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Sunday, January 07, 2007


I had a scare the other day. I was looking through the news, and all of a sudden a headline popped up. It read: PERFECT STORM HEADED FOR SYDNEY.

It so happens that superstar Magic or Madness author Justine Larbalestier and her man-companion, NYT best selling author Scott Westerfeld live in Sydney—at least, they are there right now.

“EEEEEEK,” I said. I didn’t want Justine and Scott to get stuck in a perfect storm. I immediate sent Justine a note.

Justine didn’t sound alarmed. In her reply, she said something about going “off to the cricket” and then later made a very special point of making sure I said the words “Ashes” and “5-0” to Oscar Gingersnort, because he is English.


“What storm?” she asked. “Make sure you tell him. ASHES. 5-0.”

So, it turns out that the news here was lying about the perfect storm. Why, I have no idea. And “Ashes” “5-0” refers to the fact that Australia had beaten England 5-0 in a series of important cricket matches.

Except all Oscar said was, “I don’t follow the cricket.”

So, here’s me, in the middle of some kind of INTERCONTINENTAL CRICKET WAR, all the while thinking that perfect storms were attacking my dear friends. Perfect storms that turned out to be LIES!

All of this talk of perfect storms reminds me of my many wonderful kidnapping dates with my friend, J.W. Krimble.

I have been kidnapping J.W. Krimble ever since we were in college together. My shoving him into the car on Thanksgiving (and then subsequently getting us both stuck in a non-perfect storm) is just the latest in a long line of examples. Likewise, his fear of my using a stun gun on him is perfectly reasonable.

I would call these kidnappings “dates.” Typically, they would begin with my pulling up in front of his house at a high rate of speed, then rushing to his front door and physically dragging him toward my car, saying, “I AM TAKING YOU ON A WONDERFUL DATE!”

Our dates included things like trips to the DMV, where I would make him wait with me in 3 hour lines. We’ve had dates at the post office, the hardware store, the emergency room at 3 AM . . . He loved them all. I could tell.

A typical night with me on a WONDERFUL DATE.

One very special date involved me driving him to Center City Philadelphia, to recover things that had been smashed off my car after another driver struck me and totaled it. My bumper was still on a traffic island a week later, and I WANTED IT. Why I wanted it, I can’t remember. (I did get smacked around a lot in that accident, so I may not have been thinking clearly.)

That is clearly not something you can do on your own. That’s a date. I drove my little rental car to the scene of the accident, and then J.W. and I rushed into traffic and retrieved the bumper.

But maybe the best date I’ve ever taken J.W. on was the Perfect Storm Reconstruction Society Weekend date.

See, while I was waiting to become a big, famous author (I laugh as I write that, of course), I wrote all kinds of things to make a living. One of the things I wrote was a book that was part of a popular series about witches.

I knew nothing about witches when I got this job. But what I did know was that the book was supposed to take place in Gloucester, Massachusetts—which is the setting of the book and movie, The Perfect Storm.

I knew what I had to do. First, I called my future agent, Daphne Unfeasible, and told her my plan. Then I called J.W.

“I am taking you on a wonderful double date!” I said.

“Oh dear God,” he replied.

“You will be gone for the entire weekend. Pack warm. Bring cash. Meet Daphne and I at Grand Central Station at 6 pm.”

“Where am I going?” he asked.

“You don’t need to know that,” I said. “But it will be wonderful.”

Daphne had secured us a fast car at the other end of the train trip. We bought J.W.’s tickets, so that he could not see where he was going. When we arrived, we stuffed him in the back seat of the waiting vehicle.

“Aren’t you going to tell me anything?” he said.

“Think George Clooney,” I said.


I smiled, then unfurled my map.

“North!” I said to Daphne, and she started the car.

After a few hours, it became clear that we were going to New England. For a while, J.W. thought we might be going to Boston, but then we veered East. All the while, we dropped tiny Perfect Storm clues.

In the end, he had no reason to complain. I had gotten us a suite in a beautiful bed and breakfast. It was the slow season, so the owner insisted on showing us all the spots in the building that were haunted, and then a clip of his recent appearance on a decorating show. Then we settled into our lovely rooms, where we spent most of the afternoon hiding behind the curtains, pretending to be ghosts. (This was partially because it was very, very, very cold outside and we didn’t want to deal with it, and partially because we are just the kind of people who like to hang out in hotel rooms and pretend to be ghosts.)

As my dates went, J.W. was pretty impressed with this one, even when I dragged him around relentlessly that night and the next day, doing incredibly tedious research for the book. We capped it all off by taking off our shoes and running into the freezing sea, about up to our ankles, and pretending to be the crew of the Andrea Gail.

Why am I telling you all of this? Obviously, I am leading you to my next big point. My e-mail inbox has been spilling over the last few days, and the question I am getting a lot is . . .


For a while, Girl at Sea had no name. It was just this crazy book I was writing about being stuck on a boat off the coast of Italy, and a stone that would change the history of the world. When it came time to turn it in, I realized I had to call it SOMETHING.

The trouble was . . . I had no idea what to call it. I was stumped. I made a list of something like 22 different titles, but none of them were right. So, to spare myself having to refer to it as, “The book. You know, the book? The one I’m working on? That book? With, the boat? And, the stone?” I started calling it Pirate Dance Camp whenever I spoke to my editor. (In case you are wondering, Girl at Sea DOES have pirates in it. It does not have a dance camp. There is a scene that involves dancing, but it is not in a camp setting.)

Though it was never meant to be a permanent measure, I liked the name enough to want to keep it around. And so . . . I have created the PIRATE DANCE CAMP SOCIETY! What does it mean? Well, members will (at some point) be given exciting pirate names, and I will put them on a special mailing list, and they will receive strange, members-only e-mails. And undoubtedly, when my first shipment of Girl at Seas arrives, I will be reserving a few copies for PDC members. Perhaps there will be a sneak preview. You never know. I certainly don’t. It will be an adventure for all!

“How do I join?” you ask. “I must know!”

Simple. You send me an e-mail with the words: I AM A DANCING PIRATE in the subject line. And if you want, you may include a few lines on why you feel you would make a good member of this elite society. I may post some of the best reasons on this blog. Again, WHO KNOWS? Mystery is part of the game.

Maybe I will even kidnap you and take you on a wonderful date. You never know what you’re going to get when you sign up with me.

WANTED: dancing pirates!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Heyyyyyyyy Kidnap ME!

5:46 AM  
Blogger Justine Larbalestier said...

Oscar Gingersnort only says that because we won 5-0!!!! It was a drubbing!!! The English they was drubbed!! Woo hoo!!

In other news: You are very funny. Indeed you are the funniest world-famous writer I know.

10:11 AM  
Anonymous Daphne Unfeasible said...

I have to check, but I think I have some of those ghost photos lying around somewhere. Which is particularly amazing, if you think about it, given how hard it can be to take a good picture of a ghost. I will have to check in my voluminous files of blackmail material... I mean, photos! My photo albums!

1:12 AM  
Anonymous Oscar Gingersnort said...

Justine, as always I find the Australians are such gracious winners, but I don't really follow the cricket so I don't care ;P.

However, I enjoy taking Maureen on "dates" to such exciting places as Tescos and she returns the favour by taking me to Lowes. Oh we live such glamourous and exciting lives, don't we!

2:45 AM  
Blogger Justine Larbalestier said...

If you don't care how come your responding? Huh? Huh? You care. All English people care! I can see those tears all the way from Sydney.

8:10 AM  
Anonymous Hannah said...

This will inevitably end in Justine and dear Oscar duking it out to the death. Maureen and Scott will wait patiently at the sidelines with the occasional verbal sparring. But then, completely unexpectedly Justine's eyes will turn yellow and resembling something feline, she will start throwing buildings and singing the chorus to The Last Day's latest hit. Then it will become only too apparent that Scott Westerfield has converted her into a dangerous Peep! Creating a murderous rampaging creature from which only Westerestier's and possibly the occasional Johngingersnortson may survive. It's a cut-throat world, being a writer.



(Who will be sending Maureen an email shortly with some wonderful pictures.)

9:32 AM  
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10:13 PM  

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