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A Lesson for Those who Feel Less Than

Strap in. This is a long entry.

I am an author. I am published in a niche market with a niche publisher. In the beginnings of my career I dealt with something very real: prejudice. Other authors who were published with big publishers in big markets assumed they were better than me (and they were right about that at the beginning). Not all of the big authors in my social sphere acted this way–in fact, most didn’t. But I, being young and insecure, assumed they all felt this way.

In the beginning, I didn’t know much. Character motivation, plot movement, story arc, setting–none of that meant anything to me. I wrote a story because I had a story to tell. I became published. So I wrote another story. The publisher acquired that one too.  I learned a lot, edited, became better–much better. I sent my third book to the largest publisher in that niche market and was accepted. It was exciting because I knew the book was good. It thrummed all those emotional strings. The characters were well-developed and the dialogue sang. But I was still in the niche market. And I felt inferior to those published in their huge markets. The thing was that there was a  stigma about writers in my niche not being any good. The rumors were that only hacks wrote in that genre. To be fair to the rumor mill, there were a lot of crummy books put out back then (my first two among them), but there were a lot of great books too. I decided to be part of the solution. I was in with a guild of authors and we decided to change the stigma by raising the quality of literature in our market. We did that through conferences, mentoring, and classes. We did a lot of good. And I wrote more books. And grew in the craft with every one of them.

I was traditionally published.

And felt inferior.

I made the top ten best sellers list in the entire market.

And felt inferior.

I sold out of my first print run and went to a second printing.

And felt inferior.

I had radio, magazine, and newspaper interviews.

And felt inferior.

I won awards.

And felt inferior.

And then one day at a science fiction and fantasy symposium, I met Orson Scott Card. I’m a huge fan of his–always have been. I stood in his line to get my stack of books signed. I became too awed to do much aside from slide the stack to him when it was my turn. He tried to engage me in conversation. I think I might have drooled in response. But the person behind me said, “She’s Julie Wright. She’s an author too.”

He stopped signing my first edition of Speaker for the Dead and looked up at me. “You’re published?”

I dug my toe into the tile floor and ducked my head into my shoulders in the shrug gesture you can only manage to pull off when you are desperately insecure.

He must have taken that as a yes because he then asked, “What do you write?”

I dreaded answering, knowing the prejudice among authors, but I replied that I wrote a lot of things but was only published in my niche market.

He frowned. “Did I hear an apology in that answer?”

Which made me hit the mental brakes.

And then he said something that changed me.

“Didn’t you choose to write in that market?”

“Well . . . yeah, but . . .”

“And you’re published in the market you chose to write for. There’s no shame in that. Who’s your publisher?”

I told him and he actually looked like he might reach across the table to smack me. “So you’re trying to tell me that you chose to write for a particular market, you’re published with the top publisher in that market, and you’re apologizing?”

It sounded so bad when he put it like that.

I don’t feel inferior any longer, and not just because Orson Scott Card demanded I feel better about myself. I don’t feel inferior because I know I am good at what I do. And I finally realized my previous insecurities were not because those big authors were looking down their noses at me. I felt inferior because I hadn’t accomplished all that *I* wanted to accomplish *YET*. It wasn’t them making me feel small. It was me making me feel small. So this lesson for me has been learned. This was all several years ago. So why am I writing about it all now?

Because whispers like wind shaking leaves have come to my attention of other authors feeling small and insignificant because they chose a different publishing path. They’ve achieved great things. They have succeeded in the spheres where they have ventured. They have sales, fans, some have awards. And they feel inferior.

This post is my request for them to stop apologizing for their accomplishments simply because their accomplishments are different from someone else’s. They have found success in the very thing they set out to do. Forget stigmas. And if you have goals not yet realized, that’s okay. To be going forward, stretching, becoming your best you . . . well, isn’t that what we’re here for?

As Rob Thomas says, our lives are made in these small hours, these little wonders. So make those small hours wonderful. Be happy.

xoxo

 

I have an Agent!

I have written thirteen novels. Eight are published, which leaves five unaccounted for.

I wrote them for a different market than the one my awesome niche publisher handles. Five manuscripts moldering away on my hard drive waiting for the light of day and the smell of ink to bring them to real existance.

So, I’m sitting here, wearing my “I love Boston” T-shirt and my favorite comfortable jeans that are slowly disintegrating even as I sit. Holst’s The Planets is playing in the background—though I’m not listening to it anymore.

I just got the call. THE CALL. If you’re a writer, you know what that means. It is one of two things. Either an offer of representation from an agent, or a book deal.

This is the first kind. The offer of representation. The phone is hung up. And I just now realize my hands are shaking. When did they start doing that? Were they shaking while I was on the phone? Or worse. Was my VOICE shaking while I was on the phone? Hands I can hide, but the voice? There would be no hiding that. Sadly—or happily, I will never know either way.

This call means that someone else thinks I am good enough. Someone who isn’t my mom, or my husband, or my kids (after their dad gives them the stern look that tells them they have to like everything I write no matter what). This is someone else. Someone on the outside of my sphere. It’s as if this new person has just walked into that same sphere, sat down, and put their feet up while they grin and ask me how I’m doing?

How am I doing?

I want to throw up.

And scream.

And laugh.

And cry too.

Someone outside said I am good enough. Something I’ve worried over, wrung my hands over, paced over, cried and cried and cried over. Am I good enough? What will I do if I ever discover I’m not?

It’s a relief to hear someone affirm with those sweet, soft words, “Yes. Yes, you are.”

That’s why I want to cry. And throw up. And scream. And Laugh.

Because so often I’ve heard a different answer. So many of my rejection letters have come in saying, “We love your writing, but . . .” “We love your characters, but . . .” “We love your story, but . . .”

I’ve just been looking for a different contraction. I just wanted to hear, “We love your writing, your characters, your story,  AND . . .”

And now someone has.

I don’t know what to do with this information. I don’t dare consider that this new person might be wrong. That will only lead to more pacing, wringing of hands, and crying, crying, crying.

And it’s strange how the reaction for today’s acceptance is so similar to the reactions from past rejections.

All this emotion bubbling over and spilling out. And I want ice cream. Rocky road.

She loved it, AND . . .

AND  . . . today, I have an agent. Not just any agent. I have THE agent, the one I’ve researched and kept coming back to and wishing was mine because she is just that good at what she does and because she is just that great as a human being. Sara Crowe said yes to *me*

And her email right after we hung up? “Hi Julie!  Just wanted to say YAY! Talk soon!”

Yep. After an email like that, it’s a good day. I toast this cone of rocky road to the road I’ve just traveled to get here.  There were rocks—more like mountains with sheer cliff faces, and I’ve tripped and fallen more than I care to admit.

But today . . . it’s a good day

I’ll tell how this all came about later, but for now, the moral of this story?

I didn’t quit.

I’m so glad I didn’t quit.

Letters

Dear Mother Nature: That was one wicked lightning storm last night while I was driving the lone highways of Utah. I’m a huge fan of your work, and I think you’ve outdone yourself. It was so brilliant and otherworldly, I half-wondered if the alien invasion was coming. My normally static-ridden hair was straight on end. Bravo for a spectacular performance!

Dear Man in Bookstore: No, I wasn’t admiring you. I was admiring the newly packaged leather-bound copies of To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. The fact that you weren’t admiring the books I was admiring, in spite of the fact that you stood right next to them, means you really aren’t my type and I’ll never be admiring you. Sorry. I hope we can still be friends  . . . in the I’ll-never-see-you-again-thank-goodness sort of way.

Dear James Dashner: Thank you for writing such a fun book. I truly enjoyed Scorch Trials and cannot wait for Death Cure. Your book kept me company while I drove the lone highways of Utah and watched Mother Nature do her thing. Your book and I had a great time together. Also thanks for the phone call. I”m glad you’re my friend.

Dear Family: Thanks for not putting me up for adoption when I get weird. You guys keep me grounded.

Dear friends: Thanks for all the comments, private emails, and words of encouragement. I promise not to stop writing even though I did consider it for a few minutes. I appreciate all your support. You guys are like a lifetime supply of flashlights with batteries.

Dear Manuscript in Progress: Sorry for the trim yesterday, but you look much tidier now. Those forty pages made you look a shaggy guy wandering around with no sense of purpose. It’s true when they say, “this hurts me more than it hurts you.” so stop whining.

Dear House: No you aren’t going to be clean this week. You’d think you’d be used to it by now. Honestly, House, you whine as much as Manuscript in Progress.

Dear Me: Why are you on the Internet when you have Manuscript in Progress to get ready?

LTUE 2011

Hey! Two posts in one month! I almost seem like a committed blogger . . .

Ah commitment–such a fickle thing. 

The launch party for Hazzard Universe Book has finally been set in stone! It will be held at: Barnes & Noble Booksellers, Murray UT. On the corner of 5300 S and State St on Wednesday, March 9th from 6-8 pm. Kevin Wasden and I would be thrilled to have you join us to celebrate the beginnings of this series with us. We’ll have light refreshments, some door prizes, and be signing books!

Hazzardous Universe Book Two is finally over 40,000 words. And I started a new book yesterday. Mr. Wright came up with a title and the first line few pages just came to me and I had to hurry to get them written even though I’m on a deadline for this book, and even though I am on a deadline for another book. I also have a book trailer for Hazzardous Universe featuring several of the full page sketches Kevin has done for the interior.

I spent the weekend at the BYU fantasy and science fiction symposium of Life, the Universe, and Everything. I was on several panels and love being able to do that, but I also love being able to learn.

I learned a lot this year. I actually took notes. Something I came away with this time around is something I already knew but really struck home to me. It was from Tracy Hickman:

Being published isn’t important. It is nothing to be published; it is everything to be *read*

Wise words.

Saw the King’s Speech with Jessica Day George and Dan Willis and loved the movie. Loved loved loved it. It was poignant and rich. But it made me laugh a lot when, after a half hour of trailers and the movie FINALLY came on, Dan leaned over to Jessica and whispered, “I almost forgot why we were here!”

I love that LTUE means friends, laughing, Thai food, and books. Thank you to the committee who works so hard to keep the cooler in the green room stocked with Dr. Pepper. I sing praises to you. Honestly. Such. A. Good. Time.

Whitney Awards Finalist!

I am seriously beyond thrilled and excited, and humbled, and *relieved* to be a 2010 Whitney Awards finalist in the romance category for Cross My Heart!

There were so many great books this year who were nominees, and the list of finalists is inspiring. It’s nice to know I’ve already read well over half of them which means I won’t be as rushed as I read the rest of them. And how cool??? I am a finalist! I’m one of them! Woohoo!  In the world of writing where there are rejections at every level, it’s nice to get good news.

The Whitney committee is made up of some mighty fine people and I can’t even imagine how much work goes into running this thing, but I am incredibly grateful they take that time out of their lives and from their families to make this award possible. It’s a generous offering they give us, and they expect nothing in return. Three cheers for the committee. And for all those judges who worked so hard at getting all those books read. Thanks guys.

In other news, I am a third of the way finished with the second book to the Hazzardous Universe series. Woot! (Mr. Wright says you can’t say woot in public, but I’m sure it’s fine to do as long as you say, “excuse me” afterwards) 

The launch party for Hazzardous Universe is on March 9th–location to be announced. You definitely want to mark the date on the calendar, because  this book is out of this world amazing. I can’t even number how many shades of awesome this book is. Kevin Wasden’s art is fabulous and the writing in the book ain’t half bad either 😉 . There will be food and door prizes, and FUN. So come to the launch party–or feel incredibly lame and left out as you sit at home alone. Your choice.

And my daughter has decided on three universities to send applications to. Stanford, Harvard, and BYU Hawaii.

I checked into the tuition and living costs for her options and felt like one of those cartoons. You know . . . the ones where the eyes pop ten feet of their head and horns, sirens, and whistles sound all at once while the jaw drops to the floor. I am in the state of sticker-shock. I’m glad she’s smart and has a perfect 4.0 standing in school because she had BETTER be earning a scholarship or TEN scholarships to pay for this. It’s kind of ridiculously cool to think that a child of mine can consider applying to Harvard or Stanford, and knowing that wherever she applies–she will be accepted because she’s just that freaking amazing. I hope she chooses Harvard, because secretly (or not so secretly since this is a public blog and anyone can read this), I would love an excuse to visit Boston more often. BYU Hawaii is the cheapest of the three and would also be fun to visit. But the girl is majoring in math (seriously! where did this kid come from??) and Stanford and Harvard are better schools for that major. 

It was weird when the last semester grades came in for the Wright children and the lowest GPA was 3.6. For kicks, Mr. Wright and I went through our old journals and scrapbooks and found our own report cards. Yeah . . . we made a pact to never show these to the children until they are all grown and out of college. We’re a little mystified that these kids belong to us. If I didn’t have physical DNA evidence that they belonged to me, I’d swear they were adopted or something because they are so much *more* than I ever was.

Anyway, I am cutting into valuable writing time by blogging so I will end with the list of finalists for the Whitney Awards (please note how nice my name looks on the list ) Congratulations everyone!

Romance:

  • Courting Miss Lancaster, by Sarah Eden
  • Cross My Heart, by Julie Wright
  • The Legend of Shannonderry, by Carol Warburton
  • Luck of the Draw, by Rachael Renee Anderson
  • Meg’s Melody, by Kaylee Baldwin

Mystery/Suspense:

  • Cold As Ice, by Stephanie Black
  • Crossfire, by Traci Hunter Abramson
  • Murder by Design, by Betsy Brannon Green
  • A Time To Die, by Jeffrey Savage
  • Wrong Number, by Rachelle Christensen

Speculative:

  • Imprints, by Rachel Ann Nunes
  • Mr. Monster, by Dan Wells
  • Pathfinder, by Orson Scott Card
  • The Scorch Trials, by James Dashner
  • The Way of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson

Youth Fiction—Speculative:

  • Fablehaven 5, by Brandon Mull
  • Matched, by Ally Condie
  • Paranormalcy, by Kiersten White
  • The Forbidden Sea, by Sheila Nielson
  • The Fourth Nephite, Jeffrey Savage

Youth Fiction—General:

  • Glimpse, by Carol Lynch Williams
  • Missing in Action, by Dean Hughes
  • My Double Life, by Janette Rallison
  • The Healing Spell, by Kimberly Griffiths Little
  • Wolves, Boys, and Other Things That Might Kill Me, by Kristen Chandler

Historical:

  • Alma The Younger, by H.B. Moore
  • Oh Say Can You See?, by L.C. Lewis
  • The Sheen on the Silk, by Anne Perry
  • The Silence of God, by Gale Sears
  • Trespass, by Sandra Grey

General Fiction:

  • Band of Sisters, by Annette Lyon
  • Blink of an Eye, by Gregg Luke
  • The Cross Gardener, by Jason Wright
  • Finding Mercie, by Blaine Yorgason
  • Lucky Change, by Susan Law Corpany

Women of the Book Of Mormon Review

Okay, take a moment to ooh and aah over the cover, then get back to me and my review. Don’t worry, I’ll wait. I’m just generous like that.

In Heather Moore’s book, Women of the Book of Mormon, we are allowed glimpses into the lives of all the women who were mentioned throughout the entire Book of Mormon.  We learn about the twenty-four Lamanite women who were taken captive by Amulon and his band when they were found dancing by the river. We learn of Abish, King Lamoni’s wife, and of our first mother, Eve. Much of what is written in this book is background on the lives of the women from that time period. We learn about the daily work they had to do, the value they had in society, and the importance of the faith they taught to their children.

Heather’s previous books show the possible trials and faith of the women of the scriptures, which has been one of the many reasons I have found myself drawn to her writings. What was fun with this book going over the intimate implications of these women was the comfort women gain from other women. In a very real way, we need each other. We need those examples of faith to carry us through times that are too difficult for us to handle alone.

I found it interesting how Sariah gained comfort going through her trials by leaning on the faith of other women mentioned in the scriptures. I especially liked the reference to that mother we all share, Eve. It never occurred to me to think of the pain she had as mother raising Cain and then losing him to the jealousy and hatred he had for his brother. Heather points out that not all of us grow up with a mother who teaches the belief in Christ, but that we all share our first mother who stands as a supreme example to all of us.

There is an astounding amount of research put into this book and it’s obvious Heather as meticulous at crafting each segment.

A quote from the back cover:

Explore the lives, circumstances, and choices of women in the Book of Mormon in this uplifting and inspiring volume that illustrates the parallel between the lives of the women of the Book of Mormon and LDS women today. With new insights on practically every page, author Heather B. Moore explores the written and unwritten stories of the prominent women in the Book of Mormon—taking familiar material and providing vivid details about family dynamics, domestic practices, and other aspects of daily life. By applying historical and cultural contexts to the situations of women like Sariah, Abish, Eve, Mary and the faithful mothers of the stripling warriors, you will peek beneath the surface of the scriptural accounts to better understand both the righteous women of the Book of Mormon—and the women who didn’t use their agency wisely.

I recommend this book to any who desire a better understanding of what it might have been like to have been a woman throughout the ages of scriptural history. I walked away from reading this book edified and expanded in my knowledge, and appreciate the opportunity to have read it.

Scary Stories

Why is it that whenever I read a book written by one of my friends that is classified as frightening (the book, not the friend), does my power always go off, leaving me in total blackness and terror? Seriously, I am determined to hate both Jeffrey Savage with his Dark Memories, and now Dan Wells with his I am Not a Serial Killer, for providing me with moments of total and complete, mind numbing, scream-your-throat-to-raw-hamburger terror.

I hate being afraid. Seriously. Hate. It.  I don’t watch scary movies. I don’t read scary books. And I determined a long time ago that I would never WRITE anything scary.

Which is why yesterday is so baffling to me.

My brother called me with an idea for a book, one that I’d already considered and cast away because it wandered into the realm of scary, and I don’t write scary. I told him I don’t write scary and confirmed it with him several times throughout our conversation because I wanted to make sure he understood I meant it. Then we hung up.

And the idea banged around in my grey matter while I did dishes, while I vacuumed, while I got dressed, and while I sorted laundry. You see I told him that IF I were to write the story, it would have to be different from all the things that have been done before. It would have to be a YA book because I just don’t understand adults, and it would have to start out well enough to snatch the reader immediately. I gave him a long list of rules for such a book and all the things that would have to go into it.

And my mind couldn’t let go of how I could write the story and make it fit into all those rules. I called my brother back an hour later and gave him a brief synopsis of a storyline that would work.

He laughed that it only took me an hour to hammer out the storyline.

I hung up.

And wrote the first chapter.

It’s a great first chapter. It’s a great story.

Curses. I guess I do write scary stories after all.

The bad thing? The REALLY bad thing? Mr. Wright was out of town last night. I put the Wright brothers to bed and reached my hand out to turn out my bedroom light. My hand froze over the switch, hovering and shaking as though I were battling some unseen force (this force I like to call my personal irrational fear).

The personal irrational fear won over common sense. I slept with my stupid light on. I guess I write scary stories pretty well, because my first chapter scared the snot out of me.

Oh for the love of . . .

. . . my kids.

Mr. Wright is out of town tonight, so it’s just the Wright brothers and me.  Already we’ve argued about what will be on the television while I make dinner. The argument was over whether we’d watch the Disney Channel or Unwrapped on the food channel. I lost.

So guess what we’re watching . . .

Yep. Unwrapped on the food channel. I swear these children are not mine. Why would they want to learn something on TV when they can have mindless entertainment? So, instead of a silly but fun show about teenage wizards, we’re learning about how the PEZ dispenser came into being and about some odd new pancake product called Batter Blaster.

The elder Wright Brother wants Batter Blaster bad. He is our family pancake maker and the Batter Blaster apparently is the newest rage in pancake making. I hadn’t made my first pancake until I was in college, and here is my ten year old, scoping out new ways to fine tune his breakfast making experiences.

The younger Wright brother has determined he wants an edible bouquet instead of cake for his birthday because it’s healthier (fruit instead of pastries), and he no longer drinks soda pop because he thinks soda pop is bad for you. Honestly! I did not teach them any of this. They are totally on their own when it comes to this total weirdness. I now get lectures about my Dr. Pepper habits.

The kids teach me a lot as we move through our time together, but I’ve taught them some pretty valuable things too, such as:

  • How to cuss in traffic
  • How to brush teeth
  • How to critique the dialogue in movies out loud in the theater
  • How to throw tantrums
  • How to read
  • How to irritate people with semantics
  • How to pick up litter
  • How to be a sore loser at Monopoly (which I refuse to play with them anymore because they gang up on me)

As you can see from the list, some of the stuff they learned from me is actually useful. I miss the daughter a lot and, in spite of teaching mostly less than useful life skills, still wish she was around for me to teach. She’ll be home for the summer in just two and a half months. Yay! This whole child rearing business is one well worth taking on.

Oh and I finished writing the manuscript, Spell Check, last month and have already started my new WIP tentatively called Dream Writers. I’m into it nearly fifty pages and so far loving the manuscript.

Whitney Awards!!!

Oh wow . . . my book Eyes Like Mine is actually a finalist for the Whitney Award!!!! I had so completely prepared myself for disappointment and overeating while watching movies with no value to them today. I am in absolute shock. I think I’ll snap out of it soon and be bouncing off the walls, but for now–just . . . wow!

And I’m trying really hard not to think of how pretty that glass book with my name on it would look sitting on my desk . . .

But at least go look and see how pretty my book looks sitting in the row of finalists in the general fiction category:

http://www.whitneyawards.com/2009finalists.html

YAY!

My Fair Godmother–Review

You read that right; Chrissy, the godmother, didn’t pay much attention to studies at school which is why she graduated as  just a fair, rather than a fairy godmother. Janette Rallison has written one of the best turn-a-fairy-tale-on-its-head books ever.

Writing humor is truly hard to do. Janette is a flawless comedian while weaving a story about characters you love, root for, and feel panicked for when their situations of facing down a cyclops, dragon, and evil stepmothers who wander around at bals with poisoned apples. And in the background, so unobtrusive you would likely not notice unless your me who is always looking for the deeper meaning, you find a story about the bond of sisterhood and the pitfalls of wanting to get back at someone for hurting you.

I loved this book! I envy Janette’s ability to tell a tale, besides the fact that I envy her her goodness of heart, and amazing personality. I heartily recommend this book to anyone and everyone!

 Finding your one true love can be a Grimm experience!

 

After her boyfriend dumps her for her older sister, sophomore Savannah Delano wishes she could find a true prince to take her to the prom. Enter Chrissy (Chrysanthemum) Everstar: Savannah’s gum-chewing, cell phone–carrying, high heel-wearing Fair Godmother. Showing why she’s only Fair—because she’s not a very good fairy student—Chrissy mistakenly sends Savannah back in time to the Middle Ages, first as Cinderella, then as Snow White. Finally she sends Tristan, a boy in Savannah’s class, back instead to turn him into her prom-worthy prince. When Savannah returns to the Middle Ages to save Tristan, they must team up to defeat a troll, a dragon, and the mysterious and undeniably sexy Black Knight. Laughs abound in this clever fairy tale twist from a master of romantic comedy.

Honeslty people, you need to read this. You will never be sorry you did, but I pity those of you who don’t.

http://www.amazon.com/My-Fair-Godmother-Janette-Rallison/dp/0802797806