Buying a 2013 Mazda5 Grand Touring Minivan with Price Paid

I’ve done my best to keep this blog tightly focused on writing. Obviously, by the title and that introductory sentence, you know that I’m not going to follow that stricture today. Hey, two off topic posts in 121 isn’t too bad, right?

When I shopped for my car, I searched a lot for what I should pay for it and found it hard to find actual prices people paid. I’m hoping that chronicling my experience in this post will help someone out there. If it does, please let me know.

I bought a 2013 Mazda5 Grand Touring, MSRP $25,285, and paid $22,388 + TTL at 1.94% for 60 months. Also, I had probably the best experience I’ve ever had at a car dealer at Tustin Mazda. Either these guys are much more honest than the average dealership or much better at bypassing my BS meter.

A quick word about the Mazda5: It’s literally the only vehicle in its class. It drives like a car, isn’t much bigger than my Jeep Cherokee, has a set of rear captain’s chairs, seats 6, and has the minivan sliding doors. At ten grand less than a traditional minivan, I don’t know why more people don’t at least explore this option. Seriously, if you’re in the market for a minivan, check this one out to see if it meets your needs.

One thing that I wished I had known when I started the process: The manufacturer offers an incentive of 0% financing for 36 months or .9% for 60 months. I assumed there was no advantage to the dealer to not give me this deal. In fact, the dealer will sell you the car for less if you don’t take this financing arrangement. I eventually got that figured out, but it led to some confusion and extra time spent.

I’m pretty sure that I got a really good deal. Here’s how I went about it:

My first step was to go to Edmunds.com. There, I requested quotes from dealers and got the True Market Value (TMV) of the vehicle, $23,698. Since the first quote that I got was $22,788, I assumed that the TMV of the vehicle was way too high. Now that the process is over, I think that the TMV is actually not bad assuming that it includes the manufacturer financing.

My first lesson learned is that dealers do not want to give you a number in writing. Out of the first round of requests through the Edmunds site, only one sent an actual value. It’s important, however, to get that one value. Once I did, I personally submitted to each dealer a request for a quote. In the request, I basically said, “I’ve got a number from a dealership. If you don’t give me a number, I’m going to that dealership to purchase my vehicle.” By the way, don’t worry about color or availability of options at this point; just get a number for a vehicle.

That got me more numbers. I kept an email exchange going with several dealerships that basically went like this:

Me: Another dealer beat your price. Sorry.
Them: Come on in. We’ll beat any price by $100 (or $200 depending on the dealership).
Me: Well, then, you obviously didn’t give me your lowest price. Send me a new number.

Make them send you a number. Once you get there, they are not just going to take the other dealer’s number and lower it by $100. They’re going to tell you it can’t be done and that the other dealer was lying to you.

Next lesson, once you get a number, make the dealer do the following:

1. Confirm that the quote is for the exact car make and model you want (for me, the 2013 Mazda5 Grand Touring).
2. Confirm that no additional incentives that you may not be eligible for are included in the price.
3. Confirm that the price includes the special manufacturer incentive financing. Ideally, get two prices — one for with the special financing and one without.

Once you have a low price, search online inventories or call around to find a dealership with the color/options you want. Hopefully, that’s your low bid dealership, but, if not, you can still make it work.

If it is the low bidder, go in and stick to your guns. Make them give it to you at the bid price regardless of anything they throw at you. Remember that your best weapon is to get up and walk out.

If it’s a different dealership, I found writing the following on a sheet of paper helpful:

1. The make and model of vehicle I wanted – 2013 Mazda5 Grand Touring
2. The quote from the other dealer with the special financing.
3. The quote from the other dealer without the special financing.
4. Confirmation that the quote includes no other incentives.
5. The MSRP of the car in question.

Writing down this information both avoids potential confusion and lets them know that you understand what you’re doing.

Tell the dealer that you are perfectly willing to take the color that the other dealership has in stock but that you prefer the color that they have in stock. Be willing to walk out the door to go to the other dealer.

A couple of notes on Mazda dealerships in the LA area:

Browning Mazda in Cerritos seems to have the lowest prices, but they like to play games. Make sure you get a quote from them but watch out for shenanigans.

The Mazda dealership in Temecula ticked me off. You should see the email exchange: Please give me a quote for a 2013… The reply was simply a number that was lower than the other quotes by a couple hundred dollars. I headed down there to buy the vehicle, and, when I got there, they said the quote was for a 2012 and that they didn’t even have any 2013s in stock. Really? For a 2013, their price was low. For a 2012, it was THOUSANDS high. When I told them I had prices for each, they didn’t even try to make the sale. They were a complete waste of time. At best, they’re incompetent.

I felt that the sales guy in Riverside acted quite unprofessionally. To begin with, he told us he definitely could get us the blue one with a light interior — a product that Mazda doesn’t even make. Then, when I walked out the door because his price was too high, he shouted at me and told me not to come back. Don’t worry, guy, I didn’t, and I won’t.

Reflections on Blogging after 100 Posts

Today marks my 101st post. Here are my thoughts on the experience and the process:

• I enjoy blogging more than I thought I would.
• I think that my blog is going to help spur more sales of my books than I thought it would. My expectations were really low, and I still don’t think, overall, that it will be financially worth the effort I put into it. All that said, I can see it leading to more direct sales and connects that help drive sales than I anticipated.
• The blog helps make me a better writer by forcing me to organize my thoughts about writing.
• Doing the blog prompted the idea to author a book about writing, which, in turn, justifies to some degree having a blog about writing.
• The blog makes me feel like I’m a part of a community of indie authors despite the fact that I have yet to self publish anything. It seems like there’s this huge network of people out there willing to help each other out and all trying to determine how to manage the constantly changing marketplace. The blog taps into that group in a way that forums don’t.
• I’ve read a lot on how to blog. I despise the advice that bloggers should concentrate on posting blurbs. I hate blurb blogs; I’m not a twitter guy. I want posts that tell me something and fully cover a subject. I’ve seen stuff like this too many times — 3 Guaranteed Ways to Succeed as an Author,” and the post contains 150 words that equate to: write a good book, market it, and repeat. While that is good advice, it’s not exactly helpful. Telling me how to write a good book and how to market it is helpful. Telling me that I should is a waste of my time.

I haven’t done a whole heck of a lot to market my blog. This is what I’ve done so far:

• The best advice I read is that I should produce quality content. This method has been, I think, primarily responsible for the growth of my blog.
• A friend made a suggestion that I think helped. On the forums that I frequented, I used to post a generic link to my blog homepage in my signature. Now, I update my sig with the title of today’s post.
• One forum I frequent has a blog page. When I’ve written about what I feel is a relevant topic to that forum, I post the first few paragraphs and a link. That’s driven some traffic to my site.
• I occasionally browse other blogs and make relevant comments. For each of these, I put a link to my blog. The important thing here, I think, is to make sure that the comments have worth and aren’t spam.

Despite my lack of any real intense effort, my blog growth is exceeding my expectations. Here are some stats:

• Views – 1652
• Followers – 38
• Comments – 153

When I came up with the idea of doing this post for my 101st – way back around my 60th – I hoped for 1000 views and 25 followers. From mid-December on, my blog seems to have gotten much more popular. This week, my slowest day was 25 views. A couple of months ago, a quantity that high would have been cause of celebration.

Writing Resolutions

Happy New Year!

Typically, my New Year’s resolution is to make no resolutions, one that I can never seem to keep for some reason.  This year, I have some real writing goals.

Resolution #1 – Publish Power of the Mages

This goal is quite attainable.  The 3rd draft is going well; there’s a real chance of me finishing it by early March.

Resolution #2 – Write a nonfiction book about writing

Blogging has helped me organize my thoughts for a nonfiction book.  Here’s the working title: Avoid the Most Common Mistakes of Beginning Fiction Writers – 12 Simple Techniques to Improve Your Craft.  I see no reason for me not to be able to produce and publish this book this calendar year.

Resolution #3 – Finish second draft of The Slender Man Massacre

Rather than do a complete first draft, I’m taking each chapter to the second draft stage before continuing.  At one chapter every two weeks, I should be able to finish in 50 to 56 weeks.  Given that timetable, I may be a little behind on finishing it in 2013.  The important goal is to publish it in 2014.

Resolution #4 – Finish first draft of untitled scifi novel

During the 8 weeks between the end of the 3rd draft of Power of the Mages and when I start the 4th, my goal is to completely write the first draft of a new novel.  I’m not sure how much more I’ll work on it this year; the objective is to publish it in 2014.

Resolution #5 – Start of a 5th book to be published in 2014

Though up to this point in my life, I’ve published exactly zero books, I think it realistic to publish 4 by the end of next year.  Five is a bit of a pie in the sky dream, but that’s what I’d love to do.

 

 

Too Many Story Ideas

Speaking of managing time as a writer (see yesterday’s post), I simply have too many ideas to produce them all.

When I shared with my wife my dream of becoming a writer, her first question was, “Aren’t you afraid you’ll run out of ideas?”  I just kind of grinned; that’s definitely not going to be an issue.

Currently, I have the following projects in process:

  • Power of the Mages – the first of a planned four book epic fantasy series now in the 3rd draft stage
  • The Slender Man Massacre – Hopefully stand-alone YA horror – I’m working on the 4th chapter
  • Untitled Scifi Novel – Kind of Perry Rhodan meets Troy Rising, this one, still in the outlining stage, is intended to be an open ended series
  • The Man in White – Nearly complete short story designed to be the first of five parts of an eventual novel

I also have a concept for a YA urban fantasy romance (cause there really aren’t enough of these being written) that I can’t get out of my head, kind of my answer to Twilight.  I think this one, probably a four book series, will eventually get written.

Additionally, I’m all the time coming up with new ideas that I simply don’t have time to write.  For example, I’ve seen variations of the following scene play out in real life a dozen times, and it’s begging for me to write a story around it:

Little Man’s voice comes from the backseat, “Trak-or.”

In the passenger seat beside me, my wife looks around until she spots the construction site.  “You see a tractor?”

“I scared.”

With her voice full of feigned enthusiasm with just a hint of exasperation, she replies, “You are not scared of a tractor.”

“Boo-boo.”

“It will not give you a boo-boo.”

Little Man makes a smacking noise with his mouth.

“But if it does, Mama will kiss it and make it better.”

Just yesterday, I got a new idea from a post on Mythic Scribes – A character in a fantasy setting wants to rid his basement of rats and perseveres through a bunch of setbacks.  That’s it.  A simple premise that I found to be full of so much promise.  A character began to take shape in my head, and I wanted so badly to say, “Challenge accepted.”  If only I had the time.

I’ve a great idea for a fantasy/scifi blend.  An ancient race sees a great military threat approaching.  The advancing horde will take centuries to approach, but the good guys see no way to beat them.  Finally, they hit on the idea of manipulating some technologically inferior races to build them into a fighting force.  At this point, I seriously doubt I’ll ever get around to this story.

So many ideas, so much inspiration – so little time.

Status Update

My pie-in-the-sky goal is to publish five books by the end of 2014.  Even seeing as how I’ve to this point published exactly zero, I think that three is doable.

Power of the Mages – I’ll finish the 2nd draft of Chapter 27 today.  I’ve taken Chapter 28 and half of 29 to my writing group, so the next edit of those will go quickly.  Bottom line, I should be completely finished with the draft by the end of November.  The first and second drafts are by far the hardest.  I actually enjoy 3rd draft revisions and hope to have that finished by the end of February.  After an eight week wait to let it perculate, I’ll do the 4th draft.  By the end of April, I’ll have it to the editor.

The Slender Man Massacre – I’m taking this one chapter by chapter to my writing group every other Monday.  After picking up their comments, I feel pretty comfortable with letting the draft stand as my 3rd Draft.  Assuming 25 to 30 chapters (I’ve completed 2 thus far), we’re looking a late 2013 to finish and ready to send to an agent/publisher in early 2014.  (I’m not positive yet what route I’m going to take with this one, but I feel the book will be highly marketable.)

Untitled SciFi Action – I’m in the outline stage on this one, but I plan to write the rough draft start to finish in the eight weeks that I’m leaving Power of the Mages in a drawer.  There’s not reason I can’t have the editing done by early 2014.  Depending on how it turns out, I may send it to Baen to see if they like it.  If they don’t, I’ll self publish.

That leaves two additional books I need to publish in 2014 to meet my goal.  Here are the possibilities:

  • Nonfiction book about writing – I’m not sure on this.  On one hand, I don’t consider myself enough of an expert to pen a book on the subject.  On the other hand, I’m much closer to beginning level that most of the authors of these types of books.  My concept would be, “What I Wish Someone Would Have Told Me About Writing Before I Started.  It wouldn’t take that long to write as I’ve done a lot of the preliminary work as blog posts, and I find nonfiction a lot faster to produce.
  • Anthology – I’ve got ideas for several short stories taking place in the “Power” world.  I could package my novelette, four short stories, and a novella together and sell it.  I’ve also got other ideas for short stories that could be combined into a short anthology.
  • The sequel to Power of the Mages – As soon as I finish the untitled SciFi, I’ll get to work on this sequel.  I think it’s stretching it that it will be ready by the end of 2014, however.

I find that working on multiple projects helps keep me productive.  When I’m not in the mood to edit, sometimes I can still write and vice versa.  Here’s an update on some other projects:

  • Abuse of Power – I submitted this novelette for publication in Myths Inscribed on 10/31/12.  The ezine is scheduled to come out on 12/1, so I hope to hear back soon on whether it was accepted.
  • Untitled Short Story – This project is emblematic of my problems.  I’m 500 words into a short story for a small contest, and I’ve already turned it into a small anthology in my mind.

In addition to the writing, I have this blog.  Here are my plans for it going forward:

  • I’ve developed a good rhythm of posting solid content Monday – Thursday, links or miscellaneous on Friday, and taking Saturday and Sunday off.  I may decrease post frequency at some point, but, for the immediate future, I’ll keep to this schedule.
  • The focus of the blog is definitely shaping up.  Right now, it’s primarily about writing tips, and I seem to get the most interest from those.
  • Eventually, I want to branch out into posting more about self publishing and marketing, sharing my experience as I learn.
  • I’m fairly happy with the response the blog is getting as followers and hits keep growing.  I’d like more interaction in the form of submissions and comments, and I probably should promote it more.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on my plans and on the direction of the blog.

Musings on the Creation of My World

Last night, I submitted my first ever complete work, my novelette Abuse of Power, for publication.  Awash in the glow of accomplishment, I reflected a bit on how my world came to be.

The year was 1996 (In my mind, I’m sounding like the narrator on How I Met Your Mother.  Well, kids…).  Heavily into Wheel of Time and still thinking Sword of Truth good, I decided, “I’m going to write an epic fantasy series.”  Having no experience writing, I started doing two things: reading books about writing and creating the characters and plot.

At the time, it seemed logical to base the four protagonists on me and best friends.  Since then, I’ve learned a few things. 

  • Though all characters have a part of me in them, it’s a bad idea to base any of them completely on me.
  • It’s a beyond horrible idea to base characters on your friends.  You need them to a) have flaws that may make your friends uncomfortable and b) conform to the dictates of the story.

Thankfully, though certain archetypical features remain, the characters eventually took on a life of their own.  Take the primary protagonist, Xan.  You can see how he might be compared to me as someone who was something of a nerd and shy toward girls in my youth, but who would have referred to me as an arrogant know-it-all?  Oh, wait…

With the first four characters established, I worked on my magic system.  I had six mage types: one for each of the four elements (I know.  Original, right?), a life mage, and a death mage.  I decided that, not counting the primary character, I needed one of each type of mage.  Over the years, I drew upon more friends to fill the additional three roles.

Eventually, I completely changed the magic system, and those three characters came to fill much more important roles – the girl Xan wants, the girl Xan should want, and a foil to Xan’s leadership.

While the plot and the characters came easily to me, the names did not.  The first one I came up with, and I’m still not sure where it came from, was the duke, August Asher.  The girl that Xan desires is the duke’s daughter, and her name came to me pretty easily as well – Ashley Asher.

It’s hard to not note the double alliteration, and I thought to myself, “There’s got to be a story to it.”  I can see August finding his name too cutesy.  Why, then, would he pass that along to his daughter?  Thus, Abuse of Power, the story of how Ashley’s mother and father met, was born.

For the other names, I finally settled on using meanings to determine them.  Xan, short for Alexander, means defender of mankind.  Lainey, at the time a fire mage, means torch.  Dylan, who was to be a water mage, means great sea.  Brant, my soldier/adventurer type, means sword.  Tasia, who was to be my life mage, is short for Anastasia meaning resurrection.  Lucan, I just liked the sound of.  By the time I changed my system, it was too late to change the names; that’s how I thought of the characters.

I like what Abuse added to the world.  With my style of writing, I don’t want to give you backstory that doesn’t directly impact what’s immediately happening.  Short stories really flesh out the stuff I’m not telling you.  For example, two of the characters in the novelette appear in minor roles in the novel.  Were it not for Abuse, you’d barely notice them in Power.  Instead, if you’ve read both, you’re going to be more interested in what they’re up to almost twenty years later.

I have some plans to further use short stories for this purpose.  I think that a pair of related stories, one showing the nobles’ POV about how the Wizard’s War came to be and another from the mages’ side, would be interesting.  I’d hope that I could, with the first story, make the reader believe that the nobles are completely correct in their actions and turn that thinking on its head with the second.  I’d also like to write something that doesn’t show the catcher as the bad guy.  They do, from one perspective, serve a purpose and not all of them are corrupted by the power.  Finally, I think the war itself is a good subject for at least a novella, and it would feature the only character shown in Power who was alive at the time.

Before I can start any of those projects, I’ve got to get further along on my primary objective.  As of today, November 1, 2012, I have exactly seven months to: finish my second draft, completely do my third and fourth drafts, send Power of the Mages to an editor, and make final revisions.  Wish me luck; I’m going to need it!

I also need to figure out how to do a complete story arc in about 5000 words.  I simply don’t have time to write 10-12k for each of the three shorts.

So little to do, so much time.  Wait.  Stop.  Reverse that.

 

Is It Time to Boycott Amazon?

I despise poor customer service and believe that, when a company thinks it’s grown too big to need to be accountable, it’s time to teach them a lesson.

Check out what Amazon did here

Yes, once the problem made it to the press, they rectified the situation.  Did they do it to make things right?  No.  They did it to avoid further embarrassment.

Taking away someone’s purchases without even informing them of what supposed policy they broke is not right.  Amazon should apologize and issue a statement announcing that they are changing their policies.  Unless that happens prior to the holiday season, I will be doing my Christmas shopping with them.