-worthy Neil Gaiman wrote about this very thing just the other day:

"Sometimes I think that ideas float through the atmosphere like huge squishy pumpkins, waiting for heads to drop on. I remember back in 1989 Terry Pratchett and I plotting a novel once about a serial killer who kills serial killers, and we had most of the pieces in place, and then both of us realised we'd have to actually write it, which seemed like less fun than making it up, and so we left it. I would have put him in the Serial Killer's convention in Sandman, but he just didn't fit. And I was pleased when I saw the Dexter books that that pumpkin had finally landed on the head of somebody else, who wanted to write them. Sometimes you're just lucky that the pumpkin lands on you first."

So call me jinxy, but until a contract is signed, I really don't feel like talking about it. Sort of.

I mean, I DO like to talk.

And since I was asked again -- and this time by one of my favorite new friends -- here's what I've decided to share:


(1) It is a young adult novel.

(2) Hopefully it has some funny bits.

(3) There is kissing. Of course.

(4) Most of it takes place in a foreign city. If you've been reading this blog closely, you already know what city that is. If you haven't, allow me to save you the bother of browsing my archives. It's Paris.

(5) There is an HBM. (Well, more like an HBM plus.)

Photograph by the incredible Irene Suchocki

Are you surprised? My guess = Probably not.

I look forward to the abating of my paranoia, so I can share details with you. Details such as the title! Or the plot! But in the meantime, please don't take offense. I can count on one hand how many people have read THE NOVEL, and my mother isn't even one of them.

And I really like my mom.

But in case you're still interested, one of those Five Special People -- the amazing, spectacular, hilarious, insanely talented Laini Taylor -- wrote a very, very, VERY nice post about my novel last October. And I am eternally grateful.

Now . . . off to revisions! See you in the trenches.


Oh Happy, Happy Day!

Fingers (and toes) crossed for the new administration.

I watched it with my coworkers in the library via a live Internet stream. It was lightly snowing outside. Very peaceful.

How about you?


A Boyfriend for Jane, Mice for Mr. T

(What is Jane holding? Answer at the end of this post.)

My Jane Austen action figure finally has a boyfriend!

And who is the dashing gentleman? Why yes! That is a knitted Charlie Chaplin.

(I KNOW. Let me repeat that.)

Charlie Chaplin! In knitted doll form!

Isn't he amazing? He was a gift from Deb, my favorite old movies enthusiast, and I just about keeled over and died upon opening the box. I love Chaplin. LOOOVE him! And doesn't he look handsome sitting atop my writing desk?

Jane is very happy indeed.

I always find it a wee bit sad that not many people are familiar with Chaplin's work (even though most can recognize his likeness). So, for Educational Purposes, here are three reasons why I admire Chaplin:

(1) He was the writer, star, and director of his films. This means he was in complete control, so each film is a work of art in itself. He made GORGEOUS movies.

(2) He was very, very, very funny. I once took a film history class, and I'll never forget the classroom's reaction the first time we were shown one of his movies. We were in hysterics. Many of us were crying, we were laughing so hard! The extra-cool thing is that his humor was very physical -- in the typical manner of the era -- and all of the stunts were performed BY HIM, not a stunt double.

(3) He was waaaay ahead of his time as far as women in film are concerned. He was one of the first in Hollywood to let women have lead roles and be equals in screen time. Go Charlie!

My favorite Chaplin film is City Lights, one of the sweetest, most romantic movies ever made. I HIGHLY recommend it to anyone who has never experienced the joy of silent comedy.

In it, Chaplin's tramp character meets a beautiful blind girl selling flowers on the street, and she mistakes him for someone wealthy. When he discovers an operation that can restore her eyesight, he decides to earn the money for it and sets off a series of classic Chaplin gags. I won't spoil the end, but I will say that the last scene is one of the most poignant moments in cinema history.

How cute is that rose on his lapel?

So -- returning back to my AWESOME NEW CHAPLIN DOLL -- my friend isn't just an incredible knitter. Deb also makes gourmet chocolates and specially-blended tea! Upon opening the package, Charlie was surrounded by dark chocolate sake rectangles, milk chocolate caramel turtles, and passionfruit and chai teas. YUM.

(Deb, will you please hurry up and open shop? I'm in agony here.)

And since I'm already on the subject of fabulous things my friends have made, how about this jar of mice?

Aren't they adorable? Those little ears! They're crocheted, and they were a gift from The Asheville Dilettante. Here's a picture of Mr. Tumnus attacking one of the red ones, clearly in ecstasy:

I stole one of the gray ones for myself. I'm hiding it in my desk, where Mr. T can't find it.


So if you've made it this far, and you're still wondering what Miss Austen is carrying, it's . . . a whip!

(You didn't know Jane was freaky like that, did you?)

My husband made it using a toothpick, tape, and a rubber band, and it's one of my favorite gifts EVER. Last August, when the zombies attacked, he gave it to me so that whenever I was angry or frustrated with my novel, I could whip it back into submission. HA HA HA!

I totally use it, by the way. It makes a very satisfying snap against my laptop's screen.


Have a great MLK Day tomorrow, everyone! Cheers to this remarkable man.

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."


Losing My Head

I don't know why these exist, but I am SO HAPPY they do. Marie Antoinette! Head Pops!

Goodness. Something very strange has happened to me.

I seem to be speechless.

I mean, obviously, I'm not totally speechless. It's kind of hard to shut me up. I just have SO MANY EXCITING things happening right now that my brain is whizzing and fizzing and farting, and I can't think straight.

But of course I can still think in lists. I am Very Good at thinking in lists.

(A) I HAVE AN AGENT!!!!!!!!!

Because I'm not sure if you'd heard yet. HA.

(B) My sister is giving birth, like, any second now.

So all day long I've been going, "Is that the phone?? WHERE'S THE PHONE???"

(C) Someone may have tried to break into my house last night.

I KNOW! This one took me by surprise too. But around 4:30 am, there was someone on my front porch. The noise woke me up -- slow, quiet footsteps to my front door, a five to ten second pause, and then slow, quiet footsteps away. And then the sound of a car door handle. (For some reason, I didn't hear the actual car, just the sound of a door being opened.)


All of this was very distinct and my heart was racing, but in my exhaustion, I convinced myself it wasn't a big deal. I thought perhaps it was one of my friends, because we all keep weird hours (I had, in fact, only gone to bed forty-five minutes earlier). And then in a moment of SHAMEFUL VAIN NARCISSISM, I thought, "Maybe someone left me a congratulations card!"

Um, no.

No card. And a few quick emails revealed there were no early morning visits from friends, either.

So the question remains: WHO THE HECK WAS ON MY PORCH AT 4:30 IN THE MORNING?????????

I'm kicking myself for not waking Jarrod. We called the cops today -- we live in a teeny town, and they have nothing better to do -- and obviously there was nothing they could do THEN, but they're keeping an eye on things now. Because like I said. They have nothing better to do here.

Which is why it's so disconcerting there was a STRANGER on my PORCH at FOUR THIRTY IN THE MORNING! Here! In Mayberry!

The cop we spoke with.

So I'm trying not to think about this as a stranger-danger situation. Because it wasn't, right? RIGHT?

In fact, I'm convinced this was the most likely situation:


You know, this just isn't working for me anymore.

I KNEW IT! You're leaving me! You been talking to Stephanie again, haven't you?!

Yes. And we're in love. And her husband is totally okay with it, and I'm moving in with them. Tonight.

GWYNETH: Does she know?

CHRIS: No. I think it'd be better if I surprised her. If I leave you right now -- which I am totally going to do -- I think I'll make it to North Carolina by about, oh, 4:30 in the morning.

GWYNETH: ( ... )

CHRIS: See ya, sucka! Tell Apple I love her.


A taxi pulls up to an adorable mountain bungalow. CHRIS MARTIN steps out and creeps to the front door.

CHRIS: (whispering) Bollocks! I forgot the ring! I'd better go back to London to get it.

Chris kisses hand, places fingers gently across STEPHANIE'S front door.

CHRIS: (whispering) I'll see you tomorrow, my love.

Chris sneaks away into the night. He does not leave a congratulations-on-your-new-agent card. Stephanie wakes up.

STEPHANIE: (groggily) What was that???


And I know all of this must be true, because this picture was taken today:

Chris, in London, happy because he's coming back to NC tonight


I. Have. NEWS.

Okay. So I know there are more mature, respectable ways of announcing this. But mature and respectable?

That's not how I roll.

I should PROBABLY say something like, "I am pleased to announce that today I accepted an offer of representation from Kate Schafer Testerman."

And then I'd play you a midi recording of Pachelbel's Canon in D, and we'd all pseudo-shake hands, and you'd toast me with a glass of virtual bubbly.






I. Stephanie Perkins. HAVE AN AGENT!


An agent! And ME!



Pardon me while I jump up and down on your feet and scream loudly in your ear.

(AHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!! Stomp stomp stomp.)

Mind if I give you a hug? Because I am TOTALLY hugging everyone today.


What about a unicorn and a rainbow? Would you be opposed to a picture of a unicorn and a rainbow? Because this is TOTALLY the kind of occasion that deserves a unicorn and a rainbow.

I am SO that unicorn. Look how awesome I am! Look how all the forest creatures love me!!!

And you know WHY they love me?????

I HAVE AN AGENT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(Okay. Maybe they just want my magical horn. I've heard it's great for weight loss and natural male enhancement.)


Yes! The rumors are true! The rumors that I just started! Today I accepted representation from the super-cool, super-smart, super-fun Kate Schafer Testerman, aka Daphne Unfeasible, of kt literary.

And I'm so happy that I'm babbling and talking about natural male enhancement when I REALLY want to be running down the street in my pajamas and a hot pink feather boa, screaming at the top of my lungs, and causing all the neighborhood dogs to bark in glorious symphony.

Because Kate is that awesome.

And I'll tell you more later, but I'm going back to my celebrations. Which basically means I'm going to bed, because I stayed up until 3 am last night working on the NEW NOVEL and then tonight I ate my weight in fancy French cuisine.

So I'll leave you with one more picture. Because the only thing better than fireworks and unicorns?

Oh yeah.

A Hot British Man. (It's been too long, hasn't it?)

(The HBM wishes to congratulate Mindi Scott who ALSO accepted an agent's representation today! YAY MINDI!)


Sunday Scribblings: Organic

Photograph by Batram

She sprang from the earth like a mushroom. When we found her, she was dirty, naked, and with a cap of fire red hair. Everything below her torso remained inside the forest floor, and she was twisting and tugging like madwoman, struggling to free the rest of her body from its grasp. Her skin was moon pale, and I confess my older brother and I stood mouths agape for more than a moment, hypnotized by the sight of her bare breasts.

Heinrich was the first to snap from our trance. He approached her cautiously, as if she were a fox snared in a trap, but the anguish in her eyes was only to be pitied.

“Tuck your arms underneath that armpit,” he said, taking charge of the situation, as he always did. She stopped fighting, as if she could understand us. I think she could. “I’ll take this one, and together we’ll pull on the count of three.”

I did as I was told, blushing as I slid my arm underneath hers, careful not to brush it against her chest. She smelled of the woods. We bent our knees and dug our boots into the ground.

Eins . . . zwei . . . drei!”

We heaved with all our might, and the young woman pushed up. Her muscles strained and tightened. We pulled harder, and at last she broke free with a muddy plop. I gasped in relief as she collapsed. Her long toes twitched and spasmed.

Meine Dame.” I reached out to touch her shoulder, but then drew back, hesitant at such a personal gesture. “Are you well?”

Heinrich glared at me for my dumb question. I shrugged at him, embarrassed.

The lady’s spine arched sharply as she began coughing. These were terrible coughs, strangled and violent and choked, and I was frightened by the sound but my brother jumped forward to pound on her back.

The gesture was unnecessary.

Black dirt spewed from her mouth like a geyser. Gummy earthworms and leaf mould and tiny jagged rocks shot against the tree trunks, sprayed across Heinrich’s face. I tripped backwards in horror and stumbled over a fallen branch.

That’s how I cut my hands, you see, when I fell.


That's all I have today, but obviously the story isn't over. I like the idea of turning this into some sort of horror romance fairy tale hybrid. If only minutes were hours, and I had more time.

But, alas, the NEW NOVEL calls.

This was Sunday Scribblings #145, Organic. Hope you all have a lovely Sunday!


The Best Films of 2008: Part Two -- Great Films

Sheesh. I shoulda posted this days ago.

In my defense, I'm an excellent procrastinator. Like, a black belt. And I'd TOTALLY take pictures of the belt to prove it to you, if only I had the energy to put it on.

But, I swear, I've been really busy!

For instance -- instead of working on the NEW NOVEL -- I've been watching season one of The Tudors (costumes to die for), the last episodes of True Blood (How wicked-great is that snuff film intro?), and re-reading Forever Princess. (Thank you, Lexi, for the heads up that it was released early! I got it last weekend and inhaled it in one giddy, glorious sitting. And then cried when it was over. But in a good way.)

See? See how busy I am? I mean, these are all Very Important Things.

Because someday my dream of being a contestant on a pop culture trivia game show might come true, and the hundred-thousand dollar question will be something like, "On HBO'S True Blood, what is the name of the restaurant that Sookie Stackhouse works at?"

And I'll be so thankful when I know the answer.

Anyway, I'll post more about the NEW NOVEL -- and the avoidance of the NEW NOVEL -- later. Because right now, it's time to present last year's . . .


In 2008, there were six films that stood above the others. Six films that I'd happily watch again. Six films that made me feel wow.

#6: Iron Man

Me thinks it's a shame how since The Dark Knight, so many people have forgotten how AWESOME Iron Man is. It's more solid as a whole than Knight -- it doesn't fall apart when you pick at the plot -- and it was by far and away my favorite comics movie of the year.

This, by the way, came as a Big Fat Surprise. I'd heard good things, of course, but I just kept picturing some over-the-top blow-em-up robot thing (my comics knowledge is above average but sadly waaaaaay below true nerd status).

And then I saw it and realized what a gross misunderstanding that was.

Because Iron Man ROCKS. It's intelligent and funny -- but not in the cheesy way so many comics adaptations fall prey to -- and enormously well-acted. I'd spend the next few paragraphs raving about Robert Downey Jr., but it's not necessary. EVERYONE knows how amazing he is now.

Plus . . . the love story. You had to know this was coming, right? I mean, this is me, and I require love stories like drag queens require glittery eyelashes. And compared to the dooooomed love of every other comics movie this year (and last year's Spider-Man 3, which I'm still mad about), how cute were Tony Stark and Pepper Potts?

SO cute.

#5: Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

This was my most recent addition to the list. All year long, Miss Pettigrew hovered on the good/great edge, but what finally tipped it into the winning balance was this: I couldn't stop thinking about it. Nearly a year later, and it STILL made me smile. So a few weeks ago, I watched it again to see how it held up. The result?

Just as great.

It's certainly one of the year's most overlooked films. What could have been a generic romantic comedy was elevated to something much more, thanks to the clever script (with depth) and the fantastic cast (Amy Adams! Frances McDormand! Shirley Henderson! And . . . well, I'll get to him).

I really love this movie, and its old-fashioned sensibility. And it's beautiful. The costumes, the setting, the cinematography -- any ONE of these would make it worth viewing.

And . . . yes. This was my introduction to Lee Pace. Who is so dream dream dreamy that every time he appeared on screen, my friend and I held our armrests just a little tighter. Who is so dream dream dreamy, I am breaking my own rule of One-Picture-Per-Movie to post this:

Happy sigh. The chemistry between him and Amy Adams (so cute! love her!) was the best all year.

#4: Let the Right One In

Twilight may have been fun, but Let the Right One In was the year's BEST vampire movie. Actually, I can't recall a better one.


This Swedish film is chilling and gorgeous and perfect. It's a deliciously creepy, well-paced horror story that works on subtlety rather than gore or torture-porn. In the true vampire tradition, it's about loneliness and isolation, and the overall tone is icy. (Everyone I know leaves the theater feeling COLD.)

The cinematography is stunning. Not only is every camera shot worthy of being a still, it does one of my favorite things -- it sticks to a color palate. Everything is white and ice blue and chocolate brown and orange.

It kinda made me want to knit a hat.

(But that could have been just because of the COLD!)

#3: Milk

Milk was last year's most important film.

Now, usually this title carries with it a sense of weariness. Important Films often equal Boring, right? But Jarrod and I were curious, and since we're both passionate supporters of gay rights, we wanted to see it in the theater.

Boy, am I glad we did.

Milk is NOT boring. Not by a long shot. In fact, I don't remember being so riveted all year. The pacing is perfect, the blending of new film and original footage is seamless, and the message -- yes, it isn't shy about its message -- is the kind that makes you want to jump to your feet and cheer at the top of your lungs.

And the acting? Yeah, just when I was wondering if Sean Penn wasn't a weensy bit overrated. Snort.

He was phenomenal. It wasn't Sean Penn onscreen. Really. I believed he was Harvey Milk. He was completely transformed, and if there's any justice in the world, that Best Actor Academy Award is HIS.

And it wasn't just Penn. James Franco! Emile Hirsch! Diego Luna! Josh Brolin! Everyone was mesmerizing.

But the MOST amazing thing was how despite the inevitable sad ending, I left the film with an incredible sense of hope. It's impossible not to see the connection between the Milk-era Prop 6 and the current Prop 8 (indeed, the film definitely wants you to see the connection), and it left me knowing that despite its passing last November, it has NO LONG-TERM CHANCE of remaining.


And thank goodness for that.

#2: Priceless

Another fantastic overlooked film. Audrey Tautou -- love her! -- plays a very bad girl in this French throwback to 1930s romantic comedies. Compared to most modern romances, this one positively seethes with cynicism, but oddly enough, it's this breath of fresh air that makes it actually MORE romantic than a Hollywood production.

Go figure.

If you haven't heard of it, it's (basically) about a gold digger and the man who falls for her. But the script has so many twists and turns -- there were several places where it COULD have taken a traditional route and instead shot off in the completely opposite direction -- that I don't want to spoil them for you here.

Plus, it's funny. Really funny.

And romantic.

And just generally excellent the whole way through.

#1: Slumdog Millionaire

Of course this was my top choice! I've raved about Danny Boyle (aka, Director Supreme of My Universe, my all-time number one most favoritest A++ director everrrrr) enough here that you all saw this coming. And this marks the second year in a row he's topped my favorite films list.

He's pretty awesome, no?

If you haven't seen Slumdog yet, PLEASE run to your closest indie theater and bask in its glory. It's the kind of film that has everything -- drama, humor, action, romance -- and it's all backed by an incredible energy. It's a MOVIE, for goodness sake, the kind of movie that LOVES being a movie and tap dances its way all the way through to the credits.

(Actually, it literally dances through the credits. And when it arrives there, you'll be dancing too. When I saw this at the Asheville Film Festival last November, the audience gave it not one but two thunderous rounds of applause.)

And it could have been such a depressing film. I mean, the slums of India trigger all kinds of alarms. But Boyle balances the bad with the good, the hopeless with the hopeful, and comes out gloriously on top of cinema. The soundtrack throbs and the screen pulses and my heart raced.

I LOVE this movie.

I LOVE Danny Boyle.

And I can't WAIT to see what he does next.


The Best Films of 2008: Part One -- Really Good Movies

Last year was rough for cinema. Sure, every film I saw was GOOD -- this is when I'm thankful I'm not a film critic, and therefore was never subjected to Meet the Spartans, Made of Honor, or Disaster Movie -- but, unlike last year, there were few that stood out as GREAT.

So this time, I'm dividing my "Best Of" list into two parts: Really Good Movies and Great Films.

(Because otherwise this post would be short and drain me of something I really enjoy doing -- droning endlessly about film. I'm a Cinema Geek. I can't help it.)

And a side note before I begin: I've heard fab things from multiple trustworthies about The Fall, RocknRolla, Doubt, WALL-E, and In Bruges. I hope to see these soon, but that's why they aren't on my lists!

Really Good Movies

Presented to you in alphabetical order. Because I am a librarian.

The Bank Job: My husband loves heist movies, and this overlooked film (How long was it in the theater, one week? Two?) was excellent. Smart, stylish . . . and a true story, too.

Be Kind Rewind: A quiet, cheerful celebration of cinema. Mos Def was great, and I always enjoy the wondrous, handmade sets and props built by director Michel Gondry.

The Duchess: Was this the ONLY costume drama this year? Hollywood, you're killing me. Anyway. A lovely, powerful film that made me thankful to be a woman living in this century. Stellar acting by Ralph Fiennes (as always) and Keira Knightley (she was the first to move me to tears this year). Plus, ya know, fabulous, drool-worthy costumes.

Ghost Town: Calling all Ricky Gervais fans! Did you know he was in a movie this year? Sadly, most people didn't. This was a funny, romantic film with an old-fashioned, Frank Capra feel.

Happy-Go-Lucky: Another good one not many people heard about. A British film about an optimistic teacher, played the bubbly-but-not-too-bubbly Sally Hawkins (known to Austen fans as Anne from the new Persuasion). Colorful plastic jewelry, a sweet romance, and a fantastic performance by Eddie Marsan as an absolutely mad driving instructor.

Hellboy II: The Golden Army: Does Guillermo del Toro have class or what? His films are gorgeous. My only concern is that they're starting to blend. His style is so distinctive -- the skinny monsters with webby hands, the golden scrollwork, the little ticking Cronos devices -- that I worry I might grow weary if he doesn't shake things up soon. But for now . . . love him.

Pineapple Express: Okay. I'll admit it. James Franco's stoner performance was my VERY favorite this year. I was shocked and thrilled when he got the Golden Globe nomination! Until this movie, I thought he was just the guy from Spider-man who overacted every time he played a scene against Tobey Maguire. Anyway, despite the fact that I'm not (nor have I ever been) a stoner, Pineapple -- and especially Franco -- made me laugh. Hard. Often.

Synecdoche, New York: This was soooo close to making my Great Films list. It's brilliant, but in the end it's missing one little thing to keep it from completely working (and I'd have to see it again to pinpoint exactly WHAT). Fantastic script and definitely worth seeing if you're up for a challenge.

Tropic Thunder: Worth the admission price for the "trailers" alone. Thank you, Jack Black, for giving Eddie Murphy such a deserving bitch-slap. Plus, ya know, Robert Downey Jr. He's so talented the mind BOGGLES.

Honorable Mention: The Dark Knight. Yes. It's very entertaining. And I don't want to step on anyone's toes here, because so many people are passionate about it, but the ultimate issue I had -- what's keeping it off my lists -- is best explained by local Film Critic Extraordinaire, Ken Hanke, in this article: “Heath Ledger’s Joker is so much more alive than the rest of the movie that the movie just kind of lies there and dies there whenever he’s offscreen.”


But do I hope Heath gets the Oscar. Very very deserved.


There are six, can you guess what they are? (Psst, I'll give you a hint. Twilight isn't one of them! It was super-fun, but you know, not great cinema.)