Archive for September, 2009

Exciting things are exciting! Interview (plus giveaway!) with Marilyn Brant

I am so excited about tomorrow! Why? Because my dear friend Marilyn Brant’s DEBUT novel According to Jane is hitting stores! Marilyn is an avowed Jane Austen fan — she even got me to read Pride and Prejudice. (As she assured me would happen, I loved it.) I got a chance to ask Marilyn a few questions about her book and other topics.

Look at that gorgeous cover!

Can you tell me a little about According to Jane?

Of course. But first, thanks for having me as a guest, Eliza! It’s wonderful to be here. According to Jane is the story of a modern woman named Ellie who gets dating advice from the ghost of Jane Austen. It begins one day in her high-school English class, just as Ellie’s teacher is assigning Pride & Prejudice. From nowhere, she hears a quiet “tsk” of disapproval aimed at the antics of the cute bad boy who has been teasing her. The author’s ghost takes it upon herself to stay in Ellie’s mind, offering up her own brand of Regency-era wisdom in regards to romance. Years and boyfriends come and go, but Ellie has a lot to learn about love. And, possibly, even Jane may benefit from a new insight or two.

Where did the idea for Jane come from?
I remember the moment I thought of it: I was sitting in an RWA National Conference workshop (Dallas 2004) presented by Eloisa James. She was discussing the borrowing of classic plots from famous authors, as she’d done with Shakespeare. She asked us to think about which classical lit books we’d read and the authors whose characters and storylines we’d gravitate toward. I immediately thought of Austen, of course, my all-time favorite author. Then I began asking myself questions–what would happen if a modern woman had a Pride & Prejudice-like experience? And what if Jane herself were involved somehow? Then: Oh! What if Jane could give dating advice? I would’ve loved for her to have given me some back when I was single–but, perhaps, Jane was biased against someone in the same way her most famous heroine, Elizabeth Bennet, was prejudiced against Darcy… And the idea took hold and continued on from there.

What does your normal writing day look like?
I try to get emails done in a few half-hour blocks throughout the day (first thing in the morning after my son leaves to school, again at midday if I can, later afternoon, etc.) and, then, leave the rest of the school day to actual writing. But I’m a *very* slow writer. It’s not uncommon for me to take an hour to draft a page or two. So, for me to get a basic five pages done in a day, I literally need 4-5 hours. However, as soon as I think I’m done with a scene, I print it out and force myself to move on. I’ll make any later changes on the hard copy only and, then, revise the full manuscript, based on those revisions, at the end of the draft. I’ve been trying to add in an hour to exercise into the writing day, too, but I can’t say I do that consistently!

What are you working on now?
The book I just finished writing this summer (which will be released in October 2010) is a modern fairytale about three suburban wives/moms who really shake up their marriages and their lives when one of them asks the other two a question that both shocks them and leads their imaginations astray…

What’s the last book you really loved?
In nonfiction, the last book I really found fascinating was Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers. Fiction is harder! I enjoyed Sheila Curran’s Everyone She Loved, Love and Other Natural Disasters by Holly Shumas and the first book (Prime Time) in Hank Phillippi Ryan’s fun mystery series.

You can buy According to Jane at all the major retailers, including Amazon, starting tomorrow but I’m also hosting a giveaway. To win one of two personalized copies of According to Jane, leave a comment on this post with one rule of love you’ve learned, even if it was the hard way — or you can just throw your name into the hat.

Fine print!
Deadline is Wednesday, October 7, 2009, at midnight central time.
I’ll ship anywhere in the world, because I am awesome.
One entry per IP address, please.
Entries MUST be posted at — entries elsewhere, like on Facebook or via a feed reader, do not count.

If you post a comment and don’t see it right away, please don’t freak out! All first-time commenters must be approved and I can’t always get to them right away. Rest assured, I’ll approve all valid entries.

Posted on September 28th, 2009 by Eliza  |  14 Comments »

Tiny bird sculptures

I kind of have a thing for teensy little birds. I like real birds, too, but tiny bird sculptures are much easier to care for. It’s funny — I was talking with my mom how I got some new ones in the mail and she told me that my grandmother loved to collect bird figurines, too, which I had either never known or totally forgotten. It’s unfortunate that she never had access to etsy, which is where most of these come from.


Leetle owl

These little guys came from the same etsy seller. Yes, that dust is meant to be there, why do you ask?

Glass bird

This is the only non-etsy bird. It’s a votive holder, but it has no candle. My house is enough of a fire-trap already, what with all the books and dust. The last thing I need is actual flames.

Finch, maybe?

This is a hand-carved wooden golden-crowned kinglet, which was a gift from P. (If you have cats, I recommend gathering them round and playing the audio on that last link. You’ll thank me later.)

Teeny white birds

These are not glazed so they’re slightly rough to the touch.

Les bluebirds in their new home.

The bluebirds, in their new home.


The ptarmigan arrived today. The adults are glazed but the babies aren’t. The little ones are about the size of my pinky nail.

While I’m at it, a few more bits of art.

NM motto



Posted on September 26th, 2009 by Eliza  |  3 Comments »

It is kind of a problem

Earlier this week, my husband and I were driving home from the city after my class. Our respective commutes went a little crazy once I went back to school, and I had to go and complicate things this summer by deciding to drive in to my classes from the suburbs after trying and failing to make the Metra work for me most of the last school year.

Driving in is cheaper, even paying for parking a half block off Michigan Avenue. I usually don’t have to worry about being late anymore, and that’s accounting for Chicago’s hateful traffic. Before, I barely made it to class on time due to the commuter train’s lackadaisical approach to getting to the station when it was supposed to. Gone are the hours spent in rage as the train halted between stops for no discernible reason. Even better, I never again have to experience that sinking feeling once the conductor announces that the train will be stopped indefinitely because SOMEONE WAS HIT. (It was awful and the train didn’t move for three hours.) Plus, now I get to control when I leave instead of praying I’ll get to the 10.30 train — were I to miss it, I wouldn’t get home till almost 1a. I am getting old. That is not acceptable, even for me.

But we only have one car — by choice — so my (darling) husband shifted around his work hours and starts late on the days I have class and we drive home together.

Backstory, much?

This is just to explain why late the other night we were a couple of suburbs away from home when a skunk darted across the highway. Can I just say that I see way more roadkill here, by the way, than I ever did when I lived in a really small town? But I didn’t feel a thump that indicated Pepe Le Pew had shuffled off this mortal coil, at least at our hands, so I choose to believe that he was fine when we left him. (Denial gets me through the days when squirrels lie down in the road and wait for me to drive by and I don’t see why this theory shouldn’t work on skunks, too.)


We drove the same path home the next night and at approximately the same spot there was… an odor. Skunky. Not strong, but enough to get my attention. I think I’m weird, because skunk odor doesn’t actively offend me, but that doesn’t mean I want to, you know, bathe in it.

This morning, when we got in the car to go to the train station for the regular morning commute, P made a face. “I think the car smells like skunk,” he said.

“No,” I told him. “There was probably one outside.” It was the garage, I thought. Or my front yard. Skunk convention at the park. Some rich dude having a bad day at his house. Not my car.

Except when I went to get in the car this afternoon after work, which happens to be pretty far from my front yard… I smelled it.

That skunk is avenging itself from the dead and it waited twenty-three hours till we drove by again to do it.

PS: I am a new regular poster on my friend Andrew’s pop culture blog Slowtimer. Here is my first post over there.

Posted on September 24th, 2009 by Eliza  |  2 Comments »

I guess I can’t call them weekly links if I don’t post every week.

Baby announcement? Or the lamentations of a real baseball fan?
Regional American hamburgers and cheeseburgers. I gasped when I saw the green chile entry.
Average cats. Heh.
Cat and Girl go to the Costume Shop.
Dan Brown’s Twenty Worst Sentences.
Sexual Assault Prevention Tips, Guaranteed to Work!
How I need this bag.
Great Ask Metafilter question about visually stunning music videos.
Time lapse video of the Dubai Metro.
This is a cute bunny.
Oh, space. I love you so.

As a Roald Dahl fan (and George Clooney and Bill Murray and Meryl Streep and and and…) I am REALLY EXCITED for Wes Anderson’s adaptation of Fantastic Mr. Fox.

NSFW, super disturbing sex toys.
Damien Hirst’s pencils are missing!
Neil Gaiman’s personal library.

I really like this song.

I went to Milwaukee over Labor Day weekend and couldn’t stop saying it like Alice Cooper does.

Posted on September 18th, 2009 by Eliza  |  No Comments »

On Journaling

I’ve never been a very good journal keeper, as much as I want to be. I’ve had trouble since kindergarten, when my gifted and talented teacher wanted me to write a full notebook page for a journal entry and I wrote “I lost a tooth,” followed by, like, forty lines of exclamation points. With a pencil, even, so the page got all greasy after a while.

I’ve tried, in fits and starts, to keep journals throughout my life. My past is littered with notebooks and Moleskines and diaries with little locks and little keys, all of them chosen deliberately, with the best of intentions. I write in them, tell secrets, start stories. And after a few days, I just stop. Leave them behind, or keep them out to remind me of what I’m avoiding, as accusatory as inanimate objects can be.

The longest I ever kept a journal was when I tried to make my way through Julia Cameron’s Artist’s Way. She advises one to get up first thing in the morning and write three handwritten pages before doing anything else. Let me make myself clear: I am not precisely a morning person. Before, say, 10a, all I’m good for is driving my husband to the train station and shouting foul invectives at motorists who have the misfortune of pulling out in front of me when they should know damn good and well that we are running late again. I even shock myself with what comes out of my mouth. So when Julia Cameron wanted me to get up early to write junk by hand in a spiral ring notebook, I was, in a word, skeptical, but willing to try.

In the end, it wasn’t the getting up early that broke my nascent habit, but my crippling perfectionism. If I missed a day, it was all ruined! All that work, those two months, down the drain! Missing the point? Yes, I’m good at that. Either way, I abandoned those journals, too.

I’m having to learn how to keep a journal, though. The journal is one of the cornerstones of the Fiction Writing program I attend at Columbia College, and this semester both of my classes are with a teacher who seems to really like them, so I guess it’s all journal time for me for the next few months. As much as I bristle at authority, I am a grade-grubber from way back, so I’m going to do my best. Not forcing myself to get to a certain page count is a start.

And, you know, I get why journaling is important. I’ve just never made room for it in my process.

Do you think journaling is important to your process, or are you more like me? Any tips?

Posted on September 10th, 2009 by Eliza  |  No Comments »

Weekly! Links! Time!

A youtube video about a big egg. Not embedded so as to not ruin the surprise.
Methodist minister confides to congregation that he is transgendered man. This story seems to have a happy ending, which is awesome.

Dr Horrible: Laundry Day

The Snuggie Sutra.

Do You Wanna Date My Avatar?

Ginger cinnamon carmels. Nom, these look so tasty.
Good thread with lots of pop nonfiction recs.
Cooper the cat takes pictures.
Poodles don’t get to have dignity. They get to be turned into pandas and such.

This made me sniffle. Don’t tell anyone I’m a sap.

Papercraft Keyboard Cat!

Johnny Cash impersonates Elvis.

The ur-dancefight.

Sensurround, a terrible idea.

This reportedly took 1500 hours to make.

This turtle got prosthetic legs. Aw.

Posted on September 2nd, 2009 by Eliza  |  No Comments »