From Hell to Breakfast

It’s finished! My second novel. It was supposed to be finished two years ago, but who’s counting apart from my friends, my foes, my mother, and those poor benighted souls who placed pre-orders on Amazon. Speaking of which, do not order From Hell to Breakfast from Amazon – not yet. The edition listed there does not exist. Why? Because I changed publishers in midstream. Unfortunately, that publisher had already generated a book cover and an ISBN, which has confused and confounded many, but all will soon be clear.

From Hell to Breakfast will be published at the end of this month (January 2009) by Blue Feather Books. I will have my first book signing at the Seattle Mystery Bookshop on February 14th. And just for kicks, did I mention that we have a brand new President of these United States of America?

I can breathe again.


Thyroid and Sea Monkeys

Filled as I am at this time of year with the Holly Jolly Spirit (AKA the Blessed Parakeet), I shall begin with a parable.

Ever have Sea Monkeys when you were a kid? I got them so long ago that I had to order them from the back of a comic book. I saved my money, gave it to my mother, she wrote a check, and the little devils duly arrived parcel post. It was magic! They came with a plastic Sea Monkey Palace, powdered water purifier, a packet of instant hatch eggs, and some Growth Food that you measured out with the end of a matchstick. I read the enclosed booklet, followed the instructions very carefully, and voila! I had Sea Monkeys!

Being a third grader, I was of course pissed that they didn’t actually wear little crowns or smoke pipes, nor could they be trained to read Aristotle or swing on the flying trapeze, but I got over that. It was fun to watch them swim around and occasionally devour one another in a cannibalistic frenzy. What sucked was when they kicked the bucket. They were supposed to live three years, but instead, they lived three months. They just shriveled up and died.

But the handy Sea Monkey booklet had a ready-made solution. If I just let the water in the Sea Monkey Palace evaporate — let it completely dry out — I could add some distilled water and, Bob’s yer uncle, my Sea Monkeys would be reborn! They’d unshrivel, rehydrate, and come right back to life.

Except they didn’t, and this is where my thyroid comes in. The damned thing is acting like a Sea Monkey. It has dried up, petered out, gone with the wind, and no matter how much water I drink — and I drink a damned lot — it’s not coming back. Once your thyroid gives up the ghost, you might as well bury it and sing Danny Boy.

Why my thyroid died, I do not know. My doctor speculates that I may have had a hyperactive thyroid in my hyper-athletic youth, and perhaps I wore it out, like an old pair of sneakers or those awful Mark Knopfler sweatbands I used to wear to my softball games. Whatever the cause, all I know is that a dead thyroid makes you depressed. Deeply depressed. Sometime in early December, I began to feel wretched. On a scale of 1 to Sylvia Plath, I was hovering around Robert Lowell. So, I went to see my doctor, Clever Elise, and we went over the usual things that bum me out. Sleep (poor). Work (drag my ass there every day but am underpaid and very tired. The weather (oh, God). The in-laws (oh, Cthulhu). And then there was that general feeling of lethargy, misery, hopelessness and malaise. We also talked about the weird cholesterol spike that had shown up in an August blood test, a 100 point jump that had neither a genetic nor a dietary explanation. Hmm. One of the hallmarks of a dead Sea Monkey . . . I mean thyroid.

[Side note: Want to knock a quick 30 points off your cholesterol? Try taking 500 mg no flush Niacin. Man, that stuff is magic.]

So. I felt like the last passenger on the Titanic. It was jump into the icy sea or listen to that Celine Dion song. My choices were not good. It was on Dec. 11th while I was sitting in the Spokane Airport waiting for my flight to Raleigh that Clever Elise called to tell me that the source of my misery was a dead thyroid, that it was tired and shagged out after a long squawk, that it had rung down the curtain and joined the choir invisible, etc., etc. She suggested that I needed to begin taking Levothyroxine as soon as possible, i.e., tomorrow. I said that I could start taking it next week as I was off to visit my mother for five days. She wasn’t happy — no doctor with a bad Sea Monkey on her hands is — but I pointed out that Raleigh has both hospitals and mortuaries, so I was covered for all eventualities.

That’s the medical news in Opyrland. I feel like an old woman blogging about it — like my paternal grandmother, who fills her letters with the juicy details from family obituaries. As my grandmother is 88, I cut her a lot of slack. Why shouldn’t she take pleasure in the obituaries? She’s lived for nine decades. When you spend as much time as she does dwelling the details of your cousin’s cancer or your brother’s cirrhosis, it’s clear that you don’t fear death, and I can’t help but be glad of that. However — and this is a big however — I am less than half my grandmother’s age. That means that I am way too young to be going on about what the hell is wrong with me. Soon I’ll be blogging about moles I’ve had removed, about bunions, about my rotten eyesight and the hearing in my left ear (blew that eardrum out at a Police concert in 1984).

And to think that my downhill slide will have started with a Sea Monkey thyroid.

I Got the Election Day DTs

Cover your head? No, cover your ass. It’s election day. I’m trying, really trying, not to look at FiveThirtyEight. I’m trying not to listen to the news. I’ve asked my pal Andi to text me at midnight, a mighty Woot! if it’s Obama, and a terrified, lower case canada if it’s not.

Poor Canada. Like they want a bunch of miserable, disappointed, lefty American intellectuals who can’t get a grip on the hanging chads and the Diebold machines moving up there to eat all the maple candies and OTC drugs. Not that that’s the only reason I’d be moving. I happen to like Canadian television. Before there was My Name Is Earl, there was Trailer Park Boys. Ricky, Julian and Bubbles. It’s tempting to make some facile comparison to Bush, Cheney, and Rove, but the Trailer Park Boys have souls.

It’s hard to believe that eight years have passed since the Florida recount. Hanging chads, butterfly ballots, that Harris woman, the Florida Supreme Court, the U. S. Supreme Court, those young Republican guys in suits waving Sore-Loserman signs, it was all so long ago and yet, what I’m thinking now is exactly what I was thinking then – you assholes! You rotten, no good, short-sighted, moronic, soul-destroying, disenfranchising, election-stealing fanny caps! Look what you’ve done to us. Iraq, Katrina, record unemployment, record deficits, feckless deregulation, global warming, international scorn, a financial meltdown, and that’s just off the top of my head.

Elections are important. Who we put in the Oval Office has meaning. And that’s why I can’t stand to watch. I love my grandmother, but she often justifies her vote based on the candidate’s looks. John Kerry? She couldn’t vote for him. Too horse-faced. Al Gore? He had a bald spot. Bill Clinton? She was okay with him, but that was because Bob Dole was old, and she didn’t see how he could be President with that withered arm. I wanted her to vote for Clinton, but I felt obliged to point out that this was the Presidency, not Wimbledon. If Roosevelt could do it in a wheelchair, surely Dole could do it with one hand . . . well, not tied behind his back, but you get my drift.

What other rationales do people use to vote? What sad excuses do they tell themselves for not voting? I don’t know, and I probably don’t want to know. Before I go hide under the bed and wait for the results, I’ll note that the lines for early voting here in Idaho were around the block. That’s astonishing. A few more painful eight-year ass-kickings, and perhaps we’ll get ourselves up to the percentages you see voting in third world countries.

Take Your Vice President To Work Day

The Wall Street Journal is reporting today that John McCain may take Sarah Palin to the U. N. General Assembly so she can meet some foreign heads of state. I think that’s kind of sweet. Maybe next he’ll take her to the Senate so she can meet the other 98 members. (I think we can safely assume that she knows the Emperor of Earmarks, Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, pretty damned well.)

What next? Is it too late for Ms. Palin to take that junior year abroad? What was it — six colleges in six years? I know she’s got her guy Todd, but I think it would do her good to have her heart broken by some handsome, self-satisfied, beret-wearing French art student. Or, better yet, an earnest and ardent Italian architect. No, wait! She could do a year at a British Polytechnic and mistake a Liverpudlian accent for posh, climbing into bed with the first wily Scouser who tells her he’s the Duke of Earl.

It happens to the best of us. And the worst. Unless, of course, we’ve spent the past twenty years staring at Russia through our Wasilla living room window.

Babies for German Engineering. You’re sh*tting me, right?

So, I was pounding out the miles on my exercise bike and watching My Name is Earl when up pops Brooke Shields in a Volkswagen ad. The vehicle? The Routan, Volkswagen’s new minivan. The ad’s clever gag? Shields advises us that women are getting pregnant just so they can get this minivan or, as Shields says, “More and more people are having babies simply for German engineering.”

Don’t believe me? Watch this.

Kinder, Kirke, Kuche. I don’t believe it. I really don’t. Brooke Shields graduated from Princeton in 1987 with a degree in French literature. You’d have thought that somewhere along they way, she’d have taken a history class or two, maybe something to do with the French Resistance? And, from there, it’s just a hop to Nazi Germany, the Holocaust, and eugenics.

A shower of morons. That’s what we’re dealing with here. Hurricane Idiot.

Countdown: From Hell to Breakfast

I’ve done it. A few minutes ago, I sent the final draft of my second novel to the copyeditor. Finishing a book is just as hard as beginning one. There’s something nerve-wracking about deciding, “Okay, I’ve tinkered enough. I’m just shifting around subordinate clauses, changing my ands to buts, and generally wasting time. This is as good as it’s going to get, God help me.” When is enough, enough? When have you stopped making it better and started making it worse? At what point does a rewrite become a devastation?

I’m reminded of this scene from Father Ted . . .

It’s my good fortune that the copyeditor is a close friend, and so I didn’t (as I usually do) feel like I was sending my sweet darling newborn to the evil Dr. Troy on Nip/Tuck for a little nose and eye work. I’m confident that she’ll clean up the text, catch my mistakes, and make the whole thing as lovely as it can be.

Not that it’s a pig in lipstick, or a hockey mom in lipstick, or Sarah Palin in Chapstick . . . oh, hell, now I’m getting confused. My advice to you budding writers out there? Never edit a book in the midst of a presidential election. The fate of the free world is at stake, and I’m worried about a throwaway line in Chapter 16.

Anyhow, here’s the skinny – From Hell to Breakfast will be available from Blue Feather Books, or Amazon, or your local bookstore sometime at the end of October or early November. FYI, I’ll be turning 42 on November 30th and I really want a Wii, so if you’d buy an extra few copies as holiday gifts, I’d appreciate it.

Quick Note: At present, the version of From Hell to Breakfast that’s listed on Amazon is incorrect. In fact, it’s non-existent. Bywater Books, which published my first novel, Idaho Code, was originally slated to publish From Hell to Breakfast, but I changed to my other mind and went with Blue Feather Books. No harm, no foul, but Amazon cannot seem to get this straight.

Tina Fey Does Sarah Palin

While there’s much to laugh at in this election, there’s not much to laugh about. I’ve been following the polls on FiveThirtyEight and, like many Democrats (and other people with a fully-functioning frontal lobe) I’ve been concerned. Sarah Palin. I don’t get it. But Tina Fey does, and, along with Amy Poehler, they put together a skit for Saturday Night Live that is the best thing I’ve seen this entire election season.

Please. Do yourself a favor. Watch it!