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Monday, April 02, 2007


First, there are some new elements of the site I want to point out. For those of you writing book reports, now there’s an expanded bio, updated Girl At Sea information, and . . . drumroll . . . a PODCAST! The first one is just me, talking about the creation of 13 Little Blue Envelopes. It is chock full of book reporty goodness.

These podcasts will be a regular feature! In the future, I’ll be brining you interviews with more authors! Live reports on my pursuit of a Vespa! An exciting feature called "Ask An Agent" with Daphne Unfeasible! (If you have any questions for "Ask An Agent" you should send them in.) Just look up at the top of this page for the podcasts tab, or down along the side for the little iPod graphic. And don’t forget to sign up for my secret newsletter, so that I can assault you using every single program on your computer.

The reason for my brief absence from this blog is that I went home to see the Family Johnson. One of the major reasons for my visit was that my family cat, Gunny, had been ill.

I have an attachment to my cat that is almost unnatural. In fact, I have taken him on as my lawyer. When anyone gives me any trouble when I am at home, like waking me up at six in the morning to ask me what I want for dinner, I pick him up and tell them to address their concerns to him. On these occasions, his name is C. Casto Fangola.

"I refer you to C. Catso," I say, "of Fangola, Fangola, and Fangola. He’ll sue you if you continue to harass me in this fashion."

He purrs and narrows his eyes in a very persuasive fashion, and the matter is always dropped.

C. Casto, who is normally a frisky and chatty boy, got very sick about two weeks ago. In fact, things looked bad. Very bad indeed. But luckily, what appeared to be kidney failure turned out to be a cherry pit lodged in his belly. Where he got the cherry pit and why he decided to eat it is anyone’s guess, but mine is not to question the inner workings of such a fine legal mind.

(I think many cats have fruit fixations. Trevor and Grace Dangerous, my London actor friends, have a little cat named Macbeth Dangerous. Macbeth has a little cat flap, and he uses that to get into all kinds of adventures, including flirtations with his girlfriend, Ching-Ching Boo Face. Macbeth used to bring home grape stems a lot, and no one knew where they came from. He was very proud of them, as if he was saying, "Where I go at night, there are grapes. What do you have?")

Anyway, a visit to my hometown always brings back memories. Though I am from the Philadelphia area and went to school in the city, my actual town is outside of the city limits (quite close to where The Key to the Golden Firebird is set). When I was in high school, the place made me crazy. There was absolutely nothing to do and nowhere to go. When I lived there, the average age of the inhabitants was something like 75. It was like living in one of those towns mentioned in the Old Testament, where the description runs something like:
And Shawshank begat Rehobeth, who was 612 when he first learnth to ride a bicycle. Rehobeth begat Squamous, who lived to 819. He begat Shellack, who lived to a number too high for us to count. Suffice it to say that he was old.

My next door neighbor was always over 90, as far as I can remember. She was older than the big tree in her yard. They built a large retirement community across the creek from us (we lived on a creek—and still do), which I considered to be completely redundant.

I made my feelings known by generally moping around and complaining about the place.

"I just saw a documentary on mummies,” I would say to my parents. “They said it was about Ancient Egypt, but I think they filmed it here. I recognized half our neighbors in it."

I tended to make my dissatisfaction known.

Things have changed in my town. I noticed this when I got out of the car in front of our house, and looked over at the new inhabitant of my neighbor’s house—the one who was as old as her tree. It was a young guy with arms full of very fancy tattoos. He was getting something out of his own car, which looks like it is from the 70s, funky and low-slung, with flame painted along the side.

"Oh," my mom said, taking one of her countless plaid bags out of the back seat. "That’s Sage. Hi Sage!"

Sage waved back happily.

"Sage is a tattoo and piercing artist,” my mom went on, as we went inside. “I think he holds some kind of world’s record for the amount of weight suspended from his nipple rings. Anyway, do you want to go to the Olive Garden tonight?"

I had stopped moving and stood stock-still in the middle of the kitchen. My mother was talking about dangling weight from nipple piercings like she was telling me about the things she normally tells me about, like illness I might catch or some new ironing board cover she’d just seen on QVC.

I realize you probably don’t know my mother, so I should explain that she is NOT the kind of person who is really into things like hanging weights off of nipple piercings. My mom is very proud of the fact that she has never smoked a cigarette or had more than a half a drink at any one sitting, went to bed at ten o’clock at night in nursing school, and wouldn’t let me keep the knee-length denim skirt someone gave me in high school because she thought it made me "look like a streetwalker." She is also the kind of person who says "streetwalker." The last time I did a signing in my hometown, she reached down over the signing table, yanked up the front of my dress, and whispered loudly, "Maureen! I can see your bra!" (Becoming a published author changes absolutely nothing in your life, in terms of your parents. Just so you know.)

"He and his wife are lovely," my mom went on. "They run the tattoo and piercing parlor on Route 1. Sage is also a blacksmith. You should have seen it on Halloween. He made a talking robot out of car parts!"

I was woozy. I had to sit down.

"Here," she said. "Actually, he made this for me for taking in his mail. This looks more like your style than mine."

She handed me a very cool, industrial statue of C. Casto, made of screws, bolts, and heavy wires.

"It holds letters!" she said. "Look!"

She put a piece of mail on the statue, which displayed it perfectly.

"I can’t believe this," I said. "It’s not fair. Why couldn’t we live next to an awesome metalwork artist who ran a tattoo studio and made talking statues of car parts when I lived here?"

There were no robots in town when I lived there.

My mother went into one of her usual "yes-I-know-we-abused-you-weren’t-we-awful-it’s-amazing-you-survied" speeches, which I haughtily ignored as I placed my lawyer on my lap.

"Tread carefully," I said. "My attorney is present, and you know how cranky he gets before he has his dinnertime wet food. He is liable to hit you with some kind of subpoena."

My mother cannily cracked open some Fancy Feast, and I was temporarily left without representation.

"You win this round," I said. "But I will get you on the appeal."

So, I’m a bit bitter. But the letter holder is nice.

In any case, this is going to be a major week! There is much work to be done on the new book. And to make up for a few days of silence, I am going to try to post here like crazy. Please let me know if you have any important questions you need answered. I am in the mood to enlighten.

FREE MONKEY poses with Letter Holding Cat

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Anonymous Becky said...

I think I'm the first commentor! Suh-weet. Maureen, can you please take a picture of your letter holder? And your attorney. I would appreciate it. You should do a podcast called "Ask a Lawyer," so that we can listen to the voice of your very talkative cat.

2:42 AM  
Blogger Maureen said...


2:52 AM  
Blogger Jennifer Lynn Barnes said...

I'm still wondering if the FREE MONKEY has a tail, since I can't quite make one out in the picture... And speaking of the monkey, I love it that he made the journey home with you! Any chance that we might get to see some pictures of the monkey around your home town?

4:03 AM  
Anonymous Becky said...

That is one hot picture of your free monkey with your letter holding cat.

4:44 AM  
Anonymous sarah said...

You should adopt a lime. I adopted one today. Limes are in need of loving homes. They're not as popular as oranges or lemons or even grapefruit (possibly because of their highly acidic nature, but pah! Who cares about acid?) and they are constantly used as decoration on fancy glasses of water at fancy restaurants. Go to the supermarket and adopt a lime! FREE MONKEY would have a new buddy. Mine is named Charles. He's a happy lime.

5:04 AM  
Anonymous Sasha said...

Really? What a coincidence! I adopted a lime a few days ago, and she is just the sweetest thing. Her name is Angelique, and she was brought over from Guatemala. Apparently, limes are not at all popular in Guatemala. It's a lemon or nothing with those Guatemalans. She doesn't talk much, but I think she is just a little shy. Not to mention the language barrier. I did go out and get a Guatemalan-English dictionary today, so hopefully that will help.


8:24 AM  
Anonymous Meamonkey said...

That metal C. Casto is beyond awesome!1 As is the fact that C.Casto is your lawyer. You never cease to amuse me.

3:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a question for ASK THE AGENT! I have been wondering for a while how one becomes an agent, if it were in fact a career one waqs looking to pursue?

4:16 AM  
Anonymous sarah said...

I have a question you may answer in the next podcast, or just on the next blog entry if you want. What stores do you usually buy your clothes and shoes from? Ever since I was little, I would put people like authors on a higher standard than others (in my mind Britney Spears was just as famous as Roald Dahl, or J.K. Rowling. Then again, that's probably true. But you get what I mean.) So I'd like to know EVERY SINGLE DETAIL of your life that might make me feel like a lowly nobody such as myself could someday become a FAMOUS AUTHOR like MAUREEN JOHNSON.

4:50 AM  
Blogger Becs said...

The additions to the site are great. My mom got her masters at U of Delaware. :D

I am wondering why you go to London so much. What do you do there? Has this already been revealed elsewhere and I just missed it?

Your parents sound a lot like mine. :P

10:08 AM  
Blogger Trish said...

My question for Ask an Agent is the obvious one: Where do I find one? I am CONFIDENT (see, the big letters prove it) that I will be in need of one soon.

4:12 PM  
Blogger Little Willow said...

Lots of good thoughts for C. Catso Fangola. I am so glad that he is thriving.

6:08 PM  
Anonymous Daphne Unfeasible said...

I am in demand! How lovely! Answers to all your "Ask an Agent" questions soon, right, MJ?

Give me a microphone, and I shall be a STAR!!!

I mean, I do get to do my karaoke version of "Closer to Fine," right?

12:42 AM  

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