New Excerpt: Preface and Chapter One of My Undying Love


Revision of the first few chapters has been very labor-intensive but rewarding.  I only hope the manuscript require less editing as I go along, because the first part has been taking a long time.  I kind of expected this, though, because the beginning chapters were the first I’d ever written, and I knew they were really rough and overly detailed.  I just hope I got better as I went along, and the chapters to come don’t need as much work.

I am a lot happier with my revised chapter one than my first draft version, so now I’m ready to share it.

Without further ado, here is the preface and Chapter One:

(Warning: there is a bit of gore at the end, so please do not read if you are totally against reading any type of gore or can’t stomach it.)

                                          MY UNDYING LOVE

By Valerie Grosjean


My roommate is trying to kill me.

Not because I hold the keys to his Mustang GT convertible.  Although, normally Adam would commit homicide to prevent the grand theft auto of his most cherished earthly possession.  His motivation has less to do now with protecting the ruby red ’Stang he nicknamed Veronica and more to do with obtaining my nutritional value in protein.

This attempt to steal his car goes way beyond a motive of survival and my need for transportation.  I have to reach her, or my love will die unspoken and forever unrequited.

Chapter 1

Adam tackled me, ripping the doorknob from my hand and plowing my body into the hard, thinly-carpeted floor.

“What gives?” I shoved him off my chest, stood, and reached again for the door connecting our dorm room to the hallway.  “Save the takedowns for practice.  This is so not the time for a surprise, wrestling match.  Didn’t you hear the screaming?  I’m going out there.”

“Christian, stop!” Scrambling to his knees, Adam clamped his hands around my ankles and yanked.

My legs jerked out from under me. I threw my hands up to meet the floor and narrowly avoided a face plant.  When I rolled over, Adam was standing over me and extended a hand.

I shot him my nastiest scowl, but I took the offering, gripping his wrist.  As he helped me up, I noticed what could only be a bite mark, right above where I was holding.  Deep purple bruising surrounded red tears in the clear shape of human teeth on his forearm.

I’d never seen a bite like that in my life.

The marks on Adam’s arm had been made by an adult, clamping down as hard as possible, and they were way too severe to have been a prank or an accident.

Seeing me gape, Adam explained, “I saw you go for the door, I just freaked, and I had to stop you.”  He shoved his injured forearm under my nose.  “I got this from Kelly—”

“The little blonde at the end of the hall?” I asked in disbelief, pointing in the direction of her room.

“I’d call her a ginger, but that’s the one.  I went out to see what the screaming was about, and she charged me with this weird, intense look in her eyes.  When I said her name, it was like she didn’t hear.  She jumped me from a dead sprint, it would’ve knocked me over if she didn’t weigh ninety-some pounds, and then she bit me,” he said, bringing his bleeding forearm closer, so I could smell the tinny scent of blood and see the weeping indent of each individual tooth.

If the wicked bite hadn’t been right in my face, almost touching my eyeballs, I would’ve been sure Adam was just messing with me.  Even with this proof, his story was so unbelievable that I stood silenced by shock.

Getting no response from me, he continued, “I could see the door to her room open down the hall.  Her roommate Ashley was on the floor, she wasn’t moving, and there was all this blood around her.  It looked like Kelly had been eating her.”

“Are you out of your mind?” I questioned.  “Kelly?  Not possible.  She’s a normal college student, who waves ‘hi’ to me in the hallways, not a whacked-out, Hannibal Lector wannabe.”

“It’s true.  I swear,” he asserted.  “She’s got to be tripping on bath salts or something.  Let’s just call the police like I was about to do before you distracted me.”  He glared accusingly and spread a well-muscled arm across the doorframe to bar my exit.

I flicked the light switch beside the door, but nothing happened.  The bulb in the kitchen failed to come on.

Darting to the living room, I tried that switch.  Nothing.

When I checked out the living room window, there was no new snowfall on the ground.  The weatherman must’ve biffed yesterday’s forecast of an overnight snowstorm.  That meant no weather-related excuse for a power outage.

I backed away from the window.  My gut twisted as I remembered Ashley, hurt and at the mercy of a girl whose mind had been fried by drugs.

Returning to the door, I told Adam, “We’ll call the police, but first we have to help Ashley.”

“Are you kidding!?” He waved his wounded arm back and forth in front me as if I hadn’t already seen it.  “I’m not going out there.  I need to get this bandaged.”

“It can wait a minute,” I said.  “You’re not going to die from that bite, and Ashley needs us now.  Don’t wuss out on me.  You’re a two hundred pound wrestler, Kelly is a tiny girl, and I’m going with you.  Between the two of us, we can take her down.”

“All right,” he agreed, “but she’s not getting another taste of this grade A bod.  I’ll bring something to smack her with if she gets snappy.”  He swung an invisible bat, arms flexed, to demonstrate.  Then he threw his hands up in the air with the palms opened toward me in a gesture of self-absolution.  “The rules against hitting a girl don’t apply to bath salt zombies.”

“I don’t know if I’d hit a girl, even if she was a lady cannibal,” I retorted, “but whatever it takes to get you out there, man.”

“Easy for you to say.  You weren’t the one who was bitten,” he pointed out.  “I’m not going until I’m armed.  Hold up a sec.”

Adam stared at the ceiling for a long moment of intense concentration, pondering what he could use as an effectual weapon from the contents of our dorm.  When he brought his eyes back down to mine, he raised his hand to chin level, signaling with his index finger for me to wait.

He took a slow step backward to be sure I wasn’t going to move before he was ready. Then he did a quick 180 and made a mad dash for the storage closet.  Rushing inside, he noisily ripped the lightweight vacuum stick off its charging stand.

The vacuum head came swinging through the closet door, followed by Adam, who was clutching the handle in one fist.  It continued in an upward arc until the bristles pointed at the ceiling.  Then his other hand gripped down beside the first to cock the device like a baseball bat before the pitch.

“Let’s do this,” he declared, striding forward with grim determination.

I reached for the doorknob but hesitated.  “Adam, since you’re the one brandishing the vacuum, why don’t you lead the way?” Mentally, I wasn’t prepared to hit a girl, but I wasn’t excited to earn a bite mark like Adam’s, either.

Emboldened by his makeshift weapon, he nodded and pushed past me.  Opening the door, he burst into the hallway with his vacuum at the ready, like he expected Kelly to instantly jump out and attack him.

I followed, halfway expecting the same thing, but was greeted by an empty corridor.  A quick scan revealed nothing amiss besides the power outage.  Things seemed normal, other than the lack of lighting from the fluorescent fixtures on the ceiling, but then I caught sight of Adam.  His face was turned to the side, and his eyes held a look of horror.

Following his gaze, I saw the light spilling from the open room at the end of the hallway.  On the floor just inside the door, the still outline of a girl was illuminated by the beams coming through the large window in each living room of the apartment-style dorms.

Ashley was surrounded by pools of her own blood.  Her shirt was shredded from the middle of her ribcage to her lower abdomen.  All the skin on her stomach was missing, leaving an uneven surface partially obscured by leaking blood and bodily fluids.

Any hesitation was gone.  Without waiting for Adam, I tore down the hall.

As I came closer, I could see that the craters on her stomach were bite marks, where fat hunks of flesh had been removed.

Adam was right.

Kelly had been devouring her roommate.

Confession: Editing is Kinda Fun, New Excerpt to Come

I have a confession to make. After I totally blew up the revision process as an epically difficult task, I’ve slowly started into it, and I’m actually finding it kind of fun.

The deal was that I just needed to transition between two very different roles: author and editor. As an author, I measured my progress in word count. Now, as an editor, I’m killing many of those painstakingly created phrases, ripping out the fat, and creating a much tighter pace and smooth story flow. But it feels really good.

After reading my first draft, I knew it was clunky, especially the first few chapters, because they were my first ever as a writer, but I wasn’t exactly sure how to make them better.

Revising, I can see that in those first few chapters, my beginner’s mistake was that I detailed second by second, every little motion. I just needed to cut, condense, and pick up the pace. After my revision of the preface and the first chapter, they are 500 words lighter, but they read so much better.

When I was beginning to size up this task, I seemed to have forgotten my days of high school speech. Back then I hated writing the first draft, but I loved polishing and revising a speech into something that was so much better than the awkward, initial product.

I guess that I enjoyed writing my novel manuscript so much that I dreaded shredding my creation, but now that I’ve successfully shifted into editor mode, I’m really enjoying it. Plus, seeing the finished product, looking so much better, is hugely encouraging.

When I posted my first excerpt of the story, I chose a portion a ways in, because I didn’t feel like my first chapters were up to par. Now, I feel ready to share the new edition (although, not necessarily the final edition) of the preface and chapter. I’ll post the excerpt in a new entry next week.

Revision is a four-letter word . . . no, wait, eight


I have three words to describe the Big Sur Children’s Writing Workshop that I attended the first week of this month: informative, invaluable, and overwhelming.

I learned a lot, straight from the horse’s mouth.  I got advice on writing and the submissions process from literary agents and editors.  Now I feel a lot more prepared to send my work out, after meeting actual agents and hearing what they look for firsthand.  I no longer feel like I will be submitting, completely cold, to faceless entities.  I have seen and talked to agents, and I have a much better idea what to expect.

Also, in my critique groups, with four other writers, led by a faculty agent or editor, I got great advice on how to proceed with my revision process.  I brought in my first draft for critique, and, boy, do I have some work to do.  Even just reading aloud for the group, I could tell that I need to edit for pacing.  i have a lot of cutting to do to up the tension and keep the action flowing.

Fortunately, I have room to cut.  My manuscript is 88,500 words long, and it could be as short as 50,000 words.

Unfortunately, I have realized that writing might have been the easy part.  Revision might be the real work.  Reading back through my work, I still love my story, but now I need to tighten it up to make it more accessible.

I’d compare the revision process to hacking a path through the jungle.  It’s hard to clear the way through the virgin forest armed with just a machete in hand.  But when I am done, the way will be so much easier for future travelers, a.k.a. readers, to traverse.  And, since they will have a cleared path, they will be able to enjoy the trip and appreciate the scenery (the story) rather than simply struggling to get through.

So I’m determined to hack my way through this first draft with my blade, to create something that readers can enjoy and a finished work I can be proud of.  But it is going to be hard, mentally challenging work.  Just hope I don’t encounter any poisonous snakes, ferocious tigers, or hungry tribes of cannibals, while carving my way through the first-draft jungle!


An Excerpt from Chapter 3

Tomorrow came a couple of dates late.  But here is the excerpt I promised.

I thought about starting out with the beginning, maybe the preface, but then I decided to just dive right in and break you off a chunk of Chapter 3. 

You can handle it. 

Just a bit of context: our hero, Christian, is being pursued through the hallways of his dorm by Kevin, the resident assisstant of his floor, who has gone all zombie.

Here we go:

One foot in front of the other.  All I could do was keep moving.  Keep running.  Because if I stopped for a moment or even slowed down Kevin would run straight into me.  I pictured his teeth ripping into the back of my neck and shuddered.  I didn’t want to think of what my odds would be if he caught me here in the dark.  Better not to think, just run.

My feet landed on something slick — No, this could not be happening — and I slid out of control.  I struggled to keep my balance as my body lurched ahead.  A foot and then my shin hit something large and solid on the ground that brought me to an abrupt halt.   My foot wedged tightly under the object and, unable to stop or catch my balance, I tripped. 

Instinctively, I threw my arms out in a gesture of self-preservation and my hands broke my fall.  My palms landed on wet tile. They started to skid out from under me and I was just able to bring them to a halt to avoid collapsing chest-down on the floor.  I crawled ahead, pulling my legs over the impediment. 

Kevin’s footsteps signaled that he was almost on top of me.   Then he tripped, just as I had, on the object rendered invisible by the darkness.  I had no time to move out of the way before his body came crashing down right on mine.  His arms swung toward me, and his hands grasped at my shirt.  His breathing, loud and ragged, quickly closed in.  I knew that his mouth was open, searching for me.

I scrambled forward and wriggled out of his grasp.  Then I climbed to my hands and knees.  Pressing my palms to the floor, I sprung into a crouching position.  From there, I stood up and took off again at a dead run. 

I still couldn’t see a thing, but I could hear Kevin.  His footfalls started up behind me once more at a pace that spurred me on to breakneck speed. 

Each time my feet hit the floor, I halfway expected them to make contact with another obstruction that would send me flying to the floor all over again.  But it didn’t matter.  When Kevin had caught me, I had felt my death, in the flesh.  And I couldn’t think of a worse way to go than to be eaten alive. 

I had been right in his clutches, and, if he had gotten a good hold on me . . . it would have been the end.  I had been able to fight off Kelly, but she was at least 50 pounds lighter than me and more than a foot shorter.  Kevin was my equal in height, but he was three years my senior and had me substantially outweighed.  I had seen him heading to the gym in his workout gear almost every day, and his formidable biceps placed him as a serious weight lifter. 

I, on the other hand, didn’t work on my fitness at all, if I could help it.  It just wasn’t my thing.  I was naturally toned, unfairly so, according to Adam, because he had to put in serious hours at the gym every day sculpting his body.  With zero effort, the contour of my muscles showed clearly beneath my skin, my abs chiseled into an enviable six pack. 

I was strong, but thin. 

Kevin was a beast. 

He was huge and ripped.  And I didn’t flatter myself into thinking that I’d have any chance whatsoever of beating him in a hand-to-hand battle to the death.  He could annihilate me at will, and that was his inclination.  He could hold me down and eat the meat off my scrawny bones like an all-you-can-eat chicken wing special. 

My lungs burned, but — unlike those times when Adam had dragged me along to the gym and forced me onto a treadmill — I was not in the least bit tempted to stop.  Adrenaline coursed through my veins.  I had never been a sprinter, but apparently I was quite capable given the right motivation.  A life-or-death situation proved to be just the thing to bring out my inner athlete.

There, now wasn’t that exhilarating?  Don’t you feel like you just got done exercising or something?

Anyway, I need to get ready and pack for my workshop.  In my next post, I’ll let you know how it goes at the Big Sur Children’s Writing Workshop.

The Plot: Extended Version

Yesterday, I posted the super-condensed, two-sentence version of the plot of my novel, titled My Undying Love.

So, as promised for today, here is the extended version:

The end of the world is all it takes for 18-year-old Christian to realize that his best friend, Iris, is the love of his life.  Unfortunately, a rescue mission gone wrong leaves his roommate Adam injured and infected with the virus that is causing the apocalyptic epidemic.  Christian feels responsible, having talked Adam into the ill-fated venture.  So he’s compelled to stay and care for Adam, until his roommate inevitably dies, then gets back up and tries to kill him.  Now Christian must leave his dorm room, his college career over before it had scarcely begun, and road trip across Nebraska to save 16-year-old Iris, his newly realized love and former high school classmate.  Then he can bring her home to his dad’s farm — the perfect, sparsely populated place to weather the zombie apocalypse — with tools, food, water, vehicles, fuel, guns, and ammunition.  But saving her from the undead is one thing, confessing his love and asking her to spend the world’s last days with him may prove even more of a challenge.

Get to the farm, get the guns, and get the girl.   These are Christian’s goals in my completed 88,500-word young adult paranormal novel MY UNDYING LOVE, the first in a planned trilogy.

So there you have it.  This is the plot summary that I am using for my query letter, which is what I’ll send to a literary agent to ask if she would like to see more, in the form of a partial or full manuscript.  And eventually, if she likes what she sees, she might offer to take me on as a client and pitch my novel to publishers.

Anyway, enough of the business of publishing for now, and tomorrow I will post an excerpt from the novel.


The Title and Plot of my Novel

Drum roll, please . . .

Okay that may have been a tad over-dramatic, but here goes. The working title of my young adult paranormal novel is:

My Undying Love

And the plot, in a nutshell:

The end of the world is all it takes for 18-year-old Christian to realize that his best friend, Iris, is the love of his life.  But saving her from the undead may prove easier than winning her heart.

Book One of the upcoming Undying Love Trilogy

So now you know that the paranormal genre element in my novel is not sparkly, emo vampires, werewolves with six-pack abs, or ghosts.  Rather, it is zombies.

For those of you, who are thinking, “Zombies, suh-weet,” this novel is totally for you.

For those who are on the fence, thinking, “Zombies, I don’t know about that,” keep an open mind, becuase this is not a horror novel.  It is about adventure, survival, and, yes, for those of you who love “love”, it is about a romance between two survivors at the end of their world.

Finally, for those of you who are thinking, “Heck no, I wouldn’t touch a zombie novel with a ten-foot pole,” stick with me.  Just wait for my next novel in the works, a standalone work that is completely unrelated to my current series.  It will have absolutely no zombies or other paranormal elements.

I know my plot in a nutshell was extremely brief, not to mention that it completely neglected to mention the fact that the whole story takes place in real-life settings in the great state of Nebraska.  It also neglected many characters, events, and so forth. 

So tomorrow, I will post the extended version of the plot line to My Undying Love.  And then, after that, I’ll have to put up some excerpts, so that those of you who haven’t read any of it won’t begin to suspect that I’m making this whole “completed novel” thing up.

Beginning my Quest to Become a Young Adult Author

Okay, so the first draft of my young adult novel is finished.  I was beginning to think it would never happen.  I started over a year ago and my 2012 New Year’s resolution was to finish the first draft by the end of the year.   That didn’t happen.  Despite my initial fears that I wouldn’t have enough words to fill an entire novel, by the end of January I’d hit 65,000 words, which was already more than enough.  But there was still more story to tell.  I had signed up for the Big Sur Writer’s Workshop from March 1-3, and I really wanted to have my manuscript done before having it critiqued by the faculty of literary agents, editors, and authors.  So, with the help of my awesome Dad, who offered to fly out from Nebraska and babysit for a few days, I was able to finish what ended up being a full quarter of the story in a couple of weeks, finishing with about 88,500 words.

Now I have editing to do, I look forward to getting some expert feedback at the upcoming workshop, and I’m ready to start putting my manuscript out there for submission.  I’d love to find an agent, who would represent my novel and submit it to publishers.

On this blog I plan on detailing my quest for publication.  I will also post excerpts of my novel for those who are interested.

If you’d like to follow the process of a writer trying to become an author, this is the spot.  Along the way, you can fist-pump along with me at my successes and laugh like a maniacal supervillian at my failures, becuase, hey, then at least someone will be enjoying them.