Wendy's favorite quotes

"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind."— Dr. Seuss

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Contest: 100 Words = ANY Book You Want!

Are you a writer? Yes? Perfect. Then 100 words is a piece of cake for you. Right?

You can write 100 words before finishing breakfast with one-half your brain tied behind your back. But slow down! This isn’t as easy as it seems.

A Drabble must be 100 words exactly. No more. No less. It must be an original, fictional story with a beginning, middle, and end.

So, I’ve decided to sweeten the pot. How would you like to win that book you’ve been drooling over on Amazon? Which book you say? ANY BOOK YOU WANT! I have a wish list a mile long and I bet many of you have a book or two that you haven’t bought yet.

To Enter the Contest You Must:

1. Follow my blog.

2. Write your own drabble following these guidelines and post it in the comments of this blog thread before midnight, Sunday June 13th.

3. End your post with the book YOU want from Amazon and your email (written like: thisismyemail(at)thisprovider(dot)com to prevent spammers).

See? Easy. Want extra entries? You got it. You can get Bonus entries if you:

1. Follow me on Twitter & Tweet about this contest = 2 extra 

2. Post something to Facebook about this contest = 1 extra

3. Blog about this contest -or- Do your own blog with a Drabble contest = 3 extra

....And send me the link. See? Easy.

Here, let me show you one I whipped out this morning so you can get an idea.


Everything will be perfect. Skillfully, I apply the eyeliner and spray the masterpiece that is my hair. Heels, little black dress: preparation for my lover. I live for him, ache for him, depend on him.

His car arrives. A flutter of anticipation fills my belly. My eyes linger on his chest, his face.

The door opens.

I flash a come-hither smile.

He strides across the room, his body inches from mine.

He stoops, groping the recliner for the remote.

Our toddler walks in and vomits on my shoe.

I wince. “Happy Anniversary, Dear.”

The TV flicks on. “What’s for dinner?”


*Snicker* I had you going there for a minute, didn’t I? That’s as risqué as I get, people.

Details: All entries must be acceptable for YA viewers (Nothing nasty, people, or I’ll delete it) If your book cost more than $25 then I will send you an Amazon gift certificate for $25 to go towards the purchase of your choice. The winners will be chosen using Random.org and announced on June 14th.

A special thank you to my good friend, Renee Miller, who challenged the writers from On Fiction Writing to write a Drabble and win a copy of our book Menage-a-20 from Lulu.com. You can follow that link for a chance to win Menage-a-20 with your drabble submission if you like!

******UPDATE! CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED!******* Our winner was Little Berry Girl! Thanks to all who participated.

Friday, May 21, 2010

A visit with James Dashner and Jeff Savage -part 2 of 2-

For the first half of the conversation, check out Part 1.   These two guys were open and willing to answer all the questions we threw at them. Read on for more pearls of wisdom...

When asked about YA word counts, James said, "The average word count for YA is 60,000 words. “But yet Lisa McMann’s books are around 38,000 words, and mine are more like 100,000. Don’t worry about the word count; just write your story.”

On publishers, James notes that “a small publisher can treat you really well and a big one can, but if a big one treats you really well, then they can do way more for you. You may be doing all your own marketing anyway, so it’s both ways. Random house, has so much more power and placement and distribution, that if you are lucky to be published with them… I loved Shadow Mountain—really I do—but Maze runner has sold more in one month than 13th reality has this whole time. For Fablehaven, Brandon Mull has had to work his tail off.”

Jeff says, “a national contract will want a right of first refusal on that genre or on whatever you publish next. The LDS market is a different beast entirely. Deseret book is the largest publisher, and Shadow Mountain is big too. Some of the smaller publishers have contracts that are really tight so you need to be careful. Like you will sign and then everything you have ever written or every will write in this market again belongs to us. BE careful about this type of publisher.”

“A right of first refusal doesn’t mean that your book must go to them,” James clarifies. “They can look at it and they can offer, but you can still look around.” It’s not legal for them to force you to take a tiny amount for a book when another publisher is willing to pay much more for the same book. If your contract says FIRST AND LAST refusal, then it’s not a good thing. Read carefully before you sign.

Jeff notes that “Authors need to be savvy. If you don’t like it, ask if it can be changed before you sign.” Some will change and some won’t, but you should ask before you get stuck in your contract.

Where do you get your ideas for your books? Dashner smiles and says, “Ideas come to me all day long in my sleep, in the shower, on the potty, whatever. I can forget them so I try to write them down. When I was working on the 13th reality, I had to take time away from that. I can’t really do both at the same time, so I do a month at a time on one book and then the other.”

In answer to a question on whether or not to get an agent, Jeff raises his finger and instructs, “first of all, never ever take money out of your pocket to pay ANYONE.” Reputable agents and publishers require no money from you. “I don’t care if you’re the next Stephanie Meyer or not, You still have to market. You have to go on tour. You have to do your blog. There are publishers that can do more for you, but an agent gets your MS in the right hands (like the editor they had lunch with the week before). They do foreign rights, keep track of different trends. I cannot tell you how valuable it is to have a good agent, and it is worth EVERY PENNY.”

“This is a no brainer,” says James. “It is absolutely better to have an agent than not to have one. My agent makes me SO much more than I would make without one.” He noted that in general, the LDS market doesn’t have agents.

Should we submit to agents or publishers first? “Submit to publishers & agents both. If you get an agent, great. If you get a publisher, you can almost start calling agents and saying do you want to represent me?”

“If I could have told myself something 7 years ago…” James rubbed his chin in thought. “It’d be to have patience, both in my writing and in my submitting to publishers and agents. Patience in all those aspects. Something that has changed from my first book to the last, is that I take more time to add depth, and sensory scenes to the story. You can’t sell tons of books immediately. Word of mouth, school by school, book signing by book signing. Patience.”

Jeff’s parting thought was this, “Successful authors believe that they are good enough to be published and it’s just a matter of time. Go find your favorite book on Amazon, and look at a one star review, print it off. Use it as motivation to keep writing. Because every author I know has moment where they think they are terrible. There is a word for determined writers, Published.”

After the meeting, I stayed to visit with them and ask for permission to blog about what I’d learned. Both men were very gracious and offered me their email addresses. I learned a great deal from their “impromptu” breakout and I hope you learned a thing or two as well.

Be sure to check out FARWORLD and THE MAZE RUNNER along with their other books the next time you need an excellent read.

Thank you both for an amazing afternoon!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A visit with James Dashner and Jeff Savage -part 1 of 2-

At Storymaker’s Writers Conference in Provo Utah, I had the privilege of listening to James Dashner (author of the 13th REALITY series and the NY Times Best Seller, THE MAZE RUNNER) and Jeff Savage (author of the YA Fantasy series, FARWORLD) in a very candid breakout.

The charming and witty duo, who have been friends for years, invited questions from the crowd and were refreshingly open about their experiences in the publishing industry.

James’s first 4 books, The Jimmy Fincher Saga, were published by a small LDS publisher. They sold several hundreds of copies, but no glimpse that writing could be full time. Then in August of 2003, He “set a goal to quit my job and be a full time author in 5 years.” He had already written The Maze Runner, but it was rejected for being “too dark.” However, Shadow Mountain did like the writing so he sent the synopsis & query for the 13th Reality. They liked it and it did really well, “but not enough that I could quit my job.”

At this point, James figured he has improved as a writer so he turned his attention back to The Maze Runner and rewrote the whole thing. It went from 68,000 words to 88,000 words—that’s a 20 thousand word difference. He had an agent, but he jokes that they “broke up” and he got a new agent. Random House bought the Maze Runner and the advance was large enough that he could quit his job.

“It turns out that it was 5 years, to the month, from when I had set my goal. Now a movie is being made out of Maze runner.”

Jeff said, “I watched James and thought if he can do it, then I can. One of the things you do in your mind is stop having agents or authors being up here and you down there. The guy selling a million copies is no different than you. You have to get that mindset.” When James told him about Shadow Mountain, Jeff got excited enough to write Far World and sell it to them.

More recently, his publisher requested an LDS Fantasy that is LDS “from the cover to the story to the title.” So, Jeff’s new book, FOURTH NEPHITE is coming out this August.

Jeff’s personal experience shows that even published authors have moments of nail-biting uncertainty with their careers. 5 months ago, because of the economy, Shadow Mountain said they didn’t know they if they were going to publish any more of the FARWORLD series. “400 schools, synopsis, blood sweat and tears and….” He was stuck. Even with published books, he couldn’t write anymore. But then, after going through 4 agents, with the aid of Deseret book and other things—suddenly people wanted it again and Shadow Mountain said, “Hey, go back to that 3rd book.”

Jeff commented, “when you’re giving your all, the time when you are feeling the most hopeless is often the moment when you’re closest to being published.”

When asked about how to find a publisher, James said, “every single successful author I know can trace their success back to someone they met. So, writer’s conferences and things like this are what you want to do.” He met both his editor, Krista Marino (Senior Editor of Delacorte Press), and his publisher that way. “There is no magic formula except keep writing, improve your manuscript, and network.”

Should a non published author hire an editor? Jeff said, “a legitimate editing company will do a page sample and see if you are at the level they think you should be.” He warns to be careful of people who run scams by passing you to so-and-so for money. Also, make sure that what you are getting is worth it because “lots of people have published without an editor.”

Jeff recommended that unpublished authors finish their MS prior to seeking representation. He sent out to 12 agents and got the first response in 3 weeks—though it can be 3, 4, or even 5 months before word comes. “One thing I learned, after you get a message of representation, contact the others and say “I have an offer for representation by THIS agent. Please respond to me within 7 days so I can make a decision.” This is a courtesy for the agents and it helps you get the most offers possible.

As for checking up on the status of your queries, James says, “you can’t freak out, but you CAN email that says ‘Just wondering what the status is’ and they won’t be that irritated. If you can’t sleep at night (and it’s been over 8 weeks) Go ahead.”

How do you feel about Kindle? Jeff said, “Stephen King did a book about a haunted Kindle for Kindle. Brilliant…. I think the biggest thing for me is to still be writing books so you’ll have more opportunities to be read if they liked your name.”

James responded, “I can’t imagine anyone will have a problem with this. Every single page of Diary of a wimpy kid is free online—and yet they sell millions and millions of copies.”

Should I finish the sequel of my book before I submit? James said, “no.”

The audience giggled at his short answer, but then he expanded on the subject. Editors want to be able to publish that book as a stand alone, and then if it’s good it can have sequels. Don’t say, hey I have a 27 book series, publish them please. Besides, if the 1st never sells, what can you do with the sequels?

(Incidentally, this was a great question for me to hear because I was debating whether to write the sequel to COYOTE DREAMS which is seeking representation right now, or work on a dystopian novel I had in the beginning stages. After this advice, dystopia it is.)

Thanks guys for your wonderful information. Part 2 of this visit is HERE Be sure to check it out for the rest of their awesome advice.

What was your favorite part they said?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Make the Time

I've heard it said that if we are "too busy", then the real issue is a matter priority, not time.

As an aspiring writer, I strive to write, read, edit, work on submissions, and learn more about the publishing industry every day.

As a farmer, I've weeds to pull, plants to water, roadsides to burn, thistles to spray, and customers to help every day.

As a mother of 5 (ages 11-2), I've diapers to change, homework to correct, scrapes to clean...all the many duties that children bring into our lives...every day.

The house... The husband...  The school...

I'm a writer, a maid, a farmer, a wife, a mother, a PTO volunteer, a cook, a taxi...

Are you tired yet? I am.

This past week I noticed my kids were getting a little out of sorts with each other, and yesterday I realized that I was the reason behind it. I’ve had such a heavy workload the last few weeks that I had put my many duties higher on the priority list than my kids. I was still with them of course, but I was focused on all the work we were doing, not on the kids themselves.

So, today I did my darndest to finish all jobs I had to do while they were at school so that when they came home, I could give them my full attention. Farming, housework, and even writing took a backseat to the most important people in my world, and my world is brighter because of it.

We made brownies, we sang, we laughed, we chased each other around just for fun. And the result? My kids are refreshed. I feel more connected and grounded. And the crazy part is, I feel more energized to do all the dull jobs that I put on the bottom of the priority list.

I think the lesson is that I was trying to pull water from an empty well. It's not enough to exist, work, and care for the physical needs of my children; I need to nurture the joy in their lives. Why? Because when I bring joy and laughter into their lives, it feeds my soul.

This is a lesson I have to learn—and relearn—whenever the balance in my life gets out of whack.

What about you? What feeds your soul? Is there something important that you have to remind yourself to make time for?

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Agent Laura Rennert's Tips on Queries

At Storymakers 2010, Agent Laura Rennert, a senior agent at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, shared an agent’s eye view of the process. I’m happy to report that she is both friendly and engaging as a speaker.

The question she asks of every query and pitch session is: “who, what, where, and why should I care.”

The WHO is your protagonist, and yes you should include the name. WHAT is your main conflict. WHERE is the setting, which can be geographical, temporal or both. And WHY SHOULD I CARE is that little detail that makes your story different from any other like it.

“Keep the query short,” she cautions. And be careful not to overhype, by making all sorts of glowing statements about your work. A simple exercise you can use to revamp your query:

1. Write down the title, category, setting, protagonist, and central problem.

2. Write down one vivid detail that makes any of the above elements different.

3. In your story, identify credibility, inherent conflict, originality, real emotional power, and voice. (By the way, original voice is the biggest factor for what new clients she takes on)

4. Come up with 3 “big words” relating to your story. (love, journey, destiny)

5. Set a timer for 5 minutes and crank out a query using the information you wrote down. Be sure to use one of the “big words” in the last sentence.

For your pitch, use credentials or anything that makes YOU the perfect author for this book. (Give a glimpse of the story behind the story) For instance, as a farmer who lives on the reservation, I’ve got a good handle on what that is like for my characters.

Another thing she looks for is your platform. Do you have an online presence? One of her clients, Maggie Stiefvater of the NYT bestseller SHIVER, had a great website which suddenly got loads of hits from a publisher as they were deciding whether or not to buy the book. Getting yourself “out there” is a good thing, my friends.

Be very cautious of exclusives. She suggests that you should only consider doing exclusives that are 2-3 weeks tops. An easy and polite way to avoid the exclusive dilemma is to send out your work to more than one agent/publisher at a time. Then you can politely say, “I’m sorry, but I’ve already sent it out to another person for consideration.” She says this response is not offensive.


1. Have multiple email addresses in the “To” line on the email. They know you send it to several places, but having it shoved in their face without even a customized email is irritating.

2. Send the wrong agent the wrong category. If you write Horror, and send it to an agent that only works with YA, you’ve just wasted a stamp and both of your time.

3. Hyperbolic praise. (My story is so cool that Stephen King will weep when he reads it)

4. Not being able to situate a book in the market. Be squarely in a category for your first novel so that agents don’t run at your declaration that it is a mainstream, horror, fantasy, YA book with a chick-lit twist. Um, what?

5. Careless errors, such as typos and grammatical errors.

6. Not following instructions. Every agency/publisher has submission requirements. Find them. Read them. Follow them.

You can learn more about Laura and her agency at http://www.andreabrownlit.com/agents.php , and you can see some of her work at http://www.laurajoyrennert.com/ .

I think the biggest thing I learned from her was that agents “are just people who really love books.” If you have a good tale to tell, then she wants to read it. It was a pleasure to meet her, and I hope her advice helps you as much as it did me.