Cue head exploding

Have you ever had so much go on within a short span of time that you feel like your head is just going to pop like a party balloon? That’s how I feel right now. Don’t worry, I’m self-medicating with some Chinese food. I’m on top of this.

Yesterday and this morning involved a lot of back and forth over jacket flap copy for AUT, which is exciting but also nerve-wracking. Has anyone else noticed that it’s really hard to describe your own book? As the person who spent six years writing it, I feel like everything is important, and I don’t know how to boil it down to the essentials without frying all my circuits. Thank God for agents and editors, right? I’m so tired.

That might have a little to do with being out so late last night, though. One of the reasons I’m super lucky to be living in New York is that I have so many good friends here, and they’re all cool and interesting and into a hundred different things. I’ve managed over the course of a few months to pick up several guy friends who are amateur stand-up comedians, but until last night I’d never seen any of them up on stage. Me, Cambria and Nikki headed over to Gotham after work (short pit stop at Dallas BBQ for margaritas and chicken fingers, OBVS, as it’s right there) and were able to see our friends David and Brian (both incredibly funny) perform. There were a lot of funny people, and it was nice to see some lady comics, because when Bri and I went to Gutbucket a few weeks ago there was only one and she was…fine.

Speaking of Gutbucket, one of my favorite comics from that show performed at Gotham last night. His name is Luke Cunningham and I think he’s hilarious, that’s all.

Afterwards we went to Trailer Park, which is just down the street. It’s a kitschy little bar made up to resemble (what else?) a trailer park. I personally think it’s a little too expensive to live up to its name ($5 PBR? That’s highway robbery, that is) but the atmosphere is pretty great and the tater tots are to die for. We hung around with David, Brian, and a bunch of other comedians after the show, including one of the ladies, who I’m pretty sure I gave some material to, although quite honestly it’s nothing that hasn’t been done before on Sex and the City, so whatevs. MD also joined us after her date, bringing the party as always.

I got home around midnight, but then of course stayed up until one to finish Wintergirls, which is so wonderful and traumatizing. Some people don’t like sad, emotionally eviscerating books, but those are my favorite kinds, and Wintergirls is the perfect example. In short, I loved it, Laurie Halse Anderson is a rock star.

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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.

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?

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.

Oh, so THIS is what it feels like to be productive

Ladies and gentlemen, I had one of the most productive weekends ever. I’m very proud of myself for getting stuff done, because I normally have big plans for my weekends and then I end up sitting in my pajamas all day eating ramen and watching Monk on Hulu (I did that anyway this weekend, but for once I balanced it out).

As you probably already know, finishing my revisions has been the monumental goal in my life for the last week, so Friday I opted not to go out with friends and instead went home to work. I got through about thirty pages, which is respectable, but not great. I also watched some TV on the Internet, because I’m incorrigible, and I finished reading Agatha Christie’s Hallowe’en Party, which was pretty good and I even solved! the! mystery! before Poirot exposed the criminal(s).

On Saturday, my friend/coworker/web designer/brother from another mother, Eric, picked me up and took me to IKEA, because he’s just that awesome. I bought a bookcase and a new dresser (mine is quite literally falling to pieces), plus some knives (IKEA has the best knives, you heard it hear first), some extra plastic utensils, a replacement corkscrew (ours cost $3 at a bodega and is a terrible piece of worthless plastic; the IKEA one cost $2.50 and is an indestructible brushed steel), a couple of document boxes, and two chocolate bars.

Let me opine for a second about the IKEA chocolate bars. My friend Marisa handed me a dollar on Friday and asked me to bring her one. She also said, “Please get one for yourself; you won’t regret it.” I did what she said and I bought two milk chocolate bars, even though I’m not the biggest fan of sweets (I’m much more of a salty/savory person by nature). Guys? I ate the whole thing as soon as I got home. It was delish. Late last year I bought a Cadbury bar at the grocery story, as my once-every-three-months sweet tooth demanded, and it was not very good. I would later discover that the Cadbury brand in the US is actually just Nestle or Hershey’s or whoever owns them–it’s not actual Cadbury chocolate. Gross, right? Well, IKEA tastes just like Cadbury, so I was very gratified. It’ll hold me over until May, when I’m going to England and plan on importing several Cadbury chocolate bars.

On Saturday night I went out to dinner in the Financial District, which, guys? Just don’t do it. This is a little New York advice from me to you. I’ve spent more time in the Financial District than I ever cared to in the year and a half I’ve lived in New York, and other than Trinity Church and some of the old New Amsterdam stuff still around (which is way cool), it’s pretty worthless in the off-hours. I came up from the subway at 9:30 and of course it was dark and deserted and while I didn’t feel unsafe, necessarily, I get really turned around in that neighborhood and it’s just not great. Also, the restaurant was totally empty, which is creeptastic on the weekend at the dinner hour. Then we went to a ridiculous house party at this giant apartment that used to be a nightclub that our friend Kyle’s friend owns; there was a salsa band and Kyle somehow got control of the remote for the projector and put on The Beach (??) and it was PACKED, although we stuck together and didn’t mingle because none of the people were interesting to or interested in us. You can only have a party like that in the Financial District; anywhere else and your neighbors would call the cops in three seconds.

On Sunday I watched like 15 hours of Psych on Hulu, put together my bookcase, rearranged the living room a little, went to Bed, Bath and Beyond and got a bunch of stuff including a vacuum (!!), took out all the garbage and the recylcing in the entire apartment (which was a lot), moved all my books out to the bookcase and now I can finally BREATHE in my bedroom, and cleaned my room a little. I thought that was enough; I was like, “Anna, you don’t have to do any more revisions today, you’re good.” But then I was watching Psych and Friday Night Lights and I just kept going, “One more page, I’ll just work on one more page,” until everything was finished. Finished! Although not quite finished. I still have some flags in the MS of notes I have to go back to, and my editor gave me a one-page editorial letter with some clarifications and I have to make sure all those got taken care of. But the big work is done. And I’m feeling very accomplished.

Back in New York

photo1

I look a little morose in this picture, but you get the idea. I’m tired, y’all. It’s about midnight and I just got home from JFK about a half hour ago. I’m hungry and I really don’t want to unpack, but I have to at least get some of it done tonight so I can move around in my bedroom (it’s a bit wee). The good news is, my free wifi is back! The other good news is that I was able to take the photo above with the camera on my brand new MacBook, which was sorely needed for the pursuit of writing. I’ll miss Iphegenia Doubtfire (my old iBook G4), who has more than served me well and deserves her retirement. She hasn’t died, though, so I can still use her if I start feeling nostalgic. (I’m only half-joking about this; I’m unreasonably sentimental about stuff. I think this has its roots in the fact that I used to believe all my toys, from the stuffed animals to this electric candle I used in a choral concert one year in middle school, had personalities with desires, goals, expectations, even itches.)

My new computer’s name is Viola, after the main character in my favorite Shakespeare play, Twelfth Night, to match my iPod Sebastian. Now that I’ve finally found and installed Microsoft Office on Vi, I can continue with my MB revisions and hopefully get those to my editor in a couple of weeks. Okay, time to put some of my stuff away…I just remembered, my mother packed me some pierogi to take home, and that needs to go into the freezer STAT. A bientot!