Archives for the month of: October, 2010

Well, it said that the optional topics for this month are Author Friends and Favorite Authors.

Actually, this kind of shameless book promoting is disgusting to me. Way too pompous. Don’t y’all agree? Guess I ought to ask my author friend, Karin Gillespie, founder of this blog. Way back, she’d advise us bloggers, ‘Now, don’t be too blatant about selling your books.” But, recently another author friend of mine, Gail Karwoski, who writes children’s books, shook her head and admonished me about my reluctance in book promotion, saying, “Julie, even us artists have to eat!”

That was because I am what you’d call a reluctant hawker of my own books. Now, I can sell the heck out of someone else’s story. Just today I raved about two books to another author friend. I sent Susan Nees home with Anne Lamott’s “Bird by Bird,” and told her she absolutely must read Janisse Ray’s “Ecology of a Cracker Childhood.”

For those of you who know me, you know I struggle with Laliaphobia, a debilitating fear of public speaking, and in addition to this, it is extremely hard for me to pat myself on the back, to say, “Read this book I wrote. You’re gonna love it.” I was raised by parents who prized humility, who warned against being prideful, and never encouraged us four kids to applaud ourselves.

I’m trying to figure out what has possessed me today. Maybe heading through menopause has changed me (like it changed Evelyn in “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café” by Fannie Flagg, a wonderful and favorite book of mine) or, perhaps I’ve watched too many episodes of Snapped! Because when I pondered the topics, trying to think of talking about my author friends and my favorite books, my mind just went spinning off into SELLING MY NEW BOOK. Yes, I’m asking people outright to please buy my book, because if they don’t, I’ll be hunting a job. Seriously. Don’t smile. I’m not joking. I’ve got a mortgage due, along with a plethora of other bills, debts, and two kids in college and a 12-year-old with crooked teeth.

As an author, I know we have to participate in selling our books. I have this dog-eared notebook on which I’ve written MARKETING with a sharpie, and whenever I have a new book out (this in #5), I take a big gulp and ruffle through tattered sections of media contacts, on-line opportunities for promotions, speaking possibilities, etc…

But this time, when “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” came out, I had a deadline for another novel (which I met last Friday!) and so it was easy to rationalize putting that notebook out of sight and out of mind. Also, I’d been reading this book by Donald Maass that said, and I loosely quote, “It’s word-of-mouth that sells books.”

I clung to that bit of Maass wisdom until, like I say, I snapped. Until it hit me over the head like a two-by-four. HOW is word-of-mouth going to happen if nobody ever first reads your book?! And CHRISTMAS books, it seems, have this teeny tiny sales window, from right around Thanksgiving until December something or other. Oh yeah, December the 25th.

Now, I honestly do love this book I wrote because my heart is inside of it. My favorite character is not Maggie, the heroine. I fell in love with Mr. Tyronious Byrd, the ancient black caretaker of a Christmas tree farm. I still cry when I read his story.

Speaking of stories, I have a story on my website called Crossing Over and if you go to my website at you can click on it and read about how I left the ABA after my last novel, and moved to the CBA. Summerside Press, publishers of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” put a lot of faith in me (no pun intended) and gave me the song title made famous by Bing Crosby in the 1940’s to write a story around. They wanted me to write an ‘Inspirational Romance,” and I did, but they gave me so much leeway it turned into a story about WWII and Mr. Tyronious Byrd, too. When I told my minister about the novel, she said, “What in the world is an Inspirational Romance? Is that when he rips off the bodice, and underneath there are long-johns?” Not really. You’d be surprised.

So, I’m offering my wares to you today. Here’s the heart of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” in a brief paragraph: It’s 1944 and Maggie Culpepper is furious at God because of her mother’s untimely death. She stumbles into a recruiting center and enlists in the U.S. Navy WAVES, leaving Watkinsville, Georgia to serve at a naval base in New Jersey. The proverbial boy-next-door, William Dove, whose battle with polio has left him physically unfit for military service, wages a war of his own from the family’s Christmas tree farm. William learns a priceless lesson about surrendering from the farm’s aging caretaker, Tyronious Byrd, who’s struggled through some dark valleys of his own.

If that didn’t grab you, it’s gotten a couple of honors: It’s in Nielsen’s ‘Top 50 Inspirational Titles’ this month, and it has been chosen as a ‘Top Pick for Fall 2010 Releases’ by CBA Retailers & Resources magazine. If that doesn’t convince you either, think about this: It would be a really CHEAP gift! With a cover price of only $12.99 at your favorite local bookstore, and on-line at around $8, there are no excuses. You’ve got lists of folks who you need to buy a Christmas gift for, right? You could do that AND feed a starving artist!

Whew. I don’t believe I’ve ever done so much shameless hawking of books in my entire writing life!

God bless you all and hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving and a beautiful Christmas – even if you don’t buy my book.

Truly, Julie

When I come home I pause to see if there are any phone messages waiting. The voices ringing out from the bowels of my answering machine are usually good things. This is why I was shocked one day last summer.
I set down my packages and punched PLAY. “Julie?” came the southern drawl of a woman who’d been struggling with a great moral dilemma. It was a voice quavering with admonishment. “This is Ina Hemphill. I enjoyed your first three novels immensely, so I made a special trip to the Barnes & Noble and ordered your newest book. However, when I went to pick it up this afternoon, I decided that in spite of my admiration for your talent, I’m not going to read it because of the subject matter!”
I stood paralyzed, waiting for her to say “Amen” but heard her voice reciting her phone number.
How she got my phone number, I didn’t know. But what in heaven’s name had offended her? My collection of three novels set in rural Georgia and christened The Homegrown Series had passed inspection from thousands of readers who held rigorous standards for “what they put into their minds.” My fourth novel, THE ROMANCE READERS’ BOOK CLUB was not for sale until December 18th.
This poor woman is struggling with Alzheimers, I decided. Or, perhaps she was playing a joke on me and when I called her back she would laugh and invite me to speak to her book club, named something like The Presbyterian Book Hens.
My husband narrowed his eyes. Tom is a reluctant patron-of-the-arts, having supported me financially, and sometimes mentally through years of writing, publishing. and doing all manner of things in pursuit of hawking my books. A skeptical man, he ran to our computer, zooming to
He began laughing crazily. “There’s a new Julie Cannon, author! She writes Lesbian Erotica!”
I peered over his shoulder at a sturdy woman with cropped hair perched astride a motorcycle, wearing the leering grin of a pirate.
Now, I’m a very live-and-let-live kind of person, rarely given to explosions. But I was outraged, scandalized, because this Julie-Cannon-Come-Lately had a book recently published called Come and Get Me.
I was really crushed as I pondered the long road I’d traveled since 2001. I’d put in miles and miles along backroads, reading and speaking at hundreds of libraries and book clubs to build a readership under the name Julie Cannon. I’d put my family through a lot! Lots of missed PTO meetings, lots of frozen burritos and lots of dustballs rolling around under the beds. I’d struggled painfully through the disabling affliction known as Laliaphobia to become a public speaker.
“Isn’t this against the law?!” I hissed. “I couldn’t just up and decide I wanted to write under the name Dolly Parten, could I?”
My husband laughed as he stared at the flat plane of my silhouette. “Call Jenny.”
Jenny is my New York agent, a gutsy woman who’s not afraid to flip a bird at cab drivers. I knew she’d handle the imposter. “There’s nothing you can do,” she said. “Several years back, a transvestite used my name and he, I mean, she has a website under it.”
Tom shot the cruellest arrow of all. “Looks like your mother was right.”
I bristled. Mama had long been urging me to use my maiden name, Lowrey. I’d smugly chuckled, figuring her next request would be to add a family photo, circa 1962 to my book covers.
Now I knew what happened when you disobeyed mama.
“Sit down, send an email to the people in your address book about the other Julie Cannon,” my husband said.
I shook my head. I had tons of emails for those who’d signed up at readings, but my thoughts were on folks like Ina, who didn’t even own a computer. I visualized poor Ina parking her Buick in the parking lot of Barnes & Noble, climbing out after freshening her Avon red lipstick, her thin body clad in a modest blouse and a khaki skirt below her knees. Her hair had been rolled and set for the week ahead. I saw Ina striding purposefully to the sales desk and asking for her Julie Cannon novel. I heard the titters of the sales girls as she left with Come and Get Me clasped in her hand.
Fueled by righteous indignation, I dialed her number. “Mrs. Hemphill? This is Julie Cannon.”
Long, pregnant pause.
“How are you?” I added perkily.
“Fine,” she answered in a clipped voice.
“I’m so glad you called me!” I gushed. “You alerted me to another person who’s writing under my name! I didn’t write Come and Get Me!” I explained the whole mix up.
I heard Ina Hemphill expelling all her air. I could see her deflated body sink down onto her brown corduroy sofa, sensible shoes suspended in mid-air. “Julie, Julie,” she said after quite a while, in that voice readers use that says they feel they know an author, heart and soul, after reading their books. “I’m thrilled! Relieved! I hope other fans will realize those books are not your creations!”
“Me too,” I said.
We chatted on about the weather and recipes. As we ended our conversation, she reassured me that Barnes & Noble had allowed her to return Come and Get Me. She asked me to write more books in The Homegrown Series.
In the days following has come a steady crop of inquiries from confused, questioning
fans. Sometimes solicitations come from places like, requesting I submit an article. I smile as I think about my stories reporters describe as “Southern fried soul food”, and “A cross between Fannie Flagg and Jan Karon.”
One thing was left. Thinking of that trembling, proud smile Mama wears whenever I present her with a copy of my latest book, I sent an email to the folks at Penguin, asking them if I should put Julie Lowrey Cannon on my upcoming THE ROMANCE READERS’ BOOK CLUB. My editor said Julie L. Cannon would be more visually pleasing.
“Okey doke,” I said. “What the L?”