Thursday, December 27, 2007

Q&A: What to do after the book is written

Our next question came from Ron Simpson. He wants to know how in the world do you GET published after you've written a dang ole book. Now, this is a very common question that does not have an easy answer. I'll do my best.

The first thing you do is go buy the book Writer's Market. It's found in the "Reference" section of any bookstore, and they do a new edition every year. You can also find it at your library. This book lists every legit publisher, and many agents, and tells you everything you need to know on how to contact them, what to send them, whom to address, what etiquette to follow, etc. (Did I use "whom" correctly there? I hate that word, I really do.)

Now, the first thing you do before that other first thing you do is make sure your book is the best it can be. None of this "my mama liked the first draft" nonsense. Rewrite and revise until it's very good. Have lots of people read through it and give you honest feedback. Make it the best it can be. And don't have typos. Please, in the name of all that is good and green on this Earth, do not have typos. ESPECIALLY in your query letter!

Speaking of query letters, this is where it becomes difficult. I've been immersed in the writing world so long now, I forget what is common knowledge and what is not. Ron, don't take this wrong, but I'm going to assume you're the dumbest person on the planet and tell you all the basics. :-)

You do not print out your manuscript and start mailing it to people. You follow some very strict etiquette rules or you'll never be taken seriously. Be extremely professional. I can't stress that enough. Publishers don't really want glitter and red stationery.

Anyway, first thing, buy that book. Figure out 10-20 publishers and agents who match your profile. You do this by looking in the index at the genre categories and going down the list. For example, I write children's literature. I go to that section and pick 20 of the listed publishers or agents, then find their respective page numbers.

There, it will tell me the editor I should address, what they want (most want a query letter, some want 3 chapters and a synopsis, very few want the whole manuscript up front), the address to mail it to, etc. Each publisher/agent may vary.

Notice I keep saying publisher/agent. You can shoot for both. Submitting to both is almost the exact same process. Yeah, it's great to have an agent, but plenty of publishers accept submissions directly from the author. My advice is always to send your queries to both. If you do land one or the other, the path becomes much easier from there.

A query is a simple one page letter that basically does this: tells them briefly about your story, states any prior experience, and begs them to let you send a few chapters for them to read. At the risk of embarrassing myself greatly, I will post the very query letter I sent out that landed me an agent. Granted, it didn't hurt that I had some sales numbers in there already for my previously published books by the small publisher. (see my "How I got published" links on the right hand side of the blog.)

Here it is:

Jennie Dunham
Dunham Literacy, Inc.
156 Fifth Ave., Suite 625
New York, NY 10010-7002

RE: Query for review of manuscript; The Maze Runner; fiction; young adult

Dear Ms. Dunham,

I have completed a 70,000 word novel for young adults entitled The Maze Runner. It tells the story of a group of boys who have been ripped from their homes and families to live inside a massive stone maze where the walls move and hideous creatures lurk. The Maze has many secrets, and its creators did not expect the boys to ever figure them out—but one of the greatest and cruelest experiments in history is about to come to a most unexpected conclusion.

My novel should appeal to fans of such books as Holes by Louis Sachar and Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. It combines elements of suspense, fantasy, humor, and despair; in the end, it’s a story about the strengths and weaknesses of each character, and how they react to a problem that has no solution.

I’ve had four books published by Bonneville Books, a specialty press based in Utah. Despite the limited marketing and distribution power of my publisher, my books have sold 20,000 copies and continue to grow in popularity. I work hard to promote my work, having done many book-signings and speaking engagements at schools. For more information on my current books, which were recently re-released with new covers, please visit my website,

May I send you a copy of The Maze Runner for your review? I have included an SASE for your response.

Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Best regards,

James Dashner

That's a real agent by the way. I think she rejected me. :-)

Notice the word SASE. That stands for Self Addressed Stamped Envelope. You must send that with your query letter or the agent/publisher may not respond. You can imagine if they had to fork out the dough for the thousands of stamps for their rejections.

From that point on, not a lot you can do. The agent/publisher will respond in a few weeks or months, either saying no thanks or asking you for a partial. I strongly recommend you track your queries and their responses, dates, follow ups, etc. If someone asks you for something, send it to them, maintaining your professionalism. And don't plan on sleeping at night until you hear back.

My last piece of big advice would be this: go to writer's conferences. Network. Make contacts. Many if not most authors got their break through some kind of connection, often one they created themselves.

If you get rejected, please don't despair. There are more billionaires in the state of North Dakota than there are successful authors who didn't get rejected initially. It's part of the game. It's just part of the game, and there are a million reasons why people turn things down. Granted, one of those might be that you suck, but I doubt it.

Someone said this: There's a word for a persistent author. Published.

Best of luck. I know I didn't cover everything, so if anyone has follow up questions, please post it in the comments.
Now go, write, and submit. You can do it.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

ARCs, Website, Various

This will be a random post. I'll try really hard to say ten things that mean something.

First, did everyone who was supposed to get an ARC get one? If you don't have it by now, something must've gone wrong. Let me know.

Second, you'll want to check back right after Christmas. The official website for THE 13TH REALITY will be launching sometime next week. I'll let you know when it does.

Third, have you guys ever used Google Alert? It's pretty amazing. Basically it's like your own Internet personal secretary. If someone blogs about me or the new book, it sends me an email. Another great review popped up yesterday. Check it out: CLICK HERE

Fourth, have I ever told you guys how much I love cheese? I really, really like cheese.

Fifth, I will officially be the last person on the planet to get an iPod this Christmas. I'm getting the new 8 gig nano. Red. For the Georgia Bulldogs.

Sixth, traffic to this blog is really going to skyrocket when the book comes out. I'm trying to decide what the personality of this blog should be. I really want to help aspiring writers, but I also want to make it fun for my readers. Any suggestions?

Seventh, the college bowl season starts tonight. Plan accordingly.

Eighth, tomorrow my oldest child turns eight years old. I absolutely cannot believe that is possible. I have an eight-year-old. Wow.

Ninth, I'm a little sad that Peter Jackson isn't directing The Hobbit. He's the executive producer, but not the director. This makes me very sad, but I'm sure he won't let the yet-to-be-called director mess it up. PJ has prior committments to direct, and he doesn't want to make the fans wait any longer.

Tenth, and most importantly, I want to plug my sister's new website. She is an extremely gifted photographer, and her business is really starting to pick up in Atlanta. Please take a second and check it out: CLICK HERE

Well, until next time, then. Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Nice review and Best News Ever

Two items today that my oldest son would definitely classify as "sweet biscuits!" worthy.

First off, a really nice review popped up on my upcoming book. I know there have been others on blogs, but let's face it - I think I've known everyone so far (and I'm very thankful). This is the first one by someone I have never met and who has no interest in the success of my book. Check it out: CLICK HERE. Stacy, if you read this, thank you very much.

Also, and I hope I didn't get my mom excited because this has nothing to do with me, PETER JACKSON IS MAKING THE HOBBIT!!!!!!!!!! Check it out: CLICK HERE.

In even better news, he's splitting it into TWO movies. I'd vote for 23, but I'll take what I can get. Now I just need to pray every night that he invites Howard Shore back to do the music again. I'm sure he will.

I know this finally and completely reveals me for what I am, but I can't help it. I was willing to give up one of my children for this to happen, so I'm sure my wife is relieved that won't be necessary. By the way, in my book that has already gone to press, Peter Jackson is mentioned in the acknowledgements. Yes, I am as nerdy as humanly possible.

Peter and Stacy, thanks for making today a wonderful day. Boo-yah!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Hmm, what to talk about?

We're in kind of a lull right now with my book stuff. It's gone to press, they're mapping out my release tour, not a whole lot going on. There might be some cool news regarding Borders bookstores, but not yet.

Meanwhile, I'm still working hard on Book 2. Right now it stands at 41,163 words, and I'm truly loving every minute of writing it. It'll probably end up around 100,000 words, so I'm purtin near close to being halfway done with the first draft. And the second half of a book is even MORE fun to write than the first half. In my humble opinion.

This book is weird. Of course, all my books are weird, but this one is really weird. I like it because it's so different from Book 1, and yet it has some of the same elements. For example, there are riddles, but in a different context. All of the same characters return, but we learn a lot more about them, especially Sato. Most of you don't know who Sato is, duh. But I hope by the end of Book 1 you'll wonder what in the heck is up with that guy.

We also have new characters, of course. The dude named Sally is my favorite one.

Hmm, what else to talk about? Annie Baily asked in the comments on my "Q&A: Writing Process" post about my word counts and how much they change from draft to draft. Boy, every author is really different on this one. Our recently exalted friend, Brandon Sanderson, says he goes back and basically cuts out ten percent of the manuscript because he's too wordy.

Not me. I rush things when I write the first draft. I need to be more wordy. Alway, always, in every case, the word count of my second draft is more than the first. Always. For example, Book 1. Thinking back, I'm pretty sure the 1st draft was actually a little less than 90,000 words. I might have lied a little in my initial story on that one, without meaning to. The final draft was 95,000 words, not the first one. Anyway, there you have it.

Hmm, what else? Christmas is coming - did you hear about that? You're supposed to get presents and stuff. It's kinda cool.

Umm, oh, Authorpalooza! That went really great last week. I met some great people, saw old friends, had a blast. One kid came in, his name was Josh. This guy is a stud of studs. He said he was a fan way back during the ORIGINAL Jimmy Fincher cover days. This just about brought tears to my eyes.

His cool parents bought some books, and I just had to give Josh an ARC for the new one. Pretty sure I'll never forget the look on his face when I gave him that. What a great, great kid. I hope he reads this post.

Afterward, I had dinner with some awesome people: Shannon Hale, Nathan Hale, Jessica Day George, Rick Walton and his wife, Randall Wright, Kim Justesen, and the greatest person in the world - Angie Wager from Barnes and Noble. I love this woman. She is just as responsible for my career as any other person on the planet. Shannon had a friend there, and dang it all if I didn't forget her name. Sorry, if you're reading this, truly I am.

One last thing. I went and saw Brandon Mull do a school event yesterday to learn a thing or two. Now I know one reason why he is so successful. It was really good, and the kids loved him.

Well, that's about enough for one day. I hope all people of all faiths are enjoying this awesome time of year. Peace on Earth. good will to men.

Monday, December 10, 2007


Some of you may have already heard this, but Brandon Sanderson has been chosen to write the 12th and last book in the Wheel of Time Series. Robert Jordan (real name James Rigney) passed away this past September.

You don't need to hear this from me. Check it out on Brandon's website: CLICK HERE.

Do you have any idea what a big deal this is? Unbelievable. The series has sold millions of copies, so this will basically turn Brandon into a mega superstar. He was already well on his way, but this will make it official.

How cool is it that his name will be on my book in March as an endorsement? Here's my original post about him: CLICK HERE (from a few weeks ago).

Brandon, a hearty congratulations. Wow. I'm speechless.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Q&A: The Writing Process

The next question in the queue (could someone please explain to me why that word has the letters "ue" in it twice?) comes from Rachelle. She asked about the writing process, how much do I get absorbed into it, stuff like that. Well, sometimes it feels like this picture, but for the most part I absolutely love writing and I'm happy to talk about it.

It's a good time to answer this question because I am completely immersed in writing the sequel to my book that comes out in March. I should've been writing it since last spring, but I found it really hard to do that and work with my editor on Book 1 at the same time. Plus, I work much better under pressure. And I've been plotting it out for months and months.

Here's how I write a book:

I'm a very all-or-nothing kind of guy. For example, I like soda. Drinking water with meals is about as exciting as watching quilting shows with my wife. But soda is bad for you. So I've tried many times to quit drinking it, sometimes holding myself to one a week or some lame program like that. It never works. I either don't drink it at all or I drink it like a thirsty man in the desert. I've done pretty well recently.

Same with writing. When I'm into a story, I need to write, write, write. I'm very streaky. I'll go weeks doing very little writing, then write a whole bunch for 2 or 3 months. If you remember, I wrote the first draft of THE JOURNAL OF CURIOUS LETTERS in 7 weeks. That was partly because I had a sudden and unexpected deadline, but mainly because I got so absorbed into the story I spent every spare second writing.

Before I begin a book, I've thought about it for a very long time, jotting down notes when really cool things pop into my head. I also do a simple outline, 1 or 2 pages where I have a bullet point list of the main events. That's the extent of my prework.

One note here: it is VERY important to me to know how my book ends before I begin writing it. I know a lot of authors don't do this. They say the characters whisk them away and decide the ending for them. That's great. For them.

But not me. In my opinion, every word of the book is setting up the ending. How can you do this if you don't know how it ends? It's not like I have it exactly detailed, but I always know the general climax and all that, including what happens to each character. Some say this impedes your creativity because you can't change things.

Hogwash. I can change whatever I want, and do it all the time. Nothing is sacred. But at least I start with what I think will be the ending and go from there. To me, that's better than nothing.

Stephen King says he doesn't plot. And he's pretty much The Master, so I'm probably wrong. But, and I'm so scared to say this because I worry that I might spontaneously combust, if there is one teensy tiny thing I sometimes don't like about The Master, it's his endings. They are often anticlimactic. (please, dear Lord, do not let him read this, please do not let him read this) He is the most gifted author I know, but sometimes his endings leave me wanting. Okay, I'm just going to shut up about that.

Anyway, so I start writing the book. I don't know what to say about that part. It's an indescribable thing, and I know why so many people think authors are nut jobs. It's because we sometimes TRY to describe it and sound like psychos.

The story consumes me, the characters become real, it becomes my life. It's all I think about 99% of the time, no matter what I'm doing. Even when I put it aside to play with my kids, work, whatever, the book still hangs there in my brain, begging me to give it more thought. It becomes so real and takes over my life so much that maybe I am ready to admit I'm crazy.

Oh well. There you have it. I'm looney. But I have a hot wife, four awesome kids, and a lot of good friends and family. So I'm happily insane.

Just a couple more things. I do not edit as I go. Never, never, never. I write the whole thing in one long burst of creativity, not worrying about how good or how cruddy the writing may be. During the first draft, the STORY is the ONLY thing that matters. And the characters. When that first draft is done, then I go back and rework it, recraft it, rewrite it. But I rarely change anything major relating to the story itself after the first draft is complete.

Next, I go through the book from beginning to end, probably four or five times, cleaning as I go. Then I give it to my wife and sit on pins and needles hoping she likes it. She usually does and gives great feedback. Then I give it to my critique group and other close friends.

The part I hate is going through all of their stuff, deciding what to accept and what to reject. Mainly because by that point I am sick to death of the book. Imagine reading the same book nine or ten times within the span of a few weeks. Do ya think you'd get a little sick of it?

Finally, after all of that exhaustive work, I turn it in to my editor, dreading the prospect of getting HER suggested rewrites back. And that, my friends, is just about enough for today. For those keeping score, I'm at 32,262 words on Book 2 and still on track to be done by February.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Change the World Tour

Chris from Shadow Mountain called me yesterday to discuss the planned tour of schools, not only for the release but in the coming months and years. They really wanted to have a theme and a title and make it sort of event-ish. He was composing a letter to send with ARCs to elementary schools.

Well, there are several things I try to do when I speak at a school. First and foremost, have fun. If you fail on number one, you will accomplish nothing. I also like to create a story with the kids, using their ideas. Then I really want to stress to them how, as cheesy as it sounds, they can accomplish anything they want to in life. Be it an astronaut, an NFL player, a dancer, a doctor, whatever.

They can do it. People will tell them they can't. People told me I couldn't become an author. When all the crusty old badgers told me that only 1 out of 1000 even gets published, much less makes a living from it, I just said, "well dang, I feel sorry for those other 999 saps."

They can do it. And if they want to, they can change the world forever. Just like Lincoln and Edison and Einstein and a bunch of other people did. And to do it, they need to start now by being strong readers and writers.

If I can make them have fun for 99 percent of the time, and then slam them with that message in the last 1 percent, all is well.

So that's why we're calling it the Change the World Tour. Any thoughts? Suggestions? I plan on doing this many, many times, so I'd love your feedback.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Latest on the Author Road

Well, I really enjoyed my last week of taking time off and watching football. Um, I mean, spending time with family and remembering all those things I'm thankful for. This has been quite a stretch without a post, so I will list here a bunch of random things that have happened recently on ye old author journey.

1. The artist, Bryan Beus, completed his 9 full page illustrations for the inside of the book. I've seen them and I love them! I can't tell you how insanely I wish I could show a couple of them on this here bloggy thing, but I can't. My hands are tied on that one. Maybe he'll show it on his website soon.

It's very surreal to see something you've worked on so hard and imagined so often in your mind suddenly come to life visually. It's a very odd and very exciting feeling. It's also a huge relief when you realize that you don't hate it. Especially if, on the contrary, you LOVE it. I think it will add a lot to the experience of reading the final version.

2. My publisher is working with a third party web design company to do the website for my book, which will be Right now it just has the cover with a "coming soon" comment. It sounds like they are going to do some cool things with it. For example, I've written a few riddles for the site that you can solve and win a prize. Also, they might do a monthly contest where kids can make up their own riddles.

Here's an example of one of the riddles, which are meant to be fun and pretty easy:

Count your knees and then add three
Plus your toes but subtract your nose
Your eyes and ears will do just fine
But minus your fingers, all in kind
Count each hair, do it nilly willy
Then subtract them all 'cause that's just silly
Add elbows and shoulders plus eight more
Then finally divide this all by four.

What's the final number?

3. I had a meeting with the marketing team at Shadow Mountain and it was really cool. They basically told me what their plan is, and I left speechless (no small feat). These people somehow make me feel like I'm the most important author in the world and treat me so well that I keep thinking it's too good to be true. I'll tell more in future posts, but here's one thing I'm really excited for: they're sending me to Book Expo America in L.A. from May 29 - June 1 (2008).

4. I also received blurbs (or puffs as my editor calls them) from Brandon Mull (Fablehaven) and David Farland (Ravenspell, Runelords, some Star Wars novels). You know I never brag (hardy har), but I was thrilled that David Farland (real name Dave Wolverton) apologized for taking so long because he refuses to give blurbs unless he reads the whole thing and really likes it. And he gave me one. Sweet! These blurbs, along with Brandon Sanderson's, will all be on the back of the hardback cover.

5. Lisa, my editor, called me while I was literally walking out the door to drive to Arizona last week. She said, in a worried tone, that we have a "problem." You can imagine what happened to my poor little heart. It turned out to be nothing serious, of course. They had miscalculated a bit and had a few blank pages at the end of the book and she didn't want them to be blank.

So she had a brilliant idea, as usual. We decided to put a "snippet" from Book 2 at the end. I delayed my trip a few minutes, ignored the look from my wife, and went upstairs to email Lisa the first chapter. It had been looked at and edited by my critique group, so I felt pretty comfortable giving it to her. She took her favorite section from it, edited, prettied, cleaned, and it will now be at the very end of the book.

6. Finally, one more thing: THE BOOK GOES TO PRESS TODAY!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Authorpalooza Press Release

The following is a copy of a press release for an event in which yours truly is participating. For those of you in Utah, I hope you'll come by and see me! It's on DECEMBER 8TH.


Many of Utah's top children's writers and illustrators will be featured at a giant event to be held on Saturday, December 8 at the Jordan Landing Barnes & Noble in West Jordan, Utah. The event, titled "Authorpalooza" is a day-long autographing party featuring award winning authors and illustrators such as Shannon Hale, winner of a Newbery Honor; Sara Zarr, finalist for the
National Book Award; Mark Buehner, winner of the Caldecott Award; and many others.

The event is an opportunity for residents to get personalized gifts in time for the holidays, as well as to promote the talented pool of local children's writers and artists. The event begins at 11:00 a.m. and runs until 6:30 p.m. at the Barnes & Noble store at Jordan Landing.

The authors and illustrators scheduled to appear are:

11:00 - 1:30: Ken Baker, Mette Ivie Harrison, Sherry Meidell, Christine Graham, Guy Francis, Jessica Day George

1:30 - 4: Sara Zarr, Becky Hall, Randall Wright, Anne Bowen, Mark & Caralyn Buehner

4:00 - 6:30 - Shannon Hale. James Dashner, Kim W. Justesen, Rick Walton, Nathan Hale, Ann Dee Ellis

For more information, contact Kim Justesen at (801) 597-7416, or Angie Wager, Community Relations Manager, Barnes & Noble Booksellers, 7157 South Plaza Center Drive, West Jordan, Utah 84084, (801) 282-1613

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Blurb from Brandon Sanderson

This post has two purposes: to brag that I got a cool cover quote from Brandon Sanderson, and to encourage you, very strongly, that you need to read this dude. He is extremely talented and rocketing up the success ladder.

His first books were in the adult fantasy market, published by the biggest in that genre, Tor. ELANTRIS was a stand alone that was just awesome, original and intriguing. Next came a series called MISTBORN, of which Book 1 and Book 2 are out. These were even awesomer and originaler and intriguinger.

But then, to me anyway, came the real gem. His first children's book, ALCATRAZ VERSUS THE EVIL LIBRARIANS. I'm telling you, I don't care what you're doing, what you're reading, who you're entertaining at the moment. I don't care if you're in the hospital in traction. You need to run to the bookstore tonight and buy this book. It is awesome. Brandon's ability to write something original and fast paced and funny and intriguing and wicked good is just amazing. You will love this book.

In fact, NPR loved it, which is a HUGE deal. Check out this link: CLICK HERE. It was also mentioned on the radio show by none other than Nancy Pearl herself. (By the way, I happen to know that Brandon got a huge advance from Scholastic for the Alcatraz series. Yeah, that's right. Scholastic. Ya know, the publisher of Harry Potter.)

Anyway, I'm honored to say that Brandon read my new book and gave a quote to my publisher, which will appear on the cover of the hardback. But here, exclusively for the millions of Dashner Dude blog readers, you can read it first:

"The Journal of Curious Letters is witty, exciting, and fun. I found this book a delight to read." -Brandon Sanderson

Monday, November 12, 2007

More pre-order spottings

Well, they literally must have just appeared or something because they seem disjointed and incomplete, without images, but I just noticed the book is now on Amazon and Barnes and Noble's websites for preordering.

In fact, I was blown away by the deal you can get on Amazon - it's 33% off if you preorder. Not bad at all. It's 20% off at B&N. The audio is also available for preorder. (No, this is not a shameless urge for you to preorder, this is an "I'm excited it's available for preorder" exclamation.)

Here's the Amazon link: CLICK HERE

Here's the B&N link: CLICK HERE

BOOK 2 WRITING UPDATE: Well, I didn't have much writing time over the weekend, so I'm only at 13,591 words. But I'm still well on my pace, and plan to write tonight after the urchins go to bed. The next scene is mega cool, in a dark and stinky place made completely of metal with a weird dude named Sally. Yeah, that's right. Sally.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Writing Update

Ya know, I'd really slacked off in my book writing duties lately. The main reason is because it felt like everytime I'd start working on Book Two, my editor would call me or email me with something I needed to work on for Book One. Here's a sample list of the types of things I'm talking about:

* Actual content of the book itself
* List of ideas for the artist
* Write riddles for the teaser chapter booklets, upcoming website, etc.
* Review the galleys
* Review the infamous "blue lines"
* etcetera

Well, I'm pretty much done with any possible thing I could do for Book One, so I set a goal to really get hot and heavy in writing Book Two beginning with November 1st. In fact, staying true to my nerdy self, I set up a timeline and some goals to ensure that the first draft of Book Two will be completed by mid-February. I really want to be done with it before I go on tour for the release of Book One.

Well, it's pretty easy when you look at it. If I average 1,000 words a day, six days a week, from now until mid-Feb, then I will succeed. So far, so good. As of today, Book Two, which is tentatively titled, THE PLAGUE OF DARK INFINITY, stands at
12, 784 words. When it's complete, I'd like it to be around 95,000 to 100,000. That means I'm more than 10 percent done! (do the math, you'll see I'm right)

I would tell you some cool stuff about what I'm writing, but since not many people have read the first book, it wouldn't sound very cool, now would it?

Here's a tidbit: the names of the first 7 chapters:

1: The Two Faces of Reginald Chu
2: Burnt Spaghetti
3: Something Odd is Happening
4: Intense Pain
5: Master George's Interview Room
6: A Major Rule Violation
7: A Very Strange Place

Well, if you're actually still reading this post, I say congratulations! You have a high tolerance for painful boredom.

Hope all is well out there. I'm having a lot of fun, a LOT of fun, now that I'm back in writing mode. This is the best job in the world.

Sidenote: A hearty congratulations to Michael Phipps. Talk about a successful art show: someone agreed to buy ALL of Mike's pieces when the show is done in a month. Is that amazing or what!? (and trust me, that ain't chump change)

Friday, November 2, 2007

Michael Phipps Art Show - Jimmy Fincher Covers

Dang it, I meant to post this way earlier and forgot. Dang it all!!!!!

The artist for my Jimmy Fincher books, Michael Phipps, is participating in an art show in downtown Salt Lake City tonight. This dude is the stud of studs and his art is awesome. You can see his covers on this here page if you just take a gander to your right and scroll down a bit.

The original paintings for the covers will be on sale at this show. I plan on going myself to see if the Dashner Estate coffers can afford to buy one. How cool would that be!

Please, if you're in the area, go check out all of Michael's incredible work. Here is the scoop:

127 South Main Street
Salt Lake City, UT

There will be a reception, TONIGHT, November 2nd, from 6:00 to 9:00 pm. Important: then the art will be displayed there for the next month. So if you can't make it tonight, come later. But hey, you need to meet the man himself!

Go check out Michael's website: CLICK HERE

(sidenote: if you're wondering about the ARCs, please see previous post)

Thursday, November 1, 2007

ARCs are here; Addresses

After much anxious waiting and staring at the phone for weeks, I was hit with a double whammy yesterday. The little "Teaser Chapter" booklets came in the morning, and the Advance Reader Copies (ARCs) came in the afternoon. So basically, I spent all morning and afternoon staring at the booklet in awe, then spent all evening staring at the ARC in awe (after my kids and I went around begging people for free candy).

And my wife gave out the booklets to trick or treaters. How's that for shameless promotion? (Actually, we only gave them to people we know really well, and yes, we did give candy, too.)

btw, in the "Dashners Are Original" department, my 4 kids dressed up as Dracula, Spiderman, Cinderella, and a pirate. I guess we're only creative when writing stories.

Because of the contest a few weeks ago, some of you will be receiving ARCs from my publisher. However, a few of you never gave me your address to pass on. Speak now or forever hold your peace:

Marcia Mickelson
G. Parker
Don (15 minutes of delusion blog)
Lisa (time remembers blog)
Shaunda Wenger
Sarah Kiesche (uh, sis, I'm not sure I have your new address so email it to me, please)
Tristi "Badaboom Badabing" Pinkston

You may have indeed sent it, but if you did, I lost it. Please email me through my website.

And, of course, if my wonderful mom is reading, you'll be getting a copy, too.

I'm really curious on when and where the booklets and/or ARCs will show up in bookstores, at schools, etc. Please, if any of you guys ever spot one, please let us know in the comments.

Thanks, and Happy November!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Never Give Up!

I think many of us must feel like this football team felt on the last play of this game. I've never seen anything like this. See all those laterals? That's you, submitting and submitting and then submitting again, until you get that phone call one day: "Hey, you, we'd like to publish your book!"

You gotta watch this. CLICK HERE

Thursday, October 25, 2007

First pre-order spotting!

Wow, you can actually pre-order my book now. It will probably show up on Amazon and all that kind of stuff soon, but this is the first time I've seen it anywhere. Now it really feels official.

I'm such a disturbed person that I will probably order one just for kicks.

In case, er, you, er, suddenly have a desire to, er, pre-order it, go to this site: CLICK HERE.

Those of you who will be getting ARCs (coming very soon), I sure hope you'll post a review on this site, Amazon, etc. Well, unless you hate it......

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Q&A: Aspiring Writers

My next question in the queue is from none other than Sarah Kiesche, my very own little sister. Proof of her relation to me is evident in the fact that she now has the writing bug, which makes me proud.

Her question: Do you (meaning me, James Dashner) have any advice for beginning writers?

This is a good one since I get it without fail no matter where I go. When all else fails, people either ask, 1) Where do you get your ideas? or 2) Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Although a good question, it's also very difficult to answer. It'd be like me going up to an artist and asking him or her if they have any advice on how to paint portraits. I'll start by sharing something I learned from Stephen King that is very wise: you can either write, or you cannot. You either have the talent or you do not. While you can become a BETTER writer, you cannot BECOME a writer.

So, first, ask yourself honestly if you think you might have a knack for it. (And no, Sarah, I'm not trying to give you a hint. I've seen your writing, and you have talent.) There's no magical formula. There's no checklist. Pick up something you've written and read it again. Is it okay? Passable? Not THAT bad? If so, then you're on the right path.

Next, you need to work your bootie off. I'm not sure why, but many people seem to think writing is different from any other talent. They think you just do it, and your skill level never changes. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Writing is like basketball. Writing is like dancing. Writing is like playing the piano. You must practice, practice, practice. Write, write, write. Everytime you do, you will improve. Don't worry about how good it is yet. Just write. Then write some more. By doing this alone, you will improve drastically. That is, if, like I said earlier, you have the raw talent.

In the midst of all these obsessive compulsive writing fits, read a few books on writing. Go to the Reference section of a bookstore and you'll see a ton of them. If anyone reading this blog has suggestions on good ones, please leave a comment. Read some books and make sure you're sound on the technical aspects of our craft.

Go to writer's conferences. You won't believe how many of them are out there, some cheap, some not. Google for them and attend one. I guarantee there's one within 100 miles of you in the next 6 months. Unless you live in the boondocks or on a boat in the middle of the ocean, like a character in my upcoming book. (BAM! I figured out a way to throw in some shameless promotion!)

Write a novel from beginning to end. I mean it. I don't care if it's the worst book in history, write a beginning, a middle, and an ending, and everything in between. You won't believe the magical power that will come over you once you've accomplished this task. Is it easy? No. Will it win the National Book Award? Probably not. Do I hate when people ask rhetorical questions over and over? Yes.

If you write and finish a complete book, you will suddenly find it much easier to do the next one. It's like a marathon, I suppose, though I've never done it. (Though I did come in 12th place in my neighborhood 5k. Yah, that's right.) I imagine the first marathon is brutal and full of wanna-give-ups. But once you KNOW you can do it, the 2nd time around becomes much easier. I'm guessing.

It took me 3 years to write my first book. The second one, 9 months. My last one, 7 weeks. I'm talking first drafts, here.

Write a complete book. If it's pretty decent, rewrite and rework. If it stinks, trash it and start another one.

Finally, FIND YOURSELF A CRITIQUE GROUP. Notice the annoying usage of all-caps there. A critique group will change your life. Week in and week out you can meet with a few friends who also like to write, people who understand you, people who are as weird as you, people who are as oblivious as you are to the pundits who say you can't do it. Help each other, read aloud, be honest, grow thick skin, push each other. Start searching for these whackos today.

Well, I don't know what else to say. I'd love to hear from anyone else if they have advice. Please comment and help us out.

Once you, New Writer, have some good material, THEN you can worry about how to get published. That day is down the road, in the future. For now, just start writing. Then write some more.

I know I haven't given a lot of tangible, take-away-point-ish type of advice here. But I guess that's what you get with such a broad question. A broad answer. Feel free to follow up with more specific inquiries. Ooh, such a big word.

Q&A will be a regular part of this blog. If you ever have a question, just post it in the comments, and I will save it in my file until it's your turn.

Now go write!!!!!! 1000 words, tonight. No matter what. Promise me. I don't care if it's about Snuffalupagus, just do it.

Have a great day.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Another Shout Out

Sorry I've been so quiet this week. The last couple of days were a whirlwind of school visits and I haven't had much time at the old potato rigormortis, aka computer (if you're confused, see prior post).

I want to give a shout out to the eight schools I visited: Centerville, Snow Horse, Vae View, Crestview, Holt, Antelope, Bluff Ridge, and Cook Elementary. I can't say enough about the school leaders, the teachers, the librarians, and, most importantly, the awesome students. You guys were great and I really enjoyed being with you. The future of our world is in good hands.

Also, a big thanks to Cathy Jensen and Brent Severe from the Davis School District Foundation. You guys are doing a lot of good and I'm glad I could help out. Cathy was an excellent host and was a lot of fun to hang out with. Especially as we ate an exorbitant amount of food at Red Lobster and Olive Garden!

Thanks to Deseret Book for lugging my books around, too. You guys are awesome.

If any of the students I visited happens across this blog, thanks for the hospitality! And thanks for courtesy laughing at all my lame jokes. Shoot me an email.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Blue Lines, or, James the Stupid Guy

So, evidently, I'm an idiot.

A couple of days ago, my editor calls me, her voice filled with excitement. Before I can say a word, she rattles off something like, "James, we got the blue lines for the ARC today and they look so awesome and as your editor I feel I must tell you about the mistakes we found but don't worry because it's nothing major and we're going to tell them to go forward if you're okay with it and . . ."

At this point, I sheepishly interjected and asked, "What are blue lines?"

I was met with the silence of a sealed grave.

"Hello?" I asked.

Another silence. Then: "You don't know what blue lines are?"

Me: "I have no idea what that is."

Lisa: "You're an idiot."

Okay, it didn't go quite like that, but close. Now, I'm sure many of you know what blue lines are, unlike me, the Stupid Guy. But in case you don't, I shall educate you.

Blue lines (and I have no idea where the words came from) are the bound version of whatever item is being published (in this case, my ARCs - Advance Reader Copies) that are sent to the publisher by the printer before they move forward with the full print run. In other words, the printer sent an ARC, just like it will look in the end, to my publisher for one final review before they start printing them in loads.

That's what blue lines are. Is. Whatever. Lisa wasn't kind enough to tell my WHY they are called blue lines. Could any term sound more random? Okay, fine. From now on, my pants will be known as "duck platters" and my computer will be known as "potato rigormortis." Makes as much sense to me. UPDATE: Lisa explains the origin of "blue lines" in the comments.

Anyway, the ARCs are in full production and should be done in a couple of weeks. Sweet!

Okay, now that I am obviously running out of interesting things to talk about, I'll start doing more Question and Answer posts. I've saved up any questions I've received so far, and I will answer them one by one. If ever you have a question on which you'd like me to pontificate, please just post it in the comments at any time. I save them and will hit them in order.

And now, for your viewing pleasure, especially any Star Wars fans, please go and watch this video: CLICK HERE. Be sure and watch the whole 2 minutes or you'll miss the "Cantina" part.

Have a great day.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Latest on the book, ARCs

Just thought I would give you a glimpse of the latest random dealings with the upcoming book.

Yesterday I met with my editor, Lisa, about the illustrations for the inside of the book. A week or so ago, they'd asked me to put together a list of 20 scenes from the story that I thought would be really cool to see visually. I starred my favorite twelve.

They had the artist (Bryan Beus) do the same thing, and he starred his favorites. The result: 3 scenes that we both starred, so those were a shoo-in. Then Lisa and I duked it out over the remainder, using both my list and Bryan's list. It looks like he'll be doing 8 to 10 full page, black-and-white illustrations. He has a month to finish it. (I think he's been doing a lot of sketches already)

I have until Monday to complete my review of the galleys. Lisa gave me the latest version since they increased the font size. What stinks about doing this: every time I find a mistake, I realize that the mistake will be in the ARC. Luckily, they are few and far between, all minor.

I asked Lisa if I could just rely on their proofreaders because I didn't want to read the stupid book again (any writer out there knows what I mean). She looked at me like I'd just suggested she drive a nail into her eyeball. Evidently, it's a cardinal sin for the author NOT to review the galleys. Anyway, I put this off for too long, so guess what I'll be busy doing all weekend.

Finally, about the ARCs. I can't remember when I told you they'd be done and sent, but I think it was right about now. Well, it actually won't be until the end of October. It went to press a few days later than they thought, and since they upped the print run, it added 2 weeks to the timeline. If you were one of those expecting one, please don't start looking until early November. Sorry.

The booklets with teaser chapters will be done on Tuesday the 16th, just in time for my 2 day visit to schools in Davis County. Can't wait to pass those out!

A sidenote of good news: Publisher's Weekly wrote a killer article about Shadow Mountain's latest book (THE WEDNESDAY LETTERS) and its author, Jason Wright. Since they said it, I'm assuming I can say it: His first print run of 50,000 copies (hardback) disappeared in 2 weeks and they ordered another 100,000! Plus, he's been on the NY Times list 4 weeks in a row now. Way to go, Jason!!!!!!! Now go buy it: Click here.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Eight Random Things

Well, I've been "tagged" twice now, so I guess I should be a non-loser and do as I'm told. Thanks to Rachelle and Luisa for this dubious honor. I think I will use Luisa's theme, which is to tell you eight completely random things about me. I will make them as stupid as possible.

1. I have a brother (Paul) who thinks he has beautiful feet. In fact, he likes to share this with anyone who is willing to listen. I find it quite disturbing.

2. One of my favorite meals is toast, smothered in peanut butter, dipped in hot tomato soup. If you cringed at this instead of my brother's obsession with his own feet, then something is wrong with you.

3. When I was a kid, I was so obsessed with the Atlanta Braves that I kept a scrapbook. I would cut out the box score from the newspaper for every game and glue it in my book. When I lived in Japan, my wonderful mom sent me the newspaper clippings for every Braves playoff game (though I'd finally quit the scrapbook business).

4. When I was eleven, I visited my sister, Lisa, and her family at Virginia Beach for a whole month in the summer. I became friends with all the rugrats in the apartment complex, and somehow convinced them that I was a guardian angel sent to watch over them. They did anything I commanded. True story, and I am ashamed.

5. When I was four, I opened every Christmas present under the tree while all my older siblings were away at school and my mom was upstairs. In a moment of sheer genius, I put all the presents back under the tree and hid the mounds of wrapping paper behind the dryer. Somehow, my mom figured it out and rewrapped all the presents before the kids got home. The only one I remember is that my brother (who is obsessed with his pretty feet) received a Slinky.

6. When I was in Middle School, I was part of a competition called Odyssey of the Mind. We won the Georgia Championship and went to the World Finals in Arizona. We lost. Terribly. But I got a free trip to Arizona and saw the Grand Canyon.

7. I hate peas. I hate them like I hate eating sourkraut that's been rubbed on Paul's feet. I despise them. They are evil.

8. I use the best-smelling deoderant known to man. It's called Degree, Clean Shower scent, and it is divine. My armpits smell like a little piece of sunshine wrapped in honeysuckle. When I play basketball, my friends will often stop and ask if they may take a closer whiff of said armpits. I always decline. (Okay, that last part isn't true, but only because they would be too embarrassed to admit they want to smell my armpits.)

Have a wonderful day. And seriously, go buy some Degree deoderant, Clean Shower scent.

Friday, October 5, 2007

The Cover

Click on them to see the bigger version.

The top one is the preliminary cover they used for the ARC. They told me the artist is making a few more changes. Also, the titles will be in silvery embossed foil and there will be sparkly sumthins in those shooting lights.

The bottom one is the cover for a booklet they just sent to press that will have the first 2 chapters, a letter from me, and a sample of the book's glossary. You might start seeing those in bookstores in 3 or 4 weeks.

The artist's name is Bryan Beus. He has officially joined the Dashner Dude's Top Twenty Most Favored People List, bumping Abe Lincoln to Number 21. Also, major kudos go out to Richard Erickson and his incredible team at Shadow Mountain.

So . . . what do you think?

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Shout Out to Butterfield Canyon Elementary

I had such an amazingly wonderful experience yesterday, I just have to share.

Butterfield Canyon Elementary in Herriman, Utah was kind enough to invite me and Anne Bowen, a picture book author, to speak at their school. Angie Wager from Barnes and Noble (mentioned previously in my drawn out back story) was the force behind it. Ya know, I've done a lot of school visits, but I never, never get tired of it.

In the afternoon, I spoke to the 5th and 6th graders together, then the 3rd and 4th graders together. In the evening, as part of their "Literacy Night", we had a booksigning. This is what blew me away, especially considering my recent post on Obert Skye and his Line of Infinity. I met kid after kid, and their parents, for over 2 hours, signing far more books than I've ever sold at a signing.

But I just have to rave about these kids, and their awesome teachers, and their awesome Literacy Facilitator, Laurie Larsen, and their super duper califrigilistic Principal, Shelly Davis. I was just so impressed and thoroughly enjoyed every minute. Thanks to everyone at the school, and to Angie, for an unforgettable day. And a huge Shout Out to all the kids I was so fortunate to meet. Especially to the ones I had so much fun embarrassing in front of their classmates.

Ya know, I am so thankful I get to write for the young folks. I feel so sorry for people who write for boring old adults. Bleh. There is just something magical about seeing that sparkle in a kid's eyes as they step up to meet you, holding a book in their small hands, staring at you like a hero. Good gravy davy in the navy that sounds cheesy but I don't know how else to say it.

To know that you've somehow inspired a kid to read, or to write a story, or to follow their own dreams - there's nothing like it in the world. Nothing! I can't imagine anything being more fulfilling, more rewarding. I'm the luckiest schmoe who was ever born.

And I can't wait to do this for the rest of my life.

Butterfield Canyon Elementary, you ROCK!!!!!!!!

Monday, October 1, 2007

How I got here, Part 8: To the Present Day

Well, I figured I better at least post an official closure to my play-by-play telling of how I got published and where I am today. I hope I haven't bored anyone to tears. Unless you're a jerk, in which case I hope you got so bored you died. (wow, that was quite invigorating)

So I got my contract, turned in the book, breathed a sigh of relief when everyone said they liked the finished draft. Like I said before, I kinda skipped here all the wonderful people who looked over my book BEFORE I turned it in, but that would really be boring except to those who did me the favor. You'll get your slap on the back when you see the eagerly-anticipated Acknowledgements section (in which Peter Jackson and chickens are also mentioned).

And so began the editing process with my talented, brilliant, lovely, stupendous, invigorating (is that enough, Lisa?) editor, Lisa Mangum. Imagine my surprise when she gave me 7 single-spaced pages of notes for suggested changes. At first I wanted to throw up but then felt much better when I realized none of it was TOO major. My plot and characters as a whole were safe.

That was Round One. I rewrote. Then came Round Two. More changes. I rewrote. Then came Round Three. Rewrote. [UPDATE: be sure and read the comments so you can catch a glimpse of Lisa and what I have to deal with]

Then Chris (Product Director) read it, Round Four. Rewrote. Then the kid focus group, Round Five. Rewrote. Then "The Board", whoever the heck that is, Round Six. Rewrote. Somewhere in there, I think Lisa gave me some more ideas, because I seem to remember seven rounds.

But all in all, it was fun. They (collectively, but most kudos to Lisa) improved the book dramatically. What I had considered a pretty decent story had become a really publishable, ready-to-be-devoured novel. This is the hope, in any case.

Somewhere in all this, the name of the main character (Mason McGee) was changed to Atticus Higginbottom. Atticus was actually the name of my character in a book I wrote called THE WORLD SIFTER, which is sitting on my computer, waiting for its day in the sun. Chris wanted a more unusual, catchy name, so I cannabilized my own story.

It really took awhile to reconcile that in my mind. Mason had become a part of me, and suddenly he was Atticus. It was doubly confusing because Atticus was a completely different character in my mind as well. But it was a good change and my brain finally accepted it.

Also, originally the story was called THE NINETEENTH REALITY. When Chris gave his pitch to "The Committee", whoever the heck that is, he accidentally called it THE THIRTEENTH REALITY, and everyone liked it so much it stuck. That made for a little adjusting in my plans, but not much. It's only a number. Somewhere later, the number was used instead of the word, and now it is offically THE 13TH REALITY.

I think I've brought you up to speed. I'm now working on the sequel, which is tentatively called THE PLAGUE OF DARK INFINITY. Shadow Mountain had me map out the series as five books, so that's where it stands now. But each book will stand alone much more than my Jimmy Fincher series, which was really one big book sliced and diced into four. But, of course, there is a huge arc that goes over the whole series of THE 13TH REALITY.

Whew. Breathe in, breathe out.

And so, here I am, anxiously awaiting the month of March. I have no idea what to expect. This is a brutal industry. An unpredictable industry. If there were a magical formula for bestsellers, then every book that came out would be one. But there isn't. Despite all the work, all the editing and rewriting, despite all the planned marketing, you just never know.

In the end, only one thing will matter. You, Reader, and your opinion.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Obert Skye and the Line of Infinity

I saw something amazing last night. I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes.

Obert Skye is the author of the Leven Thumps series. The third book, LEVEN THUMPS AND THE EYES OF THE WANT, was just released on Tuesday. His publisher is the same as mine, Shadow Mountain. In fact, he paved the way, being their "guinea pig" in jumping into the national juvenile fantasy realm. Needless to say, he's done very well, having sold something like 300,000 copies of the first 2 books.

Obviously, I was very intrigued and have a vested interest in this guy. Having never met him, I ventured out to attend his book signing at Barnes and Noble last night.

Again, I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes.

I got there before it started and saw all these strange strips of tape on the floor everywhere. On closer inspection, I realized they were mapping out a route for his "line". Having done many a signing myself in the last few years, I couldn't help but chuckle, despite what I'd heard about Obert's success. A line? Yah, right. I had a line once. It was about 6 people and they were all related to me.

As I continued browsing, I saw several tables, SEVERAL, and each one had at least 200 hardback copies of his latest. So we're talking hundreds of books. Probably a thousand. Then I made it to the back of the store, where his signing table was set up. I picked up a copy and this hilarious, gruff kid nudges my elbow.

"Hey," he said. "You here to see Obert Skye?"
"Yeah," I replied. I expected the kid to spit on the ground and wipe his mouth with his sleeve.
The kid jerks his thumb over his shoulder. "There's a line."
My eyes looked up. Sure enough, a long line of salivating children and their parents were all looking at me like I'd just told them they were ugly and their fathers smelled like elderberries.
"Sorry," I said. "Don't worry, I won't break in line."
The bouncer sneered and went back to his position, first place.
"Hey," I said, trying to reconcile. "I have a book coming out next March, same publisher."
"What's your name?" This came from a sweet little girl behind the tough guy.
"James Dashner."
The bouncer rolled his eyes. "I've never heard of you."

That is a true story, I promise. I truly hope to see that kid again, he was awesome.

Anyway, I left to go and get something to eat. When I came back, there were at least 200 people in line, wrapped around the store along those nifty lengths of tape. I caught a glimpse of Mr. Skye, signing furiously but taking the time to give each kid a high five and a few words of encouragement. Awesome.

But that's not the amazing part. Knowing there was no way I could meet Obert Skye in the conceivable future, I left.


There were still 50 or more people in line. Three hours later. Unbelievable.

It was odd, actually. It's hard to describe the mixed emotions I felt. Amazement. Jealousy. Excitement. Pressure. Anxiety. Amazement.

Obert Skye, I salute you.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

My kids

Since I am evidently an ogre for not having any pictures of my kids, here you go. I can honestly say this without any bias: best kids on the planet.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

NY Times, ARCs

Good news for my publisher, Shadow Mountain. As you will recall, they are relatively new in the national market. But they just keep on keepin' on, having one success after another. My editor (Lisa) told me yesterday that their latest release, THE WEDNESDAY LETTERS, debuted at #6 on the NY Times bestseller list (to be published on Sept. 30).

This, after FABLEHAVEN 2 hit the list back in May. Pretty cool, huh?

Jason Wright is the author of the latest, and he's a great guy. I've met him a couple of times. His first book, CHRISTMAS JARS (also by Shadow Mountain), has sold hundreds of thousands and is currently being made into a movie that will be coming out in theaters next year, I think.

Of course, then Lisa turned into a smart aleck and said there's no pressure on me. I mean, no big deal if my book doesn't do as well as everyone else's. No big deal if SOME of their authors don't hit the NY Times Bestseller list. She's evil.

I do feel pressure, but not too much. Both of these guys had their SECOND books hit the Times list. Their names were much more established than mine will be with the little ole Jimmy Fincher Saga. We'll see what happens.

In other news, looks like the ARC (Advance Reader Copy) is going to press on Thursday. And this blew me away: they're printing 4,000 copies. Four THOUSAND. I know many authors who didn't even sell that many copies of the real thing, and these are for the sole purpose of getting reviews and giving away to libraries and schools to spread the buzz.

Maybe I should actually start believing my publisher when they tell me they're going to market this thing heavily. It just seems too good to be true, ya know?

Friday, September 21, 2007

I got my galleys!

Derk Koldewyn, editorial assistant to my editor, called me this morning with exciting news (for me, anyway). The galleys were complete and ready for my review. For those of you who may not know what that means: galleys are the typeset version of the manuscript. In other words, it now looks like a book. In fact, this is exactly what the inside of the ARC will look like. (Above are 3 examples from the galleys)

It will now go through the final proofreading process (including my own review). However, they are going to move forward and make the ARC, which is not unusual. It will have some kind of statement on it informing the reader that it has not been officially proofread.

Proofreading does not quite mean what some of you may think it means. The book has been heavily edited (trust me, I know, and will tell you more about that process) by Shadow Mountain. Proofreading is just one final look to make sure no mistakes or errors were overlooked.

In short, I love it. I really love it. The font, the look, the style, the chapter headings, the dingbats (those little thingies that break up sections within a chapter), everything. The artist is working on 12-15 inside illustrations that will be added later.

Now I'm REALLY excited. :-) Oh, one final thing. Now we know the page count (pending illustrations): 385 pages.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

How I got here, Part 7: Shadow Mountain

The only good way to write a book in a short period of time is to set some goals. And if you can throw in a few ounces of complete nerdiness, all the better. To convince myself that my education in Accounting was not a complete waste, I've always kept a spreadsheet that tracks my writing and goals. Yes, at least I am aware of the fact that this makes me a dork beyond measure. We're talking, like, Erkel-range dorkiness, here. But it works.

(I don't know if I'm saddened or amazed that I remember Erkel. Anyone else remember him? Has there ever been a dumber show on television?)

Anyway, Shadow Mountain told me they wanted the book by March (2007). It was the first week of December (2006). I knew that if I wanted ample time to send the manuscript to trusted friends and do some serious rewriting and editing, I needed the first draft to be completed by the end of January at the latest. And, at that time, I thought the book would be about 70,000 words.

So I set a goal to write 1,000 words a day at the very least. If I went over, great. But the next day I still had to write at least 1,000 words. This worked perfectly. By New Year's I had written 31,000 words (I know this because of my NWL - Nerdy Writing Log). And this included taking an entire week off for Christmas.

On January 24th, I wrote "The End" to my first draft, and the book was 88,639 words (which means I averaged about 2,000 words a day for 3 weeks or so). Much longer than I had anticipated. And, of course, quite different than I had originally envisioned the story. Some really cool elements came together during the writing period which made it much better than it had started. After the billion reworks in the coming months, it would end up around 95,000 words.

Okay, I better take a breather. I'm pretty certain I've never written so many boring paragraphs, lined up in a row in all their dull non-glory, since I wrote a paper on balance sheet ratios in college. We need something to break the ice. For those of you still dating out there, here are some really bad pick up lines that I highly recommend you avoid:

"You're ugly, but you intrigue me."
"Hi. You'll do."
"You must be Jamaican, because Jamaican me crazy."
"You smell like feet, and I love feet. Wanna party?"
"Did it hurt . . . when you fell from Heaven?"
"Is it me, or am I gorgeous?"
"Do you believe in love at first sight, or do I have to walk by again?"
"Soooo . . . how am I doing so far?"

None of these worked on my wife, and I finally gave in and just asked her out.

So, what was I talking about? Oh yeah, the boring part of my story. I wrote the book, sent it to friends, made a ton of changes, yada yada yada, finally submitted it to Shadow Mountain. (you'll get a glimpse at all the wonderful people who helped me when you see the always-most-anticipated-section of my new book. Yeah, the Acknowledgements. I'll leave you in suspense.

Now, turning this manuscript in was very frightening for me. Talk about pressure. These guys had given me a contract, an advance, a marketing plan, a release date, everything. But they hadn't read the book yet. They'd only read 3 chapters. What if they didn't like it? What if they didn't LIKE it? WHAT IF THEY DIDN'T LIKE IT!!!!!!!

(I need to insert here that my wonderful agent, Jenny Rappaport, negotiated the contract during my frantic time of writing. She persuaded them to make several changes, but all in all it was a very pleasant experience. What I really look forward to now is watching Jenny go for foreign rights and movie rights. I know she'll work wonders for both of us.)

So I turned my book in. Lisa loved it. Chris loved it. A focus group made up of kids loved it. Shadow Mountain's Board loved it. I'd worried 3 years off my life for nothing.

Now, I fully realize that this post is about as discombobulated as you could get. And I had planned to get us up to present day with this one. But there's still probably one more solid post before that happens. Then we can just have fun as we move forward.

I'll end for now by saying this: It was kind of cool to write a book that we'd already sold because of several things. Firstly, I could bounce ideas off of Chris and Lisa during the writing process, just to make sure I wasn't going in a completely bad direction. Secondly, I avoided that "why am I doing this it'll probably never see the light of day" feeling. Thirdly, I was never lacking motivation. Fourthly, why am I even telling you this - OBVIOUSLY it would be cool to write a book that you had already sold.

But remember one thing, in case you didn't read the earlier parts, or, if you did, you have the memory of a toad. Remember all that jazz about "pounding the pavement"? I paid my dues to get to this point, and that's why I think I enjoyed it so much.

Keep on writing, people, and I hope to have the new cover on this site very soon!

(to be continued)

Monday, September 17, 2007

Free Book Thingy Extended

Okay, since we hit 30 so fast, the Committee On The Disposition of Freebie Artifacts From The Dashner Estate (ya know, the COTDOFAFTDE) has decided to extend it and give away more ARCs. Most people asked for ARCs anyway, so we will make it easy and keep it at that. Mainly because I found out I'm getting a lot more ARCs from my publisher than I thought.

Same rules as last time, except now please comment on this post, not the other one. I'm sick of scrolling down on that one. To see the rules, look here:

The new cap has not yet been decided by the COTDOFAFTDE. Maybe we've exhausted our supply of takers, who knows.

Friday, September 14, 2007

How I got here, Part 6: The 13th Reality

Needless to say, I was pretty pumped about Chris and Lisa wanting to take me to lunch. I mean, publishers dont buy people lunch just to be nice for crying out loud. We all know they're blood-sucking demons. Okay, just kidding, just kidding.

I went to work immediately to come up with some ideas. If I remember correctly, I had about a week. One idea was about a boy who finds out he's actually part of a virtual reality universe and that he can become a real boy if he makes it to this mysterious section of the . . . okay, I'll stop there. It was basically Pinocchio meets The Matrix. Sound lame? You bet! (Actually, it's not as lame as it sounds, and I fully plan to write it someday)

Another idea was something about aliens. Enough said. Lame. As the kids say, gag me with an iphone. (okay, they don't really say that, but they SHOULD say it. That's funny stuff.)

There were other ideas. Some were cool. Some were mediocre. Some flat out stunk.

But one of them, I really liked. I'd always had this general idea of a kid getting weird messages in the mail, full of riddles. A test of sorts, to weed out the less-than-worthy and seek the brilliant. Throw in really dangerous stuff so they have to be courageous, too. A grand mystery that leads to a certain place, on a certain day, at a certain time. Where something extraordinary will happen and change the world forever. Something that makes you want to use a lot of cliches.

Of course, that whole idea would be really stupid if the kid solved the mystery, made it to the end, and his only reward was a deciphered ad for Ovaltine (name that movie!). No, I had a much better idea. It involved everything from Quantum Physics to things called Gnat Rats. Really tall people and really short people. Alternate universes and really good spaghetti.

But more on that later. The whole thing came together and I fell in love with the story. I decided to focus on it, leaving the other ideas as nothing more than short paragraphs. For this Big Idea, I wrote 3 full chapters and a 10 page synopsis. The main character's name was Mason McGee and I called the book: THE NINETEENTH REALITY.

In an extremely rare burst of foresight on my part, I decided to send this proposal to Chris and Lisa BEFORE our lunch together, in hopes they would actually read it so we could have a worthwhile discussion. Lisa did, and emailed me to say she really liked it. And then, on the big day, as we all entered the restaurant together, I remember Chris saying something to the effect of, "I just finished THE NINETEENTH REALITY proposal. I love it."

Lunch was a whirlwind. I had gone prepared to get down on my knees and beg them in the name of all that is good and green on the earth to give me a chance. But instead, it was nothing like that. From the first scraping of the chairs across the floor as we took our seats to the last delicious bite of oriental chicken salad (yes, I remember what I ordered), we talked business.

As in, "We wanna do this book" business.

I couldn't believe it. I kept expecting Chris to break into snorts of laughter, pointing at me and slapping Lisa on the back, saying, "We got HIM good didn't we? What an idiot. Now get out of here, Dashner, you're makin' me sick." But no, it was for real.

We talked about contracts, advances, artwork, ideas for the book and the series, release schedules, marketing plans. I almost choked on an almond when Chris said he wanted to send me to BEA in the summer of 2008. (That's Book Expo America, a really big thingamajigger where all the big publishers pimp their latest stuff.)

I knew, even before we left the restaurant, that this was the biggest break of my life and that my lifetime dream of being a full-time author was now a distinct possibility. This would become even more real as the deal came together, as Jenny got involved, the contract completed, the advance issued, yada yada yada. Chris wanted the book to come out in February or March of 2008. That was only 15 or 16 months away.

There was just one thing. I, uh, actually had to WRITE the book. Three chapters wouldn't quite cut it.

And that was how Mason McGee became Atticus Higginbottom. It was how the Nineteenth Reality became the Thirteenth Reality.

And it was how I wrote a 90,000 word book in 7 weeks.

(to be continued)

Thursday, September 13, 2007


Okay, so I've been going now for a couple of weeks and we've had 500 or so visitors. I have no idea about these things, but man does that seem way lame. Sounds like it's time for some shameless promotion.

I hereby declare a free book contest. Anyone who writes up a little sumthin-sumthin about The Dashner Dude on their own blog or website and provides a link to this site, I will send you a free book when it comes out. You can choose to get an ARC in October or the hardback when it comes out in March. It better be a really nice sumthin-sumthin if I'm gonna send you a hardback!

Here's the rule: Post a comment to THIS post with a link to wherever you wrote the sumthin-sumthin. Then send me an email via my website (or, author at jamesdashner dot com) giving me your home address. To get the book, you must do both of these things. And, of course, have written a nice sumthin-sumthin (it can't just be a link on the side).

I have no idea what I'm getting myself into here, so we better have a cap. Let's say . . . the first 30 people for starters. I'll be shocked beyond measure if I get half that many, but at least I have a cap to protect the substantial Dashner Estate coffers. And I promise that you WILL get the book. (yes, I will pay the shipping)

Thanks, and have a wicked awesome day. (that's hip talk for have a nice day)

9/15 UPDATE: Well, we hit our cap of 30 in 36 hours. That's not bad! I will consult with the Dashner Estate Officials to see if maybe we could extend it. Perhaps with ARCs only or something. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Cover art coming soon!!!

It's been a fun week. I met with my editor and she told me they're on schedule for the ARCs (Advance Reader Copies) to come out early next month. In the next couple of days I have to finish stuff like the dedication and the acknowledgements. Plus, they want questions for book clubs and classrooms to include at the back of the book. And yes, they told me to do this awhile ago, but of course I procrastinated. Shameful.

Also, they told me today they're hoping to have the cover art from the artist by the end of this week. You can imagine how anxious I am for that. Who cares what I wrote, the success of the book could ride solely on how cool the cover is! My fingers are crossed and I may not sleep for the rest of the week.

It will be posted here the second my publisher lets me. I can't wait to see it!!!!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

How I got here, Part 5: The Three Amigos

The next book I wrote after Jimmy Fincher said his goodbyes was THE MAZE RUNNER. I love this book. It might be my favorite book so far. I now know what it needs to become a really good book. And I plan on doing it. Soon.

Anyway, it was this book that brought me my first big break. Her name is Jenny Rappaport, and she's an agent in New York. I actually found her the old fashioned way: query, then 3 chapters, then the whole manuscript, then months of agonizing, then a phone call.

This is embarrassing, but I remember the exact moment she called. My family and I were eating at Pizza Hut in Park City, UT on July 24th, 2006. She called my cell phone at 12:14 pm and said she wanted to represent me and try to sell THE MAZE RUNNER. Needless to say, I was ecstatic and all goose bumply. I'm pretty sure I went back inside and ate an entire pizza to celebrate. It was a lot of fun to tell my wife.

And I remember thinking, now my career has really begun.

Hardy har har. I've heard the following many times, and now I'm yet another to testify that it's true: ofen an agent does not sell the first book of an author he or she represents. So it was with me.

But man oh man did I get some dang good rejection letters! Jenny forwarded some very encouraging, personalized emails from editors at such places like Harper Collins, Tor, Little, Brown, etc. Although I was dejected as usual, deep inside I felt a confirmation that I wasn't so bad a writer, and that if I kept at it good things were in store.

Jenny also tried to sell a proposal for a vampire novel called THE ANGEL DISEASE that she had specifically asked me to write. I love that book, too, and hope to write it in full someday soon. But again, nice rejections.

Meanwhile, I met two people who are now officially listed in the Top Twenty People Most Favored By James Dashner List. This is an exclusive list and includes such well known people as Mom, Dad, siblings, Abraham Lincoln and Jerry Seinfeld. The new inductees' names are Chris Schoebinger and Lisa Mangum.

Chris is a product director at a publisher called Shadow Mountain. Lisa is the Acquisitions Editor there. Shadow Mountain had recently delved into the national fantasy market for middle readers and young adults, finding a lot of success, including the New York Times Bestseller list, paperback sales to Simon & Schuster, movie rights, etc.

I met them both at various book events and writer's conferences. Each time, I tried my best to simultaneously brown nose, share my so-far humble success, and avoid looking like a complete idiot. Both of them kept telling me to submit something to them, but for some inexplicable reason I thought they were just being nice.

Then, the real kicker. Lisa and I both just happened to be invited to speak at a writer's conference in Arizona (ANWA). This was October of 2006. Since the conference set up and paid for our travel arrangements, Lisa and I sat next to each other on the plane and spent a lot of time together. I did my best to craftily hypnotize her into wanting a book from me.

Turns out we authors don't really need to try that hard. We just need to be ourselves. After I finally realized this, it was quite simple. I said, "Would you like to read my latest manuscript?" She said, "Yes." Wow. Should've tried that tactic earlier.

Here's how the next month went (by the way, Jenny was involved in all of this, too):

Lisa read THE MAZE RUNNER. Loved it. Gave it to Chris. He liked my writing, but didn't think that book was right for them. Meanwhile, I had finally finished another book called THE WORLD SIFTER. Lisa liked it, but not as much as MAZE. She didn't even give it to Chris.

Instead, they surprised me. Lisa asked me to come up with several proposals for other books, and they'd take me to lunch to discuss them.

And that, folks, was how a boy named Atticus Higginbottom was born.

(to be continued)

Friday, September 7, 2007

Q & A: Publicity

Shaunda Wenger asked me how I was able to get signings, school events, writeups in the newspaper, etc. Unfortunately, I don't think my answer will be all that enlightening.

My publisher set up 90 percent of my booksignings. The others were as simple as visiting a bookstore, speaking to the manager, schmoozing them with unprecedented brown nosing (wow, books in your store seem so much . . . bookier than in other stores!), then asking if perhaps you could do a signing sometime. You can pretty much expect them to say yes.

But here's the thing. Signings are worthless without something to promote them. And if you write for children, school visits are BY FAR the most valuable thing you can do. I got really lucky in this regard.

Angie Wager, who is the community relations rep at my closest Barnes and Noble, became my bestest friend in the whole wide world. For some inexplicable reason she seemed to like me, and started setting up school visits that were sponsored by Barnes and Noble. These were a big success and led to referrals, more appearances, etc. Moral of the story: become buddies with a bookstore community relations person!

As for the newspaper thing, I have no answer. I've never personally contacted a newspaper. The only time I've been featured is when a school called the paper or a paper contacted me. But I'm sure calling them could never hurt you. Give it a shot.

In the future I will definitely give more detailed posts about promoting. Especially about school visits (which is definitely my favorite part of being an author) and book signings. Shaunda, thanks for the great question.

The next part in my author journey is coming very soon. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

How I got here, Part 4: Michael Phipps

Cedar Fort had realized that sales were pretty good DESPITE covers that didn't really shout to kids and parents that, Hey! This here book is a little sumthin-sumthin for people who like that fantasy sorta stuff! Imagine, they told me, if the books actually had cool covers! (I just used three exclamation points in one paragraph. Please never do that, or I vill be forced to cut off zah fing-ah.)

Cedar Fort wanted to revamp and redo the whole series. The plan was to release the fourth and final book in the series with a whole new look, then announce that the first three books would be re-released with new covers and artwork in the coming months. Looking back, I think we would all agree that it was a mistake to do it this way. They should have re-released the first three books first, then have the last book come out. But I guess there are worst things than a publisher wanting to hurry and get your book on the shelves.

The search for an artist began, and luckily they asked me to help. I recommended one guy that I really liked, but that didn't work out so well. He pulled out around crunch time because he had too many bigger projects from his agent. This was a bad thing because Cedar Fort had been counting on him, and there wasn't much time left. They called me one day, a little desperate, asking if I knew anyone else. They'd been looking, but couldn't find someone they felt good about.

Well, call what happened next whatever you want. But to call it a coincidence would be pushing it.

I had just been transferred to a different location at work. The week I started was the LAST week of a certain guy leaving for a new job. Talk about a small window of opportunity. When I told some new coworkers about my book stuff, and the dilemma of trying to find the right artist, they nonchalantly told me about a dude who worked the vending machines in the building. Apparently, this guy was really awesome with a little thing called art. You better hurry, they said, this is his last week.

I won't bore you with any more of the details. This guy's name was Michael Phipps, and he and I are now good friends. Oh, and he also painted awesome covers for all 4 of my books and did inside illustrations as well (see examples above). I absolutely love what he did, and I think I still owe him one of my children for doing so. You have to check out Michael's website---he's now a full time artist and well on his way to fame and stardom. (By the way, the cover for Book 2, A GIFT OF ICE, won some kind of fancy-schmancy artist award.)

You can also see all 4 of the new covers at my website:

And so it was that the fourth and final book, WAR OF THE BLACK CURTAIN, came out in August of 2005, sans any photograph of the poor little stranger kid who was supposed to be Jimmy Fincher. The new and improved version of A DOOR IN THE WOODS came out later that fall, then the other two came out in the spring of 2006. Now, this created a really awkward time when some of the books had the old covers and some of them had the new covers; but in the end, it was all hunky dory and glorious.

Sales took off. Again, relatively speaking, here. We're not talking Harry Potter numbers here. We're not even talking Lemony Snicket numbers. Or Eragon. Or Artemis Fowl. Or . . . okay, you get the point. No need to sit here and make me feel bad. I was with a very small publisher with no real good way to get the word out. But for them, my sales were wonderful, and the books are still selling to this day, growing inch by inch across the country. (They may be in Costco stores soon!)

Then I remembered that I had a disease. You know, the Imneversatisfiedandwanttobemoresuccessful Disease. I was very, very happy with Jimmy Fincher and its success, but it only got me more excited to seek bigger and better things. I had a million ideas for new books. In fact, as much as I love Mr. Fincher, I was sick to death of writing about him. I wanted to move on. I wanted to write new stories, new books. And I did.

But none of that writing business had anything to do with the next steps in my career. I mean, I'm only an author for crying out loud. No, my career took its next few turns because of three people, two of whom I met in person, the other via a letter and a phone call.

Their names were Jenny Rappaport, Lisa Mangum and Chris Schoebinger. (Actually, those are still their names, but the word "were" seemed appropriate there, so leave me alone.)

(to be continued)

Friday, August 31, 2007

How I got here, Part 3: Pounding the Pavement

I have a disease.

Mom, pick yourself up off the floor. It's not THAT kind of disease, those nasty types that kill you. This is more of a mental disease, and I don't care what you may hear, all authors have it. It's called the Imneversatisfiedandwanttobemoresuccessful Disease. This has nothing to do with pride or selfishness. It has nothing to do with money. It has everything in the world to do with human nature, and it's not necessarily a bad thing. As long as you keep it under control and use it for good.

Shortly after my first book came out, I attended a small event where an author named Anita Stansfield spoke. She said something about how she's sold almost a million copies of her books. Instead of thinking, "Wow, great for her!", I looked down at the copy of my own book, nestled sadly in my hands, and wanted to cry. At that time, I'm positive I had probably sold just a few hundred books. Maybe.

Anyway, she then told us how she had become successful, and she used these exact words: "I went out there and I pounded the pavement." I remember distinctly, because it became my motto for the next year or two of my life.

It can't be put any more simply. I pounded the pavement. In the first 2 years, I know for a certainty I did at least 100 to 150 book signings and 30 to 50 school visits. (Ah, man, I'll have to save the joyous adventures of book signings for its own post. If I forget, someone remind me later.) I constantly went to bookstores and spoke with the employees, trying to turn on the charm in hopes that maybe, just maybe, one of them would someday recommend my book.

I pounded the pavement, paid my dues.

Dozens of sales turned into hundreds of sales. Hundreds turned into thousands. Having gotten the ball rolling, another beautiful, beautiful thing entered the story. Word of Mouth. People actually liked the book enough to tell others about it. I still can't get over the coolness of this concept. People, at no obligation, are taking the time to encourage others to buy MY book. That's like Christmas and Easter wrapped all into one.

I know I've shot my timeline all to pieces, but it's hard to break it out into individual events. The second book, A GIFT OF ICE, came out in the spring of 2004. Then THE TOWER OF AIR came out just a few months later, Cedar Fort wanting to roll the momentum wagon while they could. (I'd already written the second book by the time the first one came out, so that's why they were able to release books 2 and 3 in the same year.)

Slowly but surely, with the help of Cedar Fort setting up countless events, my pounding of the pavement, and some very nice dashes of word-of-mouth, Jimmy Fincher became a success for my publisher. Now remember, success is relative, but a fiction book that sells several thousand copies in a very small market is a success.

But then came the real kicker, the decision that surely was the final piece to the puzzle that would ensure I had a real future as an author. It's a day and a phone call I will never, never forget. Probably the only phone call comparable to it was when a real-life NY agent called me last year and said she wanted to represent me. (Well, um, except for every time my wife calls me, every moment of which is like drinking warmed milk with honey while listening to angels sing on high.)

It was Georgia Carpenter from Cedar Fort. She said that the whole company was very enthusiastic about the success of Jimmy Fincher, and that they wanted to give it an extra push. I can sum up the phone call with two words, both of which still make me smile to this day.

Re-release and artwork.

(to be continued)