Friday, May 30, 2008

The beginning part 2... from loving zombies to writing zombies

In my recent post I talked about how I became fascinated with zombies. This post is about how that transitioned into me writing a book with zombies :)

Now, don't think I'm this complete nut-case. It was mostly just a fun thing to talk about every now and again. When we were moving into our new apartment we'd joke of it's capability to withstand the zombie apocalypse. Really, it's not just the zombie apocalypse I find interesting, but any kind of apocalypse and survival.

So when How I Live Now and Life as we Knew It came out and I read them back to back in the fall of 2007, I was in heaven. Two YA books touching on the subject I loved: how to survive the unexpected. And I wanted more. But I couldn't find other books like this.

About that time, I was in transition. I'd gotten a form rejection on a chick-lit YA partial that I thought had a real chance, but the book wasn't finished. I'd just started taking a YA writing class and the heroine of the book I was writing for that sounded too much like my other chick lit YA heroine. I had to clear my mind of her and so I needed a new character -- someone decidedly NOT chick lit. JP suggested I write what I love and I joked "what, the zombie apocalypse?"

It was the end of October, and for Halloween JP and his brother were each writing a zombie flash piece. JP and I were at lunch when he asked me what I thought about a forest full of zombies, right after the apocalypse, and the Forest of Hands and Teeth became so clear to me. JP had a totally different vision than I did -- there were roads and cars in his world and the people lived on the edge of the Forest. But my world was set much later, generations later, in a village set in the middle of the Forest completely cut off from everything. It was so long after the Return (the zombie apocalypse) that memories and history and knowledge had faded.

Still, for a while, it was just a mental exercise. On our walks we'd talk about how such a world would work and I'm not sure JP was convinced of my ideas :) I started NaNo with the second Chick Lit YA and was making progress.

Then, strange as it sounds, one day at work I read an article on CNN about tuna. Now to understand what happens next you have to know something about me... as a kid, I always wondered what would change during my lifetime that I would say to my kids "I remember life before X." Like "I remember life before men walked on the moon." Or "I remember life before color TV." So anyway, I read this article on CNN about tuna and how in a few decades they could be totally fished out. That at some point, the populations will decline rapidly and become protected.

I thought of the cans of tuna on my shelves, how cheap and easy it is to get now. And I thought about telling my kids, way in the future when tuna was rare and rarely eaten, that once upon a time it was cheap and easy. This would be my "I remember life before..." story.

I shrugged away the thought and went back to work. That night, as I was walking to the parking garage, that thought must have still been tumbling through my head because a first line popped into my head: "My mother used to tell me about the ocean."

I remember repeating the line in my head and then I had another line. And something made me whip out my blackberry and email them to myself. When I got home, I should have started working on my NaNo project. But instead I opened the email and pasted the lines into a new document. And then I took off.

When JP came home from work I had over 2k words written. In two weeks I had 20k words. This was the book I wanted to read, and the book I wanted to write, and I loved nothing more than reading it to JP every night when he got home. Regardless of anything else -- its marketability, its saleability, etc. -- this was OUR book, the book I was writing for both of us.

It's always funny to me how life can work out sometimes. Somehow JP talked me into going to see that first zombie movie and that's what started it all. Thanks JP :)

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Beginning part 1.... how I learned to love zombies

So, after my recent post on how much an author should share about their writing, life, etc., it occurred to me that there really is a whole lot I can share that doesn't involve word counts and plot points. And, since I have to start coming up with website content anyways, I might as well start out with a little bit about how I came to write The Forest of Hands and Teeth (that link will take you to my post with the PM announcement for those of you who don't know what my book is about).

I think I've always been afraid to write this story down because I'm afraid of getting it wrong. Or rather, not getting it right. So why not use y'all as guinea pigs!?

For the life of me, I cannot figure out how JP was able to convince me to go with him to see the premiere of Dawn of the Dead (the remake, the one with fast zombies). I am (or was) definitively against horror movies. They scared the blank out me, I didn't like them, I didn't watch them, and I didn't understand them. See, way back when I was a kid, a babysitter came over and my parents went out (and my sisters I guess, all I know is I was home alone with this teen girl). I don't know how old I was, but my parents sold that house when I was 5 so I had to have been younger than that.

Anyway, the babysitter decides to watch a movie, and to convince me to go along she says, "oh, the girl in this movie is just like you! Her name is Caroline, she has long blond hair and is your age. Oh, and she has a walk-in closet full of toys just like yours!" And then she promised me that if I got scared, we could turn it off and go into the other room. As you may have guessed, the movie was Poltergeist and I got scared quick. The babysitter said I could leave the room if I wanted, but the rest of the house was dark and the only way to turn on the lights was to go through that darkness. No way.

So I suffer through. And then my parents come home right at the climax -- right when everything goes to hell. And they turn off the TV and take the babysitter home without pay, and I spend the next however weeks unable to fall asleep in my bed. I sometimes wonder if I'd seen the end of the movie, if I'd seen the resolution, if I'd have been able to get over it. But I didn't and I haven't. Hence my very strong aversion to horror movies and my utter surprise that JP was able to talk me into going to one.

The theater was packed and it was packed with the type of people who love to yell at the screen. To this day I swear I checked the clock on my cell phone every five minutes, mentally calculating when the movie had started, how long it might be, and when it might end. I was terrified. More than anything else, I was stressed -- how were these people going to be able to survive against ever increasing odds?

But it got me thinking... how would you survive something like that? How far would you go? Could you do it? Could I do it? JP and I spent the rest of the night talking about it, it was just fascinating to me. JP suggested other zombie-esque movies like 28 Days Later (and I made him tell me when the scary parts were so I could prepare myself, that's how I made it through.)

A few weeks later we were in the bookstore and JP found
The Zombie Survival Guide. It was a total joke at the time, but he bought it and would read aloud from it (we were 3Ls in law school, we had a lot of time and a lot of booze). It too was fascinating because it went beyond the zombie apocalypse dealing with things that hadn't occurred to me before (I know, I know, sounds crazy). But suddenly, the mental game of how to survive became more complicated. And honestly, I started having dreams about zombies.

Over the next few years, JP continued to introduce me to zombie movies and we were both hooked. We'd watch anything with zombies (and there are truly some horribly terrible zombie movies out there).

... to be continued...

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

How much do you share?

This is cross-posted from my post on the Manuscript Mavens on Tues :)

A writing friend recently asked what my second book was about. Good question. Right now it's a companion book to The Forest of Hands and Teeth, ostensibly it's a sequel but we'll still see if that label fits once it's finished and turned in (incidentally, writing under contract does feel a lot like school, just with longer deadlines before you turn in your homework). As I pondered what more I could say about the book I started to wonder how much people really share about what they're writing.

Early on, when the idea for FHT came to me, I didn't say much about it on my blog. Maybe I didn't want to jinx it, maybe I was following what other writers were doing, but not talking about what I was writing suddenly became my habit. For my previous projects (pre FHT) I had word meters up (which I then protested) and talked at least minimally about what I was writing. And then, at the other end of the spectrum you have authors who have daily updates not only about word count, but also about plot.

On the one hand, I'm a writer and I blog about writing. It seems silly not to talk about what I'm actually working on at any given moment. On the other hand, I don't want to give too much information because I'm very anti-spoiler.

Plus, there's another element at play. It's hard to know how much I'm "supposed" to talk about. Not that there's a blog mafia out there watching my every word, but you start to get advice that maybe you shouldn't complain about writing, maybe you shouldn't talk about the struggles or put up a word count meter that will not only show the added words, but also the deleted words.

Oh, and since I origninally wrote this I found an excellent post by Justine Larbalestier on the topic of word count meters.

So that's the question I ask y'all. As blog readers, how much information do you want? What do you like to read about? As blog writers (or any kind of writer) how much do you share or think you should share?

Saturday, May 03, 2008

A drive by posting...

Does anyone remember that scene from Mrs. Doubtfire when (s)he says "It was a drive by fruiting!"? Am I the only one who remembers totally random movie quotes and then uses them all the time?

Anyways, I've been horribly remiss about posting, but remember that I do post every Tuesday over at the Manuscript Mavens :) I've just been lazy about cross-posting those here. I hope to do better (I always hope to do better). In a nutshell, here are the updates...

First, there's been a helicopter hovering over our house ever since I got up this morning. Obama and Clinton have been in the area recently, and I know Chelsea was in the park behind our house last week. Makes me wonder if something exciting is going on outside...

Second, I had a fantastic weekend last weekend at the WRW Retreat in Maryland (that's the Washington DC chapter of RWA). I went mostly to hang out with my friend and CP, Diana Peterfreund, but I was also lucky enough to meet some amazing and terribly fun authors -- Kresley Cole (I now have a stack of her books on my nightstand) and Amanda Brice. It was by far some of the best fun I've had in ages. As much as I adore the online writing community, there's something to be said for sitting with a gallon of vodka and just talking about everything! Also, Kresley gave a fantastic workshop on writing paranormal romance. It was one of those workshops where it all makes so much sense that you don't write notes because you're like "dude, that's so true!" and then afterwards you're like "crap, I need notes!"

Third, I just found this great website -- thanks to Reviewer X for passing it on! It's not only a review site but also has a weekly YA roundup. I'm definitely tuning in!

Fifth, I'm knee deep in Book 2 and it has a title! And even better, I think Delacorte likes the title! But I have no idea how these things go about getting officially approved so until then, I'll just be referring to Book 2 as either B2, WIP, or DTW. Just to keep things confusing :)

Sixth, the puppy is doing great! He's awesome at training and heels, sits, and places beautifully. He really is such a sweet boy! Though occasionally one of the cats will trap him in the kitchen and he whines and whines and whines. Really, it's terribly hard not to laugh!

Seventh, JP is writing a book! And it's awesome and he's racking up words and I've been loving every bit of it! Seriously, I can't wait to read more! Yay JP! Everyone go cheer him on!

Eighth, this weekend is chock full o' fun stuff. Cinco de Mayo party tonight, more margaritas with friends tomorrow, lots of writing and of course chatting with the Debs.

Ninth, soon I shall be working on my website. Anything in particular y'all like to see with websites? Any particular websites y'all like or dislike? Anything you think should be avoided?

Tenth, (really, it was all about trying to get a top ten thing going on here), I finally grabbed the dog and stepped outside to see what was up with the helicopter. To my surprise, this is what I found -- the MetLife blimp has been hovering over our house

PS - bonus picture. Since my family always likes to joke (*cough*) that they keep up with me via my blog, here's a picture of my recent hair cut. Of course here it's all blown out straight, normally it's curly :)