Thursday, July 31, 2008

Give me a call, I'll be in the toilet

So, yeah, yesterday I dropped my phone in the toilet.

I have a good friend who did this same thing a few months ago, Heather Moore. Except she did it the same day she was expecting a phone call from a NY agent. At the time, of course, I made fun of her with ruthless glee. What kind of a person drops a phone in the toilet? I mean, what exactly are you doing in there that makes this situation come to fruition?

Now I know.

I tried my best to dry the thing out (I must've washed my hands 50 times yesterday) and the thing still didn't work. No big deal. The phone was ancient (at LEAST 2 years old) and I was due for a new-every-2 upgrade from Verizon. I marched down to the Verizon store and this awesome dude named Nik helped me for almost an hour.

My new phone is the red enV2 (see picture). I finally woke up and joined the new generation with internet and email on my phone now. But that's not very exciting. What IS exciting: I now have GPS and navigation - it's only 10 bucks a month! This seems far too good to be true. It's as good as any navigation system I've seen, with the hot mama lady talking to you and everything. I think I'll call her Jane.

This will be so valuable to me as I go on tour, visiting all those schools I've never been to before, hotels, restaurants, bookstores, etc. So I'm very pleased, and thank the laws of gravity for pulling my old crappy (no pun intended) phone into the deep waters of the abyss.

There are a few things in life I just can't believe I ever did without. TiVo, iPods, HD, laptops, wife and children (not, um, necessarily in that order). Well, add this cellphone GPS navigation thing to the list. Jane took me to a Taco Bell yesterday. It was very nice of her.

And Jane only costs 10 bucks a month! I told my wife I'd go one year without the NFL Ticket to make up for my additional monthly costs (hey, the Falcons are gonna suck this year anyway, har har).

This phone also makes it much easier to take decent pictures and email them to myself, so hopefully I'll be better about putting pictures on the blog while I'm touring and such.

For those of you who've been here awhile with the Dashner Dude, you may remember a time when I couldn't wait to get an iPhone. Please. I'm anti-iPhone now. Steve Jobs ticked me off when he made it sound like the newest one would be really cheap - he failed to mention the wee little fact that was only for people UPGRADING from an old one.

So I could get this phone for free (after rebate), have internet, email, and a kick-butt navigation system on the most reliable network, or pay 500 bucks for a fancy schmancy iPhone. No thanks.

Note to friends and family: they weren't able to transfer my address book over. So I lost all that. Call me sometime so I can get you back in. I don't have any phone numbers memorized.

THE MAZE RUNNER is still going strong. Yesterday during a brain storming session, I may have come up with the single most important epiphane of my author career so far. The ending will be so much stronger now. Word count is up to 51,000.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Quiet, WWII, Food Star, and Throwup

Sorry about the Quiet, but I've been busy! Until I can wrap up this job and go full time, I'm having to use every free second to work on THE MAZE RUNNER. Two more weeks til quittin' time.

I'm still having a lot of fun with the book, and I'm well ahead of the pace I set up a couple of weeks ago. Right now I stand at 43,140 words, so probably about halfway on the first draft. I love the last line of the chapter I most recently completed so much that I can't get it out of my head!

Hmmm, what else is going on . . .

I've been watching THE WAR, a Ken Burns doc about WWII, while exercising. It's very good, and I highly recommend it. What I love is that he tells the basic history of the war, but also gives you a good feel for what America was like during that time. It's just amazing.

Before WWII, over 3 million cars were manufactured in the U.S. During the war, only 141 cars were manufactured. All the car plants were adapted to make machinery for the war. 36% of the country's GDP was spent on the war. Just a couple of the interesting facts.

Of course, of far more importance: the human sacrifice. We lost about 350,000 soldiers, and many more injured. In all, the world lost something like 80 million people, the vast majority of which were civilians. It's almost impossible to believe that all of this stuff REALLY HAPPENED.

Somehow we need to make sure that our generation, the next one, and all others after that never forget the sacrifices made during that war and others. Wow.

What else . . . not much. Work, and book. Oh, and my kid threw up all over our carpet last night. It really didn't smell very good.

My wife and I also watch THE NEXT FOOD NETWORK STAR because my best friend's brother's wife (did ya get that?), Kelsey Nixon, was a contestant (and made it to the Final 4 before getting eliminated). We now love that show and are committed to watch it every year for the rest of our lives. We still haven't watched the Finale, so NO SPOILERS! (Told ya we'd been busy)

I've met Kelsey several times, and met Aaron McCargo, Jr. at Kelsey's wedding. Both of them are great, awesome people. I hope Aaron won!

Anyway, my wife just called and told me the contract for MAZE came in the mail today. Think I'll boogie on home.

If you have questions or ideas for things you want me to blog about, let me know in the comments. See ya!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Having Fun

Just a quick update to let you know that I'm loving every minute of working on THE MAZE RUNNER rewrite. It's just so fun to immerse myself back in this story that I love so much. I'm expanding it drastically, and adding a depth that was flat out lacking the first time around.

I've also added a couple of completely new scenes that are AWESOME! Well, in my humble opinion. An example of the overall change: the scene I just finished ends on page 114. In the old version, it ended on page 64. Those extra 50 pages have made it SO much better.

So, I'm officially at 27,134 words. I'm estimating it will be around 90,000 when finished. Stay tuned for further updates.

My wife and I saw THE DARK KNIGHT yesterday. Loved it, but maybe a little bit less than I thought I would. I think that's purely based on my ridiculous expectations. If I had to ever be part of a three-headed monster, I'd love to be with Christian Bale and Christopher Nolan. Those guys are talented geniuses.

And how awesome is it that Bale is John Connor in the upcoming Terminator trilogy? Too bad he has a crazy mom and sister that accused him of assaulting them. Christian Bale do that? Never I say! Hello? His name is Christian!

Life is good, hope all is well with you. My family is having a BBQ with the infamous (it's when someone's not just famous, they're infamous - name that movie) Brandon Sanderson and his lovely wife Emily. They're going to share their infinite wisdom with me as I take on this bold undertaking of being a full-time author.

Oh, and I found out today that we may have a cover for THE HUNT FOR DARK INFINITY in 2 or 3 weeks. Can't wait!!!!!!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Change the World Tour, Fall 2009 Edition

As promised, I thought I'd give you a few details about my upcoming 2-month tour this fall. Before you get excited, nothing is really concrete yet, so I won't be posting any actual dates or specifics.

THE MAZE RUNNER is due on September 15th. We then hope to visit as many cities and schools as possible between then and mid-November, after which we'll be rewarded with a 2-week family trip back home to Georgia. Yippee! (I really shouldn't use that word. Makes me look like a sissy. Yeah, that'll be the last time.)

Of course, to be able to do that, I can't have one of those pesky day jobs. I don't think I've ever talked much about my day job, and I think some of you probably thought I didn't HAVE a day job. (I wonder how many times I can use the words "day job" in one paragraph....)

Well, I'm a CPA, which is a shameful and embarrassing secret about me. I wish I could say I was a CIA spook, a welder, or a starter for the Falcons. But alas, I'm an accounting nerd.

For 3 more weeks, anyway. Boo yah!

Then I'm finally taking the leap. I will officially be a full-time author as of August 9th, 2008. This has been a dream of mine for a very long time, and it still seems too good to be true. But here it is.

It's been a pain figuring out health insurance, life insurance, retirement, blah blah blah. But we're almost there. The thing I'm most excited about? I'm actually going to let another CPA do my taxes. I hereby declare to the world that I hope to never count anything or add up anything again for the rest of my life. I studied accounting because I'm practical and wanted to get a job out of college. But I must say, as much as I've loved the people I've worked with, I never, never, never liked the work. Bleck.

Anyway, back to the tour.

Shadow Mountain has given us a certain budget, and my wife is helping the very awesome Roberta there in coordinating the tour. We know I'm going to New Hampshire, Idaho, Houston, San Francisco, Massachusetts, North Carolina, South Carolina, Atlanta, and Phoenix. We'll fill in a lot of the blanks with schools in Utah.

If you're interested in having me visit your school or town, please contact us at: the13threality AT gmail DOT com. If it doesn't work out for this fall, we'll also be doing a lot next winter and spring, especially when Book 2 comes out in March.

You'll have a much better chance if you can organize a cluster of schools that would last 2 or 3 days (3 or 4 schools a day), preferably near a major chain bookstore. Or, if your school has a decent budget for that kind of thing, I can come to a school for an entire day.

Anyway, email us and we can work out the details. Your first choice is probably Rick Riordan, who charges $2,500 a day and is booked out for 2 years. Well, if that doesn't work out for you, give me a shot. :-)

I'll post definitive dates once we have them.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


This book has had quite the journey, and there's so many little lessons wrapped up in its tale, that it needs to be told. I think I'll do it in the form of a timeline.

Fall 2005: I did some serious thinking about my author career. The JIMMY FINCHER SAGA was complete, the fourth book having come out in August that year. Those 4 books had been with a small regional publisher, and had done very well, relatively speaking (20,000 or so sold).

But I'd known from the very beginning that I wanted more, much more.

My publisher at the time wanted another book, and I was dinking around with some ideas. But I made a very important decision. I would no longer settle for small regional sales. I'd either make it nationally, or I'd never have another book come out.

Nov 2005: I went to bed, and somehow this idea popped in my head about a bunch of teenagers living inside an unsolvable Maze full of hideous creatures, in the future, in a dark, dystopian world. It would be an experiment, to study their minds. Terrible things would be done to them. Awful things. Completely hopeless. Until the victims turn everything on its head. I thought of it as LORD OF THE FLIES meets ENDER'S GAME meets HOLES.

And then the "twist" popped in my head, and all hope of getting any sleep that night was gone.

I got up, went downstairs, and jotted notes for a couple of hours on the basic story.

Dec 2005 - Mar 2006: I wrote the book. It ended up at 68,000 words. I felt like it should be longer, have more depth, a lot more character development. But the STORY was so cool, and I was so in love with it, I lost patience. I started submitting to agents. Looking back, it was a mistake. The book wasn't ready.

Feb 2006: I drove Stacy Whitman of Mirrorstone Books to the airport after a writer's conference. She really loved the concept of the book, and told me to send it to her.

April 2006: Everyone rejected me, except for my former agent, Jenny Rappaport. She thought it needed some work, kind of said "maybe." She was changing agencies, and told me she'd get back to me. Meanwhile, Stacy also said it needed a lot of work, and promised an editorial letter when she could get to it.

May-June 2006: I once again showed impatience and abandoned MAZE (thinking I'd wait and see what happened with Jenny and Mirrorstone) and started writing a book that would end up being called THE WORLD SIFTER (another story for another time).

July 24, 2006: Jenny called me and offered representation. She still thought the book needed work, but decided to send it out to a handful of publishers to see their reactions. If it got rejected across the board, we'd do some major rewrites. (In hindsight, this seemed like a terrible mistake. If the book needed rewrites, it needed rewrites. But Jenny and I were both young and new in this business.)

Aug-Nov 2006: We received some very nice rejections, which made me realize this book had a lot of potential. The editor from Harper Collins said she had a hard time letting it go, but in the end the committee just couldn't commit to it. Another editor said I was an excellent worldbuilder, but the writing and the characters weren't strong enough. Out of 5 submissions, we received 5 personalized rejections, all of which basically said it just wasn't quite there.

Nov 2006: Having met Lisa and Chris from Shadow Mountain, who'd had a ton of national success with FABLEHAVEN and LEVEN THUMPS, I decided to submit to them. They rejected it, but liked my writing and potential enough that we eventually ended up partnering on THE 13TH REALITY series. In fact, my contract specifically said they had no rights to MAZE since they'd rejected it.

Dec 2006-Dec 2007: I completely put MAZE in the closet, too excited about 13TH REALITY and with too much work to do. I knew it needed to be rewritten, but didn't feel like I had the time or energy to do it.

Jan 2008: Stacy Whitman wrote me a very detailed editorial letter on MAZE. Yes, it was a very long time after I'd submitted it to her, but I certainly don't blame her. She has plenty to do without devoting serious time to a book that's not that great.

But man, this letter was brilliant. She nailed everything that was wrong with it. I decided that despite everything going on with 13TH REALITY, I could at least devote enough time to rewrite the first 50 pages of MAZE. Stacy agreed that Mirrorstone would make a decision based just on that and a synopsis. And so THE MAZE RUNNER officially became a proposal, not a full manuscript.

Feb 2008: I spent a full week working on those first 50 pages. You can find out some of the things I learned from that by reading a prior post I did: CLICK HERE. (I never did a Part 2, by the way. I couldn't think of anything else to say about it.)

Not only had Stacy given me some great advice, I'd grown a lot as a writer in the last couple of years. The rewritten 50 pages were about 1,328 times better than the original. In my humble opinion.

By the way, along about here, I decided to part ways with Jenny. Please don't read anything into that - I just felt it was time for me to move on. Sometimes business relationships work out, sometimes they don't.

Mar 2008: Stacy told me that she loved the rewrite, and would send it to committee with her full endorsement. I'll just say here that they ended up rejecting me, right before I got the eventual deal. Stacy was disappointed, and so was I, but they have a very limited number of titles. A lot of people there liked it, but in the end not enough. You can read Stacy's reaction to my deal on her blog: CLICK HERE. I owe her a LOT!

April 2008: My good friend, Sara Zarr, author of the 2007 National Book Award finalist STORY OF A GIRL, kept telling me how awesome her agent is (Michael Bourret). I believed her, and took advantage of her recommendation. I emailed him the proposal for MAZE. (You can read Sara's reaction to my deal: CLICK HERE.)

May 2008: Michael liked MAZE enough to sign me. We spent 2 weeks going back and forth, making changes to the proposal. I realized he's very good at what he does, and once again MAZE became better. The biggest thing he did was push me to come up with ALL the backstory, even if no one ever sees it. I can't tell you how valuable that was.

Once we were both satisfied, Michael submitted MAZE as a proposal (50 pages, synopsis) to 10 publishers.

June 19, 2008: Michael calls me while I'm at lunch with my mom and family. He asks me how I'm doing. I say fine. He says he bets I'm about to be a lot better. I say hit me. He tells me that Krista Marino from Delacorte has made an offer. Later I google Delacorte and realize they're an imprint of Random House (I'm ashamed to admit I didn't know that). It hits me then just how big a deal that offer was.

June 24, 2008: Unfortunately, I can't say much more. Some agents are open about their deals with the public, some are not. Michael has asked me not to give any details. But suffice it to say that on this day, the deal became official, and it was much better than the original offer.

So there you have it. THE MAZE RUNNER, after being kicked around the block a few times, finally has a home. I owe enormous thanks to Stacy, Sara, Michael, and Krista. All of them believed in me and made this happen.

It's scheduled for a Fall 2009 release, which means I have until September 15th to (re)write the rest of the book. That's 2 months from yesterday.

Folks, I have a LOT of work to do.

Monday, July 14, 2008


Talk about good timing.

Today, this very day, I completed my rewrites for Book 2 of THE 13TH REALITY and sent them off to Lisa at Shadow Mountain. Also, I received my official editorial letter from Krista at Random House for THE MAZE RUNNER. Back to work!

Coming this week on The Dashner Dude: Details on my fall tour, and background and info on MAZE and how it all came about. Stay tuned!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Screaming Deal on my Book

Okay, people, it's not like I hate feet THAT much (see previous post and comments). I mean, if a foot is pretty or handsome, I like it. But unfortunately, most people have ugly feet. Or, they missed the lesson in school that taught us to wash our feet and cut our toenails.

Ha Ha. Alright, enough on the feet stuff. Really.

And I'm actually enjoying this summer very much. It's just that whole 100 degree thing. That just ain't right. I mean, when it's cold, at least I can put on a big thick jacket. When it's hot, I can't very well run around naked with bags of ice taped to my person. Nor would anyone want to see that.

Now, moving on (thankfully) to an interesting thing.

A couple of days ago, I noticed my book, THE 13TH REALITY, was on sale for 50% off at all the Deseret Book stores, which are owned by my publisher. For those of you not good at math, THAT'S HALF OFF. In other words, a nice 400 page book with illustrations for 9 bucks.

At first, this gave me a major punch in the gut, because you usually don't see something like that unless the publisher has given up and declared your book a loser. And mine had only been out for 4 months. I was kinda devastated and called Chris to whine and groan and weep.

Turns out I was pretty much an idiot. It's a short term offer, just this month, as part of their big summer sale. Then it's back up to normal price. They said they're trying to accomplish several things: take advantage of the buzz on 13th Reality and get people to the stores during a normally slow time, hoping they'll buy other things as well. Also, they want to do everything possible to build momentum in anticipation of Book 2's release in March 2009.

All of which I thought was very interesting and comforting. Considering I'm going on a 2 month promotional tour this fall, it wouldn't make sense for them to bargain-table my book already. Duh. I'm much relieved.

Oh, I didn't tell you about my 2 month promotional tour this fall? More of the Change the World tour? Silly me. I'll do that next time.

Meanwhile, dudes and dudettes, you might wanna take advantage of this sale. Nine bucks? That's cheaper than I can buy it with my author discount!

Anyway, it's available online during the sale as well: CLICK HERE.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Top 10 Reasons I Hate Hot Weather

10. Often creates situations where two of the most unpleasant words in the English language are put together: SWEATY and ARMPITS.

9. Woman on street: Large. Her shorts: Small.

8. Ski resorts are closed. Answer me this: How come (I love those 2 words) we can send a man to the moon but can't figure out how to ski on dirt? Churn it up, make it soft, make some special skis. Come on!

7. LOST is not on TV. Neither is football. AMERICA'S GOT TALENT is. 'Nuff said.

6. Lots of people have no problem figuring out the first item to cut when a recession hits: deoderant.

5. When you get back into your parked car, it feels like Smaug the Dragon just sneezed the eternal flames of heck (I have young readers) inside.

4. Everyone likes to swim. Everyone wants to swim. Why do people like to swim? Wouldn't you rather be skiing? Why is it that when we swim, it's suddenly okay for everyone to see everyone else in their underwear, which 99 times out of 100 is a very unpleasant experience? Can you imagine going into the office for work one day and everyone was just chillin' in their swimsuits? Ew.

3. The kids are out of school. Um, no, um, I mean, rather, um, this is a reason why I LOVE summer! Yeah, that's it.

2. You can see everyone's feet. You can see everyone's stinky, long-nailed, dirty-bottomed, callused, toe-jam infested feet. Feet are disgusting. I can barely look at mine, let alone yours. Give me cold weather, heavy socks, and snow boots any day.

1. It means we're a LONG way from Turkey Day, my birthday, and Christmas, the best 30 day period of the year.

In case you missed it, here's our exciting announcement about THE MAZE RUNNER: click here.

Have a great day, and I'm actually not that much of a summer-hater. I just despise it when we hit triple digits!!!!!!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Publisher's Marketplace Announcement

Here was the official announcement sent in by Michael:
James Dashner's THE MAZE RUNNER, a dark fantasy about a group of boys trying to solve the mystery of the strange maze in which they've been placed; pitched as Lost meets Lord of the Flies, to Krista Marino at Delacorte for publication in Fall 2009, by Michael Bourret at Dystel & Goderich Literary Management (NA). (NA=North American)

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Random House + The Maze Runner = Good

I have some good news. Scratch that. I have some great news!

I'm happy to announce that Delacorte Press (an imprint of Random House Children's Books) will be publishing my book, THE MAZE RUNNER, in the fall of 2009. My sister keeps saying Random fuh-reaking House! But I'm far too mature to participate in such silliness. I'm pleased, nothing more. Just another day in the life of an....

I'm lying! I'm so excited I can hardly breathe! I haven't slept in a week! My head is about to explode and my body is about to spontaneously combust! I'm using lots and lots of exclamation marks! Me so happy!

Okay, that's just ridiculous. Quit embarrassing yourself.

My editor is going to be the lovely Krista Marino, a senior editor at Random House. She's already skyrocketed into the Top Ten on Dashner's Most Favored People List because she sent me a whole box of free books that she's edited, and their latest catalogs. I can't wait to work with her. I can't wait!

I can't say enough about my agent, Michael Bourret. Two months ago, he didn't know who I was. In a matter of weeks, he made me make my book better, sent it out to publishers, and got a great deal. I can't reveal who got bumped from the list, but he is also firmly entrenched in the Top Ten. (Mom, don't worry, you're safe at Number One. As for you, Lynette, I know you're my wife and all, but . . . kidding!)

I also need to thank Stacy Whitman, a friend and editor at another publisher. She wrote me an editorial letter a few months ago that really, really, REALLY helped my book improve, and I can't thank her enough. I owe her about 1,476 free lunches. Thanks, Stacy. My current editor at Shadow Mountain, Lisa Mangum, also gave me very valuable feedback. Thanks, Lisa.

Anyway, I'm very excited and ready to work. I'm hoping the quick pub date means they're just as excited to get it out as I am!

So, there you have it. In the year 2009 (which follows 2008 for those of you keeping track at home), the world will be exposed to not just one, but TWO books by James Dashner. I hope we all survive.