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  • I read a lot, and I have a lot of opinions, so I can't believe I haven't made a list like this before. If you are even a little bit like me or you want to get a peek into my psyche (you probs don't), these are the books to read.

Posts Tagged ‘MB’

Miracle Grow

Posted on April 26th, 2010 by annakjarzab

So, back in January when I got this insane idea to fix my second book by chopping it in half and throwing the second half in the garbage (figuratively speaking), I convinced myself it was a good idea by reminding myself that the plot wasn’t really changing all that much. While I couldn’t use the second half word for word anymore, I could extract almost all of the plot beats and just wrap a new skin around them. Which is still working, for the most part, by the way. But I recently realized something–the book-altering change that happens now at the middle of the novel required me to add some stuff. A lot of stuff. I’m starting to think it’s, um, fifty pages of stuff overall. Because I’m at about 290 pages in my manuscript, and I’ve got about a fourth of the book still left to write. So what began as a 280-something page manuscript will probably end up being closer to 350 pages, give or take. And since AUT was a 352 page book and a 310-ish page manuscript, that means that this book will end up being close to 400 pages. NO WONDER I FEEL LIKE I’VE BEEN WRITING IT FOREVER.

It’s possible that things will get cut in revisions (I’m not even pretending this is a revision–this is basically a redraft). In fact, it’s probable. What makes me nervous is that there are new scenes I feel like I need to include that provide emotional succor to the story, but which I haven’t written yet because I haven’t quite decided where they’ll go. So that’s even more pages I hadn’t counted on. Apropos of nothing, I also think there’s one argument that might graduate to a fist fight–I don’t know, I just feel like this book needs more hand-to-hand combat. Just kidding! But seriously, fist fight. It’s going to have to happen.

So, like, on the one hand I’m feeling very accomplished about this book, which I am slowly but surely and methodically completing inch by painful inch. On the other hand, it feels as though every time I get near the finish line, it gets moved back twenty feet. And the whole time I’ve been a little bit unsure about how everyone’s going to react to this new change. It’s sort of terrifying to rewrite a book without any idea of whether or not your editor is going to like it, because the idea of having to rewrite it again is so crushing. But I’m trying not to focus on that! Although I do feel like I’m on my way to getting it right, even if I haven’t quite gotten it right yet. This book is like a misbehaving middle child. It’s being difficult because it wants more attention. Okay, so maybe anthropomorphizing my novels isn’t the best way to present myself as wholly sane, but whatever, you know what I mean. This book needs a little bit of TLC. I just have to spend the next few weeks giving it my love, and not being distracted by shiny new books, which of course don’t look so shiny and new when I put the partials on my Kindle–they just look limp and tired.

Obviously, I need a vacation. And I’m taking one. At the end of this week I’m going to New Orleans with my parents for our family reunion and I couldn’t be more pumped!! I’m excited to spend some quality time with my parents, whose company I appreciate so much now that I’m an adult, and I’m also excited to LEAVE MY LAPTOP AT HOME. Seriously. I’ll be bringing along my notebook, so if I get any bursts of inspiration I can scribble them down somewhere, but otherwise I’m not writing from Wednesday night to Sunday night. I’m hoping this gets my mind grapes working again and gives me some much needed R&R. Maybe my manuscript will have magically shrunk to normal size in my absence?

A walk in the park

Posted on April 19th, 2010 by annakjarzab

I had a pretty productive weekend, I must admit. Slowly but surely I’m building Untitled Book 2 back up to its original length; I’ve got over 270 pages now (remember how I cut 150 pages from the manuscript and started the second half completely fresh? Well you do now!), and I’m thinking the manuscript will clock in somewhere around 315-320 pages. That would make it just around the same length as AUT (which is 352 pages printed, but I think the final manuscript for that sucker was somewhere around 310 pages), maybe a little longer. I find that surprising. I thought it’d come in around 300 pages, but now, thirty pages from the end, I’m nowhere near ready to really tie up the mystery–I need some more space for that. I always thought of Untitled Book 2 as less complex than AUT, not to mention funnier, lighter, more romantic, but I don’t think it’s going to be. When I cut those last 150 pages and made a real shift in the story, it darkened the book up a lot. The book got angrier and more slippery. I’ve been having a bit of a rough time nailing down the emotional trajectory of the second half, and for a long time I was angry at myself for that–I always had a very clear idea of the emotional trajectory of AUT, what was I doing wrong this time?–but I’m starting to see that such slipperiness is innate in the character who’s telling the story. He’s not really sure what’s going on, what he wants or needs or feels at any given moment, and his memory is unreliable, which upsets him. I’m still struggling to get a firmer grasp on him, but I understand that he as a character is tough to get to know because he doesn’t know who he is at any given moment, necessarily.

I also got out of my house and away from my computer this weekend, surprisingly. On Saturday night, I went out for my friend Eric’s birthday, which was the best time I’ve had in a while because I got to see a lot of old friends I don’t hang out with as often any more. See, Eric (he who designed this website) and I used to work at the same company, and then I left to work for another company last August. Which is all well and good, but I’d worked at the old company for almost two years and because it was so small and we all sat in one big bull pen, we talked all the time and got really, really close as a group the way you can’t if you’re all sequestered in offices (not that I don’t love having my own office, because I do, I’m just saying). So while Eric is one of my best friends, everyone else we worked with are people I love and enjoy spending time with and miss. And lots of them came to the party! I literally knew everyone there, which is fun.

On Sunday I took a walk down Riverside Drive in an attempt to get some exercise and see some new things. And boy did I. Here are some pictures I snapped with my iPhone while I was walking:





Riverside is full of interesting architecture and lovely sculptures and monuments and things. It’s given me plenty of inspiration for a book I hope to be writing three years from now. These are indeed phone pictures, but I made them look way cooler with this photo app I downloaded, Camera Bag. It is paid, but it’s worth it–and this coming from someone who basically never pays for apps ever. The Photoshop app is free (I think) and allows you to make photo effects also, but the PS app has a lot of options, and I do better with less options. Camera Bag is just simpler, and I highly recommend it. I can’t wait to take some pictures in New Orleans and jazz them up with Camera Bag, also. Did I tell you I’m going to New Orleans in two weeks? I’m so excited!

Names and the namers who name them

Posted on April 6th, 2010 by annakjarzab

I just read this post author Alex Flinn put up on her blog about choosing names for characters, which I thought was really interesting and got me thinking about why and how I name characters what I name them, so I thought I’d throw in my two cents.

I have owned the same baby name book for 10+ years (probably closer to twelve). It’s called The Last Word on First Names, which makes very little sense as the authors, Pamela Redmond Satran and Linda Rosencrantz, went on to write several other books about baby names, so really it’s not the last word on first names. And it’s actually not the best baby name book in the world–I would really prefer if it told you what the meaning was behind all of the names, not just some of them. Mostly it’s just the authors’ commentary on the names, putting them in a contemporary context (although, you know, contemporary circa 1997, which is no longer contemporary), talking about popularity and literary/historical context, etc. It’s useful in many ways, and quite the crack up. The entry for Hortense just says “No,” which is still a big joke with my sister and I (who knows why).

One might ask why I purchased a baby names book (because I definitely purchased it with my own dollars) at age thirteen or fourteen–obviously, I was not considering having a child, and there were no siblings on the way. I bought it because I was a writer and needed a naming resource, considering the Internet, though it had been invented (thanks Al Gore!), wasn’t really the intense repository of information that it is today. I read that thing cover to cover like a novel, and it shows–its pages are ripped and creased and tea stained beyond what is normal. I used it for a really long time. Now I use the Internet, in the form of Behind the Name, which was actually a website my mother told me about (she’s very hip to the jive). It’s very useful, especially when I want to name peripheral characters–I usually go for names that were on the top 100 lists in the year that the characters were ostensibly born (usually about fourteen to eighteen years prior to the year in which I’m writing the book, which I guess now is about 1993/1994 or so), because they have them for every year post-1990 and for every decade before that until the late 1800s.

I tend to be attracted to classic names myself, especially for boys–saints names, basically. Your Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Michael (although even I have to admit that one’s pretty played out), James, Thomas, Christopher, Stephen, Joseph, Anthony, William, etc. With girls, I tend to be the same way. I like how old fashioned names are coming back into style–Ruby, Mary, Emma, etc.

But if you look at what I’ve written recently, you can tell that my personal preferences for actual human children living in the flesh and blood world (especially ones that might someday carry my genetic material) are a little different than the names I actually use in my books. The characters in All Unquiet Things have rather odd names, most of them. Neily’s name sort of comes from a teacher I had in high school, an English teacher that I really liked, and that was her last name, although spelled differently. If you look up the way she actually spells her name, Neely, it means “son of the poet” in Gaelic. I thought that was rather appropriate for Neily, actually. I don’t know why I changed the spelling, but I did decide that “Neily” was actually short for Neiland, which was his mother’s maiden name. I knew a girl in high school who shared her middle name with her brother, and it was their mother’s maiden name. I thought that was kind of interesting, but I took it one step further and Neily was born. I’ve thought about Neily’s name and what it means for him a lot. When my editor acquired my manuscript, she suggested changing his name, thinking it might be too effeminate, a criticism that I understood because I’d recently read The Valley of the Dolls and there was a main female character in that book named Neely. But in the end I was so attached I didn’t want to change it, and she was fine with that. The thing about Neily’s name being a little effeminate, and probably too young for him, is that that is a part of his story. When he was younger, he was sort of a shy, lonely kid that everyone treated like he was a baby. The diminutive form of his name shows just how small and besides the point he felt all the time growing up. He really should just go by Neil, and I think that if he thought he could get people to call him Neil he would, but he knows that would never happen. In the “sequel” I started writing post-AUT, just as a little diversion and a place to put my ideas for where the characters would be in six or seven years, Neily has changed his name to Neil–he’s gotten away from Empire Valley and everybody who knows him as “Neily” and he takes advantage of that to forge a new identity. Except then he goes back to Empire Valley and of course Neily resurrects, even though he tries to maintain his new Neil identity.

Audrey’s name is simple; it’s my grandmother’s (father’s mother’s) name. But it’s a little old fashioned, although I personally think it’s really beautiful. However, I was not as plugged in to the YA community as I am now, and if I’d known how big of a resurgence Audrey was going to have in mainstream fiction, I’d probably have thought about changing it (and then I probably would’ve decided not to change it, because I like things the way I like them and I’m stubborn like that). That’s really the most thought I ever gave to the name Audrey, but it  means “noble strength”, which I like a lot and think describes my Audrey pretty well.

Carly…I don’t really remember how she got that name. She’s had it so long it’s all receded into the mists of antiquity. I do know that I went to school with a lot of Carlys/Karlys when I was a kid, mostly popular girls who didn’t like me. It’s not actually a name I particularly like all that much, it just seemed to fit her and I cannot imagine her being named anything else. It’s hard to pin down what Carly actually means; according to Behind the Name, it’s the feminine form of Carl, which is the Germanic form of Charles, which means either “man” or “army, warrior.” But according to, it’s the diminutive form of Carlotta, which means “free.” I think both of those meanings are interesting when reflecting on the way Carly behaves in the novel and what her ultimate resting state is, emotionally speaking. It’s interesting to think about, but not my main intention when naming her that.

Wow, are those names so ingrained in my head. I’m moving on, though, to other books and other characters. My three main characters in Untitled Book 2 are Will, Jacie and Robbie. I really like the name William; apparently it means “strong willed warrior,” which Will is…not, really, although he is decidedly persistent, which you have to give him credit for. Jacie is a name I’m surprised I picked, honestly–it feels trendy and slightly made up to me, and I’m not into the trendiness. But her full name just sort of popped into my head all at once: Jacie Fisher. I didn’t even consider a different spelling (Jacey, which I guess is the accepted spelling, would be one option). Baby Names says it’s a shortened form of Jacinda, which means “hyacinth”, but I never for a moment considered that her name might be Jacinda. Her family is not the type to name a daughter Jacinda. Usually I’m very, very against naming children nicknames instead of full names, but it definitely would not have fit for Jacie to have any other given name than exactly that. Rob/Robbie is named after Robbie Turner from Atonement. They don’t have, like, a ton in common, but there are similarities. I’m pretty sure that’s the first time I’ve ever named a fictional character after another fictional character. And it’s not like Robbie’s mother named him after Robbie Turner from Atonement–I did. Because of my love for James McAvoy, OBVS.


And now that I have another WIP in the works (that’s kind of redundant, huh?), I have a slew of new names, especially since what I’m working on has a lot of characters. I have some old school names, some nickname-y names, some nice normal names, and a name I just pretty much made up. For this one, I just started pulling names I liked or from people I knew/had met. The fun thing about being a writer is that your characters tell you who they are. Would I ever have named my daughter Jacie? No. It’s a perfectly lovely name, but I would never pick it for a child of mine–it’s not my aesthetic. But Jacie is totally a Jacie, no two ways about it. Neily is most definitely a Neily. In a way they choose their own names.

Tough calls

Posted on January 25th, 2010 by annakjarzab

Okay, so yesterday I alluded to an important writing thing that ocurred over the weekend of ALA, but divulged nothing more. I wasn’t being a tease, I was just growing a little weary with that post, so I decided to save it for later.

It’s later.

Now, this discussion might be a little vague because I’m trying not to reveal much about the plot of my second book. There are a couple of things I can tell you, though:

  1. It’s another teen mystery
  2. It has a male narrator
  3. It takes place in California
  4. It’s about an eighteen-year-old boy’s disappearance, which may or may not involve foul play, and his friends’ attempts to search for him

So there’s that. As some of you probably know, it used to be called Murder Burger, but RH’s legal department said that, for various reasons, it emphatically cannot be named that, so we’re at square one with the title. And actually, this thing that happened with the book all started with the news that the title had been nixed. I’d actually been worried about that from the very beginning, and finally brought it up to my editor, who promised she’d ask legal, who told her that under no circumstances was I allowed to name the book that because such a place actually exists (although my version of it was and is entirely fictional) and we’re not in the business of getting sued, which I totally understand. I don’t want to get sued, either.

But the book such as it was (and I was struggling a lot with the book such as it was, because there were obviously problems with it that I could recognize but not think how to fix in a really effective way) didn’t seem to lend itself to a new title. It seems like a petty thing to care about in the face of looming revisions great and small, but the title is the most succinct expression of a book and is therefore important. And I couldn’t think of a single thing to name the book other than MB, which really frustrated me. Revisions were also frustrating. I’d only been working on them a few days, but I knew that if I continued the way I was doing things and turned a new draft in to my editor, she would see that not enough had changed to really take the book to the next level, which was the whole thrust of this round of revision.

So, what to do? Well, I was on my way to work the Friday before ALA and I was getting out of the subway station when suddenly I had a thought: what if I took the events of the very end and moved them to the middle? That sounds crazy because you don’t know what happens at the end, but it was a major brainstorm for me. I was excited about it because it meant that the actual mechanics of the mystery plot–what things get figured out at which time, what people are involved in those revelations, the heartbeats of the story–could stay intact, it was only the perspective that would change. All of a sudden you’d be seeing things in an entirely new way. Over the next two days, I became convinced that this was the game change I needed. I wasn’t going to get any more depth out of my current book, and I needed to flip the script. This was a way to add the depth we were trying to achieve. I was certain of it.

Thankfully, both my agent and editor agree, and even though it means rewriting the second half of the book, I felt a great release of pressure when I cut 150 pages from the manuscript with the press of a button and set forth down this new path. It’s a dramatic change, but one that I think will work out very well, and of course with Joanna and Francoise patiently coaching me through it, I think the book will be great in the end, something to really be proud of instead of a joke repository, which I’m afraid MB ended up being to an extent (although I think there’s a lot of great stuff in this book, don’t get me wrong).

This writing thing, you guys–it’s like the labyrinth in, well, Labyrinth. You know how it’s always changing and it’s never the same maze twice and some meddling worm can send you down the wrong path and you try to figure out which door guard is lying but you’re too dumb and this metaphor is getting both extended and absurd, is it not? Anyway, you know what I mean. People always say that each book teaches you how to write itself, and itself only, and they’re totally right. I guess the other little seed of knowledge I’ve gained from this is that nothing you write is unassailable–I mean, yes, there’s the “kill your darlings” writing advice, which is both cliche and true as many cliches are, but there’s also the sense of being trapped by what you’ve already done. It’s just as hard to write a bad novel, or a mediocre one, as it is to write a good novel, and once you’ve finished you can’t stand the thought of pressing DELETE and watching those days and nights spent not with your friends or family, not watching 30 Rock, not sleeping, go swirling down the drain. That word count means time and sacrifices, and it’s hard to say goodbye to all that and start over.

But I’m telling you that it’s also worth it. At least I think it is. Hell, I know it is, because I spent three years writing the first verison of AUT just to throw it out and start over, and it was still another four years before I saw it on the shelves. So I get it. But I also think that this kind of work, the part of our job that requires destruction, is just as important as the part that requires creation. It’s a leap of faith that in turning your back on something you thought you loved you’re in fact turning your face towards something even better. And it’s kind of invigorating, at least it is for me. Wish me luck!

Still working on the title, though…

The sophomore slump

Posted on December 11th, 2009 by annakjarzab

I can’t believe this, but I signed on to WordPress for the first time in weeks (yikes, I’m not doing a good job keeping up with the blogging, am I?) to blog about a very specific thing and I’ve totally forgotten what that is. So instead of a thoughtful, collected post about an interesting topic, you’re going to get a brain dump.

I guess the first thing on my mind is my second book. I wrote it the summer before I got my deal for AUT (so that’s summer 2008), finishing it in August. I sent Joanna the first three pages, which is a prologue, and she included it in our submissions to editors in early September 2008. My editor bought two books from me, with the understanding that MB, of which she’d only read three pages, would be book 2.

Fast forward to this past summer. I revised the book myself, then Joanna had a look at it and she gave me an editorial letter, which I used to revise a second time. Then we sent it on to my editor. I’m due to get revisions back next week, and I’m nervous. I spent a long time writing AUT, and I revised it many, many times for many, many people. Joanna and I did two rounds of revisions, and then Danielle (Egan-Miller, the president of Browne & Miller, Joanna’s agency) looked it over and sent me notes, which I used to revise a third time. I revised twice with my editor, and then went through a round of copy edits and two rounds of pages (where the book was laid out in exactly the format it has in the ARC and finished book)–and I just remembered what I came here to blog about, stay tuned for that. It wasn’t a particularly long process for publishing, but it was a considerable amount of work and time and consideration. In each round of revision, I cut and added, and I think the book ended up being rather robust and meaningful, as well as exciting.

If you utter the words “book 2” to debut authors, you’re going to get a bunch of wincing and grimacing. It’s so hard to follow up something you’ve spent a long time crafting with something you haven’t spent a long time crafting, simply because your publishing schedule encourages publishing every year or year and a half, sometimes more. It’s not that the second book in its first draft is any worse than your first book in its first draft, it’s just that you have less time to turn it into something good and publishable. That’s where I am right now. My second book was written in months, where AUT took years. My second book has been revised twice, and AUT was revised five times that. It was hard to show it to my editor, who bought it basically sight unseen, but I did it anyway, and now comes the hard part–realizing that it’s not in as good of shape as AUT was when it left my hands, coming to terms with that, and doing what needs to be done to make it just as good–or better!–of a book as AUT was, in way less time.

I get now why there are a few authors out there whose second books are a long time coming. I thought that because I wrote my second book before I sold my first, I was safe from the sophomore slump, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that I’m not. I’m trying not to freak out about it. I’m trying to trust in my ability to do exactly what I did with AUT–take the skeleton of my first draft and carefully prune it where necessary, and add to it where necessary. I write bare bones first drafts. The introspection and explanation and deep characterization everything that goes into giving a book a story, not just a plot, comes later for me. I like to get all the action and dialogue down before I go for the meat of the thing. It’s just my process. But since I’ve only really done it successfully once, it’s hard to trust that process.

As I reach the end of CH (I’m quite literally down to the last fifty pages), I realize just how messy of a draft it is. I mean, it’s absolutely insane. And the part of me that’s into organization and planning is stressed out by what a sloppy chaotic disaster of a manuscript it is. MB is obviously better, but maybe not very much so. But there’s another part of me, and I hope it’s a bigger part, that knows that the revisions process is so much more than fixing problems–it’s an opportunity to get to know better a narrative geography that you’ve mapped, but not yet explored. I think the next six months are going to be a lot of work, but MB will be better for it, and I’m glad, because I love MB, and I want my editor to love it, and I want readers to love it. If getting to that place is going to be hard and long and arduous, so be it–I’ve got time, and I’ve got endurance.

So, back to why I originally came here to post. My editor passed this along to me today. It’s an AUT chapter sampler! Okay, so it’s the same chapter I have on the site here, BUT this one is from the interior of the actual book, so it has the full design layout of the book that you’ll see in stores come January. It’s gorgeous. Go look at it!

Because when it rains, it pours, I’m headed over to The A-Team blog (it still exists! I promise I’ll post more! Moving kind of took the wind out of my sails) to talk about reviews (which you can always find here), because I’ve been getting some as of late. Join me?

Poor attendance

Posted on September 18th, 2009 by annakjarzab

Oh boo. I’m afraid to look and see how long it’s been since I posted something, so let’s just go with IT’S BEEN A WHILE. Sigh. Oh well! As I told you before, I’ve been busy getting a life and working and stuff. And reading! Always reading.

I put aside CH for pretty much no reason except I got sick of working on it and missed GR, so I’m back on that train. I know I always said GR was going to be a big book, in terms of how much work it was going to take to accomplish what I want it to be, and probably in terms of pages as well, but I don’t think I ever realized HOW big and HOW much work it was going to take until pretty much the last week or so. Because I spent five days drawing the floorplans of a house. FIVE DAYS. Let me tell you, I did not miss my calling as an architect. If I didn’t know for a fact he’s busy with school and everything, I’d call my friend Scott, who goes to SIARC and just have him do it for me, but alas.

It was kind of cool to design a house though, especially a crazy house with lots of secret passages and hidden doorways and enormous ballrooms and stuff. I was ridiculously proud of it and actually showed it off to my friends at the bar yesterday, just because I really can’t put it up here for you guys to look at and I’ve got no one else to foist it upon. I also made a nice family tree, which was an unexpected detour on Tuesday night but fun all the same. This is the stuff I like best, you know. The prep work. The stuff nobody really sees unless you whip out your notebook and keep a vigilant watch on your friends as they handle it, lest they accidentally set it down in a puddle of Bud Lite (drink responsibly!).

So things are moving. I’m working on the GR synopsis, which, while far from completion, is significantly farther along than I ever hoped it could be (mostly because I never worked on it before now).

As for my other books, I’m still waiting on an editorial letter for MB, which is sort of a relief. I thought I’d have it this month, and I was dreading it, because I’m exhausted and I know it’s going to be a lot of work. I’m sure I’ll be happy to work on it when it comes, though. MB has a special place in my heart because I am, in my bones, a funny, light-hearted person and secret romantic–AUT is dark and sad and serious, and while I like writing all of that, MB is sort of like a vacation in a lot of ways. I’m back to dark in GR, so it should be a welcome project when it comes along. It can’t be sturm und drang all the time, you know?

AUT is, predictably, resting in a cocoon for the moment, although I did get an exciting piece of sales news today that I’m sure I can’t share on the blog (and, truthfully, don’t wholly understand so I wouldn’t even attempt to explain what it means, but my editor seems pumped!), and I found out who my publicist is, although I haven’t talked to her yet. So the whole being published in January thing isn’t a dream! I was worried. I’ve been having some pretty vivid dreams lately.

I know I’m behind on emails, and ARC requests, and I’m honestly sorry about that. The only thing I can say in my defense is that I’m busy? Which, we are all busy, I get that. I will get to them eventually, I promise. I actually have many things to get to that I haven’t been able to do in a while, so please bear with me, my life has been undergoing some rearranging and–fun times!–I’ll be moving soon. Just to a new apartment, probably in the same general region of Manhattan, if not the same neighborhood, but still. Moving in New York is a bitch, and I have yet to find a new place to live. So fall will be pretty stressful and busy, but it’s mostly exciting stuff, so I’m happy about it. Posts might be a bit thin on the ground, though (is that a thing people say?), I warn you.

SM synopsis Wordle

Posted on May 15th, 2009 by annakjarzab

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


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…


…and MB:



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:


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.

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?

Back to work

Posted on March 18th, 2009 by annakjarzab

This morning, I finally (sorry J!) sent the revised MB manuscript off to Joanna, who in turn is going to send it to my editor, who in turn is going to look at it sometime…soon? I don’t know, I can only imagine how busy she must be, and this book isn’t set to come out until January 2011 after all, so I’m not holding my breath. In fact, I’m letting it out, in a huge sigh of relief. AUT is off to copyedits, MB is off to my editor, and I can work on new stuff yay!

I love putting together a book. Pre-writing and plotting are my very favorite parts of the whole process. For me, the process is very much like someone scattered a 500-piece puzzle all over P.Diddy’s mansion and it’s my job to find them all and put them together correctly. I would say I have 1/4 of the pieces for GR right now. I have the short, pithy description: “Lord of the Flies meets The Haunting of Hill House.” I have my cast of characters, my dramatis personae if you want to be as insufferably Elizabethan as apparently I do. I have some background information, I have some clues, I have some ideas for puzzles (that’s right, puzzles–I knew that playing all those Nancy Drew computer games with Em and Fish would come in handy one day), I have the setting, and I’ve done some research about it. I have the soundtrack (lots of Andrew Bird music). I have the structure, and I have some major plot crises. I have a good idea for a couple of relationship and character arcs. My mind is busy day and night, working out the plot knots and introducing obstacles. Pre-writing is the best.

All of this said, I could use a vacation. A real one. I’m going to California for a friend’s wedding at the beginning of May (perhaps I already mentioned this?), but only for two days, if that. I may or may not be going to London in May, also, but again, only two days. Back to California in June for my siblings’ graduations, maybe that’ll be four days, but there will probably be no small amount of frenzied activity and sitting out in the hot sun listening for their names to be called. Back to California in late July for another wedding, this one in Monterey, so it should be a little bit more temperate but no less hurried, unfortunately. Although, I already got permission from my parents to borrow a car so that I can drive to Maggie’s wedding and possibly swing by the John Steinbeck house on my way through Salinas. We’ll see–I really love that drive, though, regardless.

As happy as I am to be doing all these things, what I’d love is just to have one long vacation, not these super short trips every month. It wouldn’t even have to be somewhere exotic or touristy–just being at home in California for a week would be fine. My parents and I wanted to go take a trip up to the California ghost towns (research for GR), but I’m not sure that’s going to happen.

Still, I mosey. Last night my friends and I gathered at our “local” (and I put that in quotation marks because I live nowhere near it) watering hole, Dempsey’s, for St. Patrick’s Day. It was packed, as one would expect the best Irish pub in New York (according to me) to be on the big Irish holiday. When we got hungry, we went to Artichoke for spinach & artichoke pizza (the line was considerably shorter last night than it had been at three am two Saturdays ago), and I’m not kidding you, this is the best pizza I’ve had ever. It’s niche, of course–you’re not always in the mood for spinach & artichoke pizza, and if you are then I pray for your arteries, but it’s so delicious you don’t even know. 14th St. between 1st and 2nd Aves. That’s a little tip from me to you.