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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 ‘SM’

Fantasia has no boundaries

Posted on May 21st, 2009 by annakjarzab

As I’ve mentioned here before, and in several rambling mind-spill emails to Joanna, I’m at a bit of a crossroads with GR. I’ve hit a bit of a wall, which is not a huge concern to me at the moment. It’s become clear to me that I can’t progress with that book until late June, after I do my research, which is probably why I’m having a hard time. I “finished” my SM synopsis, but I’m not feeling very engaged with it right now, so I’m putting it aside for a while until I decide what I want to do with it (options: write it now while I research GR, or push forward with GR and write SM fourth per the original plan, or write them simultaneously (far from ideal because of how it will make me crazytown this summer)).

Naturally, not only am I bouncing around between GR and SM and working piecemeal on both, but I have several projects in the pipeline that are in the let there be light phase–I have the idea and that’s it. Ain’t no earth or heaven or water or land or creatures great and small–just a little speck of dust like the one the Childlike Empress shows Bastian at the end of The NeverEnding Story* (the movie, obvs; I read the book many, many years ago and was sort of shocked at how much comes after the Nothing devastates Fantasia). (Sidebar: DORK!)


Some of these ideas–one in particular–require a little bit of research. A few weeks ago, my good friend MD (a Marquette University alum) mentioned that there was an article in her alumni magazine about a student who graduated the same year I graduated from Santa Clara (’05) who is becoming a contemplative nun of the Poor Clares order. This rustled up a long-dormant novel that I’d shelved to finish All Unquiet Things back in college and has been bumped back further and further over the years by other books.

I asked MD to bring me the magazine, which she thoughtfully did, and I also ordered Karen Armstrong’s Through the Narrow Gate, which came yesterday. I’d read The Spiral Staircase, back when I considered becoming a nun for like a nanosecond, but could never find a copy of Through the Narrow Gate, which is the “prequel,” if memoirs can be said to have prequels or sequels. I also did some Wikipedia-ing, my favorite research method, and found out something I never knew in my 25+ years as a Catholic:

Although the English word “nun” is often used to describe Christian women who have joined religious orders, strictly speaking, female church members are referred to as nuns only when they live in enclosure, otherwise they are “sisters” or “female clergy.” The distinctions between the Christian terms monk, nun, friar, brother, and sister are sometimes easily blurred because some orders (such as the Dominicans or Augustinians) include nuns (who are enclosed) and sisters (who work in the broader world), as well as friars (who are not enclosed).

The more you know.

So anyway. Something to distract myself with, at least, until I get back from California in late June with armfuls (figurative) of research for GR and actually have to make a decision about how I’m going to proceed with that book.

*Why is The NeverEnding Story‘s title in German on the IMDb page? I get that it’s based on a German book, but the movie is in English.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Posted on October 15th, 2008 by Anna Jarzab

I’ve come to realize that my books are starting to resemble children, and not in the way that some people say “they’re like my children, I couldn’t choose between them” or “it’s like giving birth to a baby” after a book is published. I mean, they all have these distinct personalities, and a lot of that is linked to what it was like to write them.

All Unquiet Things was the oldest child, the experimental one. (I wrote books before this, but they were terrible and therefore more closely resemble the ugly clay “vases” I used to make for my mom in kindergarten than children.) It’s the responsible one, the complicated one, the dark one, the one that sneaks out after curfew, the one I spent ten months teaching to drive just so it could crash my car, etc. It took a lot to get AUT in line, that’s for sure, and there’s still more work to be done.

MB is the high-spirited, mischievous middle child. Writing it was the literary equivalent of the four hours (JUST FOUR CAN YOU BELIEVE IT) my mother spent in labor with my brother (also the middle child). It’s funny and warm and romantic, but also dark and mysterious, because it learned a trick or two from its older sibling.

GR and SM? Okay, well, they’re like EVIL TWINS or something. They won’t sit still, they’re super stubborn, they refuse to do the things I ask or answer any of my questions. Very often I realize that I can’t do very much if I don’t focus, so I decide to put one child down to care for the other one, and then the one I’m ignoring starts whining and crying and demanding attention. WTF, evil twins? Can’t you be more like your older siblings? I mean, AUT was difficult but ultimately very rewarding, and MB was a dream, A DREAM!

This is why I should probably never have children. Also, probably why I should stop trying extended metaphors in blog posts.

My point is that I’m having a hard time wrestling GR and SM to the ground, especially GR, which refuses to budge. Usually when this happens I write a little bit, hoping that the act of writing will spur on revelations about the plot. NOT SO in this case.

Actually, I’m afraid of the POV I’m using in GR and keep second guessing myself, to the point where I wrote and rewrote the same paragraph ten times a few nights ago and then last night I erased it entirely. My past two books have been written in first person, but this book must be written in third person, or shifting first person, which…no. I did that in AUT and it was really hard and…hey, maybe I should write in shifting first! No, I really don’t think so, but I think I’ll have to write in shifting third close, because omniscient, which is what I’d planned on, doesn’t seem to work.

My other problem with GR right now is that it has tone, but no voice, or at least if there is a voice it’s really weak and not comparable to Neily or Audrey or Will right now. That’s probably the result of the omniscient third POV, so when I get home on…Thursday night? God, when’s my next free night at home? Sunday? Oh blurgh, anyway, when I’m home on Sunday I’m going to settle down, commit to shifting third close POV, and hopefully the voice will just flow right out. And then hopefully the plot will just flow right out, right into a nice tidy synopsis that I can then follow for the rest of the book. That sounds like it’ll probably happen exactly that way and require no pushing or shoving or begging or pleading or bargaining or thinking from me.

In other news, I bought my copy of Paper Towns today, and my copy of Let It Snow, even though one of those two isn’t supposed to be released until tomorrow. Oh well, I’m a big cheater. What are you going to do about it? I actually have an ARC of Paper Towns that I got through work, but I’d feel like kind of an asshat showing up to John Green’s signing tomorrow (7:00 PM! B&N Tribeca! Be there or be…somewhere else, I guess, I don’t know your life!) with a copy of his book I got for free and asking him to sign it. Someone has to keep Bubbles the Nerdfighting Puppy in kibble, you know.

Now what?

Posted on October 7th, 2008 by Anna Jarzab

That’s all I can think as I sit down at my computer tonight. It feels so odd not to have a real project to work on. Last night, I sent my bright and shiny MB manuscript to Joanna, and now I feel slightly adrift. My logical mind says, “Work on GR or SM–you don’t have completed synopses for those yet.” But my logical mind is kind of bossy and maybe I don’t want to work on those things today, logical mind, did you ever think of that?

No, the real problem with both of those synopses is that they are stalled at the places they are because I don’t know what comes next, and usually that situation doesn’t improve with me staring at a screen. Plus, I know that I need to focus on one of them and put the other one on the back burner–I have never successfully written two books at once. But I can’t really decide which book I want to write first. The lazy part of me says, “Well, write the easy one first.”

Except there isn’t really an easy one. GR is full of experimentation, not in the general sense but for me specifically, as it’s sort of epic in scale and will involve a third person omniscient point of view, which I’ve never successfully used before–I usually write in the first person, I don’t know why, I just do. But because of the aforementioned epicness of the story, it’s sort of necessary to be able to follow a lot of people at once. It’s also not a mystery in as traditional a sense as AUT and MB (and my other planned novel, SM) are. I think there will be at least one puzzle and a lot of mysterious happenings that the characters will have to figure out, kind of like Lost I’d imagine, if I watched Lost. Hmm, maybe I should start watching Lost

SM is a whole other animal. In all outward appearances, it will be a lot like AUT and MB, but closer to AUT in tone, because I meant MB to be lighter, for my sanity if for nothing else, but with SM I want to go back into the darkness (same with GR, but in a different way). But there is a little technique I hope to use in writing SM which may completely backfire on me and not work and be a total disaster and kill my writing career (the melodrama, she is my friend), but if it works it will be AWESOME. Also, it will be very difficult to pull off, which is why SM is, in a different way from GR, not the easy option.

Except, it’s the one I’m drawn to in this particular moment, the one I want to plot out because I think plotting it will be easier than plotting GR and that’s what stage I’m in with both of these right now, but I think actually writing GR will be easier. As for manuscript progress, I have three pages of GR, and three pages and a sentence of Chapter One of SM. That makes them equal in pretty much every respect. Sigh. Well, at least neither of them are contracted and I don’t have to decide today. How very Scarlet O’Hara of me.