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  • I read a lot, and I have a lot of opinions, so I can't believe I haven't made a list like this before. If you are even a little bit like me or you want to get a peek into my psyche (you probs don't), these are the books to read.
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Archive for March, 2009

Nothin’ to see here

Posted on March 31st, 2009 by annakjarzab

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.

Cover lover

Posted on March 30th, 2009 by annakjarzab

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

Posted on March 30th, 2009 by annakjarzab

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?

Posted on March 27th, 2009 by annakjarzab

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

Posted on March 25th, 2009 by annakjarzab

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

Posted on March 23rd, 2009 by annakjarzab

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

Posted on March 20th, 2009 by annakjarzab

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

Posted on March 18th, 2009 by annakjarzab

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

Posted on March 16th, 2009 by annakjarzab

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

Posted on March 13th, 2009 by annakjarzab

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.