Learning from the Masters: The First 250 Words


I’m currently revising the first book I ever wrote. After many years of debate, I’ve decided to definitively kill my darling of a prologue and start right away with the main story.

I wrote before about the importance of the first 250 words of your manuscript and I’ll probably write about it again because it was something I didn’t get right away, as a writer. I thought to myself, this book is good–especially the end! But no one will get to the end if they don’t get past the beginning.

So! Revising again. And for help, I’m pulling the first 250 words of both favorite novels and popular novels, even ones I didn’t particularly love. Because you can always learn from the success of others, even if you don’t agree with it.

So on to today’s excerpt…

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Friday Things

This week was interminable. But now it’s Friday!

Here are some things that made my week:

1. I’ve been dancing around this idea for pretty much the past five years, but I think we are finally, FINALLY ready to … leave NYC. Has anyone out there gone from borough to suburb, from subway rides to train rides, from tiny studios to actual houses? I’d love some more insights on what this will be like…

2. One of my favorite new writing tools: ambient noise sites. I personally can’t listen to music while I write–unless it’s lyric-less–but I love having something always available to block out the noise. My favorite is rainymood.com.

3. One of my friends told me I post too many pictures of books on my Instagram. This is false, because there’s no such thing as “too many books”, but then I decided it would be fun to create a new Instagram dedicated entirely to bookishness. If you like books too, follow me here!

Reading: All The Light We Cannot See. Finally. The prose is amazing, the characters compelling, and it takes place in one of my favorite tiny cities.

Watching: The new season of Game of Thrones, obv. Watching it with very little clue of what’s going on (because it’s diverging so much from the books) is a brand new experience. I’m not sure I like it as much as watching the stories I already know. Time shall tell.

Listening to: The National. It’s mellow, spring-y stuff. Me gusta.

Have a lovely weekend!

Wanderlusty Wednesday: Saint-Malo

Saint Malo_RETIn honor of the fact that I’ve just started reading this book (and so far, it’s amazing), today I’m going to talk about one of my favorite little places on earth: Saint-Malo.

Rampart_RETLa Ville_RETSaint-Malo is a walled port city in Bretagne, or Brittany, France. You should go there.Les ramparts II_RETWhy?

You can get there easily by train from Paris. It’s a great place to stay while exploring the area around it–you can hop a bus to the famous Mont-Saint-Michel, a ferry to the less famous but still amazing Channel Islands, which include Jersey (the namesake of my home state!) and Guernsey (the setting of this beautiful book).

Also, Saint-Malo is just a beautiful, amazing place, all by itself.Face_RETWhen I first visited I didn’t even know this city had sustained damage in World War II–that’s how well it’s been restored. You feel like you’re walking through the fifteenth century.

At low tide, you can wander the beaches and climb all over the rocks…Le Vieux Quartier_RET…it has pretty yellow lichen on its rocks, and nice messages written in the sand…Yellow Rocks II_RETJe t'aime edited…you can wander the ramparts and pretend you’re a medieval soldier–or just take in the beautiful views…

On the Ramparts_RETPresque Ile_RET… and the town inside the walls is adorable, with narrow little cobblestoned streets, boutique hotels, and amazing seafood…La Ville at Night_RETBut pay attention to the tides:Danger!Because for part of the day, the beach looks like this:Peninsula_RET… and then later that same day, it looks like this:Peninsula devient Ile_RETI’m really enjoying learning more about Saint-Malo in my book. I know I’m going to be devastated when the Allied bombers arrive, though since I spent a year living in a town where the destruction was even worse, I guess I should be used to it when visiting this region of France, whether through the pages of a book or in person.

I’ve been to Saint-Malo twice and I fully intend to go back again someday. Can you imagine living there? One can only dream…

All photos taken by me, April 2004 and April 2007

MK’s Book Reviews: Chaos Walking

chaos-walking-wide-560x282I’ve been reading up a storm lately, barely pausing to update my Goodreads, much less write a review. But I recently read a trilogy of books that merits one.

The Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness merits a lot more than that.

 “Without a filter, a man is just chaos walking.”

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Wanderlusty Wednesday: Sintra, Portugal


Over brunch on Sunday, we learned that a friend of ours was considering vacation in Portugal. To which I responded immediately: go!

Other people were full of suggestions on what to see and do in Lisbon, Lagos, Porto, etc. And you should go all those places! But please, while you’re in Lisboa, don’t miss my favorite place in all of Portugal: Sintra.


Sintra is a beautiful little town made almost entirely of CASTLES. It’s an easy daytrip from the capital by train, and once you’re there, it’s so small you just wander around on foot. We went in April, which was perfect because the flowers were in full bloom. You wander down garden paths, peek over stone walls, walk across lily pads (okay, stones that look like lily pads), pet the cats wandering the grounds, before stepping inside to see how the Portuguese royals lived. (They lived quite well).


Bill Bryson wondered once why it is that now, so many buildings are purely functional, with no thought to their aesthetic value, no consideration how they’ll look with the land around them. But back in the day, they created every structure, from castles to regular houses, to perfectly complement their surroundings. Sintra is the perfect example of this.


All photos taken by me, April 2007

Friday Things


After a good week last week, I’m back to feeling restless. It’s my job, it’s the city, it’s the winter that still hasn’t completely gone away, it’s my miniature apartment. I’m dreaming of wide open fields and blue skies and houses with actual kitchens. I go around in circles: leave the city–but it’s not necessarily cheaper, and I don’t want to commute–leave the east coast–but go where?–find a job somewhere–but there’s nothing I want to do but write books, and I could do that anywhere–I’m actually lucky, I work in a job that gives me the time to write on the side–so I should stay here…

You get the idea.

In every week, I have my ups as well as my downs. Here are some good things that made my week:

1. I discovered a new amazing bar in the no man’s land of midtown Manhattan: The Jeffrey. Sit on the espresso bar side, at the bar–there’s a bartender there who’s an absolute cocktail genius. I can’t tell you what I had, but it involved a flaming orange peel, and I highly recommend it. Also, they put truffle oil on practically everything.

2. I fortunately have not had to worry about dating in 4 years now, but for those of you who still do, this article is genius.

3. Oh, and I FINISHED THE FIRST DRAFT OF MY SECOND NOVEL. Now I’m going to do what I didn’t do with my first novel which is put it away and try and forget about it for several months. And when I take it back out to edit it, I’ll be printing it out onto physical paper.

Reading: The Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness. If you follow me on Twitter, you may have noticed me tweeting about them constantly because THESE BOOKS ARE AMAZING. How had I never heard of them before? It’s a weird premise: There’s a town of only men, where everyone can hear one another’s thoughts, including the animals. There’s a boy name Todd, a dog named Manchee … and a beautiful, heartrending story. Just go read them. Now.

Watching: I’m a little late to the party, but I finally watched Frozen and now I can’t stop singing it.

Listening to: The Mumford and Sons Pandora station is absolutely lovely. I like Pandora better than Spotify because I actually like all the suggested music that comes with each station–it’s the only way I discover new music I like now.

Have a great weekend!

Lovely image found here

Wanderlusty Wednesday: Rouen

Cathedral de Rouen III edited

I’ve written before about my preferred method of travel: the slow-soak version.

In that vein, if you ever find yourself in northern France, particularly Normandy, I highly suggest a weekend in the lovely city of Rouen. Along with its history (Joan of Arc was burned at the stake here, some Napoleon stuff happened here), cuisine (crepes crepes crepes–and cidre), adorable little tindered houses (see below), and the cathedral immortalized by Monet (see above), it also has some of the nicest people I’ve come across in Normandy.

It’s easily accessible by train from Caen and even Paris, it’s cheaper to stay in than Caen and especially Paris, and it’s so pretty. Go there. Rouen Houses VI editedNapoleon at Sunset-edited

All photos taken by me, January 2007

Learning from the Masters: Kissing Scenes


So in my contemporary YA work in progress, I’m finally finally at the point where the people I want to kiss, do.


I wrote a draft of that scene. And then reread it. And it was … meh.

I wanted the literary equivalent to fireworks, only less clichéd. I did not produce that. And though I know that great things are rarely achieved on the first try, I knew I needed help before having another go.

Whenever I get stuck on writing something, from kissing to opening lines to closing lines, I go back and consult the work of the experts that came before me.

Otherwise known as re-reading my favorite novels. It’s a rough part of the process, but so necessary.

So! Here I present some of the best kissing scenes I’ve come across. I’ve removed character names so as not to spoil anything for anyone–you must read all the stuff leading up to the kiss in order to really appreciate it!–but I’ve included links out to where each scene is from at the bottom.

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