The Golden Heart Speech I Wrote, But Didn’t Give

The RWA Awards Ceremony Program

The RWA Awards Ceremony Program

When you’re nominated for an RWA Golden Heart award, they tell you to write a speech. Even if you have absolutely no belief that you could possibly win, they repeat the need to have coherent words on a page to read just in case your name is called and you have to make your way to stage and say something into the waiting microphone.

Last Saturday night, when 2000+ writers and their guests convened for the annual RWA RITA and Golden Heart Awards Ceremony, the name announced for the Golden Heart, Young Adult category was Stephanie Winkelhake, a four-time finalist. My other fellow finalists — T.L. Summer, Diana Munoz-Stewart, and Mary Sullivan — and I applauded her well-deserved win. And I look forward to seeing all of our books on shelves in the coming years (so watch for them!).

But I still have this speech I wrote, and it seems a shame to waste it. So here goes nothing:

Who would you thank in a speech for an award you received? Have you ever delivered a victory circle speech?

Summertime Madness Book Lovers: My Picks

I’ve been immersed in YA reading this year, which is my favorite genre, of course. My TBR (to be read) pile looks like a crooked skyscraper. I completely relate to the “so many books, so little time” feeling.

So when humor author, and delightful conference roomie, Jess Witkins posted her recent book picks as part of the Summertime Madness Tag, I knew I wanted to play along.

Here are my choices for the questions included in Summertime Madness for Book Lovers!

1. Show a book with a summery cover.

Boys Like You by Juliana Stone. I’ve been reading through the young adult nominees for the RWA® RITA® awards, and this is the last one on my list, which I need to read pronto before the awards ceremony this Saturday, July 25.

Boys Like You

2. Pick one fictional place that would be the perfect destination for your summer vacation.

Narnia, please. I can’t wait to turn in my essay on What I Did for Vacation titled “The Real Lion King and Me.”

Magicians Nephew

3. You’re about to go on a flight to your Summer Vacation. But you want to read a book that lasts for the whole flight, so what novella do you choose?

Before there was Hunger Games or Divergent, there were dystopian stories like A Clockwork Orange, published in 1962 and featuring a teenage protagonist. Since I’ve never read this classic novella, I think it’s about time.

Clockwork Orange

4. You have a case of Summertime Sadness. What happy book do you pick up to shine a smile on your face?

I keep meaning to re-read A Long Way from Chicago by Richard Peck. It’s a middle grade book of short stories chronicling two kids’ summer visits to grandma in the country, and I recall laughing out loud as I read.

A_Long_Way_from_Chicago

5. You’re sitting at a beach all alone, which fictional character would be your beach babe?

Let me be clear: My real-life character would be my husband, who beats any book crush I’ve ever had.

But…if I must choose…Thorne Carswell from The Lunar Chronicles. He’s introduced in Marissa Meyer’s Cinder, but he’s a main character in Cress. He’s got that sassy swagger with a heart of gold. *swoon*

Cress

6. To match your ice cream you want an icy cool sidekick, which fictional sidekick do you pick?

Right now, I’m all over hanging out with a character in my current work-in-progress (working title: Daring Charlotte): Kat would be an awesome BF to have on a summer vacation. But if I’m going with a published choice, how about Hermoine? She’s smart, brave, fun, and socially conscious (SPEW, anyone?). Plus, I love cats, so Crookshanks would be welcome.

Harry Potter Philosopher's Stone

What do you think of my choices? And given these questions, what books would be on your list? Share your favorite answers!

Not a Pantser. Not a Plotter. I’m a Puzzler.

What’s your writing process?

It’s such a common question for authors, and one most writers I know give a great deal of thought. Because we don’t simply hatch one day fully grown as authors who know exactly the best way to write books.

The best writers learn story structure, prose techniques, characterization, emotional depth, and all the good “craft” stuff that makes our writing shine. Good writing can be studied and learned, and we all want that destination of a story well told. But HOW we get from Point A to Point B differs from writer to writer. It can take a while to figure out your own best practices.

When I began writing, I was pretty much a pantser — that is, someone who free writes, by the “seat of my pants.” The story just came out on the page, and I went wherever it took me.

After a while, I decided I was a recovering pantser, though still not a plotter — someone who plans storyline and characters and plot points and scenes in advance. Still, I dove more into outlines and timelines and character sheets.

Then I did something really weird: I drafted two novels out of order. That is, I came up with a general outline, then wrote a scene here, a scene there, another scene here. I didn’t write the story chronologically, but plugged in scenes as they came to me. When finished, I had to work out transitions and flow. But all in all, it sort of worked for me.

One of my writer friends, Jenny Hansen, calls it “story quilting.” Which is a great metaphor. I’m not the least bit crafty, though, so “quilting” was a bit hard for me to connect with.

Not a Pantser. Not a Plotter. I'm a Puzzler. via Julie Glover

I’m a Puzzler.

But I love puzzles. Whether it’s jigsaw puzzles or crossword puzzles or brain teasers or mysteries, I love a good puzzle. I like working on a section at a time, then moving to another, and then another, until it all comes together.

The other day I realized my current writing process is like working a puzzle — a piece here and a piece there, until I have all the pieces fitting together just so and a complete image forms. I start with a solid outline and major characters, like building the corners of a jigsaw puzzle first, but then I let myself write scenes in whatever order I want. Slowly but surely, I build the novel and see the full picture getting clearer and clearer.

Is this a typical way to write? No, it’s not. Which is probably why it’s taken me so long to fess up to this process working for me. But somehow, it does.

My takeaway is that writers should master their craft, but experiment with their process. When someone suggests “the way” to write, it might work great for that someone, but not so much for you. Be willing to try different things, and see which approach brings out your best story.

Maybe you’re a pantser. Maybe you’re a plotter. And maybe a few of you out there are puzzlers, like me.

What Are Female Superheroes Wearing? (And Who Fights Crime in That?!)

I still remember my now-teenage son, back when he was a little kid, asking me about superheroes. He was fascinated with them and loved a great superhero story. However, he looked at one of his action figures, turned up his sweet young face to me, and asked, “Why is Wonder Woman wearing her underwear?”

Good question, kid, I thought. Instead of answering, “Because she was drawn by a man who wanted his superhero to turn him on,” I scanned my brain for an answer that would ring true yet retain his innocence. My answer? “That’s her swimsuit. She was raised on an island surrounded by water, so she went swimming a lot.”

Not bad, eh? Kind of my own superpower to come up with that one on the fly!

But it’s still a good question. Why on earth are female superheros dressed like they’re about to film a sexually-laced hip-hop video instead of fighting crime and pursuing justice?

I’ve long been a fan of superheroes, starting with the classic TV series Batman, in which Adam West and Burt Ward POWed and KAPLATed their way to justice. Then there was Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman, the cartoon Justice League (including the Wonder Twins—anyone remember them?), and even the not-so-well-done Shazam! and The Secrets of Isis that aired on Saturday mornings. I’ve seen numerous superhero movies from Christopher Reeve’s Superman to all but the last X-Men to Guardians of the Galaxy (a recent favorite).

As much as I love superheroes, I still don’t understand most of the fashion choices when it comes to women. So when I realized I had a superhero-themed costume party to attend this summer, a fellow attendee and I had this conversation:

Her: How come all the women superheroes have no clothes on? How can you fight crime in a thong…

Me: I’ve wondered that too. Like we’re sitting around and thinking, “Hey, I’m ready to go fight crime. But first I need to put on my strapless top so the criminals will have lots of cleavage to distract them and my breasts will jiggle properly when I’m running. And I need a thong up my butt, because nothing says ‘I’m fearless!’ like a willingness to floss your crack. And stiletto heels, please, because if a woman can’t run, jump, and kick in ridiculously high heels, how can even bother to call herself a superhero?!”

Wonder Woman lasso

Here’s my lasso of truth! Tell me: Is this costume too revealing?

When I started actually shopping for costume options, I was shocked how many choices were preceded by the word “sexy,” as in Sexy Supergirl, Sexy Spidergirl, Sexy Wonder Woman. Really? We need to add more sexiness to that Amazon princess’s corseted look?

Stop the madness, people! This is no way to dress women in 2015! Or really any century, decade, or year.

No self-respecting crime-fighting woman would wear such get-ups. They are impractical for the physical feats expected of superheroes. They make the female class of superheroes out to be eye candy more than serious justice fighters. They don’t give the right message to young women who can be beautiful and powerful without being overly revealing. (Oh yes, you can, girl!) Moreover, they make emulating them for costume parties require a year-long gym membership and/or several pairs of Spanx.

Yes, there are some exceptions, and I applaud the creators of these more relatable female superheroes. I’d like to see more.

What do you think of the costumes for female superheroes? Who are your favorite female superheroes? How would you design a costume for superpowered crime-fighting?

Authors Are Fangirls Too!

This past weekend, I attended the RT (Romantic Times) Booklovers Convention in Dallas, Texas, where hundreds of authors, publishing industry professionals, and readers converged. It was a hodge-podge of writer workshops, industry panels, reader events, and entertaining socials.

I could report a lot of takeaways from my experience, but what hit me most was that authors are fangirls too! What do I mean?

No matter who I was with, whether a writer still seeking a contract or a multipublished bestseller, we all had someone who made our hearts flutter or our knees shake in their presence. It was that oh my gosh, did you see who’s here?! shriek. There were quite a few big name authors like Kathy Reichs, Charlaine Harris, Kiera Cass, Francine Rivers, Eloisa James, and more.

But we also had those niche authors we’d followed and read with delight. When we’d savored their books, we never imagined we’d meet them, much less chat or get an autograph or, as one multipubbed author mentioned, sit on a panel with them.

And I don’t think this ever goes away. Even if by marvelous fortune, I became a well-known, bestselling author, I am fairly certain I’d keel right over if Judy Blume or J.K. Rowling walked into the room. Be still my bookish heart!

What’s especially lovely is meeting someone whose books you adore, and finding out the author is authentic and delightful in person. For instance, I met Stephanie Perkins, author of Anna and the French KissLola and the Boy Next Door, and Isla and the Happily Ever After, and we had a great little conversation. (I feel even better now about recommending her novel to so many teens!)

Stephanie Perkins and Me

Stephanie Perkins and Julie Glover

I’m eager to return to RT Booklovers Convention again, not only to meet authors I love, but the readers we writers love too!

What author would you love to meet? Who have you met already?

RT Convention in Dallas: Come Say Howdy!

The Romantic Times Book Reviews  is a genre-specific website and magazine. It doesn’t deal only with straight romance, but any novel category that includes romance. And it hosts a huge reader-focused convention each year, with this year’s soiree happening in Dallas, Texas.

Which is, in Texas terms, like my back yard. Only a few hours’ drive from the Houston area, I’m coming up this next weekend to enjoy the festivities on Friday and Saturday, May 15 and 16. If you’re planning to be there as well, I’d love for you to come say howdy!

Where can you find me? I’ll be at the Shooting Stars Gala on Friday at 10:00 a.m. hosted by The Bent Agency and The Seymour Agency. I’m also planning to go Line-Dancing with the Literary Stars at 12:20 p.m. I’ll attend a few workshops as well and the awards ceremony that evening. On Saturday, it’s book fair time!

How can you find me? I will be looking like my picture (mostly) and wearing cowboy boots (at least on Friday). Because yes, cowboy boots go with just about everything.

If you’re in the area, be sure to come by! Day passes are available, and the Giant Book Fair is only $10. There’s a Teen Day Program as well for only $30. It would be well worth your time and money to come by, where hundreds of authors will be hanging out and signing books. Check it out at RT Convention.

And if you can’t make it, HOWDY anyway! Because a virtual howdy is better than none at all.

The Best Books You’ve Read (Lately)

Some books you really enjoy, and some books stay with you — as ones you’d recommend to others. The last novel I read was one of those, a story I’ll be thinking about for a long time.

So I looked back at my Goodreads account, and, while there are many books I’ve enjoyed lately, I wondered which ones stuck with me. Here are the last three that got meright here. (You know what I mean.) And they’re all very different in tone.

Love & Other Variables coverLove and Other Variables by Shannon Lee Alexander. From the book jacket:

Charlie Hanson has a clear vision of his future. A senior at Brighton School of Mathematics and Science, he knows he’ll graduate, go to MIT, and inevitably discover solutions to the universe’s greatest unanswered questions. He’s that smart. But Charlie’s future blurs the moment he reaches out to touch the tattoo on a beautiful girl’s neck.

The future has never seemed very kind to Charlotte Finch, so she’s counting on the present. She’s not impressed by the strange boy at the donut shop — until she learns he’s a student at Brighton where her sister has just taken a job as the English teacher. With her encouragement, Charlie orchestrates the most effective prank campaign in Brighton history. But, in doing so, he puts his own future in jeopardy.

By the time he learns she’s ill — and that the pranks were a way to distract Ms. Finch from Charlotte’s illness — Charlotte’s gravitational pull is too great to overcome. Soon he must choose between the familiar formulas he’s always relied on or the girl he’s falling for (at far more than 32 feet per second squared).

This one’s a beautifully emotional ride, with lyrical yet authentic prose. It’s not a typical happily-ever-after, but a hopeful ending nonetheless. If you like novels that tug — or yank — at your heartstrings, you won’t be sorry you picked this one up. (You know, I think I liked it a bit more than The Fault in Our Stars.)

Don't Lick the Minivan coverDon’t Lick the Minivan: And Other Things I Never Thought I’d Say to My Kids by Leanne Shirtliffe. From the book jacket:

As a woman used to traveling and living the high life in Bangkok, Leanne Shirtliffe recognized the constant fodder for humor while pregnant with twins in Asia’s sin city. But in spite of deep-fried bug cuisine and nurses who cover newborn bassinets with plastic wrap, Shirtliffe manages to keep her babies alive for a year with help from a Coca-Cola deliveryman, several waitresses, and a bra factory. Then she and her husband return home to the isolation of North American suburbia.

In Don’t Lick the Minivan, Shirtliffe captures the bizarre aspects of parenting in her edgy, honest voice. She explores the hazards of everyday life with children such as:

  • The birthday party where neighborhood kids took home skin rashes from the second-hand face paint she applied.
  • The time she discovered her twins carving their names into her minivan’s paint with rocks.
  • The funeral she officiated for “Stripper Barbie.”
  • The horror of glitter.
    And much more!

A delayed encounter with postpartum depression helps Shirtliffe to realize that even if she can’t teach her kids how to tie their shoelaces, she’s a good enough mom. At least good enough to start saving for her twins’ college, eh, therapy fund. And possibly her own. Crisply written, Don’t Lick the Minivan will have parents laughing out loud and nodding in agreement. Shirtliffe’s memoir might not replace a therapist, but it is a lot cheaper.

I related entirely to the challenges of motherhood, attempts at humor to relieve tension, strange things you find yourself saying, not to mention the intense aversion to crafts. And I laughed out loud many times. Yes, there are close-to-your-heart mommy moments, but just as many close-to-the-wine-bottle moments as well. Which just about sums up motherhood these days!

Aces Up coverAces Up by Lauren Barnholdt. From the book jacket:

Seventeen-year-old high school senior Shannon Card needs money. And lots of it. She’s been admitted to Wellesley, but her dad just lost his job, and somehow she has to come up with a year of tuition herself. But Shannon’s dream of making big bucks waitressing at the local casino, the Collosio, disappears faster than a gambler’s lucky streak. Her boss is a tyrant, her coworker is nuts, and her chances of balancing a tray full of drinks while wearing high-heeled shoes are slim to none. Worse, time is running out, and Shannon hasn’t made even half the money she’d hoped.

When Shannon receives a mysterious invitation to join Aces Up, a secret network of highly talented college poker players, at first she thinks No way. She has enough to worry about: keeping her job, winning the coveted math scholarship at school, and tutoring her secret crush, Max. But when Shannon musters up the nerve to kiss Max and he doesn’t react at all, the allure of Aces Up and its sexy eighteen-year-old leader, Cole, is suddenly too powerful to ignore.

Soon Shannon’s caught up in a web of lies and deceit that makes worrying about tuition money or a high school crush seem like kid stuff. Still, when the money’s this good, is the fear of getting caught reason enough to fold?

It takes a while to figure out what kind of novels you enjoy writing, but I recently concluded that my own voice is a lot like this: Take an outrageous concept, add interesting, real-life characters, and produce a whimsical, yet heartfelt story.

That’s Aces Up. It’s a fun romp of a novel, with a serious heart underneath.

As you can see, my tastes run the gamut here. I cried in the first novel, laughed a lot with the memoir, and let my heart skip happily in the third book. All of these books, however, had a strong voice. They left me feeling like I really knew these people.

Now it’s your turn to share! What are the best books you’ve read lately, and why?