Wednesday, February 29, 2012

My Ode to Davy Jones

I was at the library working on a new project, when I procrastinated by visiting the internet. On the Yahoo page, a breaking news banner glowed atop the screen. "Monkees' singer, Davy Jones, Dead at 66." I actually don't know if that's exactly what it said, but there I was at a library carrel covering my mouth and gasping with disbelief. My favorite band for the last 26 years has been the Monkees. Sure, I've gone through numerous musical phases: alternative, indie rock, metal, Ke$ha... But The Monkees have always remained a consistent love.

1986 was The Monkees' 20th anniversary, and they aired the show on both Channel 60, WPWR TV -Aurora (I remember that call name because I watched it so often. They switched to channel 50 at one point) and MTV. I quickly fell in love with the most obvious Monkee for a 7th grader: Davy Jones. It was a perfect time to become obsessed with the band because all of the teen magazine published pictures of the Monkees in their sixties heyday, so even though they were twenty years older than that, they looked like young possibilities to me!

The first concert I ever saw was the Monkees (with some other bands from the 60s that I could have done without) on November 2, 1986. I still remember the date and recall the event fondly every year on the anniversary.

Even in college, when I was all about Guided by Voices and trying to fall in love with all sorts of obscure, annoyingly pretentious bands, I still held onto my love for the Monkees. I saw them live in various smaller formations: Davy and Micky or Davy, Peter, and Micky, usually at a casino somewhere in Wisconsin. I remember standing in line in front of two women, not the classiest or most attractive broads, and them saying things like, "My boss knows whenever the Monkees are in town I have to have time off." "I hear Davy likes brunettes and Micky likes redheads." I was amazed, since I learned that they were indeed aging, that people still felt that physical attraction to them. No matter, I still loved them, even when Micky made old man, borderline racist jokes (kind of makes me think of Billy Crystal at the Oscars, actually). I still had my concert t-shirt from the 1986 show, with the boys' giant cartoon heads sticking out of the Monkeemobile. Where did that t-shirt go? Probably the same place my buttery soft fuschia Docs went. Alas.

Most recently, when my daughter turned two I made a list of the possibilities for the first television show I'd let her watch. The Monkees was high on that list (not that it's so appropriate for a two year-old, but it seemed like an important choice). Romy quickly became a die hard Monkees fan. I have video of her, before she turned three, singing "Daydream Believer" into our karaoke machine. She knew every word, and called out in the middle of the song, "We're the Monkees!" Every time we get in the car, she asks for a Monkees CD. Just this morning, before I found out about his death, Romy walked into preschool, as she often does, and told her teachers, "I'm Davy." I can't count how many times she has either played as Davy or asked me or Matt to be Davy.

Why was (and is) Davy my favorite Monkee? Yes, to an eleven year-old, his diminutive Britishness was adorable. But he was damn funny, too. Even as the heartthrob of the group, he didn't take himself too seriously. He was so cute and hilarious on the show, not to mention what a kickass groovy dancer he was. He sang many of my favorite Monkees songs (although, I will be honest and say Mike sings most of my favorites): "Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow)," "Let's Dance On," and, of course, "Daydream Believer." (He also sang my least favorite Monkees's song, "Valleri.") I was so fortunate to see the Monkees in concert this past summer. You can read my blog post on it here.

My one regret (finally not having to do with artwork!) is that I never met any of the Monkees. Once, as a kid, Micky was set to appear with the Monkeemobile at the Chicago Auto Show. My family made it to the show but missed Micky's time slot. I was devastated. But the next story is way worse: I went to see the musical of "Grease" when I was in college. This is, naturally, one of my favorite movies of all time (I still sometimes think I like "Grease 2" better, though), but the musical, which I've now seen twice, is far less appealing. Why did I go see it for the second time then? Because Davy Jones was playing the role of the host, Vince Fontaine. This was during college, and I went with my parents. I was all dressed up: my little black velvet dress, my hot pink tights, my men's army dress shoes (as was the fancy dress during college). Before the show started, Davy was up on the stage spinning records and kibitzing with the audience. And then they announced that people could come up and dance with Davy. It wasn't a full house yet, and I could easily have gone up. But I choked. It would have been weird, right? To dance with someone my parents' age who I loved from afar for ten years? Plus, what if I looked like a dork? So I didn't go. I kicked myself for years over that one.

Oh, Davy Jones, you will be missed. You brought and continue to bring so much happiness, laughter, and song into my life. And, just so you know, you're already my daughter's favorite Monkee, too. I made sure of that.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Finishing Books

The post title is referring to finishing books in two ways: reading and writing. Interestingly enough, I just did a little of both! I am experimenting with writing a different style of book than I usually write (which means non-YA). I love YA, both reading and writing, but sometimes it gets me down. I don't want to perpetually be stuck in a teenaged mind (nor would anyone, I hope), and with the way life has been in the last six months, I needed to take a break. This is the first book I have written without being under contract since my first novel, Get Well Soon. I am always amazed at authors who write and write and write, not knowing if their finished projects will become published works. I don't think I could be an author like that. Or, if I were, I would really have to tell myself, "You love to write, so who cares what happens with what you do write?" So far, I am not that person. Maybe some day, when I have more time than a half hour before my daughter wakes up in the morning, I can be that kind of author. That's another reason I tried writing something other than YA: right now, I can't find the two hour chunk per day I need to write a solid YA chapter. So I went younger: shorter chapters, less time needed. Still, I am even struggling to find the time for that. Like right now I am trying to type a simple blog post, and I put my daughter in front of the TV (not really in front of it, just on the couch next to me). She has interrupted me no fewer than fifteen times already. She wants me to pretend to be Mickey Mouse or give me a hug or talk about the show. I don't understand how TV is supposed to give me more time to do things because that is not how it works in my house. Then the guilt of telling my daughter to stop interrupting me and just watch the TV, please! Now she has to poo. I think she timed that on purpose.

The other "finishing" a book is how the only way I seem to be able to finish reading a book these days is by keeping it in the bathroom. I finished one book in the bathroom yesterday, but the other novel I'm reading has been on my nightstand for over a month. It's a good book: an award winner from a NYT bestselling author. Both could mean nothing in terms of whether or not I'm enjoying it, but I am. The only thing is that I am over two hundred pages in, but that has taken me weeks. Should I take four more weeks of my reading life to finish it? I often give up on books, but I don't need to give up on this one just yet. I keep hoping the main characters will have sex. That is seriously motivating me to finish reading this book. This is not the first time I have admitted to being a reading perv. Whatever works, right? But don't worry: I didn't put any sex in my younger book. I'll save that for my YA. Hmmm... Maybe I'll be writing a new YA book sooner than I thought.

Thursday, February 23, 2012


Well looky here:

It's the advanced reader's copy of the Get Well Soon sequel, Have a Nice Day! According to the ARC, the book doesn't come out until October 16. That's like forever and a day! I only have five of them, and apparently they aren't making as many ARCs as they used to, so I'm not sure how and when to have a contest. If you're a book blogger, and you desperately want to review it, please send me your blog addy and mailing addy and I'll see what I can do. Or if you're a crazy GWS fan, and you desperately need to read it before its release date, maybe I can hook you up. Although I'm not much of a hooker upper. I'm more of a looker upper. Cause I'm a librarian, yo.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Disney Tripping

As you may or may not know, I am a trip planner (Don't Stop Now showcases some of my roadtrip-planning prowess). I recently wrote about how I intend to go to the American Library Association's Annual conference in Anaheim this summer. Now I am booking our plane flights, and I'm having trouble figuring out which self makes the final decision on dates: Is it the librarian self who should get maximum ALA time, but maybe doesn't need to right now since I'm not even working as a librarian? Is it the author self who should get maximum possible hanging out in an authorly way time (I don't even know what that means)? Or is it the mom/Disneyland obsessor who wants the max Disney time? I cannot even pretend the first two will win out. The conundrum is this: arrive on Wednesday and leave on Monday OR arrive on Thursday and leave on Tuesday. What's the diff, you ask? Well, if we book the first plan, that will give us one and a half days of less busy Disneyland time before the ALA conference (Disney's least busy days are Tuesday-Thursday). But that will also mean leaving Monday morning and, thus, possibly missing out on ALA stuff and definitely missing the Printz award ceremony. Going with the second choice would mean only having a half day of less busy Disney time and butting right up to the conference on both ends (did that sound pervy?). I seriously have been banging my head about this all weekend (perhaps that's the Slayer I'm listening to), but this is how I plan trips. I weigh everything. It's one of my absolute greatest pleasures in life. I actually researched in books and online to see if I could come up with the specific number of guests per day of the week, and while I didn't have enough research time to find the answers I think I already know what I must do. The fact is, even though I am reading a couple of the Printz winners right now and loving them, I don't think I will up for going to the ceremony on my final night of Disneyland anyway (if I chose the second schedule). We will be on central time, I will be Disney tired, and there will probably be one more character meal to squeeze in. So, thank you, blog readers, for helping me figure out what I'm going to do! Now where did I put those mouse ears...

Friday, February 17, 2012

Comic Book Woman

Did anybody watch Comic Book Men? It's a new show on AMC made by Kevin Smith. He has been at pretty much every comic book thing I've been to in my life, so he knows his stuff. I thought the show was going to be sitcom-esque, but it turned out to be reality-based. Boo. Because there is a type of person in the comics community who use their tiny bit of comic store power to be buttheads. I don't understand this at all. Many of the comics lovers have been made to feel crappy at some point in their lives for their nerdery, so why does it make them feel bigger to perpetuate the meanie cycle? I will not be watching the show again. The workers Smith follows treat one particular employee like crap, and while they may find it funny, I think it's pretty disgusting and hypocritical. I'm especially flamed by it because the last time I visited my local comic shop, the one I've been going to for years and where they know me and my husband and my daughter and hold comics for me even though I only really read three titles (can you guess which three?), whoever was working was totally one of those power-turdly type of guys. I brought up my Buffy comic to the counter, the cover of which had a line, "Nikki the Vampire Slayer," and the guy at the counter read that aloud in a mocking tone. So I explained that she was the slayer who Spike killed in the 70s... He wanted none of it. He then proceeded to diss Buffy and say he was never into it and blah blah blah and oh I can make fun of him for liking Star Wars and stuff. Um, why would I do that, asshole? I like Star Wars, too. And you know what else I like? Not being judged. No one in the comics community has the right to judge other comics readers. It's like how indie rock assholes have to one-up each other instead of bond over liking the same bands. I don't want to one-up a nerd; I want to delight in the solidarity of all nerds. Next time I head back to pick up my Angel and Faith comic, this dude better not be working. If he is, I'm going to give him a piece of my mind. And if he's not, I'm totally going to tattle on him. That's what a good nerd would do.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Jane's Back

The good news: The Jane Fonda videotape I thought had broken for good has miraculously risen from the dead, which is great because now my treadmill doesn't work. The bad news is that it has been so long since I've blogged, I don't really know where to start. Here's a list of the things keeping me from blogging:
  • My sick three year-old.
  • My well three year-old.
  • My three year-old who does not nap anymore.
  • Every single time I try to do anything, a three year-old yells, "Mama!"
  • Writing books.
  • Experimenting with writing books.
  • Reading books.
  • Reading books about heavy metal.
  • Watching documentaries about heavy metal.
  • Eating.
  • Cooking.
  • Eating out.
  • Spending too much money on eating out.
  • Exercising.
  • Trying to figure out what is wrong in my Sims Medieval game.
  • Playdates.
  • Laundry.
  • Driving to and from places.
  • Being grumpy.
  • Being too tired.
  • Downton Abbey.
So you see I've been busy. There's just not a whole lot of time for blogging. I'll try harder, although I'm not going to beat myself up for lapses. There are way too many other things ahead in the beat up line.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Scaredy Cats

You may have all heard the tragic news that Harper Collins is celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series by Alvin Schwartz by destroying the sanctity of the terrifying, bleeding heart that beats in each book: the illustrations. I don't mean that the new illustrations, by the talented Brett Helquist, aren't pleasing if you never saw the originals. I can't stress enough how it is not his fault and would certainly be a very cool job to illustrate some scary books. But if you have seen the originals, and let's pray everyone has, they are seared into your brain by a red hot poker held in the decaying hands of a skin-flaying scarecrow. Stephen Gammell is a genius, pure and simple. Get this-- I have another regret, and it is another regret about not buying artwork! (Who knew I was such an art appreciator? Perhaps that's why I married an artist...) Many years ago at an American Library Association conference, they had an auction where children's book illustrators drew their interpretation of a letter. All I had to do was outbid some people, and I could have had my very own, drippy, creepy Stephen Gammell "S." But Matt and I had to leave early, and we didn't win. If only I could go back in time and wait another hour for the final bid! Alas and alack. But back to the Scary Stories books. As a librarian, it was like a rite of passage to hand them to the bravest of third graders. I fielded my fair share of phone calls from angry parents after their kids had a nightmare thanks to my Scary Stories shilling (hee hee). I tormented my sister forever by making this face:

And don't get me started on Harold, the scariest thing, well, EVER.

Damn, Mr. Gammell, you are one sick and twisted genius. I love this quote from an article on the Children's Literature Network about Gammell's earliest experiences of drawing as a child. "I was four at the time thinking that I really didn't want to go to school next year...I just want to do THIS... Just scare other children so bad it gives them nightmares for the rest of their lives." Hey pancakes!
Of course, the stories stand on their own for their horror brilliance. You will know this if you've ever listened to the audiobook (don't do it alone in a car). And the fear factor changes with age; certain stories that scared me as a kid obviously don't as an adult, but I can find many others that scare me now that I didn't get at all as a child ("A New Horse" is a recent stand-out). Who can forget the relief felt when the viper came to wash and wipe your windows? Or the confusion over the big cat, "Martin?" Yes, these stories will stand the test of time, making each generation uncomfortable, intrigued, and thirsting for more.

So why did the publisher do it? Are kids today such huge wusses that they can't handle the original illustrations? There are heaps of articles on the web now about this topic, and I didn't have time to research or link to all of them. I enjoy this one where comic artists talk about the original illustrations, and this article is where I originally learned of the changes.

To take the photos above, I went down in my basement to find my copies of the three books. I sighed with relief that I did, indeed, have all three originals. But I also shivered a bit. Because there is still something terrifying about going down to a basement with the possibility of finding a big toe.

Thank you, Mr. Gammell, for the nightmares.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Book Sneaks

Last night Matt and I went out to dinner, and afterward we did what any author does: we went to two bookstores and rearranged the displays so that Matt's new book, Another Brother, was front and center. I encourage all of you to do the same! Really, anytime you love an author, that is so helpful. I moved a copy of Get Well Soon to a table designated "Tough Times." Or was it "Tough Stuff?" Maybe it was "Tough Tushies." (Are the quotes in the right place there? Losing grammar skills at a rapid pace.) I don't remember, but it was all books that had teens dealing with "issues." I thought Get Well Soon fit in there. More so than the "Love Stories" table. Although, I suppose it could have fit in there, too.

And now for the winner of the Another Brother contest: The Erratic Blogger! Please email me at with your address and who gets the autograph. Thanks to all (five) who entered! Should I even hold contests? I so rarely get a large number of entries. Or maybe that's for picture books. Maybe y'all are more of a young adult crowd (which makes sense, seeing as I'm a young adult author. Most of the time, anyway).

I'm off to do something productive. Or, not productive at all. One hour until I pick the kid up from school. How much can one really accomplish in an hour anyway? (Don't answer that.)