Friday, April 30, 2010

Meet my New Agent!

So, this is the post I've been dying to write!

I just signed with an agent. His name is Michael Bourret, he lives in L.A., and he's a Sagittarius. Just kidding, I don't know what he is. But I'm so excited. 

The Story:
I had several full manuscripts out there. (If you query an agent with a one-page letter, and they're interested, they might ask to see the full manuscript). Then about a week ago, I got a phone call from a great agent who wanted to offer representation. 

The next step (after you jump up and down and scream at the top of your lungs, to the point where the neighbors are calling the police) is to alert all the agents who have fulls, and tell them you have an offer so they have a chance to respond. Like a week or so.

The last time I did this, nobody else responded. So I was sort of expecting the same thing, even though it's a different book. 

Anywho, the crazy thing is, almost every agent who had the full ended up offering representation. Pure madness. 

So then I had a choice. A good choice, but a stressful choice. I lost five pounds in a week, which is weird because I made a concerted effort to only eat chocolate. 

I thought, what are the things I'm looking for in an agent?

1. Someone with whom I get along with good. (Hey, I never said I was a good writer). 

Problem: I spoke to every one of them on the phone. Got along great. Planned family barbecues together and trips to the coast in the summer.

2. Someone who knows his/her stuff.

Problem: They all did. They were even eloquent about it. Not a dangling participle or wandering gerund among them. 

3. Someone who's passionate about the book. 

Problem: They all were. They spoke of the characters as if they were actual people, which makes me feel less weird when I'm alone in my house and I'm carrying on conversations with my characters.

In the end, I had to go with my gut, and my gut was telling me to go with Michael. (Of course, it might've been all that chocolate I'd inhaled. But even if it was, I always listen to chocolate. It's just common sense.)
Michael is part of Dystel and Goderich Literary Agency, and he represents stellar authors such as Sara Zarr, Lisa McMann, James Dashner and Emily Wing Smith
(Michael Bourret. He and his smile are available for writing conferences.)

I hope he knows what he's gotten himself into, taking me on. 

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Kid B's Soccer Debut... and It ain't Pretty

Kid B started his first soccer games this week. During practice he looked like his namesake, David Beckham. (yeah, we like to put an inordinate amount of pressure on our kids. Kid C is named after Bill Gates.)

Here he is during practice:

Notice he is exemplifying three key strategies to win soccer games:
1. He is running toward the ball.
2. He is pointed in the right direction (i.e. he knows which net is his target)
3. He is aware he's on a soccer field, and appropriately he is running.

Now, check him out during the actual game.

 This is not a summersault. He stayed like this, frozen, for minutes.
We can also learn lessons from this behavior:

1. The other team shouldn't have to question what you're doing.
2. If you're going for the art of distraction, the middle of the field is probably not the best choice, especially with a herd of stampeding 4-year-olds headed your way.
3. If you're going to assume this position, make sure your drawstring is tied tight.

This was the high point of the game, since it was the only time he stayed on the field voluntarily. Maybe it's not too late to change his name to Bob. Nobody expects too much out of a "Bob." Because there are so many of them.

Monday, April 26, 2010

In Which a First Chapter Contest brings a new addition to our family... And Who Knew Flusher Instructions were Necessary?


I went to the LDS Storymakers conference last weekend. (Okay, I missed the second day of the conference, something that came back to bite me in the bum). 

1. The night before the conference, I got to meet a couple of blog readers in person- Susan from Arizona and Robin from Idaho (She's the one who made me the diet coke spreadsheet).
Susan and Robin

It's hard to see them behind our giant appetizers. Apparently we ordered deep fried bagels.

2. The next day, we rushed to Provo and made it just in time for Bree Despain's class on "Delving into the Paranormal." She did a great job, despite the rowdy group of hecklers on the front row. (Okay, that was us.)

3. Soccer games and tennis matches kept me from the conference on Saturday, but around 1:30 I got a bunch of texts and calls saying I'd won the grand prize for the first chapter contest. A new laptop!

They announced it in the giant ballroom at lunch time, and they're all, "The winner is... Brodi Ashton!"

Then they looked out into the audience, searching.

"Brodi Ashton?... Um, is Brodi here?"

Thankfully Valynne (#4 Crazy) stepped up to accept the prize. It worked out great, because we look so much alike. She's like my brother from another mother.
My Twin, Valynne

They started snapping pictures of Valynne with the laptop, and she's all, "But, I'm not Brodi."

To which they replied, "Then why are you trying to steal his computer? Why do you hate this 'Brodi' person? What did he ever do to you?"

But Valynne's a bouncer, so she just threw a few elbows and dashed out of there.

I have to say, I'm so excited about my new little computer. Look how small he looks next to Little Red (whom I have subsequently named "Big Red"):

I named him Snoop and I can't wait to tote him around. The only problem is, I have man-hands, so when I type on it I feel like Chris Farley's "fat guy in a little coat" bit.

4. Aside from little Snoop, the highlight of the weekend was the restroom. 
The flusher came with instructions. Up for #1. Down for #2. 

So apparently the toilet's all, "I gotta be honest with you. If it's #1, I'm not gonna give you 100%. I'm gonna swirl around a couple times, at the most. I'll mix it up. But that's it."

I've got a week of decisions ahead. What are y'all up to?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Crazy Week... and there is such a thing as too much honey.

Hey Y'all.

It has truly been a wonderful, crazy, over-the-top week for me. I feel like I've been away from the computer a lot, and neglecting my blogger duties. (Which are to raise the blogger flag in the morning, play taps on my bugle, and then scrape plates after lunch). At least I'm not on K-P. In fact, I have no idea how the duties are assigned. Who's in charge here?

I can't wait to tell you all about it, but for now it reminds me of when my mom used to give my sister a spoonful of honey each night. (Supposedly, it's an old wives tale to help with bed-wetting. Um... sorry Erin.) Okay, so maybe it was a total stranger, giving her total stranger daughter honey.

Anywho, this week, after the first spoonful of honey, I was all, "Honey! Honey honey honey honey honey honey! I love honey! So sweet!"

And I get the next spoonful, and I'm all, "Mmmmm.... Honey. It's sweet."

And then next one: "Hmm. Honey."

After the extreme high of a sugar rush, then the fantastical crash to the ground, I was exhausted, and I tore off all my clothes and ran naked down the street screaming, "My kingdom for a lemon!" (Get that picture out of your head. We're still being metaphorical.)

Sam, in his efforts to help with the mania, informed me we have one less problem to worry about. Remember how Kid C spits toothpaste bubbles from heck to breakfast every time he brushes his teeth, making the sink totally gross? Well, Sam has found the answer.

He taught Kid C to spit in the toilet. 

I just put my head in my hands.

I'm off to the LDS Storymakers conference in Provo today. Remember to say hi if you're there.

What's everyone else doing this weekend? Teaching your kids to take a bath in the toilet, so as not to mess up the bath tub?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Kid C Confesses his Toots

Sorry for the late blog. It's been a little crazy around here.

So, Kid C and I are riding in the car the other day, and I hear something that sounds like bubbles popping. A little put-put-put. 

Kid C looks at me in the rear view mirror and says, "Whoa. Who's tooting?"

me: "I think we both know who's tooting."

him: "The car?"

me: "No."

him: "Brodi's tooting."

me: "No, Kid C's tooting."

You get the picture. We went back and forth a few times, and finally I said, "Kid C, stop lying."

him: "I'm not."

So we drive for a little while, and pretty soon I hear him whispering. I tilt my head so I can hear him better. He thinks he's being quiet enough. He's closed his eyes, and he's saying over and over, "Dear Jesus, it really was me tooting. I'm the one who tooted. That's the truth. Dear Jesus, I tooted."

I guess all my lessons about how Heaven knows if you're lying have paid off.

Speaking of heaven, anyone going to the LDStorymakers conference this weekend? I'm gonna party it up there on Friday. Bree Despain (#3 Crazy of the Six, but really #1 Crazy) will be speaking in the first session. If you're going, stop on by and say 'hi'.

Monday, April 19, 2010

In Which we Buy a New Car... and Strange Billboards of Utah

We finally got a new car. We couldn't decide on the Bronco or the Blazer, so we compromised, because when virile Blazers meet willing Broncos (in karaoke bars) often the product of that union is a cute little thing called an International Scout.
Our new little illegitimate child, Scout. Born in 1975.

Only problem was the car was in St. George. (For those of you non-Utahns, St. George is about 300 miles away from Salt Lake City).

I think there are two kinds of moms in this world. Those who would volunteer, nay, beg, to leave hubby home with the kids, drive a rental car down one night, stay in a hotel, and drive the new car back... and those who wouldn't. 

I'm totally the first kind.

So I drove down Saturday night, enjoying the scenic views of Middle-Utah (sort of like Middle-Earth, but a lot less green).  And I noticed the various billboards welcoming me to various tiny Utah towns. 

For instance, here's the one promoting Beaver, Utah.

So, in case you were on the fence at the sight of a giant Beaver riding an ATV (or conversely, it might be a normal-sized beaver riding a super tiny ATV), they also throw in the fact that Beaver has the "Best tasting water in U.S." 

I don't know about you, but upon reading that fact, I wanted to go use a public restroom in Beaver just so I could slurp some water from the sink, and find out what the best water in U.S. tastes like. Then I started imagining what the best water should taste like, and I thought if I were inventing water, I'd make it taste like Diet Coke. So I stopped in Beaver and bought a Diet Coke. And the signs were right... it was delicious.

I also discovered ATV's were a general theme in the Billboards. Like every city council got together, and Bob called the meeting to order, and then Phil says, "We gotta advertise something that sets us apart from the rest of these small towns."
And Joe answers, "We have a lot of open space. Dirt roads. Wasatch mountains to the East. Plains to the West.... are you thinking what I'm thinking?"

And Bob says, "ATV's!"

Only problem is, every single town along I-15 has Wasatch mountains to the East, plains to the West, and dirt roads everywhere. So every billboard shows a picture like this:
We're the ATV capitol of the world. No, we are. No, we are.

At least Parowan didn't fall into the ATV trap. Just outside of Parowan, there's a billboard that says:

Great Things are Happening in Parowan

I wanted to ask the sign-makers... have you seen Parowan?
I'm all for believing anything anyone slaps on a billboard, but I couldn't help my skepticism, wondering if there really were random "great things" happening, or maybe their definition of "great" is different than mine. 

This is nothing against Parowan. Maybe they were all like, "Well, everyone else is using ATV's, so..."

And the other guy was all, "You're right. Let's not tie ourselves down to one thing, like ATV's. Let's be a little more generic."

These are all things I noticed on the way down. On the way back, in our new Scout (new as in 1975) everything was loud and bumpy, so the only thing I noticed was how every car was passing me like I was standing still. 

So, would you be the one taking the road trip? Or the one staying home with the kids? And what do you think of our third child, Scout?

Friday, April 16, 2010

First Page of WIP, and another Book Launching at The King's English

Friday, yo.

1. Sam and I were watching the footage of the Icelandic volcano this morning, and all the European flights that have been cancelled. Sam's all, "Can you imagine having a flight in to England right now?"
Actually, I can imagine, and so can he. When Sam and I were getting ready to leave for graduate school in England, we had plane tickets to London set for September 12, 2001. Needless to say, that flight was cancelled.

2. Good friend Sarah Deford Williams' book Palace Beautiful launches tomorrow (Saturday) at The King's English at 2:00.

I am so excited for Sarah. The book is set in the Avenues in Salt Lake City, and follows two sisters and their neighbor, who discover a secret journal hidden in their attic.

So, if you want to come party with me, and the rest of The Six, I'll see you at TKE.

3. Okay, so I promised a few of you I'd post the first couple pages of my book again, since I'm starting to submit the book to agents. Hope you like it. If you don't, keep it to yourself, kay?

I apologize to those of you who have already read it...

by Brodi Ashton

The Underneath
History books call it the Underworld. Or the land of the Afterlife.

But I know it’s neither. It is really called the Underneath and it’s not a place for the dead. It’s a place for the Everliving- humans who have discovered the secret to eternal life. It’s a place for their Forfeits- the humans who give up everything to keep the Everliving alive.  It’s the world caught between this one and the next, a layer between Earth and Hell.

I know this because I was a Forfeit. I would give anything to change this.

Chapter one
Park City High School

It’s too soon.
But, really, I’ve been gone for one hundred years. Everything about my old life will be too soon. Especially high school. The halls of Park City High looked the same, and I reminded myself that above ground – far above the Underneath - only a few months had passed during my absence.

Senior year. A waste of time, in one respect, considering I’ll never make it to graduation. But I need be here to glimpse, for a moment, the life I had before. The year I should’ve had. To see Jack one last time. To stockpile memories that will nourish me for the next century. I only have six months left. I can do this without hurting him again. Maybe he doesn’t even think of me anymore.

I glanced down at my schedule. First period English Literature.  As I checked the room numbers at the tops of the doors, curious whispers floated along the hall behind me. Hanging in the air above my head. Blended together, belonging to no single voice.

Isn’t that Nikki Beckett? She looks awful…

Is she still using?

Has to be… What else would do that to person?

Poor Jack.

Does he know she’s back? Does he know she’s strung out?

When I found the right room, I clutched my books into my chest, lowered my head, and walked through the door.
Someone – probably the teacher – called from near the front of the classroom. “Miss Beckett? Is it?”

    Hearing my own last name did strange things to my heart. Made it beat a little faster. A little harder. It’d been so long since I had a last name. For a hundred years in the Underneath, Cole only called me by my first name. It was how the Everliving treated their Forfeits- if you didn’t have a last name, you didn’t ever really have a life outside of the Underneath. Nothing to want to come back to. Maybe that was why he was so surprised that I chose to come back.

    I stopped just inside the doorway and lifted my head toward the teacher, keeping a few strands of hair in front of my eyes as I nodded in response.

    “Welcome.” She hesitated as she took in my appearance. People did that a lot. It wasn’t that I looked threatening. My dad told me it was because I looked like a malnourished animal, ready to sprint. “The principal told me to expect you. I’m Mrs. Stone. I see you have the textbook.”

    I nodded again.  I didn’t tell her I had already read the entire book.

    “There’s an empty chair in the back there.” She pointed toward the rear of the classroom, but I kept my gaze on her. Most of the other students had taken their seats, and I didn’t want to attract any stares.  “You’ll have to work hard to catch up with the rest of the class.”

    I turned and shuffled down the middle row until I reached the empty place at the back. Once seated, I took out my notebook and pencil, and leaned forward over my desk so my hair created a curtain on either side of my face.

    I could do this.

Under the general curiosity in the room, I started to taste something different than the usual morning jitters. Cole said that during my Return to the Surface, I would be able to taste the energy in the air, but I wouldn’t be able to distinguish between its distinctive flavors. Right now, however, one emotion floated to the top of the rest, and seared my throat with its intensity.

    “Hi,” a familiar voice said from the desk next to mine.

    It was him. Jack. I wasn’t expecting him to be in my first class of the day. In that instant, I knew I couldn’t do this.

    Jack’s voice held no evidence of recognition. A concerted effort to sound flat was the single clue of a history there. Maybe I was the only one who would’ve picked up on it.

    I kept my head down, took a deep breath, and exhaled as slowly as I could. “Hi.”
The word had no accompanying voice to it. Just the escaping air behind my lips. 

    He turned away from me to focus on Mrs. Stone. I wondered how I was going to get through the hour.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Best Part of Writing... and it's not the Homicides.

So, the here's the best part about writing. At least for me. Every so often you have a need to print your whole entire manuscript out, and I don't know what it is about seeing the book printed on actual paper, but I get all tingly inside, as if I just saw Rafa on a changeover where he has to switch shirts.

Whoa. Where was I?

Oh yeah. My book.

Maybe it's because in high school, I had to write a 5,000 word paper, and the assignment seemed very much the opposite of surmountable. Every word felt like it took enough energy that I could've more easily created new worlds, or squeezed a piece of coal with my pinky finger to produce a diamond. And I'd use phrases like "opposite of surmountable" instead of "insurmountable" because three words are better than one.

It would've been easier if the teacher had said, "Okay, for every word you add, someone, somewhere in the world will die." At least then I could've decreased the surplus population and been visited by three ghosts who would outline all the mistakes I'd made.

Needless to say, I titled the paper, "Eight-nine reasons why Jane Austen is so very very very very very cool, which is the opposite of lame." (Yeah, titles count toward the final word total)

So when I see this:

I can't help thinking, "Holy Crap. I did that. Voluntarily. Nobody died. And it's more than 5,000 words. So much more. Like 65,00 words. "

Then I have to force myself to stop thinking about it, because inevitably I'll start telling people I deserve a medal for this stack of paper with ink on it, or at least choirs of angels should be singing. I even caught Sam marveling at my work, and I captured it on video below. Watch how he lovingly thumbs through my pages:

And then he came at me with a baseball bat. I have no idea why, but I had the strangest urge to chase him, all the while yelling, "Here's Johnny!" 

Okay, I'm off to cuddle with my manuscript. He just told me he's tired, so I'm going to tuck him in a fluffy quilt and sing him to sleep. 

Am I the only one who feels this way?

P.S. Several trees were killed in the making of this blog post.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Please Vote on our Next Car Purchase... and other random items on my mind

Happy Monday y'all. Here's what's on my mind...

1. I went to a bake sale on Saturday, and I saw a plate of homebaked cookies, wrapped in cellophane with a bow. Perfect. My neighbors just brought a brand new baby home, and now I had treats to go with the baby blanket I had for them. I bought a bunch more single cookies and things, and then I went home, wrapped the little blanket, and was ready to go.

In the time it took me to walk in the door and put the blanket in a gift bag, Sam used his giant hands to rip a hole in the cellophane and steal a cookie.

Would someone please explain to me what about this picture screams, "I'm available for general consumption. Nothing special, as evidenced by my bow and special wrapping. Please, Mr. grubby hands, help yourself."

Not only that, there were like 50 other non-wrapped cookies, ready for consumption. But these cookies were just too pretty to resist. 

I'd been home for 10 minutes.

Ten Minutes!

2. We just sold Sam's truck, and now we need a new car. We have it narrowed down to two types, so I would appreciate your input.

Here's a 1970's Blazer:

Here's a 1970's Bronco:
Which one do you like better?

And to preemptively asnwer any questions, yes, we like to waste money on gas, and yes, I hate the earth.

3. Congrats to my favorite golfer Phil Mickelson for winnning the Masters!

How was all y'all's weekend? Anything fun going on?

Friday, April 9, 2010

In Which I Participate in No Whining Week

No Whining Week:

I think agent Colleen Lindsay started no whining week this week, so I thought I'd take up the gauntlet (reminder: gauntlet=gloves) and make a list of things I will no longer whine about.

I will no longer whine when:

1. The news anchors drop their to-be verbs. "Officer friendly teaching kids at the local elementary today. Students taking note."

Officer friendly is teaching. Is teaching! Is teaching! If you don't want to use "to be", pick another verb.

2. 24 unearths yet another mole within CTU. 

Of course the blond computer analyst Dana Walsh is working with the terrorists. She totally fits the profile. Just look at her:

3. The doctor says I have to come in for an appointment before she'll refill my prescriptions. 

Their phone call made me feel like I had requested a refill for oxycontin: "We keep getting calls from your... pharmacist **I imagine her making air quotes** We will not be filling any more prescriptions until we see you."

I've had the same allergy prescription since I was a toddler. It doesn't change. It never changes! Gimme my pills!!

Okay, maybe I do sound like a druggie.

I have to admit, it feels great to not whine. Talking about these little pet peeves makes me want to complain, but I'm so glad I could control myself.

Want to join me, blog readers? What do you vow not to whine about anymore?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

What DWTS Teaches Us About the Publishing World


So I watched Dancing With the Stars last night. I've never really gotten into the show before, because I like my shows to have a guy who holds a rotating power drill up to someone's thigh, all the while shouting, "Where are the Nuclear Rods?!?!" (Farewell 24).

Anywho, I watched Dancing with the Stars, or DWTS as people in the know call it, and of course, I was struck by the similarities between the dancing competition and the Publishing industry. I don't know why no one's talked about this before. (Well, probably lots of people have).

Here's what DWTS teaches us about Publishing:

1. Nobody likes an Astronaut.

Okay, so that's not exactly true, but bear with me. Last night, Space Hero Buzz Aldrin was voted off the dance floor. Despite the producers making us feel like not voting for him would be like not voting for Apple Pie, he made an early exit.

Publishing: As much as a publisher gets behind a book, and tries to ensure a best seller, it's the quality of the dancing that will sell it. Wait. I'm mixing metaphors. But you get the drift. Nobody can force a bestseller, no matter whose feet touched moon dirt, thus beating those Ruskies. Who knows why some books flounder while others catch on like fire. Nobody can predict it. But if the love isn't there, you can't force it.

2. America hates the Space Program.

Well done, America, voting our hero off. You've just killed the Space Program. Now the Ruskies have the power. 

Just kidding. This is what I wanted Buzz to shout during elimination. I thought it would be cool, followed by security forcing him off the stage while he laments, "Why do y'all hate Spaaaaaaaace?"

3. Running after Eight kids Doesn't Make you Light on Your Feet. 
I don't know if you knew this, but Kate G. has eight kids. and the paparazzi follows them like moths to the flame. Heartless weenies. Kate never wanted to be in the spotlight. She did dancing with the Stars to take a stand against fame, and tell the world, just because you have a reality show, it doesn't mean you can act.

Show me anger, Kate:

Keep flapping, Kate. You're not going to fly away.

Publishing: When it comes right down to it, it's the writing (dancing) that matters. And there is such a thing as talking about your kids (books) too much. You kids (books) are never as cute to everyone else as they are to you.

4. The people who love... um... these:

Aren't the ones who know how to use this:

Now, if people voted by going to a bar and chugging each time she licked her teeth, she'd be the front runner. 

For publishing: Know your target audience. Know exactly where it will fit on the book shelves. Know how large your audience would be, and why they would buy your book. If you can't figure this out, Publishers won't be able to either.

5. Doesn't matter how cute your dance is. If you don't follow the rules, you don't stand a chance.

These two (okay, I'm not good with everyone's names) did an awesome dance, but apparently they broke some cardinal rules of the shuffle. I had a tough time understanding just what the rules were, but here's what I gleaned:
     a. They dipped when they should've squatted
     b. They strutted when they should've shimmied.
     c. Their costumes weren't historically accurate. Everyone knows sailors show a little more skin.

Publishing: You can write a great book, but if you don't follow the rules of querying and submission guidelines, no one will ever read it, and the dance scores won't count. So don't let something like a shimmy keep you out.

Okay, y'all. Keep shimmying. Anyone else watching dancing with the stars? Who's your most annoying contestant?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Top Ten Annoying Questions asked by a Seven-Year-Old...

Good Monday y'all. How was your weekend? 

I spent our spring break at my family's condo in Midway, and I can tell you that being in such close quarters with my kids seems to magnify certain... um... wonderful traits about them. The traits that sort of make you wanna find the nearest cliff and pull a Thelma and Louise. 
 (The cousins waiting to start the Easter Egg hunt. Kid B in front, Kid C on right.)

So, below I present to you the 
(Seriously, as a fun game, try to answer them in your head.)

10.  Why doesn’t Jesus want me to be a spider?
9.    Why do bad guys always build such big lairs?
8.    When is tomorrow?
       follow up: But when is tomorrow?
       extra follow up, no matter what you say: Tomorrow is tomorrow? That's not answering the question, Brodi.
7.    Why do boys always need to be with their moms? (I'm trying not to read too much into this one.)
6.    Why can't I earn money by using my web to catch people as they fall? (This was after I asked him what he wanted to do for a job when he grew up)
5.    Why do you hate babies? (This one came when I asked him to stop talking like a baby)
4.    Why don’t you take me on more roller  coasters?
3.    Do I need to find a funner family?
2.    If we were to plant that avocado pit, would we get an avocado tree? (Okay, that was Sam asking this one). 

And the number one annoying question over the holiday weekend:
1. How do you know?

Because I'm the reincarnation of Albert Frakkin' Einstein and I know everything!!!!

Oh yeah? Then when is tomorrow?

At least he did some redeeming things too. Like he drew a picture of me. 
I'm trying not to read too much into it.

How was everyone else's weekend?