Friday, February 1, 2008

Home Is Where You Have the Helpful Things That Eat Things

Joshilyn here....At the end of February, I leave on tour for THE GIRL WHO STOPPED SWIMMING. I’ll be on the road for a month. I hope you will come see me if I am coming to a town near you; the best parts of the tour are getting to hang with readers and other writers and booksellers and swap stories, so come on out. We’ll have fun.

Here is the tour schedule.

If I am NOT coming to a bookstore near you, I am having a VIRTUAL SIGNING with a prize drawing for Postcard Art Quilts by award winning Canadian folk artist Pamela Allen, whose work was the inspiration for the main character’s in the book.
The virtual tour info is here, including some pics of the prizes. Whee!

Tour is an odd mix of delight and misery. It is like being on a swing, and when you swing FORWARD you are laughing and having one of the five most interesting conversations of your life with a pink cocktail in one hand and a local delicacy in the other. Unfortunately, when the swing goes BACKWARDS, it is as if it puts you directly into an enormous boiling ball of fire.

Then you swing forward again: BOOM! Paradise.
Then back: Get set on fire.

I love to go, though, because the fun parts are SO MUCH fun that there is not much in life that is funner. Still, it is a month long living metaphor for extremes. I plan to have a big time, as my granny used to say, but I know from experience I will miss all the things you would expect me to miss: my family, my own bed, a regular sleep schedule, knowing what time it is, knowing what city I am in, fitting in my pants. Last night, shivering out on the deck and imploring the dog to PEE ALREADY IT IS 30 DEGREES! PLEASE? PLEASE PEE! PLEASE? I realized that spring will happen while I am gone. So this year, I’m also going to miss the arrival of all the things that eat things.

The things that eat things are GOOD. Because we have many things that need to be eaten. The first year we lived in this house, for example, we were PLAGUED by mosquitos. This is because we have a BOG. A bog sounds like a trashy thing to have, so sometimes I prevaricate and call it THE STREAM.

“We have a stream behind our house,” I say, but truthfully, cranberries would thrive there. The water is shallow and silty and it doesn’t move much. In summer, it is chock full of newts. I don’t know what the newts eat, but they have such tiny mouths, I like to pretend they eat harmful bacteria. Then I don’t worry so much when my children go marching about in the bogwater with little nets and mason jars.

When our aquarium has no resident rodents, my kids like to catch newt larvae and raise them. We thought the first batch were tadpoles, and we kept waiting for them to turn into frogs. They just kept becoming larger, blacker tadpoles, which is pretty much what an adult newt looks like. Newt LARVAE are excellent pets because they dart about and grow bigger legs and change color. Very entertaining. Also because they don’t eat your armchairs (as my dog has done) or tear out the back of your sofa (as my wretched, wretched cats have done).

ADULT newts stop changing (and stop moving, for the most part) and they are not as interesting. But the upside is that when you tire of watching them squat under rocks thinking newtly thoughts of exactly nothing, you can dump them right in the backyard. They have speck-brains and do not register this as betrayal. If you put their rocks from the aquarium out in the bog WITH them, I am not sure they register the move at all.

That first summer, as I said, we were all eaten up with pink mosquito chew-spots made pinker with dots of calamine lotion. So I gave my husband a bat house for Christmas, and he went out to the bog with my son and they stuck it up on a pole. Our next door neighbors put one up, too, and now we have bats, and we haven’t had a mosquito problem since.

My little bats are the darling rat-faced harbingers of warm weather. I like to see their black spastic flutterings against the navy backdrop of the night sky here in Georgia. We have a lot of red tail hawks here, too, several that roost in the woods around us, and watching them fly is a completely different thing. The hawks are so PROBABLE. Their muscular wings move with such thrust and manly purpose that it is not all surprising to see them become airborne, and then they catch an updraft and angle themselves higher, prepping for a dive. They are sleek and graceful and clearly made specifically to glide exactly as they do. Bats, on the other hand, seem like an accident. They flail and spasm through the air like animated bits of upset Kleenex. It’s cheerful and silly, and best of all, they eat up the mosquitoes.

I like the hawks, too, because they are beautiful and frightening, and they eat most of the little grey field mice BEFORE they get in my house and start creeping about the kitchen licking things with their disease-y, teeny tongues. They are cute, these mice. They are the kind with the round black eyes like beads and the heads that look too big for their bodies, but I suspect them of being SOAKED in Hanta virus, and I prefer to admire their charms in an outdoor location several hundred miles from my boxed cereals.

My worthless cats, fat on Purina One, are perfectly willing to let as many mice as can squirm in run about INFECTING surfaces. The cats are too busy for micing. My sofa is not going demolish ITSELF, now is it? They can’t be troubled to eviscerate mice and leave the choicest bits on my pillow like NORMAL cats do. SO I rely on the hawks, and we’ve seen maybe four mice inside in the four years we have lived here. The cats watched with bored eyes as I caught each mouse in a Tupperware. Then I marched them so far down the Silver Comet trail to release them that they are probably STILL making their way back, all their belongings in hobo-bundles on sticks, toted over their displaced, over-anthropomorphized shoulders.

We have foxes, too, the red ones. Last spring my neighbor kept seeing the same one, up on her porch eating the dog’s kibble, but I hear they eat the troublesome mice as well. Good job, foxes.

I wish that there were things that would reliably eat a few things that are likely to show up on tour when the swing is traveling backward. I need travel newts in my pockets to eat up all the strange bacterium I will be meeting in airports. And SPEAKING of air travel! I also need perfectly enormous half-man half-bat cannibals to hang upside down under the airplane seats and pop up and gobble anyone who sits in front of me that can’t be happy unless they recline their seat all the way back.

And on every tour, you get that stop where…no one comes. The booksellers shoot you pitying glances as you sit gamely at your little table. People rush past you trying desperately to avoid meeting your eyes as if you have a big sign around your neck that says, I HAVE LEPROSY! AND I WANT TO KISS YOU! At that point, I need red tail hawks to swoop down and pick me up and fly me fast out the door and deposit me kindly at the closest bar. If ONLY tour was more like my backyard, chock full of helpful things that eat things. That would be perfect!

Bestselling novelist Joshilyn Jackson lives in Powder Springs, Georgia with her husband, their two kids, a hound dog, four gerbils, a twenty-two pound, one-eyed Main Coon cat named Franz Schubert and a small auxiliary cat named Boggart. She wishes their neighborhood was zoned for goats. Both her SIBA award winning first novel, gods in Alabama, and her Georgia Author of the Year Award winning second novel, Between, Georgia, were chosen as the #1 BookSense picks for the month of their release, making Jackson the first author in BookSense history to have Number 1 picks in consecutive years. Her third novel, The Girl Who Stopped Swimming, releases on March 4th. You can visit her on the web at


whimseycreations said...

Oh Joshilyn, you have me laughing out loud here. No bog in my backyard - we have dust storms instead from the paths the dogs have made through it - but just as many mosquitoes. We put up a bat box too and see them flying during the summer but they evidently don't think it is posh enough to actually live in it! LOL
Good luck on your tour - hope to see you at one of the Atlanta book signings (and I may even bring you a glittery sign saying "I DON'T have leprosy and I DON'T want to kiss you!" for your table. LOL

Roxanne said...

I am heartbroken that HOUSTON is not on your list of places to tour as it IS southern, although the Texans only consider it to be. . .well. . .Texan. But I just saw the release date of TGWSS and realized it is a mere month and 3 days away. I will BLOCK OUT March 4th. Let the reading commence.

Fran said...

We got your poster for the shop today! It is lovely and wonderful, as are you, and we can't wait to meet you!

Heather said...

NOT "bog"..."wetlands". "We have wetlands behind our house." Makes you sound as if you installed them on purpose to help the environment, and that all manner of exotic flora and fauna exist there rather than just newts and bats. ;)

Loved the post!! Living in downtown Atlanta, I'm happy for the falcons that nest on the big buildings and devour the mice and nasty rats!! The mice are darling, but the last one we had invaded my PIANO and ate my CHOCOLATE! The NERVE! That was the point when the "mouse safe" trap had to go and I began playing hardball.