Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Welcome A Dragon to the Blog!

Today we’d like to say a warm hello to writer Sandy Lender, who is visiting this blog as part of her online book tour. Sandy’s high epic fantasy novel titled Choices Meant for Gods has just been published by ArcheBooks Publishing. Check it out on and read the interview with Sandy below.

Sandy will be available throughout the day to answer your questions, so feel free to post comments.

“Choices Meant for Gods” is an intriguing title. How does it relate to your book?
The lead character, Amanda Chariss, doesn't believe in herself at first. She views the confidence everyone else has in her as misplaced. Now, as she goes through her arc, she still has some reticence about the things she's asked to do, but she gets more comfortable with her role, but she still thinks the decisions she's asked to make are choices meant for gods, not a simple mortal girl.

I hear there are dragons in your book. Are they beautiful or scary?
There are two main dragons in the book. The first that we meet is terrible. She's an evil goddess as old as time itself who can actually morph between "human" and dragon form at will. And as frightening as Julette is in human/goddess form, you really don't want to see her in her dragon form…someone's probably going to get eaten.

The other dragon is wonderful. When we first meet him, he's just a fledgling—absolutely adorable and endearing. He lands on Chariss's balcony at night and watches her through the curtains because he's curious about this new human at the Taiman estate. And then one night Chariss catches hold of him…

Who are you when you’re not a writer?
Oh my…I don't think there's a time when I'm not a writer. I guess I have brief spells of insanity when I'm at Duran Duran concerts. I think my muse avoids me then because I'm just too loud. But I literally keep pen and paper with me at all times. I work for a magazine publishing company, so even my "day job" involves writing. Almost everything I do involves communicating through some means or another, and it's usually with the written word.

What made you decide to start writing?
Honestly, I think I was born with the desire! I used to write little stories for my great grandmother when I was a child; I wrote little one- and two-sentence "articles" for the class newsletter in first grade; it's just something I've always done.\

Who has influenced you the most in your writing?
There's a list, actually, that ranges from Jesus Christ, who kept me from getting too out of hand with the violence in Choices Meant for Gods (and who reminded me that Nigel and Chariss are NOT married—thus CMFG sports a PG rating instead of something insane like triple X), to Duran Duran to the Anglo-Saxon warriors that the Old English scops immortalized (I really want to meet the fellow who wrote Beowulf when I get to Heaven—I want to shake his hand!) to the Master of All Writing Charlotte Bronte.

Tell us about your road into the Published Kingdom.
This story would be horrific if not for the happy ending. I started out with the same depressing query-letter routine that most writers start out with. I'd research agents that represented fantasy authors, figure out which ones would accept new clients, send this sparkling query letter demonstrating my knowledge of publishing (I'd been in magazine publishing for 12 or 12+ years at that point as an editor and writer) and marketing. No one cared. Rejection-letter city, right? That got old fast, so, rather than continue getting beat up by that process, I decided to try something different—bypass the gatekeepers, as it were. I ended up going through a move in there, too, relocating to Southwest Florida to help someone in my life pursue his dream to go back to school. When I got to Florida, I joined a group that had a Writers Conference where I had a pitch session (which you can read about in the May 25 archives of with ArcheBooks Publishing's Bob Gelinas. He accepted my manuscript and sent me a contract. Problem solved! I had my foot in the Publishing Kingdom door. And I am eternally grateful.

I cannot tell you how much effort it takes beyond that step, though. Holy cow. Marketing and promotion is not the job of the publisher in this industry these days. Even your high-n-mighty New York publishers don't have mongo budgets for marketing, and what budgets they do have are reserved for their big-name authors, not newbies. So a new author in the publishing industry has a path to beat through the underbrush to get noticed amid the 400+ titles being released each day to the marketplace. That's one of the reasons I'm in the middle of an online book tour for Choices Meant for Gods. I want to get my name out to as many online viewers as possible to let them now there's a new fantasy author on the scene. And that's why I'm grateful to you for letting me stop by your blog on that tour. You may not realize it, but you're providing me a great opportunity today and I thank you.

Please describe your usual day to us.
I'm up at 5:30 to prepare for the day. I post the Word of the Day and some other marketing-related and writing-related articles to my blog at Then I'm off to work (I have an hour commute) where I write and edit and produce magazines. After work, depending on the day, I'm either attending class, attending a writers meeting, or hitting a place to get a non-traditional venue to either hand out flyers about Choices Meant for Gods or sell the book on consignment. Once I get home, I fire up the computer to assist Nigel with his blog because I can't really let him post without overseeing what he's writing about me. The evenings also see me editing Book II of the Choices trilogy, prepping future blog posts, managing the online book tour, helping out other writers with blogging questions (I give seminars on this topic), and writing. Now that the person I moved down here to support in following his dream has abandoned me and the house to foreclosure and bankruptcy (ooh, sounds like I made a mistake, doesn't it?), I have a few odd errands that interrupt my schedule, but I still make time to entertain my pet bird and keep up the marketing and promotion. Oh, once in a while, I eat. I usually go to bed around 1:30.

How much do you read?
A lot, considering my schedule! But I have found that most of my reading lately has turned into work, which is a shame. I'm reading specifically to provide reviews for other authors who need support in their marketing efforts.

Who are your favorite authors and why?
Hands down: Charlotte Bronte. (Are there other authors?) Seriously, I've been a Bronte fan since I read Jane Eyre one summer in high school. Holy cow. I think it was the first book that made me so mad I wanted to throw it across the room. The wedding scene (and everyone who's read it will understand) made me actually react out loud. And has anyone visiting today read Villette? Ugh…you read this fantastic story and get all the way to the end expecting roses and love and happiness and "oh, they finally get together," and Charlotte rips the rug out from under you in like the fourth- or fifth-to-last paragraph. That was another one of those moments where I was gasping at the page thinking, "She did not just end it that way." She's another one I have to meet when I get to Heaven…

Quick, sell us your next book.
Well, considering the working title may change, this may be odd. Choices Made by Gods is the sequel to Choices Meant for Gods, and it shows us Chariss growing in her role as the protector of a god who has just lost his power and who has an evil dragon hot on his trail. While Nigel Taiman struggles to keep her at his estate and bound to his side, the forces of prophecy, and the armies converging on his front lawn, threaten to take Chariss away. And it turns out he was right to try to make her stay…

Yvonne, thank you again for hosting me today at your site. I've enjoyed the questions you've had, and I'll check in to see what questions or comments I can answer from your visitors!


Joanna said...

Hi Sandy, virgin blog-commenter and author-to-be Joanna here. Has being published irrevocably changed you life, or is it pretty much business as usual?

Jane Beckenham said...

Hi Sandi
I can so relate to the marketing dilema. It's really hard road out there, and as writers, it's very hard for us to donate writing time, to marketing time, but of course it's absolutely paramount. Have you always written fantasy, or is it something gravitated towards? The market is humming for paranormal, do you think this affects what you write?

Jane Beckenham.

Sherry said...

Hi Sandy,
Hope to one day write a book - not sure what genre yet. Must be so satisfying to finish something and see it in bookshops! Did you find it hard to get started? You hear of having to accept lots of rejection before finding a publisher - is this true?

heidi ruby miller said...

Hello Sandy.

I was wondering if now that you have a publisher, did you go back to any of the agents who rejected you and ask for their representation again, or did you decide to go it unagented?


Sandy Lender said...

Hi, Joanna!
My life is definitely changed because I no longer sleep, but that's my own fault. :) I'm completely devoted to marketing and promoting. If you put my name in the Google search engines, pages upon pages come up...that's because I really want to get the word out that there's this new fantasy author with a new fantasy book.

Sandy L.
"Some days, I just want the dragon to win."

Sandy Lender said...

To Jane,
Hi there! Yes, I've always written under the speculative fiction umbrella when it comes to my "fun" writing. So my writing career will showcase fantasy and paranormal elements. Choices Meant for Gods is the high, epic fantasy work in an epic fantasy trilogy (which also has a prequel going). But I can't ignore my vampire leanings, you know. ;)

For my day job, I've written bizarre stuff like cattle and elk husbandry, road construction, asphalt lab mix design, religious insanity (don't ask on that one...too bizarre), community management, and now healthy living lifestyles in a non-fiction, journalism style.

It's been a bizarre ride, I can tell you that.

Sandy L.
"Some days, I just want the dragon to win."

Sandy Lender said...

Hi there, Sherry!

Yes, rejection was part of my process, and it truly sucked. People tell you not to take it personally when an agent rejects your query letter because he or she isn't rejecting "you" but "your work." Well, as far as I'm concerned, my work is an extension of me so, yes, the agent IS rejecting me. And that hurts!

I got tired of rejections pretty quickly and decided there had to be a realistic way to get into the industry. Lo and go talk to them face-to-face. Forget those books and articles that tell you how to write a glowing query letter. Go find an agent or (what I did) publisher who'll grant you a pitch session and give it your best shot. If you have enthusiasm and love for your project, and you can project that love and enthusiasm better in person than on a piece of 8 1/2 by 11 parchment paper, then go get 'em, I say.

Oh, and I had no trouble getting started with Choices Meant for Gods. It was a labor of love. I've got bunches of other "books" in my head right now that I'll have no trouble getting started on, either, once I find a way to stretch the number of hours in a day...

Sandy L.
"Some days, I just want the dragon to win."

Sandy Lender said...

My publisher actually requires his authors work with an agent, even though he signed me without one. That put us in a pickle. I needed to get an agent. You would think that having a publisher would make a new author extremely desirable. Not so. The query letter arrives in the office and the intern-of-the-month opens it, smacks her gum, puts the letter in a slush pile until the end of the week, and then sends a form rejection letter back in the SASE. The agents are there to keep unknown authors out of the editors' and publishers' way. Now, if my name were J.K. Rowling or Nora Roberts or Stephen King, the agents would be all over that letter, but those three don't have to write to agents. They can just call. Oh, wait, what am I saying? ;)

Seriously, my publisher put me in touch with an agent he works with and she signed with me for my first novel. My publisher has already requested the remainder of the trilogy and I don't see my lack of an agent going forward as an issue.

Sandy L.
"Some days, I just want the dragon to win."