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Archive for May, 2009

Crime solving

Posted on May 18th, 2009 by annakjarzab

People sometimes ask me why I decided to write a mystery, and I always say, “Uh, no idea.” Really, if I sat down and was like, “I would like to write  a book, what sort of book would it be?”, it would not be a mystery. Mysteries are hard to write! How Agatha Christie did it, I have no idea, because I worked on the synopsis for my third real mystery (GR being a pseudo-mystery, and not falling into the “mystery” category of my mind) this weekend and kept thinking, “WHY AM I DOING THIS WHY WHY WHY???!” Chillax, don’t worry, I got it done. I’m concerned about its quality, but it’s just a synopsis.

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Where it all began.

Anyway, the thing is, even though I often ask myself, “Why mysteries?”, I love mysteries. Especially TV shows. I mean, there’s my first love, The X-Files. I own 8 seasons (the 9th season is such a disappointment, outside of the series finale, which was decent) and both movies on DVD. Then there’s Law & Order, which I was obsessed with during college, because in college you actually have time to watch 6 hours of television in one sitting on a weekday. God, college is awesome. I’m so jealous of my sister, who starts next September.

Recently, I’ve been getting into some new detective shows. First, there’s The Unusuals, which has just been canceled by ABC (cue weeping and rending of sweaters). The Unusuals is/was awesome. It’s the first time I’ve seen Jeremy Renner in anything, and I am already in love with him. When I saw Angels and Demons this weekend (that’s for another post entirely), they showed a preview for The Hurt Locker, which doesn’t seem to have a plot but he looks AWESOME in it. Renner’s partner in the slightly off-kilter, funny-in-a-smart-way cop show is Amber Tamblyn, who besides still looking sixteen is pretty great as rich-girl-turned-homicide-detective, Casey Schraeger.

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God’s presence is obviously implied here.

As a die-hard Joan of Arcadia fan, I will pretty much follow Amber Tamblyn to the ends of the cinematic earth, but she and Renner aren’t the only people on the show who rock. In fact, the whole cast is phenomenal, especially Adam Goldberg and Harold Perinneau (as detectives who have six months to live and superstitiously believe they will die within the year, respectively), and even people I’ve never seen before, like Kai Lennox as Eddie Alvarez, who talks about himself in the third person and gets along with exactly nobody in the precinct, and Joshua Close as Henry Cole, a sweet God-fearing Southern Christian who used to boost cars for cash back in Texas. I’m so sad the show is being canceled, before these characters, who are awesome, get their due.

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Kind of tickety-tack to play a game of poker over some poor bastard’s remains, but that’s the Bones crew, always with the jollies.

Then there’s Bones. Okay, so I don’t know what made me start watching Bones, considering that it’s now in its fifth season and I’d never been very interested in it before, but I ran out of episodes of House to watch on Hulu, I guess, and whatever–I watch it now, I’m a Bones fan, apparently. I find that I like the new episodes better than the old ones, because I like the Bones/Booth romance (I’m such a stupid ‘shipper, it’s a holdover from The X-Files), but I fully recognize that the show gets more and more ridiculous with each new episode, and has in fact gone steadily downhill (can someone say “Gormagon”?) since “Aliens in a Spaceship”. Who cares? The cast is phenomenal, and we’re not even pretending this is a mystery show anymore, anyway, since Booth (*spoiler!*) has lost his memory as a result of brain surgery to remove a benign tumor that had been causing him to hallucinate. Somehow, I think that brain damage might disqualify you from working at the FBI. I don’t know that for sure, though.

Okay, and then there’s Castle. I just watched the three trailing episodes up on ABC’s website this weekend. I’m not hooked, exactly, because the idea of a writer, I don’t care how famous (“famous”) he is, having that much access, basically the equivalent of a professional partnership with a NYC homicide detective, is pretty ludicrous. I don’t even care if some bestselling writers do have a similar relationship with a few police officers, it doesn’t ring very true to me. But I like Nathan Fillion–not to the extent that the Whedonites, who continue to suffer through Dollhouse, love him, but I liked Firefly a lot and he’s a good actor and very good-looking to boot–so even though I think that the woman who plays Beckett is pretty wooden and boring, I’m willing to watch it every once in a while.

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Even fictional “famous” writers write.

Watching cop shows, or even shows with mystery-type elements, like House, help tone my mind for writing mysteries. It’s still hard, but it puts me in the mindset, gives me a sort of structural rhythm to work with, that I find incredibly helpful. Yay for TV!

SM synopsis Wordle

Posted on May 15th, 2009 by annakjarzab

Just to prove that, in my absence from this blog, I am actually working.

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Although, really, all it does is whoops the names of my main characters. But the synopsis is 11 pages, 1.5 spaced. I am working.

For comparison, here are the Wordles for AUT…

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…and MB:

mbwordle

Doubts

Posted on May 13th, 2009 by annakjarzab

My right bicep hurts. Hm. Don’t remember doing any heavy lifting lately, although I did do several loads of laundry Monday night while talking on the phone to Kim, so maybe that’s why? How obnoxious. I’m the only person I know who can get sore muscles from doing laundry.

Anyway, doubts: I haz them. I’ve been overtaken by the world of GR, but recently I opened my SM synopsis and OH MY GOD IT LOOKS SO MUCH EASIER TO WRITE. I have about ten pages of synopsis and notes and as I read through it I kept being surprised by my own cleverness (also, by my own humility) and how much thinking I’d already done. And compared to SM, GR is starting to look like a big old ridiculous mess. A cool mess, but a mess nonetheless (who am I, Dr. Seuss? Shut it down).

So I’ve been thinking that maybe I should just write SM while I do the research for GR, since I’ve already kind of figured out that’s going to be a bit above average. It sounds sort of impossible for me to do that, but then I think about how I wrote AUT and planned out/researched MB at roughly the same time, so maybe it could be okay. In fact, I think I might be able to get the SM synopsis done in a weekend or two. We’ll see.

Apropos of nothing, a note to those who consider my cover “creepy”*–you don’t know from creepy. Take a gander:

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Sleepless
by Thomas Fahy

That is BLOOD. From her EYES. Running down her FACE. That is some serious creepitude, no joke. It reminds me of that episode of The X-Files that Stephen King wrote (“Chinga”) where the haunted doll makes people claw out their eyes in the grocery store. Obviously, I can’t wait to read it.

*Not that you’re wrong, it totally is.

Writing GR

Posted on May 11th, 2009 by annakjarzab

There is a tendency I have, and it goes a little something like this: I revise, revise, revise, deal with the craziness that is the “when it rains, it pours” reality of publishing, and while I’m doing it I think, “When this is all over with, then I can write. Really write. Create new things. Once I have a break I can write a new book, and won’t that be fun? That’s my favorite part.” Then I finish revising and everyone retreats to their corners to furiously do whatever it is that only they can do (Joanna works on selling stuff, my editor works on preparing the manuscript for typesetting, etc.), and for me that’s supposed to be writing. Obviously.

But then I sit down at my desk and I pull up House or Bones on Hulu and I think, “I’m so tired, I worked so hard the past few weeks, I deserve some downtime. I’ll write later.” And I don’t. That’s happened three or four times in the last nine months. With all the promises I’ve made to myself about writing GR, I should be halfway finished with it by now and guess what? I’m not. That doesn’t mean progress hasn’t been made, but it’s been slow progress. Most annoyingly, I’ve been having a hard time banging out a suitable outline/synopsis. It’s been hard to push past a certain barrier I’ve come up against, so I did what I always do when that happens: I flip the script.

In the beginning, I used to write books with no outline, and when I had problems doing that I started outlining. Eventually, everything was fine, and I’ve managed to write two books that way. With GR, the outlining isn’t going fabulously, so I decided to write instead, using the outline I already have. I’ve got about 50 pages done so far, and I haven’t actually reached the part where my synopsis stops dead in its tracks, but I have confidence that when I do I will figure out what comes next. The fun thing about writing is that sometimes, when you’re in the zone and you reach a part where you don’t know what happens, you just sort of make a split second decision and keep going. Lots of cool stuff can come from that. (Lots of crappy stuff, too. I’m not delusional.)

Abandoning the outline for a while makes me nervous, mostly because that’s what I need to show my editor for the option they have on my next book. I want GR to be my next book. I have one (maybe two) other books I want to write in the coming years, but I don’t want to write them now, I want to write GR now. But I don’t have a full synopsis for GR. I actually don’t even have half a synopsis, or one fourth of one. I have more like one sixteenth of a synopsis, and 50 pages written. That is not going to be enough. I’m hoping to write through the barrier and then outline the rest before writing it.

To that end, I downloaded a ton of music this weekend to inspire me. GR is supposed to be full of adventure, darkness, fear, love, California, and bad weather, so I wanted a lot of rock to complement the quasi-post-apocalyptic vibe of all the Andrew Bird music I put on the soundtrack. Here are the songs the soundtrack has on it so far:

  • “House of Cards” – Radiohead, In Rainbows
  • “Devil Town” – Tony Lucca, Friday Night Lights
  • “Not a Robot, But a Ghost” – Andrew Bird, Noble Beast
  • “Creepshow” – Kerli, Love is Dead
  • “It Doesn’t Matter” – Cut Off Your Hands, You & I
  • “Tables and Chairs” – Andrew Bird, Andrew Bird & the Mysterious Production of Eggs
  • “Scythian Empire” – Andrew Bird, Armchair Apocrypha
  • “Plasticities” – Andrew Bird, Armchair Apocrypha
  • “Effigy” – Andrew Bird, Noble Beast
  • “Shattered (Turn the Car Around)” – O.A.R., All Sides
  • “Click Click Boom” – Saliva, More Fast and the Furious
  • “Coming Undone” – Korn, See You On the Other Side
  • “Hysteria” – Muse, Absolution
  • “Teardrop” – Massive Attack, Bite Size
  • “Sister Golden Hair” – America, History
  • “Nara” – E.S. Posthumus, Unearthed
  • “Please Don’t Touch (The Golden Filter Remix)” – Polly Scattergood, Please Don’t Touch
  • “California” – Rogue Wave, Descended Like Vultures
  • “Time Is Running Out” – Muse, Absolution
  • “No Surprise” – Daughtry, No Surprise – Single
  • “Breaking the Habit” – Linkin Park, Meteora
  • “Famous Last Words” – My Chemical Romance, The Black Parade
  • “Stricken” – Disturbed, Ten Thousand Fists
  • “Apocalypse Please” – Muse, The Studio Album Collection
  • “Devour” – Shinedown, The Sound of Madness
  • “Know Your Enemy” – Green Day, Know Your Enemy- Single
  • “In the End” – Linkin Park, Hybrid Theory
  • “Unstoppable” – E.S. Posthumus, Unstoppable – Single

So, yeah. I’m especially loving “Please Don’t Touch” and “Famous Last Words”, because I can see exactly the scene(s) where “Please Don’t Touch” would play, and “Famous Last Words” is the official Caleb/May theme song. (I know that doesn’t mean a whole lot–read: nothing–now, but it will, hopefully, in time.) Plus, I adore “Unstoppable” because I love pretty much everything E.S. Posthumus does.

Downloading the music sort of worked! Aside from the few times I left the apartment this weekend (once to watch MD dress up as Skippyjon Jones–don’t ask–and once to play Bomb in the park with the Clown Posse), and the three (three!) books I finished this weekend, it’s been all GR, all the time. In my head, on the page, all over the place. Sometimes I get frustrated with the fact that I don’t know everything about the book right away, but the discovery is part of the process and, I have to remind myself, the fun part.

Lost things

Posted on May 7th, 2009 by annakjarzab

My dear friend Shannel has lost her camera battery charger. She asks: “Have you ever misplaced something and the fact that you can’t find it is driving you crazy?” Uh, yeah. Like always. I’m always missing something. I lost my entire digital camera a few months ago and had to replace it. I lost more than one jacket as a kid. One in particular comes to mind–a multi-colored neon windbreaker that was probably eaten by the goblins in the St. Mary School little gym, because that’s basically the only way I could have lost it in a closed room with no furniture.

One time, I lost the beautiful garnet ring my parents gave me as a Sweet Sixteen present. I was a junior in college, and I’d torn my room apart looking for it. I ran around like a maniac through the apartment, asking my roommates if they’d seen it. Nobody had. Finally, I resorted to begging God to help me find it, because if my mother ever found out I lost it she’d be so disappointed, and I’d be heartbroken because at age 20 I still couldn’t learn to hang on to anything, even the important stuff.

Being a fairly superstitious Catholic, I did the traditional last resort prayer to St. Anthony of Padua, patron saint of lost things: “Tony, Tony turn around, something’s lost and can’t be found.” When I was finished spinning (you’re supposed to spin while you’re saying the prayer…I think), I looked woozily up at the top of my wardrobe, where a purse I hadn’t used in a while was sitting. Hm, I thought. I wonder if it’s in there. AND IT WAS! I’m not making this up. Five seconds after I prayed to St. Anthony, I found my ring. You’ll be happy to know that I’ve been very careful with it since.

But there is one thing I lost that I’ve never been able to live down, especially with my father. When I was in middle school, I begged–BEGGED–my parents for a Secret Sender. My younger readers probably have never heard of a Secret Sender, and even people my age might not remember them, but they were basically the precursor to text messaging. Observe:

OMG, did I want a Secret Sender so bad, but it was A.) dumb, as you can see, although back before text messaging it looked SO COOL, and B.) really expensive, probably $80. Uncharacteristically for them, my parents eventually gave in to this ridiculous desire. This group of girls I was tangentially friends with all had them and I wanted them to like me–I thought this pathological need to be universally liked had faded with age, but actually, as I’ve lately discovered, it hasn’t, which is depressing but also probably a confirmation of my humanity, so whatever. The point is, the Secret Sender didn’t make anyone like me or pay attention to me more than they ever had before.

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And then I lost it. Of course I did! And ever since, whenever I wanted my parents to get me something expensive or I promised I wouldn’t lose something, my dad would just say “Secret Sender??” in this voice that could chill a volcano and unless I was really determined I would trudge sadly out of the room with my head hanging. All that humiliation, for something less sophisticated than a beeper. Remember BEEPERS?! I never had one, but I realize now that this has been a mini-I Heart the 90s post. Sorry about that.

Bringing it back to the present–new iPhone in June? I’m getting one, if that happens to be true. Then I’ll probably lose it. Viscious cycle, I iz in it.

On the care and feeding of characters, part one: character profiles

Posted on May 6th, 2009 by annakjarzab

Most writers that I know (or “know”, through the internets) would say that your characters are the most important part of your story. I think that there are three crucial parts to every novel–the characters, the plot, and the writing–and not all novels have all three (think about all the beautifully written books with amazingly developed characters that…don’t go anywhere for four hundred pages). But characters are certainly a vital part of a reading experience, and probably the only one of those three things that, if absent, can absolutely ruin a book for you. Because if you can’t sympathize with the characters, if you don’t buy them as real people, then what the heck do you want to read about them for?

The unfair part about all this is that making characters who you’ve invented into real people is probably the hardest part of writing a novel. That’s because human beings are hugely complex and multifaceted, which makes them difficult to capture. We live our lives on multiple vectors, tiers, layers, and planes. We have wants and needs and then things we think we want and need, things other people want us to want or need, and depending on who those people are and what they mean to us we either want to want what they want us to want or we don’t (try saying that five times fast).

Creating real people starts, appropriately, in your real life. I can’t speak for other authors, but I try to be hyper self-aware. I look for habits and patterns in my life, I try to identify strengths and weaknesses and, most importantly, flaws, I try to be conscious of my actions and choices and feelings at all times. As you can imagine, this makes me pretty neurotic, probably more than is healthy. I also make sure to keep a sharp eye on my friends, which might annoy them, but the best way you learn what real people are like is by studying the way the people closest to you–to whom you have the most access–behave. You can’t know what anyone else is feeling or thinking except yourself, but you can look at the relationship between the way people say they feel or think and the way they act.

People are the sum total of everything they say, think, do, feel, and know. Ideally, you’d know all of that about each of your characters, but not necessarily. You need different things for different characters. But I like to know as much as possible about all of my main characters, so I like to start with character profiles.

If you look hard enough (okay, not that hard, these first pieces of hidden content are softballs), you’ll find the character profiles I wrote for Neily and Audrey, two of the three main characters in AUT, somewhere on the site. I don’t want to spoil the fun, so I won’t tell you where they are, but if you can find them it might be easier to follow along with this post. You’ll see I divide them into three sections–physical, emotional, and intellectual. To me, these are the three main parts of a character. I need to know what they look like, how they feel (about themselves and the people they know, about the world and their place in it, etc.), and how they think.

Physical:

The physicality of a character is important for many reasons. Some writers don’t give you a lot about what their character looks like, and that’s fine with me, both as a writer and a reader. But those writers still tend to know what their characters look like, which is important. Looks are important, especially for teenagers, and the way your characters react to each other–especially if they haven’t known each other for years, like the characters in AUT have–will in some part be based off how they perceive each others’ appearances.

But what’s super important to me as a writer about what my characters look like is what that says about the character him or herself. For instance, Neily is tall, but in the character profile I specify that he slouches. To me, it makes complete sense that Neily would be a sloucher. Standing up straight usually shows confidence, and Neily’s not super confident, although his confidence does grow throughout the novel. I might not even mention that Neily slouches in the book, but I know that he does, and that helps me write him from a first person POV and also through dialogue.

I also specify (and this does get mentioned in the book, more than once) that Neily’s hair is longish and sort of unkempt. Okay, so that’s sort of the style now, in something of a Tim Riggins way, but what it says to me about Neily is that he doesn’t really care what he looks like. He’s neglectful of his personal appearance, or at the very least completely uninterested in it, almost to the point where he thinks caring too much about how you look is a flaw, which explains his reactions to A.) people who do care a lot about the way they look or B.) someone whose appearance starts to change, to become more purposeful and stylish.

With Audrey, I knew she was beautiful, but I also knew that she was so without a ton of effort. She has money, so she doesn’t have to worry about how to be chic on a budget, and I feel like (although, not being exceptionally beautiful or rich myself, I don’t know this firsthand) people who have the means and the right body don’t have to try very hard to look wonderful. That’s something certain characters envy about her and try hard to approximate. In fact, I was sort of rigid about putting “girlier” references in for Audrey, because in my opinion she didn’t really think hard about fashion or beauty, it just came to her naturally. I also refer to her as “athletic”, not that she’s a jock or tomboy, but that she’s strong and vibrant as opposed to Carly, who’s smaller. That juxtaposition was important for me to establish their relationship and the way people see them as a pair.

It’s not super important to me that when people read AUT they have my ideal image of any of my characters in their heads, but all physical details, no matter how small, are in the manuscript for a reason. The reflect certain truths about my characters that I think are important to their overall personalities. Which is why I neglected to mention that Audrey always wears earrings. That doesn’t seem necessary for anyone to know, and I’m not quite sure that now (those profiles were written centuries ago, it seems) the Audrey in AUT actually would wear earrings all the time. That’s something to remember about character profiles–things change. These are just tools to help start the ball rolling, but where it goes is sometimes different than what you expected.

Emotional:

You’ve got to know who your characters are inside, deep down below the bullshit. You need to know why they do the things they do, say the things they say, and feel the way they feel about other people. A lot of this gets worked out in the character manifesto, but it’s also important for you, as the writer, to put it down for you as the writer to look back on. When you write a character manifesto (or, at least, when I do), you write from the character’s perspective, which is totally different than writing yourself notes as the author.

I’ve known Neily for a long time. I invented him when I was a sophomore in college, back in 2002/2003, so his character manifesto that I wrote in 2006 is more me writing down what I already knew than working things out for the first time. Same deal with Carly (even though I haven’t posted her character profile…yet). Audrey, however, was way different. When I first wrote All Unquiet Things, from 2002/2003-2005, I had planned to have a second girl (apart from Carly) in the story, but never got around to adding her in. Then when I did the reboot, Carly had to be dead, so I needed a girl who was alive to play off Neily. Thus: Audrey. But in 2006 she was brand new, so the character profile was the first step of many to bring her to life.

I could talk about this forever, but I think the core of Audrey is this: that she seeks to create, to repair, unlike other characters in the novel who seek to destroy. She believes in healing and growing and fixing and learning, and even though she’s not touchy-feely or overly sentimental, that’s what propells her forward. Knowing that, it was easy to layer a personality around her.

Neily, well, he’s special. I don’t know what other way to put it, I mean, he’s been in my head for more than a quarter of my life. (That is less creepy than it sounds, by the by.) I’ve been building him so gradually I can’t even really map his creation for myself, but I do know that at the center of it all is a big, terrified heart. At the very end of Part I, there’s a few paragraphs of Neily talking about how he was taught to love, and I think those paragraphs are so important to understanding him. When you read it, maybe you could let me know. 😉

Intellectual:

This is sort of self-explanatory. All Unquiet Things especially needed this category because there a stratification in the novel based on intelligence, but I think it’s important not only to know how objectively intelligent (IQ, grades, etc.) a character is, but also how sharp and aware they are with regards to the world. This is usually a small section; I just need to know what kind of functional intelligence I’m dealing with, and then move on. Pretty anticlimactic, huh?

*     *     *

I didn’t really mean to write such a huge post on this, but hopefully it was helpful, if you even got this far.

My mystery’s history

Posted on May 5th, 2009 by annakjarzab

As most of my regular readers (hi guys!) already know, All Unquiet Things is set in a town called Empire Valley. EV is in Northern California, and though it doesn’t technically exist, it is an amalgam of the town my parents live in and a few surrounding towns. I was staying with my parents this weekend when I went to Nor Cal for Carmen’s wedding, and we passed something weird a couple of times on the way to the freeway.

Close to my parents house there is this sort of abandoned dead mall with a huge, unused parking lot, and it’s in the process of being torn up. There is also an old house in pieces and on trailers, and my mother told me that they’d recently moved it in, my dad says from the east side of town where they started building brand new McMansions maybe ten years ago. That land all used to be ranches–the whole area used to be ranches, actually, including the hills where my parents live.

One of my first memories of moving into that house (I was sixteen) was that my brother and I took a walk to this cul-de-sac that has a view of the valley, and as we were sitting there talking we could hear cows mooing on the nearby hills. In Illinois, we grew up literally behind a farm, but it didn’t have any animals on it (long, scandalous story involving murder, mayhem, organized crime, drugs, insurance fraud, and animal abuse–I’m not even kidding, you can’t make this stuff up sometimes), so we were a little thrown.

Anyway, my mother told me that the town had bought most of that parking lot and they were moving the house there to build a sort of historical center and park near the old church and cemetery. It reminded me of something I wrote in AUT, a short paragraph about the history of the town and what it meant for a relatively new place like California to put so much emphasis on preserving and displaying its history, that I really, really loved. And then I remembered that my editor had suggested I take it out, because it was the second paragraph of the novel and it was important to launch right into the action of the story on page one. We didn’t need it, so it hit the cutting room floor.

To tell you the truth, I was going to ignore that advice from my editor and keep it, because I thought it was important, but to be accommodating I took it out to see how the paragraph before it and the one after it would feed into each other and just…forgot to put it back in. Because my editor was right. We didn’t need it. The atmosphere of the town was established well enough without it, and it put an extra paragraph between the reader and the start of the action. Its absence didn’t leave a big gaping hole; the page read better and quicker without it.

BUT, it’s one of my favorite paragraphs I’ve ever written, so I’m going to post it here. I know it’s totally out of context and maybe you’ll be like, “Why was she so in love with this?” But I obviously missed it–because I’d forgotten the fact that I’d taken it out in the first place and got sad when I remembered it was permanently excised from the manuscript–so that means something, I think.

The place had a funny air of antiquity about it, the sort you hardly ever associate with California. Empire Valley prided itself on its handful of registered historic places—an old one-room schoolhouse where a local elementary school now stored athletic equipment, a clapboard general store that had been taken over by an evangelical Christian church, a cemetery near the freeway where some members of the Donner party were buried. They were all half-hearted claims to fame, reminders that we were a community with a shared past.

On the theme of revisions, my adorable fellow Tenner, Alexandra Bracken, posted a video describing her revisions process. It’s very similar to mine, to be sure. Suffer through editorial letter, cry about how you suck, start with the small stuff, work up to the big stuff, ditch the ‘tude, realize that you’re not a hack you’re just afraid of being a hack, start to see how the changes you’re making are better than what you had before and revel in that fact, then, happily, finish and think back, “That wasn’t that bad!” Remind yourself never to let revisions upset you again. Receive your next round of revisions, or your revisions on your next book, and forget all about how you can do it, forget about how you are a winner, suffer through your editorial letter, cry about how you suck, lather, rinse, repeat.

MOST importantly: doesn’t Alex have pretty hair? Totes jealy.

Back home again (and some fun news)

Posted on May 4th, 2009 by annakjarzab

Yesterday was sort of long. My flight was delayed and then I got in to JFK only to find that the taxi line was the longest I’d ever, ever seen it. It probably would’ve taken me an hour to get a cab, maybe more. I had already promised myself that if I took the subway to the airport on Friday I could take a cab home on Sunday, because of it being late and the weather and general laziness. But my desire to crawl into my bed last night vastly outweighed my total lack of desire to take the subway, and I hate standing around when I can be getting something accomplished, so I dragged my stuff to the Air Train and grabbed the A at Howard Beach.

Not that I didn’t already know this, but JFK is way the hell away from where I live. Like whoa. The A went local in Brooklyn, which is twenty-two stops (I counted). TWENTY-TWO. In Brooklyn alone. That doesn’t count the eight stops in Manhattan it took me to connect to the 1 train, which I rode another nine stops. Everybody on the train was so exhausted, you could see it in their faces, and every time we’d hit another stop in Brooklyn nobody recognized (because most of us were going to Manhattan or the first couple of stops in Brooklyn) you could see everybody’s shoulders sag.

I actually felt fine. I wasn’t hungry even though I hadn’t eaten much all day and I was relatively awake, considering how early I’d gotten up, the rapid time changes and the fact that I’d slept fitfully on the plane (my hands kept falling asleep, and I kept jerking awake, which is a really annoying habit of mine when I’m sleeping sitting up). Thank heaven for small mercies. When I got home, I was reminded of why people usually leave their apartments cleaner than normal when they go on a trip–because who wants to come back to a big mess? Well, I came back to a big mess. But I just couldn’t deal with it, so I threw everything on the floor/my desk and figured I’d deal with it later. Very Scarlett O’Hara of me.

Oh, by the way, that good news I wanted to share but couldn’t? Joanna gave me the go-ahead to announce that we sold the audio rights for All Unquiet Things to Listening Library, Random House’s audio arm! I’m really excited about this because they’re so enthusiastic about the book at LL that they preempted it, and having the audio book being put out by the same publisher as the physical book means that they can do a lot of marketing in tandem, which is fortuitous. I don’t do a lot of audio book listening myself, mostly because I need to read things in order to retain them, something about how my brain processes information. But I know a lot of people who love audio books, especially in New York where it can be a bit of a pain to read a physical book on a crowded subway train, so having the book released in that format is pretty rad.

Also, you can find AUT on two more sites now: Indie Bound and Borders. Borders even has a description up: “After the death of his ex-girlfriend Carly, northern California high school student Neily joins forces with Carly’s cousin Audrey to try to solve her murder.” Short, easy to remember. It’s better than my elevator pitch, which is, “Um…it’s a YA murder mystery?…About these two teenagers…whose friend dies…and they solve her murder?” I’m awful at this. Must improve. I can tell you that MB is about the snobby son of two academics who has to put aside his pretentions and his prejudices to solve the mystery of why his best friend suddenly went missing. That’s better, isn’t it?

I want you to be happy

Posted on May 3rd, 2009 by annakjarzab

Yesterday, my friend Carmen, who I’ve been close friends with for eight years now, got married to her boyfriend of five years, Tim. I’m dumb, because everything went so quickly I barely took any photos–Mel took frillions, I think, so I’ll be okay on this front, but I don’t remember posing for a photo with Carmen and Tim or anything. Le sigh. Oh well. I’ll never forget how gorgeous Carmen looked in her dress, or the way Tim looked when he saw her walking down the aisle. They’re a wonderful couple and they deserve all the best.

I haven’t been to a lot of weddings, but it’s my impression that lots of people, when choosing their readings, go for 1 Corinthians 13. You know, “Love is patient, love is kind…” I don’t blame them, because that’s a great passage, and perfect for weddings. But Carmen and Tim chose Philippians 4:4-9, which the Internet is telling me is different than what they read, but at the wedding yesterday it went something like this. “I want you to be happy; always happy in the Lord. I repeat: what I want is your happiness.” I just loved that. It really brings home to me the reason people enter into and stay in relationships for their entire lives, or rather what makes it possible for people to stay together forever. Because love is patient, and love is kind, but many times we as people are not patient or especially kind. What is important to remember about marriage is that when you make those vows you’re promising to live in service of the other person, to sometimes sacrifice your own happiness for theirs, and they in turn promise to do the same for you. Balance and compromise without resentment are the key to making relationships work, I think. I don’t know, I’m no expert, but it makes sense to me. Living in the service of someone else’s happiness–and having them live in the service of yours–seems both liberating and difficult to me. I’m sure Carmen and Tim will rise to the occasion admirably, as they’ve been doing for years unmarried.

The wedding was fun, although, like I said, a whirlwind. I think I might’ve stepped on broken glass (I didn’t get hurt or anything, but I do remember that) and slipped on the dance floor because someone spilled a drink. I knew I was going to fall–I predicted it when I was talking to my mom earlier that day. Oh well, it was towards the end of the night and it was dark and I don’t think anyone saw. I got a little maudlin towards the end, as one tends to do at weddings, so thanks to Jackie and Shannel for putting up with that!

People kept telling me how nice it was of me to come all the way from New York for a wedding and I was kind of taken aback, like, obviously I would. Carmen and Tim are a couple I championed from day 1, plus Carmen’s one of my best friends, there’s no way I wouldn’t come. I got to see a lot of people I literally haven’t set eyes on since graduation. I wonder if I can write off some of the travel as a research expense, because I talked to the best man, Mike, about his hometown, Rescue, CA, which inspired the setting of my third book, GR, as I mentioned before. It was knowing Mike in the first place that even brought the little town to my attention, and I’d always wanted to write about it, so here we go. This summer will be all about GR and MB (revisions, I’m sure, are forthcoming).

Being back at Santa Clara also made me think about college. High school isn’t the best years of your life, and certainly college doesn’t have to be. It would make me sad to think that people are going around loving college and then leaving it and never being that happy again and thinking that’s normal. But I will say that college can be a blast, and should be. For those teens just going off to college this coming fall, enjoy it. Have fun. Be smart and safe. Join organizations and meet tons and tons of people. Especially if you want to write. You should laugh a lot and accept that you’ll make some mistakes. Don’t take more eight AM classes than is absolutely necessary. Take a lot of pictures. Try to stay in touch but also know that some people fall off the face of the planet and that’s okay, too.

My thoughts are sort of scattered right now and coming out in bursts because I’m tired and I have to get on a plane back to New York in a few hours, but I’m so glad I came. I wish it hadn’t gone so fast and that I’d taken more pictures, but I’m happy to have seen everyone and to have celebrated Carmen and Tim’s marriage and I’m feeling a healthy amount of yearning for the life I left behind when I graduated. I’m happier now, but I sure was happy then.

ETA: I had the craziest dream last night! I was hanging out with Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner in New York. It felt very realistic, which always sort of creeps me out, when dreams so closely approximate real life that it’s difficult to separate them from it. So weird!

The miracle of human flight

Posted on May 1st, 2009 by annakjarzab

Right now I’m sitting in the Jet Blue terminal at JFK, waiting to board my flight to Oakland.

Upside: There is free wifi in the Jet Blue terminal, which is totally awesome and lets me update my blog and Twitter and check my email without having to pay some ridiculous fee.

Downside: There’s a screen on the wall that contains pertinent information about the flight, such as the destination (Oakland), the number, whether it’s on time (it is), what time it boards, and what time it leaves. It also tells you how long it’s going to take to get there. SIX HOURS AND FIFTY MINUTES. I don’t know if you know this, but that’s almost seven hours of human flight. I don’t care what Louis C.K. says, that is, if not grouse-worthy, truly dispiriting.

Downside: The Borders in the terminal didn’t have a copy of Julie and Julia, which I specifically wanted to buy to read on my flight. I just have an urge to read that particular book, but of course I have three backups, because I’m like that, so I’ll be fine. Also, I almost fell asleep on the subway out here, so I’ll probably sleep most of the flight anyway.

Upside: The Borders did have a copy of Wintergirls, which I LOVED and told my sister about yesterday on the phone and she asked, “Do you have a copy I can borrow?” I told her no, but I’d be happy to buy her a copy. Low and behold, it looked like Laurie Halse Anderson had signed stock in that Borders (great strategy, I say), and I couldn’t pass up an autographed copy to give to Fisher. Very exciting purchase.

Downside: I feel certain they will not feed us and I will get hungry on the flight. I’ll have to fight the urge to eat my own hand off.

Upside: I feel certain my family will have ordered from Zachary’s, which is probably the best Chicago style pizza I’ve had outside of Chicago. There will definitely be leftovers for me.

Upside: TV on the plane.

Downside: I’ll feel a strong urge to watch the Food Network instead of read or write like a good nerd.

Downside: I think my headphones are broken. In the time it took me to get through security, the left earbud stopped working. This may not be a big deal to others, but my last iPod had a busted headphone jack and I listened to my music out of one headphone only for over a year before I bought my iPod Touch over Christmas, SO, this is an untenable situation. Four months shouldn’t be the maximum amount of time the universe allows me to listen to music out of two headphones.

Obviously, my life is awfully difficult. Seven hour flights (THE MIRACLE OF HUMAN FLIGHT, how dare I complain?), having to choose between TV and reading, and one broken headphone? Quelle horreur. See you on the other side of the Rockies!