Monday, June 28, 2010

No time, badass milk


Just a quick blog to let ya'll know that--thanks to American Airlines and their absolutely completely terrifyingly SUCKY fleet of airplanes that apparently break down constantly--it took me 27 hours to get from San Francisco to Little Rock. 3 delays, 5 mechanical problems, and pulled off 2 planes after we'd all boarded. It was hell. I had to wear the same underwear the entire time. I had no brush, nothing to sleep in at the sketchy hotel we were shipped to at 1 a.m. Saturday night when we missed our connection and our luggage continued on without us. It was...shudder. I can't think about it anymore. I think I may have PTSD. I am very big on clean underwear. VERY.

Anyway, because of the flight experience from hell, I am way behind on work and didn't get to spend nearly enough time catching up with the kids. So I'm off to work and catch up and I will touch base with ya'll in a few days. Hope you're having an awesome summer!

Oh, and also, the people of Sonoma County are AMAZING!! So friendly and fabulous. Go Sonoma, I can't wait to be one of your number in one short month!

And also, the staff at the Borders in Santa Rosa are kick ass. Go see them, buy books, show them some love.

And also, I think we found a house! A real house with an amazing view that is just barely in our price range. Hope to know for sure in a day or two!

And also, this is my badass glass that I'm using for my chocolate milk:

Grrr...I am so fierce and full of calcium. Grrr!


Stacey Jay

Monday, June 21, 2010

Team Slinky Dog

By now, we all know about Teams Jacob and Edward.

But in our family, we're aligned along very different team lines, fiercely devoted to our favorite characters from Pixar's Toy Story triology. We've got representatives of all the major factions:





And some more obscure affiliations:



(SPOILER ALERT STARTS HERE!! So yeah, Bo Peep is the only one of the characters listed who wasn't in the third movie. She's alluded to as being "lost" and Woody has a moment of sadness. I was sad, too. I'm not a Jesse or a Barbie girl, but I loved that frisky shepherdess and her offers to "get someone else to watch the flock" so she and Woody could have some one on one time. Rest in peace, Bo. Know there are still people out here willing to wear a ridiculous shirt out in public in your honor. END SPOILER ALERT.)

The good thing about our teams, however, is that we all get along. I think we'd even be good with a team Zurg or Stinky Pete, as long as no one got on the bandwagon with that evil-ass bear from the third installment. (I can't think of anything more terrifying than a plush pink bear that smells like strawberries, *shudder*.)

So yeah. We made shirts. We went to go see Toy Story 3 together in the shirts. A few people stared, some looked amused, most confused, and the baby was about as good as any baby could be at his very first movie.

And I cried, as I expected to cry, but it was okay, and here's why:

Toy Story 3 was an extremely entertaining wake up call. It hit me right in the Mama Plexus, where my love for my babies is all knotted up with my need to be loved by my babies. Sounds like those two things should go together just fine, but they don't always. Sometimes, my job is to "be there when Andy needs me", even if he's grown to old to play with me anymore. Sometimes, you've just got to let go. Even when they're tiny, even when it hurts and it's scary and you want to hold them tight and keep them on your lap no matter how much they squirm. Toy Story 3 reminded me of that, and reminded me to treasure those magical days when my kids are young and I can still step in and be their playmate and hero and friend and convince them that wearing Team Toy Story t-shirts out in public is an amazing idea.

But even beyond the mama reaction to the movie, there was the "the infinity and beyond" factor. In Buddhism, the infinity symbol represents the endless (infinite) cycle of of birth, death & rebirth. Though the Toy Story crew loses friends and even Andy (as we all inevitably lose people we care about) they still promise to love each other "to infinity and beyond", to be friends through all the cycles of their lives (and afterward, I think that scene near the junk yard incinerator shows that pretty clearly).

I think a lot of the popularity of vampire fiction (Team Edward, refer to sentence one for some method to my rambling madness) has always had a lot to do with the eternal aspect of a vampire's love and the chance to live forever--even if you are forced to become a blood-sucker. But--while the notion of eternal life in the arms of the one who loves us is a compelling one--sometimes it's important to remember that we don't have forever, at least not in these bodies, not frozen at our most virile and fabulous-looking or even our happiest.

We will grow old and die, we will experience loss and change, and that's what's supposed to happen. How we deal with those challenges, however, will determine whether we'll be a Woody and Buzz and friends or suffer with strawberry scented Lotso. Do we gracefully allow the ones we love--and ourselves--to evolve, or fight it every step of the way? I think the first choice definitely leads to greater happiness, and a better quality of life, as well as an enhanced capacity to love ourselves and the people we treasure. Love is patient and not tight-fisted or rigid and all that stuff, yada, yada.

So I'm going to try to let go gracefully when 6 doesn't want to hold my hand in public, or Baby Lo decides fist bumps are better than kisses. But I'm also going to hug them every chance I get, and dance with them to the Wiggles, and giggle over how cold popsicles are, and marvel at each exhausting adventure in the pool. And when they are grown and going away to college and leaving their old toys (and Mama) behind, I hope I will be confident that I treasured each stage of their lives and rely on that for the strength to let them go and grow and become the adults they are going to be.

But not just yet...

Thank you, Pixar, for a wonderful film.

Stacey Jay

(p.s. I'm going to be in Santa Rosa at the Borders on Friday, June 25th, from 2-5 p.m. signing books. Address: 2825 Santa Rosa Ave. Santa Rosa, CA. If you're in the area, I'd love to see you!)

Friday, June 18, 2010

Juliet Immortal...drafted

JULIET IMMORTAL, my Fall 2011 book for Delacorte, started out as an action-packed, paranormal adventure kind of book. My premise: Romeo and Juliet didn't die in the tomb. Romeo murdered Juliet in order to obtain immortality, but just before she drew her last breath Juliet was granted her own shot at immortality by the Ambassaders of Light. She lived on to become a warrior for soul mates throughout the ages, fighting Romeo, struggling to preserve true love.

And it's still about that. Sort of.

But for the first time in my recent writing, my underlying theme rose up and consumed all my attempts at action. It demanded I write slower, more thoughtful scenes, it demanded that I really stop and think about what Juliet had been through and how it would color her view of the world. It made me read and reread Shakespeare's play in order to discover exactly what it was that I'd always found the most disturbing about that work and address those concerns in my narrative.

In the end, JULIET IMMORTAL became a book about what happens when you die, our fears about the afterlife (or lack of it), and how hard it can be to keep going in the face of a crisis of faith (not necessarily religious faith, but faith in your cause or any core belief). It's also an unromantic look at suicide. Because killing yourself--for love or any other reason--is not a romantic thing. It's an act of destruction, not creation.

I have no idea if my editor is going to like the novel, but I do know that I turned myself inside out trying to make this a visceral read. And when I wrote the last scene yesterday...I was so, so happy with it, which is rare for me. Usually I only see where I could improve, not where I've succeeded. But yesterday, I read over that last scene and thought, That is a fracking love story. Good job, self. Way to suck less in 2010.

Of course, that warm fuzzy feeling could change next week, when I dive back in to revise. There is going to be a lot of revision on this book. I've got a full typed page of notes of things I need to tweak/fix to make the paranormal worldbuilding aspect as tight as Jillian Michael's abs. (I've only had limited interaction with my editor, but I can tell she's going to be a stickler for every detail making absolute, cohesive sense, so I'm going to do my best to get this manuscript as hole-free as possible before I send.) And I've also got a few continuity things to tweak and a character who needs an overhaul and a dangling plot thread for a secondary character so...yeah. The revisions could be a week of heavy lifting or more.

This is a fairly new development for me--this extensive self-revision. I used to write a first draft, go back and tweak story a bit, go back a third time for typos and word repetition and then send that baby on it's way. Now, the very thought of sending my book out with that little obsessing over it makes me ill. I still draft very quickly, but I also find another part of my brain "editing" as I go, shouting out words of caution and wisdom that I know I'll need down the line. I don't, however, need that editor brain chatting the entire time I'm drafting. It can be very critical and distracting. So I've started keeping another word doc open while I'm working on the manuscript itself and I'll dart over there and make a note of whatever the internal editor has to say. That seems to shut it up, allowing me to get back to work, but also making the actual editing process so much more productive. I simply go back and look at my notes and know where to start, often seeing things that I've typed that I totally forgot I wanted to weave into the story.

Still, helpful internal editor and extensive notes aside, I can't start editing right after I've finished a book. I'm too close to it, which results in editing that is cruel and horrible--like some evil slasher was set loose on my story--or overly gentle, in which I am so close to my book I can't bear to cut it up the way I should. I find two weeks is the optimal amount of time passage for me to really begin to see the manuscript with fresh, editor eyes. This time around, I'll only be able to take a week--because I need to get the revisions finished and the book turned in--but I'm hoping that will be sufficient.

And I'm really enjoying this week "off", finishing up some little projects, responding to all that backlogged email, and updating my website. Head on over there to see the new information on THE LOCKET if you get a chance and let me know what you think.

So, any questions? About editing? Books? Quinoa? (I've been cooking a lot of meals with quinoa lately and it is fabulos, healthy stuff. I've made quinoa heuvos rancheros and quinoa black bean salad with lime dressing and quinoa avocado and tomato with goat cheese and just...yum. Quinoa. Go, try some.)

Happy Weekend!

Stacey Jay

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Get Happy Series: Crafty Goodness

Hey all,

Needless to say last week was a big week--what with 6's eye surgery and living in a not-baby-proofed hotel room with a 19 month old who loves to climb and tug and pull and eat wires, and sleeping four people in not nearly enough space, and a slippery bathtub of DOOM where both my boys nearly slipped and cracked their heads open during their typically rambunctious bath time. But we're back now and settling into the summer routine, which--thanks be to the baby jeebus--usually involves lots of crafts. I'll come out and say it right now:

I love crafts.

I will also say this:

I suck at crafts. I am much more fartsy than artsy when it comes to...all things artsy. I can draw a cartoon now and then, and make a mean Yo Gabba Gabba cake if time and stress levels allow, but painting, beading, crocheting, sewing, drawing real things that are not cartoons--I stink at all of it. Maybe it's because I lack training or talent or both, but I find the awesomeness of the end product isn't such a super big deal to me. I enjoy the process most of all. Art projects are a great way to fill a kid-infested (and I mean that in the nicest way a person can say's like being infested with flowers or rock candy or sunshine) summer afternoon when it's too dang hot to go outside and play.

My stepdaughters and I spent all afternoon last Sunday painting.

Here was my final result:

Here was my elder stepdaughter's:

It's clear why her's was framed in a pretty frame for father's day and mine is now sitting on top of the cabinets collecting dust until we move. (I will be hanging that scary-ass sparrow on our new walls, however. I have decorating plans that involve covering every wall with things to look at in order to compensate for years of not nailing anything to a wall because we knew we were going to move and need to sell our home.)

But--hideous final painting aside--I still had a lot of fun and plan to sit down with a brush again this weekend and play. I'm also goig to try to make my husband a Manly Necklace for a retirement present with some Steampunky charms I got a Michael's last weekend. The Industrial Chic line is on sale 2 for $8 until this Saturday. Bring in a bonus coupon from the monthly ad and that's some fairly affordable crafty goodness:

So what about you guys? What crafts do you enjoy--whether you excel at them or not? Any summer recommendations for me and the stepdaughters? (6 joins in too, but his attention span for craft-related activities is usually less than 30 minutes.)

Back with an actual book related post tomorrow about finishing Juliet Immortal and my editing process.

Have a Thursday!

Stacey Jay

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Thanks for the vibes

6's eye surgery is over and--bloody tears and mucous aside--he seems to be doing pretty well. He was very brave and strong and I'm so proud of him. I'm sure all of your good vibes helped. So thank you. I appreciate you.

Best on a Tuesday,


Saturday, June 5, 2010

Eight on a Saturday-Feminism and Randomism

Eight things on a Saturday.

The Feminist Stuff:

1. I was thinking about Laura Bush the other day--I saw something about her new book coming out--and how she is a woman I would describe as having "quiet strength." (You would have to have quiet strength to put up with her numb skull of a husband.) But then I started thinking about how annoying it is that women are admired for having "quiet strength." Why not "loud, raucous strength?" Or "chatty, vivacious strength?" And then I got mad at Laura, for no reason. It's hardly her fault and I should know better than to blame the victim or the woman who adheres to societal convention or what have you. So sorry, Laura. (But I still think your husband is a tool.)

2. People ask me about my "real" last name a lot. I ask them: what is a woman's real last name? My birth name was my father's name, and since then I've taken the last name of the two men I've been married to. Also man names. I have always been defined by my connection to a man. This makes me consider "Jay" as my real last name because I made it up and it is mine and that is good. I may officially change it someday. I may also consider "Loudmouthawesomepants" or "Monkeyshine" or "Nards!" (with the exclamation point) just to mess with people at the DMV.

3. I bought an L.L. Bean control top, one-piece swimsuit the other day. It is dark brown and covers just about everything a swimsuit can cover--unless I added a skirt thingie, but those bug me so I couldn't go there, my thighs must be free to frolic in the water and blah blah.

Anyway, this ultra-modest granny swimsuit left me feeling strangely...liberated. Now I can almost guarantee I will not be ogled by the beer-bellied men at the pool this summer. My stuff is covered, my friends. Go look elsewhere for boobs slipping out of bikini tops. The junk in my hood (and trunk) is all packed up and hidden away.

4. I've jumped three cars in the past four weeks. One for a complete stranger: a woman alone in a Target parking lot. I jumped her SUV without getting oil on my sundress. She was amazed I could even open the hood. I would like to thank my father for instilling the importance of gender-neutral survival skills and a healthy non-fear of cars.

And in off theme stuff:

5. My 6 year old has starting asking for "a berry treat" after school. I find that adorable. That he calls fruit a "treat." I wasn't smart enough to understand the magnificence of fruit until I was in my early twenties and suddenly too poor to afford it.

6. After my shower on Tuesday, in a sudden burst of crazy, I put on my socks first, before anything else and confirmed that just wearing socks feels more naked than not wearing anything at all.

7. As of the latest stat counts--which I checked the other day for the first time in months--there are a couple hundred of you checking this blog on a daily basis. Hundred! A couple! I was amazed. And those are only the real, lingering hits, not the robots and spam crawlers and all that other stuff I don't understand. So...this is my question: what should I do to encourage more chatter from you couple hundred? Or do you simply prefer not to chatter? I read blogs without commenting all the time, but I want you to know you are free to interact if you'd like. I like people. And interacting. It might take me a day or few to get around to replying--because life is insane around here, really insane, I despair of EVER having healthy children, they're both just gasping and coughing and snotting constantly. I haven't been able to put up the breathing machine since last October. It's always out by the couch, ready for an emergency treatment--but I will get around to it. I promise.

8. We're going to be living out of a hotel next week, all four of us shacked up in a one bedroom suite for five days while 6 has his eye surgery. The procedure is on Tuesday morning and the follow up on Friday morning. Please send good vibes if you've got any to spare.


Stacey Jay

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Most Awesome T-shirt ever

Or at least the most awesome t-shirt I've seen this week.

I mean...doesn't that just sum it all up? As a person who's had many a bike stolen--one time when I was pregnant and it was my only way home from my community college class and I had to walk three miles back to my house (yeah I shouldn't have been riding a bike while I was pregnant, but whatever, I was young and stupid and car-less and too stupid to decipher the L.A. bus schedule)--I appreciate this. A lot.

Buy it here.

Continue with your Thursday, hope it's cooler where you are. Blechk. Miserable heat. It feels like the entire state of Arkansas has gone straight to hell.

Stacey Jay

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

First glimpse, Juliet Immortal

Hello all,

I've been working working working, doing my best to get "Juliet Immortal" to my editor in a timely fashion, and haven't had much time to blog. (Or much to blog about, honestly. I'm expecting a new cover soon...but not yet. I'm hoping for word on a thing or two, but haven't heard anything...yet. So...yeah. You know how that goes. And with the summer slows descending on the publishing world, I'm sure it's only going to get worse so might as well relax into the waiting and let it happen.)

So, anyway! I thought an excerpt of the work in progress might be fun. Or interesting. (Or terrifying. It's so scary to share something that's still in the rough stages. But I'm planning to add this to the website this week, so I figured I might as well share it with you all first.)

Without further preamble, the first glimpse:
Unedited excerpt, Juliet Immortal, Delacorte 2011.

Somewhere near the Beginning of Chapter Two:

My neatly trimmed nails bent and broke and my palms tore as I clawed my way up the side of the ravine, grabbing on to whatever my hands happened upon in the dark. The moon had slipped behind a cloud and I was climbing blind, the blackness thick and close, the heavy smell of an impending storm filling the air, making the great outdoors seem not much better than the wreck I’d just escaped.

I’d never enjoyed small, tight places. I liked them even less after waking up in a crypt and lying alone in the stone for over a day before Romeo and his knife came to fetch me.

The Friar, my new husband’s mentor in the ways of the Mercenaries, had thought it would be amusing to see how much of my mind remained after a day or two spent in a death shroud. Friar Lawrence had been a member of the guild so long that he no longer took pleasure in simply killing. He needed a bit of torture to enjoy the claiming of a life. The only mercy in his treatment was that I’d been so out of my mind when he came for me that I couldn’t remember the murder itself.

I only knew that one minute I was clinging to the friar—grateful to have been rescued—and the next I was on the floor with a knife in my chest, Nurse hovering above me, urging me to speak the words that would make me immortal.

I sucked in a deep breath. The sickeningly sweet smell of milkweed mixed with the dust from my frantic scrabbling rushed into my lungs. It made me cough, but the chilly air was a mercy. I wasn’t trapped. I was free and strong and putting Romeo behind me with every upward lurch.

The sound of a car rushing past on the road above helped ease the tightness in my chest even further. I was nearly there. I’d wave someone over and ask for a ride home. Hitchhiking had been dangerous the last few times I’d been on earth, but that hadn’t broken me of the habit. Despite the horrible things I’d seen, I still believed there were decent people in the world.

Or at least better than the boy cursing my name as he crawled from the wreck below. Most of the people driving by wouldn’t want to cut off my arms and eat them while I watched.

I shivered at the thought.

Did Romeo really eat people? Would he really have…could he have…

I pushed the image of Romeo’s grinning mouth—meat in his teeth, blood dripping down his chin—from my mind. No matter what body I inhabited, my vivid imagination always came back to haunt me.

“I see you, love…all that silver hair.” He grunted the words under his breath, but I could still hear him clearly. He was closing in fast from the sound of the rocks skittering down the ravine in his wake.

A bitter, rusted taste flooded into my mouth. I forced my thin arms and legs to move even faster. Ariel could use some meat on her bones. And muscle would be nice. By the Light, why didn’t she eat more during the dinner she’d shared with Dylan? My stomach cramped with emptiness, and my arms and legs shook with effort. Healing Ariel’s wounds and fighting Romeo had taken its toll.

I needed to eat something…as soon as I escaped from my murderous ex-husband.

“Slow down, sweetness. Let me get my hands around your ankle and we’ll see if you can fly.” He laughed, but the sound was strained. He was having trouble now that he’d reached the portion of the ravine that went straight up without a slant.

I was going to make it to the road first. Now I just had to pray that I’d find someone willing to stop and help. I was a harmless-looking young girl with one side of her head covered in blood, the chances were good that I’d—

“Wait!” I screamed, dragging myself up and over onto the edge of the road just as a truck zoomed past. I jumped to my feet, waving my arms to try to attract the driver’s attention, but the truck didn’t slow.

Tail lights faded into the distance, leaving laughter floating on the cold wind rushing through the canyon. Most likely kids from school headed to the party. I could run after them, hope they came to a stop sign sooner or later or—

Something large crashed down into the ravine, but it wasn’t Romeo. I could hear his breath coming in swift pants as he continued to labor up the side, intent on reaching me before I found help.

I spun in the opposite direction the truck had disappeared and ran. Romeo’s new body was bigger, stronger, and had longer legs. I couldn’t afford to head for the beach. According to Ariel’s memories, the road in that direction was deserted. I was going to have to run toward civilization and a better chance of finding someone out at ten o’clock on a school night.

It wasn’t prime wine tasting or tourist season and the nearest town, the village of Los Olivos, was quiet this time of year. But the restaurant might be open. I vaguely remembered Ariel thinking she might find a payphone there to call her mother if she abandoned her purse in the backseat. It was one of her last thoughts before she’d tried to jump out of the car.

“The world is a….sent to…” Romeo was singing, bits of a song that had been popular the last time we were on earth. It was a disturbing song about vampires and rats and the way Romeo sang it made it even more terrifying, a choir boy confessing a murder.

He always had a lovely voice, no matter what body he inhabited. Just as I always had sweet breath. Evidently.

I ran faster, sneakered feet pounding along the broken asphalt, breath crystalline in the air. Romeo was out of the ravine and on the move. He continued to sing as he ran, filling the night with his haunting voice, making me feel as if he’d already caught me with every note that pricked at my ears.

But he hadn’t. He wouldn’t.

I could see the lights of the town ahead. I was going to make it. It was only a mile, at most. He wouldn’t attack me in front of witnesses. Despite his strength, bars could hold him and the lawmen of recent centuries didn't hesitate to punish men for abusing their women. Not like in the earlier days when it was legal for a man to beat his wife, legal for him to kill her if she—

“Oh dear girl won’t you come round tonight, come round tonight,” he sang, switching to a song from our childhood, but in English instead of Italian.

We always spoke in the language of the new bodies, assimilating speech much more fully than memories, but I could recall the way the words sounded in our native tongue when he'd sung beneath my window. Back then, the sound of his voice had filled me with joy, expectation. Now there was nothing but terror.

He was going to catch me. He was too fast. I was tired, weak, not—

The headlights spun onto the road from a dozen feet ahead, seeming to come from nowhere.

I raced forward, screaming for help, waving my arms, willing the person inside the car to hear me, see me, and stop before it was too late. One second passed…then two…then three, the car pulling further away and taking my hope with it until suddenly, the brake lights turned red.

With a sob of relief, I sprinted the remaining distance to the car, threw open the passenger door, and flung myself inside without bothering to see who was behind the wheel. It didn’t matter.

Even the devil himself would be preferable company.

End excerpt.

Have a Wednesday!

Stacey Jay