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.)

Back to work

This morning, I finally (sorry J!) sent the revised MB manuscript off to Joanna, who in turn is going to send it to my editor, who in turn is going to look at it sometime…soon? I don’t know, I can only imagine how busy she must be, and this book isn’t set to come out until January 2011 after all, so I’m not holding my breath. In fact, I’m letting it out, in a huge sigh of relief. AUT is off to copyedits, MB is off to my editor, and I can work on new stuff yay!

I love putting together a book. Pre-writing and plotting are my very favorite parts of the whole process. For me, the process is very much like someone scattered a 500-piece puzzle all over P.Diddy’s mansion and it’s my job to find them all and put them together correctly. I would say I have 1/4 of the pieces for GR right now. I have the short, pithy description: “Lord of the Flies meets The Haunting of Hill House.” I have my cast of characters, my dramatis personae if you want to be as insufferably Elizabethan as apparently I do. I have some background information, I have some clues, I have some ideas for puzzles (that’s right, puzzles–I knew that playing all those Nancy Drew computer games with Em and Fish would come in handy one day), I have the setting, and I’ve done some research about it. I have the soundtrack (lots of Andrew Bird music). I have the structure, and I have some major plot crises. I have a good idea for a couple of relationship and character arcs. My mind is busy day and night, working out the plot knots and introducing obstacles. Pre-writing is the best.

All of this said, I could use a vacation. A real one. I’m going to California for a friend’s wedding at the beginning of May (perhaps I already mentioned this?), but only for two days, if that. I may or may not be going to London in May, also, but again, only two days. Back to California in June for my siblings’ graduations, maybe that’ll be four days, but there will probably be no small amount of frenzied activity and sitting out in the hot sun listening for their names to be called. Back to California in late July for another wedding, this one in Monterey, so it should be a little bit more temperate but no less hurried, unfortunately. Although, I already got permission from my parents to borrow a car so that I can drive to Maggie’s wedding and possibly swing by the John Steinbeck house on my way through Salinas. We’ll see–I really love that drive, though, regardless.

As happy as I am to be doing all these things, what I’d love is just to have one long vacation, not these super short trips every month. It wouldn’t even have to be somewhere exotic or touristy–just being at home in California for a week would be fine. My parents and I wanted to go take a trip up to the California ghost towns (research for GR), but I’m not sure that’s going to happen.

Still, I mosey. Last night my friends and I gathered at our “local” (and I put that in quotation marks because I live nowhere near it) watering hole, Dempsey’s, for St. Patrick’s Day. It was packed, as one would expect the best Irish pub in New York (according to me) to be on the big Irish holiday. When we got hungry, we went to Artichoke for spinach & artichoke pizza (the line was considerably shorter last night than it had been at three am two Saturdays ago), and I’m not kidding you, this is the best pizza I’ve had ever. It’s niche, of course–you’re not always in the mood for spinach & artichoke pizza, and if you are then I pray for your arteries, but it’s so delicious you don’t even know. 14th St. between 1st and 2nd Aves. That’s a little tip from me to you.

The things the Internet teaches you

I read a lot of author blogs, and every time an author blogs about another author who has a blog, I add that new author’s blog to my Google Reader. Thus, I have a lot of author blogs in my Google Reader, which means I don’t always read all of them. Sad pancakes. But! Sometimes I click on an author’s blog that hasn’t been updated as much recently (and so has fallen off my day-to-day reading radar) and I find something wonderful inside. That’s what happened a couple of minutes ago when I checked in with Christine Fletcher, author of Ten Cents a Dance.

dance_175To be honest, I didn’t know much about Ten Cents a Dance, but Christine’s newest post was all about some events she’d done in Chicago. I grew up there, and I lived there a couple of years ago while I was getting my master’s at the University of Chicago, so my interested was piqued. Christine’s first event was at the Norwood Park Historical Society, which pretty much floored me, because my grandmother has lived in Norwood Park my entire life–I even lived there with her for a summer–and I had no idea they even had a historical society, located in the oldest house in Chicago no less. It’s, like, ten blocks from my grandmother’s house. I wonder if my parents even know it exists; I feel like they must, they’re history buffs and my grandmother has lived in that house for twenty-five years, but they’ve never taken us there. I will make sure that changes next Christmas, mark my words.

I’m pretty excited about Ten Cents a Dance, but then, being Polish myself, I’m pretty excited about most stories about Polish people (except Polish Wedding, which I didn’t like), especially when they take place in Chicago.

New post up at A-Team and other random things

This post actually went up last night, but I forgot to put a link to it here. Now I did! Go read it and come back, I’ll wait.

Okay, so I’m officially done with AUT revisions. That is a sweet, sweet thing to be able to write. I sent my revised manuscript to my editor via email on Monday (this was the second round), and God bless her she’d had the whole thing read by Wednesday afternoon, when she emailed me with three questions/clarifications. It took me about fifteen minutes to do those and shoot back an email on Thursday morning, and by the afternoon she’d sent an email saying that the ms was going to copyediting early next week.

Now it’s time to start working on something new…

LOL “working on something new”! Since my editor expressed interest in seeing MB after AUT went to copyedits, and since I told her that MB was “ready” (check out that diction choice–notice I didn’t say “finished” or “done” because I know there’s probably some rough revision time ahead of me), now I have to make sure that it is ready. I mean, I think it is, since I sent it to J in October and she sent me an editorial letter of things to change back and I made most of those changes, but it could still use a once- or twice-over, since I haven’t really worked on it seriously since November. That’s what this weekend is about. And then something new!

The annoying thing about “something new” is that I have two books on the docket (is that the correct usage of the word “docket”? Probs not) and my brain likes to alternate between them as if it expects to work on them at the same time, which, let me tell you, brain, ISN’T GOING TO HAPPEN. Pick a side! For now I’ve been going with it, but that’s going to need to change soon if I want to be at all productive.

Every body has secrets

How does one follow up a post where they debut their cover for the first time and everybody cheers because it’s just so beautiful thank you so much Delacorte!? One does not. So instead of trying, I’m going to talk about Bones.

Bones is my most recent televisual obsession. I have this thing where I like to watch television while I’m revising, so I’ll do like two pages of revisions and then bounce back to the show and watch five minutes of it, then bounce back to the manuscript, ad infinitum. I think that adds up to more television watched than pages revised, but whatever, it’s my process, don’t hate. I made my way through all the House, Psych, Dollhouse (still not sure about that show), and Monk episodes on Hulu and finally I was like, “You know what? What’s wrong with Bones?”

Nothing, that’s what. Bones is like a poor man’s X-Files, although I take some umbrage at the Emily Deschanel character. Temperance Brennan, I know Dana Scully, and you, my dear, are no Dana Scully. You can love science while also being a human being, Tempe. There’s no way Angela would be best friends with this automaton. Booth, for some reason, I can see liking her, but Angela…I just feel like she’s too cool for that shit.

Anyway. What’s so great about this show? David Boreanaz, duh. And I like procedurals in general. Plus, Hart Hanson worked on Joan of Arcadia for a while and I love that show. But also: everyone else. I was sort of “meh” about Bones for a while, as I watched the first season’s episodes, but then I saw the only second season episode they have on Hulu and I finally gave in to the love in my heart. It’s called “Aliens in a Spaceship”, and the villain of the episode is a kidnapper/murderer called the Gravedigger, because he/she kidnaps rich people and then buries them underground in an airtight container until the ransom is paid. There are so many reasons why this episode is awesome, so I’ll just list them for your convenience:

  • The crime: The two victims were twin teenage boys whose daddy is wealthy. According to their father, they were brats, spoiled and badly behaved, like that’s not his fault but whatever. They died because their father, on the advice of the FBI, refused to pay the ransom. OR SO WE ALL THOUGHT. It turns out that the Gravedigger only meant to kidnap the one boy, but then the other boy interfered, so he had to kidnap them both. EXCEPT: the container he’d procured only had enough air for them to live twelve hours, instead of the usual twenty-four hours, which meant that the boys died before their father could have raised the ransom even if he intended to. FURTHERMORE, there was a lot of blood in the container (a beer vat), inconsistent with any injuries that the team could at first see from the skeletons, UNTIL Zack figured out that one of the twins committed suicide by stabbing himself in the jugular with a pen and bleeding to death, in the hopes that his death would leave enough air for his brother to survive until he could be rescued. Heartbreaking and sad, but redemptive–also, pretty awesome detective work, squints!
  • The fallout: Brennan gets kidnapped by the Gravedigger! Which would be FINE BY ME, but then Hodgins gets involved and the Gravedigger runs him over with a car and then buries him in the ground with her. So they’re buried in Brennan’s car (?) underground, and the only have a few assets and they have to use science to save themselves because nobody’s paying the ransom per FBI policy. Meanwhile, they’ve only got twelve hours of air.
  • The confession: While down underground, Hodgins believes he’s going to die either of suffocation, the shock/pain of the compartment syndrome caused by the Gravedigger hitting him with the car, or the shock/pain of the impromptu surgery Brennan performs on him without anaesthesia (“or empathy”, Bones makes sure to note) to relieve the compartment syndrome . So Hodgins makes a sweet, sobbing confession–he’s in love with Angela, “over the moon, stupid in love” with her. He writes her a note in case he dies, and when they are rescued Angela kisses him. TJ Thyne is so great in this episode. The best scene is his scene with Angela at the end, when he’s in the lab and refuses to go home and go to sleep, because he’s afraid that if he closes his eyes, the next time he opens them he’ll be back underground in that car, running out of air. And Angela tells him to come home with her, that she’ll be there when he does open his eyes and he can take comfort in that. ADORBS!

Anyway. So. That’s when the show officially got me, and now I have! to! watch! every! episode! right! now! The show gets even better in the third season, when John Francis Daly (Sam Weir from Freaks and Geeks) joins the regular cast as Dr. Sweets, a psychiatrist employed by the FBI to be totally awesome and steal every scene. The only thing is, he’s twenty-three; for him to be a psychiatrist, he’d have to be a G-E-N-I-U-S and also have started undergrad at age fourteen. Implausible, I say, but fine, I love him, welcome to the show you sparkling gem of a man.