Tuesday, May 31, 2011


So I am having a contest to name my newest novel! The name I choose will simply be a working name  and may not be the ultimate title, but right now all I have is "zombie book" which, as I mentioned in my earlier post, is annoying the beejeesus out of Aaron so I need another name. Without the word zombie in it.

Anyway, this is the premise:

Rachel Oxford is a young FBI agent in the year 2018. She is given an assignment which, if she can solve it before the new director of the FBI is appointed, will result in her getting a coveted promotion. The case involves the director of a Residual Human Research Facility in Washington State, who was killed, apparently by the RH's (residual humans or "zombies" for the layperson who doesn't want to be PC). However, upon closer examination, it appears that a human did the killing, and simply framed the RH. Now this apparently cut and dry case is much bigger and Rachel must sort through eight possible suspects, and face her own violent childhood, to get to the bottom of this murder.

Please place comments with your suggestions. I will be making the final decision one week from today (the 7th of June) and the winner will get many accolades from me as well as a special blog post announcing the winning name. BRAINSTORM AWAY!!!!!

Character Surveys or questionnaires

So many writers do "character surveys" of their main characters to get to know them better and really make them come to live. These surveys for those of you who are not familiar, ask a variety of question such as "What is their favorite color?" or "Do they have a birth mark?" or "What do they consider their greatest weakness to be?"

I have always hated these. I have tried to do them on a number of occasions, but I hated the experience and I never felt like knowing my character's favorite color really made them come to life. Some of the questions I could answer based on what I have planned out of my plot, for example, if my character just wants to make a lot of money so she won't turn out like her white trash mother who she is embarrassed by, then a question like "What is their greatest fear?" could make sense. I could answer that based on relevant information from the book. Someone who simply read my book could figure out that answer.

But the majority of the questions are completely irrelevant to the story I am writing and what my character had for breakfast doesn't seem to "round them out" at all. I am simply making up something, probably the first cereal that comes to mind, since what they had for breakfast simply doesn't tell me much about their character, at least for most people it doesn't. Of course, if someone has a butler preparing him eggs Benedict at six AM then that is relevant, but for your Average Joe, it is probably more indicative of what was in the cupboard or fridge when they got hungry.

HOWEVER, I am going to qualify this by saying that I have never been great at character development. Plots have always been my strong point and I take a plot and run with it. My characters go through harrowing adventures but their actual character seems a little soft or flat. Maybe this is because I am totally an introvert, and would spend my life in a cabin in the mountains by myself if I could. But whatever the reason, I am well aware that this is something I need to improve on in my writing. Twice now I have gotten rejections from agents regarding Finding Innisburg that said "Your premise is intriguing, but I didn't connect with the narrative as strongly as I had hoped." In my interpretation, this is agent-speak for "You have a good plot idea but your characters kind of suck."

So as I go into my yet-unnamed "zombie" novel (I put "zombie" in quotes because Aaron has informed me that I do not understand the concept of zombies, having not watched enough zombie movies, and thus my zombies are not TRUE zombies and I will piss off zombie lovers such as himself if I call them this. However, for lack of a better term, they shall remain "zombies" until further notice.), I want to develop my characters better and thus I have issued myself a challenge:


This will be like pulling teeth for me, but many, many writers who are much more experienced than I am swear by this method and I cannot discredit it without giving it a real, fair try. So I will answer every question no matter how unrelated to the story it is, and see if I "get to know" my characters any more. Wish me luck. I'll need it.

Also, I am interested in knowing if you writers out there use these, and if so, how effective they are for you. FEEDBACK TIME! :-)

Monday, May 30, 2011

Collecting things

I cannot for the life of me find the article now, but a few days back I was puttering around online and I found an article which was a step by step process of writing a novel. The writer of the article said that the first step was collecting ideas. She (I'm pretty sure it was a woman!) said that many writers were collectors as kids, never throwing things away and always wondering when something that they had might come in handy. She said that as adults, this translated into collecting ideas and inspiration for out books.

This really struck me as a brilliant thought. I was absolutely a collector as a kid and in some ways I still am. Much to the chagrin of my mother, I never wanted to throw anything away, be it a scrap of paper I scribbled in in second grade, or a little bolt that I might need some day. I have improved on that, but I still collect ideas, just as she said.

I have a space in the coffee table in our living room where I am constantly stashing things, mostly papers, that I don't want to throw away. Well, Aaron finally got fed up with it and made me clean it out and organize it yesterday. As I sorted through all sorts of stuff (which by the way were in layers like an archaeological dig, it was kind of cool...like a slice of my life over the past few months) I came across dozens of little scraps of paper, receipts, pieces torn off of larger paper pieces, note cards, anything that you can write on. These had ideas for future stories, quotes that caught my eye, thoughts about my current story, phrases of speech that I found especially exquisite. I always just jot them down on whatever is handy, during movies, while at work (I have probably hundreds written on Blockbuster receipt paper while I worked there). Anyway, the experience reminded me of the article about collecting and showed me that, yes, I am absolutely still a collector. Just a collector of thoughts and experiences.

I would like to end with a couple of quotes about writing that have been an inspiration to me since I was a young girl. I saw both of these quotes in book about writing and had them written in Sharpie on the inside of my "writing notebook" which I kept while I was in middle school and early high school before I had a computer.

"Inspiration only knocks. Some writers expect it to knock down the door and drag them out of bed."

This second one I'm not sure if I have the details write so you can correct me if I'm wrong:

"No experience, good or bad, is lost on a writer who can put it to use." That one especially has gotten me through some hard times in my life as it is very true. A writer who experiences only pleasant experiences will not be able to write as effectively about the difficult ones.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Shiny New Idea

I don't know who said it first, but it's the idea that while you're working on one book, suddenly you get a "shiny new idea" for another one and it consumes your mind while you try to put it off. Well, I'm 22,000 words into North to the Klondike and it just happened last night.

A couple of days ago I had kind of a thought and I jotted down the words "sci-fi mystery" in my idea book. I've never written a sci-fi book before and I love a good mystery story so I thought they could be combined effectively. And then last night, just as I was on the brink of sleep, it hit me. A zombie murder mystery. But these are not your regular, run of the mill zombies. In fact, they don't like being called zombie because of all the negative conotations that the word has. They prefer "residual humans," or RH's for short. After the great virus outbreak in 2048, the RH's were quarantined in Residual Human Relocation Enclosures around the United States where they are put to work during their short, one year second life spans.

But after a scientist studying the RH's is murdered, it is up to FBI agent Rachel Whiteford to come to the Residual Human Relocation Enclosure in southeast Washington State to find out what is going on.

So now I'm doing a little research on the science of zombies just to quench my thirst for a little while and then I'll get back to work on North to the Klondike. What do you think of the idea? Would you read the book?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

What, are you an actress?

So I spent a couple of hours yesterday dissecting my outline for North to the Klondike, with most of my focus on what I call the "internal story," i.e. the part of the story that deals with character development and what the character's motivations are. I laid out index cards for each scene and made sure that there were both internal and external things happening and now I feel much better about the book. Today I've been rewriting some of the scenes that I had written earlier and I think I have a better chance of seeing this book through to completion.

At the same time that I was reworking my book, I was making notes on some universal elements of story writing, at least my story writing, mostly with regard to the internal elements as related to the external. And the end result is that I really want to write a book on writing, or at least on my take with writing. Of course having never been published, I don't exactly posses the qualifications to write such a book, but I'm thinking of writing it anyway and then when it's finished, putting it on here in pieces. What do you think?

In addition, (see how many good things can come from taking a step back and planning instead of just foraging ahead?) I think I can use the notes I made yesterday to rework my old novel "Runaway Train" which I sort of gave up on after I realized the story has absolutely no backbone. But I think I can use my new method, which I am hereby dubbing "The Anna Method" to fill in the blanks in my story.

In a less writing related topic, it looks like I'm going to get into school this summer to begin my prerequisites for nursing school (assuming that I don't get an agent, find a publisher and get a million dollar advance between now and then) so I have exactly 33 days more of leisurely unemployment. I'm still hoping to finish North to the Klondike and maybe have a reworked outline for Runaway Train by then.

I also sent off my first snail mail queries today. Up until now, I've just been querying via email to the agents that accept email queries, but 94 queries later and I'm beginning to run out. So I mailed off four queries today to agents that do not accept email queries. I was at the post office sending them and the man behind the counter looked at what I was mailing and said, "What, are you an actress?" I'll admit, it felt good to say, "No, I'm a writer." But at the same time, I wanted to point at the addresses and say "LITERARY AGENT. Not TALENT AGENT." But oh well. I sent out nine more email queries last night and still no replies at all today. So far I've had responses from about 25% of my total queries so I still have a ways to go. Of course for many agents, no response just means no, so I might never hear from some of them.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Partial and update on new novel

So I have been getting a little discouraged lately since I've been sending out 3 to 5 queries a day and have had nothing but rejections for a couple of weeks. But today I got another request for a partial. So now I have partials out with two agents.

I did get one personalized rejection today too which is both good and bad. He said that he thought the book was too short. I know that it's short but a lot of thrillers are kind of short or at least I thought so (It's currently at 51,000 words) so I don't know. But no one else has mentioned it so maybe it'll be ok.

North to the Klondike is having problems. I'm on 15,000 words into it and just not motivated to work on it. Also I'm almost halfway through the story already which is a big issue. I'm not good at adding things into books later so I'm not sure what to do. I'm going to try reoutlining with index cards before I get any further to make sure I'm not missing some scenes that should be added in.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Just some random stuff...

Aaron and I got a couch. From IKEA. Prior to this, we just had a big oversized arm chair and an office chair. We never got to sit next to each other so finally we caved and bought a cheap couch. It's not the most comfortable thing in the world but it works and it's not bad.

My book is coming along ok. I'm at about 13,000 words I think but I'm slowly plugging along. My main worry is that I'm going to finish the story way too soon. I need to hit at least 50,000 words.

I sent out a bunch more queries for Finding Innisburg yesterday and today and promptly got a bunch more rejection letters. Still haven't heard back from the agent that has my patial yet so I guess that's good. There is hope yet.

Saturday, May 14, 2011


So I've fallen a little behind on my goal to write 75,000 words by the end of the month. Turns out 3750 words a day is a lot. But the book is plugging along ok. I currently have 10,517 words. The story got off to a little bit of a slow start, which hopefully I can fix in revision but now its kind of picking up steam.

I'm also musing about another idea, probably for a short story or novella. I've been wanting to write a humerous piece and I had a sliver of an idea for a total comedy spoof. I've been watching a lot of the Mythbusters (holla!) and I thought, "What if aliens kidnapped all the mythbusters and made them solve the ultimate myth to save the alien's planet?" It's random, I know, but it was just a thought. And from the research I've done, its legal as long as I make it clear that it's not a true story.

My little sister won the lead female role in Twelfth Night at her college, despite no acting experience, so I'm headed to see her perform tomorrow which is exciting!

Well, thats all for me!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

I do everything fast

There is a moment of my childhood that sticks with me vividly. I was probably about eight and my mom and sisters and I were visiting some friends. They had a trampoline and one of the requirements was that you had to take your shoes off to play on it. So my shoes were off and I was jumping and then I needed to go back in the house for some reason. I got off the trampoline and I was tying my shoes back on and I overheard the friends' mom say to my mom, "Wow, she ties her shoes so fast!" I laughed to myself because it really wasn't that fast but then my mom replied, "Yeah, she does everything fast. She talks fast, she walks fast."

Over the years since then I've realized that this has really defined my life. I do everything fast. I still walk at twice the rate of normal people, I talk so fast most people have trouble keeping up. I think faster than most people so I have to back track a lot to explain my train of thought. I can read a standard novel in about four hours. I type fast. If you tell me that something should take about two hours to complete, my first thought is, "I bet I can do it in half that time."

This is both beneficial and harmful. On one hand, school is a breeze for me because homework literally takes me half as long as everyone else. But on the flip side, if something does take as long for me to complete as it does most people, I lose interest and get frustrated. I guess you could say that my attention span is very short as a result of how fast I operate.

Case in point. On Saturday I was sitting on my bed chatting with my boyfriend when I decided that I wanted to come up with an idea for another novel. I spent that day brainstorming, Sunday researching and Monday and Tuesday outlining. Now it's Wednesday and I have a full outline, several character sketches, a complete idea of my plot and subplots, three paragraph summaries of the plot and one full-page summery. Five days after coming up with the initial idea for my novel, I'm ready to start writing.

Do I realize that planning and outlining a novel is supposed to take months or years to do? Yes. Do I realize that my plan to have the first draft of this novel done by the end of the month is ridiculous? Absolutely. Do I honestly think I'm going to pull it off? Definitely. I have to, because by the middle of next month, I will have lost all interest in this idea.

So I am going to go take a shower, maybe do some dishes and then I'm going to start writing my novel which I am currently calling, "North to the Klondike." I'm aiming for a final word count of 75,000.

Yay for being unemployed!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Request for a partial

So after I got the rejection on my full manuscript, I was a little disappointed and I decided to send out some more queries and maybe went a little overboard. I sent out 17 queries last night but the good news is, this morning I got a request for the first 100 pages. That seems like a rather long partial so I guess that's good. Now I just have to keep my fingers crossed!

And of course, I'm going to distract myself by working on "The New Novel" of which I have once again changed the title. My three possible working titles until yesterday were "Klondike Killer," "Killer on the Klondike," and "Murder in the Midnight Sun," all of which just sounded like bad 'B' horror movies. So now I'm thinking of "North to the Klondike" which is slightly better but doesn't identify it as a mystery. So we'll see. I won't make the final decision probably until I'm done writing it and I can get a feel for how the book actual turns out, not how I'm thinking it will turn out.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Back to square one...

Just a quick update. I heard back from the agent that requested my full manuscript and she said "thanks but no thanks" basically. She said she read about a quarter of it and thought my voice was not masculine enough for a male character. Its a little disappointing but I'm sending out some more queries and keeping my fingers crossed for another chance.

New project!

So I wanted to start work on another book because several sites that I was looking at about getting an agent etc. said that often agents like to hear that you're working on another project so that they know that you are not just going to be a one-time client probably.

So anyway, I was starting to think about what I wanted to work on and I decided that "St. Dorothy's School for Girls" was no where near ready to work on so I decided to come up with another project. I skimmed through my little book of story ideas and thoughts that I keep and long story short, put together a rough outline for a mystery novel, which right now I'm calling "Klondike Killer" although that title is horribly cliche and meledramatic so I might change it. Anyhow, its the story of a woman who has to find the men who framed her husband for murder during the Klondike Gold Rush. Seattle has a rich gold rush history so part of it is going to be set in Seattle which will be cool.

Anyway, I'm just working on fleshing out my outline for the story and trying not to think about my manuscript being read by the agent. Its only been three days since I sent it and I already am checking my emails twenty times a day waiting for a response that will probably be a few more weeks away.

Thursday, May 5, 2011


I just got an email from an agent that I queried a couple of days ago requesting my full manuscript! I'm so excited and I'm just hoping and praying that she likes it. Just wanted to let you all know and I'll keep you posted with any new updates.

Also a question. Now that I have sent my full manuscript to an agent, do I have to let the other agents that I've queried know?  Can I still query other agents as well? I don't know what the etiquette is in this situation.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Country music and "A Town like Alice"

Alright, well I got two more rejection letters. Three so far have been form letters and a fourth agent wrote, "This has an intriguing premise, but I'm afraid I didn't connect with the narrative strongly enough to feel I'd be the advocate the book deserves." I am not discouraged and I'm still keeping my fingers crossed! Thank you all for the nice comments and encouragement.

So I have a confession to make. I am a country music junkie. I grew up in the boondocks of Lewis County on a little farm and country music was the only thing around and now, even though I live in the "big city" of Seattle, I still can't get enough of country music. I still enjoy some other music but country is and always will be my first love. I love the realism of it and the fact that I can identify with the lyrics. Contrary to common belief, country music is not all about losing your truck or being a hillbilly. Its about life and love and situations that everyday people face. Its about having pride in what you do, about respecting people around you and appreciating the little things in life. A lot of country songs are stories about people and many of them have heartwarming or funny endings. I think a lot more people would enjoy country music if they took the time to listen to it and didn't just go into it with a negative attitude.

So anyway, on that premise, I had to tell you all about my new favorite country song that I just can't get enough of. It's called "Colder Weather" by the Zac Brown Band. Now the Zac Brown Band is one of my favorite country groups. They never come out with a bad song. They've only been around a couple of years but in that time they have had at least three songs that would be on my top 100 country songs of all time. And this new one just about tops them all. I encourage you all to check it out. It has a pretty good music video too, which is on YouTube

On a more writing related note, I've been pondering my next writing project. I was planning to write another novel, "St. Dorothy's School for Girls" but I feel like the idea hasn't fleshed itself out in my head enough to be properly written. So I was thinking of doing another screenplay before I go back and edit "Rilla, my Rilla." Originally for Script Frenzy I wanted to do an adaptation of my all-time favorite novel, "A Town Like Alice" by Nevil Shute. But my dad told me that he thought the copyright had been renewed which would mean that it wasn't in public domain and I would have to obtain rights for it. But a couple of days ago I was doing some Internet searches about it and I couldn't find anything about the copyright being renewed so I wrote a letter to the publisher, who had initially copyrighted it in 1950 and asked them if they could tell me what the deal was. I'm just waiting on a reply from them but I'm really hoping it is in the public domain so that I can write that screenplay.

"A Town Like Alice" is a fabulous novel that tells the story of a young British lady, Jean Paget, just following World War II (I love historical romances, in case you didn't notice!). During the war, she was involved in a Japanese prisoner march through Burma with a number of other women. While they were marching, low on food and medicine, they meet a young Australian soldier named Joe Harmon. He helps them out by stealing food for them but Jean is caught by the Japanese with the stolen food. They demand to know where she got it and are torturing her for the information when Joe steps in and admits to it and demands that they leave her alone. He is then nailed to a tree and beaten to death.

In the years following the war, Jean comes into a large inheritance from a wealthy uncle of hers. She returns to Burma to build a well for the local people and there she finds out that Joe was not killed but actually survived his injuries at the hands of the Japanese. During the same time, Joe, who thought that she was married at the time, finds out that she was not, and on a whim, decides to go to England to find her. She goes to Australia to see him and eventually they end up meeting after a bit of a run around. Joe is a cattle rancher in central Australia and Jean is a proper English girl and they fall in love. They want to get married but Joe doesnt' feel like he can ask her to move to the middle of nowhere with him and she can't ask him to leave his cattle station so they have a bit of a dilemma. Finally they come up with a plan to transform the little town that he lives in, into "a town like Alice" referring to the larger town of Alice Springs.  They open a number of businesses, many catering to women in an effort to keep all the women from moving away. Then they get married and live happily ever after. :P

Anyway, its a fabulous book and I would love to make it into a movie so hopefully the publisher gets back to me soon.

Well, this is a mile long so I'm going to sign off!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


Hey guys just a quick update. I have sent out fifteen query letters to agents, mostly via email, and received two rejection letters so far. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Royal Wedding...again...

Well I got up on Friday morning and watched some bits of the royal wedding on YouTube. It was pretty awesome. Kate was so pretty and the dress was perfect. They looked fabulous and the whole thing went off without a hitch...except theirs of course...they got hitched! Now we just have to wait for them to make some beautiful babies!!!!

Other than that, nothing very eventful has happened. I didn't do much all weekend but now I'm going to try to send out some more query letters to agents today.