Helpful websites

Thursday, August 28, 2008
Hey all,
I've been doing lots of research on various agents. Some of them have very helpful blogs or websites, and I've listed quite a few on my bloglist. Make sure and check them out!
Some of my favs are Publisher's Marketplace, Agent Query, AAR, Writer's Beware, Preditors and Editors, and Agent Verification:
It actually allows you to type in the agents name (put in their first OR last name--the search engine isn't smart enough for the entire name) to see if they've made any sales lately.
This helped me when an agent offered me representation. I typed his name in to the database and found that he'd NEVER made a sale to a known publisher. NEVER. I don't think he was a scam artist. I think he just decided that he wanted to be a literary agent. But that isn't how the business works. Agents have to have contacts with publishers. You can't just decide that you want to be an agent and list yourself, any more than I could decide that I want to be an astronaut and get a ride to the moon.
Move over Armstrong! Here I come! (Probably wouldn't work with my fear of heights).

Interview by JoLynne Lyon

Tuesday, August 19, 2008
My reporter friend, JoLynne Lyon (she had a cool name, huh?) interviewed me. I thought it might be fun to post it here.

1. What is the timetable for the Nightstar Trilogy? Book two and three are written, but certainly not edited. I imagine you can expect the next book a year after the first.

2. What makes a good book for you? I love a writer who can pull your emotions in with the protagonist. When they cry, you sob; when they love, you burn; when they struggle, you fight for them. For me, the more subgenre’s the book has, the better (to a point of course). For instance, I love a fantasy that has strong romance elements, adventure, mystery, etc.

3. What are some of your favorite authors: I absolutely love Shannon Hale and Stephanie Meyer. Let’s face it, the girls can write and write well. I also like Brandon Mull, Tolkien, David Farland, Brandon Sanderson, Robert Jordan, and Orson Scott Card. I could probably go on forever.

4. Why did you choose to write YA Fantasy? First, because it’s what I love to read, and it came naturally to me. Second, it’s how I dream, literally. I can create a word how I want it and not follow any preconceived rules. I love writing YA because of all the struggles involved in that age group: finding out who and what you are, choosing the path your life will take, deciding what kind of person you will be, falling in love, transitioning from a child to an adult, etc. All of these make for built in themes that add depth to a story.

5. If Ara were in high school today, who would she be and what would she be like? That’s a tough one, because Ara’s circumstances determine much of who she is. If the circumstances changes, so would she. But if we gave her the same restrictions, something to hide and an overprotective family, she’d probably be quiet and withdrawn of necessity, though that isn’t really her personality. She and Tenan would still be extremely close, but he would probably be rather popular. He would protect and defend her, going out of his way to look after her.

6. What is Kodan’s family life like? The Unicorns are very secretive about their society, but they have a connection with the earth and her creatures that affects them much as pollution does our climate. When evil and pain abound, the Unicorns feel it. In times past, they have interfered with these events and it has lead to tragic consequences. Their policy now is to provide minimal aid without interfering in the inevitable outcome. It is very difficult for them to put one of their own in harms way, for Unicorns are by nature, gentle and nonviolent. But they understand that they are part of the world and tied to the fate of it. Other than the interferences produced by the outside, their society is a beautiful Utopian.

7. What made you want to write this book: I always wanted to be a writer, but fear of failure held me back. When my second son was born with colic, I wrote for the simple solace of it. After stumbling around for a few chapters, I thought, “this story has to be told.” I dedicated myself to improving my writing and attending every writer’s group and conference I could. Two and a half years later, I was offered a contract.

8. Where do you get your inspiration for your characters: Some of the characters are complex mixtures of two of more people. Tenan is one of these—inspiration from two of my brothers, Chantry and Zach. My other brother, Adam, inspired Zacar (perhaps some day one of the three will actually read the book). Of course, Ara’s parents and upbringing are inspired by my own. As for Ara herself, people often think she’s me. She isn’t. I only wish. The setting for the Quander Mountains is loosely based on Star Valley, WY (where my husband grew up). The Tukendoom Desert is based off the Salt Flats (am I taking all the excitement out of this?) Kanovia is Idaho (I don’t know about you, but I think Idaho is pretty intimidating). The Blood Mountains is based off Zion National Park—Jarrer’s actual home is based off the Upper and Lower Falls. As far as Coen, I’ll keep that little tidbit to myself. Perhaps the most interesting derivation, the Hebocks, came from scary Girl Scout campfire stories about Big Foot or Sasquatch. I still shiver thinking about it.

9. How does your love of horses factor into the book? From chasing cows, to 4-H, to rodeo (barrels and poles), my love for horses plays a big part in the book. As a child, I often dreamed of Unicorns, flying or horned. In the book, Tenan’s horse, Killer, is actually based off my father’s horse. While chasing cows, Dad dismounted to check the cinch. The horse whirled around and kicked him in the face. Dad had broken facial bones and a nasty scar. Most people would have labeled the animal dangerous and put him down. Instead, Dad renamed him Killer and rode him until he died (wish I were half as tough). Talbot is based off my barrel and pole horse, Knight (whom I’ve used in more than one book).

10. Are there any themes in the book: One of the overarching themes of the trilogy is the concept that “You are more” and is aimed at women in general. We are all more than we see in the mirror. More beautiful, intelligent, powerful, strong, independent . . . I could go on forever. If only we could see ourselves as Kodan sees Ara, we would see so much potential, power, and beauty that our eyes would smart. Symptoms of self doubt would dissolve, because we wouldn’t settle for anything less than we deserve. And we deserve it all.

11. Are their any other themes? The theme for The Priestess Prophecy is: Great ends cannot be achieved without great sacrifice. I think of all the things that hold genuine, deep meaning for me, and I had to suffer/work/struggle for them all. My precious children. My marriage. My book. My home. My degree. My sanity. My handful of peas from the garden (why is it that I can never grow peas?).

12. Has trying to publish your book taught you anything? I think Randy Pausch said it all: Brick walls are there for a reason: they let us prove how badly we want things. They stop the people who don’t want it bad enough—the other people. Believe me, I hit a lot of brick walls. Some even invited me over the wall before tossing me back.

Writing As

Sunday, August 3, 2008
I'm trying to decide whether to write under my terribly generic name: Amber Lynn Smith. Or my maiden name: Amber Argyle.
Any thoughts? I'm not sure I want the hassle of a pen name. But I don't want a stalker either. Or to be confused with the playboy model "Amber Smith" (who knows, maybe having the same name as a porn star would sell more books).


I had my pictures taken for my book cover. As my photographer, Shauna, and I traipsed around the backcountry ten minutes from my home, Shauna suddenly freezes in the middle of the trail. A moment passes while I try to understand her sudden halt. Out of nowhere, she shrieks and runs toward me.
"What? What?" I ask.
She points down the steep terrain to a neatly coiled rattlesnake sunning itself on the warm path. "I almost stepped on it."
Forced from the origional path, we stumbled down lose shale toward the river. Carefully placing our every step, we make it through the shoot unbitten.
When we returned to the trailhead, we took the picture to the right to prove to any doubters that we hadn't been scared by a little watersnake.
How many people can say they risked their lives in the process of getting their book published? (Okay, so it was my photographer's life. Close enough! Sheesh!) :)
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