Archive for Blood Mountain

Dreams, rejections, good news from the Junior Library Guild, etc.

I’ve got a picture book manuscript making the rounds with publishers these days. I teamed up with illustrator Jennifer Sattler, who lives not far in Saratoga. She’s incredible.

          

(And, clearly, she’s slumming).

It was nice to collaborate for a change. The process was refreshing, open-hearted and often hilarious — together we came away convinced that this was a good story, a meaningful story, borderline brilliant, and we were confident that it would find a publisher. Maybe a few.

That hasn’t quite happened yet. We are told that summertime is slow. Nonetheless we still received a few rapid rejections, like machine gun fire. But this time we had each other, which was new for me in this mostly solitary business.

Here’s the thing. Despite all the best advice, my usual reaction to rejection is to . . . believe it. I get defeated and figure they are probably right. And it changes the way I view the manuscript, and my own worth. I guess I do suck.

WARNING: Don’t try this at home, people!

I mean to say: That’s not a pro tip. The smart money tells us to believe, believe, believe. To hang in there, pull up our socks, keep plugging away, have faith, blah blah blabbity blah.

After one disappointing rejection, I texted Jen: “This stupid business is going to break my heart.

She texted me back: “It’s okay. Someone will get it, it’s a great story.”

Nice, right? Just what I needed to hear. I even kind of believed her for an entire afternoon.

Last week, while out on the Cape, dodging tornadoes and sharks, I awoke to the memory of an anxiety dream. An editor replied that our book was either the best thing she’s ever read or the worst, she couldn’t be sure, and for that reason was sorry to reject my submission.

Ha, ha, ha. It felt then, and still feels now, about right. 

I’ve never had great success with picture books. I’ve had seven published over the years. I’ve discovered that a typical reply from a picture book editor is that the story didn’t knock her socks off. Imagine how that feels to the writer. It’s a fair desire, I suppose — kablooey, socks blown off feet — but such an elusive, arbitrary goal to achieve. How does one knock someone else’s socks off, especially if she is wearing shoes? Simply write something amazing, I suppose.

I guess that’s the business. As we say in children’s publishing, it’s a bunny eat bunny world.

That same morning, I opened an email and learned that my upcoming novel, Blood Mountain (Macmillan, October 10), was just named a Junior Library Guild selection. It’s a huge honor and an encouraging sign at a time when the book has not yet been reviewed (October pub date). A bellwether of future success! That’s the third novel of mine that has earned such a nod from the folks at the Junior Library Guild, including Bystander and The Courage Test. I’m extremely grateful to them for shining the spotlight. Books tend to get lost in the flood.

So there we have it: Despair and small triumph before I have my second cup of coffee. What a business. 

And, oh yes, I have a new book out today. It’s pub day for Bee the Change (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), the third book in the “Big Idea Gang” trilogy. 

I ain’t dead yet. 

“Reading Junky” Blog Reviews BLOOD MOUNTAIN

“A fast-paced,
action-packed story
that is filled with intense moments
and well-researched outdoor information
. . . Preller nails it.”

— The Reading Junky

 

 

My thanks go out to Sally Kruger, i.e. The Reading Junky, for giving such a thoughtful review to my upcoming book, BLOOD MOUNTAIN. It’s a terrific, well-written blog, so please check it out. Now back to that review I was telling you about . . . 
Grace, Carter, and their father set out to hike Blood Mountain, but their plans quickly change. Dad just isn’t going as quickly as the kids would like so they take off ahead with the family dog, Sitka. When their father begins feeling chest pains and other scary heart attack related symptoms, the kids are too far away to give him the help he needs. 
Excited by the sights and sounds, Grace and Carter keep hiking on. Their difficulties begin when Grace slips and slides down a cliff. When she lands, she has an ugly gash on one leg, a possibly broken ankle on the other, and most likely several broken ribs. Leaving the dog to guard Grace, Carter heads back to find their father and get help.
What follows is a breathless adventure involving a dangerous mud bog, an escaped mountain lion, and a mountain man intent on keeping his whereabouts unknown. A local ranger becomes involved in the rescue. When she learns two kids are missing on the mountain, she is determined they won’t be lost on her watch.
In BLOOD MOUNTAIN author James Preller tells a fast-paced, action-packed story that is filled with intense moments and well-researched outdoor information. From the detailed description of the father’s heart attack symptoms to facts about mountain terrain/wildlife, and knowledge of traumatized veterans, Preller nails it. Readers will be pulled from start to finish hoping for a satisfying conclusion.

Brutally Honest 93-Year-Old Critic Raves About BLOOD MOUNTAIN: “I’m Sure It’s Wonderful.”

Thanks, Mom!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Step Closer to . . . BLOOD MOUNTAIN

It’s always exciting when a package arrives from my editor, Liz. A padded envelope filled with 6-7 ARCs. Advance Reader’s Copies. And so we move in fits and bursts toward that seemingly impossible day . . . a real book. October, 2019. 

It’s going to happen. And on this day, holding an ARC in my hands, it feels more real than ever.

Here’s the briefest of samples from page 30, at the end of DAY ONE:

They lie down, huddle close, sharing the small emergency blanket. Head to head, toe to toe. The ground is, amazingly, not terrible. Sitka moves off to a nearby spot, curls up. After a few minutes, at Grace’s invitation, the tired dog presses into them for warmth.

A crack of thunder makes the earth shake. The rain comes down harder, but at least they are somewhat protected. A few giants of the woods fall in the night, great branches crashing to the ground. Grace reaches out of hold Carter’s hand.

“I’m glad we have the knife,” she whispers. “Try to sleep.”

Carter is too exhausted to answer. He gives a soft moan. In his heart, he feels that it’s going to be bad. Something awful, something terrible, is going to happen. And there’s nothing he can do about it. He lies awake, staring into the darkness. He senses a twitch in Grace’s leg. His sister has fallen asleep. 

Cover Reveal: BLOOD MOUNTAIN (Coming October)

I wrote a wilderness survival thriller for middle-grade readers, grades 4-8, and I’m really proud of it. Can’t wait for this book to see the light of day. Think: Hatchet meets Misery . . . and there’s a dog. Siblings lost in the mountains.

Of course, this is a business that involves a lot of waiting. And then more waiting.

And then out of the indigo I get a jpeg of the final cover in an email from my editor, Liz — so I’m sharing it here with my best internet friends.

Illustration by Scott Altmann.