“I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

When I was in elementary school, the choir director taught us the song written from the following poem. The poem is carved into the base of the Statue of Liberty. The elementary school choir sang the song for a concert. I will never forget what happened when the song was over. Some of the people in the audience were crying. All were on their feet, clapping. I didn’t understand their emotional reaction as a child. I do now.

All four of my grandparents came to America for a better life. I look forward to the news footage every July 4th of the people who are being sworn in as American citizens across the country. It’s not perfect, but it’s home, and now it’s their home, too.

Happy July 4th to all!

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Emma Lazarus

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My process, in a few hundred words…

The wonderful Asa Marie Bradley (brand-new client of Nancy Yost Literary Agency’s Sarah Younger! Woo-hooo!) tagged me in a blog post last Monday. Did I mention that she’s also a Golden Heart nominee this year? She’s terrific, and nobody is more excited to have a new agency sister than I am! Be sure and check out her website, won’t you?

What am I currently working on?

I am starting a Seattle Sharks holiday novella TODAY. I have wanted to write a holiday novella for a long time now; it’s the time of year when everyone falls in love with everything! I hope everyone enjoys the finished product, which will be done by the second week of August. I also turned in COVERING KENDALL, book four of the Love and Football/Seattle Sharks series, last Friday afternoon. (Waves at Amanda the editor and Sarah the agent…)

How does my work differ from others in this genre?

I write contemporary sports romance. I’ve been watching football for most of my life. I’d like to think my books are humorous as well as attentive to the little details that a football fan would find important in the story. I’d also like to believe that a reader who knows NOTHING about football (or isn’t so sure about reading a book set in the world of a fictitious pro football team!) would enjoy the books, too.

Why do I write what I write?

I write contemporary romance because it’s easy to immerse myself in the everyday world of my characters. I love the thought that lives change when two people meet in the coffee line, at the grocery store or at a sporting event.  There’s thousands of love stories happening all around us! I write about Seattle (my hometown!) because I’ve had a lifelong love affair with it.

Seattle is a good-sized city that’s actually a small town, and I do my best to reflect that in my novels. There’s so much more here than rain and flying fish.

How does my individual writing process work?

There are two kinds of authors: Plotters, and pantsers. Plotters know what is going to happen in the story before they start. They make notes. They’re organized. And then there’s me. I’m a pantser. I have some idea of my characters before I sit down at my desk. I know how the story opens and the first “turning point” or inciting incident. I have a good idea of what the ending will be like — usually. COVERING KENDALL is out in October of 2014; I wasn’t sure how I wanted to end the book until two days before I wrote it.

The biggest part of my writing process is dogged determination. I get out of bed in the morning, take care of the usual, and sit down in the desk chair. I write anywhere between 1,000 – 2,000 words per day, depending on what my characters are doing. The patron saint of romance writers is Nora Roberts, who has famously said (paraphrased): “I can fix a bad page. I can’t fix an empty one.” If you want to write for a living, you must write every day.

Thank you again to Asa for tagging me! It’s now MY turn to tag… and she has no idea I’m doing it yet. (Bribery might be required!) My wonderful critique partner Jessi Gage has a boxed set out today with nine other authors. PASSIONATE KISSES is available wherever digital books are sold, and it’s only .99! Buy one. Buy TEN! You’ll love these authors, and the price can’t be beat! Jessi writes contemporary, historical AND paranormal romance. You’ll love her work just like we do!

Tell her Julie sent you. 😉

CATCHING CAMERON: On its way to a digital reader/bookseller near you May 6th!

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It’s hard to believe my third book will be out in a little over a month. I submitted my copy edits to Amanda the editor on Tuesday afternoon, which means CATCHING CAMERON is officially in production! (Production: The digital version is formatted and readied to go on sale May 6th. The print version has followed about three weeks later.) I’m never quite sure what’s going to end up on my laptop screen when I sit down in the chair each morning, and this book was no exception!

Defensive tackle Zach Anderson made his appearance in RUSHING AMY, and now he’s getting his own story. He met Cameron Ondine (the woman of his dreams) in a night club in Las Vegas ten years ago. Cameron is now a popular pro football sideline reporter for Pro Sports Network. Zach and Cameron have been ignoring each other for the past ten years as the result of something that happened in Vegas. When they run into each other on a New York City sidewalk while trying to hail a cab, fireworks ensue!

Zach and Cameron can’t avoid each other (and the feelings that still linger…) when they find themselves stuck in a dorm for thirty days during the Sharks’ training camp.

Will she duct tape him to a goal post? Will he tell her he’s never forgotten about her, and he never will? Will she decide she loves Seattle’s pine-scented air and flannel more than the non-stop excitement of New York City?

We’ll all find out on May 6th!

Seattle: A melting pot of cuisines and people

I have a deadline on a new book: June 16, if I remember correctly. I should be working. All the time. Even authors need a few hours off once in a while, so I was chatting with a guy in my Twitter timeline late last night about my hometown and food. He asked me if I thought Seattle had a “cuisine” all its own.

Other areas of the country are known for a certain type of food. New York City has pizza. So does Chicago. (I’m lucky enough to have tried both; they’re delicious!) Philly has cheesesteaks. Kansas City and Texas have barbecue. The guy’s question brought on a long 140-character discussion. I responded with “seafood”, and he wrote, “But what do the working people eat?”

My books are set in Seattle. I’ve been here my whole life, and I was stumped. There’s seafood, but there’s seafood in many areas of the country. What makes it special here, besides being freshly caught? We have wine and coffee, which isn’t food but is pretty darn popular. (The city closest to where I live, Woodinville, boasts over 100 wineries at this point. Some of you might have heard of a little coffee concern called Starbucks…) 

If you worked in the Seattle area, you might find Asian food, Cuban sandwiches, pho, Ethiopian food and Greek food in a block. If you visit Ballard (suburb of Seattle) you would find Scandinavian specialties. There’s pizza and Dick’s burgers and barbecue and noodle shops. There are nationally famous food trucks here, featuring a variety of cuisines. (My favorite: A Mexican food truck in Fremont that offers a “passport dinner” — you have to show your passport to get their extra-special plate.) I’m horribly biased — I realize there’s a big selection of food everywhere in the country, but people here eat and enjoy a huge selection of national and international foods every day. Seattle’s food has a big Asian/Native American influence, too. (Be sure and order fresh salmon grilled on a cedar plank, for example.)

I hope I can highlight some of the diversity of Seattle and its food in my work. So far, though, Bellevue’s Burgermaster has ended up in all three of my books. (In & Out fans, we’ll see you and raise you!) No matter who you are or where you’re from, there’s nothing that hits the spot more sometimes than a burger and a (handmade) shake.

What’s the cuisine where you’re from? What’s your favorite dish (or restaurant!) to share with out-of-town family and friends?

The best Valentine’s Day gift so far

Valentine’s Day this year started out fairly quietly. Mr. Brannagh left for work and I got busy in my office. Sarah the agent sent me an e-mail and asked if I had a few minutes to chat. I thought she wanted to talk with me about what’s been happening with BLITZING EMILY and RUSHING AMY. (If you’ve bought them, thank you so much!) Uh, no.

Sarah: What’s the best gift you could ask for on Valentine’s Day?

Julie: (Thinks hard about a shopping spree at Tiffany’s, a five-pound box of Fran’s sea salt chocolate caramels, a week in Kauai with my husband, or world peace) I’m not sure. I’ll have to think about that one.

Sarah: Career-wise. What’s the best gift you could think of?

Julie: (Thinks about hitting #1 on the New York Times list) I’m not sure.

And yes, I was a dazzling conversationalist that day…

Sarah: I just talked to Amanda. They want to go back to contract. It’s two single titles and a novella. What do you think?

Julie: (Too dumbfounded to talk.) Really?

Yes, it’s true. I’ll be writing another two novels and a novella featuring the Seattle Sharks, and the pub dates look like this so far:

CATCHING CAMERON, May 6, 2014

Untitled Sharks novel, October, 2014

Untitled Sharks novella, Nov/Dec., 2014

Untitled Sharks novel, May, 2015

Party with me, won’t you?

A little Valentine’s Day advice for men from a romance author

Guys,

Valentine’s Day is tomorrow, and most likely, you’re in a panic. All day long, you’ve watched the parade of florists in and out of your office, listened to the squealing of your female co-workers as yet another gets a bouquet, balloons, or some kind of mushy card. You probably also noticed the women who weren’t getting flowers attempting to studiously ignore the women who can’t wait to show the entire office how much they are loved.

You might not care about Valentine’s Day at all. You might think it’s a commercial holiday made to support florists, candy manufacturers, Hallmark, and the diamond industry. You might think your girlfriend or wife is above it all. You are wrong.

Here’s the thing: No matter how many times any woman might tell you that she doesn’t care and it doesn’t matter to her, she longs to know that the guy in her life loves her. Here’s a few ideas you might think about, and how you can turn them in your favor. After all, actions speak louder than words.

The women you work with might be flaunting that dozen red roses on her desk right now, but you want the woman in your life to smile with the certainty that she found the Holy Grail of manhood: A guy who doesn’t let her know he loves her only one day a year, he loves her enough to show her how he feels every day.

Is this work? A little. Will it pay off bigger than you ever dreamed? Keep reading.

1.Write her a love letter. It does not have to be perfect. Legible is good, but mostly, how do you feel about her? Write it down. Do you love her eyes, the way she kisses you, and the fact she laughs at your jokes? Do you miss her when she’s away? What’s your favorite memory of her? All you need is a pen, paper, an envelope, and a little time. She will read and reread it, she will treasure it, and all her girlfriends will hear about it, too. This is great for Valentine’s Day, but there is no law stating it should only happen one day a year. Even once a month will thrill her. This must be on paper. E-mail or texting is out.

2.When you come home in the evening, kiss her, and ask her how her day went. Spend the first twenty minutes you’re together just listening to her. The rest of the evening will go better as a result.

3.Everyone sends roses on Valentine’s Day. If you really want to get your love some flowers, great, but order and deliver them yourself. Does the woman you love like something different? How about freesias, irises, Gerbera daisies? It’s a whole flower world out there. Plus, they will still be going strong when the roses have wilted and died. It’s a thought.

4.Let’s talk Valentine’s dinner. The restaurant is crammed, there’s no privacy, and it’s guaranteed to cost a fortune. Why not try something different? If you can cook at all (or call the local breakfast/brunch place for takeout) breakfast in bed with the appropriate beverage might outshine that dinner date. The objective here is to a) have a great meal and b) be alone with the woman you love. Put your thinking cap on. What does she like to do? How about a picnic in front of the fire? If you live in one of the areas of the country with snow, how about a bottle of champagne and going outside to make snow angels? Hiking? Sitting on the beach at sunset? Whatever it is that your sweetheart enjoys, with a little extra thought and preparation, you can ensure a great evening.

5.When was the last time you picked up the phone just because you wanted to hear her voice, stopped by to see her for five minutes because you missed her, left a goofy note and some little thing she likes (her favorite kind of candy, a gift card for the coffee place, a flower or whatever) in her car, on the bathroom counter, etcetera?

6.Mostly, if there was one bit of advice I could offer any man, it’s the following: Shut off your phone/the TV/everything else, and focus on her. You did this when you started dating her. Why not do it now?

You may be muttering something under your breath about what’s she going to do for you, and why should you have to do all this crap. Here’s the thing: Women read romance novels because they want that breathless, heart-pounding feeling of falling in love again with a guy that keeps chasing her even after he’s sealed the deal. Women also tend to respond as they are treated. Your girlfriend or wife does a lot of things for you, doesn’t she? Besides the whole housework thing, she tries to take care of you when you’re sick, she braves sporting events she may not like because you love them, on and on. Truly: This is not a zero-sum game. This is all about helping her remember why she’s with you, and not with someone else.

Again: You outwitted, outlasted and outplayed other guys to get her attention. Why not remind her again why you are the guy she fell in love with, not just this weekend, but every day?

Happy Valentine’s Day,

Julie Brannagh, Romance Author

RUSHING AMY is on sale TODAY!

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To say that I am thrilled RUSHING AMY is finally in the hands of readers is an understatement. I loved writing this book. Even more, I loved writing the hero, Matt. I could see Matt in my mind’s eye before I wrote one word, and I fell in love with him.

Matt chased Emily’s sister Amy until she agreed to date him. Once. Of course, one date turned into many and they fell in love, but he was secretly thrilled she made him work so hard to get her attention. She was secretly thrilled he persisted until she said “Yes.” I love Matt because he didn’t always have it so easy. Instead of being bitter, he used his setbacks in life to spur him on to achievement.

I hope you’ll love RUSHING AMY, too!