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Old Dog. New Tricks.

So everyone wants to know why I went back to school. I am 42 years old. I already have a career that a degree will not really affect. I am busy beyond belief writing books, speaking at conferences and schools, taking care of my children, my household, and my church and neighbor obligations. With all that, seriously WHY go back to school?

It started something like this:

Me to Mr. Wright: I want to know how to design book covers.

Mr. Wright: You can just pay someone to do it.

Me: Yes, but when they’re done and presenting it to me, how will I know if it’s any good if I don’t know anything about the elements of design?

So I signed up for classes. I took some professional editing classes as well and, while in the frenzy of signing up for things, thought about my great grandma Dezi Irene Jones Dunlap who received  her degree as an old woman. I’ve mentioned her before.  She received her degree. I should do the same.

Once I started, there was no way to quit because my daughter who is currently in school told me that if I quit, she could as well. So yeah . . . I’m getting a degree now. No daughter of mine will walk the earth uneducated. It sucks to be the adult sometimes.

But I’ve actually really enjoyed so much of this new experience–far better than I would have had I finished as a cheeky little twenty-year-old who thought she knew everything. Okay, I don’t love math or physics and I think writing academic papers is a waste of my time. But aside from that, the learning! I love the learning. I love looking at Jane Eyre from a different point of view. I love discovering how to calculate the escape velocity from our galaxy. I love feeling as though my design teacher is a magician as he manipulates Adobe Illustrator to make amazing art.

It’s been a good exercise for me, a wonderful expansion of my intellectual reach. And though my own personal writing is much slower, it’s still coming along. I finished my twentieth novel last month and am on page 42 of my newest novel. I love reaching page 42. It feels like I’m sharing a cosmic joke with Douglas Adams. I mentally curtsy to him at that particular crossroads. I like page 42 versus page 60 where everything I write feels wretched, shallow, boring. I get over it again by page 80. Fall int0 despair again by page 150 and am doing some version of a maniacal villain laugh by page 200. Does anyone else have such a bizarre process?

Anyway, yes, I am back in school, yes, I am a little worse for the wear physically, and I cry whenever someone says the words “imaginary numbers” to me, but I’m not sorry I took this step. And I’m managing to make time to continue on with important things like speaking at writing conferences and making time for family and friends. Life is good. Drink it up.

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A bunch of amazing authors and me teaching at Teen Author Boot Camp

J. Scott Savage and me at his awesome steampunk dragon. COVE is a book to be on the look out for!

J. Scott Savage and me at his awesome steampunk dragon. COVE is a book to be on the look out for!

Connected

I’m a writer. Obviously.

I’m actually a lot of things: Wife, mom, daughter, sister, friend, housekeeper, student, marketer, photographer, cover designer, historian, cook (not a good cook though–more like the kind at a fourth rate restaurant in a creepy back alley; don’t ever ask me to cook for you if you value our life). In spite of all the things I do and am, writer defines me. My first indication of being a writer was in second grade. The teacher asked us to write down what we did best and how we thought we could use it as a career. I put down write as my thing I did best and put writer as my career choice. So I’ve known for a long time that this is who I am.

I’ve worked at being a writer my whole life, from poetry to short stories to novels to screen plays to articles to ad slogans. If a thing can be put into words, I’ve tried to be the one to make the words.

But I don’t always succeed. I have more rejection letters than most people I know. I have nice letters, form letters, letters that feel they were written by the head of the department of ruination, letters that sing praises to my words and curses to the timing. I have acceptance letters too. And I’ve actually made a career out of this thing I said I could do back in the second grade.

While cleaning out my garage the other day, I found something that halted pretty much all work: a box of old things. Really old things. The kinds of things where the paper crackles with fragility. Newspaper articles from my long dead great grandmother. Her name was Dezi Irene Dunlap.

She was a writer.

I had some vague knowledge of this before but never had I realized the depth of our connection. My great grandma wasn’t just a dabbler-writer. She was serious about her craft. The first news article–the one that caught my attention as I moved the box from one shelf to another– announced on the society page in bold print

Feasting the Muse . . .

The article shares the details of an awards banquet for short stories. A picture of my great grandmother ties up a good portion of the left bottom corner of the newspaper and the caption declares her to be a “national magazine writer for the Saturday Evening Post and other slicks” My great grandmother! How cool is she? And I hadn’t really known the extent to how much she wrote, to how dedicated she was to the craft.

Inside this particular box I found several of her stories as they were published in national magazines including the Ladies Home Journal, Saturday Evening Post and Good Housekeeping. I found rejection letters. I found signed contracts. I discovered she’d actually been the president of the League of Utah Writers at one point in her life.

And on April 16th, 1944, my grandma was featured in a newspaper article that  discussed how Salt Lake City would one day be a focal point of great creative writing. The article mentions how many Salt Lake writers were coming to the fore in ever increasing numbers, their names appearing in national magazines standing as a witness to their success.

It was interesting to me how seventy years later, Salt Lake could indeed be considered a focal point of great creative writing. With so many of my friends being on the New York Times list and so many more winning awards and signing movie contracts and myself achieving so many things in the literary world,  I can only smile. My great grandmother and I would have been great friends had we had the chance to know one another. She died just one year before I was born. We would have sat through banquets together, clapped and cheered for one another’s successes and maybe provided a thoughtful critique or two for each other. I am so glad I found this box and had a chance to connect to someone whose blood runs through my veins. Thanks, Grandma, for this connection to my past and congratulations on your successes, but more importantly . . . congratulations for sticking it out through the rejections and slush. That is an accomplishment to be truly proud of.

Grandma is the lady on the left

Grandma is the lady on the left

I wonder how long it took her to pin up her hair like that . . .

Comic Con 2014 report

Attending Comic Con 2014 turned out to be a marvelous investment of time. My kids have all wanted to go since last year’s event and have been pestering me to make sure it happened, so when I was given the opportunity to be a presenter, have a booth, AND attend, all my previous arguments over how Salt Lake is so far away melted, and we loaded up the car and went.

I asked my friends on Facebook if I should dress up in a costume or go as a serious, professional author. One of my friends, Bruce Eschler, said that I should dress up as Jane Austen. That way I could go in costume AND be a professional author.

Does it surprise anyone that I actually own a regency gown? No? And this is why I love you people. So I dressed up as Jane and took her on a tour of Comic Con. Jane had many experiences:

Being abducted by a mad man in a blue box would certainly be traumatizing enough for any upstanding British author, but then to be dropped into a sea of fifty thousand science fiction and fantasy fans? Let’s just say that poor Jane felt a tad bit overwhelmed.

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But she made friends fast and managed to snag herself a badge so she didn’t get kicked out. She especially enjoyed the princess party with kindred spirits!

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Things were going well enough until she ran into a little Troll Trouble.

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She wanted to go home after that, and some kid in a contraption called a Delorean offered her a ride home, but she ended up in some place called Hill Valley where things felt as dangerous as they did with the troll. That will simply not do at all.

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And then she met a cheeky little fellow who referred to her as his “precious.” Oh the mortification of it all!

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She was able to speak on a few writing panels discussing things like creating strong women in fiction, writing for youth, and making time in life for creativity and art. She had to work with the very incredible distraction of the emergency alert telling everyone to exit the building  because some prankster pulled the fire alarm. But the distraction proved to be a wonderful real-life example of working through, and around, distractions. She loved the metaphor of it all. She met up with some lovely people, but ultimately decided she might be better off in her own time. The mad man in the blue box was too busy to give her a lift back to her home, but he introduced her to a lovely weeping angel who offered to send her back in time.

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Comic Con was a blast. So many people had elaborate costumes that were simply stunning (such as the weeping angel). And it really was great to reconnect with so many of my friends and meet readers. My booth was great! I was able to do some magic tricks and sign a lot of books (which is always nice). And even better, my kids were able to have a FABULOUS time wandering the floor and seeing the sights. We had a blast, spent a lot, and went home exhausted. We are definitely going next year!

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Interesting Weird Things

julie wright quoteSo, a long time ago I had a really terrible day.  It was the day I snapped my ACL and tore all the other ligaments in my knee. It was while I was trying to figure out what to do with my knee that I wrote on Twitter: “What doesn’t kill us gives us something new to write about.” Since then, I’ve used the quote several times, mostly in my own mumblings and rumblings when I talk to myself. Yes, I do talk to myself. I tell my children that talking to myself is the natural result of desiring intelligent conversation.

Last night I was tagged on one of those pictures that float around Facebook with an inspirational or funny quote. I was tagged by one of my writer friends and then asked the question, “When was this made?”

It was a fair question because it was the quote I’d put up on Twitter a couple years ago. And it was attributed to me (which is good, since I did write it, and I still believe it).

The thing is, I have no idea who made it, but the quote is doing the rounds on Facebook and getting some decent traction under it. The whole thing makes me laugh. What’s cool about it is that the facebook page that posted it originally is dedicated to the writing profession and my quote is up there with other authors like JK Rowling, CS Lewis, Stephen King, and Ray Bradbury. I am highly complimented.

Also recently I had a job interview for a job I really, really want. I got to the interview and found that the HR representative and the supervisor over the position I was applying for had Googled me, checked out my website, and found out about me through a little online investigation.

A few years ago, I had surgery. After surgery, I went in for a follow up and found that while I was under, the nurse told the doctor I was a writer. So he looked me up while my innards were flayed open on the operating table.

The point of all this?

You never know who is watching you online. And you never know what little tidbit some other person might pick up and make one of those picture quote thingys. Make sure you aren’t saying things online that will shame you to have attributed to you, or that will lose you opportunities (with jobs, publishing opportunities, etc). And make sure you never write anything online that will tick off your surgeon lest he decides to stitch your spleen to your lungs, because they apparently surf the web when they’re supposed to be working.

Your online presence matters and lasts way beyond the time you originally post anything. The comment that made it to a quote was something I said a long, long time ago, and apparently, it’s still out there.

Be careful with what you say, because you never know who’s peeking over your online shoulder. Creepy? Yes. Flattering? Sometimes. But always totally true.

 

What a Wonderful World

I recently came back from a family cruise to the Mexican Riviera with my entire family. My dad, mom, brothers, sister, all the in laws and the all the grandchildren. It was so many shades of fabulous that i could gush for several pages, but I will spare you all that gushing by simply saying, “Wow!”

It was fun. Yes, of course it was fun, but more than that it was wonderful to reconnect with my family that way. We had no distractions of our regular lives to take us away from each other. We ate meals together, went on walks on the track that overlooked the pacific ocean and watched the sun sink into its watery bed, and simply *enjoyed* the world around us.

I’m home now and though I hated the laundry mountain that had to be tackled at the end of the trip–I regret absolutely nothing (except not being able to finish that last chocolate melting cake on the last night of the cruise)

My boys have the Klondike Derby today for scouts where they will be sleeping out in the snow capped mountains over night. They left me the stuff they wanted to take in huge piles on the living room floor so I could organize the stuff into something manageable–no one packs like I do. I was in the midst of writing little Mom-Loves-You notes and tucking them into various pockets of their rucksacks when I was thinking about all the really beautiful things I’d seen on the cruise and on shore.

The rain forests, the sunsets, the pod of dolphins, the whales, the caves by the sea, the way the waves would swell before crashing on the shore and as each wave crested, it revealed schools of colorful fish that I hadn’t noticed before. Beaches of sand so light, you almost felt you were sinking into it, the simple joy of feeding an orange to a parrot.

Each little bit of uncovered beauty felt like a note carefully hidden in one of the pockets of my life for me to find at some unexpected moment saying that God loves me. I don’t what your religious affiliations are and don’t know that you don’t think I am intensely corny for feeling this way, but regardless of your beliefs, you have to admit, we live in a truly wonderful world.

 

It’s nice to get little reminders that the world is good and there are great people in it. Family is awesome.

Young Adult Book Giveaway

Link list of great young adult book giveaways

I am participating in a blog hop sponsored by: I am a Reader Not a Writer and Down the Rabbit Hole. I’m participating because this particular blog hop giveaway is about YOUNG ADULT BOOKS!!!!!!! Is there anything on the planet I love as much as young adult books?

Only the family, but besides THEM . . . nothing.

I am giving away a brand new copy of NYT bestselling author James Dashner’s Scorch Trials, hardback first edition. This is a YA filled with danger, action, and humanity at its best and worst. Super fun read!

And if you go to the link list, you can see ALL the others who are giving away awesome YA books.

The rules are simple:

1. Follow me on Twitter: @scatteredjules

2. Leave a comment here letting me know you followed me.

The giveaway ends on February 1st at 12:01 AM

As a bonus, I will throw in another YA book of my choice (I have tons of awesome books). I promise it will be a book of high quality and good content because I don’t read things that aren’t.

 

Ring Out Wild Bells

I decided to start the year with a january Blog Hop giveaway. So read to the bottom if you want to participate.

I love the poem by Tennyson: Ring Out Wild Bells. Love it. It’s been put to music in the LDS hymn book, and it’s haunting and beautiful and feels full of promise all at the same time. The song gives me chills. I was disappointed we didn’t sing it on new Year’s Day in Sacrament meeting, but maybe next year.

With two books coming out within the next three months, I have been insanely busy. This means I haven’t blogged very much, which is probably a relief to everyone because then they don’t have to hear me whining over edits, over the fact that every time I think I’ve uncovered the secrets of the comma I realize I haven’t uncovered anything at all, over the fact that my kitchen counters are never clear, over the fact that Mother Nature is a real slacker with the whole winter thing.

I’m really glad I spared you all of that whining. Lucky you guys!

But since it is tradition that I start the year by looking back at the previous year, I’d decided I’d better write *something*. I had things I wanted to do last year, and things that actually were achieved.

Writing. I had tons of writing goals. Long term . . . short term. I wanted to write three books. I wrote two and three quarters. I would have made this goal except the year ended with all kinds of stuff getting piled on me at once and honestly . . . I have three kids who need to know they’re loved. I had to put something aside, and the work in progress was that something. It’s mostly done . . . which feels quite the same as mostly dead. I will pick that up again in another week or two. The two books that did find their way to completion are also the two coming out in the next few months. Olivia (which is part of the series written with Josi Kilpack, Heather Moore, and Annette Lyon) is coming out in February. And Hazzardous Universe: The Magician’s Last Words (Loving that title!) is coming out in March. The book that is mostly done is called Capes and Curls. It’s a fairytale retelling featuring Little Red Riding Hood and Goldilocks. It’s been a fun write, and I cannot wait to go back to it.

I wanted to read 70 books and I read 78. One of these days maybe I will be as well read as Jessica Day George. But probably not. That girl is a machine! I fell in love with Jim Butcher’s writing over the year and ended the year with James Dashner’s Death Cure. It was an epic ending to the series. It was fitting and believably human. I genuinely loved it. if you haven’t read it–then a pox upon your head. Dashner did a great job and Death Cure was a great book to end my reading year. Thanks James.

I wanted to get into shape. But one ACL snap and torn meniscus later, I am just grateful to be walking. I’ve come to the point that I can walk without a limp most of the time. I still struggle on stairs. I can do them, but sometimes if my knee is really hurting, it’s slow going. A rather severe depression overcame me at the time I injured my knee. It’s strange how a physical ailment can have such an emotional impact. I’m clawing my way out of it. Some days are great and there’s no pain at all. Others are less than great. It is the way of things.

I wanted my kids to be safe and happy. They are that for certain. I’m so grateful for the joy those three kids give me. I love listening to them laugh and hearing their ideas. I love the way they see the world and the fact that they aren’t afraid to share their thoughts with Mr. Wright and me. I love their jokes and hard work, and the way they care about others. Families are important things. And not every day is perfect in any family, but every day is worth experiencing because they are there: parents, siblings, in laws, nieces, nephews, children, spouses. I’m glad for the people in my life.

It was a good year. I was able to do some cool things and spend time with cool people. I’m glad to have another year at my disposal. Maybe I’ll get three books written this year . . .

I wish all of you a great New Year. May you accomplish your goals and be happy. As a way to kick off the year, I’m joining

I Am A Reader, Not A Writer in a blog hop giveaway for a young adult novel. I have in my possession a hardback copy of James Dasher’s Scorch Trials. To qualify for the giveaway, either follow my blog *or* follow me on Twitter http://twitter.com/scatteredjules and leave a comment on this post. That’s it. If you already follow both, then just leave a comment and tell me you’re awesome. And make sure to go to the blog hop link to view all the other blogs giving away YA books so you can have chances to win other way cool books by way cool authors. The giveaway runs from January 27th to 31st US only entries please.

Writing Rocks

Today I found out my book Hazzardous Universe is being featured on the Seagull Book and Tape home page of their website near the bottom.  I don’t think that’s ever happened with one of my books before. How cool is that???? The book is being featured alongside the video my publisher did of Kevin Wasden and me. The sound is really low so turn your speakers up. The background music is fun.

Go have a look: http://www.seagullbook.com/

I am lame in the video a little, but I am lame all the time so it won’t be a surprise to anyone.

Book two to the Hazzardous Universe is done and into the publisher, and I’m a little antsy to start working on book three. So much fun stuff ahead!

Something I discovered while working on my newest book today was that sometimes accidentally adding a letter to a word can really really change the meaning to a sentence. My main character went from being busy to being busty. No surgery involved 😉 Glad to have caught that one.

I’m almost finished with my latest Work in Progress and am beyond thrilled about it. It’s one book that will be part of a four book series. The other three books are being written by Josi Kilpack, Heather Moore, and Annette Lyon. I am so excited for all the coolness of this series! It’s women’s fiction that deals with relationships and the importance of friendship. It is such an honor to work and write alongside the three women who have changed and altered my writing path for the better.  They are all such incredible writers as well as incredible friends that it humbles me and fills me with gratitude to be associated with them.

We’ve had a few writing get-togethers, which includes food, laughing, talking, more laughing, and actual writing. So cool to work and collaborate with great minds.

I’ve been thinking a lot about collaboration lately and found that my experience has been really positive with working with others. Kevin was and is an absolute joy. He’s been really wonderful to let me have creative freedom in writing the story of Hap Hazzard and Tara Jordan. And now, working with Josi, Annette, and Heather, I’ve found even more joy. Working with creative people who all respect each other really is key. That’s how collaboration can work. If everyone is there for the sake of the project and can put their own egos aside–the project suddenly becomes a life unto itself and creativity flows.

I always warn people when they mention they’re planning on collaborating on a project. There are so many things that can go wrong. I’ve seen friendships die on the vine due to projects that went awry. But my own personal experiences have been so phenomenal. I’d love to take the credit and say it’s because I’m just so darn easy to work with, but really . . . the opposite is true. I am sometimes beyond lame. I think my collaborations have worked because I’ve surrounded myself with good people. They make up the differences where I fall short.

I guess that’s the secret to successful collaboration–work hard, be willing to make concessions, and surround yourself with good people. Today is just a good day and writing rocks.

Revision

I’m revising. Last night I tore through thirty pages of edits and feel good with the progress made on my manuscript. I’m hoping to be done tonight. Hoping–but not holding my breath.

A long time ago, when I was doing a book signing for my first book, I met another author–Carole Warburton. She was with a bigger publisher (the one I’m now with), and I was in awe of her. She gave me some advice, advice that is useful every day in my career.

She taught me about edits.

“Edits aren’t evil,” she’d said. “Edits are a chance to prove you can do it better.”

So when it comes time to do an edit on a book I’ve written, I repeat her words in my mind. Edits are a chance to prove I can do it better. I love a challenge. Of course I can do it better! Just watch and see.

I only wish I could manipulate my reality the same way I manipulate my written world.  I wish I had a delete button when I say something completely stupid. I wish I could rearrange parts of my day so they fit better and accomplish more, the same way I rearrange paragraphs on a page.

In reality, just like with writing, of course I can do better when I don’t get it right. Of course I can be more patient. Of course I can speak words of compassion, love, and respect. I can edit my  future, but that doesn’t delete the deeds of the past. It’s vexing–this reality thing.

The important thing is knowing where we can do better and working towards that. Thanks Carole. The advice is useful all these years later.

Cross My Heart actually has a book launch date–November 4th! It’ll be food, fun, and prizes so be there! The address and details will come in the next few days. Sorry about the delay on that. I’m heading to California to do  a book signing at the Disneyland Hotel and we’re making a family trip out of it so it’s been tough to get all the scheduling to work out. Thanks for being patient with me.

Bright Lights, Big City

I know I am the least consistent blogger on the planet, but it’s been a busy month. I’m finishing up a book, attending children’s school programs, preparing presentations for writing conferences, and have recently returned from New York.

New York was awesome. Aside from an absolutely terrifying subway ride with a crazy racist (is there any other kind?), the trip was delightful. Honestly, in my 38 years on this planet, I’ve never once witnessed racism and hate to that degree. I always knew it existed in the world, but it has never been so in my face before. Since it was the most frightening and ugly experience of my life (and I’m old and desensitized), you can imagine what it might have been like for my 14 year old daughter.

She wept for the lack of humanity in humans for quite a long time after we’d departed the train. It broke my heart to see her belief in basic goodness stripped from her so completely. But to my husband’s credit, he stood up for the four young men who were under attack by that horrible angry man. Since he did take a stand, he became the center of the man’s attack for the rest of the train ride. But he bore it well, and cracked the joke that he bet our daughter had never heard her dad called names like that before. It was genuinely awful and unfortunately the bright lights of the big city were dimmed just a bit.

But the rest of the trip was great. Mary Poppins was delightful, the park beautiful as ever, and the subway musicians on key and awesome. My street vendor in Washington Square who has great curry was still there and the food was worth the return trip. And really, it doesn’t matter what we’re doing, it’s just fun to  be with my family. Due to the recent unpleasantness regarding terrorism in NYC, security was heightened to an amazing degree. I haven’t seen that much visible policing since just after 9/11. We even had an armed escort from the coast guard while we rode the Staten Island Ferry.

My daughter said she’d be willing to go again, but only if her dad was with her. 🙂

Over the last few weeks I’ve written 100 new pages in my work in progress, which fills me with glee and a wee bit of vexation since it should be a higher page count, but I’m glad to be moving forward. Great things are on the horizon for publishing; stay tuned for more news which should be coming in the next couple of months.

And something I’ve taken away from my trip to the big city is that we all have opportunities every day to offer kindness to one another. I hope to waste fewer of those opportunities in the future, because in spite of a crazy man on the subway, I believe there is greatness in humanity. There really is.