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March 25, 2008

Joshilyn Jackson's Mysterious Affair

HEY! Now, it's a contest with prizes and everything....See Joshilyn's comment in the comment section. And then click on her site tomorrow.....!!!

Joshilyn Jackson's Mysterious Affair

By Sarah - And Joshilyn

Joshilyn Jackson is quickly becoming the go-to girl of Southern writing. Her two previous books - Gods Better_girl in Alabama (which begins with the best opening line ever*) and Between, Georgia - have been #1 Booksense picks. Her latest, The Girl Who Stopped Swimming, in which a happily domesticated suburban quilter is visited by the ghost of a girl who turns up dead in her swimming pool, is that rare combination of page turner mystery and literary novel peppered with characters who leap off the page - Jackson's trademark.

Before we get to her post below, however, I'd just like to note a few of her responses to my nosy questions: Jackson does not believe in ghosts; she believes in physics.

"That said, I have been places that felt haunted, and even physics believes that no energy is ever lost," she said. "Energy just changes form. So. There are more things in heaven and earth, etc. etc."

As for the Southern suburban existence she brings so vividly to life in The Girl Who Stopped Swimming, Jackson knows it well having lived in a suburb of Atlanta that was once "in the cotton" and is now being gobbled up by the usual accoutrement of more comfortable living - box stores, Chili's restaurants, malls. In her latest book, Jackson sets up two parallel universes - the suburb Victorianna and the old mining town DeLop - that are more haunting than the ghosts. DO NOT MISS THIS NOVEL!!

And now for Jackson's blog:

The Mysterious Affair of the BicycleJoshilyn

Since February 28th, I have been on tour for The Girl Who Stopped Swimming and today is the tail end of a 40 hour break at home before I head up to do the east coast. Last night I was SO happy to be in my own personal bed with own personal husband with my own personal cats tucking themselves in around the edges that I slept for twelve straight hours straight, and yet, even while entirely unconscious, I could not quite stop mulling over The Mysterious Affair of the Bicycle in my dreams.

Let me present the facts of the case to you:

While signing at a west coast bookshop, far from home, the Event Co-coordinator brought me a slip of paper and said, “You had a phone message earlier, and Kate, the manager, wrote it down for you.” The slip of paper said:

“Todd for Joshilyn Jackson: Bicycle of hers was left in his garage. Please tactfully pass this message on to the author.”

CRYPTIC! I do not own a bicycle! I do not know a Todd! And why would this message need to be passed on to me in a TACTFUL manner? It doesn’t sound PERSONAL or EMBARRASSING? Unless we assume it is a EUPHEMISM. It sounds like one, doesn’t it? If I were a man, and somewhat sexually indiscriminant, and if the message was from, say a “Toddina,” I would assume I had gotten someone pregnant.

This must be some former Todd? Some long forgotten bicycle? And yet, I can only dredge up two past Todds of any note, and they are so far back in the misty past that I can remember NEITHER’s last name.

1) Cupcake Todd. This Todd was circa fourth grade, and he was my first love. Well, he was my first Spock REAL LIFE love. Before him I had crushes on Spock (Yes. That Spock. Pointy ears and all.) and Lurch (the Adams Family’s groaning butler) and the constellation Orion (I know, that one is especially weird, but, come ON! He fought BEARS!!!) My type was apparently Tall, Dark, and Totally Emotionally Unavailable, so it surprised no one more than me that when at last I fell for a Real Alive Boy, he should be a sunny dispositioned, white-blonde object, two inches shorter than me with a face as round and smooth and white as a Vidalia onion.

I expressed the depths of my Todd-ian adoration every day at lunch by taking ONE of my hostess cupcakes and kissing it surreptitiously. Then I would offer the kissed cake to Todd, and I would pretend to be very busy and important as I peeped sideways in little sipping glances to watch him eat my kiss. For the record, let me assure you it was a blameless kiss, close-lipped and chaste, and yet it was as fervent as possible for a girl who had not yet even HEARD of how they bussed their flaky pastries in the wilds of debauched France.

Within ten days, rumors of my secret dessert-kissing went from best friend Yvonne down a long chain of other girls, until a vicious little hussy named Lisa (who liked Todd herself) TOLD him what I had been doing, and then it worked its way back up the chain and right before lunch, Yvonne told me in hushed tones that TODD KNEW. (!!!!!)

That day, terrified but too in love to quail, I kissed the cupcake and proffered it as usual, and Todd took it and ate it as usual, which was to me and my gaggle of friends and the bitterly disappointed Lisa proof positive of his reciprocal devotion to me. In retrospect, it occurs that he may have only been expressing a devotion for cream filling, but at the time, the general assumption was that Todd and I were “going together.”

I did have a bicycle in those days, a pink one with streamers on the handlebars, and I may very well have left it in Todd’s garage a few times. And yet I can’t imagine he would search me out at a bookstore in California and ask a manager to TACTFULLY tell me so via phone message, lo these thirty years and change later.

2) Beautiful Gay Todd.

He was from my last college days,and he was MASTER of the bon mot. I LOVED talking to him. My relationship with Beautiful Gay Todd mostly consisted of running into him at parties and spending an Bicycle hour gabbing with him and laughing ourselves sick, and then we would circulate onwards. For the rest of the night, I had to tell about 50 single girls who had seen me talking to him and wanted an intro that he was gay, and then they would sigh and say, “Oh. What a pity,” and if my friend Steven was near enough he would pop into the conversation juuuuust long enough to say, “Well *I* don’t think so,” and waggle his eyebrows.

I have no memory of any doings with Beautiful Gay Todd beyond these and certainly no memories of him having a garage or me having a bicycle that I would have put in it and abandoned.

The Abandoned Bicycle remains a mystery wrapped in an enigma served with conundrum sauce, and I keep waiting for something to happen to clarify it all, and the something keeps not happening. This is VERY unsatisfying, but, to bright-side here, it’s one of those little niggling things that keeps intruding into my imagination. I find myself making UP plausible Todds, plausible bicycles, plausible reasons for TACT.

I strongly suspect that unless an explanation is offered, in about ten or so years of mulling, I will have the makings of another novel, in much the same way that six enigmatic sentences in a short story started Gods in Alabama, nine years before I wrote it. It was an inexplicable piece of graffiti that started Between, Georgia, a good eighteen years before I wrote THAT. THE GIRL WHO STOPPED SWIMMING began seven years before I wrote it, when I saw a particular quilt by fabric artist Pamela Allen, and started trying to imagine the sort of mind that would need to take quilting—a traditional cozy big-bosomed Amishy female mother thing---and turn it into an edgy statement about women’s roles without EVER losing a sense of humor.

Joshilynj Of course I want to know, WHAT BICYCLE??? WHAT DAMN TODD? But at the same time, the writer in me hopes I never find out.


*As for that best opening line, ever? "There are gods in Alabama: Jack Daniel's, high school quarterbacks, trucks, big tits and also Jesus."


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Welcome Joshilyn, and thank you for a beautiful guest blog. My guess for Todd: an enamored fan trying to woo you with talk of a bicycle.

What a great blog - I'll look forward to the bicycle book in about 7 years, and to reading your others much sooner.

As for the truth behind the cryptic note, my guess is that it's some kind of federal sleeper cell test - if you actually show up at Todd's garage and ask for your bicycle, then agents will take you away to Gitmo and ask you why you hate America.

Joshilyn, welcome to the circus that never ends! You caught me on Bookstore Day...I think I need to find a certain new author!

Okay, I have a theory. There is no Todd, this is just some weird California thing where people connect with writers by claiming to have their bicycles.

What I love is the bookseller's reaction. Que scandal!

Joshilyn, I loved Gods in Alabama and bought the new book while on my own book tour, in snowy Cleveland. I have discovered one of the tricky things about book tours is that old acquaintances tend to show up LOOKING NOT ONE IOTA LIKE THE PERSON THEY WERE IN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL. This is very unfair, especially for those of us who are nearly blind to begin with. And sometimes those people show up toting very vivid memories of you that you have---uh--no idea what they're talking about (maybe he was thinking of that *other* Joshilyn??) but you keep smiling anyway. I think your Todd is probably ANOTHER Todd from somewhere else in your life and you can't remember the bicycle circumstances that clearly changed his life forever.

I saw a friend over the weekend who set me straight that he wasn't at all the guy who---well, nevermind--but it was somebody else altogether, which I'd forgotten. I tend to twist the facts of my life to fit the fiction anyway.

Can't wait to read the book!

I can hardly wait to read these intriguing books. Meanwhile, I'm trying to think of what I may have left behind in people's garages or homes that could come back to haunt me in a "tactful" and cryptic message. Or what might others have left. . .there was a college boyfriend who loaned me his typewriter. I'd carry it back to the student union to leave it for him every time we broke up. The final break up, I told him to come get it himself -- I eventually left that typewriter with my ex-husband; he needed it to finish his dissertation. ok, that's my lost item story. Who's next?

The thought occurs, Joshilyn, that you could have looked at the bookseller, asked her to call "Todd" back, and give him the message "The Kiwi Bird only flies at Dawn." Or something like that.

Just imagine the reactions...:)

Aaaah, childhood crushes! How my girlfriends and I tested our first names with various boys' last names to see how they'd sound after we got married! There were some ridiculous combinations, "Cassie Zambotti" being among the most amusing. (Young Mr. Zambotti now plays for the Oakland As -- maybe I should have pursued him more zealously!)

Hi Joshilyn - thanks for such a cool blog.

First off - I am heading out for your book - with an opening line that includes a list like that, it's totally a must-have. Plus, since you actually used the word 'tits' in a book, I figure you're not going to be offended with my take on your 'discreet note'.

Honey, I think you need to go have some major blood work done. I mean, if somebody from my past left me a message like that (and really, Todd has got to be an assumed name, right, unless there really is some meaning to the bi in bicycle?), I'd figure maybe he was trying to tell me something that one simply does not put in a phone message to a perfect stranger.

This happened to my cousin Ruby once - she got a note that said, basically "I might have left you something you don't want, signed, former dumbass boyfriend", and it turned out she had some kind of weirdo disease that didn't have any symptoms. They put her on major league drugs and cured it, but she couldn't drink or mess around or anything for a couple of months. Bad scene. She never went without a raincoat again, I can tell you.

Not to suggest anything about you, of course, but we all have a past. Just saying.

Now that I've shared that embarrassing bit of personal information, people, you'd all better chime in with childhood crush stories and/or hilarious names you dodged!

Cassie - is your young Mr. Zambotti any relation to the Mike who graduated with me in 1978? Because that is totally cool about the A's.

Oh - and one of my high school boyfriends had the last name 'Romance'. No lie. That, of course was perfect in so many ways, because I could have kept the same monogram and everything (remember all those sweaters and blouses and Bermuda bag covers with the monograms?). Yes, Kathy Romance had a real ring to it. heh.

Cassie - clearly flying high on pregnancy hormones. Are you telling me you missed out on being a baller's wife? Big hair. Big...you know.

I've had experiences on tour where some man will wait until the verrry end of the line where he stands expectantly. I suppose I'm supposed to drop my pen and yell, Walter J. Poindexter! How the hell are you? But 9/10 I cannot for the life of me remember who he is - even after he begrudgingly reveals his identity.....I always feel like a shit.

Josh, however, I knew right off. Man hasn't changed in 30 years.

Are you sure it wasn't Tod -- which is German for death?

Welcome, Joshilyn - your books are terrific!

My theory on the bicycle: it is the first part of a set-up for one of those 'Punk'd' shows. The next time, it'll be a note about a moped or a scooter, and so on, until you find yourself facing grand theft auto charges. Good times.

Plus, I think Elaine has something there - when you do your memoirs (fiction or non-fiction, it makes no difference these days) you can call it:

Bicycle of Death: the Joshilyn Jackson Story.

I'll bet the Lifetime Channel will option it right away too.

Adds new name to list of books to buy and read. I'm going to have to quit my job and read full time if this keeps up.

Bicycle. Garage. Todd. Are you sure aren't code words for bra, back seat, and 57 Chevy?

Welcome, Joshilyn! I enjoyed your blog. It's funny (peculiar, not ha ha) who we remember and why. I was on the newspaper staff of my high school, and I guess my mom thought some of the editions were important to save. Just about one year ago, I found the stash and skimmed through them. I was surprised that I remembered only a couple of names and none of the (apparently) big news. Granted the papers were written a little over 30 years ago, but I thought I'd at least remember who else was on the newspaper staff! I didn't recognize a single name but my own.

And my first crush was in fourth grade on a guy named Jimmy Locke...or was it Johnny Locke...I don't even remember what he looked like. But it was REAL important at the time.

BTW, I'm putting your new book on my "must have" book buying list, and good luck with the continuation of your book tour.

Great blog...loved the kissing the cupcake story, especially KNOWING that your feelings were returned when HE ATE THE CUPCAKE KNOWING YOU KISSED IT. Sigh. How romantic! (Snort) I bet you even picked out that "special" valentine card to give him from that pack all parents bought...something that'd really let him know the depth of your feelings, you know, something like "be mine forever".

So, you left your "bike" in Todd garage, huh? I think it's code for "I've got your cupcake right here".

Hi, Joshilyn! Great blog! What an intriguing message! I have to decipher a lot of messages, but it's usually due to teenagers writing down every third word and then deleting them from the answering machine.

Your books are definitely on my list, especially after that great first line. I see you're not coming to PA in your travels this time, but hopefully we'll get to see you in these parts at some point.

Thanks for guesting for us today.

Whee -- I love the todd theories!!! Thank you (I also love the "Oh I want to read this" comments---what a warm welcome!)

ANYWAY! There will be a TODD THEORY contest with prizes and whatnot on my blog tomorrow so if you HAD a todd theory, you might want to check over there on Wednesday and enter it.


Thank you, Sarah. I still tell the story of the book you signed on the trunk of my car in the King of Prussia Costco parking lot. It wasn't till I got back to the office that I saw that you had written "Thanks for last night." My colleagues got a big kick out of that when I got back to the office, and so does everyone else I tell, including Lisa Lutz and Nancy, a couple of weeks ago. That was the first time I'd seen you in 15 or 20 years.

Oh, my, Joshilyn, this is a tasty little entry to TLC! In a way, it might be better never to know--the imagined details just can't be as much fun as the real ones.

By the way, Between, Georgia was a fabulous read. It was totally unexpected, and I could not put it down. Best of luck with your new books. I'm with Sue--there aren't enough hours in the day to read all the great books written by the denizens of this blog.

One of my first crushes was a boy named Jake. My birthday is October 5th and I started first grade at age 5, so was always younger than everyone else. Jake was in first grade when I was in second, but he was actually the same age as me, and bigger than most of the second grade boys. I went for the studly types, even then.! If he were to produce himself in front of me I know I would have no idea who he was, since I haven't seen him since 1959.

I am totally going out to get these books! As for Todd, well, do you happen to have teenagers? Because that's just the kind of stunt many of the teens I know would pull, just to mess with Mom's head. Not that *my* teen would have done so, you understand . . .

I sort of remember the objects of my young crushes, but not any of their names. Worse was "that weird red-headed boy" who had a crush on me in 6th grade. I was too kind to rebuff his attentions and received no end of teasing from my friends because of it. As it happens, he later became one of my best buddies -- but I spent a pretty mortifying school year before that happened . . .

Joshilyn (who tells us that the H in her name is "purely decorative") and TLC together. My morning reads have collided. I am happy.

Joshilyn, you are a RIOT!

I notice you don't specify which West Coast bookstore was the venue for the Todd Note; if it's in L.A., I will investigate. I will interview Manager Kate. I will locate Garage of Todd. I have finished my current opus and have lots of energy.

Hey! I just noticed that THE GIRL WHO STOPPED SWIMMING in #7 on this week's San Fran. Chronicle bestseller list!! Woohoo! A real bestseller here at TLC! Many congratz!

IS. is #7 on the bestseller list! Yeesh.

Must be Todd's doing....

Whee -- and it hit the B and N Chart this week at 30! That's two lists I have never hit before :) WHEEE! Thank you for noticing.


Does Lisa Loopner know you're chasing her boyfriend Todd DiLamuca? Because she is too smart a cookie to fall for the anonymous note excuse.

You know, Lisa Loopner never really "did it" for me. I was much more of a Emily Litella guy--her, I quote all the time. "What's all this talk about violins on television?"

Nope, Roseanne Rosannadana for me.

I'm depressed
I've gained weight
My face broke out
I'm nauseous,
I'm constipated
My feet are swollen
My gums are bleeding
My sinuses are clogged
I have heartburn
I'm cranky
And I've got gas.

Oh boy! Quilts & ghosts, right up my alley!
I think Todd is probably the 4th grader. When searching for the old crowd for a reunion, I found my first boyfriend and gave him a cryptic call. LOL his misspent youth coming back to haunt him!

Lisa Loopner. Roseanne Rosannadana. Emily Litella. What a literate bunch we are. And, besides, what's the big deal about "youth in Asia?"

"What's all this fuss about Soviet Jewelry?"

That one still makes me laugh.

Maybe Todd is really Mr. Richard Feder from Ft. Lee, New Jersey.

But my all time favorite was Judy Miller - the hyperactive kid in the Brownie/Girl Scout uniform who put on shows in her bedroom.

How can those little crustaceans hide all those big guns in their little shells? (Croatians, Emily, Croatians)

Sarah, it's sad but true. I have a close friend who was a philosophy major in college. She asked if I wanted to go to a talk on euthanasia. Coming from an anthropology major, I really did think she was saying Youth in Asia. I figured it out MAYBE by the first half hour...I was just too pitiful. My friend still thinks it's funny...after almost 25 years. ;-)

I'm with you, Joshilyn--sometimes I would like to have all the mysteries in the universe solved but, really, life is more fun when there are a few unanswered questions about. Gives us more to think about.

My birthday is October 5th and I started first grade at age 5, so was always younger than everyone else.
Karen, me too -- kindergarten at age 4, first grade at age 5 --
These similarities are just too spooky.

Wireless catalog had a t-shirt "Visualize Whirled Peas" which I just didn't understand, until they came out with "End the Violins."

"My birthday is October 5th and I started first grade at age 5, so was always younger than everyone else."
Karen, me too -- kindergarten at age 4, first grade at age 5 --
These similarities are just too spooky.

Wireless catalog had a t-shirt "Visualize Whirled Peas" which I just didn't understand, until they came out with "End the Violins."

BTW, I told stories at the City Museum today. It was great fun!

Obviously little hussy Lisa has grown up! For lo these many years, she has waited to "get" you and now she finally has .....

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