My Bucket List; Or, Celebrating SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY

A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege of reading an advance copy of Julie Murphy’s fantastic debut novel, SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY. It was terrific, to say the least, and I’m so incredibly proud of, and happy for, Julie. I highly recommend it, and to prove that, i’m joining in on her celebratory blog book launch! But first, here’s a bit about the book:

side effects coverWhat if you’d been living your life as if you were dying—only to find out that you had your whole future ahead of you?

When sixteen-year-old Alice is diagnosed with leukemia, her prognosis is grim. To maximize the time she does have, she vows to spend her final months righting wrongs—however she sees fit. She convinces her friend Harvey, whom she knows has always had feelings for her, to help her with a crazy bucket list that’s as much about revenge (humiliating her ex-boyfriend and getting back at her arch nemesis) as it is about hope (doing something unexpectedly kind for a stranger and reliving some childhood memories). But just when Alice’s scores are settled, she goes into remission.

Now Alice is forced to face the consequences of all that she’s said and done, as well as her true feelings for Harvey. But has she done irreparable damage to the people around her, and to the one person who matters most?

Julie Murphy’s SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY is a fearless and moving tour de force about love, life, and facing your own mortality.

Sounds amazing, right? To celebrate the book’s release, I’m writing my own bucket list. Some things I’ve already accomplished. Some I have yet to embark on. And, I think, all say a little bit about me.

  • Travel to other countries. Ones i’ve already conquered: Italy, France, England, Greece. Once I’d like to conquer next: India (to see the country, of course, but also to meet S’s grandparents), Ireland (castles!), Spain, and Germany. I’d also like to go back and see England’s countryside, as we only went to London (which was awesome), and Sicily (because I only made it to Rome, Florence, Venice, Pisa, Milan, and Capri in Italy).
  • Travel the US. Okay, foreign countries are great, but I’d actually like to see more of the country I live in. Perhaps a cross-country road trip. Or a summer in Maine (yes, i’d rather go somewhere colder than summer here in Florida). Or a trip to a Pacific Northwest, which i’ve never seen. Heck, I’d really just like to see LA.
  • Become fluent in a foreign language. Simple, right? Wrong. I’ve tried Spanish and Italian. I got by in Italy on my very limited Italian, but still. I want to be perfect. (S, on the other hand, can speak four languages. Because he’s a show-off.)
  • Ride an animal. No, I’ve never ridden a horse. Or anything. I’d really like to. I had a chance in Greece to ride a donkey, but they looked so sad, and I read they were treated horribly, so I tried to liberate them instead. (Okay, I didn’t. Instead I just took a picture by them and walked down the cliff.)
  • Participate in a murder mystery game where everyone is a character and everyone is a suspect. I just really want to dress up and pretend i’m Ms. Scarlett.

And now for things I’ve already crossed off my bucket list:

  • Get married/have kids. The married part is done. The have a baby is in the process. I mean, technically she’s a baby, but she’s still inside me, so let’s give this a month and a half before I fully cross it off.
  • Write a book. Boom. Done.
  • Buy a house. Also done. The only thing that would make my house cooler would be having a secret passageway. Perhaps something to work on in the future.

Okay, there are probably a lot more things I’d like to do/see/experience, but these are ones i’ve had on my list for a while. Who knows, perhaps i’ll start crossing them off this year? It’s really not that impossible to imagine.

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SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY by Julie Murphy will be released on March 18th. You can buy it online here, here, or here. Find Julie on Tumblr or Twitter.

Waiting Period

Hello!

As you might have noticed, I’ve been M.I.A. for a bit. It’s not because of some amazing news, or I’ve been hiding from the world or anything, I’ve just been…

  1. Experiencing pregnancy brain. I didn’t believe in this at first, figuring it was simply another pregnancy myth, but oh my. The other day, I literally said to a co-worker: “hey, can you get me…the…the um…the thing to put the books on so I can roll them around.” “A book cart?” “YES! THAT!” It was then that I became a believer.
  2. Preparing for said baby. I’ve been reading the books (they’re terrifying) and setting up the nursery with S (it’s adorable). You hear that babies need a lot of stuff, but it’s not until you see your house lined with Graco and Fisher Price boxes that you realize it’s all incredibly true. I also find myself using the word “snugapuppy” a lot. (It’s a baby swing. With a puppy on it. It’s adorable.) (Also, magically I can remember the non-word “snugapuppy” and not “book cart.”)
  3. Writing. Yes, despite the memory issues, I’m still trying to write. In fact, I want to get everything done prior to baby’s arrival. So right now a manuscript is with my beta readers (one my agent has already thankfully approved of, only now with many, many edits), and I’m writing away at another one. It’s weird and fun balancing three projects (TNWSY as well, of course), but they’re vastly different, so it’s easy separating them in my mind. And for the first time, I made a very detailed outline for a story so I can follow it when my mind does, eventually, go blank.
  4. Reading. Not just baby books! I’ve read 10 books so far this year. Some highlights… Drama High by Michael Sokolove was a fantastic non-fiction account of a high school drama department. Touching and lovely (and as someone who was part of a high school drama department, I was deeply invested). The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick was a fun, deep read that I checked out for my library’s book club. Admittedly, I saw the movie first (which I loved), but that didn’t spoil the book at all – they’re both different and lovely enough to stand on their own. September Girls by Bennett Madison. I’m usually not big on mermaid books, but this one blew me away. The writing was lyrical, the voice authentic and unforgiving. I was absorbed.
  5. Sleeping. Or attempting to sleep (it’s become quite hard). I plan my days around sleeping sometimes.

That is to say, not much is going on, but at the same time, so much is going on. My life is on the brink of changing in various ways, and I’m just about to take everything in. I’m just waiting…waiting excitedly. And, yet, also enjoying the wait.

Writing: 2013 in Review

In regards to writing, 2013 has been exciting, to say the least – most notably because TNWSY was sold, and I have an editor, and, YAY! But writing didn’t stop there. Oh no.

Actually, writing-wise, my year started out rather slow.

Project 1: I started work on a new concept early in the year, a topic very close to my heart. I learned quickly that it’s not always the easiest – or best idea – to write what you know. Every word felt forced. Writing wasn’t fun. I only accomplished about 9,000 very poorly written, really despised, words. (For comparison, TNWSY is a bit over 60,000 words.) So I put that project to sleep and immediately felt better. Will I ever go back to it? I’m not sure. I hope to one day, with a new perspective, but for now I’m happy letting go.

Project 2: I had a new, very fun idea that I was keen to work on…and work on it I did. Writing was fun again, but only for so long. At about 30,000 words I realized the story didn’t stand out at all, and it wasn’t something I wanted to tell. It wasn’t unique. It wasn’t going anywhere. I had an ending in sight, but no middle ground. I knew it wasn’t something I was proud of, and I had no ideas of ways to make it better. So, again, I gave up on it and felt better. I didn’t hate it, but I knew it wasn’t the right story for me. It just felt blah – I didn’t need to write it. Will I ever go back to it? Probably not. But it’s still saved, just in case.

Project 3: At this time, Burrow Press, a local Orlando publisher, came into the picture, Each year they put out a 15 Views of Orlando book (among other great books) where local writers contribute a different chapter. The entire book is one story, but each chapter is written by a different author, and they’re allowed to take the story in any way they want. Also, each chapter must take place at a different Orlando location. It’s really unique. Anyway, I was asked to write the final chapter, the epilogue, and jumped at the opportunity, The story was so far from anything I’d ever personally write, that the experience was wonderful. I wrote fast, and was happy with what I created. (I was also able to be in a book with my friend Jenny, which is just awesome) I loved contributing to the book, and cannot wait to see it in print. (Out in April 2014! The book is called FORGET YOU FOUND US; 15 Views of Orlando Vol. III. You can read the first chapter here.)

Project 4: Newly restored, I decided to dabble with a short story idea I had a while back, which never amounted to anything but one page. I started fresh and wrote it…in one day. Seriously. I was obsessed. It was a crazy experience; I only broke to Skype chat with a friend in the UK. So, I sent the 8,000 words to my agent, after editing it, and she liked it too (!!!), with the only suggestion to make it longer. So I did. Again, quickly, easily. Now at about 20,000 words, it’s my little novella that I love dearly. Where it goes next, we shall see…

Project 5: After that, I figured it was time to attempt another full-length manuscript. Again, I jumped on an idea that was floating around in my mind and wrote. And wrote. And wrote. I never outlined it, I just kind of decided what happened as I went. And in a weird, way, it worked. I finished it! It was not very good at first – names were all mixed up, characters weren’t fully developed, the plot wasn’t fully developed, but it was finished and I was so relieved that I could do that again. So I spent a while fixing it up and making it shiny before sending it on. To my delight, agent liked it, too, so we’re editing it now and improving it in ways I never would have thought of without her. Yay!

Project 6: While waiting for agent’s reaction on Project 5, I had a dream that inspired an idea. It was small at first, a tiny flicker, but I started daydreaming about it, and started letting my fingers tap along. I wasn’t planning on writing anything, but it just happened. I’m about 20,000 words in now and still obsessed with it. It’s the first manuscript I’ve written that i’ve needed to do a bit of research for, which I am, and it’s fun. It’s very different than my other stories, but I like that about it. I don’t want to say much now, but I can feel it turning into something, and I’m so excited to see where it takes me.

Project 7: TNWSY, of course! In the midst of all of this, I’ve been editing my book (BOOK!) with my editor (EDITOR!). It’s such an exhilarating process, and I’m thrilled to continue it through the new year.

So where does that leave me now? Continuing my edits for TNWSY, figuring out Project 4, editing Project 5, writing Project 7, and perhaps starting a Project 8 after all of that is said and done. There’s an idea there…there’s always an idea. And though I’m realistic enough to know that some projects will decline and fail as they have for me in the past, I’m still thrilled to see what grows and flourishes in 2014. So, to another year of writing and inspiration and wonder.

Reading: 2013 In Review

I read some books this year. Check them out.

  1. Peter and the Starcatchers  – Dave Barry & Ridley Pearson
  2. Forgotten – Catherine McKenzie
  3. Guitar Notes  – Mary Amato
  4. Just One Day – Gayle Forman
  5. The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight  – Jennifer E Smith
  6. Splintered – A.G. Howard
  7. A Visit from the Goon Squad  – Jennifer Egan
  8. The Wrap-Up List  – Steven Arntson
  9. Drama – Raina Telgemeier
  10. Eleanor & Park  – Rainbow Rowell
  11. Attachments – Rainbow Rowell
  12. Who Done It?  – ed. by Jon Scieszka
  13. Requiem – Lauren Oliver
  14. Anya’s Ghost – Vera Brosgol
  15. Friends with Boys – Faith Erin Hicks
  16. War at Ellsmere – Faith Erin Hicks
  17. Trickets – Kirsten Smith
  18. Graffiti Moon – Cath Crowley
  19. The One and Only Ivan – Katherine Applegate
  20. The Geography of Girlhood  – Kirsten Smith
  21. Where’d You Go, Bernadette?  – Maria Semple
  22. This is What Happy Looks Like – Jennifer E Smith
  23. Winger – Andrew Smith
  24. Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong – Faith Erin Hicks & Prudence Shen
  25. You Look Different in Real Life – Jennifer Castle
  26. Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia – Jenny Torres Sanchez
  27. All the Summer Girls – Meg Donohue
  28. Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin – Liesl Shurtliff
  29. The Moon and More – Sarah Dessen
  30. Blankets – Craig Thompson
  31. The Book of Broken Hearts – Sarah Ockler
  32. Doll Bones – Holly Black
  33. The Next Best Thing – Jennifer Weiner
  34. The Engagements – J. Courtney Sullivan
  35. Uses for Boys – Erica Scheidt
  36. Don’t Turn Around – Michelle Gagnon
  37. Starglass – Phoebe North
  38. In the Bag – Kate Klisse
  39. Wild Awake – Hilary T. Smith
  40. When You Were Here – Daisy Whitney
  41. The Longest Holiday – Paige Toon
  42. The Infinite Moment of Us – Lauren Myracle
  43. The Beginning of Everything – Robyn Schneider
  44. Fangirl – Rainbow Rowell
  45. The Vow – Jessica Martinez
  46. The History of You & Me – Amanda Grace
  47. Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn
  48. Monster on the Hill – Rob Harrell
  49. Johnny’s GIrl – Paige Toon
  50. Horde – Ann Aguire
  51. Will & Whit – Laura Lee Gulledge
  52. Spring Awakening – Steven Sater
  53. Little Fish – Ramsey Beyer
  54. Year One – Ramsey Beyer
  55. Battling Boy – Paul Pope
  56. The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
  57. The Reece Malcolm List – Amy Spalding
  58. Going Vintage – Lindsey Leavitt
  59. Belly Laughs: The Naked Truth about Pregnancy and Childbirth – Jenny McCarthy

Though not a published book, I’m also counting my friend Joe’s adult fiction manuscript because it was wonderful, and is currently in search of an agent. So, 60 books! Yay!

Some observations: 

If I like an author, I will immediately read everything else they’ve written (or illustrated, in regards to graphic novelists).

Speaking of, this was the year of graphic novels for me. And, not surprisingly, YA books. For the library, I’m on the summer reading booklist committee, so I have to read a bunch to see what might be a great fit for our list. Thus, quite a few listed. I might not have read them on my own, so I’m glad I was asked to check them out. And that led to my newfound love of coming-of-age graphic novels.

It’s really neat looking at my list and seeing friends on it (hi, Panera crew). And books my agent represents. And books my editor edited. So proud!

All said, my adult reading was very light this year. Whoops? I wondered what my ratio was, so I’ve decided to make a pie chart for my 2013 reads. Observe!

piechart

Fiction: 12, Non-fiction: 1, YA: 30, MG: 4, GN: 11, Play 1

I guess to make up for this, the two books i’m currently reading are both non-fiction.

I’m happy to say that i’ve enjoyed all books read this year. Some I absolutely adored and will remain top books in my heart for a while.

And now, I look forward to what 2014 will bring!

What were your reading habits for 2013? Read anything great that you think I should check out? Let me know – I love recommendations! 

Books That Stick With You

There’s a meme going around Facebook that asks you to list the top 10 books that have stuck with you. They don’t have be classics, they’re just books that mean something to you, or are memorable personally to you. My friend asked for mine, and I obliged, but as I started listing them, I wanted to write more. I wanted to explore why the books mean so much to me.

So that’s what this blog is for, right? RIGHT!

So here are 10 books that have stuck with me. (There are probably more; these are just ones I adore, and have read 2+ times. They’re in category order, kind of.)

  1. The Giver by Lois Lowry. I read this book originally in 4th or 5th grade, when it was assigned to our class. It was something completely different than the Sweet Valley Kids books I was reading. It opened my eyes to new realms and new ideas and the aching children have when they want to learn something new and break free. I devoured it twice, then asked the school librarian for everything else Lois Lowry wrote. I read it all.
  2. The Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling. I realize i’m cheating here and listing an entire series, but come on. I can’t choose just one (though, if forced, I’ll say either the 3rd, 4th, or 7th). Though I didn’t start the series until I left for college, when Goblet of Fire was released, I still held these books so close. They were unlike a series I’d ever followed before. I was there at midnight getting the next book. I was there opening night for the movies. And I was there, at the bookshop I worked at, playing Hermione when The Half-Blood Prince was released. And you better believe I already have them lined up in our future child’s bedroom.
  3. If I Stay by Gayle Forman. I read this book on a plane ride from Orlando to Long Island. I took time off from seeing family to finish the last few pages. I cried like a baby. This book is just devastatingly beautiful in so many ways. And I’d like to, personally, give it credit for pushing me to write YA novels. After reading it, I knew I wanted to write something, too. (Also, I adore Where She Went as much as If I Stay.)
  4. The Fault in our Stars by John Green. I read this in one teary-eyed sitting. It’s wonderful, everyone already knows that. Let’s move on.
  5. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. Another obvious one. This is one of my all-time favorite books. It means so much to me, that my copy is barely held together. I hug it occassionally. Ahem.
  6. Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld. I read Prep in college with my friend Lindsay. I didn’t expect much from it, but something was urging me to read it. And I’m so glad I did. To this day, many of the lines, and the feelings I got from the lines, still stick with me. There’s especially one quote, where Lee’s friend asks, in regard to Lee’s crush, “What kind of a person is named ‘Cross Sugarman’?” that Lin and I asked one another regularly, whenever we liked a person that let us down. We used Cross Sugarman to symbolize all of the messy people that came before the people we ended up marrying.
  7. Laughter on the 23rd Floor by Neil Simon. This is a play, but no matter. In high school, when I was deep in my drama obsession, I read everything by Neil Simon. It started with Brighton Beach Memoirs (which almost made this list!), which I adored immensely (to the point that I scouted out an out-of-print copy of Broadway Bound, the third part of the Eugene trilogy) and then kept going. I now own all of the collected works. Laughter, though, stands as my favorite. I love the comradery of the writers. I love the jokes that still, years and many reads later, make me laugh. And I love the feeling I get every time I read the last, wonderful life. I directed scenes from it in high school, and to this day, I still smile whenever I see my director’s notes in my very worn copy.
  8. The History of Love by Nicole Krauss. This is probably the most surprising choice, because it’s not a book I talk about frequently, but oh is it one I love. It has two painful stories that intertwine, full of yearning and life. When they merged at the end, I couldn’t handle it. Truly, a beautiful book.
  9. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. I love this book. So much. The writing (though translated) is outstanding. The tone and feel of everything is beautifully memorable. I can picture myself in the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. I see myself with Daniel on his wondrous (and scary) journey. It’s a book about literature, and I can get behind that. I bought the two sequels (The Angel’s Game and The Prisoner of Heaven) the day they came out, and I ache for the final book. ACHE!
  10. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Another obvious one. Every time I re-read Gatsby I get something new out of it. It’s about drive and passion and the American Dream, but also? It’s a story about love. And, man, do I love it.

BONUS! It’s a short story, so I’m not counting it, but “The End of the Affair” by David Sedaris (found in his book Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim) will forever hold a place in my heart. If it wasn’t so long, I would have had it read during our wedding ceremony, it’s that good. Because like Sedaris, I think love is internal, and doesn’t need to be shown in a dramatic fashion. Sometimes holding hands is enough.

[Books that ALMOST made the list: Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff (such a beautiful, gothic read), Ragtime by EL Doctorow (made me love historical fiction), Assassination Vaction by Sarah Vowell (made me fascinated with presidential history), A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan (I love complicated reads like this one), The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (because of course), The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson (beautiful and heartbreaking), and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series by Ann Brashares (because Lin and I share a traveling shirt to this day).]