I Read Ahead

I read ahead.

I’m not ashamed.

I get into a story. I get about 50-100 pages into it, and I have to know what I’m reading towards. I’m impatient. Don’t blame me. Blame the story for being good. Blame the parents who gave me my way all the time as a kid. I’m the youngest and I was spoiled rotten. Blame my awesome brain.

But really, I’m kind of weird. I like spoilers.

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I like knowing the outcome. The fun part for me is how it gets there.

I’m not allowed to talk during Sherlock anymore.

The first time I watched Sherlock with my old roommate and my other friends, I started to talk, got yelled at, and she said “Oh yeah she does that…” because I have an uncanny ability to unwind procedural story lines and name killers frighteningly early. We now fondly refer to this habit as Sherlocking and names are called whenever anyone does it. It causes oodles of laughs.

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The whole point of this is to say that I am nearly half way through Magician King by Lev Grossman, and last night I read the last five pages because of course I did, and I am still bouncing over the fact that it was almost nonsensical in terms of predictability. I mean, I had inklings about things and such, but the end game was SO NOT WHAT I WAS EXPECTING.

Now I can’t wait to see how he gets there.

Go read Harry Potter for adults immediately. It’s tons of fun. And there’s sex. And magic. And Brooklyn.

Yeah do it.

This is really short.

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Opening the Drawer on an Old Manuscript…again

I’m usually the last one to join the party.

Unless it’s a real party. If it’s a real party I am obnoxiously on time.

But I kind of find entertaining things late? I started watching The West Wing half way through season 7. I don’t go to midnight showings. In fact I usually don’t see things until they are out of theaters. I know what happens in them because of social media and that’s enough for me. I can find the necessary information. The habit even extends to books. I started reading Harry Potter shortly after book five was published. And I read the Twilight after the first movie was out because the company I was working for included me and my boss and our interns, and all of them were completely and totally obsessed with Robert Pattinson. I’m totally throwing them under the bus here.

I reacted to the Twilight books much as everyone else did meaning I inhaled them in all in one weekend.

They weren’t good. But they weren’t good in the way that your fourth or fifth piece of candy at Halloween isn’t good. They’re entertaining, and they make you a little crazy, but they’re not fulfilling or stimulating beyond the first rush of sugar.

The one good thing that came out of reading those books aside from a new interest in Laura Marling and a quickly passing obsession with Robert Pattinson (shut up he was pretty for a second there and then he hated everything and it was hilarious) was that I became indignant that something I considered so aesthetically and socio-psychically damaging and awful could be so undeniably successful.

And I started writing. I wrote and wrote. I wrote 411 pages. I had a charater. I had a plot. Stuff happened. I finished it, and I edited it. I printed it out and gave it to ten people to read. They liked it. I wrote a horrible query letter, and I got rejected a lot. Everybody does. I had some interest from one junior agent who gave me some really good editorial advice and told me to come back when I had worked on it for a little bit more. When the edits were in place, and I’d cut 50K words, and it was tighter. I thanked her gratefully, and I got to work.

procrastinationThen I got tired, and I put it in a drawer. I put it in a drawer because I’m a better editor of other people’s work than my own. I put it in a drawer because I’d been writing it for 2 years, and I was tired.

And now it’s been 2 more years, and things are happening my brain again. I listened to some great writing advice on an episode of the Nerdist Writer’s Panel, and I suddenly wanted to work on it again. The manuscript is sitting in various states in various harddrives in my digital drawers around my apartment. It’s in a couple of my digital drawers too. It’s in various states of disarray much like my real life dresser drawers. But ideas are turning over in my head again. Everything I see on Tumblr turns into a tiny little writing prompt that makes me want to open up Pages and get back to Lizzy and her adventure.

It feels like the morning after spring cleaning and the moment when you finally wipe away all the dust on your books. It feels like I might actually accomplish something with it this summer, and maybe, just maybe, I’ll get my proverbial shit together, edit my manuscript, and get it on the querying bandwagon again.

I might need pep talks along the way.

I might need to be yelled at occasion.

I probably am going to have to step away from my book elf story I’ve been working.

But I’m kind of excited anyways.

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Surviving Mother’s Day Since 2001

photo 1The year is littered with land mines. Some are obvious, some less so.

I never really know when one will hit: standing over a stew in the dead of winter and dropping in frozen peas – never fresh – and remembering the time I did put in fresh (really fresh completely raw) peas and she ate it anyways; rolling over in bed at 3 AM and turning the last page of the book I stayed up to finish just like she would have.

The obvious ones are just that: her birthday, Christmas, the anniversary of her death, and today.

For all that it’s been thirteen years this July since she died, there are moments where it still socks me in the gut. I moved recently and found an envelope of photos from one of my siblings’ wedding. It’s the kind of thing I’m sure were actually returned to her that year. All the happy pictures of the groom at various ages. I don’t know why it’s in one of the boxes I’ve been carting around the East Coast for the last decade, but I’m fairly certain it was just one of those things that got put in my pile of things when we emptied her house. I am the keeper of albums, the repository for memories no one else remembers, the dishes that have no recipes.

photo 5Maybe it’s a girl thing. Or an only daughter thing.

My mom was pretty awesome. She had three kids. She loved being a mom. She loved being a mom so much that she went back to school at 50 and became a registered nurse so that she could get jobs at hospitals where they needed lactation consultants. We were all Le Leche League babies, carted around to meetings throughout our childhood and far more knowledgeable about breasts and reproduction than any normal 10 year old. There were years and years of embarrassed “Mom don’t” and “Do you have to?”s as she approached strangers in department stores, grocery stores, restaurants, anywhere really to coo over their babies and somehow unintrusively ask if they were breastfeeding.

She boycotted Nestle in the 80s because they were donating formula to poor countries with poor refrigeration and not explaining to the mothers that their babies would get sick – and could die – if that formula wasn’t kept chilled. I didn’t have a Nestle Crunch Bar for years, and I still default to Hersheys habitually.

She had a hundred cats, way too many books, was depressed, bought things for grandchildren that wouldn’t arrive until she’d been dead for 5 years because she was so excited to be a grandma, was diabetic, had the worst taste in wine, and drank grasshoppers in the spring with my godmother.

photo 3She died unexpectedly. There one day on the other end of the phone and gone the next. There’s a lot about those weeks and months that followed that I still don’t remember.

If I could call her on the phone today and say “Happy Mother’s Day” I’d do it right this minute. She would probably still be in bed, pinned by 3 or 4 my feline siblings and a stack of books. I imagine her voice would be groggy, but she’d tell me she loved me too and to call her back later.

Surviving Mother’s Day since 2001. It’s a thing I do now. Go hug your mom for me.

ALWAYS THE HOSTESS…Never the Siren

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Ok so: I’ve pretty much determined I’m always going to be the hostess and never the siren.

I get it.

I’m pretty okay with it.

Except when I’m not.

It’s hard for me to be one of those people that always talks only to the person they most want to talk to. Label me whatever the hell you want to but I identify as empathetic. If I meet you in a group, and we know each other, and we chat for a few minutes one on one, I’m probably going to concentrate on chit chatting with everyone that I don’t know. It’s just what I do.

I DON’T KNOW HOW TO BE DIFFERENT.

I’m not saying this is why I’ll be alone forever in this internet age but sometimes it feels like it.

Now I’m going to go watch some Mama Mia.

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Verklempt & Barrel

I almost cried at Crate & Barrel today.

tumblr_inline_mrcrmrLF7e1qz4rgpCan’t believe I’m writing that down for the world to read. You see, I don’t cry*. No really, the last time I truly cried was when my mother died more than ten years ago. I may get verklempt over something and choked up over a sad scene in a movie or book, but I don’t cry. Tears don’t run down my face. I don’t bat my eyes prettily.

When I do cry, it is a sweaty, red faced, snot filled experience.

That is not what I did today.

The asterisk with “cry” up there is because I am an angry frustrated crier. When dealing with customer service that is completely and totally horrible (like the bank who charges me $14 in fees at completely random times – and I have put them on a calendar and tracked the dates – that always fall on the Thursday before a pay day when I have $5 in my checking account…and then charges me an addition $35 in overdraft fees) I will get completely choked up on the phone. When moved to rage by anything from a work situation to sleeping through my alarm to almost missing an appointment, my first reaction is to get so close to the point of crying that I might actually pass out before a tear traverses my cheek.

My throat tightens. My sinuses empty and squeeze between my eyes. I can’t speak because I physically cannot inhale enough oxygen to form words.

So I almost cried in Crate & Barrel today. In a very #firstworldproblem situation, the sofa I have saved my money to purchase for my new apartment is not, as I was assured, something they stock that I can just buy and have delivered within the week. The sofa that I want is a special order that takes to 8-10 weeks. So I’m going to spend a lot of time getting acquainted with my floor until July.

BUT I didn’t cry and that’s really what matters. I kept my proverbial shit together, and I chatted up the customer service man who saw my face fall and my forehead scrunch and thought he was going to have a Grade A freakout on his hands.

I worked in customer service for years, and I absolutely refuse to take my ire out on the people who have to deal with dissatisfied customers. What is the point in ruining someone else’s day by having a meltdown at them for simply doing their jobs?

Crate & Barrel employs some lovely people. He was very helpful. He can’t make my couch get here any faster but he can give me a “moving” discount and waive my shipping fee and “turn my frown upside down”. No those words did not actually cross either of our lips, but I think we both thought them at one point during the transaction.

I’m going to go sit on my floor now and read a book.

I expect I’ll be doing a lot of that this summer.

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Online Dating…but for friends and books

The most glorious thing about living in NYC is that I get the opportunity to actually meet a lot of my online friends in real life or IRL as the kids call it these days. It started practically the moment I got here with brunches and coffees and invitations to birthday parties for people I only knew by pseudonyms in boroughs and neighborhoods I was completely afraid of and convinced I would need a cab to keep myself from getting both lost and shanked in the process of getting to and from the party.

I am from the Midwest. Any neighborhood I didn’t already know or hadn’t been walked through by a friend was potentially terrifying to me for the first month I lived here. Don’t judge me. I’m now that person who walks on dark streets with her headphones in and a preternatural sixth sense when another human being is within ten feet of me.

In addition to quickly becoming a regular rider of the NYC subway and navigator of the bus system, the friends I had only known through 100×100 pixel avatars and pseudonyms soon became my closest friends. Two years later, I’m still doing this. I collect friends I make through the internet the way other people date online. They get to know people. They go on dates with many of them. Then they whittle it down to one person to date. I just never do the whittling.

It’s kind of awesome.

I have friends here in NYC from every background both professional and personal. They work in all kinds of industries and have all kinds of interests. The great commonality seems to be that almost everyone I catch in my net of friendship is a big fan of books, so when a new friend looks me in the eye and says, “Rachael, you absolutely have to read this book,” I take it very seriously.

I’ve been known to stop at a bookstore on the way home and pick up a copy even.

Sometimes when I don’t have the time – or the $25 a brand new hardcover costs (so many of my friends work in the book business and rave about brand new releases they get to read for free and then I get all jealous and it’s sad) – I just wait until I come home and download it to my e-reader.

I have a Kobo. It’s awesome. They do not sponsor me in any way, shape or form, but I talk them up to everyone I know. I am pretty psyched that I basically buy e-books from my favorite Brooklyn bookstore, Word, instead of the evil monopoly named after a large river in South America. And the interface is really friendly and paper-like. It’s great. You should get one.

This is all a really long set up to tell you a simple fact: I just finished reading The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld because Erin Morgenstern told me it was beautiful. And she was right. The book is incredibly beautiful. It deals with the worst ideas, most inhuman topics, and brutal people in stunning, gorgeous ways.

I couldn’t stop reading it even though there were definitely times that I desperately wanted to abandon it. I got off the train last Friday night and went to meet some of those online friends for drinks completely still stuck in the scenes I had just read. They were so disturbing that I dwelled on them all night, talked them over repeatedly with those friends, and sighed about how I still wanted to finish reading it.

And I just want to thank the internet for bringing this now IRL friend into my life. For that moment when I saw a notification scroll past above my right hand when she followed me on Tumblr as I was reblogging away. And then the pop-up on my phone when she followed me back on Twitter. And I giggled a little bit because I’m a total fangirl (which she already knows so it’s not embarrassing to put it in type…she kind of wrote an awesome book) and because I am notoriously unrestrained in the number of times a day I post to social media platforms. I hit the tumblr limit with regularity. I can never believe that cool people choose to keep following me when I know that my feeds dominate their dashboards regularly.

So thanks internet. I’m glad I met you back when I was 14 and picking out my first email address.

Yes I still remember it.

No I will not tell you the horrifically sappy thing it was.

Thanks for introducing me to what I fondly refer to as the Bookternet and awesome bookish folks (and cats). I stopped into Community Bookstore on my way home tonight and purchased a copy of The Magician King from Tiny. It will be my next bookternet recommended read.

You’re pretty great Internet. And I kind of love the home you’ve made for me.

Fievel & The Mistaken Deportation

Screen Shot 2014-05-06 at 11.21.00 PMI recently moved. You may have seen me mention it elsewhere on the internet.

My new apartment is lovely. It’s a one bedroom in a gentrifying neighborhood of Brooklyn and is within walking distance of two of my favorite coffee spots in the borough. What more could I really ask for except the couch I’m really hoping to buy tomorrow? My lovely apartment comes with a small problem though. It’s a problem smaller than my thumb.

You see, my lovely building is surrounded by construction sites. The plots of land on either side of it are being turned into apartment complexes from the ground up. With my apartment on the ground floor, this has led to an influx of small furry creatures with very twitchy noses.

Now let me just say: I like mice. And I’m definitely one of those people who catches the intruding creature and releases it into the wild rather than smash it with a blunt object. I can’t. I just can’t feel its tiny little heartbeat and tiny little bones quaking underneath my hands and then squash it. It’s not me.

So when I found my crunchy peanut butter Clif bar nibbled on in my purse on Saturday, I thought to myself: I guess I’ll have to be more careful about where I leave the sweets in this house. It’s not like I’m living on the 3rd floor anymore, away from all the fauna.

I went about my business and thought nothing of it past that.

I emptied my purse. I shook the lining out over the trash can to make sure that each and every single crumb in the bottom of it – and $3 in quarters and change #WINNING – were no longer there to entice my furry roommates. If I stay spotlessly clean, they will stay away, right?

Monday morning dawned bright and clear. I got up and packed my bag for work. I dumped my purse on the stove top and threw a Tupperware container of lunch, a reusable coffee cup, a book and my keys into it. I went on my normal commute to work. It was an hour door-to-door.

I can only imagine the trauma and terror the little guy was experiencing BUT IT WAS HIS OWN FAULT.

I got to work. I shed my sweater, kicked off my flip flops and unloaded my lunch into the fridge. The lights flickered on. A window was opened. The morning was beautiful. I sat down at my desk and started reading through a backlog of emails from the weekend.

Don’t judge me. It’s important to unplug.fievel_mousekewitz_by_concretequeen-d3nb702

All was quiet.

Nothing was stirring.

Until it was.

I heard a rustle.

My purse moved.

I glanced to the side and saw it was sitting in the crevice between two desks. Perhaps the leather handle was just weighing it down and forcing it to move, I thought to myself. I picked it up and resettled it on the desk next to me.

Then it really moved. The nylon bulged towards me.

I knew. I knew right then. I had brought my furry little companion to work with me. Oh I had seen the nibbled holes in the purple lining of my bag but I hadn’t really thought anything of it. The bag had been upended and shaken out and moved all around, and there was no way that a mouse was still in that bag through the entire commute from Brooklyn to Hell’s Kitchen.

I lifted the bag and shook it. Nothing happened. I pulled the cloth lining out of the bag and upended it again, shaking to see if I could see something heavier in the cloth that I hadn’t before. THERE WAS NOTHING I TELL YOU.

Until there was. His twitchy little face emerged from the second largest hole in the lining. His whiskers quivered. He leapt from what I’m sure he felt was his death trap of a dungeon and landed on the carpet.

I won’t lie. I squealed like a child and jumped, one foot in the air after another, and got as far out of the way as possible.

My little visitor was no longer than my thumb. He was brown and had a lovely tail. I feel bad that he’s been forcibly separated from his family and taken as far from home as a building in Hell’s Kitchen. A small part of me wonders if he is traversing the walls and beams of the city, wearing a tiny blue hat and singing about the moon.

I just hope he doesn’t have a lady-mouse friend here in Brooklyn he will try desperately to get back to now that I’ve deported him from the borough.