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Cover Reveal and Coauthoring

I wrote two books in the Newport Ladies Book Club series along with Heather Moore, Josi Kilpack, and Annette Lyon. The series will be completed at nine total books. Each of us wrote two and then we all coauthored the final book together. It was a great process and something I am so grateful to have participated in. The final book will be coming out within the next month.

A few things I’ve learned about coauthoring through this experience:

  • Ego has no place in a collaborative project.

What I mean by this is that egos are enormous. They manage to fill whatever space they’re given completely. You know the old saying, “give ’em an inch, and they’ll take a mile?” Well,  if you give an ego an inch, You’ll end up with world domination. There just isn’t enough room in a collaborative effort for anyone’s ego.  Egos are not creative spaces. They do not foster growth. They do not make things run smoothly. They never meet deadlines. If you want to work with someone else in a creative endeavor, you need to leave your ego at the door–or better yet, out in the trunk of your car. Choose to work with people who are willing to do the same. The most important element of my collaborative efforts with Heather, Josi, and Annette was that we put the project first, each other next, and ourselves last. As soon as an ego is involved, the project gets shoved aside and takes a smaller and smaller importance until the project fails altogether. Our project worked and was successful through nine books because we put the series first.

  • Choose like-minded individuals with equal talents and skills so that no one person is carrying the entire project on their own, and so that no one person is weighing the project down.

It helped a lot that The four of us ladies were all pretty equal writers. We’ve all won awards, we’re all bestsellers. We all LIKE and ADMIRE each others work. Granted, we’re not all the same. We have strengths and weaknesses, but our level of writing is even. None of us are beginners. We all know how to meet deadlines. We all know how to adapt storyline and weave dialogue and exude emotion. If one of us was a beginning writer who’d never finished a novel before, things might have been different. It made a difference that we were all balanced in skill.

  • Know which part is yours.

During the outlining stages of the Newport Ladies Book Club series, we divvied out parts. I knew who my characters were. I knew which book club group was mine to write. I had a basic idea where my characters would come together with other characters. This was all hammered out in the beginning so that we knew how to begin and how to keep going without stepping on each other’s toes. And even when we decided to snag someone else’s character for a brief scene, we had a general feel for that character, for their tone, for their feel, so EVEN THEN, we weren’t stepping on each other’s toes.

  • Never be the last one to show up to writing group because chances are good your plot and character will get roughed up. 😉

This happened a couple of times (alas, always to me . . .) but because my ego was left in my trunk, I went with it. Those few plot changes altered my story by quite a bit. And guess what? They made my plot BETTER. If I’d been a grumbler, I might not have rolled with the new ideas and would have missed out a much richer, fuller story as a result. And honestly, showing up to find my character suddenly has grandchildren and that her mother was dead added to the fun of creation. The creative process needs to be open to new ideas if it’s going to work.

  • Love the project

Because if you don’t, the readers can tell. If a writer writes to catch a trend, or because they’re sure something will sell rather than because they love it with their whole souls, their words give them away. You gotta love it. Otherwise, why are you doing it?

And now this collaboration project is done. It makes me a little sad because I love the ladies, love the characters, and love the worlds we’ve created together, but I think the last book will really leave the readers satisfied. It’s a great ending to a great series. Here’s the cover:

Tying the Knot

Tying the Knot

LTUE 2014

“Use Grammarly’s plagiarism checker because a copy cat always will be declawed!”

I have been attending the LTUE fantasy and science fiction symposium for well over a decade. I attended my very first LTUE with James Dashner. We were both so new as authors, so intimidated and awed by everyone else.  A lot has happened since then, what with James becoming JAMES and me having just published my ninth novel, but I confess . . . there still is a good amount of awe to be had.

Some fun bits of advice I gleaned from my peers while speaking with them on panels and while hovering in the background of their classes as well as from my own personal experience:

  1. Never trust people you only met yesterday with embarrassing information when they will be speaking on a panel with you and will have access to the microphone *cough cough Peter Orullian!* (that might literally be the first time I’ve ever blushed)
  2. Just because you are up to date with the TV series Once Upon a Time, doesn’t mean everyone else is. Refrain from revealing spoilers, such as certain characters getting killed off, just because you have a point about how well written that particular scene was. The collective gasp of several hundred people nearly knocked me off the dais. I am sure I will receive hate mail. I am *so* sorry!
  3. A real hero makes sacrifices–Peter Orullian (who I’m quoting even though he isn’t to be trusted)
  4. Heroism has a sliding scale from little sacrifices to life altering sacrifices–Robison Wells
  5. Make sure your characters are individuals. Your twenty year old hooker will have  different speech patterns, diction, tones from your forty year old housewife.
  6. The difference between a hero and a protagonist is that the protagonist is the point of view, but the hero is the guy who gets the job done. They can be the same person, but they don’t have to be.
  7. Every novel is an act of faith–Larry Correia
  8. The most interesting character is usually the guy who has the most to lose.
  9. Making new friends is the point of conferences for writers. Hi Chad Morris! Oh, I guess hello to you too, Peter . . . 😉
  10. And connecting with old friends is like the sigh of relief that comes at the end of a very busy and stressful week. It was so good to see my dear friend Lee Modesitt. I’ve really missed that guy. I didn’t get to say hi to everyone or really talk to everyone the way I would like, but I so loved seeing you all.
  11. Sleep well before conference and plan on good sleep after conference. Do not plan on sleeping during the conference. Because if you’re sharing a hotel room with Amber Argyle and Krista Jensen, you will giggle until 4 am and end up dragging your barely warmed over corpse to the panels where you’re speaking the next morning (which might account for the lack of judgment on confessions to new friends)
  12. Jeff Savage is my hero because he uplifts everyone he comes in contact with. I wish I had that kind of personality.

The highlight of my symposium was going to lunch with Larry Correia and hearing him order a “sensuous sandwich” and then hearing him giggle like a ten year old girl. If you know Larry, you know why that’s adorable.

Author Copies!

It’s super fun when the doorbell rings and I am still in black yoga pants and a t shirt with my hair pulled into a bedraggled sort of ponytail. Feet are bare. Teeth are not brushed. Yes, it is after ten in the morning. Thank you for asking. It is that moment when I wonder, “Do I dare answer? What if it’s important? What if my dog bit the pool guy while I wasn’t paying attention? Or what if it’s a random stranger selling girl scout cookies?” At the thought of the cookies, I actually get up to answer the door. The pool guy can take care of himself. I have homeowner’s insurance. The cookie salesman, however, waits for no one.Curses! It wasn’t the cookie salesman. I swear the Girls Scouts of America do not try hard enough to search me out and sell me calories I don’t need but desperately want. Happily, it wasn’t the pool guy missing appendages either. What it was instead was a box on my doorstep. Our postwoman always rings the bell when she’s leaving a package. She is terribly considerate that way.

Inside the box were my author copies of my latest book Victoria’s Promise! HOORAY! The Newport Ladies Book Club series marches ever onward. I love this book. It’s super fun, filled with heart and all those aching love-sicky feelings that a good romance should have. I dedicated it to my ever-inspiring editor, Kirk Shaw, who ditched me to go be a lawyer. He is so lucky I love him and haven’t used the voodoo doll I bought of him when he told me he was leaving me. Actually, I am super proud of him for making good choices for his family and am so grateful that he helped me be the writer I am. Victoria’s Promise turned out really well. I am pleased with my finished written product. Feel free to go see the nice reviews on Amazon. I love people who leave nice reviews. We won’t talk about how I feel about those other people. Didn’t their grandmothers teach them not to say anything when they didn’t have anything nice to say? So sad they missed out on a valuable education. Actually, there’s a lot to be learned in the not-so-nice reviews as well. Anyway, I digress.

The point is that I have my author copies and books in the mail is always super fun. Speaking of Super and books in the mail, my dear friend Marion Jensen has a new book out as well. His title is Almost Super! Legit funny book! Buy it. Read it to your kids. Laugh yourself sick! And feel free to buy my book too. I may not be Lord Byron, but I’m infinitely more entertaining.

Author Copies!

Author Copies! And as a fun aside, my book has a doppelganger. The first person to discover the title of my book’s doppelganger will receive a prize. Hint . . . it has something to do with the red bike. Leave a comment with the title to win cool prize.

 

 

Kanab Writer’s Conference

I am excited to be presenting at the Kanab Writer’s Conference :

http://kanabwritersconference.com/

I’m excited for several reasons.

  1. It’s a great conference for beginning writers due to its low price and the intimate setting. ($40 bucks is a steal.) There will be lots of amazing authors to learn from who will all be teaching amazing classes!
  2. Janette Rallison, my dear friend who lives in Arizona is going to be there! YAY!
  3. Liz Adair is in charge, and she is organized and lovely and will make sure the conference runs with all kinds of awesome.
  4. I moved to Southern Utah and feel a little disconnected from all the writer friends I love so much and this is a chance to see some of them.
  5. I need my own creative well filled.
  6. I am teaching two really awesome classes!

The first class is called Frankenstein: Using all the Parts to Create Something that Breathes. It is a primer for writing and will cover: Dialogue, Emotion, Voice, Character, Setting, and Plot.

The second class is called How to Take the Suck out of Success: Making Castles out of the Bricks Life Throws. This class is about taking away the excuses and following your dreams. It’s  about not giving up. Because let’s face it, sometimes it feels like someone planted booby traps on the ladder to success. Sometimes it sucks. This class will teach how to eliminate some of those pesky traps and ticking time bombs so that success can be a little easier.

I am SUPER excited for this. And with the whole government shut-down (because we’ve apparently sent a bunch of non communicating infants to Washington) Kanab could really use the tourist dollars. The businesses there have suffered a huge loss by the non-existent tourism from the national parks. Since I spent fifteen years running a business that only did well during the tourist season, I feel a great deal of empathy for their plight.

So sign up now! I promise we’ll have fun. And if you want to read about Kanab and their issues with the government shut down, here is a news article:

http://www.kcsg.com/view/full_story/23793695/article-Kanab-Writer-s-Conference-Taking-Place-Oct–25-26-Despite-Gov–Closures?instance=more_local_news1

 

Random Writer stuff

First off: the farworld contest . . . . and the winner is: *all* of you who left a comment (now all those who didn’t leave a comment are crying in their Dr Pepper right now because they aren’t getting a book–and yes, I do know who commented before I posted this blog entry, so don’t go thinking you can slide in under my radar).

Jeff Savage has been an incredible friend to me over the years. He’s commisserated when commisserating was needed, kicked my backside when that was needed (though I hate it when he does that), and rejoices with me when I find success. He personally hand delivered my manuscript to his editor and has gone to bat for me more times than I can count.  I pretty much owe him any royalties I might gain from my upcoming release Eyes Like Mine  for all he’s done for me. It is for this reason I am buying all my commenters his book.

I bought a new TV (purchased on eBay for a screamin’ deal) so I can watch Heroes with better quality. With the new TV came an entertainment center (also bought on ebay, the deals keep screamin’) and with these new indulgences came the need to rearrange my living room. Now, anyone who has been in my house, knows that books are stuffed in every available spot (anyone who has been in my bedroom knows Darth Vader is stuffed in every available spot– a measure of my love for Mr Wright.)

The domino effect came into play here as I went from one bookshelf to another, rearranging in an order that makes sense only to me. The entire process took me a couple of days to complete. And I had an amazing epiphany. I own an entire bookcase of signed books by authors whom I not only admire, but count as my dearest friends. The process took a long time because I went through my books and read the messages left there especially for me from people I love.

Inside the jackets of these books were words of encouragement, gratitude, love, and admiration. There were private jokes and things that you had to be there for to think they were funny. I walked away from the experience humbled to know that not only do I call these people my friends, but they call me theirs.

These are the people I call when I get trapped on a bus for three hours with a bunch of eighth graders. These are the people who know me well enough to dub the writer’s insecurity disease Julie Wrightus. These people are among the first to find out when I get rejected, when I get accepted, when I finish a new novel, when my kids lose their teeth.

There are days when I am genuinely sorry I dared to step up and be a writer. There are days when I wonder what it would be like to go back, forget it all, and learn how to cook like normal moms do. But then I shudder. What fool would want to go back and lose so many friends? My kids are okay with days where dad is busy and mom has to cook. But I wouldn’t be okay without those people whose names sit on my bookshelf.  I wouldn’t be okay without the friends I’ve made through conferences and the internet as a direct result of my decision to write.

Thanks guys. All of you!

Struck by The Lightning Thief

I admit I am arrogant enough to say I write great books. But every now and again, I run across an author that turns me ten shades of green (the envy kind).

My middle son wasn’t fond of books. His dyslexia put him behind in the reading area for a long time. We led him to graphic novels, which he seemed to do better with and every month he became a stronger reader, but he still didn’t enjoy reading. It was a source of agony to me, a writer, to have a child who doesn’t love reading like I love reading.

I decided to start reading aloud with him to help him along in school last year and we picked up the Lightning Thief (yes, I know we’re behind the times and should have done this three years ago). Most of our out-loud reading involved only one chapter a day. Time is a commodity and my voice doesn’t hold out for too long.

 

Then one day he came home, found the book, and begged for three chapters. He said, “Please.” He offered to mop the kitchen floor, clean his room, and go to boy scouts without complaint.

A chapter for each “chore” and he used the word please.

This is nothing short of miraculous. When we finished the third chapter (this is after chores were done and after dinner), he scampered to bed with the words, “You’re the best mom! Tomorrow we can do four chapters. I’ll even clean the bathrooms so you have more time.”

I was all astonishment. My child was doing chores and loving reading. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. Something as miraculous as this needed to be shared, so I wrote the author, Rick Riordan, to let him know how fantastic he is. And do you know what? He was as kind and funny and gracious as an author ever could be. I hope when I write books cool enough to be chore-worthy, that I can behave like Rick.

Awards and Writing

Stephanie Humphries and Rebecca Talley gave me a blogger award: 

which naturally just “made my day.” Thanks ladies.

I had a reader write me a fabulous fan mail the other day. It filled me with joy to receive.  How is it possible to walk the tightrope between the lands of egomania and manic depression without having any sign of a bipolar disorder?  I don’t know how it’s possible exactly, but authors do it every day–I do it every day . . . every hour sometimes.

I get fan mail and zoom into the clouds of egomania. I even giggle a little, though it isn’t really proper to admit such things. I am sure I am the best thing to happen to literature since Alphabet Soup.

I get a rejection, or someone else gets a book (that I just know stinks) published by the guy who just rejected me. I dive into the depths of despair. I go so deep even the Titanic can’t fathom my fathoms. I overeat. I wail like a paid mourner at a funeral, and I shout obscenities to the world (I tell people it’s turrets syndrome . . . but really I’m just an insane author).

Writing has its rewards, and it has its pain too. So why do we do it?

Because it’s who we are. Are we all going to be international best sellers? No. Are we all going to be media sensations? No. Are we all going to receive starred reviews that brim with confidence building phrases like “brilliant,” “perfect,” and Inspiring?” Well . . . no.

There is a little story of a man. God comes to this man and tells him to push against a boulder. Being obedient, every day the man goes and pushes against the same boulder. The devil comes along after a while and taunts the man. “Look how you do this every day,” the devil says. “But the boulder never moves. You’re wasting your time. You’re accomplishing nothing. You should stop.”

Frustrated, the man realizes the devil is right and he slumps down next to the boulder and starts to feel sorry for himself.

God comes back and asks why the man is feeling so sorry for himself. The man replies, “I did what you told me to do, but the boulder isn’t moved, not even a little. I haven’t accomplished anything.”

“How can you say you accomplished nothing?”

The man, feeling a little whiny and irritated that God is missing the point, says, “The boulder didn’t move!”

“I asked you to push against it that you would be made strong. Look how strong you’ve become. See how your muscles have developed? I told you to push with all your might; I didn’t ask you to move it.”

Sometimes I think writers push expecting mountains to move for us, when we should be thankful we are developing ourselves to be the best we can be. Nothing we write, whether published or not, whether acclaimed or not, is wasted. We flexed muscles and made ourselves stronger.  I’ve done a lot of editing for new writers over the last few months. I think most of them have made up voodoo dolls with my face and name on them because I have been decidedly honest in my edits. I hope they aren’t discouraged. I hope they push harder against the boulder, so that they grow as writers.

And if in the next little while I seem to be missing in action in the cyber world, it’s because I’m buried under stacks and stacks of edits and am slowly tunneling my way out.