A Manuscript Transformed

Someone once told me that the first book any author writes will wind up at the bottom of his or her desk, never to see the light of day, or a least not the inside of professional bindings. I was determined to prove that theory wrong. I spent three and a half years after graduating from college writing, editing, editing, editing, editing and editing my first novel. In those years, I managed to cut the book down from 138,000 words to 88,000 words – that’s 50,000 extraneous, useless, absolutely unnecessary words. The story was tight, just the way I’d hoped it would be at the end. I even started sending out my query letter to about seven or eight different agents (no bites, but I’m glad). Then I started to rethink it. This wasn’t going to sell. It wasn’t “up with the times.” It wasn’t even the genre I liked to read any more. So I made a decision, one that would ultimately make or break me as an author, and one that would undoubtedly set my life back a couple of years. I decided to lock my first book in a drawer, figuratively speaking, of course.

I wasn’t quite ready to give up on the world I’d created, so I wound up making extensive alterations to the original book. I changed the genre from magical to dystopian, the audience from  middle grade to teen, the perspective from third person to first person, and I ripped the entire plot to shreds. Most of the characters are still the same, and the setting is only altered due to the new plot restrictions. But now it is a brand new, much much better book. I can’t wait to finish it, not just to publish it, but also to read it myself 🙂


Zombies Bring Me To Life: Ending My 2-Month Book Drought

Phew. Finally, I feel alive again. All it took was a novel about corpses to rouse me from my book drought. In the Spring, I read three books – in a row, I might add – that knocked my stocks off. Books that were worthy of my Top 10 Favorites list. All from different authors. What are the odds of that? At the time, I felt invigorated, enthusiastic and just plain happy. (Yes, all it takes is a satisfying read to turn my frown upside down.) But the high I experienced from those three books quickly dissolved, leaving me with a foreign hollowness. Thus began the worst book drought of my life. Granted, it didn’t last very long. Only two months. But it was two months of sifting through page after painful page of lacklustre books with no foreseeable end.

Then I picked up a book about zombies that was receiving high praise online. It’s called Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion. I was tentative at the beginning. While I like almost anything post-apocalyptic and dystopian, a book that features a zombie protagonist wasn’t really my taste. Zombies have always been my boyfriends thing, not mine. Fortunately, Marion’s writing style compelled me to keep reading. I loved the way he humanized zombies, at least on the inside, giving them thoughts and urges and a greater likeness to humans as the story progressed.

The main character, R, hasn’t deteriorated like most of the zombies who live at the abandon airport terminal. He goes through the motions of standing and grunting and speaking a few words here and there, remembering nothing about who he was in his former life. And when hunger strikes, he and his zombie companions travel to the city to feed. During one particular outing, he eats a young man, Perry, whose brain gives him the most vivid flashes of human life. In Perry’s memories, R learns about his girlfriend Julie. R is instantly drawn to her, and when he finds her alive in the corner of the room, he does something no zombie has ever done before. He saves her.

R brings Julie back to the airport, where he keeps her safe in his home – a 747 boeing airplane. When Julie begins to relax around R, they form a bond. R helps Julie return to her home in a large stadium, where humans are trying to rebuild and protect their civilization. After she’s gone R realizes that something about Julie was humanizing him. He’s learned to speak many syllables at once, he’s losing his crave for human fresh, and he yearns to be with her. To protect her.

Disguised as a human, R infiltrates the stadium and finds Julie’s makeshift house. She tries to keep him concealed, but the security breach doesn’t go unnoticed for long. The human authorities know that a zombie is amongst them. Julie and R need to think fast. They need to prove that the zombies are changing. Not just R, but all of them. But in order to change that world, to truly restore it, the humans and zombies will have to work together.

Warm Bodies is a beautiful story of courage, growth, understanding and love reminiscent of Romeo & Juliet. You don’t need to be a zombie addict to enjoy this novel. And while I am still NOT a zombie addict myself, I do have a new appreciation for them. (But don’t tell my boyfriend or I’ll be stuck watching zombie movie marathons every weekend.)

Heavenly Writing Meets the Life From Hell in Escape From Furnace: Lockdown

I’ve noticed a pattern in my literature preferences lately. Each book that I read and love exceeds the one before in brutality and violence. And I just can’t get enough! First I read The Maze Runner and The Scorch Trials by James Dashner, which is a post-apocalypic and dystopian series for teens that is so clever and creepy and unique, I never could have come up with his ideas in a million years. Then I read The Knife of Never Letting Go and The Ask and The Answer by Patrick Ness, a teen dystopian series about human life on a different planet. The corruption in this series, namely caused by the Mayor and his supporters, is just the most fascinating and frustrating thing you can imagine. And I love it.

Now, I’m reading the Escape from Furnace series by Alexander Gordon Smith. I read the first book, Lockdown, and I’m about halfway through the second, Solitary. This series isn’t so much a dystopian as it is a horror/thriller. But it has some of the most creepy creatures, brutal practices, and gruesome settings that I’ve ever seen in teen lit. My 18 year old cousin was never much of a reader. Nothing was ever fast-paced or well-written enough to capture his attention. But this series did. He called me up one night after finishing the first book hoping (with desperation in his voice) that I had the second. I didn’t at the time. But after hearing his eagerness, I knew this was something I would like. So I went out and bought both books, and I honestly can’t get enough.

Furnace Peneteniary is a prison for troubled youth, built in the depths of the Earth. It was created after the Summer of Slaughter, when teens went on a murderous rampage. After that horrible season, people were quick to get rid of the troubled youth, even if they were innocent.

Alex, the protagonist, fell into the wrong group of friends and began stealing from kids at school and breaking into houses. But one night, he and his friend Toby discovered that they weren’t alone in the house they were robbing. A handful of Blacksuits, massive men with bulgding muscles, along with a small man wearing a gas mask, showed up and framed Alex for murder. Despite his denial during his trail, Alex was sent to Furnace with no possibility of parole. His life might as well have been over.

They say “beneath Heaven is Hell and beneath Hell is Furnance” and I have no doubt that that’s true. Furnace makes regular prison look like a day at the spa. I don’t want to get into any of the gory, ruthless details, but I will say this. What goes on down there is horrifyingly brilliant: horrifying for the prisioners, brilliant for the readers! So if you like horror novels, or even if you like the first two series’ I mentioned above, you will love this series. Love, love, love.