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Pieces Of My Misplaced Childhood

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That sounds like some fake ass “memoir” that James Frey would write, doesn’t it? Anyway, I’m looking for some books. I know it sounds crazy, but there are books that I loved as a child that I cannot for the life of me remember the names of now. I know that some of you who read my blog also have kids, and they might know what the heck I’m talking about. If you have any information regarding the titles or authors of these books, let me know, because it’s been driving me crazy for years.

  1. A collection of short stories in a giant, hardcover book. One of the stories was about a kid trying to outwit his sister in picking the color of the new toothbrush he wanted. He knew it was important to pick the color that he truly wanted and not be swayed by his sister’s machinations to get him to pick the color she didn’t want.
  2. A Y/A novel about a girl who was a medium. She helped the police to solve cases, and it was set in either the late 19th or early 20th century. At one point, she was trespassing on someone’s property and he shot a shotgun full of rock salt at her, if I recall correctly.
  3. A chapter book about a boy who lived in a town that was so foggy the residents had to memorize how many steps it was from landmark to landmark to make their way around town. The lead character was an errand boy and at some point a sinister magician-type man comes to town to commit a bank robbery or something nefarious.
  4. A book about about a doll house family who come to live when no one is playing with them.
  5. A book about a family of tiny people with tails who live in the walls of a house and get into all sorts of adventures.

Ring any bells for anyone?


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I have very little time to blog today (big, important, superhero rock star things to do), but I had to share this. By share, I mean torture you with it. And by torture, I’m talking more about the “hurts so good” bdsm thank-you-master-may-I-have-another kind of pain, because I guarantee that some part of you is going to like this. The part that is trying to wrestle your bleeding wrists out of the warm tap water.

What? Vampires aren’t alive. They’re dead. That’s part of what makes them vampires. But I think my favorite part, aside from the interpretive dance, is the line “I sleep through the daylight, hence my grave.” It’s like he’s just singing a conversation. Like he’s the singing, speed-dating vampire. You just sit down and the trippy club music starts and he’s like, “My name is Peter and I like to ski! I have a time share in Hancock MA!” (Sing that to the tune of the music, trust me, it’s hilarious.

Now we do the dance of joy!

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Yeah, so, I’ve been an irresponsible blogger. I take responsibility for that, fully. But you don’t understand the lure that is Perfect Strangers on DVD. I got the seasons 1&2 DVD set, and I’ve been doing practically nothing but watching Balki and Cousin Larry, chortling heartily at their antics. Oh, Balki, pink lemonade doesn’t come from pink lemons, you crazy Meposian!

Since I’m not done watching my newfound treasure trove of TGIF comedy gold and obsessing over Mark Linn Baker’s hair, I’m going to make Wednesday a cop out catch up day and answer some blog comments from last week at random.

Ashley Ladd asked: What is “schmecksy”? Or the program about “Bob”? I never heard of them.

Okay, Ashley, I am happy to answer your very good questions. “Schmecksy” is the phonetic spelling of the way I pronounce “sexy,” but only when it applies to the really, terminally sexy. For instance, Mike Rowe from Dirty Jobs, or Iggy Pop. Either of those people are examples of schmecksy. It is an imminently changeable way of describing someone, and a single individual can pass in and out of schmecksiness as many times as I choose to upgrade or downgrade them. Brad Pitt, while very nice to look at it, has been in a sexy holding pattern since 1996, but Gerard Butler maintains the title of schmecksy, so long as he doesn’t say anything boneheaded or wear ugly sneakers.

As for “Bob,” he is a character from Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series of books, and the television program of the same name. In the show, Bob is played by Terrence Mann, who is currently just sexy, until he gets rid of that beard he was wearing at the Pippin concert.

Tez Miller asked a lots of questions: You has kitties? Will you photograph them for us, please?

I do have cats. Three, unfortunately. Her Majesty, Fred, and George (the latter pair named for the Harry Potter twins, as they are brothers from the same litter). I would photograph them and share, but I have a very strict policy about people forcing others to view photographs about their cats. Namely, what goes around comes around, and the moment I post a picture of my cat, I’ll run into someone at a cocktail party who has a 3 gigabyte memory card full of cat pictures that I shall be forced to look at.

Do you drink the Diet Coke straight from the bottle? (I’m on small glasses of LA Ice MAX, which is a rip-off of Pepsi Max, Coke Zero.) I do drink Diet Coke straight from the two-litre bottle. I have a real problem.

Re Jenism: Do we come from outer space, or from the ground, where we rise like zombies?

In the post she left this comment on I had mentioned Jenism, my made-up religion. I’m glad to clear this bit of theology up. Jenism teaches that we’re not entirely sure where people came from, but it’s good that they did and that one of them had the idea for TV.

Re your chair: you know when the hard rubbish collection is coming up, and people put busted washing machines and whatnot on the nature strip about a week in advance of the collection? That’s when you poke through other people’s junk…and maybe find yourself a better chair.

I understood about five words of all that. I’m pretty sure “hard rubbish” is equal to “large item pickup” and that “the nature strip” is something to do with pubic hair. But the important bit is that I’m horrified at the suggestion of getting rid of my chair, no matter how uncomfortable, because I don’t like change. I had to buy new underpants the other day and I’ve been a ball of anxiety for quite a while. When we redid our basement den I nearly had to be hospitalized for exhaustion. The real kind, not the celebrity kind.

Bronwyn Green said: I think you need to bring the uglyass unicorns out of hiding and post them on your blog.

I’m saving that idea for another day when I have nothing to talk about and would rather watch Perfect Strangers.

Lori from Plainwell said:one time, i met this cool author at B&N on 28th st. i explained to her about how i kept telling my coworkers about how we were going to be BFF after meeting. and then she agreed to sign a book i was giving a friend “to my BFF’s….” she laughed and was a great sport. and then when i found out she sometimes writes at “coast”, i had to drive by on my way to B&N on Westnedge today, just in case she was going in or out and recognized me and had to invite me for coffee.
instead i got to point it out to my husband and tell him she goes there sometimes. he wasnt quite as impressed. what does he know?? 🙂

That author does sound cool. Also beautiful and very smecksy, with great taste in sitcoms. I think I’ve heard of her, and also seen her down at Dino’s, as well. This morning, in fact.

Ha ha, Cousin Larry is so not smooth with the chicks.

Jen Meets Celebrity Story #1

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Because I’m tired, cranky, and cold (it’s a balmy 18 degrees Fahrenheit where I am. That’s -7 degrees Celsius, 265 Kelvin), we’re having a “Listen to Jen ramble about a celebrity she met one time.” Otherwise known as “That time I met Mandy Patinkin once.”

Okay, this one time, I met Mandy Patinkin. But let me break it down with breathless, massively urple prose.

It was the winter of 1996. My mother, knowing my love of all things musical theatre, presented me with an early Valentine’s day present. Tickets to see Mandy Patinkin at DeVos Hall in Grand Rapids on February 9th.

Now, since February 9th is my mother’s birthday, one might assume that she bought those tickets partially for herself, but I trust my mom. She used to give super awesome presents for weird holidays. For instance, one year for Christmas I got like, a VHS of Purple Rain and some random assorted weirdness from the outlet mall, but then for Valentine’s day she got me tickets to the lady’s professional figure skating world championships. She used to pull really weird pranks, too, like putting a life-sized cut out of Darth Vader in the doorway of my room so that when I opened it he would be looming over me and scare me half to death.

But I digress.

My mother bought us the tickets, as well as a hotel room at the swank downtown Amway Grand Plaza. If you are from Michigan, or are familiar with Amway, it will not surprise you to hear that these two properties are connected. We arrived in plenty of time to check in and went to dinner, but I couldn’t concentrate on eating. I was going to see Mandy Patinkin, of “Evita” and “Yentl” and “Sunday In The Park With George” fame. Also “The Princess Bride,” lest you forget about that a crucial part of the story not make sense.

Show time came closer and closer. We paused in the lobby to purchase his latest cd, “Oscar and Steve,” and I bounced and hopped in my seat, full of expectant, nervous thrill at the thought of finally seeing one of my favorite performers on stage.

The lights went down. Mandy came out. It was rapturous.

The show was very informal. He came out in jeans and a t-shirt. There was no backdrop on the stage, just the blank back wall and a ghost light, and Paul Ford at an upright piano. Mandy chattered like he was putting on a show for friends in his living room; at one point a woman’s coughing in the audience grew so distracting that he passed a bottle of water back to her. He stopped mid-song to sheepishly admit that he had to burp and it would ruin the mood of the piece, so he started a new song and promised to go back to the ruined one later. It was the most fun you could have watching a man and a piano, unless there was some sort of balancing act involved.

As we left, happy and excited about what a great evening it had been, an usher stopped us.

“Looks like you enjoyed the concert,” he said, indicating my perma-grin.

“Oh, yes!” I exclaimed. I might even have locked my hands together and brought them up behind my ear in the classic pose of a delighted child.

“Would you like to meet Mandy?” he asked. He might have added “backstage” to the end of that sentence, but I could hear him because all I heard in my head was the bit of The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again” where Roger Daltry screams “YEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!!!”

The usher led my mother and I to a backstage area, near the dressing rooms, where group of about twenty people waited in a line. A door opened. Mandy emerged, showing no signs of fatigue after his nearly two hour concert except the still damp sweat stains on his clothes.

It seemed a lifetime as we waited for him to sign autographs and pose for photos with the people ahead of us. I was almost convinced I was having one of those dreams like I always have where I’m about to eat a cupcake and then I wake up before I take the first bite and realize that there are no cupcakes, and the world is as hard and cruel as it has always been. Except in this case it was not a cupcake, it was Mandy Patinkin, and also, I would not bite him because I have learned my lesson about biting strangers.

But lo! I was no dream, and we approached the golden-throated near-counter-tenor that thrilled my drama geek heart as Georges Seurat in Sondheim’s opus “Sunday In The Park With George”! My palms sweating, I stepped up when he motioned me over. Trembling, I handed him the “Oscar and Steve” cd to sign, which he did, as well as my program. “Enjoy the show?” he asked, sounding just like Dr. Geiger from “Chicago Hope”, which makes sense because that was him. I just hadn’t, until that moment, realized that he sounded that cool in person.

I nodded dumbly and took my cd back. I opened my mouth to say “Thank you,” but what came out was this: “Say it.”

Without batting an eye, without pausing in momentary confusion, in fact, without any sort of change of expression at all aside from a charming half-smile, he said: “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”

“THAT WAS AWESOME!” I exclaimed, shaking his hand heartily. The ice broken, I told him about my theatrical aspirations (I was still laboring under the misconception that someday I would be a big Broadway star), and told him very earnestly, “I’m going to do what you do someday.” He smiled and said, “Well, I’ll see you down the road then.”

I was about to say thank you and walk away when a man with a press badge approached and interrupted. “Excuse me, Mr. Patinkin, can we get a picture for the Grand Rapids Press?”

I mumbled a quiet thank you and, clutching my cd and program, started to walk away, when Mandy said, “Wait, can she be in the picture too?”

I theorize that he’d overheard my conversation with my mother moments before our turn in line, when I’d lamented not knowing to bring a camera. Either that, or he thought the guy should have just waiting in the line and was annoyed at him.

The press guy looked a little bit put-off, but he said it would be okay. How are you going to tell Inigo Montoya no? Mandy waved me back over and put an arm around my shoulders and we said cheese for the camera. Just as the photographer was about to take the photo, Mandy called for him to wait. “Is that mom over there?” he asked, pointing to where my mother, all 5’2″ of her, stood, giving an enthusiastic thumbs up. “Let’s get mom in the picture, too!” Mandy said, and my mom hurried over to stand on the other side of him. With his arms around us like we were the greatest chums in the history of friendship, we smile big for the picture. Just as the flash goes, he turned his head and planted a great big kiss on my cheek. Everyone still in line laughed, my mother and I shook hands with him and thanked him again for the autographs. We went back to our hotel room and ordered an obscene amount of room service food, ate ourselves into comas and she even let me skip school the next day.

My only regret about the whole thing was that the picture never ran in the paper. It would have been a fantastic shot for my scrapbook, where my treasured pictures of all the celebrities I’ve stalked met go.

And that’s it. That’s the story about how this one time I met Mandy Patinkin once.

Bienvenidos A My Office

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Just in case you wanted to know what the room I spend about 90% of my day in looks like, here is a brief and terrifying tour of my office in this insanely long and over-detailed entry.

Okay, MTV, let me show you around. This is where the magic happens. My deskal area. Let’s break it down.

  1. My awesome MacBook, the most awesomest toy I have ever bought. The screen is displaying, as usual, not work, but my secrety LiveJournal.
  2. The Halloween decoration I have named Bob, after Bob in the Dresden Files. I’d like to think the Bob what comes out of the skull is the Bob from the tv show and not the books. Nothing against the books, but Bob in the tv show is smecksy. He’s wearing the crown that went with my slutty Queen of Hearts costume last Halloween, because I have named him Princess For The Day, every day. Inside the skull is a baggy of snappers or poppers or whatever you call them, the little twisted up paper bits with black powder in them that explode when they hit the floor. They are employed frequently to terrorize the cats when they are doing something bad, or just when I’m bored.
  3. Underneath Bob and the explosives is my “Book of Wonder”, the binder where I keep scrapbook pages of people and locations in my writing. It’s also the graveyard for ideas that I had that didn’t work out, but which I was really excited about at one time, like a paranormal romantic comedy about Dracula and another paranormal romantic comedy that I don’t even want to go into. It also holds the seeds for upcoming projects, like one about a woman whose husband is murdered by supernatural forces and a story about zombies.
    I realize at this point that there are two #3’s, because I’m intelligent. The second number 3 is a beribboned steak knife that was presented to me in a bouquet of flowers by my wonderful friends at GRRRWA, including Brynn Paulin, Bronwyn Green, and Cheryl Sterling, among others who I think have pseudonymous blogs but I can’t be sure who is who. The flowers and knife were given to me to celebrate the sale of the first Blood Ties book, and is in reference to the fact that I routinely stab knives through books I hate before resigning them to my “hall of shame”. The card that came in the flowers reads “Get Well Soon. Wishing you all the best success and a speedy recovery from your recent demon possession.”
  4. This is the bottle of Diet Coke I was drinking the day the photo was taken. Yes, it is a two liter. Why do you ask?
  5. Some of my dolls. Most of them are away in storage, because Mr. Jen finds them creepy. A picture from our wedding is in the frame in front of them, so that Mr. Jen constantly has his back turned to the horrible creatures he is sure will one day murder him to death.
  6. My little altar of creativity. We’ll look at that in more detail in a moment.
  7. I like to paint, in my spare-ish time, and this is something I painted in 2003. It’s a female form, crucified on fishhooks, bleeding into an open book. Yeah, sometimes I hate deadlines, and I need to get that frustration out somehow.
  8. My friend Cheryl Sterling gave me this calendar as a Christmas present. Her present is still sitting in my office closet, with many other people’s presents I have forgotten to deliver.
  9. Good for fending off vampires.
  10. A framed book cover that Borders’s corporate offices gave me to celebrate The Turning’s debut at #6 on their romance list. Also, I went to dinner with some people from there and my former editor Sasha Bogin, and I had some awesome rabbit and pasta thing that looked like severed ears.
  11. Some postcards I like. Some from BPAL that they send along with your order.
  12. Some postcards of Melville related stuff. The bottom one is a portrait of him, the one above, in sepia tones, is a picture of his farm in Pittsfield, MA.
  13. Another genius, Mr. Stephen Sondheim.
  14. This is a peacock of unimaginable horror.
  15. My friend Chachi gave me this plate for my wedding. It has a real Wuthering Heights type scene going on it it.
  16. Bronwyn Green cross-stitched this lovely Irish sampler for me. It contains a very treasured old Irish proverb, “Na bodris… ni mi fhin e.” Nevermind, I will do it myself.”
  17. I love nutcrackers. A lot. This is an antique (and pretty racist) hand-held nutcracker purchased for me by Mr. Jen’s stepmother, who knows I enjoy strange and rare nutcrackers.
  18. That’s Lucy! She’s my guitar!
  19. Again, I repeated a number. So, the one on the wall is a card from Bronwyn Green that she drew a picture of a bare foot stomping a spider inside to prove her love, and the one on the shelf is a gingerbread man with horns that I made two solstices ago to be contrary.

This is Ryan, from the Ellora’s Cave calendar they gave out all free-like at RT. Ryan is an important component of my office, and also I like to star e at the veins of his lower abdomen above the waist of his pants. I like to objectify men.

This is a close up of my creativity altar. I throw all sorts of little bits that make me feel imaginative and inspired here. You can’t see my ribbon o’ skeleton keys that dangle down, but keys are really my personal symbol, and they hang from this altar, as well.

  1. A wooden stake that my friend Cristin brought me from her work. She’s not a vampire hunter, no matter what that last sentence implied.
  2. A really cool jar o’ writing prompts Cheryl Sterling made, and I fish out a new prompt when I’m stuck, or looking to write a fanfic.
  3. This candle smells HORRIBLE. Like Lemon Pledge and burning hair in a jar of spoiled dill pickles.
  4. Mr. Jen thinks this crystal looks like a penis. I think it looks like a crystal, myself. But anyway, these are my assorted rock bits. If you are eagle eyed, you may spot the dragon pendant from the cover of Possession nestled among them.
  5. Yay, Labyrinth!
  6. This is a button that says “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” There is a funny story behind this button, which I will share one day in a post titled “When I met Mandy Patinkin once.”

To the rear of my office (heh, “rear”), are my bookshelves o’ doom. This is shelf #1.

  1. A forlorn and abandoned stack of cds. Sorry, guys, but iPods are the wave of the future.
  2. Isn’t that cute? It’s one of my three Build-A-Bear friends. I have a real problem with buying toys.
  3. My TBR pile. Please note how the shelf bows under the massive weight.
  4. That’s my friend Christina Radish’s Christmas present. I’m a horrible friend for not sending it yet.
  5. Behind the crystal ball, that’s a Little Apple doll. I love those things so much, it’s ridiculous. I wish I could afford to buy them all.
  6. Remember what I said about toys? Also, beside those Barbies is a bird watching dwarf nutcracker. Remember what I said about nutcrackers?
  7. Big ole stack of sheet music.
  8. I guess I skipped 8 to make up for the repeat numbers earlier.
  9. Another painting I did, this one of an appearance of the Blessed Virgin at the end of my Grandma’s driveway. You know, like you do.
  10. Hair extensions of DOOOOOOOOOM. I’m working on a project right now.
  11. A dirty blanket that I use for a curtain, because I’m too cheap to buy a curtain.
  12. This is a really cool wicker chest my mother-in-law gave me, and I put all my supplies for witchy doings in there. Lots of herbs and oils and snips and snails and candles and such.

This is the second bookshelf o’ doom. Now, with added doom. Someone used to use this in their bedroom and they put a television up top and just threw away the top shelf, hence the sadly wasted space up there.

  1. Another Little Apple doll. On the shelf below her, there is yet another one. Toys, remember?
  2. This is a really cool gift I got from someone who was taking a photography class. She might not want me to plaster her name all over here, so I will not mention it. But she took this picture and titled it “Nathan’s Bookstore”.
  3. My big ole shelf o’ comparative religion. I’ve basically taken a little bit from every book on this shelf and cobbled together my religion of Jenism. I’m trying to figure out a way to work it into a cult, like Scientology.
  4. Various paperbacks that I enjoy and keep. Okay, truth is, I keep every book, ever. Even if I hated it. Because I love books in general and I don’t like not havin them. This is also why I don’t go to the library, because they can get real uppity if you keep the books.
  5. I guess there is a five on that other Little Apple doll, but I really didn’t think the placement of red-on-red through all that well. To tell the truth, I marked these things up while watching House last night.
  6. A picture of me at my very first book signing at Waldenbooks in the Woodland Mall in Grand Rapids. This was totally momentous, because like, the year before that I was working in the Gap in that mall.
  7. So, once upon a time I had to go to Colorado Springs for this sales conference for Harlequin, and it was really cool and I met awesometastic people, and they had the covers for our next books all blown up and placed around the room where we had dinner, and I was like, “Can you mail that to me,” and they did. But now I have no clue what I thought I was going to do with the thing.
  8. More paperbacks of wonderfulness, and a really ugly plate.
  9. Down there is the Hall Of Shame. I won’t show you what’s on it (that is a closely guarded secret), but I will say that it is also the home of my ugly unicorn collection.
  10. Okay, see those leaves hanging down? They’re attached to this awesome wasps nest my mother-in-law gave me. She just cut down the whole branch it was on after she sprayed the little buggers to death (they were invading her house, something had to be done). There are actually still wasps stuck to it, dead. It’s the most awesome thign in my office.

Look, severed heads!
This is where I work on wigs. I love wigs. They are fun, they let you change your hair without commitment, and also you can do things to them that you could never do with human hair.

  1. This is a wig I’m currently working for the Faery Ball at RT. Okay, actually, I finished it last night. But it was about six hours from the finish line in this picture. I always color in the faces on the wig heads to keep them from being so damned blank and creepy.
  2. See all that plaster and the unfinished wood window sill? About a year about we got our windows done, and I’ll be honest: I hate painting. I still have not repainted around this window on the grounds that it has a door on it and people don’t need to be going in my office in the first place.
  3. Isn’t that speaker cool? There are three of them in my office, and they look like tiny Darth Vader heads.
  4. My 1914 Singer Tailor Model sewing machine. Also known as my wig table.
  5. Wow, how did that get broken?
  6. That’s a box of MREs that my Army friend thought we would enjoy. Guess what? NO. MREs are gross. I do occasionally open them to fish for the M&Ms that sometimes come with them.

And last but not least, this is my real uncomfortable office chair. Notice the broken back. The left armrest matches. It often just pops up and pinches me for no good reason. This chair is the devil. But I’m too cheap to buy a new one.

Unless they make one that looks like toys. Then I would buy it in a heartbeat.

So, that’s my office, for better or for worse. Now, all my sordid little details about where I work have been revealed. Yes, my office is a land of wonder and gaiety, but also unimaginable sorrow.

Go, try to forget the horrors you’ve seen, but they shall stalk you in your dreams for all eternity. I’m going to go get some Diet Coke and a candy bar!

Oh, it wasn’t?

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A quick update to bitch about the owner of the alarmist website who claims his website and videos were NEVER ABOUT the chance of impact.

Really? Then what was the video showing the direct intersection of TU24’s orbit and the orbit of Earth (falsly) supposed to be about then? I know that a second video came out after it, explaining that no, he didn’t mean it would hit us, it’s really because it’s going to cause some sort of space lightening storm that will totally destroy us, any day now.

I’m waiting to see what the alarmist crap he comes up with after nothing at all happens or, conversely, what government agency covered up all the horrible effects of TU24’s magic theoretical static electricity.

Meanwhile, some news outlets are being total alarmist asshats, as well. FOR SHAME, COURIER! FOR SHAME! For shame, seriously.

In other, but related, news, some research done on the Tunguska meteor has revealed that it’s blast force was actually much less than the estimated 10 or 20 megatons it was thought to have had. Which means that lower destructive energy was needed than previously thought to make asteroids a threat, which means the Torino scale is looking like it is in need of revision if all of this is true. That would mean a lot of asteroids thought of previously as harmless would get higher Torino ratings and the few we have on the low end of the scale will look more doomtacular.

So, TU24 dude, start buying up domain names now.