It’s been a long time since I’ve done one of these, but the wait is over! I finally got a chance to go out and see ‘Humpty Sharma ki Dulhania’, one of the biggest blockbuster Bollywood flicks of the year. I’m so glad I got to see it to because it was AWESOME. Like, seriously awesome. [Read more…]
I know this post is crazy late. Blame it on strep if you must. But it is finally here! If you follow me on any of my social media sites, you already know my news. I sold 2 YA books to Crown and option rights to Susan Cartsonis and Gurinder Chadha. It’s amazing. [Read more…]
I know most of you are expecting me to make some sort of awesome announcement, but I’m not ready to do it yet! So ha. Soon, I promise!
What I will tell you is that I saw the movie ‘2 States’ which is a Bollywood flick based on India’s bestselling author Chetan Bhagat’s same-titled novel. I LOVE Chetan Bhagat, and not just because he’s Punjabi (balle, balle). It’s because his books, which are written in English but published in India, are so…normal. They involve heavy issues with ordinary characters living extraordinary lives. Most importantly, his stories aren’t strangers to the big screen. ‘3 Idiots’ was based off of one of his books and that was a super hit movie. That’s why I had such high hopes for ‘2 States.’ [Read more…]
This weekend I decided to check out the movie Queen starring one of the most underrated actresses in Bollywood (I think), Kangana Ranaut. The trailer for this movie already sets it up as being hysterical, so no lie, I had high expectations.
And this movie totally delivers!
Here is the summary:
Queen is a movie about growing up. Rani (Kangana Ranaut) is a Delhi girl from a conservative family who is ditched by her fiancé just before her marriage. Shocked by this, she decides to set out on the planned honeymoon alone. As she travels the world and meets new people, she gains new experiences and discovers her own identity. (IMDB)
So here is some background about the movie: the entire thing was shot in 45 days in like 140+ locations. The budget was crazy small despite it’s massive attention. There was only a crew of like 30 people that traveled together. To save money, the actors would change in public bathrooms and the crew would eat at local restaurants. The lead had to edit and write some of her own dialog. When the movie was in editing, the cinematographer died and someone else had to take over. It wasn’t meant to be a big blockbuster production, but I’m so glad it did well in theaters!
Here are some of the reasons why I liked this movie:
1. The characters are complex. The ex boyfriend/fiance appears to be both loving at some parts and awful at others. That’s just the way humans are and it’s wonderful that a movie shows that.
2. The heroine does not have an easy journey reclaiming her independence. Self-discovery shouldn’t be something that happens overnight…or even in a fortnight.
3. The movie ends on a positive note, but you know the heroine has more growing pains ahead. Things aren’t hunky dorey, but they are better than the beginning.
4. A multicultural cast. All I can say is Oleksandr? Call me. Love you.
5. There are strip clubs and drugs and alcohol and sex, but all of that didn’t make the heroine react in an extreme way. She experienced those things, accepted it, and took the path that she was the most comfortable with.
Here are some of the reasons why I didn’t like the movie:
1. There were flashback scenes but I think they overdid them. Because of this, the first half of the movie had some pacing issues.
2. ALL FOREIGN INDIAN WOMEN AREN’T WHORES. I had to put that in caps, because that’s really what the movie felt like. Women born and raised abroad either become strippers or have random sex and produce children out of wedlock even though they are smart and have a “good heart”. Trust me, people from the motherland: we are not all like that. Not even close!
3. Um…can anyone explain to me what was up with the random Italian guy? No spoilers, but there was that one story line that could have been wrapped up better.
But that’s it! Obviously there are more things I liked about the movie than disliked. It was funny, and sweet, and it wasn’t really a love story, but a self discovery story and sometimes, self discovery after a broken heart is so much better than falling in love in the first place. I hope you guys go out to see the movie!
Every once in a while I’ll check out a Bollywood movie in theaters by myself. I go for the very first showing on a Sunday morning. I’m usually dressed like a bum in yoga pants and a law school sweatshirt. Because no one is there to judge me, I go all out at the concession stand (nachos with extra cheese, soda, Kit Kats) and I sit in the middle of an empty movie theater. I used to do this all the time when I was actually IN law school as a ritual to obtain a sense of calmness. To this day the whole process makes me feel centered when I leave the theater. Weird, I know but we all have something we do that’s strange, right?
Last Sunday I finally got around to watching Hasee Toh Phasee starring my new crushes Parineeti Chopra and Sidharth Malothra. I thought it was going to be a hysterical movie, but WTF, it totally wasn’t! I mean there WERE funny parts, but there was so much more to it. To give you a brief synopsis of the story (No Spoilers!):
Nikhil (hero) is getting married to long-time girlfriend Karishma he met at a wedding seven years ago. They have a horrible relationship, but he refuses to start over with another girl because there “are no guarantees the next one will be better”. Karishma wants him to not only pay for the wedding but to get investors to give him 5 million dollars before the wedding. Karishma believes that will demonstrate that Nikhil not only has a future but that he’s proven himself to her. Then, Meeta (heroine) enters the picture again. Nikhil met her at the same wedding seven years before but Meeta was escaping the wedding by climbing over the outside fence. Meeta left seven years ago because of horrible circumstances with her family, and she’s back to commit the same acts. Nikhil is charged with taking care of Meeta as a request from Karishma, and slowly they begin to not only understand each other but to fall in love.
The movie was really good. My crushes were FANTASTIC. Parineeti acted so well that I actually have hope for the Bollywood industry. But what really killed it for me was the chemistry between Parineeti and Sid. I mean, they do not look like they would go together when you see their pictures at first. But during the movie, they shared these moments, whether it was a long look, a secret smile, or hands brushing together that got my blood pumping.
And THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is why I love romance. Something so small as a secret smile (i.e. smiles that demonstrate characters have the same thought and know that they share the thought with each other only in a public setting where everyone else is clueless) can affect feelings in such a HUGE way.
If I was rating this movie on a scale of one to five, I would give it a 4.5. The story was different, the dialog was fresh and relatable, and the romance was great. I cut off a .5 because there was an external conflict element that kind of lost me for a sec, but you have to see the movie to know what I’m talking about.
So that’s my Bollywood review! Let me know if you see it and what you think!
Hello lovely people! I am in the middle of a fun, snowy writer weekend with my darling friend Diane Sismour. We are camping out in this huge party room she has set up over her three car garage. The tri-pane wall windows overlook a rolling field that reaches the edge of the Appalachian Mountains in the distance. The fog has settled over the whole scenery like an artist’s watercolor brush strokes. It’s gorgeous and inspiring all at the same time. Perfect for a pick-me-up after a horrible week, and a fantastic backdrop to what will definitely be a productive weekend!
I’m not going to get excited yet and tell you about what I’m working on because I’d HATE to ruin a surprise, but I will tell you that I’ve been doing a lot of New Adult and Adult Romance reading and I’m absolutely in LOVE with what’s out there. Since Jan 3rd, I’ve finished a mind-boggling amount of books because my brain is just crazy thirty for new authors and new stories. So, to give you guys a peak into what I do when I’m recovering from my MFA residency, here is a list of my favorite books I’ve read this month that I highly recommend you read. Enjoy!
New Adult Fabulousness
- Wait for You- J. Lynn
- Trust in Me- J. Lynn
- Wallbanger- Alice Clayton
- On Dublin Street- Samantha Young
- Searching for Someday- Jennifer Porbst
- Losing It- Cora Carmack
- Isn’t She Lovely- Lauren Layne
Adult Romance Fabulousness
- River Road- Jayne Ann Krentz
- Lover At Last- J.R. Ward
- Dark Wolf- Christine Feehan
- The Perfect Play- Jaci Burton
- Chasing The Game- Jaci Burton
- Taking a Shot- Jaci Burton
- Playing to Win- Jaci Burton
As some of you know, I went back tofinish up my last residency for my M.F.A. degree in Creative Writing. Residencies are periods of time I have to be on campus for class. Most of the program is online.
This residency was pretty special because I got to present my M.F.A. analytical thesis paper! My paper is called “The Darcy Complex” and it’s this whole long dissertation on how Mr. Darcy, the character, is actually the blueprint of the modern day alpha male in genre romance as seen through plot structure and dialog. Austen’s character specifically influenced the alpha male archetype during the years 1995-2013 because of the release of the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice in 95 and Hank Green’s production of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries on Youtube just last year which spurned the interest. Austen is the grandmother of genre romance, you know, so it makes sense that Darcy would be so influential.
Okay, I can see some of you guys rolling your eyes, so on to what I really wanted to wax poetic about.
The problem with M.F.A. programs is that if you write genre romance, or genre anything for that matter, you get stuck with a bunch of people who have preconceived notions about the type of stuff you want to write. These preconceived notions can be hurtful, and after 3 years of hearing people insult the type of work you love, most of the time without even knowing it, your degree ends up more harmful than helpful.
That’s bullshit. I mean that very nicely, but it’s total bullshit that programs do that to writers, even unintentionally. I hate to say it, but my MFA program made me feel like an outcast, too, sometimes. However, I have great friends who were right there with me cheering me on so I wasn’t really that hurt by the end of my last residency.
So the question is, why would you want to get an M.F.A. in the first place? Well, there are a lot of reasons. But, if you are considering the degree, or if you’ve started your degree and you don’t know if you should continue, you should take these 5 points into consideration.
1. Make sure you know what you want to do with the M.F.A. Degree. It’s a lot of money and a lot of time even if you are doing a limited residency program. The actual M.F.A. is a way for you to teach collegiate level creative writing classes or an easier way to score an editing job at a large publisher, but take a hard look at the job market in your area before you think that the M.F.A. is an easy ticket to one of those career choices. Teaching jobs, especially creative writing teaching jobs, are very, very, very thin right now and publishing gigs start are almost zero dollars. If you have connections with your alma mater or you’ve already interned and your company wants you back, then go for it! Otherwise, make sure that schools in your area have these types of programs that you can teach at, or you are willing to relocate.
2. Pick a school that is not only affordable, but also has your genre. For example, if you want your MFA to include a travel component like I wish mine did, check out some of the international residency schools. If you want to focus specifically on romance, then check out Seton Hill University’s program that specifies on genre romance. Your best bet is to pick up a copy of the Writer’s Chronicle or Writer Magazine. They are FILLED with ads from MFA programs.
3. Check out the professors at the school. Make sure that they have significant Education or Publishing experience. You want to be in the hands of people who are going to teach you a lot in a very short amount of time. I got lucky: My first residency I was paired with two incredibly introspective and progressive teachers. My mentor Cecilia Galante was with me from the start to finish of my MA and MFA theses papers and she writes YA. She was in touch with the genre and the market so she knew what I was aiming for from the beginning. Not all the YA authors in my program were lucky enough to be paired with someone who understood their genre. Some of them specifically chose to go with someone different with the intention of getting a new spin on their work, but others had no choice. You want a diverse faculty so no matter what, you are the one making the decision of who you want to work with.
4. Go into the program with experience. I know it’s a weird thing to say, but try to gain as much information as you can from organizations such as SCBWI, RWA and local writing chapters like Liberty States Fiction Writers. Once you have all of the information you can possibly collect on your own, the mentors at school can help you refine the information and give you more that you can only get through the program. There is no point learning stuff from school that you could have Googled and figured out for yourself. Make the most of your time there.
5. Say Nay to the Nay-sayers. This is really important advice. Even if you pick a school that meets all of your awesome requirements, you are still going to find people with different opinions than yours. Publishing/Creative Writing is a really frustrating field and people sometimes like to share their frustration and be pessimistic when they really should be saying “Anything can happen as long as you work hard and use all of the resources available to you. You can succeed if you focus on making the book the best it can be, and listening to constructive criticism with an open mind. Your writing and career will take off but the key is to take in the set-backs and keep going.” Whenever someone brags about the National Book Award or how awesome small presses are (which they can be in certain circumstances), or how amazing this one literary book is, and you think that you don’t have awards, you want to try to get published with big publishers first and your book isn’t literary, then ignore what people are telling you and just smile and nod your head like you’re listening. But you don’t have to listen. Just focus on the good stuff you hear, like contest opportunities, open readings, and agents looking for manuscripts. You’ll be infinitely more optimistic and happier with your degree. 🙂
I know that was a lot more long-winded than I initially planned, but I wanted to be as thorough as possible. If you find my advice helpful, if you want to add something to it, or if you disagree, leave a comment and let me know!
It’s been real, kids. I’m off to finish up my bibliography! Still have to hand in that paper. Ugh. See you all next week.
I am thrilled to announce the launch of my brand new website designed by the fabulous Biondo Studio!
Take a look around and let me know what you think. I’d love to hear from you especially since it’s been a YEAR since I’ve last blogged and had contact with any of you guys…well except for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram…and, well, whatever. Anyway. Now that I’m almost done with my MFA program, my blogging hiatus is slowly coming to an end. Are you excited? I am!
So now that I’m back, I have to catch you all up on what happened in 2013. Here are my top 10 favorite moments from last year:
1. I BOUGHT A HOUSE. Yes, that deserved all caps because it is one of the biggest things I’ve ever done. I am now a permanent resident of New Jersey, and I couldn’t be happier.
2. I met Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook fame. She wrote this inspiring and thought-provoking book called ‘Lean In.’ I was reading it as I passed her in Penn Station. I literally had to backtrack and take a second look before I realized who it was. She really is a force to be reckoned with.
3. My Dad turned 60 and we took a cruise to nowhere. It was so much fun. We left on Friday from New York Harbor and got off the cruise ship on Saturday afternoon. I haven’t been on a ship in so long so it felt good. Like a mini-vacation.
4. I played tourist in Washington, D.C. Every time I go to D.C. it’s either for a conference or a work meeting. This year, me and a friend booked a fancy room in the Hyatt and drove down for a three day adventure in our nation’s capital. We took a red bus tour (the double decker buses), and we ate at these awesome restaurants with loud D.C. themed decor.
5. I went to the Bronx Zoo. I have never been to the Bronx Zoo and it was such a blast. I definitely want to go again soon.
6. My friend Diane Sismour and I had FOUR writing retreats this year during which time I completed a novel and a 100 page MFA thesis paper. We partied in PA, in NJ twice, and in CT. We ate, brainstormed, and typed. This year involved so much positive time with Diane, how could she not be a part of my list?
7. I spent a weekend at my friend Caridad Pineiro’s beach house. We decided to do a power brainstorming and writing retreat. We had fantastic food (Caridad is an AMAZING cook), and I wrote 40 (yes, 40!) pages in my WIP. We walked on the beach and recharged our writing batteries.
8. I made it out to TriBeCa to see Nalini Singh speak with Smart Bitches, Trashy Books co-founderSarah Wendell. That was just so much fun.
9. I went to BEA. This year I controlled myself at Book Expo America when it came to picking up freebies, but I did snag some amazing arcs. That wasn’t even the highlight of BEA, though. The best part of the whole experience was seeing Veronica Roth and Rick Riordan speak about their audience and their writing process. #Priceless.
10. Christmas Eve Dinner was at my place this year and it was so awesome to have everyone over. I sorta screwed up dinner, but hopefully that didn’t turn too many people off and I can have everyone over again next year.
So there it is! My 2013 recap. I had so many other great moments in 2013 in addition to the ones listed above: my college roommate asked me to be a bridesmaid in her wedding, I went to a haunted hayride and a midnight corn maze Halloween event, I graduated with my MA in creative writing, I went to my first Lady Jane’s Salon, and I attended both the LSFW Create Something Magical Conference and the Princeton University Symposium on Popular Romance. 2013 was truly a great year.
Did anyone try something new or do something #priceless in 2013? Do you plan on topping those experiences in 2014? Do tell! In the meantime, have a very happy, healthy, and prosperous new year!
As most of you know, I have a tendency to take too much on until I burn out. Hey, I’m a Taurus, what can you expect? 🙂 I decided to take a blogging hiatus for that reason. I had too much going on to keep up my stellar blog (if I do say so myself) at the same time. However, I wanted to come out of my blogging hiatus just for one post to share with you my 2012 highlights.
1. My friends Diane Sismour, Ginger Merante and I decided to start having our own mini writing retreats! In January, we had one of the best retreats ever. We all camped out at Diane’s place and spent 3 days in writing bliss.
3. My second book ‘The Cowboy and the Rose‘ was published by The Wild Rose Press! My publisher has been really supportive and a wonderful starting point to get my name out there. TWRP done wonderful stuff with my books so I’m really grateful for them.
3.a In February, I also went out on Submission for the first time with my agent! Fingers crossed the good news from that keeps rolling in during the new year!
4. I got a raise at work AND I was promoted to Director. I know it’s my day job and all, but I still feel like I’ve accomplished a lot in my career and the promotion was a tangible example of how far I’d come.
5. I attended the Liberty States Fiction Writer’s Conference with my friends Alyssa and Bob who are pursing their MFA degrees with me. They were so supportive when I gave my workshop on time management and goal development for writers at the conference.
6. In March I also self published my first book. I got the rights back to ‘The Bewitched Cowboy’ and after a cover change and renaming it to ‘A Cowboy’s Destiny,’ the book was up and ready to sell on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Woohoo!
7. I think it was April when I went to my friend Charity’s beach condo. We ended up having such a productive writing weekend. Loved it!
8. I also went to Connecticut and chilled out at the nicest hotel ever with my friends Ginger and Diane for an awesome writing weekend. I really love that hotel. We had tons of laughs and got so much stuff done.
9. I turned 27 in May! I hadn’t dated in a while for personal reasons, but on the eve of my 27th birthday, I decided to take the plunge back into the dating world. It’s been…interesting. lol.
10. I also got to be a part of one of my best friend’s wedding. I was there for the bachelorette party in Atlantic City which I helped plan. I went to the Pakestani wedding and chilled with Mona in the hotel room where she had to stay before she was introduced to the groom. Then I went to the Iranian wedding where we danced all night overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. That was a ton of fun. Her wedding is a memory I will cherish for a really long time.
11. In May, I also hired Laura who I went to law school with. She has become one of my best friends hands down. I’m so happy to be working with someone who is so awesome.
12. In June I went to my second MFA residency (woot!) where I got to party with my cool writer people again.
13. I also went to Book Expo America where I chilled with R.L. Stein, James Patterson, and took pictures with Erotica cover models (*sigh*). That was a GREAT experience.
14. I went to Nora Robert’s bed and breakfast place Inn Boonsboro with my friends Ginger and Diane! We stayed in the Jane and Rochester suite and got to meet Lady Nora herself. Totally worth doing again.
15. In July, Laura and I went to Pittsburgh for a work conference. We networked and did our thing during the day, but we had such an awesome time after the conference was over. We went to the Phipps Conservatory (so incredibly beautiful), and we saw all the shops down by the waterfront. We even went to temple! It was really a fantastic trip.
16. August was hot, which meant shore time! I went down to my college roommate’s beach house where we hung out on the beach and by the pool and then went to Seaside Heights for some quality people watching time. It was such a great getaway.
17. September was pretty amazing because I got to spend Labor Day weekend with my family (and my sister turned 25!)
18. I also went Chick Camping with Diane and company. We went to a camp location near the shore and we had awesome food and even awesome company by the camp fire. During the day, Diane and I drove the a day workshop with Deb Dixon. It totally helped with my story plot line (thanks Deb!)
19. October was strange because of Hurricane Sandy. It was tough to see my friends in such a bad situation along the Jersey coast. The good news was that my family from India was able to stay with us, and because I couldn’t go into the office, I was able to spend time with my aunt, uncle, and cousin!
20. Thanks to my friend Becky, I was totally hooked up when it came to the Twilight premiere. I was able to snag an invite to a VIP party where I spent a few memorable hours saying goodbye to a 4 year relationship I had with the Twilight saga in the company of other dedicated fans. That was a really special night. 🙂
21. I also got to party with the fam during Thanksgiving! We had a really great Turkey vacation. No one fought, we all chipped in, and of all my cousins and I had a blast spending time together.
22. I had my annual “It’s Christmas, Charlie Brown!” Christmas Party at my apartment this year. It was awesome because I had friends from work and friends from college I hadn’t seen in FOREVER mingle at my place. Ali and Anna’s presence made me think of the good days we had back at Muhlenberg and they made the night so much more special.
23. My parents celebrated Christmas with ME this year. How crazy is that? All of five of us spent three days in my apartment. Not once did we fight. (totally nuts). I got awesome Christmas gifts too! My sister gave me a kick-ass Vera Bradly overnight bag, and I got suede boots, gift cards, and a crock pot. On Christmas Eve, my brother, sister and I had the best Chocolate Chip cookies at Jaques Torres in Manhattan. We also scoped out the tree and the cool windows on 5th.
It was seriously a GREAT year. Sometimes the annoying day-to-day stuff takes our focus away from the whole picture. Forest for the trees and all that. In addition to the highlights above, I had book club meetings at least once a month with really passionate readers. I took the train pretty regularly with my writer friend Charity which I have come to really look forward to. I had movie, dinner or lunch dates with Mona, Laura, Archana, Becky, and Diane. My family is happy and healthy and that’s what matters.
Thanks to everyone who made 2012 so special for me. Here’s to an even better 2013!!!
Reading The Great Gatsby at 26
My friend Anna and I made an agreement: we would read all of the challenging, disliked, or highly regarded yet non-romance books in the next five months…TOGETHER. One of the first books on our list was ‘The Great Gatsby’ by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
‘The Great Gatsby’ is one of the most highly regarded American Novels of our time…and I hated every moment of reading it in high school. My guess is because I didn’t understand it, the teacher wasn’t that great, or it was too mature for me. After hearing so much praise for it AGAIN almost 10 years later at my MFA program, I figured I’d give it another shot. If people are reading it in their 20s and loving it, maybe there was something to the story that i missed the first time around.
One of the writer things I kept in mind when starting the book was that Nick, the narrator, was incredibly unreliable. An MFA professor at Wilkes, Kaylie Jones, says that an unreliable narrator is believable only if he tells the truth all the time except about ONE thing. My goal was to figure out what that ONE THING was Nick lied to himself about, and lied to everyone else about.
I felt as if his lie became apparent halfway through the book. I may be wrong according to critics and scholars, but I think Nick lied about his affection for Gatsby. He was a jealous guy who didn’t get Gatsby’s facade. And there was a facade.
Let’s talk about that for a second, shall we? Gatsby lived on one of the two eggs out on Long Island. Across the Long Island Sound was the other egg inhabited by old money peeps. Folks still refer to it as ‘the gold coast’. Where Gatsby lived was all nuveau riche (new money). He had an inheritance which he flaunts as an attempt to get into the ‘old money’ crowd, but he lost it all and made it back again in 3 years which means he relies on moola he MADE not INHERITED. Gatsby also had this obsession with Daisy (the ho) because she had this sort of representation of old money he wanted to possess.
I’m going to continue with the symbolism discussion and talk about when Nick talks about Gatsby’s library. Gatsby had been in Oxford for a very short time after the war, but he wasn’t a learned man. His library, however impressive, was another type of facade that he used to put off the appearance that he was incredibly educated. He never read the books, but just used them for show.
This brings me to the use of colors. Green, blue, gold/yellow, and white. Big motifs in the story all around. I remember having a discussion about colors in the story when I was in a college class, but I didn’t associate the discussion with the book until now. This interpretation I have comes mostly from that college class discussion and the application of the discussion to my most recent reading of the book. Here we go: Green, the color of the allusive money, or the light at the end of Daisy’s dock that Gatsby sees from his home. It’s the one thing Gatsby is trying to obtain. Money, money, money. The blue may be, and this is not a firm interpretation or anything, the dreams or the visions of Gatsby’s future that he can’t grasp. Not money per se, but the type of respect and notoriety that he’s determined to obtain. Then there is the yellow/gold which could mean old money, like gold money, not the new green stuff. This color is used to describe the classical music playing at his party. Maybe because classical music is kind of a go-to for swanky cocktail parties that rich people have? I don’t know but it’s something to think about. Finally, let’s talk about the color white. Daisy, of course, is described in her youth as always wearing white. her skin is white, her car is white, and she was a pure as white snow.
The character arcs are brilliantly executed (something that I didn’t really appreciate at 16 at all) and the themes, symbolism, repetition, and dialog really paint a vivid picture without inundating the reader with useless verbiage (something else I didn’t appreciate at 16). However, I have to admit, things didn’t really start picking up until 60 pages through the book (which is a little over a third in my copy). Maybe it’s because of my preconceived notions that I still carry with me from high school, but I’m glad I could shed those notions and really, truly appreciate the book for the first time.
So in the end, I’m happy I decided to read this one over again. I just wont admit it to my high school English teacher. 🙂