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Launch Party for Olivia!

I don’t know how much I’ve shared about my experience with writing the novel Olivia, but I am so excited to announce its release! Olivia,-the first book in the Newport Ladies Book Club series was shipped to stores today! This means that in the next week-ish this beautiful cover will be looking at you from book store shelves:

Olivia

How it all started was Josi and I went on a booktour in 2009.

Josi and Julie Booktour

I’m really glad we put the date in the picture because I’m a little flaky when it comes to remembering stuff like that. And don’t you love our toes. Josi treated me to my first ever pedicure. I tell you people–she is the friend to have! It was a great experience (the whole thing, not just the pedicure). Josi is the sort of person I can talk to all day and all night and never get tired of it. She is an amazing woman.  Even when she’s feeling evil . . .

Josi grinning in evil joy

Josi likes to keep a strict time schedule. This is a good thing, since I tend to be flaky about schedules too. I wanted to stop every few minutes while on the road because there were lots of cool things to see. We’d basically planned the tour right down to the minute which means had Josi given in to me, we would have been late to everything. So I had to settle for to settle for drive-by Photography:

Drive by Photo

While we were driving, we talked about everything. We talked about books. We talked about books we really liked.  We talked about authors who wrote books we really liked. Then Josi had an idea. A brilliant, magnificent, WONDERFUL idea.

I’d like to claim it as my own, but really I was just in the passenger seat listening to her tell me her brilliant, magnificent, WONDERFUL idea.  The important thing to remember here is that *I* was in the car when it happened,  and therefore my contribution of being present was vital.

The idea was to get with two other authors, ones of the awesome book-writing variety, and two who we really loved and wanted with us, and write a series with them. Not just any series, but a series where the stories interconnect and weave together.

Four Women.

Four Books.

Four lives changed through friendship.

See! I told you it was brilliant!

We met with Annette Lyon and Heather Moore for breakfast when we got home and pitched the idea to them. We were all on board. And that was the birthplace of the Newport Ladies Book Club. We each wrote from the viewpoint of a different character so in each of the books, you’ll get some of that character’s story, but only by reading all four books will you get the full picture or find out the endings to the other character’s stories. It was great fun to write the books–to get together and discuss the characters. We’d be typing away and then one of us would look up and say, “Oh, by the way, your character is going to do this in the second meeting.” or “Hey, what color is your character’s hair again?” And wow. Reading the finished products? WOW. Each story is so unique and interesting and beautiful.

And Olivia has been shipped to stores today!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (insert freakish girl scream here).

We are celebrating the release of the Newport Ladies Book Club:

Saturday February 18th  1-3 PM

Deseret Book  1110 FORT UNION BLVD  MIDVALE, UT  84047

There will be food and prizes and fun and BOOKS!

Please come join me in the celebration!

Whitney Awards, Conference, and Good Stuff

I have never been speechless in my entire life. Never. Not once that I can recall. I think I was born talking. My dad used to take me to his business stuff and military stuff when I was incredibly small because I had a huge vocabulary and absolutely no fear of using it. He liked showing off the baby who spoke in full sentences even before she had enough hair to qualify her as a girl. Seriously. Never. Speechless.

Until Saturday night.

I had not allowed myself to prepare any kind of acceptance speech if Cross My Heart should win the Whitney Award. Any time my mind wandered in that direction, I immediately yanked it back. After my freakish month of feeling wretched, I wasn’t emotionally up to disappointment. I’d read the other finalists. They were good. I closed one in particular and thought to myself, “She is definitely going to win.” But it didn’t really bother me to think I’d lost. I attributed it to their excellence, rather than my mediocrity. Good books should win. And that was okay with me.

So I went to the conference feeling surprisingly normal. A lot of that normal feeling stemmed from the fact that I FINALLY finished Hazzardous Universe Book 2 and got it turned in to my illustrious editor, Kirk Shaw. Getting the book done and in, and feeling good about the end result of that product, went a long way toward feeling normal. The conference went well, meeting up with friends, and making a few new ones, went a long way toward normal as well.

And then Saturday night happened. I wore black . . .  because that’s what I do, found my seat with wonderful online friends that I pretty much only see once a year, picked at my food, and listened to the opening statements. It started so quickly. The romance category was announced first, and it seems I had barely enough time to blink as I wrenched my cloth napkin in my hands and felt my legs turn to water.

Then they were announcing my name . . . the title of MY book. My brain froze. I couldn’t process the words, yet my emotions experienced no such freezing as I immediately melted into a snotty, sodden mess of waterfall. Had they really called *my* name? I knew I had to go up there, but my legs wouldn’t move. Mr. Wright had to tap me and remind me to walk to the stage.

People talk about slow motion where every breath inhaled and exhaled feels as though they mark the passing of minutes rather than fractions of seconds. Where the time in which every step forward seems monitored by hours. I can’t really remember the walk to the platform and the microphone, but it felt like it took forever. I remember the hugs from the people who announced the award for the 2010 Romance category. Sheila, Shanda, and Mindy were hugging on me and crying right along with me.

And then I turned and faced the podium, stepped up to the microphone, and experienced the impossible.

I was speechless. It wasn’t just about having nothing to say. I literally could not get the air to flow past my pipes to create sound. I made some odd orangutan movements, squawked like some mental bird, and looked pretty silly in general before the words finally came.

Granted, the words were rendered difficult to understand through the blubbering and squawking. And, granted, they weren’t all that brilliant, or poignant, or entertaining, or even well thought out.

But at least they did show up.

It was a humbling experience, and I still feel a little weepy (absurd . . . I know), and I still feel a little giddy. And that beautiful award shaped like a book that really opens and closes and has my name and title etched into its perfect acrylic face looks absolutely stunning on my bookshelf.

My daughter reminded me today that when I first bought that particular bookcase, I remarked how well a Whitney Award would look on it.

I love being right.

Thank you, Kirk, for being such an amazing editor. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the first three winners were your authors. Thank you, Josi, for the incredible work you put into the awards this year and the work you’ll have to put in next year. Last weekend Josi Kilpack, Heather Moore, Annette Lyon, and I spent the weekend in a hotel together so we could work on a series we’re writing together. Heather, Annette, and I were finalists. Josi knew the results. And she didn’t say a thing. She didn’t so much as breathe a clue in our direction as to how things had turned out.  She should get an award for THAT. It’s pretty amazing that each of the four of us have one of these awards now. What an amazing group of friends I am so lucky to have in my life. Thank you, Covenant, for being such a great publisher, for standing behind me in all the things I write, and for being so amazing to work with.

Thank you to the academy of bookstore owners, reviewers, publishers, and storymakers who voted. My smile muscles obviously need more exercise because they still hurt, and my eyes still feel a bit blurry from all the camera flashbulbs, and I still feel genuinely loved from all those hugs. Thank you, everyone. Thank you.

Here is the list of award winners:

Outstanding Achievement Award
Rick Walton

Lifetime Achievement Award
Susan Evans McCloud

Best General

Best Historical

Best Mystery/Suspense

Best Romance

Best Speculative

Best Youth—General

Best Youth—Speculative

Best by New Author

Novel of the Year (Tie)


Congratulations to all the winners!

And Congratulations to all those eating “loser pie” and snapping silly pictures. A part of me hated not being able to join in on those pictures. You are all amazing writers and there is nothing loser about that group . . . not even remotely. Though I still love the joke of the pie 🙂

Eyes Like Mine

Eyes Like Mine

Eyes Like Mine

Here’s my new cover for my novel Eyes Like Mine. I am really excited about this book since it is truly a beautiful story. And remember all that whining I did about abridging the book and having to cut out HALF the words?

Well, my way cool and incredibly awesome editor decided an abridgement wasn’t necessary. That’s right, folks. I got to keep every word. I know!!! I am so excited (as you can see by my grammatically incorrect coupling of punctuation)! It’s already up on Seagull’s and DB’s websites which just staggers me since I don’t even have my official release date yet.

This has been such an amazing week, I’m not even sure how to process it all. First, I have the storymakers conference which is the highlight of my year, then I get an agent–and not just any agent–but Amy Jameson! Then I get an email from The Ensign magazine offering to buy an article I sent in, and now my cover and news of the no abridgement. I completely endorse the “no word left behind!” program Kirk has placed me on.

Seriously, I have burned so many calories from all the jumping around I’ve been doing.

My Name in Lights

I was tagged for a meme by my dear friend Karen Hoover and I swear I will do the tag on my next post, but it’s late and I have a hard time being clever when I feel wiped out.

I just got back from speaking at a writer’s group in Ephraim. Talk about rolling out the red carpet! They had my name advertised on the town marquee, they fed me a fabulous dinner, they provided me with excellent conversation, they gave me a wicked cool gift basket and laughed at my jokes. What a great crowd. I had a blast.  Shirley Bahlmann had invited me to come speak to their group and am I ever glad I did! I’m tempted to move just so I could have a cool writer’s group like Shirley’s.

What was really awesome? I signed a lot of books, not the brand-new, never-been-read kind . . . but the worn, ragged-edged, crinkly-paper-from-being-around-a-bathtub kind.

There is a truly awe inspiring feeling that overcomes an author (well . . . this author anyway) to hold a worn out and much used book in your hands with a smiling fan standing in front of you asking you to sign it. The book is loved.  Every scuff and bent page is significant. The book is proof that somewhere along the way, this reader and this author had a communication open between them. Even though the author wrote those words months and sometimes years previously, and the reader read them months and sometimes years previously, and even though the author and reader had never met before this one moment, they understand something about one another.

When I sign the new books, it’s different. The reader hasn’t read the book yet. They don’t know if they like it or not yet. I don’t know if they’ll ever crack the spine (that sounds gruesome, doesn’t it . . . crack the spine?).

But a book that has been read and reread, I know that the reader has pieces of me fused into their hearts. I know that they like things similar to what I like. And when they ask me to sign a book that they obviously loved, they are saying that they feel I did my job well. It’s the best kind of pat on the back.

Yep . . . I love what I do. Thank you Ephraim!