Saturday, August 26, 2017

Contest to name the fictional NC town in Fade To Us

I'm having a contest to name the heroine's hometown in my next book, Fade To Us.

The terms:
  • The name must be fictional (so please do a search for the town's name in North Carolina before suggesting.)
  • Suggestions must be submitted by Thursday, 31 Aug 2017, at 11:59 pm EST.
  • A distinguished panel of judges (aka my family) will help me to select the winning town name. Their decision is completely subjective, impervious to outside influence, and utterly final.
  • If more than one entrant suggests the same name, the entrant who suggests first (based on date/timestamp of entry) will be awarded the prize.
  • You may submit your suggested town name via email (, twitter, or as a comment on this blog.
  • You may enter more than once.

The prize:
  • Only one prize will be awarded.
  • The winning suggestion will be used as the name of the fictional hometown for my heroine, Brooke, in the book Fade To Us.
  • The prize winner will be thanked on the Acknowledgements page of the book.
  • The prize winner will receive the first signed copy of an ARC of Fade To Us (which should be available in October or November.) USA and Canada addresses only.
no mods made; license link is
Raven Rock State Park, photo by Selena NBH

A little more about the setting, to inspire you:
  • This fictional town is located in the middle of the state, also known as The Heart of Carolina. Names with beach or mountain are not likely to be chosen.
  • My heroine's hometown is small and located in a mostly rural area. However, people are beginning to move there from cities like Raleigh and Fayetteville--because the commute is doable.
  • This fictional town is located near a gorgeous state park, Raven Rock State Park (see image to the upper left.) This is a beautiful part of North Carolina!
  • Themes in the book include musical theater, autism/Asperger's, blended families, and baseball.
  • For what it's worth, towns in North Carolina often end with -ville, -ton, or -boro.

I look forward to your ideas, and thank you!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

And now she leaves the nest

"...there really are places in the heart
that you don't even know exist
until you love a child."
- Anne Lamott

After 25 years of being a mom, I'm finally, really-and-truly going to have an empty nest.

I can hardly believe it. My girls have been with me or near me for so many years that I can barely remember my life before. OlderDaughter went to college nearby, lives only 20 miles away, and works at the same company that I do. BabyGirl attended a college that was a mere 8 miles away--and her apartment was a whopping one mile further than that.

But this weekend, she moves to New England--a distance of almost 700 miles--to attend graduate school. Now don't get me wrong, I am proud of her. Delighted for her! Contrary to what she might believe, the world will be a better place because of the energy, determination, and heart that she is putting into her chosen vocation.

Yet it's hard to see her go. To watch her spread her wings. To know that my job is mostly done.

I began my career as a YA author, in part, to hold conversations with my daughters. When lectures failed to communicate my hopes and fears for them, I found a way to show them how I felt by telling stories.

Today's technology has made communication so much easier than when I was spreading my wings. After I left the nest, it was a challenge for my mother to stay in touch. That won't be true for me. I can call, text, Skype, and chat any time of day or night. I can fly to BabyGirl's side in a matter of hours--if she asks. But from this week forward, life will forever be different. Exactly the way it's supposed to be.

I'll miss her. Fortunately, I'm confident that distance is no match for a mother's love.

"But kids don't stay with you if you do it right.
It's the one job where, the better you are,
the more surely you won't be needed in the long run."
- Barbara Kingsolver 

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Always there - diversity

When authors write YA novels, there are many aspects that we're all trying to achieve: a well-written story with a good plot and interesting settings.

For me, the most important aspect is to have realistic characters who struggle with relatable problems. Including diverse characters simply reflects the people I meet in my daily life or the lives of my family.

I have a day job at a software company. We're located in the middle of a region with many universities and technical companies. People come here from all over the globe to get college degrees--and they stay to work. When my daughters were in their teens, they attended urban magnet schools with diverse student bodies. They're now in their 20s, with diverse colleagues or university classmates.

Ethnic, cultural, economic, religious, gender, and physical diversity has always been around me. The characters in my books grow out of the world I live in. Sometimes, I make it clear that a character is biracial or Hindu or experiences life differently. And sometimes, the diversity is just there without being explicitly called out.

With contemporary characters, I start by researching them through books, films, websites, and blog posts. I ask questions either online or through interviews. I've also begun to seek sensitivity readers--people who are intimately familiar with the differences I'm writing about.

Whisper Falls series: For people in the 18th century (and throughout history), physical disabilities were devastating, especially for women. In A Whisper in Time, Susanna's sister Phoebe sustains a serious hand injury that will threaten her livelihood. In Whispers from the Past, Susanna's dearest friend Dorcas may never be able to attract a husband because she is "crippled".

I Wish series: I interviewed a biracial friend who helped me to create the backstory for Eli--who has a black mother and white father. In book 2, Kimberley's memory disability is a major conflict. We did extensive research of people with memory disabilities--and received a sensitivity read of Wishing for You from a nurse who cared for patients with brain injuries.

The Possibility of Somewhere - Ash Gupta is the son of wealthy Asian Indian immigrants. I was fortunate that Indian colleagues and friends were generous with their patience and time to answer my questions about what Ash's life might have been like.

 Fade to Us - My next book, Fade to Us, releases in February 2018 (writing as Julia Day). This story is set during a summer musical theater program for teens, with a Chinese director and her biracial son (Chinese and white). A Chinese friend and her two biracial teen sons helped me with these two characters. Another Chinese friend gave a sensitivity read. However, the biggest role that diversity plays in this book comes from the heroine's new stepsister. Natalie is a 15-year-old on the autism spectrum. My daughter, who also has Asperger's Syndrome, helped with Natalie's character development and speech. My daughter is the sensitivity reader for this book.

It's my hope to portray a character's diversity as authentically and respectfully as possible. But truly, a character's personality comes from their background, faith, family, education, life experiences--and their differences. All must work together to form a complete, interesting, sympathetic character.