047. Six Resolutions for the New Year

Now that we’ve hit the fourth day of the new year, it’s about time I wrote down my resolution and goals for all to see.

1. Finish my novel. This is a pretty big goal, but it’s a doable one. Originally, following on the heels of National Novel Writing Month, I’d thought I’d be able to get my first draft done by the end of December. That didn’t happen. But my goal of finishing my novel (not just the first draft, but the revisions as well) and beginning to send out to agents by the time I head to New Zealand in September still stands.  My goal is to really finish the first draft by February, edit until May or so, and then write a query and send out over the summer. It’s my main goal this year, and I think I can do it if I buckle down and follow some of my other resolutions.

2. Write every day. This is something that practically every writer resolves to do. I’ve resisted it so far, because I don’t believe that a writer must write every day in order to be successful. One of my favourite authors rejects this idea completely. But the fact of the matter is that over the past few months I’ve really failed to write as much or as diligently as I need to. And in order to ensure that I do better with this, I really need to try to write every day. I know that for me, writing the same novel every day will be a nearly impossible feat. If I force myself to do it when I really, really feel I can’t, it will come out muddled and awful, and that’s not my goal. My goal is to write well and often — I’m a firm believer in quality over quantity. So my goal instead is to write something every day: whether it’s a blog post, an entry for Brigits Flame, a random scene, backstory, or part of my novel. My goal now? To try and write my novel three or four times a week, with at least 1000 words done per day. It’s a doable goal, and as I grow more comfortable with the plan and the routine, I’ll increase the writing time and the word count.

3. Read a book a week. I want to try to read for at least one hour every day, but I think more importantly is reading at least one book per week. It’s less rigid than giving myself a length of time I must read per day, but it will certainly ensure that I’m reading (or rereading) at a good pace. Because as a writer — and as someone who wants to be an agent or editor — it’s absolutely essential that I continue to read with as much passion and interest as I write. I’d also like to vary my subject matter, alternating rereading books to choosing new books in a variety of genres — not just fiction, or even the genres of fiction I tend to gravitate towards. I will, of course, write reviews as well.

4. Go to the gym more. I want to go three times a week. Not twice. I really want to get into better shape, and going to the gym three times a week will really help with that — especially since it’s going to start getting too cold to simply walk everywhere instead of taking the bus or the T.

5. Cook more, cook differently, cook healthier. This seems like three resolutions, but for me, it’s only one. I love food. I am an enormous foodie, and I’ve been getting more interested in cooking because of this. This year, I want to make at least one new and interesting recipe a week, whether it’s a three hour roast, a simple but tasty soup, or a complicated and exotic Thai recipe. In the past, I’ve shied away from buying “strange,” expensive, or specialty ingredients for a variety of reasons. Some of them, like, say, squid, I have no idea how to cook properly. Some things, like duck, are too pricy to get on a regular basis. And lemongrass is only good for a couple of cuisines. But I think it’ll be worth it to, at least once a week, try something brand new, and at least once a month, get a more … expensive and “impractical” ingredient to work with, just to change things up. Because let’s be honest — pasta’s tasty, but it’s hardly the healthiest meal option. But if I can find ways to cook pasta with different sauces, different garnishes, etc. that may be a bit healthier, it’ll be great.

6. Save money. I’m not good at this. I’ve gotten much better about making coffee instead of buying it from Peet’s or Starbucks, and I don’t eat out too much. But I still eat out more than I should; I still spend more at bars than I ought to. I still buy things that I don’t really need, even if I’ve really done a good job at cutting down the frivolous spending. But I need to get much better at this — whether it’s getting cheaper items on menus, forgoing a latte and sticking with plain coffee or tea, or simply not purchasing things I don’t actually need. I think it’s doable — if a bit difficult.

So these are my resolutions for the new year — and hopefully, I’ll be able to stick with them.

042. NaNoWriMo, and Also My Friend Is Famous.

It’s day four of National Novel Writing Month, and although I’m a little bit behind, I’m sitting at 4,600 words. I’m halfway through the second chapter, and my characters are working out pretty well — some things are going a little differently than expected, but the language is working, the tone is working, and the point of view is working — at least for me, and for now.

My novel, which is titled (tentatively) Die Young & Sell Your Soul, is technically in the non-genre of Adult YA: it’s not quite in the same vein as, say, Twilight or Cassandra Clare’s books. My protagonists are a little bit older, between 18 and 25, and it’s a bit more mature — but not so in a way that it will alienate or be inappropriate for younger readers.

The synopsis, taken straight from my NaNo page is here:

Even vampires get stuck in mid-life crises, and Flynn’s is more destructive than most. When he spirals too far out of control, he’s removed from his high-ranking position at the vibrant epicenter of the vampire empire — Las Vegas — and is sent to build a satellite colony in Boston, MA, which is not quite the honor Flynn thought it was.

 

Boston’s a lot of things: young, fresh, small, and unfortunately for Flynn, very diurnal. But while he and his crew are sitting around grumbling about the vast differences between their old life and new, they run into a far more serious problem: slayers. And up until a few months ago, there had been no such thing.

 

C.C. Howlett is one of those soulless slayers, accidentally “recruited” when a demon asks her an innocuous, trick question. But during the process of extracting her soul — her conscience, her free will, her personality, her passions, her self — something goes wrong. She’s left clutching the remnants of her soul and her self.

 

When C.C. gets captured while raiding Flynn’s hideout, it becomes abundantly clear that neither of them are each other’s enemy. Flynn wants safety, security, and to destroy what could be threatening his entire empire; C.C. wants her soul back. And to get what they want, they have no choice but to collaborate.

I’m really pleased with the way it’s going so far; we shall see how it goes! My goal is to get to 11,666 words by Sunday evening.

In other news, my hugely talented friend Jen (some of you may know her as Jenna Shear, who posted my profile of dancer Ela Rogers on her blog) and her bellydance troupe was featured in an article on Hipmix, a very important bellydance site. Check it out here! She’s not totally famous yet, but hey, this is a good first step!.

041. An Update On Life in General.

Tuesday was my birthday. Twenty-two. I feel old and unaccomplished. It was an odd kind of birthday, my first “adult” birthday, where I had nobody around me, nobody singing, nobody handing me a cake. I had no one to talk to, and very few family members bothered to call. And, of course, I was in the throes of a sinus infection. Sadly, I still am

That’s not to say I didn’t get some lovely gifts and some lovely messages. It was just … different than expected. My party was so very fun — last night, even though I was feeling rather sick, I ended up having a fabulous time. Everyone I could have hoped to see was there, and I hope everyone had as much fun as I did.

This afternoon, before my voice completely upped and left, I had an interview for an internship at Literary Traveler, an online magazine. I think it went fairly well, and for next week, I have to write a 500-word blog post that would fit in with their current posts. Tomorrow, I plan on writing up a list of possibilities.

Currently, I’m gearing up for NaNoWriMo. I finally have a possible title, though that may change in the coming weeks if I find another one suits me better. I think I’ll be able to write a lot of this book next month, and I’m excited about it. I know vampires are “done” but I’ve always wanted to write my take on them, and while of course it has been a huge trend in the past few years, I think I can offer something fresh to the genre — if only because I despise most of the vampire lit that came out of the post-Twilight wave of YA. I think my characters are different than the norm, and that my concept is unique with aspects of familiarity. Hopefully I am not wrong about this. You can find me here:

I’ve also been reading quite a bit; I read the next two books in the Flavia de Luce series (though I didn’t post the reviews here, since they’re very similar to the review of the first book), and am excited for book four to come out. I am now working through Kelly Link’s first collection of short stories; review to come soon!

039. Harry Potter and the Post-Grad Life of Doom.

There are many things I could talk about since it’s been such a very long time since I posted a “real” update (i.e. not a review). But I think I’ll stick with the basics, and what’s been most important so far.

#1. I finally graduated about a week and a half ago. I got my final GPA (3.9), my final standing (Summa Cum Laude), and although so far no word is out about my diploma (it’ll go to my home in New Jersey, not my apartment, and my parents haven’t said anything about it), I’m feeling pretty good about it. Except now all my friends are in classes. Some of their classes sound great, others not so much, but it does make me simultaneously jealous and pleased that I’m not in classes anymore. My schedule is nowhere near as strict, as right now I only have my one day a week internship with Ann, so I’ve been trying to Get Things Done, namely writing and reading, which has not been going quite as well as I’d hoped. I did have an interview for a second internship this past week so we’ll see if anything comes of it. If not, it’s back to the drawing board for me.

#2. Writing. I’ve been doing terribly with it. I think I hit a severe patch of writer’s block, and have (hopefully) just broken through it. I think one of the problems is that I have too many ongoing projects and not enough focus on any of them. One of which is my thesis project, my crime novel. I started rereading what I’d written the other night and cringed at how … not right the writing is. But I also had a paragraph that I was starting to write as a new beginning to the book and that’s shaping up much better. I simply need to just reread what I’ve got, see how I feel about it, and go from there. I plan on doing that rereading within the next few days.

My other project is much newer: a YA novel centering around vampires. Sounds typical, I know, and I’m sorry, but hopefully it won’t come out as typical. It’s supposed to be serious yet funny, and the main vampire, Flynn, is a bit of a failure and doesn’t know it. I started writing a bit of it, but somehow it’s not gelling for me quite yet — I think maybe I need to start at a different point in the story, as I’ve got a particular line stuck in my head and I can’t get past that. So perhaps I’ll start from the other character’s storyline and see where it goes from there.

Third project is the usual monthly/weekly contest at Brigits Flame on Livejournal. Although I’m not really big on the LJ community in general, I find that this is a way to really get myself writing. It’s a competition, which always makes me more motivated, and I write to win. So we’ll see how that goes.

#3. Harry Potter. Yes, I am rereading. I’m on Chamber of Secrets right now, and have also recently gotten into Pottermore. I’ve been exploring the site, which is interesting, although since it’s in its very beginning stages, there isn’t all that much to do and it’s a tad disappointing. I did, however, get Slytherin, which makes me quite pleased. I loved the way they had you choose your house (answering questions that, unlike the myriad of sorting hat quizzes out there, are NOT easy at all to cheat upon. Remember the ones with the really leading questions like, “which colour do you like best? green, red, yellow, or blue?” Yeah.) I’m eager to see what the rest of Pottermore is going to be like; I’ve already found out some really interesting information about McGonagall and The Dursleys’ courtship, as well as a lot more in depth information about wands and such.

That’s pretty much all for now — hopefully I’ll be able to update with another book review soon (after Chamber of Secrets I’m going to take a break and read something new before going back to the Harry Potter series again)!

035. Guest Blogging!

Just a quick update — I’ve been featured on my dear friend Jenna Shear’s blog. I wrote an article a while back about Ela Rogers, a rising star in the Tribal Fusion bellydance community, and she has posted it here. If you’re interested, check it out!

033. Class, Class, and Internship.

Recently, many things have occurred. I’ve written a lot of stuff — including speedfics, other short stories for the competitive writing community I belong to, and many articles — and I’ve read at least three books (for school, mind you, although Ann gave me three books from authors she currently represents and I’m in the midst of one).

I’ve been remarkably stressed out lately, mostly because the last week of class is finally rushing towards me like a very unavoidable bullet train. Next week, I have the following things due on either Monday or Wednesday: my adapted screenplay of “The Hortlak” by Kelly Link; a paper on Horseman, Pass By and its film adaptation, Hud; the rough draft of my profile piece; the revision of my travel article; and the book Cold Comfort Farm. There are probably other things, due, too, that I’m blocking from my mind.

Magazine Writing has been incredibly difficult and exhausting. Our assignments could be fun if we actually had a decent amount of time to write them and research them, but as it is, I perpetually feel rushed and anxious about them. Luckily, for my profile piece, I have already done my interview. Which is actually a great thing that happened today: I met bellydancer Ela Rogers and her husband today, and interviewed her for my article, which will be workshopped in class, revised, and then posted here, as well as a few other places. She was adorable, enthusiastic, and so sweet; it was wonderful to meet and talk to her. She’s an inspiring and impressive person!

In other news, there are two job opportunities that I need to take a look at. One is a salaried position at Perseus, where I interned this spring. The actual job is an Editorial Assistant position, which is definitely in my interest — plus, I fit all the requirements and have worked there before, though admittedly in a different department. There is one major downside, though: I’m not terribly interested in the subjects the imprint works with — namely women’s health, pregnancy, parenting, self-help, etc. I don’t know how fun it would be in terms of subject matter. But can I afford to be picky? Here’s an entry level job in Cambridge where I can work and get experience and a salary, and … then you know, if I feel like picking up and moving to NYC, it’s not impossible. I’d just have to wait for another job to come around. But because entry level jobs in most of the publishing world require at least a year of experience, I’d have a leg up on all the competition elsewhere, if I’m young, out of college, and already have an assistant job. I will probably apply; what’s the worst that could happen?

The other job opportunity to pop up is a paid internship at  — guess what? The Helen Rees Literary Agency. Sound familiar? You bet. I work for Ann Collette, one of the three agents at the Agency. So even though I technically work just for her right now, this internship would be for the whole agency (and would start either August or September 1st). I want to talk to Ann about it, mostly because I want to see what her thoughts and advice are — if she thinks I should apply for this internship, I will. I love working with her, and it wouldn’t be the same thing, but I’m not sure how long she wants me to stay on as an intern anyway. So we’ll see.

Annnd that rambling post was a blog post. And even though it didn’t really go anywhere, I am tired and I want to go to bed. So the end!

031. Review of Magic For Beginners by Kelly Link.

I have an assignment for my novel into film class. I have to adapt a short story into a screenplay, and it can’t be one I’ve written. This means I have been reading many, many short stories, and I came across a brilliant collection that warrants talking about*.

Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link is undeniably brilliant. It’s one of those books that’s full of compact but well-thought out concepts and worlds, and it is also the kind of book that upon after finishing it, you wish you could read it all again, and also that you’d written it yourself. It’s been recommended to me often enough — Amber Benson told me about it, which was the first thing I’d ever heard about it. Link’s been regarded as the freshest voice in short fiction and in fantasy by many, many writers, and after reading through the entire collection, I can see why. Her voice is unique: at turns funny and frightening and touching. She’s very versatile. She uses first person, third person, and sometimes even switches briefly into second person. She writes about many different characters: teenage boys and girls, married couples, small children, ghosts, zombies, witches, and magicians. She uses modern technology and present-day settings and she does it well. You don’t wonder about their timelessness. They are timeless.

I was grabbed immediately, as any Bostonian would be, by the first page of the first story, “The Faery Handbag,” mostly because it begins with a description of The Garment District, a misnamed “thrift” store in Kendall Square. But I didn’t keep reading because of the familiarity, I kept reading because Kelly Link has the ability to make everything twist into something unexpected and brilliant. She has that rare gift of explaining things precisely the way you know they are but the way you never’d have thought to describe them on your own. And no story is like the next. I bought this book on Thursday. I have already read the entire thing, even though I have a lot of homework and an article to write, plus a social life that sometimes needs tending.

My favourite story in the bunch — although it is hard to choose, and it’s very dependent on mood — is the title story (which is really a novella). “Magic For Beginners” has this brilliant television show in it and I have never wanted anything to be more real. The characters are real. Her characters are always real. In short fiction, it’s hard to care much about a character, but every time she writes one, you cheer for them or empathize with them or despise them with every fiber of your being. She writes characters with quirks; in “Magic for Beginners,” Jeremy’s father is a recreational shoplifter and writes thrillers about (and only about) giant spiders. In “Stone Animals,” Catherine pretends she’s had an affair, and Henry’s boss has a problem with her tear ducts. These are things — tiny details — that real people do or don’t do, but you don’t question their validity; they work and they are brilliant.

And the fantasy — it’s got zombies, sometimes, but not the kind you’d usually see. Vampires are mentioned once and are not involved at all. Werewolves don’t even come close. Ghosts are important. There are aliens. And there are cats and many witches and magic handbags and for the most part, Link mixes magical realism and science fiction and urban fantasy and literary fiction into something wonderfully compelling.

There are many books you buy on a whim that sit on your shelf and after you’ve finished you regret ever buying it, and you think you should’ve stuck to the library version. But Magic for Beginners is that book where, even though Kelly Link’s got a free download of it on her site, I have never been happier to hold the physical collection in my hands.

*This review is a little convoluted. I apologize. I got very excited and I don’t much care if it’s a jumbled block of energetic ravings.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.