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LTUE Because Life is the Universe and Everything

Don’t panic, it’s just that time of year where I get to be with *my* people–the lovers of science fiction and fantasy. I am super excited to go this year because I moved so far away from my writer friends that I haven’t seen many of them in the last year or longer. If you want to write in, or take part in the artistic endeavors of, the science fiction and fantasy genre, you need to be at LTUE this weekend, February 13-15, 2014. Orson Scott Card is the guest of honor along with other guest being: Brandon Sanderson, Larry Correia, L.E. Modesitt, Dave Wolverton, Jessica Day George, (a gazillion other friends that I can’t name right now because I am on a DEADLINE that must be met), and ME! If you want to hear me speak feel free to join the fun. Here’s my schedule:

Friday, February 14, 2014

  • 10:00 am–Classic Juvenile Fantasy
  • 6:00 pm–How to Write a Hero
  • 7:00 pm–Co-authoring Dos and Don’ts

Saturday, February 15, 2014

  • 9:00 am–Character Development
  • 6:00 pm–Author’s Think Tank Podcast

And here’s a link with full schedules and further information on the symposium:http://ltue.net/

See you there!

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.

 

 

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

 

My New Book! Victoria’s Promise

A luxurious mansion. Thirty stunning bachelorettes. One very eligible bachelor. All of the ingredients are in place for a successful reality dating show, and behind the scenes, Tori Winters is set to pull the romantic strings as assistant director of Vows. Despite her distaste for public exhibitions of love—which spelled the death of her last relationship—Tori intends to give the public exactly what they want: scintillating footage of a bevy of beauties vying for the attention of Christopher Caine. But Chris, a consummate Southern gentleman and the star of Vows, seems almost too good to be true—and soon, even Tori finds herself falling under his spell. Despite legal obligations to avoid fraternizing with the talent, it’s clear her feelings are anything but unrequited. With the support of her friends in the Newport Ladies Book Club, Tori must make a life-altering decision: is she willing to jeopardize all she’s worked for in order to embrace her own fairy-tale ending?

I confess that it’s hard to not call this book Victoria’s Secret since the book that came before this one in the series is Ruby’s Secret and since that is a major national chain with serious brand recognition, but I will overcome this and call the book by the title the publisher has given. However . . . if you ever hear me slip up, feel free to giggle at me and then forgive me. I do not always behave intelligently. Regardless of all that, I can PROMISE that this is a fun read, one you will enjoy, with plenty of heart and laughs. Let the romance begin!
Victoria’s Promise releases to stores January 15th! So be on the look out for it!

Good Writers Use . . .

Good writers use pens. That’s the advice from my tenth grade English teacher, Mr. Cowden. I know I shred this man a lot due to the fact that he singlehandedly tried to put a stop to the writing career dreams of my youth. But I thought of something he’d said all those years ago that struck me as weird today while I edited over some of the new pages I’d written. He said something to the effect of: “Good writers always write in pen because it shows they have the confidence and education to know that they will get it right the first time.”

I wanted to be a confident and educated writer. I wanted to be a *good* writer most of all. I wrote with a pen from then on. My first three and a half books were written by hand and all in pen. I have a dozen notebooks filled with pen-scrawled words (and scratched out words and even scratched out pages). It’s been years since my handwritten manuscript days, years since a pen was used for anything more than signing a book.

The computer is my new pen. Bless the smart people who created word processing.

Today, I deleted a whole lot. The deletes made the dialogue smooth, the narrative stronger. And I thought back to that day with Mr. Cowden. I thought back to how on some level I must have respected him as a teacher–must have believed his declaration that good writers use pens. Why else would I write with such an instrument for so many years after his class?

I declare my independence from such bad advice.

Why use a pen when a pencil is so obviously superior? A pencil comes with an editing device called an ERASER. Good writers should use pencils. Because good writers know the importance of a good edit. It isn’t about the arrogance of putting an idea down right the first time. It’s about getting it right in the end.

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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.

Launch Party for Olivia!

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

Olivia

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

Josi and Julie Booktour

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

Josi grinning in evil joy

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

Drive by Photo

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

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

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

Four Women.

Four Books.

Four lives changed through friendship.

See! I told you it was brilliant!

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

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

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

Saturday February 18th  1-3 PM

Deseret Book  1110 FORT UNION BLVD  MIDVALE, UT  84047

There will be food and prizes and fun and BOOKS!

Please come join me in the celebration!

Dave Farland’s New Series

Dave Farland has  a new fantasy called Nightengale, published by East India Press www.nightingalenovel.com
Nightingale launches a marvelous contemporary fantasy for young adults, a grand adventure overflowing with wonders.  Alternately laugh-out-loud funny and terrifying, there’s a sweetness and passion to this novel that keeps readers up long into the night. This looks like something entirely new. It’s an enhanced novel which takes a bold step into the future of pulishing. I’m a fan of Dave’s works and am excited to read his new novel. I have a reluctant early teen reader in my house that this particular book is sure to be a hit with. Go check it out!
“A thrilling ride, with plenty of twists, action, and amazing characters.  I ripped through it.  Highly recommended.”
– James Dashner
New York Times Bestseller
“A beautifully crafted experience: stunning art, haunting music and delightfully subtle animated accents all accompany a riveting and deeply human story. There is (quite literally) nothing
else like it.”
– Editionals
“Farland is simply one of the best sci-fi and fantasy writers alive.”
– Orson Scott Card
Hugo, Nebula, and World
Fantasy Award Winner

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 🙂

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?