Monday, December 31, 2007

The Importance of Digits

Have you ever realized how much you depend on every single finger, thumb and toe? I recently had the opportunity to gain a deeper appreciation for my digits when I decided to block a spike during a volleyball game. Okay, the hitter was taller and stronger than me, and a man. I broke my thumb instantly, for the second time. Yes, the other time was during a volleyball game too.

I love volleyball!

I can't wait to play again, but in the meantime, I'm becoming ambidextrous. Yeah, I'm right handed and broke my right thumb. Even moving my fingers too much hurts, not to mention running! Not sure how I will survive the next few weeks until I can get a good five mile run in. Oh, and that goal I had to finish my novel by the end of January? I think I just added a few weeks.

Now I better appreciate the use of my husband's fingers as well, for buttons, shoelaces, zippers, cooking, cleaning, etc! And my children ... what lifesavers! I must have really shattered this bone. Perhaps I should go to a doctor this time. Naw. It'll heal one way or the other. It did last time.

Now I'm working on my printing. I can keep my words between the lines as well as my five year old, but my letters are far shakier than my eight year old's writing. Such fun.

Today we try a physical activity much safer than volleyball while I wait to heal. We're going to hike Zion's Canyon.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Spires of Stone

I recently read Spires of Stone by Annette Lyon. I don't usually read much historical LDS fiction as I prefer contemporary LDS fiction. However, I do have to say that I loved Spires of Stone. Before reading it, I was intrigued by the premise loosely based on Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. I had also heard great reviews about it. The story revolves around sisters Bethany and Hannah and a trio of brothers--Ben, Phillip, and Claude. The setting is in Salt Lake City during the construction of the Salt Lake Temple. I love how Lyon weaves in interesting historical facts about the temple's construction into the book. I was impressed with how well-researched the book is, and I enjoyed the historical notes in the back that explains more details about why it took 40 years to complete. I especially enjoyed the interaction between Bethany and Ben. Theirs is a love/hate relationship which is my favorite premise for a book. The insults they sling at each other is just to cover up their true feelings of love. Ben's brothers and Bethany's sister conspire to get the feuding duo back together. Meanwhile, Claude and Phillip are both in love with Hannah. It was a very touching book and very enjoyable. The characters were vivid, each unique and portrayed well. I highly recommend this book, and I just may like LDS historical novels after all. And speaking of great novels, have you nominated your favorite book of 2007 for a Whitney Award? December 31st is the final day to nominate your favorite LDS novel for a Whitney Award. Click here to nominate a novel.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, And...

I'm just chiming in with my own "Merry Christmas," "Happy New Year," "Happy Holidays," and all that! Best wishes to all of you for a joyous and prosperous new year!

And I have some kind of stomach bug, so don't get too close.

P.S. Don't forget to check out our contest, right here on our blog!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Post Christmas Post

by Marsha Ward

I hope everyone had a great Christmas with lots of family and friends and love, joy and good cheer. I did. One of my gifts was an addition to my Christmas Movie collection, Mr. Kruger's Christmas. Thanks, Nyla!

I want to remind you all of our Contest. I've given away a book recently in LDS Publisher's Christmas Contest, and I'm sure the rest of the Ink Ladies are just as eager to experience that joy. All you have to do is match up the Ink Lady with the gift, and enter your guesses in the comments. Easy Peasy!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Just stopping in to wish you all Merry Christmas! I hope you all have a wonderful day.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas Caroling

Tonight we went Christmas caroling. It's our third year to go caroling, and it has quickly become our family's favorite Christmas tradition. We went with two other families and the full-time missionaries in our ward. We picked a random neighborhood and went up to homes, signing Christmas hymns.

Our kids had the best time of anyone. There was a total of eight kids, two of them babies. The kids took turns ringing doorbells and giving the people pass-along cards. Everyone that answered the door was friendly and enjoyed the signing. I'm not sure what they'll do with the pass-along cards, but you never know.

It was a little cold, but we all had a wonderful time walking and enjoying the Christmas lights. Luckily, those that came with us have lovely singing voices. Mine is terrible. I am absolutely musically challenged. I do enjoy singing and managed to sing quietly enough so no one could hear how badly I do it.

It was a fun night and we hope to make it a tradition every year. My kids love signing and going to people's homes. It amazes me how courageous they are to go right up to strange homes and ring the doorbell. There is no shyness about giving pass along cards. If only we, as adults, would be so brave about sharing the gospel. Children really are great examples.

Merry Christmas to all.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Christmas With Our Neighbors

I have to admit I was skeptical when our bishopric announced that our ward choir would be participating in the Christmas program of our local Seventh Day Adventist congregation, and then they'd join us for ours. It seemed like a strange arrangement to me. Wouldn't we Mormons feel out of place in the program of another Christian faith? And wouldn't they feel kind of weird at ours?

Well, the Seventh Day Adventist program was last weekend. (A nice thing about the arrangement is that since their Sabbath is on Saturday, and ours is on Sunday, neither of us has to miss our own services.) And I have to say it was a marvelous experience.

Regardless of any doctrinal differences we may have (which were never brought up), we share a common love of the Savior and a desire to celebrate the glory of His birth. A couple of the songs they chose were ones that we wouldn't use in our sacrament meetings, like a medley of songs including "Go Tell It On the Mountain." But, to be honest, it was pretty fun to get to sing them. That we wouldn't sing them in sacrament meeting doesn't mean they aren't good songs; it just means that we're very selective regarding the music that we use in sacrament meeting because it is a sacred service.

The Seventh Day Adventists welcomed us with open arms. They were so kind and accomodating. After the dress rehearsal they invited us to stay for cookies and drinks. There was a big coffee dispenser, but there was also a big jug of milk for the Mormons. As we waited out in the foyer at the beginning of their service, before the choir performance, the lady I was standing next to explained to me what was going on in the chapel. I was grateful for her instruction.

I think my favorite part of the event was being able to raise my voice in song with these fine brothers and sisters and sing of our Savior's birth. Now our ward choir is pretty miraculous, to say the least, but there is nothing like being able to sing with a larger number of musicians and fill the room with music -- with the singing of praises to our Lord.

Our new friends will be joining us for our program during sacrament meeting on Sunday. I hope we'll be as welcoming of them as they were of us. And I hope they'll be able to feel the Spirit there. We'll be singing a few of the songs we sang at the Seventh Day Adventists' church, as well as a couple of other selections from our own hymn book. It should be another marvelous experience. What a great way to celebrate Christmas!

Friday, December 21, 2007

My New Baby

Just had to share...

Expected "due date," Jan 2008

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Climbing Wall

by Marsha Ward

There once was a man who took his children to enjoy the physical challenges of a climbing wall. He watched from the bottom of the wall, shouting encouragement as each child, in his turn, scaled the sheer wall, bounding from handhold to handhold, until each reached the top and descended, triumphant.

The children gathered around the man and said, "Now, Father, it's your turn to climb the wall."

Reluctantly, the man looked up at the wall. It was so high. How could he ever get to the top?"

Don't worry," said the employee of the facility who was known as the Belayer. "I will hold you with my rope. You will be safe."

Reassured, but with a great deal of hesitation, the man started to ascend the climbing wall. Slowly he progressed, until he was close to the top. But now, his hands seemed permanently curled into claws, his forearms ached so badly. He thought he could not go on.

"Just lean back on the rope for a moment, and rest," came the voice of the Belayer from below.

The man took a few minutes and did as the Belayer suggested. He caught his wind, but his muscles still ached, and he wanted to go down.

He could hear the voices of his children, urging him to finish the course, to get to the top. The man felt the strength seep out of his muscles. He just could not do it!

Then he felt a slight tug on the rope. The Belayer was giving him aid without his children knowing. The man put out one hand and one foot and climbed a step closer to the top. The rope remained snug and seemed to give him heart. Slowly, with the help of the Belayer, the man made his way to the top of the climbing wall. Amid the cheers of his children, he slowly slid to the floor.

Jesus Christ says, "Come unto Me, all ye who labor, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." He will let us rest while He holds us safe, as the Belayer did. He will help us to the top of our climbing wall of life, just as the Belayer with his rope helped the man ascend the recreational climbing wall.

The Atonement of Christ is for everyone who has trouble climbing through life's adversities. Come unto Him!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Language Lessons

I'm learning a new language. I've tried to do it before, in junior high, but this time I think I might just get it. In school I tried French. This time I've opted for a language with fewer letters. French had all the ones we did. Samoan only has 14, but they do use three others they've borrowed from the Palogis.

One thing I have learned rather quickly is that with so few letters, the words get longer and longer. I've also learned that while teaching my daughter to drive, "Turn to the left" is much faster to say than "Liliu i lou tauagavale." She also responds much better to English, but acknowledges that the language lessons will come in handy should her driver's ed teacher ever make a sudden command in Samoan.

I've also learned that "do you understand?" is easily mixed up with "open the window." Oops. After mistakenly teaching my children the phrases backward, I often hear them say things like, "open the understand" and "do you window?"

The best part of learning a new language, however, is that one of the first phrase my children learned was, "A'u alofa oa" or, "I love you." They use this often on each other like they'd never use it in English. I think we'll be learning some other phrases soon like, "you're my best friend," and "I'd love to do my chores without being asked."

A Contest!!!

Is everyone up for a contest? Let's find out who knows the Ink Ladies the best! Good luck!
Each of us has answered the following question:

What was the weirdest present you ever received?

Below are our answers. In the comments, write down who you think goes with each number. The first person to get all the answers right wins the novel of their choice from the Ink Lady of their choice!

1. Pepper spray ... I was ecstatic. I'm a runner and dislike dogs as much as dogs love chasing runners.

2. A ream of printer paper. (I actually asked for it)

3. I got a pair of athletic socks from my piano teacher when I was in fifth grade. I was mad because she gave my sister something more fun. They ended up being good socks, though, even though I'm not athletic.

4. Blond bangs (as in hair bangs) with a blue streak in them attached to a blue headband. They were the 80s equivalent of hair extensions, I guess.

5. When I was 19, my mom gave me a cat cookie jar for my birthday... what's a nineteen year old supposed to do with a cookie jar!?! AND I don't really like cats.

6. At a work Christmas party, I got a skimpy nightie (a cute one, not the other kind)-- from a male co-worker, but it was not meant like that at all. I was married and he was engaged, and I'm pretty sure his fiance picked it out. I was surprised, but it was very cute.

7. The purple crocheted skirt and vest outfit my mom gave me for my birthday when I was a kid--about 8 or 9 (I'm pretty sure she bought it at a thrift store--she didn't crochet). I got it first thing in the morning and was expected to wear it to school. I think that was the first and last time I wore it. Oy--it was way ugly, even for the early 70's.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Holly Jolly Traditions

by Elodia Strain

Sorry I didn't post yesterday. Hope Crystal is cool with me sharing her blog day.

Last night I attended a Christmas party at church. The theme was "Christmas Around the World." After eating a yummy Italian dinner, we enjoyed Christmas carols in many different language and listened as presenters spoke about Christmas traditions from various parts of the globe. I learned about the traditions of Lithuania, Portugal, and Tonga. And as I listened, I reflected on my own Christmas traditions.

My father is first generation Mexican-American and thus many of my family of origin's Christmas traditions are derived from this Mexican heritage. I remember travelling to my Abuelita Olga's house and making tamales on Christmas Eve and then waiting until midnight when one of my tias would bring out a cake and we would sing "Happy Birthday to Jesus" and then eat cake until we were joyfully stuffed.

Mostly, I remember seeing all of my cousins and running around my grandmas tiny single wide trailer and feeling an overwhelming sense of love. It didn't matter that we didn't all share the same religion or even that I couldn't understand a lot of what my grandma said, we were there to celebrate the birth of The Savior of the World and to bask in the love that such a celebration brought about.

So tell me, what are your most cherished Christmas traditions?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Passing it on

by Marsha Ward

It's been busy around here the last couple of weeks. Although I've been mostly snowbound since Friday night, I have been able to get out to the mailbox to pick up dues checks being sent to me as the membership secretary of a writers' organization for women of the LDS faith.

I've been involved in administrative duties for this group for most of the last 20 years. Because I'm known as the founder and "mom" of the group, I often get phone calls from women with questions, which I gladly answer.

Doing all this takes a large chunk of my time, but it's a worthwhile service. Mentoring writers is very rewarding, in an unseen blessings sort of way. I've been on the receiving end of mentoring, and it's a joy to pass it on.

Why don't you give a Christmas gift of service during the next year? Reach out and help a beginning writer take first steps. Teach a class. Critique a piece of writing. Lift up a hand that hangs low. You'll be glad you did!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

James Dashner: Changing the World

I stayed up very late last night...and the night before...and the night before. Why? Because the only reading time I have is at night when the kiddos are in bed, and I couldn't manage to turn pages fast enough as I read an Advance Reader Copy of The 13th Reality: The Journal of Curious Letters, scheduled for a March 13, 2008 release by Shadow Mountain Publishing.

With a gift for expression and exposition, James Dashner has created unique characters, compelling conflict, and some downright creepy "bad-guys," and cool gadgets within such a significant story. I won't soon forget "Tick"--Atticus Higginbottom and his desire to stand up and make a difference or Edgar Higginbottom--finally, a father figure to admire in children's literature.

This story was thoroughly entertaining, and so much more--and there will be more! The Journal of Curious Letters is the first book in The 13th Reality Series. Within the first few chapters, Tick may not yet have the confidence he'll need to change the world, but I completely believe that James Dashner and The Journal of Curious Letters are headed for just that!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Can we just skip all the commericialism this Christmas?

I spent one week on the island of Upolu, but it's affected me for the rest of my life. After seeing the people there living in tiny huts with huge smiles on their faces, I'm struggling with the image of those closer to home.

People push and shove through the stores to buy everything on their lists with scowls or worrisome frowns only to pile their "frivolous" gifts into the back of their new SUVs and drive back to their big homes full of "useless" clutter.

Okay, negative? Maybe. I just know that more than anything, I want to capture the feelings we had while sitting in a fale listening to island Christmas music. The people there knew there would be no gifts this year as there are no gifts any year, but they are happy. They smile, they love one another and they serve one another. They don't fight over items on the day after Thanksgiving sales.

The Samoans are called the happy people, and they are. They're happy to be alive. They're happy they have the ability to dance and sing. They're happy the island produces everything they need in life.

How would it be to teach our children through that example that true happiness is not found in the new XBox or shoes or dolls? We've shown our children pictures and told them about the people there, but we want to take them so they can experience it for themselves. I look forward to the day when we can spend the Christmas holiday with our new "family" in Samoa, having Christmas the Samoans do.

Until then, I will avoid the stores and ignore the advertisers' calls to buy everything possible to clutter your home and stifle the imagination of our children.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

It's (Not) Beginning to feel a lot like Christmas

By Marcia Mickelson

Christmas is only a few weeks ago, but it doesn't feel like it in San Antonio. The day we put our Christmas tree up, we were blasting the air conditioner. It was hot! This weekend, we've been playing outside with shorts and flip flops. How can it feel like Christmas when it's hot? We should be wearing sweaters and winter coats. I'm from New Jersey and my husband is from Idaho, so we're used to colder winters.

I hope it gets a little cooler so it will feel more like Christmas time. In the meantime, I'll keep wearing my shorts and flip flops when I play outside with my kids. And I'll still be blasting the air conditioner, especially when I start making Christmas cookies and the oven warms up the whole house.

Here's a little reminder:

I'm still doing a contest on my blog. Tomorrow, I will post the final question. Come by for a chance to win.

Saturday, December 8, 2007


Well, I'm stranded. You would not believe where I am right now. I am at a Krispy Kreme in Kahului, Hawaii, because they have internet access here. I was supposed to fly out of here last night, but my flight was canceled and my new one is officially for 24 hours after the last one was supposed to be. Before this flight this evening was scheduled, I was supposed to fly out this morning. Anyway, I've been officially stuck at the airport all day. But I escaped and went to Krispy Kreme. (It's a good place to escape, right?)

I could get really irate, and I do intend to send a very long letter to the airline. But getting really mad doesn't do any good. It won't get me home any faster. (By the way, my family was also here with me last week. They flew out last night, because their flight -- different from mine -- left on time. They're home now.)

At the risk of sounding like a complete goody-goody, let me share something that helped me through this day this morning. Those of us on the canceled flight had to wait in a big long line bright and early at 7AM this morning to get reticketed. After standing in line for quite a while, I had the thought to read my scriptures. I wasn't planning to carry on my scriptures, but they were packed in the big bag I was going to check.

So, as I pushed my cart piled with suitcases through the winding snail-paced line, I placed my scriptures on top of my pile and read them. As a home study seminary teacher, I like to work the questions in the student manual as I read. So I did that, too.

And for several near-blissful minutes, it didn't matter that I was in a big long line or that I was stranded on an island in the middle of the ocean. What mattered was that I was studying my scriptures, and it brought me peace.

I think that peace has helped me throughout this day, which has been more difficult than I expected. I was supposed to be reticketed for a flight that went out this morning, but the airline's arrangements fell through and I am still here. We'll see if the flight leaves tonight.

It's all frustrating, and don't think that I'm not frustrated even though that's not what I'm writing about. But the big picture is, I've talked to my family and they made it home safely. They picked up our dog from the kennel, so he's back home too. I had a nice trip with my family last week (even though there was a huge storm and the power was out for over 24 hours and most of the beaches were closed). I'm here where it's warm instead of home shoveling snow. And I will be home soon. The airline staff has been helpful in a very difficult situation. And there are people in my family circle who have been experiencing greater trials than being stranded someplace warm. I know the Lord is mindful of them, and even of me in my relatively small trials.

I have to stop here because I don't want to start bawling in the middle of Krispy Kreme. Oh wait, I'm sitting facing the front window. Even bigger incentive not to tear up. Having a customer in tears at their front window would not be good publicity for Krispy Kreme.

Anyway, how's that for positive thinking? We'll see if I get out of here tonight.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Mushy Writing

by Elodia Strain

Last night my sister and I visited Salt Lake Temple Square to see the Christmas lights. We were looking at the nativities from different countries when something caught our eye: A young woman standing on the round stone where couples pose for wedding pictures and a young man on his knee holding a small, open ring box.

My sister and I shamelessly watched (and yes, I'll admit it, I got a little choked up) as the girl threw her arms around the guy's neck and he twirled her around in circles. We didn't hear the words, but we assumed he had asked her to marry him and she had said yes.

Witnessing this proposal made me think about a conversation I recently had with my husband. I read him a passage in a book I'm working on where the hero proposes to the heroine in a very over the top romantic way. After I read the passage, I asked my husband if it was too mushy. He said, "No. But it makes me sad. I just took you to a park and we sat on the ground on an old poncho."

To me the park and old poncho were a million times better than what I had written and what I had witnessed at Temple Square, but this got me thinking. Is it true what some people say about books with over the top romance, do they really paint an unrealistic picture of love? And if they do, is that really a bad thing?

What do you think? I'd like to know.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007


by Marsha Ward

Since we're fast approaching Christmas, I thought I'd share with you a poem that made the rounds of emails a couple of years ago. I did not write it, mind you. My custom of praying differs from the writer in that I pray to the Heavenly Father in the name of Jesus Christ, but the right sentiment is all there.

Ponder and enjoy!

Christmas Poem
Author Unknown

'T'was the night before Christmas
and all through the town
Not a sign of Baby Jesus
was anywhere to be found.

The people were all busy
with Christmas time chores
Like decorating, baking,
and shopping in stores.

No one sang "Away in a manger,
no crib for a bed".
Instead, they sang of Santa
dressed-up in bright red.

Mama watched Martha Stewart,
Papa drank beer from a tap.
As hour upon hour
the presents they'd wrap.

When what from the T.V.
did they suddenly hear?
'Cept an ad.. which told
of a big sale at Sears.

So away to the mall
they all flew like a flash...
Buying things on credit...
and others with cash!

And, as they made their way home
From their trip to the mall,
Did they think about Jesus?
Oh, no... not at all.

Their lives were so busy
with their Christmas time things
No time to remember
Christ Jesus, the King.

There were presents to wrap
and cookies to bake.
How could they stop and remember
who died for their sake?

To pray to the Savior...
they had no time to stop.
Because they needed more time
to "Shop till they dropped!"

On Wal-mart! On K-mart!
On Target! On Penney's!
On Hallmark! On Zales!
A quick lunch at Denny's

From the big stores downtown
to the stores at the mall
They would dash away, dash away,
and visit them all!

And up on the roof,
there arose such a clatter
As grandpa hung icicle lights
upon his brand new step ladder.

He hung lights that would flash.
He hung lights that would twirl.
Yet, he never once prayed to Jesus...
Light of the World.

Christ's eyes... how they twinkle!
Christ's Spirit... how merry!
Christ's love... how enormous!
All our burdens... He'll carry!

So instead of being busy,
overworked, and uptight
Let's put Christ back in Christmas
and enjoy some good nights!

Merry Christmas, my friends!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

LDS Authors Make a National SPLASH!

By Tamra Norton

Have you noticed lately how many LDS authors are making a huge splash in the national market? If you live in Utah, maybe it's not as noticeable, but out here in "the mission field" is obvious.

The other day I was in my local Wal Mart (I live in a suburb north of Houston) and on the main aisle I was stopped in my tracks by the following display. (Aren't camera phones great? Click on the picture to enlarge it.) In the handful of high profile authors listed here, FIVE of the books were by LDS authors--two by Obert Skye (Leven Thumps books), one by Brandon Mull (The Candy Shop War) and two by Stephenie Meyer (from the Twilight Series). And this just scratches the surface of what's hot right now!

Very exciting, eh?

Oh, and don't forget to nominate your favorite LDS author for The Whitney Awards. The deadline is almost here--Dec. 31st!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

My Book is Out!

By Marcia Mickelson

I'm happy to announce that my book, Reasonable Doubt, is officially for sale. It is currently available at my publisher's website- Cedar Fort. I hope it will be in stores soon, but that takes a little longer.

I still don't have a copy in my possession, so I haven't seen it yet. I think I'll get it this week.

My husband is such a dilligent salesman. He's already received 14 orders from his co-workers. None of them are members of the Church, but most of them read my first books, and I guess enjoyed it enough to want the second one. He's my biggest cheerleader. He talks about my book to whoever listens. He's wonderful.

Come by my blog for a contest where you can win a copy of Reasonable Doubt.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

In My Imagination

by Elodia Strain

My sister is in town visiting me for a while and our late-night chats have led to lots of reminiscing about our childhood.

We grew up in a small town in the foothills of Yosemite National Park. How small of a town, you ask? Well, so small that when a fast food joint called “Papa Taco,” sprung up the whole town was in an uproar and poor Papa Taco didn’t stand a chance. So small that the two most “popular” girls in my sixth grade class were the daughter of the hardware store owner and the daughter of the drugstore owner.

I must admit though, living in the boondocks was wonderful for the imagination. In fact, a few days ago my sister and I were talking about the many games we invented out of sheer necessity. Here are a couple of our favorites:

1. “Barbie Gymnastics” I had to start with Barbies. My sister and I used to play for hours. When the Olympics were on TV, we decided we would hold Barbie Gymnastics. We used a book spine for a balance beam and a bread loaf pan for a pommel horse. We spent hours throwing our Barbies in the air for their “events.” It was such a blast.

2. “Bonk on Head” This was our greatest invention, in my opinion. The object of the game was to run around the darkened bedroom trying to avoid being “bonked on head” by the Popple (do you remember Popples?) being yielded by the person who was “it.” There’s no way I can impart how much fun Bonk on Head was. I’m feeling a little teary just thinking about it.

3. “Acorn Mushers” All things having to do with Native American culture were very big in our little town. So when we learned in school that the Indians in our area once made acorn mush, we spent hours in the yard mashing acorns and mixing them with water, trying to get them to turn into anything edible. It never worked. And now that I’m writing this, I can taste that gross raw acorn taste on my tongue all over again. Ick.

Sometimes I wonder how I would be different had I grown up near a mall or a bowling alley. But I’m glad that I learned at an early age that a room can be transformed with a little bit of creativity and a lot of laughter and that the world is full of chances to be a gymnast or an Indian or…whatever you want to be.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

My Button Chair is Missing!

by Marsha Ward

Several months ago, my good friend Shirley Bahlmann gave me a sheet of paper on which was printed instructions for making a button chair. It even had a little white button glued to one spot. I assembled it, then brought it home (I was on a trip when I got it) and put it on my bulletin board.

You see, the Button Chair is supposed to remind me to put my--you guessed it--butt on chair so I could actually write something.

Over the ensuing months, other papers have covered my little reminder, and that, coupled with holiday ennui, has made me a lazy girl.

However, inspired by Marcia's recent post, I've found my button chair, and now I'm going to attempt to get back to work. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Bearubs : Christmas is Coming to Our Home!

I've been involved with the development of this project for about a year and a half now. Exciting things are finally happening--more info coming soon! Watch this wonderful little music video and then check out our website: .

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Back to Writing

By Marcia Mickelson

So, I took a whole week off of writing. I had the week off from work due to Thanksgiving, but the kids were home from school as well, so I kept busy with them. I didn't mean to take a whole week off from writing, but I did.

I actually was in a very good groove last week. My friend, Amanda, has been editing my novel and has sent me back 12 chapters of critiques. She probably would have sent me back more if I'd had them ready. I need to send her more chapters. They're almost ready; they just need a little fine-tuning before I give them to her. That was something I could have done this past week. I also could have edited all those chapters she sent me to fix. That could have kept me plenty busy. But, no. I took the whole week off. And I do feel guilty about it. Of course, I do.

But I had some good reasons. We just bought a Nintendo Wii a few weeks ago and my kids like me to play with them. Heck, I like to play with them. It's fun. So, we spent a large portion of the week playing Wii. I rock at the shooting game. My five year old loves me to play the tank game with him. We had fun. I didn't write. It's okay. I enjoyed my kids this week.

Another reason I didn't write is because of our new computer. We have high speed Internet for the first time ever. We finally got rid of dial-up. It feels so good!! I had to spend plenty of time checking out the new features, doing stuff I couldn't do before.

So, I had the new computer to explore, I couldn't possibly do any writing. We also signed up for a free Netflix trial and I spent 3 hours Saturday night watching Season 3 of the Office (on the computer). How cool is that? You can watch TV on the computer; not on dial-up, you can't. It only takes a minute to get it going. This is all so new to me.

And of course, there was Thanksgiving. Who wants to write on Thanksgiving? I'd much rather stay up late playing Wii and computer games with my husband. So, that brings us to Friday. No writing that day either. I took my kids to watch Enchanted. Very cute. What's Thanksgiving weekend without going to the movies, right? What did I do on Saturday? I don't even remember, but it wasn't writing. Okay, tomorrow is Monday, and I'm starting fresh. I have three chapters ready to send to Amanda and several more to finish fine-tuning. I have 8 chapters of critiques to fix. I am going to back to writing this week, I promise.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Family Stories at Thanksgiving

We just had a great storytelling session this evening with my husband's family. My father-in-law has been asking us to write down our childhood memories, but of course no one ever gets around to this. So this time one of my husband's sisters provided a video camera, and one of the older grandchildren manned it while everyone talked about things they remembered.

And we got some good stories filmed. There were stories of science fair projects, of little girls putting barrettes in their dad's hair (and of him finding them still there when he was at work), and of kids growing up and learning how to drive. There were stories of kids getting in trouble, stories of kids getting injured, and stories of kids saying funny things. You know how kids are when they're getting the world figured out.

We were just getting started when the camera ran out of tape.

We'll be getting together for this again soon. Memories are precious, and they sure can be a lot of fun.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving Laughs

Tamra wrote such an awesome blog on thankfulness this week that I decided to go a different route for my blog this Thanksgiving day.

I chose to follow one of my favorite mottoes. (Can a person have more than one motto? I don’t know? I know the Girl Scouts only have one. Oh well, I have many.) Anyway, the motto I decided to follow today is: When in doubt, go funny.

So, my friends, here are some so-silly-they're-funny Thanksgiving jokes sure to put a smile on your turkey/roll/potato/green bean/yam/pie/fill-in-the-blank stuffed face.

Asked to write a composition entitled, "What I'm thankful for on Thanksgiving,"
[a little boy] wrote, "I am thankful I'm not a turkey."

Q: What did the mama turkey say to her naughty son?
A: “If your papa could see you now, he’d turn over in his gravy.”

Q: How can you make a turkey float?
A: You need 2 scoops of ice cream, some root beer, and a turkey.

Q: What do turkeys sing on Thanksgiving?
A: God Save the Kin.

Q: If the pilgrims were alive today, what would they be most famous for?
A: Their age.

For more jokes visit

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Beautiful Samoa

Okay, I'm back in the States, but not sure if I'm happy or sad about it. I love Samoa! I could move there easily ... still thinking it over as we listen to the island music and review our photos. The people. Ah, there has never been a more humble or happy people in the world! As my mother said, we found the Garden of Eden. Talk about flowers and plants, fruits, springing from the earth spontaneously! What beauty! We're already planning a trip back with our children. We want them to see how happy you can be with so little. We want them to see the amazing land, the culture and all. Wow!

We spent time with the local people and that had to be my favorite time of all. I made a basket from coconut leaves, made palusami, drank fresh coconut milk and watched the beautiful people perform their dances. I wish I could take everyone back with me to immerse them in a culture that is so beautiful and pure. Such a modest people, can I say it enough? We made some amazing friends and I can't wait to go back to see them again. This time I'm going to learn the language.

We snorkled, ate all kinds of fruits and other things that I couldn't identify and had offers for lodging upon our return. I just pray that the country will never become commercialized, that the people may retain their culture and beautiful way of life. The majority still live in traditional fales, a floor with a thatched roof and no walls. They have so few possessions, but while visiting you learn that possessions are of little value. Life is a gift and we should enjoy it to its fullest.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Reasons to be Thankful

By Tamra Norton

(Author's Note: I wrote this little piece seven years ago when I first started writing seriously. Back then, I had six kids ages 2 to 15. Now I have seven "babies" ranging from 5 to 22. Of those, three are in college. This little piece originally appeared in my family life column called The Home Front in The Fort Bend Sun Newspaper. I'll always be thankful for this newspaper. They were the first to pay me for my writing. It wasn't much, but made be feel validated in my effort.)

Even though I often feel frustrated, unappreciated, and just a little bit grumpy, I have much to be thankful for. It’s usually not until the end of the day (when everyone who calls me Mommy, or regularly spits up on me is peacefully asleep) that I have the opportunity to take stock of my life and count my blessings.

I’m thankful for the fingerprints. You know, the peanut-buttery ones that end up smudged all over the TV screen, the lower third of the backyard sliding glass door, inside the car windows, and all over the glass coffee table that I bought in a fleeting moment of insanity.

You see, I realize that the same little fingers that made all of those smudges are the same ones that I kissed as they gripped tightly to my giant finger when we first met. Today those fingers are a little bit bigger, and they only grip that tightly when we are in an unfamiliar setting. The tight grip tells me that I am depended on—trusted in. And no one else will adequately suffice in taking my place.

I’m thankful for the sleepless nights. First it was the frequent nighttime feedings which I thought would never end. But they did, only to be followed my awakenings due to “thirst attacks,” scary dreams and the inevitable bouts with croup and fever. If I had the power within me during those times of illness, I would somehow take on my children’s pain so they wouldn’t have to endure it. It is often in the middle of the night that a mother is reminded of her unconditional love for her children.

I’m thankful for piles of dirty laundry. Well, the sorting and washing I could do without, but it is during the monotonous task of folding that I realize just how fast these little tykes are growing. As I hold up a faded Ninja Turtle tee shirt—still a favorite article of play clothes—I see a succession of little blond boys who have taken their turn wearing this beloved shirt. I think it may have even made its way to the trash can once or twice, only to be plucked from it’s doomed fate by a treasure-seeking four-year-old. As I look at this old shirt, I vow to be an influential part, each day, in the lives of my rapidly growing children.

Lastly, I’m thankful for the crayon marks on the walls. Now, you must think me insane because any mother knows that short of a Martha Stewart-miracle, it’s impossible to get rid of crayon marks. You can rub, scrub, and wipe them with your tears if you like, but nothing can remove the mark of a red Crayola from a white surface. And as the assorted marks on my walls, nothing can remove the impact that my children have had on my life, and hopefully, I on theirs.

Some day my children will be grown and gone. Perhaps they will even call me wanting to know how to get rid of crayon marks from white walls. I’ll tell them to rearrange the furniture, or pick out a new color scheme for the house. Then I’ll tell them to break out the coloring books, sit down on the floor with their little ones and try to remember what it was like to be little again.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

by Marcia Mickelson

I'm still in the editing stage of my novel, One On One. I think I've been in that stage for a long time, far too long if you ask me. I'm very fortunate right now, though. My awesome friend, Amanda, is editing it and giving me such great feedback. I have never seen such a thorough job of editing. She spent over 5 hours on one chapter alone. It was a long chapter and needed a lot of work.

She has been a great help and has pointed out so many ways to improve my novel. In fact, her helpful comments and amazing feedback have almost made me like editing. Almost. I still don't enjoy editing or revising. I've been forcing myself to the computer every night to make those changes. It's so hard for me to want to do it. It's just a lot of work. Okay, the truth is that I'm lazy. I know it has to be done. I have to edit. I have to revise, but it's not as enjoyable as just writing.

Thanks to Amanda, I'm enjoying the process more than usual (which means at all). I get so excited when I see an e-mail from her with another edited chapter. I love to see all the stuff she's pointed out for improvement. I don't mind at all. Right now, she's read the first 9 chapters and I've made the changes on five of them. So, there's still a lot more work to do.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Comfort of Flannel Sheets

by Marsha Ward

I used to live in a hot climate, and didn't know anything about flannel sheets. Oh yes, I think I was aware that they existed, but why I'd ever need them was beyond my comprehension.

Then I moved into a tin can on the side of a mountain, and the first winter I spent there, without a whole-house furnace, was miserable. My nose was cold, my legs were cold, my toes were cold, everything was cold all night long. I didn't sleep very well, even though I piled on the blankets and quilts. The weight was pretty suffocating. There had to be a better method of staying warm!

Before the next winter came, I bought a couple of sets of flannel sheets, and when the nights turned cold, I put one of them on my bed. As I recall, it was the cowboy sheets, really suitable for a youngster, but who cared! I was the only one I had to please with my bedding choices.

That night was heavenly! I slept warm for the first time, and loved it. I got better rest, and so much appreciated not shivering all night.

Yesterday I changed my sheets and put on the flannels. This set features pine trees, but they don't have rough bark or prickly needles or stickery cones, so I'm satisfied. Last night was bliss! I was warm, comfy, and secure, and slept through the night. I should have made the change two weeks ago!

Does this have anything to do with writing? Not a bit, except for general well-being. I'm sure that's all tied together.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Living Your Dream

By Tamra Norton

My poor brother was the only boy raised in a house with seven sisters. Can you even imagine? But somehow, the guy managed to survive the hurricanes of estrogen that bashed the shores of our home on a regular basis (as in monthly...times seven).

The cool thing, though, is that my brother has had a dream--a "passion" in life, if you will--and is living it. He's a world class fly fishing guide and has traveled the globe assisting others on what some would call dream fly-fishing excursions. He's fished in Alaska (of course), Mongolia, Russia, Finland, the southern regions of Argentina, and the list goes on. Last I heard, he was headed to some place east of Africa, in the Indian Ocean.

My point--I think it's great that my brother is living out his dream.

So then I have to ask myself, am I living out my dream? Well, in many respects, I am. I have the family I've always wanted--I wouldn't trade that for anything! And my 6th published book is coming out in March--that's really cool! But I don't feel like I'm quite there yet! I feel like right now, I'm merely knocking on the door of my dreams. And I AM knocking! I have to believe that eventually those editors and agents will answer. ..with a smile, and a, "Come on in--what took you so long?"

You can read more about my brother, Scott Keller, and other's just like him in the book, The Fishing Club: Brothers and Sisters of the Angle. There's a whole chapter all about him.

Be safe on your next adventure, Bro! I love you!

Monday, November 12, 2007


Saturday night a friend of mine died in a car accident. Have had surging emotions since. Her oldest daughter is my daughter's best friend and her son was in my primary class. I say was, because yesterday we were released as teachers of the class. Also a sad experience as we have only taught the class a few months but have come to love each of the kids deeply.

Yesterday another friend of mine attended church for the first time in her life. She loved it, said she wanted to keep coming at least once a month. What a special thing to share with such a close friend! Of course, the service was tinged with tears, sadness and rememberances of Wendy.

Wendy was a special person, who I became friends with when I was her visiting teacher. I visited her while she was struggling with dialysis and through her successful kidney transplant. Then, in a heartbeat, she got wedged between two semis as she tried to avoid another accident. Her life was taken immediately.

Tomorrow I leave for a trip to Samoa that I've been anticipating for so many months I can't count them. I will not be here for Wendy's funeral. I won't be here for my girls who loved her too.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

My Cover

By Marcia Mickelson
Hooray! I finally got to see what the cover for my book is going to look like. Here it is!
Here is the information from the back cover:
A beautiful and promising athlete is dead. The only suspect—her fiancĂ©—has been apprehended. And as a defense attorney, it is Julia’s job to prove that Mick isinnocent. But Julia believes he is guilty.No stranger to the crimes that men commit against women, Julia can easily believe that rich, talented, spoiled Mick did indeed kill Avery. Both were basketball stars at the University of Utah, and both were popular; yet everyone—except Mick’s family and Julia’s boss—believes that Mick is the murderer.As the evidence against Mick mounts, Julia stumbles across a secret Avery had kept hidden from everyone, even Mick. Julia realizes that perhaps she may have more than just reasonable doubt to support Mick’s case—if she can face her past and reveal her own secret. Meanwhile, Pablo, Julia’s new co-counsel, becomes convinced that Mick did not murder Avery, but can he convince Julia? Guilty or innocent? With Pablo’s help, Julia may be able to overcome her own fears and uncover the truth about Avery at the same time—if the murderer doesn’t find her first.
It should be out in early December!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Perils and Blessings of Free Writing

I like to write with an outline handy. Because in order to really get someplace in your writing, you need to have an idea of where you want to go.

Case in point: I am sitting down to write this blog without a clue of what I want to say. Oh, I have a few ideas. We went on a temple trip today with the youth in our ward; I could write about that. We are now doing more cleaning in our basement. There's not much interesting about that, but I'm sure I could come up with something. Our dog caught a mouse in our basement. Now that was interesting. Especially the fact that there could be more of them. I shudder to think of a nest of mice helping themselves to our food storage. If we'd packaged it more carefully, we wouldn't have to worry about it because they couldn't get in. Instead, we have a few bags of wheat that we always *meant* to move to plastic airtight containers, but we're always finding things that are more important (or more interesting) to do than repackage wheat.

Well, anyway. I did not intend to blog about mice or food storage today. But my free writing kind of led me there. So that's one thing that just sitting down and writing will do for you. Don't wait until you have a Pulitzer-worthy idea, and don't wait till you have every detail mapped out. Just start writing and you'll be amazed at what comes.

Pay close attention and you'll notice that my thesis statement for this blog does not match my conclusion in the previous paragraph. Did I change my mind as I wrote? Sometimes that happens, especially when you write without a plan in place. And sometimes it just happens anyway.

So then you'd better go back and edit what you write after you finish. Because in the end, you really do want your writing to look like you knew what you were doing the whole time.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

“I’m going, going back back, to Cali Cali”

by Elodia Strain

Yes, I just quoted a Notorious B.I.G song.

Why? Well, because in a matter of hours I will be on a plane headed for Malibu, CA by way of LAX, and my sister (who is visiting me from California interestingly enough) got the song stuck in my head. Thanks sis.

The timing of this trip is absolutely perfect because in my upcoming book—which I’m currently working on like a madwoman—my main character flies into LAX, and I’m desperately in need of some research. I’ve flown into many an airport in CA, but never this one.

I’m really hoping to see something interesting. Like a Laker or a Dodger or one of those “Celebutantes” who carries a dog in her purse.

So…wish me luck. I’m off to the land of sun and sand and two bedroom houses that appraise at a million bucks. See ya!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Cold Turkey

by Marsha Ward

I’ll never forget the Thanksgiving of 2001. After almost 30 years of preparing turkey dinner with all the trimmings, I had learned a trick or two. For example, I was accustomed to cooking the dressed turkey all night in a slow oven. That year was no different. I stuffed my bird, wrestled it into the roasting pan, covered it with tented foil, and hefted it into the oven about nine p.m. I turned the oven on, then left to check my email.

Time flies when I’m on my computer, and along about midnight I decided to go to bed. First, though, I went to check the turkey. As I crossed through the family room, I wondered why I didn’t smell the roasting bird. When I opened the oven door, I found the answer.

I didn’t need the potholders I used to slide out the oven rack. Sticking my hand into the oven, I discovered there was no heat. I checked the controls. I had the function knob turned to “bake,” all right. The thermostat? It hadn’t even made it to “warm!”

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

There's More Than One Way to Write a Book

By Tamra Norton

Just like so many things in life such as how to squeeze the tube of toothpaste, or how to discipline children, there is more than one way to write a book. Marcia Mickelson mentioned that she writes particular scenes, but not necessarily in order, and writes the word "more" as an indicator of where she'll need to fill in the gaps of her story. Read Marcia's blog here.

I've written six novels, all start to finish, without a synopsis, outline, and sometimes even a clue as to where my story will even go. Well, hold on to your hats folks, because I've just ventured into new territory this week. I've completed an extensive five page synopsis for a manuscript I've now begun to write. Every key point is in place, just aching to make its way out of the synopsis and onto the page.

Since I'm venturing a bit into a different genre (middle-grade fantasy), I felt that I needed to know ahead of time where the twists and turns lie (lay--whatever!) And to be honest, now when I sit down to write, I'm so excited to jump into the story, because I know which direction I'm heading. I'll let you know after I've completed the manuscript if this is an exercise I'd like to repeat in the future. But for now, I'm enjoying the structure that my life, generally, is lacking.

Sorry to cut this short today but I've gotta get back to work.

Write on!

Saturday, November 3, 2007


by Marcia Mickelson

When I write, I don't write from start to finish. I usually do begin a novel with the first chapter. Then, I write the scenes that overtake my mind, the ones I can't stop thinking about. When I finish one of those scenes and I'm not sure what will come next, I write MORE in capital letters and know I have to come back to it later. When I've written all the good stuff, I then go back to work on the MORE scenes, sometimes even if I don't want to. I use the Find command in my word processor with the case sensitive setting to find the MORE scenes.

I find I write better if I can skip over scenes/plotlines I'm stuck on and work on what is fresh on my mind or what is aching to be written. I don't want to be stuck on something for a long time. Right now, I'm very close to finishing my work in progress, One On One. I have 13 MORE's to go back to work on. It might sound like a lot, but some MORE's only require a couple of paragraphs or a few lines of dialogue. There is only 1 or 2 MORE's that will require more than that. I feel like I'm so close.

This part of writing for me is so difficult because I've already written all the scenes I feel so passionately about. I have to go back and do that ones that are difficult or unexciting. But, they have to be done. My goal this week is to finish at least five MORE's.

"Four Things" Tag

By Katie Parker

OK, I figured out recently that Marcia tagged me on this a really long time ago. So I humbly, repentantly submit the following:

Four Jobs I've Had:
Test Development Specialist
History Instructor
Substitute Teacher

Four Places I've Lived:
Salt Lake City, UT
Eau Claire, WI
Norman, OK
Baton Rouge, LA

Four Favorite TV Shows:
I don’t actually have any series that I follow. Does that make me dull?

Four Favorite Foods:
steak (the good kind)
Taco salad
Chips and salsa
Movie popcorn

(**And one late addition to my favorite foods list: Home & Garden Party's praline dip with apples. I have a batch of it mixed up in my fridge right now, and no one else in my house will eat it because it has cream cheese in it. Not that I mind! Yum.)

Four Websites I Frequent:
Gmail (does that count?)
Google (always searching for something)

Four Places I'd Rather Be Right Now:
in a fast car with my husband driving
the library
at a good furniture store with unlimited cash in my pocket
the temple (do I get brownie points for that one?)

Four Movies I Love:
Toy Story
Back to the Future
Star Wars
Princess Bride

(My choices are kind of lame. You’d think I never go to the movies or watch TV.)

Four Bloggers I Tag Next:

Any of the InkLadies who hasn’t already done this one

Janet Jensen (

C.S. Bezas (

Christine Kersey (

Thursday, November 1, 2007

What’s Up With Amnesia?

by Elodia Strain

I recently finished reading a book called “Forget About It,” by Caprice Crane. It’s about a young woman who fakes amnesia in an attempt to fix her life.

I also heard about a new television comedy called “Samantha Who?” that is all about the misadventures of a woman who is actually suffering from amnesia.

I’ve always known amnesia to be a favorite plotline for soap opera writers, but what’s up with this affliction popping up as a source of comedy everywhere?

What’s up with amnesia? Why is it so funny? And what makes it an appealing subject to write/read/watch?

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Just Barely Here

by Marsha Ward

Between traveling last week and being sick as a dog for the last three days, I'm hanging on to reality by my raggedy fingernails.

On an email group I inhabit, a recent topic has been depression, ADD, and other conditions of the mind and if medication has helped or hindered creativity. I'm no longer on medication for my ADD, but judging from the weird dreams I've been having the last few days, the flu can be highly rated as a creativity-enhancer.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Eating Humble Pie with Obert Skye

By Tamra Norton

Last week I posted about an
Obert Skye/Leven Thumps book signing I'd attended with my youngest kiddos and how I'd missed out on the "author bonding" experience I'd hoped to have with "Mr. Skye."

Before I continue with this tale, I need to interject that a few weeks before Mr. Skye even arrived in Houston, after seeing a link on his website saying, "click here if you'd like Obert Skye to visit your school," I clicked, sending a plea into cyberspace for Mr. Skye to visit with a group of homeschoolers (including my family) while in Houston. After visiting his incredible signing at the Galleria Barnes&Noble with it lines of exuberant and devoted fans, I was convinced that I'd never get a response from the famous author...and never have my "author bonding" moment.

So you can imaging my surprise Wednesday afternoon when I receive an e-mail from Shadow Mountain Publishing stating that Obert Skye would love to meet with our group of homeschoolers...on Friday! With no time to find an adequate meeting place, I volunteered my house, sent out e-mails to my homeschooling friends, and hoped that someone--anyone--would show up.

Silly me!

A half hour before the scheduled starting time, they start to arrive. I'd barely finished vacuuming the living room and haven't even put on make-up yet (the true indicator that something in my life more exciting that a trip to Wal Mart is on the horizon). Apparently word had spread about the author visit. I asked these virtual strangers (whom I'd never met) to please answer the door if anyone else happens to show up early, while I dashed to the bathroom for a little human face application.

When I walked back out 7 minutes later, a few more families had arrived...and they kept coming...and coming. All in all, I'd say there were well over one hundred people at my house last Friday afternoon. And nobody left disappointed.

Obert Skye arrived with a staff member from Shadow Mountain Publishers (his name was Patrick and he looked about the same age as my 22-year-old). And the show began. He was funny, and insightful, and thoroughly entertained my jam-packed house of homeschoolers for a good half-hour or so before an actual booksigning ensued...right in my living room. The line was similar to that in the B&N the previous week while Mr. Skye spent time with each child and family, posed for pictures, signed books, offered advice to aspiring authors, even performed minor surgery (just kiddin'...about the surgery part). He even gave out about a dozen Leven Thumps t-shirts and scads of posters, stickers, journals, and bookmarks.

And...just before Obert Skye left, we finally had our little "author bonding" moment. I gave him a bag of trail mix for the road along with a thank you card, and (how could I resist) a copy of my children's novel, Make Me a Memory--for his kids, of course (the sequel, Make Me a Home will be released in February). His face lit up as he accepted the gifts, and graciously asked if I would sign it.

I already had. :)

Monday, October 29, 2007

We all Need a Good Kick in the Pants

So maybe you're all disciplined writers with set hours in which you write your masterpieces, but I've realized I really enjoy a good motivational speech now and then, or as Dave Wolverton, aka David Farland, calls it, a Kick in the Pants.

I just got on the mailing list for Dave's Daily Kick in the Pants, a daily email to inspire writers. It's fabulous! I've included a short segment from yesterday's Kick.

"I recall when I was young, I once sat down to write a story while my wife went to work, then went out with friends. She returned some fourteen hours later. I had been writing all day. I had sweat streaming down my forehead, and I was worn through. But I had just finished a story! My wife took one look at me and said in frustration, 'Why don't you look that happy after we make love?'
But when you love your work, when your whole mind becomes focused on it, I believe, something magical occurs. You begin to become more original. You begin to develop new stories that appeal to your own sensibilities so strongly that you can then forsake the old stories, the time-worn tales that shaped your tastes in the first place. And then you put something new in its place.

And as readers begin to look for something completely novel--something that is 'one of a kind,'--they will be drawn to your work above others.
Every new author should write this motto above his computer: Dare to be different!"

If you'd like a good Kick in the Pants to start your day off right, email Dave and ask to be put on his list.


by Marcia Mickelson

Timing is everything. I know it sounds cliche, but it's true. My next book, Reasonable Doubt, goes to press next month and will be released on December 1. I'm a bit worried about the timing of it. People are so busy in December with holiday shopping, parties, and preparations. I wonder if it's not the best timing for a book to be released. Has anyone had any experience with a book being released close to the holidays.

And, I wonder about book signings, too. I imagine the holidays are not the best time for book signings. True, the stores are filled with people, but they're busy and often don't have time to stop. I could be very wrong about this, however. If anyone's had book releases or signings during the month of December, chime in and let me know how it went.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Stake Conference, Mormon Boondocks Style

by Katie Parker

OK, I admit it. I live in what some people might call the Mormon boondocks. And I grew up in the Mormon boondocks, though they were different boondocks than the ones we live in now. We live in western Wisconsin now. There is a ward in our city, but only one. Not bad. There are plenty of other places in the world that are more boondocky.

I grew up in western Oklahoma. We lived in a small branch and drove half an hour to church. Some folks drove further, and from the opposite direction. They have a ward there now, by the way. Just one, but hey, the Church is even growing in western Oklahoma.

We also lived for nine years in Salt Lake City. That is the complete opposite of the Mormon boondocks. There, church is always right down the street and there are usually several other meetinghouses within only a few minutes' drive. People here in the boondocks laugh when I tell them that when I was in the stake Primary presidency in Salt Lake, all I had to do to attend our presidency meetings was walk to the next apartment complex. People in Salt Lake cluck sympathetically when I tell them that in the boondocks we drive an hour and fifteen minutes just to go to stake conference.

Even as we speak, I am in a car on a trek to the Saturday sessions of our stake conference. If we still lived in Salt Lake, we could walk to stake conference. In fact, our leaders there encouraged us to walk if we could, so those who couldn't could use the parking spots. In fact, when we actually tried to drive once to stake conference, we ended up parking only a block or two away from our house because the parking lot was so full and cars were backed up all the way down the street. So it didn't really do us any good to drive.

But here in the Mormon boondocks, we have to drive. In fact, in the wards that are in the farther reaches of the stake (ours being one of them), you drive a lot. We are pretty fortunate that we only live about an hour and fifteen minutes away from our stake center. You get used to it. I made the trip up just last week for a stake seminary activity. We'll be up again in a couple more weeks for a youth temple trip.

Even though I grew up making very similar treks to our stake center in Oklahoma, living in Utah for nine years really spoiled me. The first time I had to go all the way to our new stake center after we moved to Wisconsin, just for a seminary inservice meeting, my gut reaction was: "YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING! You expect me to spend almost 3 hours transit time for a meeting that lasts an hour and a half??"

But long trip up, in a way, makes the meetings more special when you go to them. Maybe it's because you've had to make an extra sacrifice to get there. There's also a kind of transition period, from the time you set aside your regular business at home to the time you get there and the meeting begins. The time in the car can be a time to get yourself in "spiritual" mode. In Salt Lake, you miss the transition time. You just leave your house, and then almost immediately afterwards you arrive at the church and the meeting starts.

Here in Boondock Land, sometimes when I'm driving up to the stake center or the temple by myself, I like to listen to general conference talks on my iPod. After an hour and fifteen minutes of conference talks, you'd better be feeling spiritual. Even without that, it can be a time of peaceful reflection, or of pleasant conversation with the people you're traveling with. I've gotten to know several people in our ward a lot better than I might have otherwise, because I've driven up to stake functions with them.

Anyway, so that's how stake conference is in Boondock Land. Since I started writing this, we have parked in the lot of our stake center, and my husband is in attending a priesthood leadership meeting. The rest of us will hang out till this is over, and then we'll get dinner someplace and head back to the church for the evening session. It's a different way of doing things, but I have to say I'm glad we can do them this way. It makes it all special.

Tomorrow morning when we drive back up here for the morning session, however, I just might be thinking something different. Maybe. But hopefully not for long.

Friday, October 26, 2007

In Search of That Mythological Creature: Adults

Okay, I've been very naughty and missed my last few turns to post but here I am! And with many brilliant words to shower you with... hmmm, maybe I shouldn't set the bar so high right off, so let's just say I'm slightly more interesting than that one aunt who has a cliché for every situation and no concept of personal space.
So, as per my subject today, I want to talk about adults. I've always thought an adult was someone who is mature, honest and empathetic. If this is the true definition, then they are a dying breed. I'm constantly amazed at how people my age and older act; lying, cheating, trying to get something for nothing, constantly complaining about inane things like having to wait in line or, heaven forbid, needing to go the extra mile for someone else.
I think the problem is worse at my job more than anywhere else (probably because I have a choice about who I surround myself with otherwise). I have one coworker who willfully misunderstands and misquotes people to make herself look better. Though this trait really never bothered me before, now that we both are in line for the same promotion, it's gotten especially irritating because I feel like to correct her inaccurate version of the truth would be sinking to her level, or at the very least, engaging her.
But what do I do when she's misquoting ME? So far, I've just kept my mouth shut and let her build her own trap. Though it is working, it's hard not to get upset, not to get sucked into the drama, and worst of all, not to root for her to fail.
Yes, it makes me feel awful to admit it, but I'm rooting for her to fail. For her to get caught in her lies and be horribly embarrassed. What kind of person have I become? Am I turning into that disfigured version of an adult I mention above? And if so, when do I get my own reality TV show?
I guess the main thing I want to know is: does everyone else out there have to deal with these things too? Do we ever graduate high school? Is it true (as one coworker told me) that I will have to deal with drama like this no matter where I work? Or is there a far away land where people have intelligent discussions, appreciate their blessings and confront issues head-on instead of going behind people’s backs?

Just wonderin’


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Has the World Gone Crazy?

by Marsha Ward

My sister and I are traveling in Utah. We've planned this trip for a month or so. She is from California. I live in Arizona. The original plan was for me to travel to her home, then we would go in her car to Vernal, Utah.

Things in my life made changes in our plans. Now we were to meet in St. George on Monday.

On Sunday the world caught fire. At least it did in Southern California. Monday afternoon my sister spent hours waiting in the Cajon Pass trying to get out of Orange County. She finally arrived in St. George at 2 a.m.

Look at the satellite image. There are over a dozen fires raging in the Southland. Over 1800 homes have been destroyed. Nearly a million people have been evacuated, fortunately, as that has lessened the loss of life. In San Diego Country alone, the losses are about 1 billion dollars.

Now the allegations are that some of the fires were deliberately set.

Are people crazy?

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has already sent six semi-truckloads of disaster-aid goods to evacuation centers in Southern California. To donate to LDS Philanthropies' Humanitatian Aid services, click here. On the resulting page, please click on the icon at the top left where it says "Click to make a Gift".

If you prefer to support the American Red Cross, to donate to the San Diego County ARC, click here.

Thank you.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

My Weekend: Comedy/Tragedy

By Tamra Norton

Why is it in life that when something fun and good happens, it seems that something sucky and rotten is lurking around the corner? Okay, I'm not always a pessimist. Actually, I tend to be a half-full kind-of gal. But this weekend, with the fun and good, definitely came the sucky and rotten!

First I'll write about Friday night--for the most part, fun and good!

Friday night after a nice early dinner out with my hubby, I dropped him off at home to watch a shoot-'em-up video with our teenage son, while I ventured into the heart of Houston with the three little guys and their friend to attend a much anticipated event--the book signing of Obert Skye, author of the Leven Thumps series, published by Shadow Mountain. I was especially excited to attend this book signing because a few of my author friends, James Dashner and Jeff Savage each have a fantasy series of books coming out with this same publisher, and I wanted to see what my friends have to look forward to in their near future (and, of course, I have to dream that I'll be there too some day!) Also, before "Mr. Skye"--a pen name--became famous for his Leven Thumps series, he was an author for the LDS market...just like me! We're practically cousins, right?

So after 45 minutes of driving through Houston traffic, we arrive (thank goodness for car DVD players). The signing had been in full swing for an hour already. The Garleia B&N was buzzin'! A line of crazed kids and dazed parents wound around the interior of the lower level of the store. We bought our books and found our spot in line...and waited. And waited. At some point during all this waiting, my 9-year-old son's name was called over the store's PA system. He'd won a Leven Thumps 2008 Tour t-shirt (as seen in picture--the little guy on the left). On the back of the black t-shirt was listed several dozen cities--your basic rock concert t-shirt. How cool is that?

Finally, after an hour trying to keep four kids from tearing up the B&N, we made it to the front of the line and our two minutes with Obert Skye. Not wanting to appear the schmuck, I first introduced my kids--the real reason we were here, right? Mr. Skye was gracious and shook each of their hands, asked their names, chatted a bit and commenced the signing process. In the middle of his scribbling, it was a quiet moment, so I figured now was my chance. The author bonding would begin.

"I write for the LDS market," I squeaked.

"How do you spell your last name?" He was still writing.

"N-O-R-T-O-N" I replied (He was signing, "To the Norton Kids.")

When he finished signing, Mr. Skye looked up at me, extended his hand, and said, "It was so nice meeting you." And turned his attention to the next anxious kid in line.

What?! No, exuberant exclamation upon encountering another fellow author? But our roots were planted in the same LDS market soil. We both even wrote humorous stories. Surely he felt the connection!

But no. No trace of exuberance. No hint of connection. I'm honestly not sure he even heard a word I said about writing for the LDS market. I was the bazillionth parent he'd encountered that night. I might as well have said, "I like to eat fried Spam," and his reaction would have been the same. It had been a long night for Mr. Skye--I could tell by the slightly glazed look in his eyes--from exhaustion, no doubt. So I forgive him and will let him off the hook. This once. He was great with the kids and in the end, that's all that matters, right? (sniff)

We went home, and that night started reading our new book.... And I'll admit--that night when I went to bed I had dreams of B&N lines, crazed kids, dazed parents, concert t-shirts, and perhaps my own slightly glazed eyes at the end of yet another long night signing books. (sigh)

This was my Friday night, and this post is already too long. I'll write about my Saturday sucky-and-rotten night next week. You won't want to miss it--even though I wish I'd been spared from it's total suckiness.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Snoggable Male Characters

By Marcia Mickelson

Well, I'd never heard of the word snog before. Thanks, Marsha for the definition and thanks Tamra for the fun tag.

“Ten Literary Characters I Would Totally Make Out With If I Were Single and They Were Real But I’m Not, Single I Mean, I Am Real, But I’m Also Happily Married and Want to Stay That Way So Maybe We Should Forget This”

#1 Of course, Darcy from Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen. He's the ultimate.

#2 A lot of others have mentioned Jake from Stephenie Meyers' series. I really like Jake, more than Edward. I liked New Moon the most out of the three books and was even a little disappointed when Edward came back.

#3 Captain Wentworth from Persuasion by Jane Austen. She really knew how to write a male character!

#4 Jack Gamble from Until Proven Guilty by Betsy Brannon Green. He's such a devoted father. That's an important quality.

#5 Gilbert Blythe from Anne of Green Gables.

#6 Mark Iverson from Betsy Brannon Green's Hearts In Hiding. I just loved the part where Mark said Kate's baby was as good as his. He just loves the baby as his own.

#7 Clay Eskiminzin from Kerry Blair's This Just In. This was a great book. He was valiant, strong, had a lot of integrity. He was batguy!

#8 Bump St. James from A Time for the Heart by Nancy Campbell Allen.

#9 Knightly from Jane Austen's Emma. What can I say? I love Jane Austen, and she's created the most snoggable men!

#10 The guy from Dorothy Keddington's Jayhawk. Okay, I can't remember the guy's name, but he was awesome. That book is so good. I need to go read it again.

I'll tag these three:
Rebecca Talley