Friday, May 30, 2008

Book Expo America Day 2

Wow. Today was one of the highlights of my life. I'll give you an approximately time-accurate report of how the day went.

6:15 am - Woke up. Felt no grogginess because of excitement for the day. Showered and got dressed. Made several giddy sounds because I was alone and knew no one would ever find out. Doh!

6:45 am - Had breakfast with Brandon Mull. Had a custom made omelet that was delicious. Drank lots of orange juice and ate a banana. We were told to eat breakfast because the breakfast we were going to was only bagels and such and our hotel has awesome free food in the mornings.

7:15 am - Met Obert Skye for the first time (author of LEVEN THUMPS and the upcoming PILLAGE). Relieved to find out he's not a dork. Slighty worried cuz he seems funnier than me. We board up in the van with me, Brandon, Obert, and Chris and head for the Los Angeles Convention Center.

7:50 am - We enter the large hall and take our seats at a table for the Children's Author Breakfast. Almost wee my pants when I realize that on our seat is a book by each of the upcoming speakers, including an ARC of Neil Gaiman's upcoming book, THE GRAVEYARD BOOK.

8:00 am - The next hour and a half is simply one of the most enjoyable and thrilling things I've ever sat through. Eoin Colfer spoke first, and he was so funny my face hurt from laughing. Then came Sherman Alexie, who had the best line of the day. He looked over at the guests of honor next to him, and said, "That's *effin* Judy Blume." He expressed my sentiments exactly.

Sherman told a great story about a kid asking him a tough question about life and how he responded to it. Honest to goodness, I teared up.

Then SHE spoke. Judy. Blume. Judy Blume. She was forty feet from me. A live, breathing person. Who was Judy Blume. The person who wrote the books I read over and over and over when I was 8, 9, 10, 11 years old. It was a very big thrill for me, and I thank the good Lord above for putting that woman on the Earth. She's 70 now, and showed us a cool picture from 30 years ago of her, Dr. Seuss, and Maurice Sendak.

Finally, Neil Gaiman spoke. He showed us a special sneak preview (made just for BEA) of his upcoming movie, CORALINE. Then he told us some great stories about his children and how the ideas for some of his books were born. You must read the first 2 paragraphs of his upcoming book (I'm sure it's online somewhere). This man is, has been, and always will be a brilliant writer.

No, I didn't get to meet them. There were LOTS of people there. But it was one of the pinnacle moments of my author career so far. Seriously, I will never, never forget it.

9:47 am - I bump into George Hamilton in the bathroom. He's dressed in the fanciest suit I've ever seen and is as tan as ever. I say, "Hi, Mr. Hamilton." He says, "Hello" (I swear he said it with a British accent). I snicker after he walks away, then brag to everyone when I come out.

11:00 am - I have my first ever signing at BEA. On the way to my table, I walk right past Neil Gaiman and pat him on the back, saying "I love you, Neil." He turns and says, "Thank you."

My signing went very well. Everyone had warned me not to be disappointed because I'm new and probably wouldn't have many people show up. But we had a line the entire time and it had to be cut off when time was up. I was very happy.

12:00 pm - We meet and talk awhile with Dean Lorey, the author of NIGHTMARE ACADEMY and head writer for the last season of ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT. Great guy.

12:30 pm - Lunch with Chris, Obert, and Brandon. I've never seen a food court so packed.

1:30 pm - In-booth signing at the Shadow Mountain booth. Went very well for almost an hour and met lots of librarians and bookstore owners. Yahoo!

2:30 pm - Spent the rest of the day browsing and networking. Chatted with friends Jason Wright, Heather Moore, LuAnn Staheli, Anne Bowen, Brandon Sanderson, and some others. Met someone from my new agency, Lauren, which was way cool.

5:00 pm - Came back to the hotel, where I posted all this stuff.

6:30 pm - We're all meeting to go to some awesome restaurant in Malibu that's by the ocean. So, I gotta go.

Today was awesome, folks. I truly am the luckiest schmoe to ever walk the earth. Talk to ya tomorrow.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Book Expo America Day 1

Technically BEA hasn't started yet, but I flew to LA today and had so much fun tonight. Since I'm really tired and have to get up early tomorrow for the children's author breakfast, this will be brief.

I flew on the same flight as Brandon Mull (FABLEHAVEN) and we "talked shop" every minute we were in the air. It's so awesome to converse with fellow authors, especially ones who've found such success. Brandon is a studly dude, and I wish many of you aspiring writers could've been flies on the wall to hear our in-depth discussions. It was very educational for me.

Chris Schoebinger, the product director for both mine and Brandon's books, picked us up at the airport and took us out on the town. We went to the little city walk thing outside of Universal Studios, browsed in the perfect weather, then had an awesome steak and ribs dinner. Not to mention Ben and Jerry's ice cream afterward. I seriously can't imagine ever putting a morsel of food in my mouth again. Ever.

We then went to the hotel and watched the 4th quarter of the Lakers-Spurs game, and now here I am. Time for "bednight" as my daughter calls it.

If you're attending BEA, please come see me: 11:00, FRIDAY, TABLE 12.

Tune in tomorrow night!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Randomness, BEA, L.E. Modesitt, Jr.

What's up, people? Nice to see you today.

First off, my response to the friends who made snide remarks about me being the Queen of Children's Literature. Listen to me. If you're about to conquer England with a raving army of stinky axe-wielding barbarians, and England is ruled by a Queen, and you are a man, would it not be correct to say you are going to dethrone the Queen, and reasonably intelligent people would then assume that when you take over, you will be called King Dashner?

Thank you.

Thanks for all the nice remarks about my new agent. Yeah, he's a stud. I just got off the phone with him, and I'm very excited for next week, when he'll be sending out the proposal for THE MAZE RUNNER.

But before that, I'm going to Book Expo America tomorrow! I seriously can't wait - I'm more excited than I've been in a very long time. My publisher thinks I'm whackers for being so giddy - all they feel is stress right now. Better them than me, right?

Just like I did with the Change the World Tour, I'm going to give a report every night of when I'm in Los Angeles, starting tomorrow night. I don't really know what to expect, but I plan on making the most of the weekend.

Not sure what the details are, but I think I'm attending the breakfast with Judy Blume, Neil Gaiman, Sherman Alexie, and Eoin Colfer. I don't know if this means I get to meet them or see them from a couple miles away while I munch on crispy bacon. I'll let you know.

And how surreal is this: during my signing (TABLE 12, FRIDAY AT 11:00 AM), other people like Judy Blume, Rick Riordan, Brooke Shields, and George Hamilton are signing as well. Not sure how Zorro slipped in there (does anyone else remember that movie?) - I reckon he's the latest to write his memoirs.

I really hope that somehow, someway I can meet Mr. Riordan and Mrs. Blume. (Brooke will probably ask me out for drinks, but I'll be too busy schmoozing Rick and Judy.) I'm assuming that I actually won't have a chance to talk to these guys, but who knows?

The ultimate may come on Sunday, when I hope to meet Dean Koontz, who has influened my own writing in many ways. I will make it happen!

Anyway, stay tuned for all the details.

Last weekend I was at the Salt Lake City fantasy and science fiction convention (Conduit). I served on many great panels with many great people like Julie Wright, Eric James Stone, Brandon Sanderson, Jessica Day George, Michael Stackpole, L.E. Modesitt Jr. and others. Lots of fun, and lots of costumes that frightened me to no end. (I think my jeans and polo shirt were unacceptable attire.)

And now, for the bragging I promised to do all weekend. Please prepare yourself for what I'm about to say. You may want to sit down.

I found out that my blog, this blog, The Dashner Dude itself, is listed in "Favorites" on the computer of the one and only L.E. Modesitt, Jr. Yeah, that's right.

Talk to ya tomorrow night. As my friends at Conduit would say, live long and prosper.

Lyrics of the Day:

Time is a train
Makes the future the past
Leaves you standing in the station
Your face pressed up against the glass
- U2

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Meet Michael Bourret, my agent

I'm very excited and pleased to announce that I've signed with a new agent. Michael Bourret is with Dystel & Goderich Literary Management in New York. I've now been his client for one week, and I already have no doubt that he's going to take my author career to the next level.

I owe a big thanks to the fabulous Sara Zarr, author of STORY OF A GIRL (2007 National Book Award finalist) and SWEETHEARTS. She lives here in Utah and we've become good friends these past months. Somehow I swindled her into recommending me to her agent, and the rest is history.

Okay, it wasn't easy as all that. I actually sent Michael my proposal for THE MAZE RUNNER, which he really seemed to like. But this is what I love: he's spent the last week or so grilling me and pushing me and making the proposal get better and better. This is the power of an agent - he knows the editors and he knows what they're going to look for. He's fully invested, and I've really enjoyed working with him.

We've also spent a great deal of time discussing THE 13TH REALITY and what lies in the future in terms of my contracts, future books, movie rights, etc. It's all going to be very confusing because I had a different agent on Book 1, my publisher has agent representation of their own for movie and foreign rights, etc. But like I told Michael: what a great problem to have, right? I'm confident he'll figure things out and ensure I'm taken care of.

So, there you have it. Michael and I are going to sell lots of books and make insane amounts of money and eventually knock JK off of her perch as Queen of Children's Literature. I foresee a future in which Mrs. Rowling calls me up and asks for a loan (or at least some writing advice). She'll probably beg me to co-write a Harry Potter meets Atticus Higginbottom series. I will, of course, decline and tell her that I would never stoop to such a sham (plus, I'll be too busy writing the Atticus vs. Edward Cullen series).

If you'd like to learn more about Michael and his agency, CLICK HERE.

You should also visit Sara's site: CLICK HERE.

A big thanks to Michael for having faith in me and my writing. I'm very excited and look forward to a very long relationship!

Lyrics of the Day:

Some may say
I'm wishing my days away
No way
And if it's the price I pay
Some say
Tomorrow's another day
You stay
I may as well play
- The Police

Monday, May 19, 2008

Remember the Alamo. Dude.

I sure had a lot of fun in San Antonio. The schools were great, and the people at Barnes and Noble treated me awesomely. A big thanks to them. And to all the librarians, teachers, principals, etc. It was a great three days.

I was even able to see some people I hadn't seen in a long time. That picture is me with Sami, Megan, and Matt Christian, evil spawn of Lewis and Emily (kidding!). These guys are like family, and we had a blast checking out the Alamo and walking the Riverwalk. The weather was perfect.

I also had dinner with my nephew, Tyler, who I had not seen in NINE YEARS. That is such an awful thing, and now he's off to Hawaii (military man). It was so cool to see him, and to see what a great person he's grown up to be. Tyler, love ya bro.

Saturday was another great day. I was lucky to be one of the authors at the first annual Provo Children's Book Festival. It was awesome! I did a reading, served on a panel, and signed lots of books, posters, and autograph pamphlet thingies they gave to all the kids. They even served us dee-lish food! A huge thanks to Gene and everyone at the Provo Library.

My favorite moment of the night - Shannon Hale leans over and tells me, "Sorry, gotta go. I'm having dinner with Stephenie Meyer. Heard of her?"

Stephenie was in Utah Saturday for a big launch event for THE HOST, and she and Shannon are friends. I'm sure no amount of begging on my part would've allowed me to go as well, but I did force Shannon to make a promise: tell Stephenie that James Dashner said hi. I bet she swooned upon hearing it.

Oh, and Shannon, when I have dinner with Stephen King someday, I'll think of you.

On top of all this, I've had quite the experience the last few days working with a certain someone to improve the proposal for THE MAZE RUNNER before it goes out to publishers. Who is this mystery person, you ask? I'll tell you in my next post. I'll give you a hint: he's a stud.

I also found out I'll be doing lots of fun things at BEA (Book Expo America) in 2 weeks in LA. I can't wait, seriously. I'll really try to give detailed reports of how that goes.

Check back soon!

Lyrics of the Day:

And there is nothing I can do
When I realize with fright
That the spiderman is having me for dinner tonight.
- The Cure

Not sure what that song's about, but this has to be the creepiest line from a song I've ever heard. Which, of course, is why I love it.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Q&A: Get out of Stuckland

Our question comes from Anna, an aspiring writer who wants to know what in the bojangles you're supposed to do when you get stuck. She can't seem to quite finish a novel, and also has a hard time picking between a plethora of ideas.

Anna, I feel your pain. All writers go through this.

First, let me say this - if your biggest problem is having too MANY ideas, then get down on your knees and thank the good Lord above for this problem. By far, the most important aspect of being a writer is storytelling. Coming up with ideas for those stories goes hand in hand with that. You'd be surprised how many people look in the old thinker and find nothing but slimy goo.

But you do need to focus and hunker down - pick one and go with it for awhile. If you just can't decide, then pick one randomly. You can't let that be an excuse to stop writing! You must, must, must be writing, and writing often.

Now, if your problem is thinking of ideas, I don't know how to help you. Honestly, I don't. Ask any children's author - the number one question we get from kids is: "Where do you get your ideas?" I've never been able to answer it, unfortunately. I just don't know! I mean, I guess they come from watching movies, reading books, thinking, daydreaming, etc. But I've got enough ideas in my head to write 100 books, so I'm either psychotic or very imaginative. Probably both.

Maybe it's writer's block that's killing you. That's a toughie. For me, and I promise I'm just being honest here, I don't suffer from this. Ever. I think that's because if I get stuck, I just write a different scene or start writing dreck until the muse flows again. I realize I'm not helping much.

Now for some practical advice. YOU HAVE TO FINISH ONE NOVEL. I mean it, from beginning to end. Repeat: Beginning, Middle, End, and all the little bits in between. I don't care how bad it is, I don't care how boring it is, I don't care if it makes Goosebumps look like Shakespeare (don't take that the wrong way - I love me some Goosebumps). But write and write until you can type "The End" and be done.

I Dashner Dude Guarantee you that once you accomplish this, it will become much easier to finish another one. And then another. I don't really know why, but it's true. It has something to do with confidence and practice and vision and all that. But it's true.

Also, and this is just me, but I WILL NOT ALLOW MYSELF TO EDIT while I write the first draft. Not at all. I go from beginning to end without stopping, without looking back. This has helped me so much. Creativity and storytelling is all that matters that first go around. Fix all the jive later.

Make yourself a goal. I do this every time I write a first draft. For example: I wanted to write the first go at Book 2 of The 13th Reality in 3 months. That equaled about 1,000 words a day. I met my goal and felt pretty gosh darn golly good about myself. Stephen King does 2,000 words a day when he's hot and heavy in writing mode.

Well, I'm not sure I've answered your question very well. But I tried. Any follow-ups are welcome. Also, please let us know in the comments if you have any advice for Anna.

Now, I'm off to San Antonio. Come see me at Barnes and Noble on Friday night!

Also, I have an announcement regarding agents to make very soon. I'm only waiting because I need to talk to a certain person before I go blabbing about it.

Riverwalk, here I come!

Lyrics of the Day:

Born on third, thinks he got a triple.
- Pearl Jam

Know anyone like that?

Monday, May 12, 2008

How ya'll doin'?

Okay, lots to catch up on, so I'll go with another list. We'll just have to see if I make it to 10 or not.

1. Anna, Faithful Commenter, your Q&A is coming soon! I hereby declare to you and the world that this week will not expire before your question is answered, and answered thoroughly. For those of you interested, it will be about the difficulty of finishing a novel, and getting unstuck from Stuckland.

2. THANK YOU SPOKANE AND DEER PARK! I just want all the teachers, students, bookstore folks, and everyone else up there to know I had a wonderful time, and thank you for treating me so well. The signing at Borders matched any I've had so far, and my visits to the schools were so much fun. Tick's parents chose wisely in settling there. I'll be back!

3. I had an epiphany. The house they always show for The Brady Bunch doesn't match the inside - unless they're utilizing some freaky portal to another Reality. I noticed this because a billboard in Spokane had a picture of it, and my kids watch that show all the time (which I just don't get, by the way). Check it out. The upstairs is CLEARLY to the right of the front door when you see the inside. But the house from the outside shows the upstairs to the left. You're welcome for alerting you to this very important matter.

4. THANK YOU OREM! Wow, Authorpalooza III couldn't have gone any better. This was thanks in much part to the presence of Mr. Brandon Mull, but yours truly sold quite a few books as well. I was sandwiched between two Brandons at the table (Sanderson and Mull), which made me realize just what a lucky schmoe I am.

5. If you missed it, you basically are being given another chance. Almost everyone who was at the Orem event will be participating in the Provo Children's Book Festival this Saturday (May 17th) at the Provo City Library. In fact, added bonus: SHANNON HALE will be there! Yeah, that's right.

Yours truly is doing a reading (noon) with Brandon Mull and Brandon Sanderson, a panel (1:00) with those two and Mette Harrison, and a signing (3:00) with the Brandons and several others. It'll be a party. For more info and the complete schedule, CLICK HERE.

6. HELLO SAN ANTONIO! I'll be flying to your city on Wednesday night (my first time) and visiting quite a few of your schools on Thursday and Friday. If you live in the area, please come see me at the Booksigning: Friday the 16th, 6:30 pm, Barnes and Noble (6065 N.W. Loop 410, Ste. #185).

I've been told I must do the "Riverwalk" though I don't know what that means. I also, of course, have to see the Alamo. Just not sure when exactly I'm going to do that! Maybe Thursday evening.

7. Why are people so mean? If someone cuts you off, chances are highly likely that the person in the other car is not the stupidest, most idiotic person who has ever lived, and that you've done the same thing on accident before. Be happy, you'll live longer.

8. I saw IRONMAN a while ago. It's very good. I forgot to stay until the credits were over. I'm very angry with myself. I will go see it again. I wanted more of Ironman destroying things, but it was still very good. It's very sad, but Ironman makes Superman look like a pansy. This paragraph is choppy on purpose.

9. Mother's Day was a great day. I made breakfast, and I'll pass on telling you about The Very Bad Bacon Incident. Several of us menfolk then made dinner for the wives, and I'd just like to say that I never realized a chicken had so many nasty bits. I'm very thankful my wife LOVES to cook. In fact, I gave her and her mom tickets to a cooking class at the Les Madeleines restaurant as their present.

Which begs this question: Since my wife loves to cook, and it's her hobby, why do I cook for her on Mother's Day? It's like having her watch basketball or write a story for me on Father's Day. Feel free to discuss.

10. Do you realize that Indiana Jones will be back on the big screen in TEN DAYS? I haven't felt this giddy and childlike since I was a giddy child. Say the word "giddy" ten times in a row. That's one weird word.

Well, we made it to Ten. As you can tell, I almost lost it there at the end. My apologies to Macotar for continuing to steal his Top Ten thunder.

Lyrics of the Day:

When you're standing at the crossroads
And don't know which path to choose
Let me come along
'cause even if you're wrong
I'll stand by you
- The Pretenders

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Tick's Birthplace

I've had quite the treat the last couple of days. After almost two years of having Atticus Higginbottom live inside my head and tell me about his very bizarre life, I was finally able to walk the streets of the town in which he was born and raised: Deer Park, Washington. A big thanks to my Aunt Kendra and Uncle Wesley for taking me out on the town.

Though I didn't replicate the town exactly in my book (it's really an odd melding of eastern Washington and my hometown of Duluth, GA), I was amazed at how much it matched what I pictured in my head. It was especially cool to drive down streets where I could imagine Mothball coming out of the woods, or imagine Tick walking to school; I also loved visiting one of the town cemeteries. My only regret is that I didn't visit Washington before I wrote the first book.

The Spokane area is a beautiful place! Trees, farms, hills and mountains. I visited the Cathedral of St. John's today, too. Holy amazing (pardon the pun). It only intensified my deep desire to visit Europe someday.

I've had fun taking the Change the World Tour to the schools here as well. If you live in the area, please come see me at Border's Bookstore on Friday night at 6:00!

Reminder for those of you in Utah. You gotta come to the Orem Barnes and Noble this Saturday (May 10th) at 2:00 for Authorpalooza III. We'll have 16 nationally published authors there for you to meet and greet, including BRANDON MULL, SARA ZARR, JESSICA DAY GEORGE, BRANDON SANDERSON, RICK WALTON, and more. Oh, and me, too.

Hmmm. I feel like I'm forgetting something. I promise Q&A soon.

Hope to see some of you in the next couple of days, be it here in Spokane tomorrow or in Orem Saturday.

Lyrics of the Day:

In the darkest depths of Mordor,
I met a girl so fair.
But then the evil Gollum
Crept up and slipped away with her.
- Led Zeppelin

No wonder I love them so much!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Ode to the Atlanta Hawks

They must feel sad, those Atlanta Hawks,

As they take off their shorts and their sweaty socks.

Until this morning you floated in Heaven,

Having pushed the Celts to a hard Game Seven.

But alas, today you ran out of gas,

Forgot how to shoot, to steal, and to pass.

But that's okay, you still shocked the world,

Took their predictions and gave it a twirl.

After Game Two, you looked to be dead,

The Big Three'd smacked you right in the head.

You came back, won Games Three and Four,

Kicked them Clovers right out the door.

Game Five, that was ugly, no doubt about that,

But you won Game Six, looked happy and fat.

Then came today, which I'd soon just forget,

That stupid ball wouldn't go through the net.

But don't get down, don't do it I say!

No one thought you'd be here today.

They all said you'd lose in four games or five,

You didn't, you played, you stayed quite alive.

So be proud, boys, keep those heads up.

Go home and rest and drink and sup.

Cuz next year's a-comin' and it's comin' soon,

You'll still be playing when the clock hits June.

I've been a fan since my very first Day,

So thanks, that's all I wanted to say.

Well, they almost shocked the world. It would've been the biggest upset in NBA history (the Celtics won 29 more games than the Hawks this year). Next year, baby!!!!!!!

And yes, I DID turn in my manuscript to my editor on Friday. Another deadline met on time. Yabba dabba.

Hope everyone had a great weekend!

Lyrics of the Day:

Another one bites the dust.
- Queen

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Top Ten Reasons I Became an Author

First: Those stupid Celtics. Why do they have to make so many shots?! It's ridiculous and unfair. I mean, who could root for a team that looks like THAT? (to your left) I'm not listening to Enya for a full month in protest.

Second: It's been awhile since I've done Q&A. If you have a question you'd like me to answer in the next few weeks, please post it in the comments.

Now, for your pleasure, I'm going to post a Top Ten List I presented at a writer's conference 3 years ago. This was back in the days when I only had my little books with my little publisher, and was struggling big time to make a name of myself. You can feel that angst in this list.

(I'd like to thank David Letterman for making Top Ten lists so popular. And for doing the velcro suit.)

Okay, here ya go. A lot of these will only be appreciated by aspiring writers and brand new authors.

Top Ten Reasons I Became an Author

10. I love receiving letters from people that start out “Dear Author” and have the words “unfortunately” and “regret” in them.

9. So I could experience that special moment when you finally quit thinking that authors are weird and psychotic and begin thinking that NON-authors are weird and psychotic.

8. The humility that comes from having lunch with a world famous author and hearing him give his five pet peeves about writing—and realizing you did every one of them in your book.

7. The heart-swelling pride that comes from seeing your book listed on Ebay with the minimum bid set at fifty cents—and no bids.

6. That good feeling you get when you sit behind a rickety old table in the back of a bookstore, pen in hand, and watch person after person avoid eye contact with you like you’re the freaking Elephant Man.

5. So that after running from the computer in excitement to tell my wife that I finally figured out how to pull off a difficult scene, I can hear her say, “That’s nice, honey—will you change Dallin’s poopy diaper?”

4. The joy of figuring out things like this: For every single book I’ve sold, Harry Potter has sold 15,000. (Ha! No longer true!!!)

3. That tingle you get when a sexy woman with lusty eyes approaches you at a book signing and asks, “Where is your bathroom?”

2. The thrill of looking on Amazon to see that your book has climbed from 145,678th to 123,743rd on their bestseller list.

And the Number One reason I became an author:
Two words: The chicks.

Hardy har har. Give me some questions and I'll do some Q&A in May. Hey, that rhymes!

Lyrics of the Day:

I get up, and nothing gets me down.
You got it tough. I've seen the toughest around.
And I know, baby, just how you feel.
You've got to roll with the punches to get to what's real.
Might as well jump.

- Van Halen