Monday, November 26, 2012

New Challenges: First Person

by Annette

For the non-writers out there, one of the big decisions novelists have to make before beginning a work is what point of view the story will be told in. The most common points of view in modern fiction are first person and close third person.

Third person is when scenes are told as "he said" and "she did' and so forth. Close (or tight) third person is what modern readers are most accustomed to reading, when individual scenes get into the head of one character at a time. Some books have multiple point-of-view (POV) characters, such as a romance where the scenes switch between the hero's POV and the heroine's POV.

A great example of tight third is the Harry Potter series, which is told almost exclusively from Harry's POV. We get a few scenes here and there (usually at the beginning of books) from other points of view (the prime minister, of Voldemort himself), but most of it is Harry's.

What we don't see in those books is first person.

First person is when the character is narrating the book as if it happened them personally. "I went to the store," and "I fell down." A popular series written in first person is The Hunger Games trilogy.

An odd quirk exists with first person: For several reasons, which I won't get into here due to space, first person tends to be one of the hardest POVs to do well.

Ironically, first person tends to be the POV of choice for beginning writers, because it seems like it'll be easy.

I have to raise my hand here as one of the newbies who thought first person would be easy. One of my early manuscripts was first person, and I loved the immediacy it brought to the story. But there were pitfalls, many of them, and eventually, I realized that the story would be served better by third person. I rewrote the whole thing (which, by the way, is almost as time-intensive as writing a whole new book), and it was eventually published.

That book was originally drafted close to fifteen years ago. After rewriting the whole thing, I pretty much swore off first person, knowing that (1) it lacked certain tools I liked to use as a writers and (2) I didn't have the chops to pull it off.

Enter The Newport Ladies Book Club. 

I don't remember how the point of view discussion happened, but we agreed that each book would be in first person, from the title character's perspective.

Whoever had the idea first was right on the money: To show just how differently women see the world, and even the same situation, the books really did need first person.

So, after over a decade of swearing off the POV, I was faced with writing a book in first person. Yikes.

Turns out that writing and publishing a whole bunch of books and editing professionally for years helps hone a writer's skills. I'd learned a lot about the craft, and I didn't fall into the same pitfalls I had before.

For that matter, first person was fun while writing Paige. One of the best parts is that I didn't have to worry about how another character came across, which tends to be an issue with first person. The other characters had their own books to tell their stories! No, I had to worry about one character, and one character only: Paige.

Somehow I found myself diving into her mind and understanding her in a way I never expected. Early in the drafting process, I found myself slipping into third person here and there, but eventually, first person came naturally. The story flowed. I laughed with Paige. I cried with her. And when the end came, I was right there with her.

The only part that took a lot of work after that was the opening chapter, which I must have rewritten close to a dozen times before I felt it worked. But that's not a point-of-view issue. That's a me issue. Openings are my Achilles' Heel.

I had so much fun writing in first person, that my next work-in-progress adopted that POV without me giving it much thought. Then I wrote Ilana, also in first person, and also a great learning experience.

Alas, that other manuscript has fallen into the same pit at my initial first-person attempt: I've decided that it needs to be third person after all. I'm in the trenches of revision with it right now. While I'm sure I'll reach moments of wanting to bang my head against a wall in frustration, I know the end result will be worth it, and for now, as I write new scenes from a different POV (one that didn't exist originally), I'm having a ball, knowing that the story is coming to life in a way it hadn't before.

I don't know what points of view my writing future will hold, but for some reason, The Newport Ladies Book Club is where my first person efforts just work, and my other writing, at least, so far, does better in third.

Just one more example of how this whole project has taken on a life and certain magic of its own.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Book Club Highlight: The GG's Book Club

by Heather Moore

Last week, I was invited to speak to a book club that was holding a retreat in beautiful Deer Valley, Utah. Book Club member, Mary Margaret, wanted to surprise the group of ladies with a guest author appearance. She also asked me to bring a couple of my books. Of course I brought ATHENA, knowing it would fit right in with a book club (wink, wink).

Once a year, the GG Book Club (The Giller Girls) travel to a destination for a weekend retreat. Their group was started in 2001 with six women in Ontario, Canada, and they continue to meet once a month to discuss books. The monthly meetings developed into close personal friendships, sharing recipes, reading great books, and eventually putting together their first retreat.

In fact, three of the women wrote a book about this incredible club that includes book club recipes, summary and ratings of books read, and their amazing adventures.

Now authors, Perry Jongsma, Pat Maaten, and Kathleen Mundy, are doing book signings and booking speaking engagements about their book club and book.

These ladies even put together a beautiful website for their book Reading Between the Wines: The Story of a Traveling Book Club:

The GG's Book Club uses the element of surprise in their meetings The hostess chooses the book in advance, and the ladies arrive not knowing which book they'll be presented with, or even in which manner it will be introduced--which has become quite a creative event.

They live by the GG's Book Club 10 Commandments:
1. You are priority #1. This is your night.
2. Fun is a must.
3. LOL (laugh out loud) at each other and yourself.
4. Digression is accepted and expected.
5. Never refuse a compliment or be reluctant to offer one.
6. What happens at GG Book Club stays at Book Club.
7. Read between the wines.
8. Where the boys aren't and never will be!
9. Never apologize for your book selection.
10. Completing the book is expected but not mandatory.

Favorite Book Club reads include:

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

When I asked them what the secret to running a book club for over ten years, they said it was willingness to try new books, commitment to the club, and being able to accept each others' differences.

During our discussion, the energy and the friendship between the women was tangible. And it reminded me of why my co-authors and I decided to write The Newport Ladies Book Club series in the first place. Not only because we were friends and had enjoyed enriched lives because of it, but because we wanted to write about one of the greatest blessings in our lives. Then transfer that to characters in a book club who are brought together for a single common purpose in the love of reading, but walk away with so much more.

Monday, November 12, 2012

From my First Book Group to Newport Ladie's Book Club

By Josi S. Kilpack
I joined my first book group when I was about 23 years old. I lived in a ‘starter’ neighborhood in Draper where there were a lot of young moms like me who wanted things to do, were making some of our first adult friendships, and had energy I stand in awe of now that I’m pushing forty and try to be in bed by 9:30. There were twelve of us in the group and we met once a month, taking turns choosing the book we would read and discuss. There were always refreshments.

I had been a voracious reader for many years before I joined this group, but I tended to read rather narrowly; when I read Regency Romance I ONLY read Regency Romance. When I read biographies, I spent months just reading biographies. I didn’t follow Oprah’s book club or read reviews, instead I would read everything by a particular author, or other books in that specific genre. I had never been involved in book discussions until being a part of this group, and it was fascinating to hear what other people saw that I’d missed, or share a point I noted that no one else had seen. I read my first (and to date, only) Jane Austin novel because of that group. Most of the books we read were outside of my ‘sphere’ and it helped me realize just how much is out there.  

A year or so into our meetings, I had to take a break from the group when I was put on bed rest for a pregnancy. It was a difficult time and, honestly, missing book group was the least of my worries. I read a lot of books during this time and eventually started writing what would become my first published novel, Earning Eternity. I didn’t set out to write a novel; I though I had an idea for an interesting short story, but it grew and grew and grew and by the time my son was six weeks old, I had written a 300 page novel I had no idea what to do with. I told one friend about this book I’d written; she told someone else, who told someone else and at the March 1999 book group meeting someone asked me about it. Once I admitted what I had done (like it’s a bad thing, right?) they asked to read it for the next month’s book club. My sister helped me print up 12 copies of the book that I then handed out to these women. They became the first people to ever give me feedback. They also encouraged me to get this book published. They changed my life.

Fifteen years later, I get to be a part of a project that writes about members a book group. Funny how full those circles can be sometimes.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Daisy and Me

By Josi

I get asked a lot if my life is like that of my characters. For the most part, it isn’t, and that applies to Daisy. I did not get pregnant as a teenager, I have never been divorced, I’m not a snazzy dresser who gets my hair done regularly, I don’t have a career like she does, I didn’t take my kids to daycare, I’m not catholic, I have not left the faith of my youth, I have a good relationship with my parents, and I will not have any ‘surprise’ children—a hysterectomy guaranteed that. For the most part, Daisy and I are very different women. But there are some similarities.
I am blonde, I like to keep my hair long, I drive a red Prius, I have daughters, I am ambitious, and I have had my struggles with my role as a mother. I might go into more detail on that in another post, but in a nutshell I thought I would “enjoy” motherhood more than I do. I feel all squirmy inside to say that, because I don’t want it to reflect negatively on my children or call in to question whether I’m happy with my choices in regard to motherhood—my kids are great and I wouldn’t change my role for anything in the world. But motherhood is waaaaay harder than I expected to be, and not nearly as fun as I had hoped it would be. Daisy feels the same way, and though her journey as a mother has had much more angst and complexity than mine has, as I wrote her feelings about waiting for her role to be done, they were reflective of the same things I have felt at times over the last 20 years.
In the story, Daisy experiences a change and though hers is more forced than mine, I’ve experienced some similarities. For many years I have counted down for my kids to start leaving home. I once saw a sign that said “Dear kids, check out is at 18” and I wanted one of my own. I anticipated all this freedom and less things to worry about all my insecurities associated with my role as mother would go away. About five years ago my husband said “Do you realize that we only have 5 Christmases with Breanna at home.” We were lying in bed and I think my heart stopped for a second. It was the first of many times since that I felt this panic of “The end.” And my feelings toward motherhood shifted a little bit. It shifted some more when I ended up making some connections to my own withdrawal at times from my family—therapy can be a very eye-opening experience. For the last two years I’ve felt the time my daughter leaves creeping up on me and I have found myself wishing I could have a do-over. I’ve wondered how much I missed because I didn’t love it and was counting down for it to be over with. I’m not one to swim in regrets, my journey is my journey and I have learned much through my time at the University of Mom. But writing Daisy was a very personal journey for me. It’s a story of a woman who has worked hard and done everything she needed to do without looking back, without questioning herself, and then she gets thrown into the biggest question of all—can I be better than I’ve been?
Though my trials aren’t the same as Daisy’s, I know that everyone has those pinnacle moments of life when they find themselves reevaluating, questioning, wondering at what’s happened and where it might take them. They can be scary moments. Sometimes the answers are right there waiting for us, but more often than not we have to make changes and compromises and dig deep to get through those things. Sometimes we end up in a completely different place than we started at.
It’s my hope that Daisy’s story will reflect that process that all of us go through. It’s my hope that watching the other members of the book club help her and lift her up will reflect the need we all have for friends when we face our own demons. It’s my hope that even if you don’t agree with who Daisy is or what she chooses to do with her future, you will understand her and learn something from her. She taught me a whole lot.
My daughter started college in June, living on campus an hour from home. It’s been far harder than I expected it to be but I am attempting to learn everything I can from the experience and use it to be the mom I never thought I’d be. My role as Mom has taken on a lot of new dimension over the last little while and I'm anticipating even more of that in the future. Which is a good thing. People often say they learn a lot from their children, I have certainly learned a lot from raising them and I anticipate many more lessons ahead.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Four Musketeers

by Annette Lyon

Last month I talked about how the nature of our collaboration is one thing that made the Newport Ladies project work. I also mentioned in passing that the other thing was who my collaborators were.

This post answers that second part of the equation. It's adapted from a post that originally appeared on my personal blog June 2010, shortly after the concept of the Newport Ladies Book Club was born but before we began heavy work on it.

Four Musketeers

When I was a kid, friendship meant playing house, roaming the neighborhood, doing bake sales, being invited to one another's parties. When my best friend didn't invite me to a Christmas party, saying she was told to invite other friends, and then I saw them come caroling to my house? Yeah, it nearly killed that little nine-year-old in me.

As a high schooler, friendship was defined largely by who accepted me into their group. For the most part, that meant friends I hung out with on weekends. They're the ones I shared all of the high school drama with (of which there was much), the ones I always, always worried would nudge me out of the inner circle because they'd figure out that I wasn't cool enough and didn't belong.

During that time, I had an intense sense of loyalty and always supported my friends, whether it was in a performance, recital, birthday, or even for a competition in another city. (They were freakishly talented, so that was quite the commitment.) I gave and gave and gave. Then I got horribly confused when that kind of support was never reciprocated.

I remember a dress rehearsal in the school auditorium for a dance concert I was in. A couple of "best friends" were at the school at the exact same time, in the same wing of the school. They knew I was about to go on stage. I'd learned enough by this point to not expect them to come to the concert itself, but I was hurt when they didn't bother to even peek in the door to at least see the dress rehearsal of one number. They were right in the hall. All it would have taken was turning a door knob.

This kind of thing happened a lot. I'm a very slow learner. They meant well, and I'm sure they didn't realize their actions (or lack thereof) hurt. They probably had a better sense of what over commitment means than I did.

And yet.

Eventually, near the end of my senior year, there was some big seminary thing. I think there was a slide show or some such, and in the background was the classic Mormon pop song that goes, "Be that friend, be that kind, that you hope you might find. And you'll always have a best friend, come what may."

Yeah, right, I thought.

It was the first time I'd admitted to myself that no matter how hard you work on being a good friend, you can't control someone else. You can't make them be friends back in the way you'd want them to. The way, frankly, I needed them to.

So I sat in the back of the room and bawled, knowing that the lyrics were a load of garbage. I was the best friend I could possibly be, but I'd been kicked around over the years.

Much of the time, I didn't know if I had a group I belonged to, let alone a best friend. (People who knew me then would be surprised to hear all this, I'm sure. I hid the angst well.)

I left the room not knowing what friendship really meant.

Things only got worse when I was the second of our group to get married. There's been a lot of finger-pointing since about the period immediately following my wedding, but the upshot is that, for whatever reason, I was clearly no longer part of that circle. There was a big disconnect between me and them until the others married and had kids. That's when we finally had common ground again (we could share potty-training war stories).

However, I had one friend who remained single. She never stopped talking to me just because I had a ring on my left finger. I don't recall her ever acting weird after the wedding or after I became a mom. She never changed. She was my tender mercy (and was in high school more than once, and has been a several times since).

The next deep friend connection I had was several years later. I served in a Young Women presidency where I bonded with the other presidency members in a remarkable way. After our release, we stayed close. But when the former president was moving away and I said good-bye, I walked home hyperventilating with wracking sobs. I knew that such a friendship was rare and priceless, and that as much as we cared about each another, we'd never have the same relationship after she left the state. We don't.

I've had other dear friendships, many that span years. Today, my critique group is made up of people I consider some of my dearest friends, including that rare occurrence, the male friend. I am lucky enough to have two of them, and they're both like awesome extra brothers. I have another friend  I've been close to since we lived next door as newlyweds.

For me, the definitions of friendship have continued to undergo many iterations over the years.

My current view includes all of this and more:
  • A true friend might not be a buddy who has known you most of your life.
  • Someone who is nice 95% of the time but manages to twist a knife say, annually, is not a friend.
  • You can live in the same area for years but never truly be friends with neighbors, even if everyone is friendly and gets along. (Friendly does not equate friendship.)
  • You must earn the label of friend.
  • If someone who uses that label is really a friend of convenience, he or she might stab you in the back or climb over you to get what they want.
  • I tend to be way too real for a lot of people, which has caused me no end of trouble, and has likely lost me some shallower friends. True friends like me, warts and all. (I have lots of warts.)
  • I have a  difficult time making friends, largely because I'm shy but don't look like it. I've been called "stuck-up" many painful times. The reality is that I don't ever feel superior to someone; I almost always feel inferior and unable to introduce myself or open up. 
  • The most surprising element of friendship of late: I can love (and be loved in return) by women I've never met, thanks to blogging. (You know who you all are. You truly enrich my life. I've had the joy of meeting some of these friends in person recently. A joy.)
The point of all this (I swear, there is one):

I am more and more grateful for three special women who are true friends. We've known one another a varying number of years, but less then a decade in every case. We're separated geographically (we're all in the same state, but in some cases, hours away from one another). Each one has walked a different path with me, shared things unique to them and our friendships.

Yet the four of us as a group are close in a way that almost defies logic.

These women lift me. They encourage me. If I'm having an off day, they don't get offended. Instead, they come to see what they can do to help. They offer support and love and understanding. Often, as a group.

They're never more than a phone call or an e-mail (or a text or a tweet) away. They provide listening ears. They give needed hugs. They make me smile and laugh. And because we're all in the same "weird" industry, they understand me, the way I think, and my feelings, in a way few can. Sometimes, just hanging out and laughing together is enough to lighten my load, because of who they are and what they represent:

True Friends.

Because the truth is, they know me (frighteningly well), and that means they're starkly aware of all those warts that often turn others away.

But they love me anyway.

Of late, I've found myself regularly saying prayers of gratitude for Josi, Julie, and Heather.

I love you guys. Thank you for who you are, what you represent, what you've been to me, what you continue to give me, and for what you put up with. I really don't know what I'd do without you.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Pictures from ATHENA Book Launch!

What a great night. We had the ATHENA launch at the Fort Union Deseret Book, which is the bookstore that has hosted all of the Newport Ladies Book Club launches. Josi wasn't able to come since she had booked a trip to see the Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque. (If you've read her mystery novel Tres Leches Cupcakes, you'll know the connection.)

Here are the pictures!

 We all signed a collection of books (Josi did beforehand), and 3 sets were given away as prizes.

Because the Fort Union store agreed to let us have the launch on Oct 6, which is their semi-annual Ladies Night, the publisher had to send the book to press a month early. Copies are only available at this store until the official release month of November.

Our official launch picture--everyone holding ATHENA! (Heather, Julie, Annette)

Now we are holding the entire set! And just FYI, this first set of 4 covers the first 4 months of book club for Olivia, Daisy, Paige & Athena. The next set of 4 will cover the next 4 months and will contain Ilana, Ruby, Shannon & Victoria's stories.

 It was great talking to readers. This is Diony George's mom visiting from Alaska.

I think people who love books are always drawn to each other.

Not sure how I feel about this one. My girls stopped to visit (Rose on left, Dana on right, who I dedicated ATHENA to) . . . but then Julie sneaked in and posed behind us.

Author Lisa Mangum was there for Ladies Night as well, signing her new YA love story, AFTER HELLO. (Annette, Julie, Heather, Lisa)

Notice the tin of baklava on the table (from my mom). In ATHENA, her mom is a great cook and one of Athena's favorite desserts is her mom's baklava. Recipe is at the back of the book.

And finally, photographer Heather Gardner took this lovely picture. She has come to our launches and several of my other book signings.

It was a great night and we're grateful for everyone's support and enthusiasm for this series! It wouldn't be successful without our readers!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Winner of ATHENA Launch Contest!

Thanks to all who helped spread the word about the ATHENA launch (which is today, Saturday, 6-8 p.m. at the Fort Union Deseret Book).

Since I dedicated ATHENA to my daughter, Dana, I let her draw the name!

I laughed when I saw that it was Rachel Williamson DeVaughn, because she did technically have the most entries, so I guess the odds really were in her favor.

Congrats Rachel!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Spread the Love Contest!

ATHENA's release date is November, but readers will get a change to buy an early copy at the October 6th Book Launch!

The book launch is at the same store where we held the others: Fort Union Deseret Book. 6:00-8:00 during their Ladies Night celebration, so there will be other authors/artists there, refreshments, and lots of fun.

We're holding another spread-the-love contest, and the winner gets the following from Heather Moore:
  • The e-book of A Timeless Romance Anthology: Winter Collection
  • Paperback copy of Daughters of Jared
  • Hard cover of Christ's Gifts to Women
How to enter:
  Each day from now until Friday, October 5th, share the information about the launch, whether in your own words or with a link to this post.
  Do so on Facebook, Twitter, Google +, or on your personal blog. Each time you mention it, let us know either in a comment here or by emailing Heather: heather (at) hbmoore (dot) com, so we can track the numbers. If you tweet about the launch, be sure to use the hash tag #AthenaLaunch (that'll get you an extra entry). The hash tag will help us track entries!
  Each social media mention is worth one entry (two if it's Twitter and the hash tag is used). A blog post with all the relevant detail and a link back here is worth FIVE entries.
  So help us spread the word, and then on October, please come to the Fort Union Deseret Book! Three of the four Newport Ladies authors will be there (Josi will be out of town).

Monday, September 17, 2012

What's in a Name: Daisy

By Josi 
          One of the fun things about being a fiction writer, and creating characters, is that you get to name them. I have four kids, and I lost every name-decision my husband and I had with them. Lost might be the wrong word, since I like all their names, but they were names my husband and I agreed on, not necessarily either of our favorites. 
           When I was expecting my fourth child—also my last—I had two favorite names: Esther and Daisy. My husband made a face at both of them. He thought Esther sounded old and Daisy sounded air-headed. I was, of course, offended, then he said his name of choice was Charlemagne and I knew he’d lost it (no offense to any Esthers, Daisys, or Charlemagnes out there.) My next suggestion was Keeley, but Keeley Kilpack had a weird ring to it. We both liked Kylee, however, and so that became our baby’s name. It’s a perfect name for her and neither of us cringe when we say it, so it was a good choice.
            When Annette, Heather, Julie and I were discussing characters for this series, I threw out the idea of Daisy and then braced myself for compaints—since my husband hadn’t liked it—but to my surprise they were all good with it. So, her name was Daisy and she's not an air-head. Originally Daisy's character was suffering from an eating disorder, but as I further developed her that didn’t stick very well. I kept playing with ideas and then came up with the idea of her being in her forties, excited for her last daughter to leave home, feeling like everything was going as planned, and then facing an unplanned pregnancy. THAT story idea took off for me and the story unfolded rather quickly from that point forward.
           AND, I got to use Daisy in a book. Maybe one day I'll use Esther too (though Heather Moore is beating me to that point right now as she writes the story of Esther). I will likely not use Charlemagne, however. :-)

Monday, September 10, 2012

How the Collaboration Worked

by Annette Lyon

I cannot count the number of people who have learned about the Newport Ladies Book Club and then come to me asking how in the world I can collaborate on a project of this magnitude . . . and still love my cowriters. Some of these people have worked on collaborations that have caused them to want to pull their hair out, and, in some cases, they've lost friendships over collaborations.

The answer, for me, comes down to (1) how the project worked (2) who my cowriters are. Those two things have made the project not only not frustrating, but an absolute joy.

Today, I'm talking about how the writing the series worked in the first place.

How Writing the Newport Books Worked

If we'd tried to write one book by four people, I doubt it would have worked out too well. That's too many fingers in the pot, too many opinions and points of view.

But that's not what happened. We have four distinct books with four distinct voices. No one told me what I had to write or boxed me in, choosing my character and plot for me.

Instead, as we brainstormed together, we each came up with a character we were excited about fleshing out, a woman with a specific problem we each thought would be interesting to delve into and pick apart.

Once we had our main characters and their primary conflicts, we had to figure out how each character's story intersected with every other character's, because without that element, we wouldn't hit the target of what we were trying to accomplish.

One of the next things to choose was the books the club reads, and then each of us was assigned to do the primary writing for one of the book club scenes. Those scenes were then forwarded to the others, and we'd rewrite them completely from our character's point of view, often adding details another character wouldn't know, or cutting details that didn't matter as much to our character's story.

The same went for any shared scenes. No spoilers, but to give you an idea: there are scenes between just Daisy and Paige, ones between Paige and Athena, and Paige and Olivia. Sometimes I wrote the scene first and passed it on to the person writing the other character. Sometimes the other person did, and I rewrote it from Paige's point of view. It worked so seamlessly that I've pretty much forgotten which scenes I didn't draft first.

As we fleshed out the stories and wrote more, we found additional things to nail down, like where each character and minor character lived. Heather was particularly helpful with that, as she's lived in the general Newport area, so we as stared at maps, she could point out where Paige would be able to afford an apartment, and maybe where her in-laws lived, how far away Ruby (the founder of the club) lived from each character, and so on.

We tried to get together about once a month to coordinate stories and do marathon writing sessions. Part of this was because we were all working on other projects as well, and the Newport books were "play time." When we got together, we could set aside other projects and focus just on these books.

Josi near the end of a writing day, after our
late lunch/early dinner, writing Daisy at a hotel.

A typical marathon writing day/weekend looked like this:
-Meet at a Utah County library as soon as it opened (the most central location for us).

-If possible, get a study room, where we could talk and hash things out instead of having to be silent.

-Write like mad, with breaks to spitball and ask questions (if we were in a room), until about 3PM.

-Break for a late lunch/early dinner at a local restaurant. (Most commonly, Zupas or Olive Garden.)

-Those who could stay overnight then checked into a local motel and brought along snacks to last us the night. We changed into pajamas and wrote, wrote, wrote, until we were bleary-eyed and brain dead, usually around midnight. Sometimes not all of us could stay the night, but often those who couldn't still came to the hotel to write in the room for a few hours.

-Wake up around 7AM and write like crazy until it's time to pack up and check out.

Heading off to write after the kids were in school on Friday and then coming home by noon the next day, proved to be a way of getting time to work on the project with my coauthors with relatively minimal impact on my family. (A must.)

During our writing days, we'd often lift our heads from our keyboards and ask things like, "What kind of car does Daisy drive again?" and, "Where does Paige's ex live?" We Googled constantly to learn about all kinds of things, like Greek Orthodox funerals. We found a website with the exact church to use. I used Google Earth to see, up close, the bookstore Paige finds the book club flier in. And so on.

Once, when Josi and I were in the room alone briefly, she said that the storyline for Daisy would work out better if Olivia's mom was dead, and if Olivia had stepchildren and was a grandmother. I agreed, and then we both hunkered down to write more.

That day, Julie was in the middle of finishing another writing project, so while she was with us, she wasn't working on Olivia quite yet. After the conversation Josi and I had, Julie came into the room, and we informed her that oh, by the way, Olivia's mom is dead. Hope that's okay. And she's got stepkids and grandkids.

Julie got a deer-in-the-headlights look for a second, but as she pondered the idea, it grew on her. Next thing we knew, she'd written a story that not only included those things but hinged on them. And, of course, Olivia turned out to be a totally awesome book.

Julie working on Olivia at the hotel.

I think one reason the process worked so well is that we uncovered a different way to write. We've all been doing this for a long time; it's easy to fall into a rut. But this was fresh and challenging in a new way. We genuinely enjoyed the process and were excited about the books, and I think that excitement and passion shows in the final products.

Personally, working in other people's characters and scenes into my own book was a different kind of challenge, and one that was a blast and which stretched me as a writer.

I can say without question that this project has been a highlight of my writing career, and one I'm so grateful to have been part of. It's been a blessing to me in many ways, not the least of which is discovering just how amazing my writing friends are.

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Glory of Womanhood

By Julie Wright
Today is one of those "I don't know how I feel about today" days. I have owned and operated a little store in west central Utah for fourteen years. I have counted out pennies over the counter for children and then watched those children grow up so I could count out pennies for their children. Today it is all over. We closed our doors for the last time.

But though I'm in the middle of all the emotions of such an event, that isn't what this post is about.
This post is about all the women in this town.

Yesterday, one of my neighbors who has a very sick husband with MS, came over to help us get things settled. Not because she had to, not because she gained anything by it, but because she knew we needed help, and even in the midst of her own trials, she is looking to help someone else bear theirs.

I have spent years living in the shadows of these sorts of women--the kind who show up in their pajamas on my doorstep at nearly midnight because I can't figure out how to use a pressure canner and had started an overwhelming project in the middle of the night and needed someone to bail me out.

These are the women who have helped take care of my children, made me laugh, and shown up just to tell me they care on days when I believed no one cared.

These are the women who taught me about heaven reminders.

Something I wanted to convey more than anything through the Newport Ladies Book Club series was how much we need each other.

A woman I know and admire used to have a quote in her email signature line that said, "Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle." I think it's some version of a quote from Plato.

But the words are true.

We size each other up when we first meet. We make judgements, wrong or accurate--it doesn't matter--the judgements get made.

Yet all of us have our internal pain, our days when things aren't great, times when we feel like we're dying a little more every single day.

Sometimes it's something small that saves us.

This might sound dumb to some of you, but I am going to share a true story.

I was working in my little store about two years ago. So many things were so wrong in my life. The store struggled so much financially. Every penny I made as an author and that my husband made at his job went to keep the store going a little while longer. But my writing life had its fair share of blips too. And I had just become a cripple due to an injury I couldn't have fixed. I was in the midst of a whole lot of bad days. No one knew how bad things were for me emotionally. I didn't tell anyone. I was so severely depressed that I really, truly cannot describe the darkness of my thoughts.

I had a breakdown and took a moment where I had it out with God. I'm not saying this is good or bad--it's just what I did.

I told him he had abandoned me.

And then I cried and cried and cried.

But those desperate, bitter tears only lasted five minutes, because in a literal five minutes, one of the women in my town dropped into the store to tell me she'd been worried about me and my leg and had decided to come and do some physical therapy on me.

A literal minute after that, another woman came in with some homemade jam that she'd been making when all of a sudden, she felt the need to come give me a jar because she thought I might like it. She still had her apron on. She knew, though it sounded silly (even to her), that I needed that jam urgently.

A literal minute after that, another woman came in from her daily walk. She'd been out enjoying the beautiful wildflowers in the fields and had the thought that a fresh bouquet would look nice on my counter.

Heaven reminders.

These women didn't, and still don't, know that on the day they felt the need to offer me a small kindness, a gentle extension of friendship, that they had saved me.

Sometimes God answers our prayers through other people.

When writing Olivia for the Newport Ladies, I thought a lot about those women--thought a lot about that day. I considered how strange it was that these women showed up at the critical moment when they had no clue that my life was literally crumbling in around me.

There is a glory in womanhood, a rightness that can't be found anywhere else. You hear about cat fights and mean girls, and we all know about judgement. We've all done it. We've all received it.

But our capacity for good is so intense if we're brave enough to act on it.

I was asked a couple weeks ago what I hoped people would find in the Newport series.

I hope they find compassion, for each other, for themselves. Life is not easy. Be kinder than necessary, for you have no idea but that your one smile may make all the difference to one who'd already decided to give up.

I am grateful for the women in my little town. I hate leaving them, but I am so glad they've left their mark in my heart. I'm grateful for all I've learned from them and hope to pass it on.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Cover Reveal: ATHENA

I'm really excited to show the cover for Athena because it's the fourth book in this series, and completes the parallel portion of the series. The next four books (Shannon, Ruby, Ilana, and Victoria) will move ahead in time to the next 4 book club meetings.

When we submitted Olivia, Athena, Daisy, and Paige to our publishers, we didn't know what order they'd be released. We didn't know if the publishers would do one a year, or maybe two a year. We were working with two publishers so it was tricky to get everything lined up. When they agreed to release all four books in 2012, we were really excited. Readers wouldn't have to wait too long between books and the parallel stories will feel more like real-time, how they are meant to be.

While writing Athena, I was trying to decide who Athena would fall in love with. I was about 30 pages into the story and hadn't decided. So I emailed Josi/Annette/Julie and they all had the same opinion of who the man should be--so that made it easy.

It was a lot of fun to write Athena (except for the not so fun parts of the story), and I realized that her personality is a lot like mine. My family life and situation are completely different, but we are similar in many ways. So it will be interesting to read the reviews :-)

Athena will be released in November, but you can get an early copy at the October 6th Book Launch (Fort Union Deseret Book, Ladies Night, 6:00-8:00 p.m.)

Monday, August 20, 2012

How it all Started . . .

By Josi 

            One of my least favorite questions to be asked is “What is your favorite book?” I have many favorites, but it’s difficult to rank them as my very favorite, or my fourth favorite, and as I get older, books that were once lower on the list have risen in the ranks as my understanding of them have changed. There are a few books, however, that never seem to fall far down the list. One of those books is Twelve Sisters by Leslie Beaton Hedley. I checked it out from the library many years ago and liked it so much that I bought my own copy, which I somehow lost (probably because I loaned it out) and then I bought another copy which I don’t plan to loan out ever again since it’s now out of print. I don’t know how well the book sold when it was in print, I don’t know how many other people read it, but—not to put too heavy a spin on it—it changed my life. For a few reasons.
            The book is about twelve women who live in the same LDS ward. They cover the spectrum of college student to a woman, literally, in her final hours. Each chapter is dedicated to one of these women and involves a sacrament meeting. In “Her” chapter, the woman “sees” the other women, but we get to see her in a way that no one else in that room ever will. We see their struggles, their heartbreaks, their purpose, their goals. We share in their frustrations, we understand why do they do the things they do.
In the next chapter, we see another woman, often passing judgment on someone else we just “met” a chapter or two earlier. I had never read anything like it—I still haven’t—and when I finished the book I felt as though my world had opened up a little wider. That woman I’m critical in my mind for being too perfect, or too sloppy, or too lazy, or too heavy, has a story that I don’t know and yet I think I DO know. Over and over again we pass judgment on one another and are somehow confident of that perspective even though that person we’ve judged is essentially a stranger to us. It’s so easy to do, it comes naturally for some of us to critique and measure everyone we meet. Twelve sisters, however, showed just how much truth is missed when we do this to one another, and how we can compound the hard road someone is traveling by being so flippant with our determinations.
            After reading that book—about fifteen years ago—I had the seed of an idea form in my brain—someday I want to write a book like that. In the years that followed, I would think about it now and then but I couldn’t figure out how to write it without basically copying what Hedley had done in Twelve Sisters. I didn’t want to re-write that book, I wanted one of my own, but couldn’t find the right way to do it different, and yet as good; as powerful. Then, in 2009, Julie Wright and I went on a book tour. We spent hours and hours and hours talking about pretty much everything. At some point, I started telling her about my idea but as I said the words, a light went on in the closet where the idea had been gathering dust for years. What if the reason I couldn’t figure out how to write it was because I wasn’t supposed to? As the words tumbled out, Julie helped me process them and within a short time the idea for Newport Ladies’ Book Club was born. We wouldn’t write one book, we’d write four books by four authors but with the same goal I felt Twelve Sisters had achieved—showing how we misinterpret other people, and just how much of an impact we can have on them.
            After bringing Annette Lyon and Heather Moore up to speed, we all set out to do something we’d never seen done before—a parallel novel series about four different women who meet up in a book club. The goal was to show these women’s lives in detail, while the other members of this book club only saw bits and pieces.
            I’ll write more about the process we went through in a future post, but hope that this helps the readers understand where the idea came from and why we wrote it the way we did. Our hope is that reading one book is great, but reading a second, third, or fourth then enriches the overall experience, helping us to “see” what we can’t see in just one novel from one Point of View. We hope you love it as much as we do.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

PAIGE Share-the-Love Winner

We have lots of fun stuff planned for the Newport blog coming up, but for now, we need to announce the winner of the share-the-love contest.

We had nearly 50 entries! Of them, picked Andrea at Literary Time Out, for one of her tweets about the PAIGE launch! Congratulations!

(Andrea, Please email Annette (at) AnnetteLyon (dot) com with your mailing address right away so we can get your prizes to you!)

Thanks to everyone who Facebooked, blogged, tweeted, and otherwise spread the words. Thanks to everyone who came to the launch to support us, and thanks to our great readers, who are already posting amazing reviews of PAIGE. We appreciate it more than you can know!

Monday, August 6, 2012

PAIGE Launch: Spread the Love Contest

Paige is here, and we're so excited for readers to read her story!

The official launch party for Paige will be THIS Saturday, August 11, from 1-3 PM at the Fort Union Deseret Book Store. (That's the same store the other launches have been at. Great store, and fantastic manager, whom we love!)

We need your help to spread the word!

We're holding another spread-the-love contest, and the winner gets the following:
  • The e-book of Lost Without You
  • The e-book of At the Water's Edge
  • The e-book of Their, There, They're (Annette's grammar guide)
  • Hard copy of Chocolate Never Faileth (Annette's chocolate cookbook)
If Annette's in a good mood, she may throw in some Utah Truffles chocolate too!

How to enter:

Each day from now until Saturday at noon (Mountain Daylight Time), share the information about the launch, whether in your own words or with a link to this post. 

Do so on Facebook, Twitter, Google +, or on your personal blog. Each time you mention it, let us know either in a comment here or by emailing Annette: annette (at) annettelyon (dot) com, so we can track the numbers. If you tweet about the launch, be sure to use the hash tag #PaigeLaunch (that'll get you an extra entry). The hash tag will help us track entries!

Each social media mention is worth one entry (two if it's Twitter and the hash tag is used). A blog post with all the relevant detail and a link back here is worth FIVE entries.

So help us spread the word, and then on Saturday, please come to the Fort Union Deseret Book! All of the Newport Ladies authors will be there, along with treats and fun. 

Hope to see you there! 

Monday, April 30, 2012

The Launch for "Daisy" took place this past Saturday. As always the Fort Union Deseret Book staff did a fabulous job hosting the event. Julie came with me and I think she signed as many copies of "Olivia" as I signed of "Daisy." It was so much fun talking to people about the series and see their excitement for how the books will fit together--big thanks to everyone who stopped by the event, it's always a treat to see familiar faces. Having two books out takes things up another level and so far people seem to like the way the books weave together.

AND, now that the launch is over, I was able to throw all the entries into the the "Spread the Word" contest into a great big bowl (okay, I used, still the concept is the same) I shuffled the names a few times, then took the number one spot which happened to belong to Ranae M. who blogged about the launch and left a comment on our blog telling us so. Thank you to everyone who blogged, tweeted, and Facebooked the event, we so appreciate you putting the word out. Thanks also to the dozens of people who signed up at the Live events I attended at the BYU Bookstore and at the Launch Party. You guys are Terrrrrrific!

Happy Reading!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Get The Word Out Contest: Daisy

The Launch party for "Daisy" will be on Saturday, April 28th from 1:00-3:00 at the Fort Union Deseret Book Store in Salt Lake City, Utah. Julie Wright will be there signing copies of "Olivia" as well and we'll have cookies--Rolo Cookies, to be exact. The recipe was featured in Annette Lyon's cookbook "Chocolate Never Faileth" and is also included at the back of "Daisy". Soooo, we want to get the word out and a few weeks ago I just happen to be at the mall and saw a new Marc Jacob's fragrance called "Daisy." I call that fate!

I purchased a gift box set of the fragrance, which includes a 2.5 oz. spray and 5 oz. lotion. You might have to take my word for the fact that it smells awesome, a little floral, but light and with just a hint of musk to it. And it's so cute!

Here's how you enter the drawing--multiple entries encouraged:

*Post about "Daisy" or "Olivia" on your blog (If you already have, just tell us so)
*Tweet or Facebook or blog about the opening night (If you review a book on your blog AND post about the opening night--that's two entries)
*Leave a review for "Daisy" or "Olivia" anywhere--Goodreads,,, Library Thing, Shelfari. (You can use the same review on multiple review sites, we don't mind)
*Recommend "Daisy" or "Olivia" to your friends on Goodreads or another book review site that allows recommendations.

Once you've put the word out in any of these ways, come back here and leave a comment that includes your total entries and make sure we can contact you through the information in your profile. You can also enter in person at the Launch on the 28th. The winner will be announced on Monday, April 30th and will be contacted for a mailing address so that the gift box can be shipped to you.

Thanks so much for your help spreading the word, I'm excited to see what people think of the second installment in the series!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Cover Reveal: PAIGE . . . And Final Dates!

We received official word today that all four books will be released on 2012!

It's what we hoped for all along, but something our publishers weren't sure they could promise at first. Now they can, and we have finalized dates, all in 2012 (And there was much rejoicing in the land . . .)

Here's the official line-up:
DAISY comes out in May.
PAIGE will hit shelves in August.
ATHENA will be available in November.

We've got a lot of fun stuff planned for promotion and the whole series, so stay tuned!

And now, here's the cover of PAIGE:

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Trailer for OLIVIA

If I hadn't been part of this book's creation, I'd want to read it based solely on the trailer.

Please pass it on!

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Series at a Glance: Infographic!

Below is a great infographic created by Kelly, the great PR gal at Covenant, that sums up the series and shows the first two covers the are finalized, as well as the awesome new pictures we got taken together.

Click to "bigg-ify."

We're looking forward to getting the other two covers posted soon!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Cover Reveal for DAISY!

We are excited to show you the cover for DAISY, the 2nd installment in The Newport Ladies Book Club series.

DAISY is written by Josi S. Kilpack and will be out May 2012. What do you think?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Spread the Word Winner

A big thanks to everyone who helped spread the word about the launch for OLIVIA, the first book to be published in the Newport Ladies Book Club!

We'll post pictures from the launch soon, but in the meantime, congratulations to the Spread the Word winner:

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Contest: Spread the Word!

Help us spread the word about the OLIVIA launch party!

Party Details:
Come to the Fort Union Deseret Book store on Saturday, February 18, from 1:00 - 3:00 pm.

There will be (of course) books signed by Julie Wright, plus food and lots of awesome door prizes!

OLIVIA Spread the Word Contest

We need to spread the word! Help us out, and you have a chance to win SIX books by fellow Newport authors Josi S. Kilpack, Annette Lyon, and Heather Moore.

That's right: ONE lucky winner gets ALL SIX books. Not kidding here!

For each thing you do to help, you get an entry to win.

The winner receives the following SIX books:

You totally need to enter, right? (We know!)

Ways to enter:

Facebook the event, linking to this post (use the permalink, not the generic blog URL:, or to the Facebook event HERE. (One entry per day, up to four.)

—Tweet the event, using the permalink to this post or the Facebook event page at the link above. Be sure to use the hashtag #OLIVIAlaunch to help us track your tweets! (One entry per day, up to four.)

—Post about the launch on your blog, linking back to this post. (One post allowed, but it gives you four entries.)

Tip: Use a URL shortener like to make the permalink fit in a tweet or FB status better.

That's it!


REMEMBER: LEAVE A COMMENT on this post for each thing you do to spread the word so we can verify and track each entry. Be sure we have an easy way to contact you: either leave your email address in your comments, or be sure your email is embedded in your Blogger profile.

The fine print:
Contest is open until noon on Saturday, February 18th. The winner will be announced by Monday, February 19th, and the winner will be notified at that time as well. Winner will be chosen using a random number generator. We are not held responsible for being unable to contact the winner. If the winner doesn't respond with their mailing address by Friday, February 24, the prize is forfeit. Open only in the US in the lower 48 states. The winner will receive Banana Split separately from the other five, after its release.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

OLIVIA is here!

Julie Wright's OLIVIA, the first published book in the Newport Ladies Book Club series, is now available. (Earlier than we were told, be we certainly aren't complaining!)

It's on shelves in stores, and it's also available for the Kindle HERE (seven bucks cheaper).

We'll post more soon about the upcoming launch for OLIVIA, but in the meantime, join the OLIVIA Launch Party Facebook page to be in the loop.

And after you read OLIVIA, be sure to read the excerpt from Josi's book, DAISY, in the back.

DAISY will be released next!

Monday, January 23, 2012

January 2012 Updates

Things are moving right along . . .

1. We've received a huge response from reviewers. Thanks so much. We aren't seeking additional reviewers at this time, but if you happen to review any of our books, please let us know and we'll post it on the sidebar. OLIVIA will be out in February. It's available for pre-order in paperback and audio CD at

2. Josi Kilpack just announced on Twitter that she is working on galleys for DAISY. This means that the book is almost ready for press. Josi is doing a final review. Very exciting.

Speaking of Twitter, all of us are on it. If you'd like to follow:

Julie: @scatteredjules
Josi: @josiskilpack
Annette: @annettelyon
Heather: @heatherbmoore

3. Also, something fun:

In the back of each book, there will be the first chapter of the *next* book included.

In OLIVIA, you'll also get to read chapter one of DAISY.

In DAISY, you'll get to read chapter one of PAIGE.


4. We've started drafting the next four books in the series, which will be about Ruby, Ilana, Shannon, and Victoria. On the side bar we've updated the books that the book club is reading.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Need Reviewers for OLIVIA!

Yes, I'm looking for reviewers for Julie Wright's book OLIVIA, because she is my co-author in The Newport Ladies Book Club series. (big grin)

But this request is a bit different. I'd actually like to find 10-15 reviewers who are willing to review the WHOLE series. Every three months, a different book will be released. So I'll send you each book as it comes out.

Books will be:
OLIVIA by Julie Wright (Feb 2012)
DAISY by Josi S. Kilpack (May 2012)
PAIGE by Annette Lyon (Summer 2012)
ATHENA by Heather Moore (Fall/Winter)

For more information on what this series is about, read HERE.

Reviews need to be posted on your blog and review sites such as Amazon, Goodreads,,, etc. (it's really easy to cut & paste once the review is written).

Please let me know if you are interested, and I'll send you more details.

heather @ hbmoore (dot) com