Sunday, August 23, 2009

Dream Big--It Could Come True

By KJ Howe

I'm a big believer in having dreams...and in dreaming big! Sometimes, when we least expect it, our dreams come true in the best way possible. Today is a perfect example of a writer's dream come true. Our guest today is my fellow 2009 Golden Heart Finalist, Darynda Jones, who has just signed a three-book with St. Martin's! I'll let Darynda take it from here:

Thank you so much for inviting me, KJ, and everyone at Romance Bandits!

This has been such a surreal experience, and I've had many people tell me it’s also been inspirational for them. I’m so glad, because I never thought of myself as being an inspiration.

Just finaling in the Golden Heart garnered so much attention, I was able to get eight agents offer representation on my manuscript First Grave on the Right, at which time I learned is actually more urban fantasy than paranormal romance.

Private investigator Harley Davidson was born with three things: a smoking hot ass; a healthy respect for the male anatomy; and the rather odd job title of grim reaper. Since the age of five, she has been helping the departed solve the mysteries of their deaths so they can cross. Thus, when three lawyers from the same law firm are murdered, they come to her to find their killer. In the meantime, she's dealing with a being more powerful, and definitely sexier, than any specter she's ever come across. With the help of a pain-in-the-ass skip tracer, a dead pubescent gangbanger named Angel, and a lifetime supply of sarcasm, Harley sets out to solve the highest profile case of the year and discovers that dodging bullets isn’t nearly as dangerous as falling in love.

I had some seriously fantastic agents suddenly knocking on my door and found the decision one of the hardest I’ve ever had to make.

Needless to say, I didn’t get much sleep that week.

But when I spoke on the phone with Alexandra Machinist of the Linda Chester Literary Agency, I felt a real connection with her. We got to meet at the RWA National Conference in DC and sadly, my very first words to her were, "You're so tiny and cute." Yeah. Not one of my better social moments.

Winning the Golden Heart helped too. Within days, we had several requests. And about a week after Alexandra submitted First Grave, we had our first offer from Jennifer Enderlin of St. Martin's Press for a three-book deal.

It was so much more than either of us was expecting, Alexandra called me and asked if I was sitting down. I admit it. I started crying. Then I slipped into a state of shock which I stayed in for quite some time. My husband freaked out too. It was funny.

I had meetings all that first day and I could barely sit through them. It was quite torturous really. And don’t even ask how I slept that night! By the next morning we had a couple more offers, and just before it went to auction, Jennifer swept in with an amazing preempt we couldn't turn down. We both wanted Jennifer (the woman defines bestseller), so we were on cloud nine. Or possibly ten. I can’t be positive at this point.

Jennifer called me that afternoon so we could meet "voice to voice". She was so wonderful and I am thrilled to be working with her. Like, over-the-moon thrilled.

Both Alexandra and Jennifer have such sparkling personalities, I'm fairly certain I hit the agent/editor jackpot. I now have about seven months to finish the next one in the series and six months after that to finish the third. The plan thus far is to release them two months apart from each other, starting in January 2011.

At this point, I’m about 78% positive I’ve entered the Twilight Zone. I never imagined I would get such a fabulous agent, editor, or deal. This is truly a fairy tale come to life. Any other stories about "The Call" out there? I simply love hearing them.

Again, thank you so much to Romance Bandits for inviting me. I will be in and out all day today (darned day job), but I will answer any questions as timely as possible. I look forward to hearing from everyone!

KJ: Thanks, Darynda, for sharing your incredible truly is inspirational that all those hours sitting behind your computer do pay off. Congrats to you for making it to the twilight zone. I can't wait to read your tales.

Darynda Jones recently won a 2009 Golden Heart® for Best Paranormal Romance for her manuscript First Grave on the Right, which just sold in a three-book deal to Jennifer Enderlin at St. Martin’s Press. Though she can’t remember a time when she wasn’t putting pen to paper, she has been writing toward publication for seven years and has three complete manuscripts—and many, many partials—under her belt.

She graduated Summa cum Laude from the University of New Mexico with a bachelor's in Sign Language Interpreting and works as a full-time interpreter during the day and a college instructor at night. Despite her hectic work schedule, the tales in her mind will not be tamed, so she writes every spare moment she can find. She lives in a small town in New Mexico with her husband of 26 years and two beautiful sons, otherwise known as the Mighty, Mighty Jones Boys. Visit Darynda at She'd love to hear from you.


Anna Sugden said...

Welcome, Darynda! What an awesome call story - truly a dream come true.


I'd love to know what you think made the real difference in selling this book, as opposed to the others you've written?

Anna Sugden said...

Looks like the pesky rooster is coming to Cambridge ... good, he can do some housework!

Kim Howe said...

Congrats, Anna, on the GR! He's lucky to be nestling at your place today. Wish I could join him. :)

Kim Howe said...

Great question, Anna. I'm intrigued to know that answer as well!

Authorness said...

Congratulations on making your big dream come true, Darynda!

~ Vanessa

Autumn Jordon said...


Everytime I hear this story, I get the serious chills. You are an inspiration to us. Not only on how to make it in the industry but how to remain humble afterwards. Congrats again.

Please share how long it took you to write The First Grave. That is a great story.



Susan Sey said...

Congratulations, Darynda! What a wonderful, inspirational story! And I love it that you named the Grim Reaper Harley Davidson. There's got to be a story behind that one. Share? :-)

Lynz Pickles said...

Congratulations, Darynda! What an inspiring story! The problem is that now I'm all psyched up to read The First Grave... *sob*

"You're so tiny and cute." Yeah. Not one of my better social moments.

Hehehe, that's totally something I'd say. In fact, I have. I think all my short friends are thoroughly sick of me because of it.

Beth said...

Welcome to the lair, Darynda, and huge congrats on your three book deal!!

How did you celebrate your sales?

And I'm very curious as to the distinction between urban fantasy and paranormal romance. How did you disocver that First Grave on the Right falls into the first category?

Molly Evans said...

squee! I'm one of those people you truly inspired with your amazing evolution over the last few months. (I'm going to sit next to you at the next chapter meeting to see if some of your success rubs off)
Big congratulations and you deserve to freak out for a while. Enjoy the process of the call and all of the fun fall out.
Excellent idea of releasing the books 2 months apart. Just like the big girls do.

Anonymous said...

Darynda, I just read about your deal in Publishers Marketplace and thought -- wow, I bet she's over the moon -- I'd love to hear her story. And here you are! :-)

I would love to hear the answers to the questions everyone else has asked, and I'd love to know how it feels to be writing on deadline, instead of at your own pace? I am working on the second book of a two book contract now and it's definitely different working to an editor's pace rather than your own! LOL.

Thanks for coming to the Lair to share your great news with us!

Gwynlyn MacKenzie said...

I've heard this story several times now, and it's still too cool!

Congrats, D. May the road be straight and smooth!

Barbara Monajem said...

Wow, what an amazing story. Congratulations, Darynda. I won't ask any questions because others have already asked the ones I would have... I'm looking forward to the answers.

Joan said...

Ok, just got done picking my jaw up off the floor where it had dropped in awe.

Congratulations to you, Darynda! Being with St. Martin's has to be a dream come true.

And can call me tiny and cute'd be lying but still :-)

And Anna congrats on getting chook boy over there. Tell us the scoop..what does he take in his tea? (I'm betting its Jamesons)

MsHellion said...

That series sounds AMAZING. It's no surprise to me that you had agents knocking down your door, nor that you were offered a 3-book deal from St. Martin's (OMG!).

I think Anna asked the question we all want to know. *LOL*

TerriOsburn said...

I love this call story! And I love it when I read these and think, "I was there when she won." How cool and HUGE CONGRATS on all of it. You definitely hit the jackpot.

Like others, I'm looking forward to the answers to all the questions above. But I'll also add to the list.

Did you always intend for this to be a series? Will the series end after three books or so you see it continuing?

Becke Davis said...

Welcome, Darynda! My brother went to University of New Mexico and still lives in Albuquerque -- I love that town!

*sigh* I do love this kind of story. It's the best kind of dream-come-true fairy tale! I love the description of your book -- no wonder you sold!

p226 said...

"...sets out to solve the highest profile case of the year and discovers that dodging bullets isn’t nearly as dangerous as falling in love."..

It wasn't that long ago, that I made the same observation. I meant it then, and I stand by it now.

rita said...

Darynda, great things happen to great people. I am so happy for you

Darynda said...

Hello everyone!

I'm so sorry I haven't been on yet today. I'm on a very short lunch break, but I'll get to answer everything this afternoon.

As for Anna's wonderful and might I add IMPORTANT question, I do indeed have a theory. It could be wrong, but I don't think so.

In a couple of words, this one had HIGH CONCEPT. It was different enough to set it apart from other reads on the shelves right now, but recognizable enough to qualify for what I believe is high concept.

The way I see it is you have about 10 seconds to grab an agent's or editor's attention. You better grab hard and hold on for dear life.

So I got their attention with the conecept then kept it with humorous, sometimes over-the-top writing.

Thank you for all the questions and I'll be back on in about three hours!

Hugs and have a wonderful day everyone!


Donna MacMeans said...

Wow Darynda! Great story! You know I remember thinking - great title - when your book was announced at the GH ceremony, and the blurb you posted was hilarious. Can't wait to read this on the shelf.

As to the agent comment...don't they all look so thin? I think the agents never take time to time because they're always on the phone pushing a project.

Hey Anna - way to snag the rooster!

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, Anna, the chook's going to the Old Dart for the day (um, that's the UK, not you, you young dart, you!).

Darynda, congratulations on your three book deal. What an amazing, wonderful story! I bet you DID feel like you were in the Twilight Zone there for a while! Thanks so much for visiting the Bandits and sharing your story and best of luck for your writing career!

Hey, great things come out of the Golden Heart,don't they?

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, KJ, thanks for having Darynda to visit!

TerriOsburn said...

There are those two words again.

I'm so doomed.


Louisa Cornell said...

Hello, Darynda! Hopping out of the writing and swine flu cave for a moment to wave at my fellow Ruby-Slippered Sister!! We are all so proud of you, Darynda! You are definitely an inspiration to all of us!

I have to agree that I would love to know the difference between a paranormal romance and an urban fantasy romance.

Congrats on nabbing the GR, Anna! I have to agree that I would love to be in Cambridge with you two today (sans flu of course!)

Helen said...

Congrats Anna enjoy your day with him and be sure to make him work hard.

What a fantastic story Darynda and the book sounds excellent huge congrats

Have Fun

limecello said...

Wow, congratulations, Darynda - great post, and yay for dreaming big and seeing it come true :D

Haha, and congrats on the GR, Anna - you'll have to tell us how much housework he actually got done ;)

Joan said...

I'm so doomed.

Stop that this instant, Terrio!

Many different streets lead to the same destination.

Some just have more stop signs!

TerriOsburn said...

Thanks, Joanie, but some of those stop signs look more like road blocks from where I'm sitting. LOL!

I'll get around 'em, one way or another.

Kim Howe said...

Darynda, I'd love to hear your advice to unpubbeds who have been working on many partial manuscripts...any questions you would recommend asking yourself to determine which novel would be considered HIGH CONCEPT? Thanks!

Joan said...

I'll get around 'em, one way or another.

That's has an extra battering ram....

Nancy said...

Darynda, welcome to the Lair! Congratulations on your wonderful success. It really sounds like a dream come true. I salute you for going over the top with your writing, for not pulling punches and playing it safe, which I think is a strong temptation.

Kim, thanks for bringing Darynda to visit.

Nancy said...

Anna, congrats on snagging the rooster! It'll do him good to work. :-)

Pat Cochran said...

So nice to "meet" you, Darynda!
Your calls story is so great, our
congratulations are sent along to
you! (I say calls because of all
the agents after you!)

I've added your book to my to-be
-purchased list which means my TBR
stack will grow some more! If you
hear a crashing sound equal to a
"sonic boom", don't be frightened.
It's the stack finally tumbling
down! I hope it doesn't take the
house down when it goes BOOM!

Pat Cochran

Darynda said...

Thank you so much, again, everyone!

Okay, how long it took me to write it. Well, let me just say the first half took me two years.

Yep. Two years. I pretty much piddled along, starting about 10 other projects during this time.

The second half took me two weeks.

LOL. I know.

Here's what I did. I entered the Golden Heart. :) I knew it would make me finish it, but two weeks before the deadline, I was still half way into the story.

I freaked out. Thought I would be kicked out of RWA. Chewed my nails then sat down before, during and after work to get that puppy finished.

Let me just say, I do NOT suggest doing this. So when I finaled, the last half was still in rough draft form. I spent the next two weeks cleaning it up, worried it might get a request from one of the editor final judges, which it did, then about two months after that cleaning it up before sending it out to agents.


Darynda said...

Thank you so much to all of my Ruby Slippered Sisters who have posted. You guys rock!


Darynda said...

Ah, Susan, alas, the name Harley Davidson is most likely going to be ditched for one that doesn't scream lawsuit. Hahaha.

Actually, my editor Jennifer Enderlin said the manuscript doesn't need it. It's funny enough without it.

I just thought it was a kick ass name. :)

Bummer huh?

Darynda said...

Hi Beth!

Okay, this is the way I understand it.

Paranormal romance still focuses on the romance, but just has paranormal elements. And it still has an HEA.

Urban fantasy focuses more on the heroine's journey than the romance, has an urban setting and the heroine's world is paranormal.

My story has a strong heroine who is the focus. Although there is definitely a romance, it does not have an HEA in the traditional sense. They don't really have a commitment at the end.

I did that because I wanted it to be an ongoing series. But my story does fit UF more than paranormal romance.

That being said, I'm not really sure how St. Martin's is planning to shelf it. I'm VERY curious.

Thanks for the question!

Darynda said...

Molly! You can sit next to me anytime, girl! I'm not sure you need any mojo from me, tho. You are doing QUITE well all on your own. And your new story idea rocks!!!

Thanks for visiting!

Darynda said...

Kirsten, thank you so much!

Well, the whole deadline thing hasn't hit me really hard yet. Right now, I am just taking my writing time much more seriously. I even have a schedule. And hope to start following it someday.

When I think about the deadlines looming in the not-too-distant future, I kind of black out a little. So I try not to think on them too hard.


Darynda said...

Barbara, thank you so much!
And thanks for posting!

Darynda said...

From your picture, Joan, it looks like tiny and cute might be a perfect fit!

Thanks for posting!

Darynda said...

Ms. Hellion, LOVE the name!!! I used to call my oldest Mr. Hellion On Wheels.


Joan said...

Joan, it looks like tiny and cute might be a perfect fit!

LOL, just the PICTURE is tiny and cute..says the girl who HAD to have spaghetti tonight!

Darynda said...

Hi Terri,

Yes, I always intended for this to be a series. It's been a dream of mine for a long time. And I would love for it to continue on forever!

Prolly won't happen, but I dream big!

Thank you!

Darynda said...

Thank you, Becke!

And tell your brother hey from a fellow alumnus. I loved going to college there. It's a beautiful campus. And I do miss Albuquerque. Most of my chapter mates are there. At least I get to see them once a month. WELL worth the drive!


Joan said...

The second half took me two weeks.

OMG...I SO know this place!

In 2007 I had over 100 pages to go on THE PATRICIAN'S FORTUNE with 1 month to the GH deadline. I came to understand true cave dwelling as I spent nearly every waking minute that I wasn't at work working on it.

Got the complete mss done that Sat morning before it was due in Houston Monday by 5pm. RACED to the post office and sent it overnight (expensive) and then obsessively watched the tracking on the website. I think it got to the office by 4:59pm

I came home and collapsed. proved that I could do it. I could work under pressure and deadlines.

You'll do fine getting the new additions to my TBR pile done :-)

Darynda said...

Donna, very true! I don't think they have time to eat. :)

Thanks for posting!

Darynda said...

Hey, great things come out of the Golden Heart,don't they?

Yes they do, Anna! Thanks to the Bandits for having me! This has been super fun!

Darynda said...

"Many different streets lead to the same destination."

So true, Joan! High concept just worked for me. But nothing trumps good writing. So the high concept thing took me about three minutes. The writing part took a bit longer.

So no fretting over high concept. Just write then best manuscript you can and get it out there. Then write another one. :)


Darynda said...

Hi Kim,

Like many people, I was confused about high concept as well. While I pitched First Grave on the Right as "Stephanie Plum meets the underworld", one friend told me that's not really high concept. Not everyone knows who Stephanie Plum is.

So I studied it and this is one of the best definitions I could find.

(From Absolute Write:)

A "high concept" [manuscript] is one whose premise:

- is universal;

- has a fresh twist;

- involves an empathetic hero who is dealing with a BIG problem; and

- can be summed up in a 25-word logline that gives a good picture of the entire [manuscript].

So I would suggest looking at your partials and deciding which one has the freshest twist? Is more universal than the others? And, very importantly, can be summed up in a 25-word log line that is catchy and can grab an editor's or agent's attention.

I have to admit something. The very morning the idea for First Grave came to me, I ran into the bathroom where my DH was taking a shower and I shouted, "I'm going to be published!"

I just knew this was the one. I had a gut feeling. Do any of your partials give you that feeling? If so, I'd go with that one. :)

A woman's intuition is hard to beat. ~D~

Darynda said...

Louisa! Feel better soon, sister!

Hugs and hot toddies,

Darynda said...

Thank you, Nancy and Pat!

It's been lovely being here. What an awesome group!!!

And you too, limecello!

p226, I hope everything is well with you. Darn that whole love thing.


Kate Carlisle said...

Hi Darynda! Popping in a bit late to welcome you to the Lair and congratulate you! What a fabulous call story and clearly your success is well deserved.

What you said to your agent sounds like something I would say. I'm sure she loved hearing it. :-)

Just have to add that I love your book title -- and I love your high concept pitch line. Hey, there may be people in the world who haven't heard of Stephanie Plum, but your lovely new dream editor definitely isn't one of them! LOL

Anna, congrats on snagging the bird!! Trust he was able to put those feathers to use cleaning up the place!

Louisa, swine flu? Really?? How awful. Hope you're feeling better soon, my dear.

Kim Howe said...


Thanks for the excellent definition of HIGH CONCEPT. You've obviously nailed it. Love the fact that you knew right away this idea was the ticket to publication!!!

Virginia said...

Hi Darynda, what a great call story. Congratulation on all your dreams coming true!

Congrats Anna on nabbing the rooster today.

Darynda said...

Thanks, Kim and Virginia!

Now I have a question.

What's the deal with the rooster and why the heck would anyone want to grab it???


Darynda said...

Thank you, Kate!

I was a little floored when our first and then our last offer was from Stephanie's editor. LOL.

Talk about dreams coming true...


Joan said...

The Golden Rooster/GR/Chooky Baby though he often prefers "The Golden One" is the prize won by the first poster of the day...break of dawn + rooster

He's quite adept at espionage, weaponry and field manuevers (thanks to p226) and other manuevers thanks to his "ladies" most notably flchen1, lynz, virginia, helen and lime....lots of "eggs" in his basket so to speak.

Amiable but never...NEVER,...turn your back on him...or leave your car keys where he can snatch them...

Just sayin

Darynda said...

LMAO!!! Thanks, Joan. I shall never turn my back on the rooster. P226 has surely trained him well.


Jo Lewis said...

Welcome to the Lair, Darlynda! I loved your call story so much I wanted to jump in even though I'm very late. Your series sound fantastic!



Darynda said...

Thank you, Jo and Kelly!!!

heidi ruby miller said...

Your path to publication story is indeed inspirational, Darynda.

Thank you for bringing it to us, KJ!