Saturday, September 19, 2009

Choices Meant for Kings

We're lucky enough to have Sandy Lender back with us today for a blog tour for her next book, Choices Meant for Kings.

I always love getting a sneak peek into authors' lives, so Sandy's been kind enough to answer some of my questions. Lucky you, you'll get to eavesdrop on our conversation:

When did you first decide to become a writer?

I started on this dream of being a writer when I was a little kid. I used to write stories for my great grandmother and she’d share them with folks in her apartment building. I like to say I wrote my first speculative fiction story when I was six or seven because one of those stories was about a spider that ended up haunting an old lady.

Ah. My beautiful great grandmother always supported my dreams and goals. She didn’t just share a six-year-old’s stories around a building, you know. I could devote an entire blog to her.

Tell us a bit about your road to publication.

That road is paved with frozen tears. Mwuahahahahaha. Seriously, I finished CHOICES MEANT FOR GODS the summer of 2003 and announced such at the summer Duran Duran party. My friend Steve Thomas said, “Now you need to get an agent.” An agent.

So I did some research online and bought that Herman book about agents. (Note the importance of that in this story…) I found a couple agents in that book who A) claimed they handled fantasy works, B) claimed they accepted new clients, and C) claimed they accepted writers who hadn’t been published before. I researched those further online and figured out which one seemed fabulous for me. I mean, she looked like the IDEAL agent for me to work with. We would totally click. I wrote a fabulous query letter according to all the research I was doing, mailed it to her with the SASE, and got a reply back requesting the first three chapters. I WAS ELATED. So I sent that to her formatted exactly the way her Web site said to.

The night that I got her “I’m just not suitably excited to represent you properly” rejection in the mail, I cried as if someone had killed my best friend. When the guy I was married to at the time got home from work, he found me sitting in the living room floor, leaning against the couch with the mail strewn out around me, a tumbler of amaretto in my hand, a box of tissues with wadded-up-used Kleenexes salting the carpet in a trail everywhere I’d been in the house, and sobbing quietly into the couch cushions. He was stunned, to say the least. I don’t remember if I waved the rejection letter at him or just pointed to it, but I said, “I got a rejection from (fill in name here).” I think he said, “I’m sorry,” before he tucked his tail between his legs and slunk off down the hall to his den and closed the door with a quiet click against the insanity unfolding in the house.

But, you know…the next day…I started researching who to send a new query letter off to. The thing is, I figured out on my own that getting a literary agent wasn’t the way I was going to get my foot in the publishing industry door. I stopped the query-rejection-letter blues a couple months into the exercise. After moving to Florida in 2006, I attended the Naples Press Club’s annual writer’s conference where I had a pitch session with Bob Gelinas of ArcheBooks Publishing. Pow. The dream came true!

That's a wonderfully inspiring story and points out that persistence is the key. All of us have been down the rejection path, but isn't it wonderful when you find an editor or agent and you click? (For all you as-yet-unpublished authors, don't give up hope. Someday that "click" will be yours too.)

Now on to some nuts-and-bolts writing questions. How do you come up with your ideas? And what do you do when you face writer’s block?

My ideas come from anything and everything. People at Wal-mart really have to start being more careful around me…they’re turning into comic relief characters. Even though I can write under any conditions and at the drop of a hat, I know I have certain triggers that will get ideas flowing “on command.” When I was preparing for a recent timed contest, I set up my writing “area” with comfy pillows and certain candles and ornate bookends around my reference books and paintings of the type of dragon I wanted in the story and specific, moody songs on my iTunes.

Luckily, writer’s block is not something I have to deal with. I’ve heard other writers complain about it, but…you know…it’s just not in me. My brain is too full of bizarre crap. And funky dreams. I swear, I have vivid, bizarre, four-color, sometimes violent dreams. That’s why I keep a notebook and several pens next to the bed.

My author friend Jamieson Wolf has a non-fiction book that’s a guidebook for writers. It includes a chapter on preparing what he has coined an “idea jar.” It’s a fantastic idea that he’s come up with if you fear writer’s block may catch up to you some day. I hope he doesn’t mind me sharing this, because I’m giving away a majority of that chapter here, but you essentially write down ideas or characters or concepts that bombard you during your ultra creative times and stuff them in an “idea jar” for use during those dry spells. You can find Jamieson’s writer’s guidebook (as well as a ton of his fiction work) at his site

What’s your typical writing day like?

I don’t think I get typical writing days. Now, having said that, I do work as the editor for a construction magazine, so I write (and edit) for that on a daily basis. Even that, though, requires writing some days, interviewing people and discussing article ideas some days, editing and assembling things some days, etc. For sure, every day, whether I’m going to write, edit, or do marketing work, the day starts with offering appeasement to the birds. I have companion parrots who are pretty smart, so they need puzzles and games to keep them occupied during the day. So the day starts with treats and foraging puzzles for the birds. The work day ends with me diving into marketing adventures. Then I write before I pass out at night. There are myriad other tasks in between all that stuff. That’s sort of a “general” writing day if not typical…

What hobbies do you have besides writing?

What? Besides writing? I don’t think I understand…He he he. To be serious, I’m passionate about sea turtle conservation (check the links section of my Web site to see the link to the group I volunteer with), Charlotte Bronte and her sisters (because they are amazing and awe-inspiring), Duran Duran (because they have provided the soundtrack for my life), companion parrots (because mine rule my life and provide TONS of entertainment), and probably many other things I’m neglecting to mention. You can become my friend on Facebook and see “some” of the craziness…

What books are you reading now?

Dragon in Chains by Daniel Fox; The Exodus Gate by Stephen Zimmer; Facets of Fantasy by Sarah Scheele; The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein

If you could be anyone throughout history or in the present day, who would you choose, and why?

You know…I’m kinda struggling with this. I don’t think I want to “be” anyone else. I don’t even want to say “Chariss” from my novels because I know what she has yet to go through.

Sounds as if you're content with your life as it is, Sandy. A rare and wonderful gift. :-)

What’s one secret that no one knows about you?

This isn’t really a secret, and my parents know it, but when I was in like second or third grade, I wanted to set up a science section in my room. I wanted to have a microscope and telescope and science books and gems and stuff.

What one question would you like to ask the readers of the blog?

I have a presence on tons of Web sites and book-buying sites. I’d like to do more than ask where readers like to go to look for new authors or new books…I’d like to ask which sites you guys trust to give you good info about the author and the book? Thanks for sharing your opinions!

Thank you for a great interview, Lily. Good questions…my poor brain is really getting a workout on this tour! I hope your visitors are very kind with their follow-up questions, and I hope they weigh in with their opinions on book-buying sites they trust for info. Thanks for the opp to ask!

“Some days, you just want the dragon to win.”

You're welcome. And readers, why not leave some answers for Sandy and give yourself a chance to win a copy of her latest book, Choices Meant for Kings.

To whet your appetite, I've included a blurb and excerpt below:


Chariss is in danger. Her geasa is hampered by the effects of a friend’s marriage. The dashing Nigel Taiman hides something from her, yet demands she stay at his family’s estate where he and her wizard guardian intend to keep her safe. But the sorcerer Lord Drake and Julette The Betrayer know she’s there, and their monstrous army marches that way.

When prophecies stack up to threaten an arrogant deity, Chariss must choose between the dragon that courts her and the ostracized kings of the Southlands for help. Evil stalks her at every turn and madness creeps over the goddess who guides her. Can an orphan-turned-Protector resist the dark side of her heritage? Or will she sacrifice all to keep her god-charge safe?

A Tense Little Excerpt From Choices Meant for Kings

By fantasy author Sandy Lender

You won’t find this excerpt anywhere except Sandy’s current online book tour…

As the soldier stepped toward him, Nigel reached out his arm and caught him by the neck. He slammed the captain against the far wall. He pinned him there with his body, leaning against the man as if he could crush the wind from him with his presence.

He brought his face close to the soldier’s ear and spoke lowly, fiercely, so that no one could have overheard him. The menace and intent behind the words was as surprising to the captain as the words themselves.

“I asked you to accompany [Chariss] on this journey tomorrow because I have faith in your sword, and until this moment I trusted you to keep your distance from her. Now, I find her down here at your side with a look upon your face that suggests more than you realize. So help me, Naegling, the only thing that stays my hand is how displeased she would be if she learned that I sliced you open.”

“The look you see is merely my concern for her honor. Nothing more.”

“I’m not a fool. And I’ll use every last piece of Arcana’s treasury to pay the prophets to justify my reasons for marrying that woman, so you can unconcern yourself with her honor.”

Hrazon stepped off the staircase then and saw Nigel pressed against his guard.

“I still believe you’re one of the best soldiers Arcana’s ever seen,” Nigel continued, “and I want you at her side for this journey, but, so help me, Naegling, she comes back alive and well and not confused in the least about her affections for me, or I will string you up from a tree in the orchard and attach your intestines to your horse’s saddle before I send it—”

Hrazon cleared his throat. “Excuse me. Is there an issue here I should address?”


Sandy Lender said...

Hi there, Lily!
It's late in the day here so it's time for the pouring rain. That means I'm inside staring at the computer and fixin' to tell the world that this post is up for their reading enjoyment. Thank you for hosting me today!
Sandy Lender
"Some day, you just want the dragon to win."

J.A. Saare said...

Hey Sandy,

Man, reading about that first "I'm not suitably rejected" brings back memories. It's never easy baring your soul, only to have it crumbled. I'm so glad you continued pushing forward!

All my best!

Sandy Lender said...

Thanks, Jaime,
I've had dozens of writers ask about query letters and getting agents, and I tell that story to illustrate sometimes it really really sucks...but persistence can pay off...
Sandy Lender
"Some days, you just want the dragon to win."