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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.

Writing Rocks

Today I found out my book Hazzardous Universe is being featured on the Seagull Book and Tape home page of their website near the bottom.  I don’t think that’s ever happened with one of my books before. How cool is that???? The book is being featured alongside the video my publisher did of Kevin Wasden and me. The sound is really low so turn your speakers up. The background music is fun.

Go have a look: http://www.seagullbook.com/

I am lame in the video a little, but I am lame all the time so it won’t be a surprise to anyone.

Book two to the Hazzardous Universe is done and into the publisher, and I’m a little antsy to start working on book three. So much fun stuff ahead!

Something I discovered while working on my newest book today was that sometimes accidentally adding a letter to a word can really really change the meaning to a sentence. My main character went from being busy to being busty. No surgery involved 😉 Glad to have caught that one.

I’m almost finished with my latest Work in Progress and am beyond thrilled about it. It’s one book that will be part of a four book series. The other three books are being written by Josi Kilpack, Heather Moore, and Annette Lyon. I am so excited for all the coolness of this series! It’s women’s fiction that deals with relationships and the importance of friendship. It is such an honor to work and write alongside the three women who have changed and altered my writing path for the better.  They are all such incredible writers as well as incredible friends that it humbles me and fills me with gratitude to be associated with them.

We’ve had a few writing get-togethers, which includes food, laughing, talking, more laughing, and actual writing. So cool to work and collaborate with great minds.

I’ve been thinking a lot about collaboration lately and found that my experience has been really positive with working with others. Kevin was and is an absolute joy. He’s been really wonderful to let me have creative freedom in writing the story of Hap Hazzard and Tara Jordan. And now, working with Josi, Annette, and Heather, I’ve found even more joy. Working with creative people who all respect each other really is key. That’s how collaboration can work. If everyone is there for the sake of the project and can put their own egos aside–the project suddenly becomes a life unto itself and creativity flows.

I always warn people when they mention they’re planning on collaborating on a project. There are so many things that can go wrong. I’ve seen friendships die on the vine due to projects that went awry. But my own personal experiences have been so phenomenal. I’d love to take the credit and say it’s because I’m just so darn easy to work with, but really . . . the opposite is true. I am sometimes beyond lame. I think my collaborations have worked because I’ve surrounded myself with good people. They make up the differences where I fall short.

I guess that’s the secret to successful collaboration–work hard, be willing to make concessions, and surround yourself with good people. Today is just a good day and writing rocks.

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!

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.

The Hazzardous Universe

The phone call from my editor: “Hey Jules, how are you doing?”

“Good . . . I am good, aren’t I?”

“Well that depends on if you’re okay with an early 2011 release of The Hazzardous Universe . . . we were thinking February.”

This is where I rupture my editor’s eardrums with my girl screams and do a happy dance that makes me look maniacal on the front porch of my country store.

This moment has been a long time in the making. In 2007, I went to LTUE (Life, The Universe, and everything). I spoke on several panels, sold a bunch of books, and made some new friends. One of those friends was an artist. His name was Kevin Wasden. He drew me a little dragon, and a little ogre, and bought one of my books.

Several days later, he wrote me an email, asking me to lunch. Turns out he had been sketching a particular character for years and he wanted to see this character in a book. But he was an artist, not a writer. He needed a writer. And since he’d bought my book, went home, and read it, he decided I was the writer he needed.

We met for lunch and he showed me all his ideas for this character. The sketches were amazing and I had to say yes to the project because only an idiot would turn down a character with a wicked awesome name like Hap Hazzard.

The book has been through several revisions and morphing as the story grew beyond just a single book. We’d have to do a series. I finished book one and outlined the series–deciding we’d write the next book when the first book sold.

We’ve had a LOT of interest over the last couple of years, but it seemed an author/artist combo was an impossible sale to publishing houses who already had their stable of artists. No one was willing to take us as a team.

Until now.

My editor (Kirk Shaw–the brilliant)  asked me to send it to him–even though my publishing house didn’t do science fiction. He sent it off to readers, got amazing reviews back and prepared a kick butt presentation to a marketing board who felt wary of embarking into a genre they’d never done before.

And bless them all, they were interested. Interested enough to want to meet with Kevin and I and hear more. The meeting was awesome, Kevin shone like  a rock star, and they told us they’d discuss it again in their committee meeting.

The next 24 hours were nerve-wracking, and ended with the above phone call conversation. Kevin and I have been officially accepted as a team and will be able to do the book as we envisioned in the beginning. The first book of the Hazzardous Universe will release in February of 2011 and it is going to be awesome!

I am humbled and thrilled that my publishing house believes in me and is taking this chance to sail into new waters with me. They are awesome!

Seven months until blast off! I’d better get writing book 2!