Dinner with James Dashner

Friday, February 27, 2009
My writing buddy, Marion Jensen (w/a Matthew Buckley), called me yesterday to invite me to dinner with James Dashner.

James is quirky, kinda goofy looking, and more fun than jelly beans--come to think of it, he kinda looks like Mr. Bean! :)

Talking to him gave me hope, and I want to share that hope with the rest of you.

James started out publishing the Jimmy Fincher Saga with a tiny little publisher called Cedar Fort. He pounded the pavement and worked hard to get as much publicity as he could on the series. It paid off. His next contract was with Shadow Mountain (another small publisher, but with a wider market and deeper pockets--plus they work their bums off for their authors).

Once again, James worked hard by going to conferences and speaking on the panels, doing school visits, blogging, and going to other writer events.

He landed an agent. Life didn't work out with that particular agent. He found another. He praises his new agent like some people praise expensive chocolate. He landed a BIG deal with Random House (read about it http://jamesdashner.blogspot.com/2008/07/random-house-maze-runner-good.html).

Now he's making enough money that he quit his full time job.

To top it off, the guy is really a genuinely nice person.

See, it can happen. Even to goofy Mr Bean lookalikes!

(James, if you're reading this, know that you're soooooo much better looking than Mr. Bean. :) )

Is there an end in sight?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009
I thought for sure I'd hear back from the publishers this month (it's been over four months). So, far only one rejection and the month's almost over.

I'm not a very patient person, but I have found that ignoring this problem is the only way to survive (I don't, however, recommend it for most problems--like hemmoroids). *snicker*
Seriously, I just keep writing and editing. If stalking editors or sending them flowers and chocolate would make a difference, I would. If pestering my agent every day would work, I would. But I such actions would only make the situation worse without changing anything.

At this point, I'm seriously starting to wonder if I'll ever hear anything . . .

Warning: don't tick off pregnant women.

Saturday, February 21, 2009
Especially when they're 36 weeks pregnant.

My husband and I dropped off our kids with my mother and got in our car to drive the six hour round trip to Rexburg Idaho to pick up our Quest SE (their top of the line) minivan from Smith Ford Mercury. The salesman, Micah Ellis, independently confirmed that the ad was accurate.

He lied. It was not a Quest SE, but a Quest S (It goes: base, S, SL, and SE). The car did not have the promised leather seats, 2 8 way power seats, sunroof, premium sound system, side airbags, sunroof, moonroof, and alloy wheels. These aren't things you "miss" when you walk out to the car and confirm that it does indeed have those features (how do you miss leather seats and a sunroof when you claim to be sitting in the car?).

We even asked superspecific questions (please check all the stitching in the leather seats--we've heard that they tend to come loose).

Amber fell victim to a "bait and switch" technique. Meaning that the seller promises one thing and gives you another.

I was so #@*!. I even let loose a few words my Dad taught me when he was shoeing horses. We asked to talk to the manager. He told us that it was our fault for not looking closer at the posted pictures. He then offered to take a reciprocating saw to the roof so we could have our sunroof.

The salesman claimed that he just posted the information he was given. When asked about his "checking the ad" for accuracy, he simply said that isn't the way he normally does business.

As I walked out of the dealership, I stopped by a very nice looking older couple and said, "Don't buy a car from these people. They WILL lie to you." I filled out every review I could on the internet and with the BBB.

I have also changed the name of a villain in my novel to Micah.

This dealership has learned two very important lessons today:

1. Don't mess with a pregnant woman.

2. Don't mess with a writer.

BelleBooks accepts "anything that's good."

Tuesday, February 17, 2009
I received my first rejection from my agent last week. I was completely surprised by the publishing house, BelleBooks. I googled them and was further surprised to see that they only take "Southern Fiction." I write YA Fantasy. I asked my agent, Al Longden, about it, and he said they are expanding. So I gave them a call in order to share a new avenue with the rest of you.

At 7:30 on a Saturday morning, Sandra Chastian, VP of Public Relations, returned my phone call. To summarize: BelleBooks takes "anything that's good." They are looking for MS that are fresh, new, or unique. She would like to see fiction geared toward an older market, but that doesn't ostracize the younger market (ie-alludes to pop culture events that the younger market wouldn't have a reference for).

They take unagented material.

When asked what advice she would give unpublished authors, Sandra said, "Join the RWA (Romance Writers of America). You may think you don't write romance, so you shouldn't join. You're wrong. Dead wrong. Joining the RWA was one of the smartest moves I ever made in my career."

If you're ready to submit, I'd try sending it to BelleBooks, http://www.bellebooks.com/writers.htm

Good luck!

Paying for Writer's Conferences.

Friday, February 13, 2009
Not long ago, I blogged about the importance of attending writer's conferences. Not only for gaining knowledge, but the all important networking. Some of you asked a few questions, and I'd like to answer them.

1. So how do you know when conferences will be the most beneficial for you?

When you hit a brick wall in your writing. You've read the books and attended the critique groups. Still, your writing level seems to have surpassed the help you can get from those avenues. Then it's time to move to the next level (looking back, I've hit many places where I felt stuck. I didn't know what else to do to improve. In fact, I'm there now.)

2. How can you afford conferences?

Like many of you, I struggled with affording these conferences, which range in price from around 100 to over 500. If money isn't an issue for you, by all means, go. For me, it was a big deal.

Here's what I did: I picked conferences that were close, I used birthday money to pay for conferences, I called family and friends and asked to stay with them instead of paying for the hotel rooms, I split the hotel room and gas with other members of my writer's group I managed to talk into going, I drove home late instead of staying in the hotel, I held a garage sale and used the money to pay for the conferences, I started a second job selling lia sophia jewelry.

Even if you only attend one conference a year, this will be a great help to your writing career.

Another tip, there are free workshops. In my state, the League of Utah Writers holds them free for paying members (25 a year). There are no editors or agents at these events, but there are other writers to network with and learn from. Universities also hold these events for free.

BYU is holding one this week. If you're free tomorrow--GO! (I would love to, but my doctor has grounded my traveling for the next month). Say hi to David Wolvertin, Brandon Sanderson, and James Dasher for me.


Big Changes at HarperCollins

Tuesday, February 10, 2009
My agent, Al Longden, sent me an email regarding HarperCollins. The publisher is "closing the Collins Division and realigning the imprint." Meaning that average Americans aren't the only ones tightening their belts. The company is condensing to protect itself.

CEO Brian Murray writes to employees: "Over the last several months, the unstable economy has had a significant impact on businesses and consumer spending. Our industry is not immune to these market forces, and there is increasing pressure on us, along with our retail and wholesale partners, to adjust....

"However, given the continued uncertainty in the market and soft revenues for the company, we need to take further action to align our cost basis with expected revenues. I have asked each division to evaluate their business and begin the process to meet this goal. Unfortunately, in some HarperCollins divisions, implementing these plans will result in a reduction in workforce. These are difficult decisions that were not made lightly.

"Although we are facing new challenges today, we know that our company will again see a strong market. HarperCollins has a nearly 200 year history of managing through business cycles much more difficult than today’s. I am confident that our authors, our ambitious publishing plan and our creativity will carry us forward."

HarperCollins isn't the only publisher that's had to cut back. Believe it or not, this directly affects me. It leaves me wondering what the company (and other's like it) will do with the MS they currently have under submission. One things for sure, it'll be harder for the majority of us to find a publisher now.

I don't' know about you, but I thought it was hard enough already.

My fellow writers, as the publishers tighten their belts, we must tighten our writing. Make it so good they can't say no!

How Do I Know When My Story Is Ready?

Thursday, February 5, 2009
How do I know when my writing is publishable, and how do I network?

  1. Have you outgrown an amateur writer's group (meaning, are you the best writer there or can the group no longer give you feedback)
  2.  Have you read at least 5 books on improving your craft?
  3. Have you presented your work to those who "*know what they're talking about" and received positive feedback (some examples of these might be editors/agent meetings at writer's conferences, published authors, personalized rejection letters, etc.)?
  4. Do you know as much or more about a topic presented at a **conference as the speaker?
*You meet "people who know what they're talking about" at conferences and local writer's groups (you can also become a regular on their blog to meet online). Conferences will be a hit on your budget and require a lot of dedication. There are huge writer's conferences like World Con, where thousands of editors and agents are available, but the cost is significant. I'd recommend starting at local writer's conferences. They might not be as rich in resources, but they are a great/cheaper way to start.

**Eventually, you'll start to outgrow conferences as well, as a lot of the classes begin to repeat themselves (ie-they always seem to have a class on how to write fabulous queries.) This is another sign that your writing is becoming publishable.
Start using the connections you've made at these conferences/online/writer's groups to improve your writing and network.


Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Ice cold Pepsi in one hand, plate full of hot dogs and potato salad in the other. The air smells of campfire, mosquito spray, and the lake.

You guessed it. We're at a Fourth of July picnic with our family. The kids are running around, dirt caked on top of ketchup and sticky watermelon. The dogs circle like grounded vultures, waiting for one of the kids to drop food--or to lick the face of an unsuspecting toddler--yum.

My cousin, Tonya (names have been changed), suddenly jumps out of her seat and hurries to my chocolate lab puppy, Dove. "Dove, give me that. You'll choke."

"What's she chewing on now," I ask, secretly relieved that Tonya saw it first and I can keep on sipping and chomping.

"She's got a balloon." She grips it and starts tugging it out of the puppy's mouth.

My brow crinkles. "Who brought balloons?"

Suddenly, an inhuman shriek pierces the air. "I DIDN'T KNOW THEY CAME IN PURPLE!" Tonya dodges the campchairs, jumps the fire, and rips open the door to the camper. "Ahhh!"

I exchange bewildered glances with my stunned relatives before hurrying to the camper.

There, my cousin is vigorously scrubbing her hands with dish soap. "Tonya?" her Mom asks.

She turns to us, a horrified look frozen on her face. "I didn't know they came in purple."

"Didn't know what came in purple?" I ask.

Focusing on her hands, she scrubs harder. "It wasn't a balloon. I was a used condom."

We swallow and exchange glances, all of us wondering who the lucky person to clean up this "mess" before another dog, or worse, one of the kids gets into it.

My decision made, I nod my head. "My husband is the one who wanted a dog. I told him only if he cleaned up after her."

He tried, and failed, to argue with my logic.
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