Friday, November 3, 2017

Pitch Wars Team Interview

And next, we have . . .

Julie Christensen – Mentee

Heather Smith Meloche – Mentor

Kristin Bartley Lenz – Mentor

Julie, why did you choose to submit to Heather and Kristin?
Before submitting to Kristin and Heather, I read the first few chapters of both their books, and their writing styles and plots convinced me that they would be able to help me create a sympathetic character who readers would root for. In fact, I was so hooked by their first chapters that I knew I’d read both books as soon as the contest was over, whether they chose me or not. (I’ve since read their books, Kristen’s THE ART OF HOLDING ON AND LETTING GO and Heather’s RIPPLE.) I also chatted with them about my story on Twitter. When they asked if the story offered all angles of the social political issues, even if it ultimately filtered through the MC’s perspective, I knew they would approach my book with an appreciation for the story’s cultural impact and help me bring it to the next level.
Heather and Kristin, why did you choose Julie?
This book was so relevant and well written with a strong balance of diverse characters and viewpoints that we couldn’t pass it up.
Julie, summarize your book in 3 words.
Alt-Right-Boy Meets World
Heather and Kristin, summarize Julie’s book(s) in 3 words.
Indoctrinated boy enlightened.
Julie, tell us about yourself! What makes you and your MS unique?
The debate over whether the media’s use of the term “alt-right” legitimized white supremacists got me reading about the white power movement. I became sort of obsessed with the alt-right’s attempt to go mainstream by using codes to hide their truths. Since young men seem to be especially at risk for falling into these extremist organizations, I thought it would make a good theme for a YA novel. I spent several months researching alt-right organizations before I started writing. I read newspaper articles, books by people who study hate groups, and interviewed someone at the FBI to learn how they conduct raids. I watched dozens of interviews between alt-right leaders and the press, read the discussion boards on white power sites, and immersed myself in the alt-right presence on Twitter.
I came to realize that followers of the alt-right live in a dystopian world of their own making; they truly believe a worldwide conspiracy is planning the genocide of the white race. That’s why my novel begins like a dystopian one, so we can see the protagonist’s point of view first, and then back out into the real world. My main character, a brilliant but naïve teenager, born into a white power family, believes the alt-right rebranding. He doesn’t consider himself a racist, but, influenced by his parents’ goals, he is committed to a white homeland. THE STRAW MAN FALLACY is what happens when a 17-year old with these two conflicting beliefs is forced to leave a bubble he doesn’t realize he’s in.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Pitch Wars 2017

Pitch Wars is back! 

I am SO ready!

Here's what my story is about: 
Today's white supremacists aren't in white sheets. They look you in the eye and swear they aren't racists. They just want their own homeland, and a ban on immigration, and on Muslims. They intentionally mask their hatred with code words. They make a concerted effort to come off as rational and educated. They hate non-whites, non-Christians, LGBTQ, and women, especially feminists. Yet they are starting to become mainstream in our country. After the election, after the Southern Poverty Law Center reported a rise in hate groups, after said hate groups went on Twitter to claim this election was proof of their ascendancy, I put aside my WIP and started writing a YA Contemporary about a seventeen-year old boy raised by a family of white nationalists. I've been writing steadily, I've got some terrific critique partners, I've been editing for the past two months, and I'm ready. Not that I'm counting, but I think this might be my fourth attempt at Pitch Wars. During this time, I've met a great community of writers and I've written five books! So, yay!

My Pitch:
In THE STRAW MAN FALLACY, seventeen-year old Asher, son of an alt-right terrorist, must choose family loyalty or come to grips with the fact that his life has been based on ignorance and lies. 

The day his front door was broken down by federal agents was the worst day of Asher’s life. “Don’t let them brainwash you,” were his father’s last words before they took him away in handcuffs. Asher vows to keep his father’s white nationalist organization alive. But that’s hard to do when his new guardian, an aunt he’s never met, throws him into a school full of the people his dad called “snowflakes.” Asher’s racist, sexist upbringing is immediately challenged when he meets Angelica, an African-American girl who bests him in every class.

Despite his promise to his father, Asher keeps quiet about his beliefs in his new school. As he develops friendships with students of various backgrounds, his confidence in his parents’ “truth” falters. Asher’s father continues to exert control over his disciples from prison, and everyone expects Asher to pick up the mantle and carry on his family’s work. Asher doesn’t want to give up his new life, his friends, or his shot at college. But *nobody* leaves White Pride, especially not the leader’s son. Asher must break free from his father and his paranoid adherents, or fall back into his old life of preparation for Armageddon. 

Here's a little about me: Introvert, politics junkie, mom, reader, oil painter, walker, occasional runner, podcast listener, audiologist, lover of old homes who lives in a ranch because she wanted a bigger kitchen. I earned my BFA from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn NY. I got my Master's in audiology from The University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. (Albuquerque and Brooklyn are two of my favorite places in the world).

Holder of dead-end jobs in her twenties. (The nice thing about dead end jobs is that there's no money in them, so it's okay to quit to travel the world with your savings.)

Audiologist in her thirties. (I love having a job that directly helps people. Every day I made someone's life better in some way because of my skill set. What a high).

Indie author in her forties. (I couldn't find an agent for two novels I wrote in my thirties. I self-published my second novel on Amazon and it sold 25,000 copies in ten months. Two other novels, mysteries, each sold 20,000 copies in their first year.)

Now, I'd like to be published traditionally. I've been writing and querying four different books for the past four or five years, but so far I haven't been picked up. I'm hopeful my latest will be my breakthrough novel.

If you pick me...

I'm a very hard-worker. I will always give you 100%.  I'm also a fast writer, and I have amazing people in my life who will help me juggle everything around so I can devote myself to Pitch War revisions. I'm dedicated to my writing and, thanks to four years of art school, I can handle criticism. In fact, when a critique resonates with me, there is nothing I love more than digging back into my manuscript and making big changes.

And here is a link to our #pimpmybio host, Lana Pattinson, and other Pitch War hopefuls. Check them out!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Son of a Pitch!

Hi. Thank you for checking out my pitch. May the force be with you all!

In the spirit of Star Wars, here's a picture of a dresser I painted for my seven-year old son a couple of Christmas's ago. I let him pick any characters he wanted, and he chose Rey, Finn, and that evil guy who's name I can't remember.

Title: AFTER
Genre: YA speculative fiction
Word count: 57,000


Dear Fabulous Agent,

Dead at seventeen, Prea Río knows she doesn’t quite fit into the afterlife. She always assumed death would end her problems, but now she’s got an ugly secret about how she died. Still, life is way better here than back on lonely Earth. Prea has her boyfriend back, the one who died when he was fifteen, and she’s searching for her mom, who was killed when she was a baby.

So when Prea discovers she may not actually be dead, and might even have taken another person’s slot in the afterlife, her nearly perfect world is threatened. She knows the so-called “heavenly” thing to do is to leave, but all Prea really wants is to steal someone else’s paradise for her own shot at reconnecting with her mom. Besides, the pearly gates don’t exactly come with an elevator back down to Earth. Then Prea discovers a way to leave, but while she tries to choose between doing the right thing or staying to be with her mom, her boyfriend is about to discover her terrible secret. If the truth comes out, she could lose all the relationships she’s recovered in her afterlife, and even ruin the life she might have to live out back on Earth.

Readers of WE WERE LIARS and IF I STAY will enjoy AFTER. I have self-published three books, (THE TRUTH ABOUT DATING, MURDER BEYOND WORDS, and MURDER WITH ART), each of which sold 20,000 copies in their first year of publication.


And now, the first 250 words of AFTER.

Chapter One

So, I guess this is Heaven.
I was on a cloud in the middle of outer space, and I could breathe fine, sans space suit. The cloud was about the size of my school’s football field, but instead of a goalpost at the end line, there were these enormous white gates rising up out of the mist. Hundreds of people were swarming them, but I was off to the side, watching. The sky was black and everything was eerily silent, like we had all lost our voice boxes on the trip up from Earth.
I wondered if it was just Earthlings in the crowd or if the life forms were from all over the universe. Heaven was supposed to be where all your burning questions were answered, but no old guy in a robe was showing up to explain anything. I squinted at the crowd, hoping to see aliens but expecting old men with their hospital gowns hanging open in the back, maybe a couple of people carrying their limbs. I couldn’t make out any details at all. Everyone was just blurry lights, like human glow sticks. Maybe alien glow sticks. I looked down at my legs and I was kind of lit up, too.
I should be glad to be here because, a) my family never went to church, and b) back on Earth I didn’t even believe in God or Heaven. My bad.
I made my way over to the gates, but I couldn’t see beyond the shimmering, pearly bars. 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

NaNoWriMo is back and I've already learned so much!

It’s November, and that means it’s NaNoWriMo.  National Novel Writing Month has been around since 1999 but I firmly paid it no mind when it came onto my radar a few years ago.  I mean, seriously, what a dumb idea.  No one can write a novel in a month.  Except a hack. 

But last year, on November 6th, On Point, my favorite NPR show of all time, did a show, “Do you NaNoWriMo?” 

Stupid show.  I almost didn’t listen.  Except I always listen to On Point. 

Coincidentally, I already had a young adult murder mystery planned out in my head.  I wasn’t ready to start writing it yet, because I was busy working on a screenplay for another book of mine, The Truth About Dating, but my young adult heroine was always knocking things over in the back of my brain to get attention.  She was who I thought about when I woke up at 3:34AM and couldn’t fall back asleep.  But I couldn’t start a book until the screenplay was done.  And then about three quarters of the way through the radio show I suddenly decided that I WAS going to NaNoWriMo!  I was going to write that novel in the month of November!  It was such an abrupt turn-around.  One minute, no, one second I was scoffing and scorning and then next second I was 100% on board. 

I started Murder in Suburbia that day, November sixth.  I wrote 1499 words.  The next day I wrote 3650 words.  By day three I had over ten thousand words!  I hit a wall at day 13.  I was up to 40,553 words and I didn’t know how in the word to get ten thousand more.  For three days I let the story gel.  But at the time, I didn’t know I was letting things gel.  I thought, “I’m not going to finish!”  That is the big problem with NaNoWriMo.  You feel panic-stricken most of the time because you only have a month!!!!!  That’s also the reason NaNoWriMo is so fantastic.  I have to keep writing or I won’t win.  Right???  So after three days I noticed a little hole in the wall, and when I scratched it, some bricks fell out and I wrote 3972 more words.  Now I was at 44,525 words.  At this point in my novel, my teenage sleuth had everything she needed to solve the crime but I needed some kind of spectacular, nail-biting, brilliant finale.  I wanted my young adult readers to see our heroine cleverly escape from mortal danger.  She wasn’t magic.  She didn’t have a mutant skill set.  She couldn’t fight like a vampire slayer and she couldn’t kill like a vampire.  She had to do it like a regular teen.  My readers had to be able to save themselves in just the same way (in the unlikely event that a killer lived on their block).  I was only 5,000 words from my “win” so I took a day to think it through.  I like to plan things out in my head before opening up my laptop to write.  So I thought about the plot while I raked the leaves and went to work and made pumpkin pie.

On my nineteenth day (November 25), I put in a marathon session and wrote 7,975 words to complete my story at 52,500 words. 

I had just written a young adult murder mystery in 19 days.  Mind blown. 

Then I sent it to my mom and she LOVED it!

Over the next five months I revised, mainly by bulking up the story.  It’s about 66,000 words now.  But very little of what I’d written during NaNoWriMo got thrown out. 

This year, I’m doing it again.  From the start of my first book I planned to write a sequel from the best friend’s point of view.  I plotted in my head.  I wrote down a few scenes I didn’t want to forget.  But I knew I’d start the real writing this month.  In November.  And things are really different the second time around.   I’m not worried I won’t finish so I’m taking the time to write in all the details now.  I’m not sure, but I suspect I’ll have a lot less revisions at the end.

Isabel Allende always starts her new books on January 8.  I don’t plan to only write my books in November.  But the timing worked out this year.  And I learned something important.  For the first four days I was so unbelievably bored from my writing that I didn’t think I had this book in me after all.  I would have stopped, but I couldn’t.  It was NaNoWriMo.  So I kept writing.  And eventually, everything clicked.  Suddenly, I had all these great ideas for my character.  I couldn’t wait to sit down to write her story.  I couldn’t stop thinking about her when I was getting the kids off the bus, making dinner, and helping with homework.  Looking back on the past five months, I realize I was saving this book for November.  I tried to write it several times in the spring but I hadn’t immersed myself enough in the character to make her three-dimensional.  So she bored me.  So I stopped. 

But you can’t NaNoWriMo without being immersed.  It’s too time intensive.  Before this month, I was sticking a (kind of lazy) toe in the water.  NaNoWriMo makes you dive.  And the water is freezing.  So you have to swim.

Try it.  It's exhilarating.  

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Parenting is like writing...

Parenting is most fun when you get to teach a life lesson with something that you are already doing yourself.  It’s kind of like the first rule in writing: don’t tell, show.  Last week one of my kids had a disagreement with a playmate at school.  Now that playmate is causing my kid a little grief.  It’s elementary school stuff, so as an adult my first thought was to take it with a grain of salt.  On the other hand, kids feel the same pain as adults, even if the crime is that so-and-so broke the orange crayon.  And at this age, kids will do dumb, sometimes mean things, but it doesn’t mean they are mean.  They are just kids. 

When adults aren’t nice, you could decide the same rules don’t apply.  Or you could wish them well and move on.  That’s what I do with wearisome adults and it works beautifully.  I don’t waste any energy on these people and this week I got to teach my kid the same thing.  In the end, it makes everyone’s lives easier.  You teach your kids to forget about difficult people instead of being reactive.  No matter what gripe they have with someone, people are still people and worthy of kindness.   You don't have to be a punching bag, just remember that bullies are mean because something isn't going well in their lives, and take anything they say or do with a grain of salt.  Then forget them.