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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 🙂

Who Is Romania Brown?

I have been asked this question a LOT over the last several months. I’ve received more fan mail for Romania Brown’s quotes in the book CROSS MY HEART than I have for the actual book.

People have Googled her, quoted her, and laughed out loud at her. And they want to know who she is. So I’m telling all. I will meta-tag this post so it comes up in a Google search. I want the world to know.

She’s my grandma.

Her full name is Julia Romania Brown Peterson. She is the person who I was named for. She was my very best friend growing up. I know I’ve mentioned it before, but it bears mentioning again–she was everything awesome in my life. I miss her sometimes more than I can stand. I hide bits and pieces of her in pretty much everything I write. It’s my way of keeping her with me. It takes away some of the ache, and I know she’d love the joke of it all. Grandma loved a good joke.

Now, the confession part is that Grandma didn’t write all those quotes. A couple of them are things she told me, but most of them are things I made up. I couldn’t credit myself because . . . well, it looks tacky to credit a quote to yourself. I tried using quotes from real people, but had to rely on things my friends would let me quote them in a book saying, or things that are over a hundred (or whatever) years old so I didn’t accidentally break any copyright laws. After using up my friends and classic works, I still needed a few quotes. It was then that I turned to my journal–my memories of grandma and my snarky personal commentary on love in general while I was in my dating years. I drew from that to come up with the quotes and the poem about love at the beginning of the book CROSS MY HEART.

So now you know.

Julia Romania Brown Peterson was hilarious. She loved to laugh. She was brilliant. Even without formal higher education, she never ceased to learn, to expand her mind, to grow her knowledge. She loved archaeology, which might be the reason I had such a fixation with Indiana Jones and that blasted hat of his. She planted all the seeds that created the person I am today.

And I do miss her . . . every day. But every day, I am also filled with gratitude that she existed, and she was *my* grandma. I am grateful that she was such a huge part of my life, and glad to share her with all of you even in this small part.

So now you know. Isn’t she wonderful?

Julia Romania Brown Peterson as a Baby

Wow, What a Night and Winners!

So the launch party was awesome. And by awesome I mean humbling and exhausting  and thrilling, and amazing. Barnes and Noble was very gracious as hosts and the manager told me it was the biggest event they’d had in three years. They were very pleased with the sales. 🙂 YAY for pleased bookstore managers!

What was really awesome was the amount of support from friends and family. It’s really humbling to have the people you love stand behind you and support you when you have a reason to celebrate. It’s fantastic to know they’re celebrating with you and they’re happy for your accomplishments. It was a great night. We talked, laughed, signed books, and had cheesecake.

THANK YOU everyone for your support in this new series. My goal is to make Hazzardous Universe shine like a star going supernova!

AND I was peer pressured into sushi with Howard Tayler because Kevin insists that sushi is best when eaten with Howard. Because of my negative notions of sushi, I strong-armed Jessica Day George into coming with. I don’t want to be the only sushi novice in the group. Dan Willis joined us as well. I can honestly report it wasn’t that bad (aside from the “dessert” that looked like a ripped out spinal cord). I think I’ll even do it again sometime.

The winner of the blog, tweet, facebook mentions is . . .


Congratulations! You are the owner of a shiny MP3 Player and an even shinier, and much cooler, copy of Hazzardous Universe!

Here are some pictures from the launch party:

Tyler Whitesides, Josi Kilpack Annette Lyon, Shanda Cottam, Jeff Savage, Luann Staheli, and Nancy Allen

Shanda, Julie, Sheila, Kevin

Hazzardous Universe

A new book *and* a contest! (read to the end to get contest details)

Yesterday, I held my newest book in my hands for the first time. I should say our newest book because it belongs to Kevin Wasden and me together. I love the art inside the book. Love it, love it, love it. And the cover is so awesome, I can’t even count all the shades of awesomeness!  🙂

There is really nothing like seeing your novel in its finished form–all that research, writing, cursing, creating, deleting, adding, deleting again, rewriting finally shows up in your hands–bound and clean and satisfying.

It’s strange that as I finish writing HU2, Hu1 is barely making an entrance. It feels good to be here with a book that holds such limitless potential, and with a partner who is as committed to the series as I am, and with a publisher who wants the success of this book as much as I do. It seems lame that even as I am giggling with glee over this shiny new book, I also feel humbled and grateful.

It fits in with a question I got at a school visit I did recently. A kid asked me, “Do you know any crazy authors?”

My answer?

“Oh, honey . . . we’re ALL crazy.”

Please come  join Kevin and me for our launch party for Hazzardous Universe! It’s on March 9th at the Murray Utah Barnes and Noble (5300 south and State Street) We’ll be there from 6-8 pm and we would love to see everyone there.

And this is where the contest comes in! If you blog or tweet or facebook about the Hazzardous Universe Launch Party with its location and time, leave a message in the comments letting me know you’ve done it and you will be entered into a drawing. If you do all three, you get three entries (make sure to leave three comments so I don’t accidentally miss anything). The prize is: a copy of Hazzardous Universe signed by both the author and artist AND a 4 gig Digi-star MP3 shuffle. 

Come celebrate with us!

The Sapphire Flute

Lesson learned: never leave a manuscript you’re working on unattended. I came back to my computer to find my son had finished my sentence for me: “And then her head blew up.”
I guess it’s better than some of the “sentence-finishers” my husband has left me when I’ve left my computer open.
I promised to review a book a while back and then never got around to writing the review so I am doing that today (since I am now done with taxes, wrote 3300 new words in my work in progress, and the kids are in school–and yes, I am putting off preparations for the class I’m teaching at the writer’s conference in two weeks).
Karen Hoover is one of my very dear friends. She is my favorite roommate for the LTUE science fiction and fantasy symposium. She puts up with my whining, my snarky attitude, and the fact that I snore. Seriously. She is a true friend. When I first met Karen, it was at a storymaker writing conference. James Dashner invited her to dinner with us and things just grew from there. After that dinner, she went home and wrote a poem called the poser because she felt so out of place at a table full of published authors. I told her she was wrong. She is not a poser. She was working on her writing and she’d be published soon enough.
And now she is.
And I couldn’t be more proud of her. Karen is such a humble, good person. She makes me a better person when I am with her. I am grateful for every twist of fate that put her in my path and allowed her to like me. And so it is with honor and excitement that I get to review her book, The Sapphire Flute
The Sapphire Flute
It has been 3,000 years since a white mage has been seen upon Rasann.

In the midst of a volcanic eruption miles outside of her village, Ember discovers she can see magic and change the appearance of things at will. Against her mother’s wishes, she leaves for the mage trials only to be kidnapped before arriving. In trying to escape, she discovers she has inherited her father’s secret–a secret that places her in direct conflict with her father’s greatest enemy.

At the same time, Kayla is given guardianship of the sapphire flute and told not to play it. The evil mage C’Tan has been searching for it for decades and the sound alone is enough to call her. For the flute to be truly safe, Kayla must find its birthplace in the mountains high above Javak. The girls’ paths are set on a collision course…a course that C’Tan is determined to prevent at all costs.

Ember, Kayla, and C’Tan are all strong female leads who carry a very character driven story. The magic system is brilliant and something I never would have thought up, so now I have magic system envy. And the action is strong enough to pull along the reluctant reader. When I first read this book, Mr.Wright  asked what I was reading. I told him and then he asked, “Is it any good?”
“Of course, it’s good, or I wouldn’t be reading it.”
“You’re just saying that because she’s your friend and you love her,” he said.
“No. I’m saying it because it’s true.” At this point I’m ready to throw a boot at Mr. Wright’s head.
“Prove it. Read me the first page and if, when you get to the end, I want you to turn the page and read more, then we can safely say it’s a good book.”
So I read the first page and stopped.
“Hey!” He became indignant. “Why are you stopping?”
“The first page is over.”
Then a little sheepishly, because he was so caught up in the story that he’d already forgotten our deal, he said, “Fine. Turn the page.”
Turn the page indeed. Great job, Karen! Great book!

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.

Madeleine L’Engle and Me

I bought the book A Circle of Quiet just after my booksigning at the BYU symposium. It was on sale, and I can’t turn down a sale. I love to tell Scott how much money I save him. Besides, I loved reading A Wrinkle in Time when I was in fourth grade and was happy to read more about her.

I have shed many a tear since then. Madeleine and I have quite a bit in common. We’re both neurotic writers. We’re both mothers trying to juggle writing careers while dealing with the tsk tsks from other mothers who have it all together when we don’t. We both own grocery stores in small communities. We both married men who loved acting. We’ve been dealt the stinging blow of rejection and have come back screaming, “Is that all you got?”

Okay so maybe neither of us came back screaming for more, but we did come back . . . isn’t that the important thing?

I  hate how I’ve discovered how much I love this woman only after it was too late to ever meet her. Madeleine died last September. I would love to give her a hug and say, “Thanks for understanding my very weird life.”

Something that struck me as utterly profound was this statement she made after a rejection she received on her fortieth birthday. This was after her years in the thirties, which were filled with endless manuscript rejections and incredible guilt for taking time to write books when she worried she might be better occupied to learn to make cherry pie and do as other–more proper–mothers do. She decided to, “Stop this foolishness and learn to make cherry pie.”

She covered her typewriter in what she refers to as a great gesture of renunciation and walked around and around her room bawling, totally, utterly miserable.

While pacing and bawling, she stopped, realizing her subconscious mind had already begun working out a novel about failure.

She uncovered her typewriter.

This was her moment of decision. This was her moment where she realized she WAS a writer, no matter what, even if she never had another book published.

A quote from her on this matter is, “I’m glad I made this decision in the moment of failure. It’s easy to say you’re a writer when things are going well.”

I mourn the fact I never got to hug her.

There have been several rocky years where I was faced with the very real possibility that I would never see my name on a future publication. There was a time when I covered my computer, and said, “Stop this foolishness and learn to make pie.” Okay, maybe I never said I’d learn to make pie, but there are so many ways I fall short of other women because I have split my life into other things. I would stop the foolishness of writing, and be like other moms.

I uncovered my computer.

I, too, am glad to have made this decision in my moments of failure.  And now with another book coming out,  quite possibly two, I wonder that I even considered it.  There is no such thing as second child infertility with novel writing. If you can write one . . . you can write two, and more. If you can make the choice to keep writing amidst rejection and failure, then you’ve proved something important–to you and to the world, but most importantly to you.

You proved you really are a writer.