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Dropping out of NaNo, and I’m taking the Big Apple!

Well I might as well make it official. Despite how much I love it and how outspoken I’ve been about it this year, I have to drop out of NaNoWriMo.

My reason is simple, and the best one of all: revising other projects to make them more sell-worthy.

After speaking to my agent, I’m putting down NAMELESS for a bit and preparing  my zombie book, THE DEAD-FILLED HALLS for her eyes. I need to add a few chapters to the beginning (the first chapter excerpt I shared will no longer be the first chapter).

Then it’s moving on to the sleeping beauty retelling :-) I’m adding in a few things, doing some slight world-building changes, and modifying the somewhat-heavy middle section. If I’m a very good writer I think I can be done by the end of the year and return to writing brand new NAMELESS stuff.

Which leads to my next point: I’m going to NYC! My sister and I will be in the city from Dec 8th to 12th. I’ve already made plans to meet up with my fellow LTWF Sammy Bina, who works for a high-profile literary agency.

I went to NYC once when I was 13 and did all the touristy stuff; this trip is more about visiting family and hanging out (read: shopping).

I’m not really one of those people that romanticizes NY. True, I had the bug when I was 17 for about 6 months, but it’s passed. I blame Sex & the City. Yes I know how pathetic that is.

And yet NY is still one of those places I visit frequently in my dreams, so I’m particularly excited about going back and seeing it now that I’m an adult and can wander off and explore on my own. Plus it’s a city known for growing writers and hosting both publishers and agencies, which makes it part of the culture surrounding my passion. You could call it the holy land for American writers.

I guess it’s about time I made the pilgrimage :-)

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THE DEAD-FILLED HALLS Deconstructed and Excerpt!

A new excerpt from my zombie book is available here at vvb32 reads for zombie week!

After Deconstructing my sleeping beauty retelling I decided to make a deconstruction post after finishing every book. Sort of a way to relax and look back at the process. So, here’s the Deconstruction of THE DEAD-FILLED HALLS!

The Inspiration: I’ve been fascinated with zombies for a long time, ever since I saw Night of the Living Dead while home alone at the age of 15. Hoooly cow. Terrifying! I’ve been scared of zombies ever since. (I talk more about the psychology behind this fear here).

But it never occurred to me that I could write my own book about zombies. Not even when my friend Susan Dennard sold her book, an adventurous steampunk with necromancers and the walking dead. Zombies were Beyond for me; something I admired and relished but didn’t feel capable of producing myself.

Until Chris talked me into playing the video game Left 4 Dead 2 with him. We were a team of four lone survivors, trying to fight our way out of multiple zombie-infested areas. And then I had The Idea:

What if the zombie apocalypse happened while I was in high school?  What if they were surrounding the whole building? How would I escape?

A premise was born.

The Writing: I went into this writing without the full plot developed (surprise, surprise). I knew, of course, how I wanted it to end (and boy is it explosive!) I was really inspired by that repeated quote in the movie INCEPTION:

Mal: You’re waiting for a train. A train that will take you far away. You know where you hope this train will take you; but you don’t know for sure. But it doesn’t matter. How can it not matter to you where that train will take you? 

Cobb: Because you’ll be together.

I also wanted to explore something I don’t think I’ve ever seen in a zombie book: a main character who is going to become one of the infected. How does a teen girl deal with knowing that in 48 hours she’s either going to have to kill herself, or turn into a monster that might attack her friends? How do you face mortality? Say goodbye to your family?

Call me morbid, but whenever I go on a long roadtrip I write out a ‘last words’ letter to my family, just in case something terrible happens. It makes me cry every time, but I think it’s worth it to tell them how much I love them, in case I don’t get the opportunity to say goodbye. As I was in the beginning stages of writing this book I went on vacation with some of the girls from LTWF, and had an 11-hour roadtrip in front of me. The letter I wrote to my boyfriend Chris was inspirational in figuring out how to face those feelings of having to say goodbye in advance.

While at the beach house in Florida, I just couldn’t leave the story alone, and wrote 2,000 words by hand during some of our down-time. Returning to normal life, I kept a word count chart in google docs (I detail that process here) and used that every day to track my progress.

Along the way, I realized my characters were going to be setting off a bomb, and a little unexpected romance found its way into the story. For the bomb I ordered a book off Amazon for how to make improvised munitions (it’s so weird how you can  just buy that stuff with no questions asked), and for the romance I… well… daydreamed a lot? Romance comes pretty naturally to me.

I started writing on July 12th, and finished on September 11th (yikes), so this book was written in 9 weeks. The total word count came out to 55,000 words.

Except not totally.

Initial CP feedback confirmed what I’d been thinking about: The book started too late into the story. I was going for a ‘start with the action’ angle but it left readers disoriented. So now on the task list is going back and adding a few chapters at the beginning showing Milani receiving the detention, interacting with her brother at their foster home, and then the actual lockdown. I’ve put off doing this, however, until I finish edits on my first book, Nameless.

The Reflection: Like the others, this book was magical. Immediately Milani popped into my head. Why a half-white, half-Hawaiian, angry, grieving girl from O’ahu with cultural identity issues? I have no idea. Maybe because I was displaced as a teen, too, when my parents moved us from my home state of Washington to Illinois. In March of my Junior year. My Junior year! I’d been in the same school district my whole life, and suddenly I was going to be graduating with strangers.WA to IL might not seem like a huge change, but I was proud of where I was from. I disliked everything that was different. The environment, the local mentality, the accent, even the demographics in my high school, was just different. And I wasn’t happy about it. So I truly identified with Milani, and the disdain she felt for her new student body. She had spent her whole life as a native, thinking poorly of all the tourists that came to her island, and now suddenly she was one of them. I saw the potential for her individualism to both help and harm her. To truly conquer her situation and save her brother, Milani would have to give up her prejudiced attitudes and learn to work with people she professed to hate.

I went into this book intending to break stereotypes. There are 4 members of the team Milani eventually joins to make the bomb and escape together: Milani herself, James, an intelligent nerd, Allen, a track jock, and Lindsay, a softball player/popular girl.

For the first time in my life I actually based a character off of a real person; James is a derivative of my boyfriend, Chris. Like Chris, James’ family has a history of engineering, and he’s naturally interested in machines, computers, and explosives. I needed a really intelligent character who could guide the group to finding the items they need for the explosives, and James was that character.

Unfortunately the other two characters didn’t fare quite so well in the unique department. Allen turned into the angry jock type, and Lindsay became, frankly, super witchy (though she did save Milani’s life a couple of times, and, in retrospect, her behavior was totally justified). In Lindsay’s defense, Milani isn’t very nice to her. But really, did I truly want to villianize the popular kids? Hasn’t that been done to death?

Well, it turns out the story called for it. I needed some of the characters to be antagonists to keep the story moving along and create tension within the group. So while I did my best to give them motivations and depth, Allen and Lindsay did sort of become the ‘bad’ popular kids. We’ll try to break stereotypes on another project.

This was the first book I wrote where every chapter ended on a cliff-hanger. It was super fun to figure out what dangerous situation my characters were going to have to claw their way out of next, and I really enjoyed writing tense and scary scenes. I tried to keep in mind one of the rules of horror writing: for a good scare, go slower, not faster. Describe every creak in the dark, every sliding shadow, every skipped heartbeat. And then when all hell breaks loose, write fast and furious, moving the story as fast as the action to keep the reader on the edge of their seats.

It was great fun basically all the time. :-)

The Plan: Honestly this one’s going to sit for a while. I’m rewriting Nameless again, and there’s still stuff going on with the sleeping beauty story. I’ve honestly considered self-publishing this book since it’s short and sweet, but what can I say? I’m a traditional publishing girl at heart. I’ll probably get those last few chapters written when Nameless is stalling (as it inevitably will).

Well, it was super fun, guys! Thanks for all the support during the process!

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Zombie Book Finished!

Hey everyone!

Just wanted to drop a note that the zombie book was finished on Sunday night, at a whopping 51k (I kid, I kid). It’s out with CPs at the moment so hopefully it’ll get beefed up during the critiquing process.

I’m super busy with visiting family and more story ideas so I’ll write my recap on another day.

Thank you everyone for your support during the writing process. Your encouragement made it all fly by.

<3

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Book Trailer for the Zombie Book!

I’m getting soooooo close to finishing the zombie book, and in honor of this momentous occasion I thought I’d make a book trailer!

I can’t figure out how to embed in this version of wordpress, so go visit the trailer here on my youtube channel!

I hope you’re as excited as I am!

(Click here to read an excerpt from the book!)

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How Do You Want Your Brains? Writing About Zombies

As I mentioned on here a few times before, I’m currently working on a zombie apocalypse novel. I’ve written before about how scared of zombies I am, but working with them has transformed my fears into enthusiasm. You could, these days, if you were so inclined, call me a Zombie Enthusiast. *Puts brain-splattered monocle into place*

One of the most enjoyable parts of working on this book has been planning out which types of zombies I want to use. For such a well-known genre, the monster itself has many variations: undead, alive, slow, fast, hungry, lusty, moaning, silent; the list goes on and on.

Below is a list of the some of the more popular different types of zombies, and the pro’s and con’s of each. But first, a glossary!

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Zombie: A blanket term referring to the walking dead, or the undead (Romero zombies)

Infected: Sometimes used interchangeably with ‘zombie’, could be taken to mean someone who is about to become a zombie, or someone who has whatever causes zombieism and is acting like a zombie, but not technically dead yet.

Horde: Sometimes referred to as ‘The Horde’: a large group of zombies, typically attacking a building.

Incubation: The time it takes for someone who is infected, or zombie-capable, to become a full-out zombie.

Reanimation: Refers to the point in time when someone rises from the dead as a zombie (Romero). Usually takes place after incubation (WWZ, Resident Evil).

Turn: As in, ‘to turn.’ The point at which someone becomes full-on zombie, usually after reanimation, but not in the case of still-living infected, as in 28 Days Later.

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Type: Voodoo Zombie

Cause: Mostly dried pufferfish. And a little bit of voodoo.

Effect: Turns the infected into mindless slaves.

Characteristics: These are the original zombies. Still alive, still human, just mindless slaves of the voodoo master.

How It Spreads: Typically the voodooer would get the secret pufferfish recipe onto the skin of their victim. The toxins in the pufferfish slow down the victim’s life signs to the point where they are considered dead, and buried. Then the voodoo practitioner digs them out of their grave and presto! You’ve got yourself a zombie slave.

Side note: I own several dried pufferfish. You can read into that whatever you like.

Why are they scary: You get what you think is a bit of dust on your arm and then the next thing you know you’re rising out of the earth like a corpse and forced to do whatever it is some crazy voodoo witch wants you to do. You lose your personality, your sense of time, and your family thinks you’re dead. It’s basically a living nightmare.

Why they don’t make sense: This is a tricky one, since there are reports of this actually  happening. The only hard part of making this work is infecting the person in the first place, then convincing their family they’re actually dead. These days with autopsies and formaldehyde it’s highly unlikely this tactic would work.

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Type: Romero Zombies

Cause: Radiation.

Effect: The dead walk. All dead, even the recently buried (no infection; the zombieism is transferred simply by dying)

Characteristics: The goal of Romero zombies is to consume (that’s where the symbolism for consumerism came from, har har). These zombies are undead, and have low intelligence. Humans only.

How It Spreads: Through death, or biting. Incubation is at least 24 hours for bites.

Why are they scary: They want to literally eat you. Dead corpses have risen from the grave to sink their rotting teeth into your flesh. Terrifying.

Why they don’t make sense: So do they stop eating you after you die? Or do they keep eating you? If so, then why don’t they eat each other? Could you, hypothetically, turn, and then start eating them back? Or yourself?

Also, space radiation? Seriously?

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Type: Resident Evil Zombies

Cause: Science Experiment gone extremely wrong (T-Virus) (T for Totally Awesome?)

Effect: Turns the infected into walking corpses.

Characteristics: These zombies are also undead, and slow. Low intelligence. Incubation period of less than 24 hours. No real eating; these zombies exist only to spread the virus. Also spreads to non-humans.

How It Spreads: Biting. Originally the virus was airborne, though.

Why are they scary: Have you seen Resident Evil? Walking corpses that don’t care if you shoot them or break their legs are scary.  End of story.

Why they don’t make sense: A virus that originally spread through the air ducts? But doesn’t go airborne afterwards? Also, if you’ve seen the later movies, you know how the virus managed to mutate and turn its hosts into squid-humans, which is just ridiculous. Plus there are ‘bosses’, but that’s because this movie was based on a computer game. I don’t really like computer/video game zombies because the nature of the game demands ‘bosses’. Some zombies mutate into really weird, oddly specific types, and that just bugs me because it wouldn’t happen ‘in real life.’

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Type: 28 Days Later Zombies

Cause: PETA  Tree-Hugging Activists Another science experiment gone wrong (The Rage Virus)

Effect: Turns the infected into violent monsters that want to attack any uninfected.

Characteristics: These zombies are ‘fast’, and can be moderately intelligent. They’re still considered alive. Eyes typically become red or yellow, and the infected vomits blood. Some people may have a genetic immunity to the virus, but can be ‘carriers’ of it and pass it to others.

How It Spreads:  Fluid transfer, whether saliva, blood, or bloody vomit. There is no incubation  period for this one; the virus goes into effect almost immediately.

Why are they scary: In the first Romero film, one of the characters is able to repel a zombie simply by pushing her back weakly. These zombies are not like that. They will hunt you down, can probably outrun you, and attack you like a boxing linebacker. Plus, any hint of contamination and you’re a goner.

Why they don’t make sense: First of all a virus could not possibly spread that quickly. Secondly I don’t buy into the whole ‘rage’ thing. Finally, did you see 28 Weeks Later? The same zombie followed them around the whole time! Totally illogical!

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Type: World War Z Zombies

Cause: Unknown, some type of creature in a river in China. Not known whether this is a virus, a bacteria, or something else.

Effect: The infected become walking corpses that seek to pass on the infection.

Characteristics: These zombies are slow, both physically and mentally. They are attracted to noise, and usually moan themselves. They can last for years at a time, growing progressively more raggedy. These zombies fail to blink, so their eyes quickly become milky with scratches on the retina. They are attracted to all forms of life, but the infection itself does not cross species.

How It Spreads: These zombies pass the infection mostly through biting, but in one notable case the infection was transferred through a heart transplant, so clearly it’s fluids-related. There is a 72-hour or more incubation period, after which the infected dies and ‘reanimates’.

Why are they scary: These are the zombies that took over the world. The incubation period is so long that infected were able to fly all over the world, spreading the infection rapidly.

Why they don’t make sense: These zombies are very well done, in my opinion, but the constant moaning means they wouldn’t be able to hear their prey a lot of the time. However, the author uses this to his advantage because the moan activates other zombies nearby, so if you encounter one sooner or later more are going to show up. Plus they can keep moving after being frozen and dethawing, which violates the rules about how cells work.

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So, what have we learned? It makes more sense for zombies to exist solely to ‘reproduce’ by passing on the infection. Shorter and longer incubation periods are ideal for fast transmittal over a large areas. Dim-witted zombies are more common, and good in horde situations, but smarter ones can be used very effectively to create scarier situations. A zombie who can figure out how to pick your locks? No one would survive the zombie apocalypse.

Here are the specs I chose for my zombies, pulling features from my favorite canons:

Type: Savannah Zombies (Woo!)

Cause: Bacterial in nature, originated in Asia before spreading to the US through Hawaii.

Effect: The infected become living and undead zombies seeking to spread their infection.

Characteristics: The bacteria works like a hive mind, taking over the human body and using it as a host to the infection. After a two-day incubation period during which the human becomes more ill, the infected turn when the bacteria population reaches a breaking point and takes control of the human. ‘Fresh’ zombies are intelligent and speech-capable. Once the human within has died the zombie loses its intelligence and begins the moan. These zombies are fast in the early stages, but get slower. In late stages the bacteria consumes the body completely and it has a harder time moving. Growths burst from the skin. The bacteria makes the infected run at a high temperature, even when deceased, and gives their blood and skin a greenish hue.

How It Spreads: This infection spreads through biting, but could conceivably spread through other fluids.

Why are they scary: In the beginning stages the zombies are able to express their hungers and pursue characters with intelligence. In later stages they are essentially decomposing corpses badly mutilated with infection and continuing to move. I don’t know about you, but that certainly gets my adrenaline going.

For more zombie goodness, here’s an article about how the zombie apocalypse could actually happen (including brain parasites, hooray!).

And to balance it out, here’s an article about why the zombie apocalypse could never happen.

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What are your favorite types of zombies? Alternately, what do you find really unrealistic about the zombie genre?

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Music Monday!

First, a personal update: I’ve reached 30,000 words on the zombie story, hooray! It’s going to end up somewhere between 50-60k, I think, so I’m excited to find that I’m halfway done. I’ve been Tweeting about the weapons my characters use and the more violent situations they get in to, so if you like that kind of thing you should follow me on Twitter for live updates on zombie-killing :-)

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I don’t usually post about music because I have a complicated relationship with it. As a kid I rebelled against everything being a ‘modern teenager’ meant, and that included fangasming over music. As a result music isn’t a huge part of my life, and I absolutely cannot write when it’s on. I think it’s because I’m so word-driven that the lyrics distract me completely and soon I’m listening to someone else’s story, not my own.

Because when I DO get excited about music, it’s because of the story it tells. As far as I’m concerned, the music only exists to compliment the awesome lyrics. This means I don’t usually go after artists or albums, but individual songs. Today I thought I’d share a few of my odder favorites, and maybe they’ll become some of your favorites too <3

Professor Elemental – Fighting Trousers – Have you heard of Chap Hop? It’s hip hop in Victorian style. It’s completely amazing, and this is one of my favorites.

Alu – Circus Cosmos – Alu is an independent singer from California who has been described as ‘Kate Bush on a broomstick,’ which I think is very apt. She sings ‘Rasputina’, which to me can be easily described as ‘inspired by the creepy music that comes from jewelry boxes.’ This song has inspired a very loose plotline I think I’ll work on one day, about a haunted house and a girl who falls in love with a ghost. Alu is pretty amazing, and she has a new album coming out any day!

Is Tropical – The Greeks – This is another independent band, and they made an amazing music video for their single The Greeks. I listen to this one in the car a lot and relate it to both my sleeping beauty retelling and the zombie book. It’s chorus of ‘You only got what you give away / You only got it if you give it away / You only got what you give away / So throw your hate away’ really reminds me of the loss and sacrifice my characters experience.

Ramona Falls – I Say Fever – The music video for this is really weird and takes a lot of interpretation, but this song gives me goosebumps in the chorus because of the way the words are sung mixed with the beat. Plus I’m a sucker for slow-motion walking set to music. Also I love how the artist describes what he’s feeling. I know what it feels like to want a future with someone so badly you’re willing to throw away logic and caution because of the Fever.

The National – Sorrow – This song spoke to me on a very personal level. The opening lyrics are ‘Sorrow found me when I was young / Sorrow waited, sorrow won’ and it just breaks my heart. It’s a love song and a personal mythos, and I love it.

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What unusual favorites do you have?

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Teaser Tuesday: Zombie Book Excerpt

As promised, here’s an excerpt from the zombie book I was hoping to work on. I say was because it’s going to have to be put to the side for right now, even though I love it and can’t wait to work on it one day!

Also, I’m going to be out of town for the next 5 days in Florida along with some friends from Let The Words Flow! So excited! The house doesn’t have any internet, though, so if there are any emergencies, like the zombie apocalypse, count me unresponsive. ;-)

Click on ‘Read the Rest of this Entry’ to read Chapter 1 from the zombie book, tentatively titled THE DEAD-FILLED HALLS!!!

Continue reading “Teaser Tuesday: Zombie Book Excerpt”

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The ‘And Vampires’ Game, Conspiracy Theories, and Zombies

I invented a game. It’s called the And Vampires game. What you do is take a famous book title and then add ‘And Vampires’ to the end of it, like so:

  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Vampires
  • A Brief History of Time and Vampires
  • Lord of the Rings and Vampires
  • A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Vampires
  • Roses of Ash and Vampires
  • Are you there Vodka? It’s me, Chelsea And Vampires

XD. Oh Lord I amuse myself sometimes… what hilarious titles can you come up with?

Sometimes my ceaseless talking about book ideas and plots rubs off on Chris. He’s a computer programmer, but exceptionally creative, and sometimes he comes up with book ideas that blow my mind.

The problem is that they’re all government-conspiracy-based epics a la Clive Cussler. And after he comes up with these incredibly complicated platforms and histories, he wants me to write them.

Multi-POV, third person narration is not my specialty, at all. But I made him a deal: If he can generate enough back history and write a detailed enough plot, I might be able to make a readable book out of it. Even if it’s never in good enough shape to get an agent, we could always self-publish. The nerd community would eat this stuff up: Every conspiracy theory is true, and someone behind the scenes contacts an investigative journalist to blow the cover off everything, mixed in with a centuries-old struggle for power brought to a breaking point by scientific advances that spread something like the Rage virus to unwitting test subjects in South Africa via mosquito bites. Badass, right?

The best part is that he’s writing about conspiracy theories, and naming his characters after factoids present in the lives of famous conspiracy theorists. This gives me unchartable glee.

We’ll see how it goes.

Speaking of the Rage virus… I mentioned in my last post that I’m potentially working on a zombie book. And while I still haven’t gotten an official okay from my agent to work on the story, I have 3k written and am rapidly figuring out the as-yet-unclear parts of the plot. I think I’ve decided to share an excerpt from the first chapter for Teaser Tuesday, so stay tuned!

Also I had notice from a friend that a friend of hers had just signed with an agent based on a book that sounded eerily similar to the one-line summary I posted on Twitter. I sent her the pitch I have so far and she determined the books are sufficiently different, but whew, those were a tense few minutes.

It happens all the time that books with similar-sounding plots sell, but even a few sentences of summary that sounds exactly like your book will be wildly different in execution.

I’ll leave you with this beautiful and awesome song by The Cranberries called Zombie. Please find time to listen to it; you won’t regret it. <3

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Life and Novel Update!

Today I sent the finished version of Roses of Ash to my agent! Hooray! It feels so good to finally get it off my chest. ROA went through four CPs and underwent some small character modification and word choice issues. Definitely the easiest draft of something I’ve ever had to edit.


Thank you Rose, for being the easiest character to work with :-)

With it went a few ideas for new stories, including the Steampunk Cinderella, but also one I haven’t told you guys about yet. So I’m going to do so now :-)

Chris and I have been playing Left 4 Dead, and one night when I had what I think is my first case of insomnia, the plot for a book just jumped into my head: It’s a YA about a girl struggling to escape from her high school after it is locked down during the Zombie Apocalypse. Sort of like The Breakfast Club with zombies :D

After ROA and Nameless, I think this might be the one I work on next, postponing Steampunk Cinderella (provided Teh Agent gives her approval, of course). The reason being that Cinderella still needs a lot of world-building I don’t have quite yet, and the plot is still a little fuzzy, whereas the Zombie novel has a complete plot and will be of a genre and POV I’m more comfortable with. Plus I’ve wanted to do a contemporary for a while, mostly because I feel disinterested in contemporary as a whole and want to test myself by seeing how well I do writing in the ‘real world’.

Side note: Here lies the reason why lots of writers don’t talk about what they’re working on until it’s finished… projects get reshuffled and cancelled all the time.

Plus, did I mention I’m MIND-BOGGLINGLY EXCITED about working on a zombie book?! I’ve had a fascination with zombies for years (you can read about my zombie issues in this article here). What I love about zombie pieces is the tension that flows through them… you never know what’s going to be around the next corner. World War Z by Max Brooks is one of my absolutely favorite books of all time… I have zombie anthologies, zombie movies… I even watch zombie short films on youtube. I’ll post a longer book summary later on this week so you guys can have knowledge of the awesomeness of this plot :-)

In other news… I’m going on a writer retreat! With the other girls from Let The Words Flow! Next week!

I’m meeting up with Kat Zhang, Susan Dennard, Sarah Maas, and Biljana Likic in Jacksonville, Florida. We’re staying in a beach house on the coast and going to Harry Potter world!

I’ve been looking forward to this for seven months. I lost 15 pounds for the summer and have collected fabulous sangria and cooking recipes to make for the girls. Can’t even contain my excitement! While I’ve never been to Jacksonville, I imagine it looks something like this:

I will definitely take tons of pictures of HP World and share them with you :-)