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Lies, Love, and Breakfast at Tiffany’s

So the conversation at home went something like this:

Me: ohmystars, ohmystars, ohmystars!!! Guys, guys, guys!

Family: What? What is it?

Me: I just got a starred review! A starred review!!!

Family: That’s great! Good job! How many stars?

Me (frowning): Well only one, but–

Family (now also frowning): Isn’t one bad? I’m pretty sure one is bad. Gee. I’m really sorry, Mom

Me (exasperated): No! This is good. There’s only one available. It’s just one star. You either get it or you don’t. I got the maximum amount of stars offered.

Family: . . .

Me: Never mind. I’m going to go tell my writer friends. (tells writer friends)

Writer friends: ohmystars, ohmystars, ohmystars!!!

Here’s the review:

Issue: September 15, 2018

   Lies, Love, and Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

By Julie Wright

Nov. 2018. 320p. Shadow Mountain, paper, $15.99 (9781629724874)

One-eyed Silvia Bradshaw loves movies, and she quotes from them frequently. Additionally, she bears a striking resemblance to Audrey Hepburn. But Silvia’s career is not in front of the camera but rather behind the scenes as a film editor. Her job as assistant to a well-known editor is consuming all her time, since she increasingly ends up doing all the editing work as well as trying to get her boss sober enough to attend important studio meetings. In the last hours for the final edit of an important movie, Silvia has to drag her boss out of a nightclub, and Ben, a great pal from her last job, steps up to help. With her boss so drunk he isn’t conscious enough to even look at the film, Ben helps Silvia finish the job. But their fledgling relationship appears ill-fated when they are driven apart by misunderstandings and lawsuits filed by a rival studio. Wright (Lies Jane Austen Told Me, 2017) presents a terrific read for romance readers who like a “proper romance,” in which the social relationship, not the physical mechanics, is the point of the story. A thoroughly satisfying read with a great happily-ever-after conclusion.

And here is the book:

Lies Jane Austen Told Me

Back when I first started writing, I daydreamed of getting a Publisher’s Weekly review (the good kind–not the ones that make authors rethink their career choices), so when my publisher wrote me to let me know the review was in on Lies Jane Austen Told Me, it took me a long time to get up the guts to read the actual review. And then I cried when I finally did read it–not because the review was bad but because it was good and because I’m like that.

Lies Jane Austen Told Me
Photo credit to Shadow Mountain

“Wright does contemporary romance right in this diverting novel with just enough heft.”

-Publishers Weekly

“Employing her own deliciously dry sense of wit, Wright deftly pays homage to the inherent romantic wisdom found in Austen’s classic novels in this delightfully fun and refreshingly sweet contemporary romance.”

-Booklist

“Modern, clever, and funny, Wright’s novel is a smart remix of tropes from Austen’s work. Lies Jane Austen Told Me is a satisfying and sweet contemporary romance that knits together romantic classics with modern manners.”

-Foreword Reviews

These reviews are humbling to me in so many ways. They don’t mention the journey it took to get me here. They don’t say anything about the stupid books I’ve written or the rejection letters of my past. They don’t give a play by play on all the writing classes I’ve taken or books on writing I’ve read. Much like a diploma that declares a student adept at their chosen field of studies without showing the frustration of late nights and hours and hours of study and practice, these reviews feel like a graduation for me. This “diploma” was hard-earned and totally worth it.

Goals, Resolutions, and Other Things in the Try-Fail Cycle

Writers understand the try-fail cycle. We understand it perhaps better than anyone because we know it creates good tension. If the character succeeds the first time they try anything, then where is the tension? Where is the conflict? How is that character to grow?

It’s interesting that we love it in our fiction and hate it in our reality.

Because the try-fail cycle is real. It happens. And it happens to more than just writers. At this time of resolutions, goal setting, and do-overs, I’ve been thinking about my personal try-fail cycle. A friend of mine made an incredible bucket list of goals she had achieved and other goals that were still out there. I loved her list and realized that, on the try-fail cycle, I have failed enough that I’ve been able to succeed too.

That is what comes from not giving up.

And so I am shamelessly stealing this idea  and making my own list. Thanks Melanie Jacobson (Truly, thanks, girl. You rock). The ones with the asterisk are achievements unlocked. The ones in bold are still out there to be achieved.

* See my book in print with my name on the cover

* See my book at Barnes and Noble

See my book in hardcover

* Hit a best seller’s list

* See my book on a bookshelf in another state (thank you, New York!)

* Have my books made into audiobook

* Win a major peer-reviewed literary award

* Get an agent (my agent is awesome)

* Get fan mail (not going to lie, I really love my fan mail)

Get published with Disney Hyperion. (Seriously, I want an acceptance letter with Mickey Mouse on the letterhead. I want it like I want to breathe)

Have a box of my books, printed in a language I can’t read, arrive on my doorstep

* Rock a school visit like a boss

* Have a signing with a line that takes hours to work through (this comes from rocking a school visit like a boss)

Sell movie rights

See my books translated to the silver screen (I’d even eat popcorn to celebrate the occasion—even though movie popcorn always makes me sick)

* Be interviewed by a magazine

Get a starred review

* Speak at Comic Con

* Have one of my hero authors stand in my line and buy my book without any prodding from me

* Teach at a major writing conference

* Go on a multi-state book tour

* Go to BEA

Be sent to BEA by my publisher

See a stranger reading my book in the wild (people tag me with photos of people reading my books in the wild, but I’ve never seen it with my own peepers)

* Be on a favorite’s list at a library

Write all the books that are currently in my head.

Be a force for good in helping other authors.

There aren’t as many bolded items as there used to be, which is awesome. But the thing is that I have rejection letters,  abandoned manuscripts, and reviews that are so not nice that they have become hysterical to me. There were a lot of fails that gave me the privilege of changing a bold wish to an asterisk of accomplishment. Something I got from all this is that it is okay to fall and skin your knee. It’s even okay to fall and skin your heart. That’s what band aids and new days are for.

So whatever your thing is–writer or otherwise– there are goals out there to reach and resolutions to be made to reach them. Go out and try today. Don’t worry about the fail part; it may happen or not, either way is okay. Either way, you grow, stretch, become. Either way, you are on your way. 

“Laughter is timeless, imagination has no age, and dreams are forever.” –Walt Disney

 

Finishing

I recently finished writing my 21st novel which is a definite cause to celebrate! It feels so unreal to have written that many books. I remember feeling startled upon finishing my first novel. As I wrote those last few words, I blinked at them with genuine surprise and realized I had no more words to say for that book. How was running out of words possible?

It took me several years to write another book because I truly believed I had run out of words, but when that book was accepted for publication, it occurred to me to write a second book (I know, I know. How pathetic that it took me so long to figure it all out).

And now I know that running out of words is impossible. If I wrote one book a year and lived to be 100 years old, I would still die with novel ideas never fully realized and written.

My guru grandma once told me something that really stuck with me (most everything she said stuck with me because she was my best friend), but this particular nugget of wisdom is my talisman when things get hard and the idea to maybe run out of words on purpose becomes a terrible temptation. She said, “Be a finisher, Julie. If you care enough about something to start, then care enough to finish.”

Every time I finish a novel, I smile to myself, toss a wink heavenward, and think, “I finished again, Grandma!”

A career as a writer is not always perfect or smooth or everything you dream of, but if you care enough to start, then care enough to finish. If you’re having trouble coming to grips with your own writing career and need a boost of finishing energy, email me, and I will tell you all the reasons you should stay the coarse and just get it done all the way to . . .

The End

back in the days of film, where you didn't know someone blinked until after the film was developed. Grandma Peterson and me

Back in the days of film, where you didn’t know someone blinked until after the film was developed. Grandma Peterson and me (Don’t you love my 80’s rocker haircut?)

Life, the Universe, and Everything

LTUE is a highlight of my year. It is a time when I have the luxury of getting together with likeminded people to debate the finer points of the literature we all love. The symposium is one of reflection, education, and absolute fun. It’s a place to get your nerd on and wear it with pride. If you feel like talking nerdy with me, join us:

February 12-14, 2015

Provo Marriott Hotel & Conference Center

I’m kind of completely thrilled over this year’s schedule because, for the first time ever, I am on panels that will take a journey through the spectrum of being an author from start to finish. Panels allow a dialogue between  the panelists and audience that always feels like it’s just getting starting at the time it’s ending. Doing this series of panels will allow us to explore ideas of what it really means to be a writer with greater depth than we’ve had before. I’m serious. It’s thrilling. And I have very cool co-panelists.

Friday 9:00 am: From Start to Finish 1: Ideas and Preparation: Julie Wright, J.R. Johansson, Stephen Gashler, Tristi Pinkston, Bryan Beus (m)

Friday 1:00 pm: From Start To Finish 2: Drafting And Revision: Julie Wright, J.R. Johansson, Stephen Gashler, Tristi Pinkston, Bryan Beus (m)

Friday 4:00 pm: From Start To Finish 3: Publishing And Promotion: Julie Wright, J.R. Johansson, Stephen Gashler, Tristi Pinkston, Bryan Beus (m)

Saturday 6:00 pm: Writing for Children: Julie Wright, J Scott Savage, Ben Sowards, Andrea Pearson (m)

This is the symposium where I met incredible artist Kevin Wasden and Hazzardous Universe was born. This is the symposium that stretched me as an author and inspired me to write in a new genre. This is the place where a six foot tall steam punk dragon will be unveiled in anticipation of Jeff Savage’s new series. In short, this is the place to be this weekend. To learn more, and to be where all the cool kids are playing, go here: LTUE

And to celebrate the life the universe and everything, I leave you with a bit of fun trivia and an emoticon from God.

Trivia: The escape velocity to leave our galaxy (from Earth) is 42 Kilometers per second.

Latest picture from the Hubble Space telescope

Latest picture from the Hubble Space telescope

Find Your Story

I once had a writing teacher bring an old, muddy, scuffed-up boot to class where she plopped it down on her desk and said, “There’s a story in there somewhere. Start writing.” She sat down at her desk, and we went to work.

It’s been a good twenty years since that classroom and that boot, but the lesson was learned. There are stories surrounding us every day, everywhere we go, in everything we see. There is a story in the nail technician with chipped, cracked fingernails on her own hands. There is a story in the woman wiping tears from her eyes as she moves forward through traffic in her car. There is a story in the man who pulls into the driveway of a house after a long and grueling day at work only to remember that he hasn’t lived there since the divorce. I see stories in everything: in a smile, in a glance, in a snippet of overheard conversation. The ones I go after and dig deeper to unearth are the ones that usually have the most character–like the muddy boot. I want a story that’s been through something and is going somewhere.

I want a story that can walk over difficult terrain and climb mountains.

Recently,  I’ve come across a letter from my great, great aunt to my great uncle. I need to write the story found within for several reasons:

It’s my family history. It’s heart achingly real. And the story has feet wearing incredibly worn and muddy boots.

When I do school visits and other presentations, I am almost always asked, “Where do you get your ideas?” The answer is always the same: “There’s a story in there somewhere.” And by there “there” I mean everywhere.

So if you are in a creative slump, go out and find what kinds of stories you want to tell. What holds your interest? What makes you happy? What fills your creative well? Here are some exercises I do when it seems I can’t see the story through the mud.

  • Appreciate art. I am always inspired by someone else’s artwork. Kevin Wasden has been a tremendous resource and friend to my creativity over the years.
  • Find emotion. I need to have something that strikes an emotional chord. If I’m not feeling the love, neither is my reader.
  • Read. I get great ideas from reading, and usually those ideas have nothing to do with what I’m actually reading. It goes back to the art thing. I believe art begets art.
  • Listen. Everyone has a story–much like those old boots. Everyone has a past and a moment where they were either amazingly heroic or horrifically villainous. Listen to people. Besides, people are important and deserved to be listened to. My parents have excellent stories–some they would mind a great deal if I shared to my reading audience and others that they are happy to share. Tap your family resource (you know, without alienating that family).
  • Eavesdrop. This is a wee bit different from listening because you don’t want people to know you’re listening because it would maybe look creepy and stalker-ish.
  • Get back to work. Yes, work. Writing isn’t always fun, and sometimes you have to slug through the muddy words to get to the boot. Sometimes you have to look yourself in the eye in the mirror and say, “There’s a story in there somewhere.”

Because there *is* a story in you.

Defending Genre

So, I made a decision to go back to school–finish what I started all those years ago and all that. There is a long list of convoluted reasons for my actions, but the why isn’t the important thing here. The important thing is the what.  English is the what.  I decided to major in English. It made sense since most of my credits were already allotted to that discipline. I started the endeavor feeling particularly excited to enter this world  of likeminded individuals–until I realized that they weren’t all as likeminded as I’d imagined.

I’m a fiction writer. Apparently I imagine too much.

I needed a few days off class so I could speak at a science fiction and fantasy symposium and took the opportunity to discuss my class absence with my professor. It was the first time I’d mentioned anything about being a professional author. I don’t mean to sound arrogant, but usually when people find out what I do for my day job, they are usually excited about it. Okay fine, I do mean to sound arrogant. I make books, and it’s freaking awesome. I make a living doing what I love. And not that I expected her to bow or ask for my autograph or anything, but she acted like I’d opened up a can of lutefisk on her desk. She gave me “permission” to go, which is hilarious. I am 42 years old (the meaning of life the universe and everything thank-you-very-much). I am a professional writer and public speaker. And college is something I PAID to do, which technically makes me my professor’s boss. Permission or not, I was going. I’d already committed to speak at this conference, and my word means something. But as I was gathering up my laptop, my professor said, “There’s a place for science fiction and fantasy in literature, I suppose. It’s a safe environment for a person to escape reality.”

Yeah, I wish I was making that up. She really said that. To my face. After I’d already told her I WROTE science fiction and fantasy. She probably would have slapped my forehead and screamed, “Demons be gone!” if she found out I wrote fractured fairytales and romance as well.

Science fiction and fantasy are somehow supposed to be the equivalent of safe?

Totally ticked off, I SEETHED over her flippancy throughout my entire conference and then, in par with the idea of the writer always getting the last word, I wrote my research paper on why genre fiction is as important, if not MORE important, to society as literary fiction. Of course my paper started off with examples of so-called literary fiction that started as genre fiction. The Bard wrote about witches, romance, fairies, and ghosts. Charles Dickens wrote about time travel and ghosts. Mary Shelley created the Frankenstein who created the monster (an interesting aside, Mary Shelley was married to Percy Shelley. Who had better staying power? The novelist who wrote about monsters, or the poet who wrote self-inflated literature?). Don’t get me wrong. I actually love a great many literary works. I’m a fairly eclectic reader: from Dr. Seuss to Shakespeare and all the stuff in between. I just don’t buy into the star-bellied-sneetches approach of one discipline or genre being better than another.

Interestingly, genre fiction is important to society because when children enjoy reading they put out the effort to learn how to be good at it. Did you know they can predict how many prisons they will need in the future based on how many ten and eleven year olds can’t read? Kids who are not given the freedom to choose their own literary tastes are far less motivated to practice reading and are more likely to drop out of school than kids who developed an early love of reading FOR FUN. Kids who read for fun grow up learning greater empathy and have better relationships than those who don’t.

Much of today’s technology began in science fiction books and movies. Kids who stayed up late reading “nerdy” books are now driving the world into the future, making their favorite fictional stories a working reality.

But forgetting even the importance of literacy and technology and overcrowded prisons and all of THAT.

She called science fiction and fantasy safe?

Right. Characters dealing with apocalyptic environments, wars, betrayal, death, loss of innocence, fighting for humanity–and not just the life of humanity, but the inside parts that make us human, the honor, love, respect, joy of being a person. I said I was defending genre fiction, but really, genre fiction is the defender of our humanity. Neil Gaiman quoted GK Chesterman in his book Coraline: “Fairy Tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”

Part of being human is being afraid of the shadows lurking beneath the bed, the clawed fingers slipping through the cracked-open door, and the dragons–both real and imaginary–casting shadows on our lives. But the greatest part of being human is shedding light on those shadows, closing the doors on those clawed fingers, and slaying those dragons.

Genre fiction is not safe. But because it empowers us to face our real lives, it makes the real world a safer place to live.

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

Do Over

I have been writing for most of my life. I started my first novel when I was fifteen. Obviously there has to be a learning curve when you’re starting out so young. It took several years to find my writer’s voice, but before that actually happened I had two books published traditionally with a small niche publisher. The books did well and were best sellers in their particular spheres, and I really doubt I would have continued to write if those first few stepping stones hadn’t been placed before me.

But I grew as an author, finally found my voice, my style, and worked on the craft. I took classes, attended conferences, and read books on writing books. I was picked up by a much larger publisher and my career became something respectable. The problem was that those first two fledgling attempts at novel writing were still out there. I’d grown. I was better than that original author, and I cringed when people told me they read one of my first two books.

It was a beautiful day when the books went out of print. It was like a phantom from my past had finally been excised, and I could rest easy. But then people began writing me–librarians who wanted their old, worn copies replaced, fans who wanted to let other people read their books but who were afraid to loan out their copies because they couldn’t get new ones.

So I decided to maybe have a do-over with the second book (the first is beyond repair and I am going to let it be). The second one, however, had good bones–not great bones–but good. It just needed a makeover. So I opened the old document for the first time in twelve years.

It was kind of like opening a crypt filled with horrors. I rolled my eyes at my past author self so much I became dizzy. I shouted at myself as I came across phrases that were so bad, I wanted to hide for the sheer shame of them. I wondered where the adverb police had been during the creation of that book.

I learned a lot about writing in comparing my present author self to my past author self. I saw where natural raw talent trumped actual skill and allowed me to get published in the first place. But I also saw the glaring mistakes, the repetition, the lack of character motivation, the fingernail thin plot.

It was a huge overhaul and a lot of work. I truly believe it would have been easier to write a new book than it was to resurrect an old one, but the book reemerged from the ashes to be something so much better than its humble beginnings. It’s still not the quality of my current writing ability (remember good bones, not great bones), but I’m not sorry I took the time to have a do over. The education was well worth it.

A wonderful, classy designer  by the name of Crystal Liechty reimagined my cover and did such an amazing job that I nearly wept with joy. My previous cover wasn’t exactly lame but close enough.

I guess the point of this rather long ramble is that it’s important to be stretching and improving–no matter what your “thing” is. My thing is writing. Yours might be music, photography, theater or science. Whatever your thing is, it’s nice to look back and see progression and growth. Take the classes, read the books, get the education necessary to thrive in that one thing that fills the measure of your joy. And when you look back, you’ll have a journey worth talking about.

Here is the new cover for Loved Like That. (I really love it!):

Loved Like That

 

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.