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Links To Check Out #1

A roundup of some intriguing things I’ve found online lately.

Common Venmo Charges Decoded (from The New Yorker) Such a clever storytelling format!

An Eater’s Guide To Los Angeles (from Eater LA) Tried Tacos Leo from their recommendation on Saturday and hands down it was the best carnitas I’ve ever had.

On why celebrating POC in entertainment shouldn’t be exceptional, but should be the norm (via Shondaland)

Adding this Harry Potter themed cafe in Hong Kong to my bucket list.

Loving this tough-looking laptop bag from & Other Stories.

Ezra Faulkner would totally want all of these vintage canes with hidden features (via Mental Floss)

Damn you, CBS All Access, Star Trek Discovery is so so good. If only it didn’t require a subscription after episode 2.

Relevant to the book I was working on in France, you can now digitally explore a thousand year old illustrated manuscript of medicinal herbs and plants.

A great piece on the current state of activism, and why we need to show up and organize, especially when it’s not personal (via Shondaland)

Have you seen American Vandal on Netflix yet? It’s a hilariously insightful mockumentary series set in a California high school after a student is expelled for spray painting 27 dicks on 27 cars in the faculty lot– and claims he didn’t do it. Also, my delightful friend Ari is an executive producer so heyyyyy, well done, buddy.




Convalescing at a French Castle

I’m pretty sure most writers have this one on their bucket list: spend a few days writing in solitude in some remote and inspiring location. A few weeks ago, my husband’s company sent him to Paris for literally one meeting (Hollywood makes no sense) and he invited me to tag along. Which I gladly did, because weekend in Paris with my husband, but the whole time, I was plotting my escape to a French castle.

It went like this: A couple of hours on a train, $250 for an AirBnB, and then I’d have four days to work on a novel in Carcassonne.

My charming apartment, complete with antique writing desk, chandelier, and fireplace.

The castle on the hill- very Ed Sheeran.

Carcassonne is fortified medieval town in the south of France, and I imagined I’d spend my days like Belle from Beauty and the Beast, living a provincial life in charming midi dresses, singing to myself about the baker while I skipped home, a notebook under my arm full of freshly-written pages.

That wasn’t what happened. I know, I know I lied on insta stories. I made it seem charming and picturesque and perfect. But you have to understand– there I was, alone, on the other side of the world from my friends and family, and I was dying. Somehow, I managed to simultaneously contract an ear infection and bronchitis the day I arrived. I had to go to the doctor in French– not just in France, but in French. Somehow I managed, and was given about a million antibiotics. So instead of a writing retreat, I convalesced, and it sucked.

After a day of lying miserably in bed, I dragged myself up for a hike to the fortress. It’ll be inspiring, I promised myself, between swallowing ampicillin and hacking up phlegm. And it was beautiful, until I reached the top, where the castle of my instagram dreams turned out to be a tourist’s Disneyland. The place was packed with parka-wearing, suitcase-rolling, DSLR-toting tourists. In the middle of the week. In September. Shops selling plastic swords, restaurants with English menus, water bottles for 3 euro. It was a nightmare.

Here’s an absurdly-posed photo you might recognize from my instagram, that I took with a remote and my DSLR from a strategically chosen tourist-free angle.

So I stumbled back down the hill, taking the hiking trail instead of the tourist route. A couple of plants brushed against my legs, which I hardly noticed, until a few minutes later when they broke out in hives. I snapped a picture of the plant in case it was a deadly poison, then marched miserably back to the pharmacy, where I explained in tortured French that I was allergic to the castle.

Back to bed I went. Total medications at this point: 5. Pages written: 0.

There I was, convalescing in a French fortress. The part of me that wrote Extraordinary Means was secretly having a blast. But the part of me that was trying to write a New Thing while very clearly dying of hives, an ear infection, and bronchitis, was not having fun.

Anyway, I wrote about 2 usable pages, and bought about 100 Euro worth of interesting-looking beauty products from Super Pharma to cheer myself up, and there went my dream of writing a novel in the French countryside. It looked so much better from Instagram, right? But then, everything always does.

The Best Writing Trick: The Star Sticker Calendar

I just turned in a revision on my new novel, and the star sticker method saved me. It’s magical. It makes me feel like I’m Hermione in Transfiguration Class earning 10 points to Gryffindor every single day. It’s that good.

I borrowed the idea from Victoria Schwab, who I think adapted it from Jessica Spotswood, who adapted it from Erin Bow, who adapted it from the Don’t Break The Chain method. But it’s something that has been making the rounds in YA author circles, so I figured I’d share it.

What you need:

  • monthly calendar. (Mine is sold out, but it’s from Orange Circle Studio on Amazon. Here’s a similar one)
  • colored sticker sheets. Stars or hearts work. (I like hearts because I’m still mildly traumatized from a star chart in my third grade math class, which I maybe used in the opening pages of Extraordinary Means. Pain is art, guys.)

What you do:

  1. Make a legend. Write down things to work on throughout the month. If you’re a writer on deadline, it’s probably “write 500 words.” If you’re working on your first novel, “write 100 words” might be better. I like to add other things to the calendar besides writing. That way, the days when I don’t write aren’t Fail Days. Things like “gym” or “read 50 pages” or “wedding planning” or “revise 10 pages” work well.
  2. Choose a different sticker for each thing.
  3. Every day that you do the thing, you get a sticker! If you write 1000 words, you get two 500-word stickers.
  4. That’s it! Do not underestimate the power of the sticker. The sticker will make you keep writing when you have 800 words so you can reach 1000. I solemnly swear.

Here’s my December calendar– mischief managed! (And yes, that is a Slytherin pen.)


The Beginning of Everythi–sorry, apparently I’ve already used that title

I know, I know. I’m practically the last person on the planet to start a blog. But here it is anyway, peering up at you from the front page of my website. A blog.

And you’re probably peering back, thinking

Except, in your mind, it isn’t a movie quote. It’s a movie quote as metaphor for my utter lack of originality.

Which is perfect, because people who mentally GIF movie quotes as metaphors are exactly who should be reading this blog!

Want recommendations of my top surrealist party games? Coming right up. A roundup of the best leather jackets for secretly cosplaying as Neil Gaiman? Check. A video tutorial of a crown braid that actually works, unlike every other hair tutorial that has made me want to scream after wasting ten minutes watching? I’ll do that too. Plus book recommendations, and weekend guides, and photos of the ridiculous outfits I wear on writing deadline, and updates on my wedding, and an emergency guide to caring for unwanted houseplants, in case you accidentally throw a housewarming party and people bring you orchids instead of wine. Plus, I should probably let you know when I have a book or a movie coming out, so let’s do that, too. It’ll be a glorious, hilarious mess. Just like my makeup drawer. Or my dinner parties.

God, I really have no business keeping a blog. But then, plenty of people do things they’re woefully unqualified for. It’s very America 2017. Also, since we’re here, be sure to sign up for the newsletter on the side of this page, which will be sent out, um, eventually?