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.