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THE REAL BAD GIRL SCHOOL

JULIE’S TURN

In CURSEBUSTERS, Reeno gets sent to a school with a “remedial unit” that seems kind of harsh. But you should see a real Bad Girl School! I learned the hard way– narrowly avoided getting sent to one (my mom was always threatening)– but  there was a time there when it seemed like all the kids I knew were getting hauled off to Utah or some place .

And then a kid really close to me–let’s say it was my next door neighbor, Serena–started to unravel. First, her mom found pot in her backpack. Then the cops brought her home drunk. Next came cutting school, staying out all night, disappearing for days, once opening a car door on a freeway and threatening to jump. And she was thin and sallow–visibly strung out.

By that time she’d been through counseling, Twelve-Step programs, you name it. Quite frankly, we all feared for her life. Hence, Bad Girl School. Like the one in the book, you got everything taken away the minute you arrived–from TV and the Internet to make-up and even mirrors. Not to mention salt, pepper, and ketchup. (The idea being that you had to earn your privileges by getting what I call good girl points–grades, making your bed, etc.)  And you couldn’t speak unless spoken to!

The weird thing was, it was an unexpectedly nice place. The rules were harsh as barbed wire, but the teachers and counselors were all warm and fuzzy and really, really nice–this place was in Mexico, and they were young, sweet Mexican women. Serena cried for two weeks. They all do. And then, like Reeno in the book but with considerably less attitude, she got down to work.

They also had these amazing inspirational weekends when hot-shot group leaders would come in and dare the kids to be great, though maybe not using those particular words. Serena had never been a happy kid. And for  whatever reason, she had no confidence in herself; no real hope.  But after a year at Bad Girl School, she felt like she could conquer anything. And she has. She’s doing just great now–seven years later. She says it wasn’t something she’d want to do over again, but it did change her life.

So here was the writing challenge all that presented: If the kids couldn’t speak, and they were watched day and night, how was Reeno going to have an adventure? Well first,  enter A.B. the telepathic cat. And then in about the eighth draft, a simple but book-saving idea– lighten up on the rules! Let the kids talk and have real friends! Why didn’t I think of that on the first draft?

Secrets of Magical Combat

A.B. SPEAKS:

I wish to continue the discussion Julie began here last week on the importance of girls kicking ass, as she so rudely put it. But first a question. We know what A.B. stands for, do we not? I am the Alpha Beast. The Alpha of all Beasts. Pretty much, as you humans would say,  the KING of Beasts.  And what are humans if not beasts? Therefore, why, exactly should it take so long for the Alpha Beast to get a chance to post? Answer–you people have the hands, thus control the keyboards.

Nonetheless, we are here. As you may recall from CURSEBUSTERS! (The Book, not the blog), I teach Tactics of Magical Combat, and I would like to mention here that these can be applied in the everyday world as easily as on the magical sphere. As above, so below, you know. Or probably you don’t.

But moving on. Let is begin with Tactic Number One– Fight smart, not strong.  This is particularly valuable for you Fair Sex People, although it must not be construed to mean you can skip the gym. It means, for one thing, that you can make available materials work for you! If you are stranded, use your compact mirror to start a fire. Or stab your enemy in the eye. If set upon, employ your hair spray as your first weapon, your knee or elbow as your second, and don’t forget the aforementioned bit of broken glass. But your weapon of choice is your tongue. Mouthing off is a much neglected art. Here is the Alpha Beast’s Gem of the Day: When in doubt, talk your way out.  But constructively, Student! Remember Scheherazade.

Chew on it.  Oh, ps–screaming is good too.  And one more thing–did you want fabulous Alpha Beast stickers?  Me in my nine glorious cat positions? Absolutely free? Leave a comment and they shall be yours.

LET US NOW GO FORTH AND KICK ASS

Julie

Does this girl sit around pining for a boy friend?

In the course of trying to persuade someone to publish CURSEBUSTERS!, more than once I ran into the question of who the audience might be.  My hero Reeno is 15, which would make her, according to the conventional wisdom, most attractive to girls of thirteen, or maybe a little younger. Well, so far so good. That’s who I wrote it for.

Although there was some feeling that maybe she talked like an older kid than that. Even though she was fifteen. So maybe CURSEBUSTERS! wasn’t middle grade and it wasn’t YA either. Well! Earth-shaking. A possible deal-breaker. I won’t mention the whole thing about adults reading YA because, of course, those books are best-sellers. Now. Even though their authors may have gone through this too.

And then there was the talking cat. What grade was that for?

I was at a writers’ convention some years ago, after THE HUNGER GAMES had been published, but before it caught on among adults, and happened to hear two big-time editors discussing it.  Like CURSEBUSTERS!, it just “seemed” middle grade to them.

What Age Kid Likes Cats?

I think I know what they based that on. The idea that kicking ass is of no interest to older girls, who’d rather indulge in what editors like to call “yearning.” Translation: What we used to call the condition of being “boy-crazy.” (I just looked that up in the Urban Dictionary and this is what it said: “Boy crazy: what you call a slutty girl when they’re your friend.” Although I suppose that’s only serial boy-craziness.)

This kind of stuff always makes me think: Can’t you remember what it’s like to be a kid?  Because I can. Vividly. And I most certainly did that embarrassing thing called “yearning” (though I’m loathe to admit it now), for skinny-ass arrogant boys who somebody probably got stuck with. Fortunately not me. But there was so much more. Like the feeling of powerlessness caused by that very emotion. And of being controlled by parents, school, peers, and in my case, church. I didn’t have a cell in my body to call my own. To hear girls I know talk about it now, hardly anybody does at that age.

As a teenager, I could really have used THE HUNGER GAMES, and not because I liked creepy dystopias. I needed to know about girls who could do anything. And without super-powers, either. (And also who got makeovers right before they did it.) I’m plain thrilled to see these kinds of books out there. They speak to the other part of the girl, the one who’s desperate to get out—who’s yearning not to be condemned to all that painful yearning.

BURGLING FOR DUMMIES

REENO

Hi, Reeno here. Why do I feel like I never get a turn? And I have such awesome  intel to impart! I hope you caught my now famous blog entry, “Fun Facts About Mayans”, which I will now attempt to surpass with “Burgling for Dummies,  Little-Known Facts about My Chosen Profession.” Without further ado:

1.  Most burglaries occur between 9 a.m and 3 p. m. when most people are at work. (Okay, that’s when we should have scheduled The Big Hit on Michelle Zunger. But we were in school!)

2. Many occur in July or August when people are on vacation or have left the windows open. (Well, there was a window open at the Zungers’, but only A.B. went through it.)

3. However, on the plus side, a burglary is committed in this country every 14 seconds. So obviously I am not the only Crime Queen who has ever engaged in risky behavior.

4. Speaking of which–and this is a whopper–sixty per cent of burglaries occur in homes that are occupied! How can anyone be so stupid? (My crime crew and I don’t count! We thoroughly cased that house. NO ONE should have been there.)

5. The point of entry is usually at a back or side door, something we did quite correctly. And yet 34 per cent go through the front door. Go figure.

6. The average burglar takes less than a minute to get in. (I, of course, am far above average. With Jace’s picks, I average about eight seconds. And I practice in advance.)

7. The typical homeowner hides her valuables in dresser drawers, closets, and freezers. Guess what? First place we look.

8. The average house waiting to be burgled does not have some huge ugly cat lying right in the middle of the floor waiting to trip an otherwise expert, hard-working, well-prepared almost Queen of Crime. Some things are just not fair!

KIDS ONLY: MUTANT CAT FROM HELL

REENO

Whoever wrote this knows what my life is like and I’m sure they won’t mind my passing it on. Anyhow,  since I’m a burglar by trade it’s not the first thing I ever stole. It’s about a cat quite a bit tamer than the one I have the misfortune to live with.

INTERJECTION FROM THE MANAGEMENT

Three of us blog here, it may be recalled, two of us fictional. And occasionally the other two get out of control. Reeno is so jealous of the attention  A.B.’s getting for his stickers, I told her she could post the not-completely-original piece below. Actually, it’s something that comes in an email–most adults may have seen it, but this blog is for kids, so I’m letting her rip.

HOW TO GIVE A CAT A PILL

1.  Pick up cat and cradle it in the crook of your left arm as if holding a baby
Position right forefinger and thumb on either side of cat’s mouth and gently apply pressure to cheeks while holding pill in right hand.  As cat opens mouth, pop pill into mouth.  Allow cat to close mouth and swallow.

2.  Retrieve pill from floor and cat from behind sofa.
Cradle cat in left arm and repeat process.

3.  Retrieve cat from bedroom, and throw soggy pill away.

4.  Take new pill from foil wrap, cradle cat in left arm, holding rear paws tightly with left hand.

  Force jaws open and push pill to back of mouth with right forefinger.  Hold mouth shut for a count of ten.

5.  Retrieve pill from goldfish bowl and cat from top of wardrobe.Call parent  in from the garden.

6.  Kneel on floor with cat wedged firmly between knees, hold front and rear paws.  Ignore low growls emitted by cat.  Get parent to hold head firmly with one hand while forcing wooden ruler into mouth  Drop pill down ruler and rub cat’s throat vigorously.

7.  Retrieve cat from curtain rail.  Get another pill from foil wrap.  Make note to buy new ruler and repair curtains.  Carefully sweep shattered figurines and vases from hearth and set to one side for gluing later.

8.  Wrap cat in large towel and get parent to lie on cat with head just visible from below armpit.  Put pill in end of drinking straw, force mouth open with pencil and blow down drinking straw.

9.  Check label to make sure pill not harmful to humans and drink one soda to take taste away.  Apply band-aid to parent’s forearm and remove blood from carpet with cold water and soap.

10.  Retrieve cat from neighbor’s shed.
Get another pill. Place cat in cupboard, and close door onto neck, to leave head showing.  Force mouth open with dessert spoon.  Flick pill down throat with elastic band.

11.  Watch while parent  fetches screwdriver from garage and puts cupboard door back on hinges.  He or she will probably drink an adult beverage, even though it’s daytime. Permit parent to apply cold compress to cheek and check records for date of last tetanus shot.  Throw tee-shirt away and fetch new one from bedroom.

12.  Call fire department to retrieve the  cat from the top of the tree across the road  Apologize to neighbor who crashed into fence while swerving to avoid cat. Take last pill from foil wrap.

13.  Observe sad spectacle of parent out of control. Using heavy-duty pruning gloves from shed, he may tie the monster’s front paws to rear paws with garden twine and bind tightly to leg of dining table. He may be rough and push pill into mouth followed by large piece of filet steak.  Then–O.M. G.–he is NOT going to  pour two pints of water down that cat’s  throat!

14.  Oh, dear. Get second parent  to drive first to the emergency room.  Sit quietly while doctor stitches fingers and forearm and removes pill remnants from right eye. Surprise parents by calling furniture shop to order new table.

15.  Arrange for ASPCA to collect mutant cat from hell and call local pet shop to see if they have a nice puppy on hand.  This is part of the story:

How To Give A Dog A Pill

1.  Wrap it in bacon.
2.  Toss it in the air.

JULIE

Reeno, thank you so very much. And may I remind A.B.’s fans that all they have to do is leave a comment here and we’ll send stickers.

WIN CAT POSITION STICKERS

JULIE

Woo-hoo, our A.B. stickers arrived!  And they look kind of awesome, in my opinion. (Although A.B. has his own opinions, and I have the scars to prove it!)  Despite the incontrovertible fact that I am a known adult, I have five of them on my iPad.

Want some? Easy-peazy–this isn’t even a contest, it’s a surefire giveaway. Just leave a comment about the book or a quote from it that we can tweet in the comments section and we’ll send you your stickers. If it’s over 140 characters, we’ll trim (Mwahahahaha!)

ALL NINE CAT POSITIONS

A.B.

 I can’t think what got into that artist. One of those things actually makes me look fat! Reeno calls it Jabba The Cat, I believe. Actually, Cat Position Two is rather nice–Epyptian Temple Cat, of course. And The Sphinx.

 

REENO

You know which one I like, right?  Do I have to spell it out?

 

 

 

POMPOUS BRITISH ANIMAL SPEAKS!

Today, A.B., finally gets his wish–an interview all his own.  Here’s what Jessica, the delightful  blogger, who had the nerve to actually  talk to him, said: “Who doesn’t love a pompous British animal?”  HOPELESSLY DEVOTED BIBLIOPHILE, 

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