NaNoWriMo begins on Tuesday!

28 Oct

by

Savannah J. Foley

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It’s that time of year again! Whip out your notebooks and keyboards, because if you’re participating in National Novel Writing Month then you’re going to attempt to write 50k in November!

Last year a lot of LTWF contributors participated in NaNoWriMo, and we posted our word counts in widgets on the sidebar, and added the usernames of participating readers as well. We’ll be doing the same thing this year once the NaNo website is fully launched and offers up those widgets again.

If you’ve never participated in NaNoWriMo, now is the perfect time to sign up. If this is your first time participating, here’s what you can expect from the experience:

1. It’s intimidating. For some people, writing 50,000 words in a month is a feat on the same level as a divine miracle. That’s why the NaNo site provides you with a daily word count goal, as well as a forum to meet other NaNoers in your region to talk shop or schedule writing meetups. Lots of people ‘win’ at NaNoWriMo, but lots of people don’t hit their goal, too. Either way, you push yourself to write more than ever before, a challenge that can be incredibly fulfilling.

2. The NaNo site will probably crash at first. Multiple times. NaNoWrimo is non-profit, run entirely by user donations. In years past they were notorious for not having enough server space because they couldn’t afford it, and that led to frequent site crashes during the first few days. The good news is that the staff is extremely communicative about what they’re doing to get the site back up. In even better news, users donated more money than ever before last year, so much so that the staff has had ALL YEAR to work on NaNo projects, and we all anticipate this will be the best year ever in terms of site stability.

3. Should you go to meetups? The answer is yes. I love meetups. I’m the type of writer that usually writes at home, but home is also where I eat and sleep and relax, and sometimes ‘writing time’ turns more into ‘everything but writing’ time. Meetups completely solve that problem for me. You meet perfect strangers at a coffee shop or restaurant for the sole purpose of writing. It sounds crazy, but it’s incredibly effective. You’re there for one purpose and one purpose only, and so is everyone else. The motivation to stay on task is powerful (especially if you’re in a place with no internet access)!

4. If you can’t make it to meetups, you can go to virtual meetups! Virtual meetups are great, too. You can do word races with other writers, or even join in on #1k1hour sessions on Twitter.

5. Haters gonna hate. It boggles the mind, but some writers really, really hate NaNoWriMo. I understand their perspective: they feel telling the general public they can write a novel in a month demeans what writers do (I elaborate more on why some writers are filled with vitriol at the mention of NaNoWriMo here), but I disagree. NaNo is not only fun, but it’s useful for writers who are serious about their writing, and it shows non-serious writers and non-writers how hard it actually is to not only write a novel, but write a good novel. And guess what? Non-writers and people not serious about their writing stop writing after November. They go back to their normal lives and serious writers will continue writing all year round. So what’s the harm?

Once NaNo gets into full swing you might start seeing articles around the internet disparaging what you’re doing. Ignore them. And if you’re feeling down, just read this article by Sarah Maas telling you, among other things, “Stop listening to the haters, to the naysayers, and just WRITE.”

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So tell us, readers, are you participating? Is this your first time, or are you an old pro? What was your experience like last year?

We’ll talk again when NaNo opens on Tuesday!

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Book Recommendation: Lola and the Boy Next Door

26 Oct

LOLA AND THE BOY NEXT DOOR by Stephanie Perkins
Published 9/29/2011 by Dutton
338 Pages

I’d been eagerly awaiting the companion novel to Stephanie Perkins’ ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS (one of my favorite books of all time), but when the release day finally rolled around, I completely forgot! To be fair, I don’t know what day it is on a very frequent basis. Luckily, I had Twitter to remind me. I was a few days late in picking up my copy, but I managed to snag one from a book store while passing through Grand Central.

Now, I feel like there’s an expectation that second things — second books, second movies — rarely live up to the first. (Pirates of the Caribbean, I’m looking at you.) I wasn’t worried about LOLA, and my non-concerns were confirmed when reviews started popping up online saying how wonderful it was. It’s taken me a while to get to it, but I spent the last two days devouring it, and I can happily say that LOLA is just as wonderful as ANNA.

First of all, how adorable is that cover? I love the colors, the fact that Cricket is wearing pinstripes and rubberband bracelets, that they’re sitting on a window ledge, and Lola’s wig. There are so many details I didn’t even notice until I’d finished the book and actually took some time to study the image. It’s absolutely perfect.

Like ANNA, there are so many things to love about this book. Lola’s wardrobe is incredible, and I kind of wish I’d been brave enough as a teen to pull off the ensembles she wore. Her dads are adorable, and having never been to San Francisco, I felt as if I’d gone on vacation after I turned the last page. I had that same feeling when I finished ANNA — as if I’d just returned from a vacation in Paris — which is testament to the research and details Stephanie weaves into her stories. It’s really some of the best I’ve seen (read?).

And Cricket… can we just all bask in the incredible love interests Stephanie creates? I am still head-over-heels in love with St. Clair, but Cricket is JUST as lovable. There isn’t a single point where I doubted his sincerity, and there were definitely times where I just wanted to hug him for being so wonderful.

The best part of the book, though, was the message: When it’s right, love is easy. Sure, there will still be problems, but they can be worked out. Imperfections make you perfect for someone else, and together you make each other better. Lola reminded Cricket of his gift, and he’s the reason she’s confident in herself. I love that, like Anna and St. Clair, their relationship took time. It was charming in its realism, and even the situation with Calliope was relatable. Plus, who doesn’t love figure skating? Let’s be real.

If you loved ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS, then I can guarantee you’ll love LOLA AND THE BOY NEXT DOOR. My heart swells just thinking about it.

~~~

A former agency intern and lit mag manager, Sammy Bina is now the literary assistant at N.S. Bienstock in New York City. In her free time she’s busy working on two YA novels, and contemplating a third. She tweets a bunch and has a new blog, which you can visit here.

How Should We Handle Racially ‘Diverse’ Characters in YA?

24 Oct

There’s a question mark in the title of this blog post, because I’m actually not 100% sure where I stand on this issue. Hopefully I’ll have worked it out by the time I’ve finished writing this post. Hopefully.

So, diverse characters. There’s a definite push for more diverse characters in YA, lately, but given the controversies like the whitewashing of the covers of Justine Larbalestier’s Liar and Cindy Pon’s Silver Phoenix, it’s obvious that we’ve still got a long way to go. Of course, the need for diversity isn’t limited to race – we still need greater representation of the LGBT community in YA, for instance, and maybe even of boys – but for the purposes of this post, this is the area of diversity I’m discussing.

Lately, I think the issue with diversity hasn’t so much been the presence of it – Ari over at Reading in Color has so many fantastic recommendations – but the visibility of it and, more interestingly to me (since I’m clueless about how marketing works) the type of stories we need to tell featuring racially diverse characters. I feel as if there’s a bit of a schism in the YA community, especially amongst authors, over this. There are people who think that we need to tell stories the actively deal with issues of race, because they are still present and pressing in the lives of many teens today. And there are others who think that we need to have non-white characters whose racial background is simply another character trait.

I fall more into the latter camp than the former, but I don’t find either of these positions particularly satisfying. There’s a grain of truth in the first – yes, many teens today still face identity issues, or racial discrimination – but I find it an oddly reductive position to take. Can we truly, in good conscience, continually write characters whose every conflict, whose entire lives it often seems, are defined solely by racial politics? Surely not – for most of us (or for me anyway, I shouldn’t presume for others) – our social worlds are diverse and multicultural. Race is a thing – sometimes a big thing – that exists, yes, but it isn’t something that defines most individuals’ universes.

Still, I hesitate to embrace the second position, either. It frequently stems from, I think, from some misguided notion that, “My friend is Latina/Chinese/Indian/whatever and no one in my social circle cares! No one around me/where I live is at all racist, so race shouldn’t be a factor at all in my character’s life. It’s as irrelevant as the colour of his/her hair!” or sometimes, even more compellingly, “But I’m Latina/Chinese/Indian/whatever and no one in my social circle cares! My race hasn’t played a big role in my life at all!”. Ultimately, I don’t find these claims very convincing, because issues of race manifest themselves in several spheres of our lives so insidiously and often without our knowledge or permission.

Whether it is known to them or not – and it’s perfectly possible that it’s not known to them – most people have probably been affected by their racial background. If you want specific instances of these insidious manifestations of racial privilege and power, there was this really cool woman, Peggy MacIntosh, who drew up a list of privileges that she, as a white woman, possessed:

“I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented.
If I want to, I can be pretty sure of finding a publisher for this piece on white privilege.
I can swear, or dress in second-hand clothes, or not answer letters without having people attribute these choices to the bad morals, the poverty or illiteracy of my race.
I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group.”

I speak here as a writer, and as a reader, when I say that representations of racially diverse characters that do not include race as a facet (a facet, that is all, not a totality) of a character’s life and not simply a physical trait, will seem to carry a ring of untruth about them (unless they’re set in fantasy worlds, where race is irrelevant, or in future utopias/dystopias/whatever). And I think it’s really exciting that books that promise to do this are starting to emerge – for instance Sarwat Chadda’s Ash Mistry Chronicles – to let non-white people star in Harry Potter-style stories, rather than just narratives dealing with racial issues.

Oddly enough, and this is something that is never really mentioned in posts about race, I would also really like to see characters of white backgrounds also have race included as a facet, an important facet, of who they are. Whiteness is so often and harmfully rendered invisible, creating an impression that it is normative, the standard. White people are people. Other people are their racial group label.

This centrality of whiteness, or the privileges that come with it, are never examined in fiction –an author with some sleight of hand could demonstrate awareness of the issues even if their characters remained ignorant of them (and there is no real reason why all characters must remain ignorant of them). I think that as long as we champion the ‘differences’ of other races, while seeing whiteness as invisible (and therefore normative), we’re going to continue entrenching the ‘otherness’ of non-white people. It’s this mentality that has probably led to several readers automatically visualizing characters as white, or to the rampant exoticism in ‘multicultural fiction’ – I, for one, do not enjoy reading pages upon pages of description of the awesome spices used to flavor the awesome foods.

Ultimately, what I’m tentatively suggesting is that the way we should handle racially ‘diverse’ characters (and I’m including whiteness as a part of that diversity), is by incorporating race as a facet of their lives, but not the totality.
But guys, to be honest, my opinions on this still aren’t concrete. I’m open – and really interested! – in hearing other people’s thoughts, and continuing to inform my own. So how should we handle racially ‘diverse’ characters in YA?

~~~

Vahini Naidoo is  a YA author and University student from Sydney, Australia. Her debut novel FALL TO PIECES, en edgy psychological thriller, will be released by Marshall Cavendish in Fall, 2012. She’s represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency. You can read more about Vahini on her blog.

QOTW: What time period would you most like to visit?

21 Oct

If you could visit any time period for a day, which one would you choose, and why?

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If I could live in any time period, I’d probably pick the Carboniferous period. I KNOW, UBER DORK ALERT. But seriously, it was the golden age of sharks! There were about a bazillion different species of sharks roaming the seas–including some real crazy ones like the Helicoprion.

My second choice is the Jurassic period. Gimme some dinosaurs, and I am one happy gal.

-Susan Dennard

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1950, baby. There is no doubt in my mind that I would have been an EXCELLENT June Cleaver. Give me a day full of baking in nice dresses and pearls and I’m good to go.

-Sammy Bina

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I don’t know about a specific period, but if I could, I’d go back in time to see the Library of Alexandria in Egypt (the largest library in the ancient world) before it was destroyed. So much knowledge–from so many different places–was housed there…and so much of it was later lost. Actually, I’d love to see the entirety of the Musaeum of Alexandria (the institution that housed the Royal Library). And while I was there, I’d take a stroll through Alexandria to see the Lighthouse (um, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world? How could I NOT go see that?). But if that somehow doesn’t work out, then I’ll just tag along with Susan to see the dinosaurs in the Jurassic period. 😉

-Sarah J. Maas

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My current novel is set in 1895ish, in England. I’d go there and take a lot of notes. If I could please be in the body of a smokin’ hot aristocratic girl during her first season, that’s be great, thanks. I still have yet to dance with a Duke or anything. I’d settle for an Earl. There’s gotta be a few of those running around, right?

-Mandy Hubbard

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I’m really pretty happy with this time period, tbh. The past had some pretty awful stuff going on. But the new novel I’m working on is set in Ancient Greece, so I’m going to go with that. I’m only educated about the time period through popular media such as The Odyssey and the movie Troy (lol), so I could cite research purposes, but honestly I’d probably just run around pointing at stuff and fangirling. Oh, and monster hunting! All those awesome beasts and legends… I would totally try to find one.

-Savannah J. Foley

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If you could visit any time period for a day, which one would you choose?

I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends…

19 Oct

By Sarah J. Maas

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So, several months back, I posted a semi-tongue-in-cheek survival guide to revisions on my personal blog. Mostly, my must-have supplies included things like ten pounds of candy and sweatbands. And to be honest, I totally did need those things to get through revisions.

BUT having just sent in my final line edits for QUEEN OF GLASS (now onto copy edits!!!), I can look back at the trek through revisions and say that there is a LOT more to surviving it than twix, diet mountain dew, and neon-green sweatbands.

Some writers go through many, many rounds of revision. Personally, I went through two rounds, with a third, very small round of line edits. But each round taught me something new. From the small things (it’s “toward” not “towards”) to the larger-picture stuff, I feel like I’ve emerged from revisions knowing not just more about myself as a writer, but also more about my strengths as a person.

It’s different than working with your agent or your critique partner (though it’s similar in some ways). Mostly because with each round, you realize you’re getting closer to the final product—which you CANNOT change. There’s a sense of finality looming over the whole thing, and it pushes you to really, truly making sure you’re giving your all. It’s exciting to realize you are SO close to being published—it’s exhilarating, actually.

But there are the dark moments, too. The moments when you wonder if you’re just kidding yourself and your manuscript is a giant mess that you’ll never have enough time to fix, the moments when you think every word is garbage and you just want to go veg on the couch and pretend you don’t have a deadline to meet.

And those are the moments when you really need your #1 resource when surviving revisions: your writing friends. See, I spent years thinking that CPs and writer-friends were great for everything before the book deal—no one ever really told me how very important they are for the stuff after it.

They will talk you off ledges, they will reassure you that your work isn’t garbage, they will brainstorm with you for HOURS even though they have their own deadlines…They will hold your hand and never ask for anything in return, because they know exactly what you’re going through.

You’ll find yourself revealing your doubts and vulnerabilities—voicing the things that really terrify you, the dread so horrible it keeps you up at night. And you know what’s the most surprising thing you learn? You’re not alone in feeling that way. Because your friends either have faced or are facing the same fears and pressures and doubts.

Not to mention, when you get stuck during revisions, they know your work well enough to help you brainstorm your way out of it, or to just approve a semi-crazy idea that you have that miiight solve a plot problem. I cannot tell you how many times I emailed or IMed one of my CPs with a “What if I did THIS!?” question about QOG, or a “How do I fix THAT!?” complaint, and they helped me through it. Better than that—they made me EXCITED about those changes.

I’m a fairly independent person, and leaning on others doesn’t come naturally to me. But I realized, thanks to all of those emails and IMs and skype sessions, that revealing my vulnerabilities doesn’t make me weak, and voicing my fears doesn’t make me a coward. It makes me human—it allows people to get close to me and allows my relationships to grow.

I recently sent in the acknowledgments for QOG, and I honestly felt that I’d never have enough space to properly thank the people who helped me through this process—that WORDS don’t accurately convey the gratitude I feel. I don’t think I can ever fully convey that.

Revisions made me open myself up to others in ways I didn’t think I’d ever be comfortable doing—partially because I realized that no one EXCEPT my writer-friends would understand what I was going through. (Family and non-writer friends tend to give you “You’re amazing! It’ll be fine!” answers. Which are great, but not helpful.) I realized I NEEDED to have writing-friends who understood what I was going through–that I wouldn’t survive the process without them.

So, please, do me a favor: no matter where you are in the publishing journey–first drafting, querying, on submissions, already published–if you do one thing today, go tell your writing friends/CPs that you love them. Thank them for all they do for you. Because while writing a book might be a mostly solitary act, publishing one isn’t. And it shouldn’t be. 🙂

~~~

Sarah J. Maas has written several novels, including QUEEN OF GLASS, a YA epic fantasy that will be published by Bloomsbury in Fall 2012. She is repped by Tamar Rydzinski of the Laura Dail Literary Agency, and resides with her husband in Southern California. You can visit her website here, and follow her on twitter.

And she loves her writer-friends  & CPs very much. ❤

Story Threads and Resonance

17 Oct

by Susan Dennard

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Note:

This post has been UPDATED

and re-posted on

Pub(lishing) Crawl!

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Susan Dennard is a writer, reader, lover of animals, and eater of cookies. Her debut novel, SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY, is now available from HarperTeen. You can learn more about her on her blog or twitter.

QOTW: Myers-Briggs Type Indicators

14 Oct

So, we thought we’d switch it up a bit this week and have some fun with the Myers-Briggs personality type indicators! We all took the test (and you can take it here!), and found that the results were eerily accurate! What was also interesting was seeing how many of us were either compatible or the same personality type (three of us are INFJs!).

We decided to share the results–along with lines from our personality analyses that especially resonated with us–and want to see if we match up with any of YOU GUYS.

So have some fun today–go take the test! And feel free to share your results in the comments! Do you agree with your analysis–or is it totally inaccurate?

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I am an INFP, a Dominant Introverted Feeling. From the analysis, I’d say the one line I really identify with/think embodies me is,

“They live for the understanding of others and feel deeply grateful when someone takes the time to get to know them personally.”

I think this explains why I love to write. I feel like I can fully share who I am and how I feel through my stories–my characters and plots wear the emotions I can’t express in normal conversation. Plus, I’m incredibly shy and meeting people has never been easy for me…yet I really enjoy it when I get the chance. So when people take the time to read my stuff, comment on my blog, or just chat for a little while on skype, I always feel incredibly, over-the-top happyI know it sounds silly, but it feels like a real honor that anyone would actually want to talk to me. SO THANKS, GUYS! Joining LTWF was without a doubt the best thing that happened to me in the last year (yes, even better than my book deal). 🙂

-Susan Dennard

~~

I’m an INFJ, a Introverted Intuitive Feeling Judging. While the whole INFJ analysis was pretty spot-on, this passage really resonated with me:

“INFJs…are, in fact, sometimes mistaken for extroverts because they appear so outgoing and are so genuinely interested in people — a product of the Feeling function they most readily show to the world. ….At intervals INFJs will suddenly withdraw into themselves, sometimes shutting out even their intimates. This apparent paradox is a necessary escape valve for them, providing both time to rebuild their depleted resources and a filter to prevent the emotional overload…”

 As a writer, I feel like I often get the most inspiration just by LIVING–by going out there and meeting new people and seeing new things, by keeping myself open to anything and everything. But at the same time, I need that personal space (“alone time”) in order to sort out all of that–and later insert it into my writing (maybe). While a lot of the inspiration for my stories might come from the outside world, in order to WRITE, I have to shut out the world a bit, too. Which is why being around writers (and LTWF) is so amazing–I never really have to explain that kind of behavior to them. 😀
~~
I am an INTJ, an Introverted, iNtuitive, Thinking, Judging. Mostly my reactions to my results were to celebrate the negative aspects of it, because it turns out a lot of the personality stuff I’ve struggled with in the past (excessive logic, lack of externalized emotion, inability to comprehend social interactions, etc.) were simply symptoms of a common personality type. What a relief!
But the part that I feel most embodies my personality type is this (taken from a different site):
“The internal form of the INTJ’s thoughts and concepts is highly individualized, and is not readily translatable into a form that others will understand. However, the INTJ is driven to translate their ideas into a plan or system that is usually readily explainable, rather than to do a direct translation of their thoughts.”
This passage truly shows my motivation in both writing and blogging. I feel driven to reassemble information in a way that is easily accessible and relatable to others. Sometimes that means passing down lessons I’ve learned in ways that resonate with people struggling with things I’ve struggled with. Other times it means making complex ideas and laws easy to understand for my coworkers. Noveling is another form of transferring information, hopefully in a way that will stick with you for the rest of your life. I’m so grateful to have a platform to get my message across, and thanks to the other LTWF members for putting up with my INTJ weirdness 🙂
~~
I’m an INFJ too!!!
I thought this particularly described me:
“They are determined, perseverant, inspired and often see things just around the corner, into the near or far future.
I am definitely a person who is always looking toward the future!
~~

I’m ISFP.
“They have good listening skills, are genuinely concerned, insightful, and usually avid readers. At their best, they inspire others to be themselves.”
HAHAHA, I totally am “usually an avid reader.” Understatement of the year.
~~
~~
Like Sarah, Kat and Julie, I’m an INFJ! The test is freakishly accurate, but there was one point that really resonated with me:

“Their mind usually travels from the past to the future, seeking to fit a particular situation in a large context.”

I think that’s why I write the way I do. Only two of my stories have been contemporary — everything else was either historically based or set far into the future. It certainly might explain why I have such an affinity for dystopians! I love thinking about what comes next and how it relates to things I’ve already experienced.

~~~
What about you guys? We’d love to hear what your results are! Again, you can take the test here.
Happy Friday!!!

Winner of Zombie Book Drawing!

13 Oct

Aaaand the winner of the zombie book drawing is..

*brains*

etripp83!

~~~

Please email me your address at savannah@savannahjfoley.com and I’ll send you a copy of WWZ!

Be safe out there, survivors!

(If I don’t hear from etripp83 in a few days we’ll pick another winner!)

-Savannah

Book Recommendation: Unbearable Lightness

12 Oct


UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS: A STORY OF LOSS AND GAIN by Portia de Rossi
Published November 2nd, 2010 by Simon & Schuster
272 Pages

Everyone, women and men alike, worry about their weight. Whether you’re naturally slim, or admittedly overweight, it’s something we all think about. How we can lose another pound or, in some cases, how to gain one. Portia de Rossi’s memoir is for anyone who’s ever worried what the world thought of them, or stared in a mirror and wondered if they were good enough, whether they were pretty/handsome enough. It’s a book everyone can relate to.

I think sometimes we forget that celebrities have problems. We see them on TV portraying a fictional person, or at an award show where they’re made up and dressed in clothes most of us could never afford. From our vantage point, they lead perfect lives. But this book reminds us that they’re human, too. That the pressure they feel to portray these people is real, and that, like the rest of us, they worry about what they wear, or how they look. If they’ll fit in.

Now, I never watched Ally McBeal as a kid. In fact, I didn’t even know who Portia de Rossi was until I started watching Ellen. She’d occasionally come on the show, and I liked her. Then, one day, I was watching an episode in which Portia was there to promote her new book. Interest piqued, I turned the volume up. She talked about her struggle with eating disorders and her fear of coming out. How her first marriage crumbled, and slowly, how everything else did too. Half the audience was crying, and there I was, sitting alone on my couch on a day I stayed home sick, sniffling and wiping tears away with the rest of them.

A week ago, a copy of Portia’s book fell into my lap, courtesy of one of my coworkers. I’ve spent the last few days with my nose buried in its pages while on the train, and while I cover reception for an hour every afternoon. It’s pretty impossible to put down, and not just because of the subject matter. Besides that, it’s well written to boot, and Portia wrote the entire thing herself. It’s raw, haunting, and in the end, full of hope.

What really gets you, though, are the details. The chipped bowl she’d eat out of so she knew exactly how much food was there. The fact that she ate with chopsticks so that the tuna lasted longer. The whole book is full of these heartbreaking moments, and it just sucks you in further and further. UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS is by far one of the best things I’ve read in a long time. I’ll probably be passing it off as a gift this Christmas, and I definitely need to get my own copy. I’d be proud to have this book on my shelf, and I think you guys would be too.

~~~

A former agency intern and lit mag manager, Sammy Bina is now the literary assistant at N.S. Bienstock in New York City. In her free time she’s busy working on two YA novels, and contemplating a third. She tweets a bunch and has a new blog, which you can visit here.

Writing about Zombies + Book Giveaway!

10 Oct

by Savannah J. Foley

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(Cross-posted from my personal blog)

Is anyone else totally psyched that it’s October? That it’s any month in autumn, really? But October is dear to my heart, and I imagine it’s dear to many of yours for the same reason: Halloween, and all the scary stuff that goes along with it. If you follow my blog then you’ll know that I recently finished a YA 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. And since it’s October, the month of horror, I thought I’d put together a short list of some of the more popular types of zombies, and the pro’s and con’s of each, in case some of you find yourself branching out into zombies as well. 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.

~~~

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

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And, of course, because I’m a zombiephile and I want to spread the awesomeness of this genre, I’m going to give away a copy of my favorite zombie book to one lucky commenter. That’s right, you could win your very own copy of World War Z!

True, it’s not a new release, though it is being turned into a movie (OMGSQUEE), but it’s the most emotionally compelling zombie book I’ve ever read, and is also told in the format of oral biography. The awesomeness abounds.

To Enter:

Do nothing but comment. 🙂 Unfortunately, I am going to have to restrict this to readers in the US only. Commenting closes on Wednesday!

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Savannah J. Foley is the author of the Nameless (originally known as Woman’s World) series on Fictionpress and is signed with the Bradford Literary Agency. Her website and blog is at www.savannahjfoley.com. She is currently working with her agent to sell a sleeping beauty retelling about a girl who wakes up after a hundred years with no memory of her former life. You can read excerpts from her stories here.