Nothin’ to see here

Not much going on in the writing ‘verse for me these days, I’m afraid. Still working steadily (albeit slowly) on GR and that’s about it. I’ve been reading a lot, though, which is good because for a while there I wasn’t reading anything. It started with David Foster Wallace’s Consider the Lobster, then from there I sped through The 19th Wife while watching the four-hour Frontline special on Mormons. After that came Charlotte Church’s autobiography Keep Smiling, because I love Charlotte Church (note to self: bore all your blog readers someday with a long post about why and how much you love Charlotte Church), and then a whole spate of YA: Jeanette Rallison’s newest, Just One Wish (MD and I are in agreement that Steve looks like RPattz in our minds), Deb Saundra Mitchell’s Shadowed Summer, and Deb Sarah MacLean’s The Season. This weekend I worked in Dave Cullen’s wonderful book Columbine (three guesses as to what that’s about) and, as a follow-up, a re-read of Douglas Coupland’s Hey Nostradamus!, my favorite book of all time. Now I’m reading Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson; it is just as haunting and sad as I imagined it would be.

You know what’s weird to me? How much it seems people don’t like Hey Nostradamus!. In case “my favorite book of all time” didn’t tip you off, I can’t even appropriately express how deeply I respond to that novel, or how important it has been for my own work. Not so for others. Even YA writer extraordinaire John Green wrote a tepid review of it for Booklist a while back. Sad pancakes. I think it’s gorgeous and close to perfect. Ah well.

Fun fact (I don’t know how this became a blog about Hey Nostradamus!): Apparently Douglas Coupland and X-Files creator Chris Carter are friends. There’s a scene in I Want to Believe where Scully is standing in Mulder’s home office and there’s a Post-It behind her on a bulletin board that says “Hey Nostradamus!” on it. That explains why all the characters in Girlfriend in a Coma end up working on a show about the paranormal that is basically The X-Files.

I finally went to check out my friend Eric’s new place in Washington Heights. We shot a video tour of the apartment for his girlfriend, Jenny, who’s one of my best friends in the universe, since she’s still living in San Diego and won’t be moving to New York until May. It’s really big and nice and they live on a street where there’s just a whole bunch of stuff within a couple of blocks, including the subway (two subways, in fact) and a Duane Reade. The granite countertops are brand new–they haven’t even taken off the plastic yet–and there are SO MANY ELECTRICAL OUTLETS. My roommate and I have, like, seven outlets in our entire apartment–they have five in their bedroom alone. I’m really jealous. Not jealous of having to live that far uptown, but still. Jenny called after we left the place and I told her, “It’s so great, you’re going to love it!” Jenny, bless her heart, was like, “Are you going to call me later and tell me the truth?” But it really was a great apartment, I wasn’t even lying, not that I would. Now I just need my girls to get their place in the 80s and we’ll be all set–until I need to move. Ugh.

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Cover lover

LOL. I’m a big fan of Melissa Walker‘s “Cover Stories” feature, firstly because I think book covers, esp. for YA, are pretty neat, and secondly because I tend to find out about books I might not have heard about otherwise. This was the case for today’s featured book, Gentlemen by Michael Northrop. The cover is to die, but also I couldn’t help but thinking, Um, I think Michael Northrop’s cover is my cover’s boyfriend. Observe:

final_jkt_front-thumb allunquietjkt2

It’s the concept that connects them, the “obviously a dead teenager” thing, but also I feel like they’re sort of inverses of each other–black/white, etc. Both our names are in red, both our titles are in caps. Both books are mysteries. I love it. When Gentlemen comes out (April 2009, I believe) I’ll be sure to buy a copy and then when I get a finished copies of All Unquiet Things they can hang out. Or make out, whatever.

BOMB

Blerg, Mondays. Especially after a great weekend. I have an idea: let’s make weekends three days long. I just feel like I’d get more done. Lies, I wouldn’t. So much I meant to accomplish this weekend went by the wayside: laundry, grocery shopping, watching Twilight with the director’s commentary…although I did find a pair of shoes I’d lost in my gym bag, which should tell you how many times I’ve been to the gym recently. I’m going tonight! (Maybe. We’ll see. There’s also that grocery shopping and that laundry that needs to be done…)

On Friday night, I went over to Harlem (okay, techs I live in Harlem, whatever, it’s fine) to my friend Mary’s house. It wasn’t quite warm enough to sit outside playing cards for seven hours, but we did it anyway. Mary taught us this game called Bomb, which she learned while studying abroad in Spain in college. Bomb is I guess sort of like Killa, or maybe it’s just a watered-down version of Killa, which I’d never heard of until I looked it up on Wikipedia. It’s addictive. I’m not very good at it. I like to think I’m not that competitive, but sometimes I get frustrated after repeatedly losing; I try to reign it in, but I don’t always do such a good job of that. Sorry friends! I don’t need to be the best at anything, I just need to be good enough to be in the middle of the pile, and I’m not there with Bomb yet. Hey, at least I know this about myself.

We played Bomb again yesterday (sans Mary this time) at Galway Hooker, which is normally our college football bar. It was completely empty, which was so weird, but at least we didn’t feel bad for hogging a table playing Bomb all night. We never go to GH unless there’s a USC game on because it’s on 36th and Madison and that’s nowhere near anything, but we’d gone to see I Love You, Man (good not great) at the 34th St. AMC and that’s the bar we like the most that’s even remotely in that area. We bought the cards in, like, the fanciest Duane Reade you’ll ever see over on 34th and 8th. I had to ask an employee where the playing cards were, because we couldn’t find them in the toy/game section, and turns out there was a whole rack of cards in the cosmetics section. Because that’s logical.

I also think I’ve gotten the hang of Evernote. I don’t know what made me log into the Evernote client I downloaded on my computer last January or whatever, but I did, and I started actually writing notes in it. I’ve been working moderately hard on my GR synopsis and thought it would be nice to be able to access it from wherever I am, so I put it on Evernote. Pretty sweet. I also put a character manifesto on there, and a note about the geography of the setting, and all my brainstorming material…I’m pretty sure I’m not using the program to its full potential, but over the course of the next few weeks I’ll either learn it or abandon it. Sort of like Scrivener!

When did I get so boring?

I have no idea what to blog about. I feel like nothing’s really going on, it’s just me, living my life. BO-RING! Hm, what could I talk about? Well, my friends didn’t get that apartment fifteen blocks away from me (15% broker’s fee? IN THIS MARKET?) but they found an even better one in my ideal neighborhood, Amsterdam in the 80s, so of course I’m super jealous and also super excited and I hope they get that place.

What else? The weather’s finally nice in good ol’ New York. It’s supposed to be 65 degrees today! After work I’m going up to my friend Eric’s new abode in Wash. Hts., to see it and congratulate him on what a good job he did finding his first place in the city. Then I’m going to my friend Mary’s place in Harlem to play cards and drink beer out on the porch (she lives on Astor Row, in a gorgeous old townhouse). We won the cards at trivia on Wednesday; they’re all old-fashioned pin-ups with George W. Bush’s face Photoshopped on them. Hilarious, obviously. This is the second time we’ve won cards at trivia; last time, they were supposed to have Jesus on them, but then Mary pointed out that it was most likely Daniel, as there were lions all over the place. They were oval, though, and hard to shuffle, so I think those are just for display. Oh, and Abby has them, never mind.

Erm…as you may have noticed, my website launch has been moved back a little bit. Still working on that…

I’ve decided on my new nail polish color for spring! Light green, almost mint colored. O.P.I. has one called “Hey! Get in Lime!” Oh, speaking of things that start with “Hey!”, let me tell you a story from my youth. I don’t know if you’ll care for it, but my family thinks it’s hilarious and it gets retold a lot. Like A LOT. Usually after telling it one of my parents goes, “And that’s when we knew she was going to be a loud mouth…”

I was born in January 1984, and my brother wasn’t born until the end of May 1986, so for two and a half years I was the only kid. Those were the good days…Anyway. Just kidding. I love my brother. I was a pretty good kid, all things considered. I was well-behaved and sweet and not at all obnoxious or rambunctious, which did not prepare my parents for the whirling dervish that my brother proved to be, but that’s sort of besides the point. Once, when I was about two, my parents took me to an Italian restaurant that they liked. Because I was  easy to manage, that was the sort of thing they could conceivably do.

The waitress came over and took their orders and apparently this is the kind of restaurant where you would get salad to start off the meal, kind of like Olive Garden where they bring a big bowl of it to the table and you serve yourself. I was too little to need my own meal, obviously, so I didn’t get any of my own meal accoutrements, either. This did not please me. The waitress set a salad bowl in front of each of my parents and walked away. As soon as I assessed the situation and figured out what was up, I decided I was not going to take these age-ist shenanigans lying down. So I turned around in my high chair and yelled out, clear as a bell, “HEY LADY! BRING ANNA A BOWL!!” (Always the emphasis on the word “lady.”)

Aaaaaaand that is my enduring legacy to my family. My mom sometimes likes to follow this story up with, “You would also call out ‘HEY GRANDMA!’ to any old lady you saw on the street.” It sounds like I was a big sarcastic heckler, but actually I just associated gray-haired old ladies with the word “grandma.” I mean, nowadays I just do that sort of thing for fun, but back then it was just a cognitive disconnect, you hear what I’m saying?

Adulthood rears its ugly head

Ugh. I had my taxes done last night. NO FUN. Every time I talked to my mother for the last two months she’s said, “Have you done your taxes yet?” and I kept having to tell her no, thus inviting her to lecture me on why I should have my taxes done. Last week I finally said, “No, I haven’t had them done yet, but I’m going to make an appointment with H&R Block next week,” and she said, “Yeah, Dad and I have an appointment with our accountant next week.” WHAT?! You haven’t done your taxes yet either?! Then I don’t want to hear it.

At the end of that conversation I whined, “Mom, being an adult is hard,” and she was all, “Yes, it is. That’s why I want you to get married.” Because that makes things so much simpler? Having to care about someone else’s life in addition to your own? Does. Not. Compute.

Anyway, it turns out I owe the government sixty billion dollars. Apparently, I forgot to calculate social security and Medicare (Medicaid?) when I paid the estimated taxes on my advance at the end of last year, so I owe it now! It’s a lot of money. The nice lady who did my taxes and laughed at all my stupid jokes was trying very hard to get me some deductions for all the hard work I do writing books for y’all, but to be honest it costs me virtually nothing to be a writer. I work at home, I haven’t traveled anywhere, I don’t print anything, I don’t mail anything, my computer is four years old…This year will of course be different, with my new computer and my website and maybe some travel expenses, but 2008 there was only a slight deduction for the 30 sq feet I use to write my books.

Also, we were talking about how often I use that space to write books, and it turns out that I have pretty much no hobbies. All I do is write! At my desk, I mean. I use my computer for approximately three things: writing, emailing, and blogging about writing. Get a life, kid!

Apartment hunting

There’s nothing I’d rather do less than apartment hunt in New York City. It’s so hard! Everything’s always dirty, too small, overpriced, and it’s pretty obvious that the leasing agents/landlords are trying to screw you big time. The worst part is that once you find something decent you have to jump on it right away, with no time to comparison shop, because apartments here go in the blink of an eye.

I found the apartment my roommate and I live in now on my own, took care of the application and arranged things with the broker, and we lucked in to a pretty awesome place despite my complete naivite. We haven’t moved since, because we both felt like finding a new place as good as this one would be a total nightmare. And it will be! In November. When we move.

Two of my friends live in Brooklyn, and they’re desperate to move to Manhattan, so yesterday I went with them to look at a bunch of places in my neighborhood (generally speaking). FYI, it’s so much more fun to apartment hunt when you don’t have to make any decisions. The first one we saw was in South Harlem, 118th and Adam Clayton Powell Blvd. The apartment was gorgeous; big and full of light, with an open but large kitchen. It had been vacant since September the leasing agent told us, because of the economy of course.

They say that a lot these days, along with “The rent has been lowered three times this year,” as if you’re supposed to feel sorry for them. You were goudging people for years! This is the only good fallout of the economy, that non-investment bankers can afford to live in Manhattan again, but it helps me and my friends so I’m not at all sympathetic to the management companies that have been greedily jacking up rents for almost a decade.

The price was great, especially for the size of the apartment and the niceness of the building (it was clean and the tennants were friendly and everything seemed to have been freshly painted) and proximity to the train– less than I pay now for an apartment two thirds the size. But the neighborhood, while relatively safe, wasn’t really around stuff. The thing that bugs them both about their abodes in Brooklyn is how far they are from food and bars and the drug store (when you live in New York, it’s important to be close to two things: the subway, and a Duane Reade. Don’t ask why, that’s just how it is). So they stuck that place in their back pocket (another nice thing about this economy’s effect on New York real estate: you don’t have to decide THIS VERY MINUTE) and we went back to Broadway to check out a place on 108th.

LOL this experience. It was an open house, we didn’t have an appointment with a specific broker. We show up fifteen minutes late and there are a bunch of other people hanging out on the stoop, including some unfriendly girls who seemed to view us as enemies, I think because they were under the misapprehension that we, like them, were looking for a three-bedroom, but we weren’t, as I have an apartment already and was just around for moral support. So cut it out with the dirty looks, mean girls!

Finally the guy (I say “guy” because I have no idea what he was–leasing agent, owner/landlord, etc? It’s a mystery!) shows up and he’s like, “Okay, we’re going to see a bunch of apartments, ready, go.” I think we probably saw six, and all in different buildings. The apartments were all empty, but mostly dirty. Also, they were typical New York apartments. A lot of these old buildings used to have big family apartments that’ve been sloppily chopped up and made smaller (mine is an obvious example; it’s like a freakin’ fun house in there, with the slanted ceilings and bulging walls and doorways shaped like rhombuses). As a result, the apartments have radically different-sized bedrooms and strange layouts (nothing sends a chill up my spine like the words “railroad apartment”). That wasn’t going to work for my friends.

I was getting really frustrated with how little effort the guy was putting into selling these places to prospective tennants. We were just being herded in and out of each apartment (all fourth and fifth floor walk-ups, for the most part, except the last apartment, which was on the second floor but naturally there was an elevator), and every once in a while he would ask people, “So what are you looking for? What’s your price range?” like he was barely listening to the answers. It was very odd.

Happily, however, one of the apartments was pretty good–equal sized bedrooms with nice closets, a newly redone kitchen with granite countertops, half a block from the train, good neighborhood, lots of stuff nearby. Basically, it’s perfect for them, and for me, because they’ll only live 15 blocks away! Hopefully everything works out with their application and they get the place and don’t have to apartment hunt anymore OMG it sucks so much.

As for me, my reward for all those shenigans is that I came home last night to discover they were turning the abandoned storefronts across the street from my apartment (I live in a somewhat less classy part of the nabe than the girls are moving to) INTO A DUANE READE! Since I live 10 feet from the train, this fulfills the New York Dream for me. Now I kinda don’t want to move.

A-Team post

Hey guys, I’ve finally put up my A-Team post for this week. It’s a Friday Five, not publishing or writing oriented, unless you count my ramble about The Decemberists’ new album as having something to do with the idea of narrative. Calc-u-later! (Shoot me.)