Monday, July 30, 2007

Ancient Texts

Okay, so I'm working on this book (it's going to be fabulous if I say so myself) and I've got to research all these ancient writings, pictographs, etc. and learn how to read them. So much fun! Now, to get the story moving along believably, I'm creating my own bark-paper or copy-paper codex with ancient text and pictographs! So I feel like a kid again, drawing stick figures on paper and taping them together with my authentic masking tape.

Yeah, I'm totally consumed by this one. I'm living in ancient times for the moment, even though only the prologue is set back so many years. Of course, without a good knowledge of the history behind my subject, the whole project would fall apart.

So now I'm playing with real places and what they would have been like more than 500 years ago. The dilemma? Too many of my research places are totally off limits to the public. Oh, well. I will overcome this obstacle as it becomes necessary.

Anybody else ever have the pleasure of creating your own ancient texts?

Sunday, July 29, 2007

She Said or Said She?

A few weeks ago, Elodia blogged about Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Browne & King. It was the first editing book that I read about writing and it turns out the best I've read. I have learned so much from it. I originally read it about four years ago. One of the things that I learned is that you write: "Hello," she said and not "Hello," said she. So, naturally, I had to go back to my manuscripts and change all of those.

My question is, why do I still find that technique -- said she in some books that I read. I haven't read any of the Harry Potter books (or seen any of the movies). Please don't blast me. I know I'm like the only one in the world. Sorry. Please, still be my friends. Anyway, I recently skimmed a few pages in the latest Harry Potter book while I was at the grocery store. She uses that technique as well? Is it acceptable, then? I was really under the impression that you don't do that.

While we're on the subject of things you don't do. What is the deal with switching point of views every other paragraph? I am currently reading my first ever Nora Roberts book. I've never read one before, but apparently she's written a lot of books. Anyway, she constantly switches from one POV to another. Again, referring back to the Self-Editing book, you're not supposed to do this. I'm always careful not to do this because that's what I was taught. How is it that so many authors in the national market, as well as the LDS market switch POV's. How unacceptable is it if they're doing it? Does this bother anyone else when they're reading? It drives me crazy. Sometimes, I don't want to finish a book because I can't keep up with POV"s. Of course, I did it too when I first started writing, but that was before I read that you weren't supposed to. Do some authors just get to be so famous and best-selling that nobody cares that they don't follow the rules?

Saturday, July 28, 2007

The power of rhyme?

Hello, hello! Well, I'm Crystal Liechty, author of The First Year and this is my first ever blog! I've read my share and commented on my share but never got around to posting a blog all on my own. I think part of the reason is that I kind of think of blogs as an online diary. With that in mind, it's hard for me to imagine posting my unadulterated thought streams for all to read.

So far it's not so bad.

Let's see, what to talk about? Hmm...

I was thinking the other day that most people will agree with what you say if you can make it rhyme. For example: 'the couple that plays together stays together.' Or 'a stitch in time saves nine.' Even 'he who smelt it delt it.'

That last one especially I know from personal experience. Third grade-- I was foolish enough to point out an odd smell. The boy next to me loudly proclaimed the above cliche while pointing at me in front of the whole class and for the rest of the day I was teased. I said then and I will say again now: I was INNOCENT! But, even though the boy's reasoning was based on nothing more than rhyme, the class believed him.

So, I've been working on a few rhymes of my own to try out on various people. Feel free to try them yourself and report back on their success. Here they are:

He who does the dishes gets what he wishes

If I'm busy typing, you do the wiping (that one's for poopy diapers)

If I ask about the size of my thighs, it's best to tell lies

If I get any praise, it's time for a raise

Hope you enjoyed,

Another Tag--The Romance Writer Questionnaire

The evil computer imps are at it again. This time the tag’s optional; Candace Salima tagged all of the LDStorymakers, and who’s gonna know if I don’t accept the tag? But guess what: I’m responding anyway. I like this one because it doesn’t ask me to reveal my top ten most embarrassing moments or anything (embarrassing) like that. It discusses reading and writing and all the good stuff that we’re all here to learn about (right?)

Her list of questions is long, so I’m only going to answer a few right now. For the complete list of questions, and Candace’s answers, visit

Has there ever been a book you've written, that you wish now you hadn't?

No…but how about books I didn’t write that I wish I had?

For all the
Storymakers...if you weren't writers, what would be your dream job?

I would be a sane person…oh, what job would I want? Actually I’ve wondered that for years. No matter what, I’d want to be heavily involved with the written word.

What are your top ten romance novels you would take to the beach?

If I were at the beach, I’d be wave-jumping and building sandcastles with my family. Forget the books.

What comes first, characters or plot? What happens when it's characters first? Does the plot just flow naturally from a discovery of those characters, or do you find it difficult to weave a story together to fit the characters you want to write?

Both. I find that a story really does flow from good characters, but there also has to be a situation that drives them. I try to have a solid picture of both before I begin to write, but they always evolve throughout the writing process.

When you don't want to sit in the chair and write…what do you do to make yourself sit there? Duct tape? Crazy glue?

Sometimes I provide myself with junk food. But then I feel guilty. And fat.

If a person had never read any of your books, which one would you want them to read first and why?

Just the Way You Are. It’s available in stores and my other ones aren’t.

Do any of you work on more than one project at a time? I find myself doing this more and more lately and it's about ready to drive me insane. All these people just keep bumping around inside my head.

Absolutely. I’ve always got several projects going at once. As I’m editing and refining one, I might be writing a rough draft of another one and making notes on yet another.

Do any of you find that having a clear notion (such as a map) of the area you're setting the story in is worth the time it would take to set it up?

So far I have only set my stories in real places I’m familiar with. However, I find a calendar invaluable for mapping out the timing of events. Then I have a visual picture of how soon one event follows another, or what kind of weather the characters are looking at when something happens.

Who are you going to tag now?
Everyone I can think of has been tagged, because Candace tagged everyone at the same time... *sigh* But anyone who is now inspired to take this challenge, consider yourself tagged!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Research Tripping

I enjoyed last week’s blogs by my fellow Ink Ladies about the joys of research. I wanted to take a second to add my thoughts on one of my favorite forms of research: Research Tripping.

I recently took a trip to a famous U.S. city to do some research for an upcoming book. I had visited the city as a teenager, so I knew the basic sights and landmarks, but as I visited the spot again, this time as a researcher, I had a completely different experience.

This time, I noticed things I didn’t even think about before. The scents inside a Polish bakery. The mannerisms of a shop owner. The shoes of a tour guide. The taste of the local bottled water. I paid attention to the texture of napkins, the humidity in the air, the length of the stoplights. As a writer in research mode, I experienced the city on such a deeper, richer level than I had before.

I also seriously enjoyed getting away with saying things like: “Well, I know the steak is a little pricey, but I better try it, my character might get steak.” And, “I know I just had a root beer float at that other place, but what if my character wants ice cream in a waffle cone from this place. I better get one just in case.” And I loved watching how workers, from clothing store clerks to hotel receptionists to hot dog stand standers treated me so much better when they saw I was taking notes. Secret: If you want to get star treatment on your next trip, carry around a notebook like a Research Tripper, and watch what happens.

I came home from my trip with amazing pictures, tons of notes, a bag filled with everything from a parking garage ticket stub to a picture of me standing next to a fortune teller, and a renewed love for Research Tripping.

Now if only I can convince my husband that when I hit my head on the car door last week, my brain was wiped of all memories of our newly-wed trip to Mexico, and I simply have to go back. For research purposes, of course.

Thursday, July 26, 2007


by Marsha Ward

First, apologies that I didn't post yesterday, but that gave Tami space to do so. I was plagued by thunderstorms (yes, I'm very, very, very grateful for the rain) that made it necessary to turn off my computer lest I lose power in the middle of posting an insightful, tender message. I did lose power, but the computer wasn't on to get fried or toasted from a lightning strike or electrical surge. Anyway, here's my post a day late. I'm hoping Elodia won't mind shoving me down when she posts.
BIC-HOK-TAM? What? Is she kidding? Isn’t that HoHoKam for “go to sleep right now or the evil raiders will get you”?

Not really. BIC-HOK-TAM stands for “Bottom in chair-hands on keyboard-typing away madly”. It’s what every writer needs to learn to do—every writing day.

Notice I said every writing day. This also might be “every writing moment.” I know we can’t write seven days a week like some full-time novelists do. We do have other commitments as women writers. Most of us have families who need some measure of care. However, I encourage you to write in that time you can make available for writing.

Writers find the time to write in a variety of ways. We cut out watching that favorite soap opera. We vacuum twice a week instead of five times (or teach our children to do that job). We stop going to every baby shower or lunch date. Maybe we use comforters on the beds instead of making tight hospital corners each morning (again, why aren’t the kiddos making their own beds?). Perhaps we eat Cheerios for dinner a few nights a week instead of cooking gourmet meals.

Whatever sacrifice we (and our families) make gains us a few more minutes to write. A few more minutes to practice BIC-HOK-TAM!

Okay, we have a few minutes before we have to pick up Tabitha from kindergarten. How do we do BIC-HOK-TAM?

We sit down (BIC), put our hands on the computer keyboard (HOK), and start typing whatever comes into our minds, if we don’t have anything already flowing (TAM). Okay, so it’s a letter to our Aunt Katie on how fun it was to play in the snow at her house on Thanksgiving Day, 1983, or a grocery list, or a journal entry that can touch our family members many years down the road.

Maybe it’s just pure hoop-ti-doo and garbage, but we’re WRITING, and soon, our minds will open up and we’ll start to write something we need to share, maybe a poem, an essay, a short story, a character sketch or a novel chapter. Maybe we’ll write a magazine article entitled “10 Ways to Make Time for Writing,” or another chapter in our non-fiction book. The point is to begin, and that’s where BIC-HOK-TAM comes in handy.

Use BIC-HOK-TAM as often as you can to write and get closer to your writing goal.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Vacation Show and Tell

So I didn't post on "my day"--Tuesday--because I spent the day in my mini-van with 6 of my 7 kiddos and a whopper of a headache that even Excedrin Migraine wouldn't take away. The things we do so our kids can know their cousins! Tuesday was day 3 of our journey home from a family reunion in Idaho, and I feel like the smell of "travel" has saturated into my skin. (You know what I mean, don't you?)

Here are two of my kids climbing at City of Rocks--I wish you could see more clearly how cute and brave and incredibly incredible they are! :)

A few days after arriving in Idaho I received an e-mail from my publisher stating that they wanted to publish my children's novel, MAKE ME A HOME, sequel to MAKE ME A MEMORY. I am very excited about this news. MMAM received attention in April, 2006 when it was selected by the Utah Commission on Literacy as the state's "Book of the Month."
Even though MAKE ME A HOME is a sequel, it definitely stands on its own, and is perhaps an even stronger story than the first.
In MMAH, twelve-year-old, Allie Claybrook, is nearing the end of her sixth grade year in Edna, Idaho as well as her dad's deployment to Iraq. And finally, after all this time she has found something else--a best friend. Reuniting with her dad means leaving Edna, the place she has learned to call "home."

I don't have a publication date yet, but I'll be sure to post it when I do.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Discovering Truth

I've also been told on occasion to write what I know about, but what fun is that? I have a quote that I really enjoy and I've included it here:

Write what you care about and you will evoke emotion.
Write what you know about and you will build credibility.
Write what you would like to know about and you will discover your truth.

I agree that as you research those topics you'd like to know about, you gain the knowledge you need to make a believable world for your readers. During your research, you also gain insight into yourself, others and situations you may never have realized existed before.

Perhaps the strongest books come from those writers who can research an intriguing idea enough to know the subject and care about it as they finally begin the process of putting into words for their readers.

Sunday, July 22, 2007


I just finished reading Austenland by Shannon Hale. It is one of those neglect-your-kids and read all day kind of books. I hardly ever read during the day, my kids just won't let me. So, I usually read at night once they're in bed. But, with this book, I let them watch extra TV so I could finish.

Jane, the main character, is like so many of us, some more admitting than others. We all have a small, meaningless crush on Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice. Well, Colin Firth to be exact. For Jane, it was more of an obsession. Her relationships don't measure up to her expectations. None of her boyfriends can be Mr. Darcy, so she lives a bit in a fantasy land.

A rich aunt leaves her an inheritance -- a vacation to England to live in Austenland, a resort that mirrors Jane Austen times. She wears period clothes and mingles with other guests and actors. They go on long walks, play cards, call on each other. By going along with the vacation, she hopes to rid herself once and for all of the Mr. Darcy obsession so she can go on to live in the real world.

Along the way, she finds love. I really enjoyed the pretend scenes where they talked about matters and acted as you would in Jane Austen times. The characters were colorful and interesting. You find yourself relating to Jane.

Best of all, it was a very clean book. No foul language at all. I did not know at the time that I started reading the book, but Shannon Hale is LDS. She is a YA author, and this is her first adult novel. I highly recommend this book. It is such a fun read.

Okay, I promise, my next post will not be about Jane Austen. I've just been in such a Jane Austen mood lately.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Why Cardboard Is Cool

I’m kind of a women’s magazine junkie. I love being able to read an article and then say things like, “A recent study at the University of Smarties found…” or “According to George Brainyman Ph.D….”

Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of articles about becoming more self-sufficient and practicing more sustainable living. As an LDS woman, I have been hearing this for as long as I can remember. Live within your means. Grow a garden. Eat foods in season. Store the necessities of life for a rainy day. I’ve heard the principles many times.

But one summer, as I lived in an apartment furnished with only what I could fit in my car and four pieces of rented furniture, I really got to test out my ability to live a more sustainable life. And I must admit, I learned so much, I just had to share it!

With almost nothing to fill my apartment, I soon became acutely aware of my gratitude for everything I had. I began to see everything that came into my hands and my home as a true blessing and soon discovered things I never had before.

Five Cool Things I Discovered:

1. Packaging. I used to think of cereal boxes and salsa tubs as the stuff that holds the goods. Now, I see them as products in themselves and think of ways to use them.
2. Those baskets fresh berries come in. If you wash them and cut off the lids, they make great clear organizing containers.
3. The reverse side. Of computer paper, that is. Instead of using expensive notepads, I cut used computer paper into quarters and used the blank side for notes and lists.
4. Vinegar. It’s an awesome non-toxic all-purpose cleaner. One small bottle costs less than window cleaner and cleans mirrors, fixtures, and floors.
5. Cardboard, cardboard, cardboard. I used cardboard as a coffee table, a nightstand, a portable computer tray, a card-making station, and a bill organizer.

Sure my little apartment with all its cardboard furniture was not gorgeous, but it gave me a sense that I could live with less, that I could make do. And that was a powerful lesson.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Writing What You Know

by Marsha Ward

From the time I first studied creative writing, I've been told to write what I know. If you're a writer, you have, too. What does that mean?

First, let me give you some of my background. For several years, I wrote feature and news stories for a series of LDS newspapers. I wrote on a wide variety of subjects and people. Now, I am concentrating on my fiction, writing novels set in the 19th Century.

What did I know about the people and subjects I wrote about for the LDS papers? Nothing. Did I live in the 19th Century? No. Oops! Does that mean I've broken that paramount rule of writing what I know?

Again, no. You may ask, what are you talking about? Here's the explanation: Writing students of school age are advised to write what they know because they haven't lived very long. They only know what they have experienced first hand, so that is all they can call upon. Writing students of more years of life are advised to write what they know, but there is the unspoken understanding that this includes what they can find out about through research, as well as the life experiences they have as background.

I had to interview, investigate, study and research my news subjects. That made me an "expert," at least for the moment, on that topic or person. I knew what I was writing about.

Similarly, although I didn't live through the tumultuous events of the 19th Century, I did read 150 books for research before I wrote my novel, The Man from Shenandoah. Now my readers ask if I was raised on a farm, because my knowledge of the tools and procedures seems to be so intimate. Research made me an "expert" on the things I neeced to know to write the book. I'm not as sure what to say about the readers who congratulate me on my ability to get inside the mind of my male characters. Maybe being a tomboy in my childhood and youth helped me "know" what to write in that area!

Next time someone tells you to "write what you know," take the counsel with a grain of salt, remembering that unspoken addition to the suggestion: "...or what you can find out about!"

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Did I just see Molly?

I recently returned to Oakley, Idaho (population 600-ish) for a little family reunion. I LOVE Oakley, Idaho. I spent many-a-summer here as a child visiting Grandma. Now, my kids love to visit their grandparents here. But Grandma's not the only attraction (though the most important). How many towns have a grocery store that still sells penny candy?--a huge draw for my kiddos! And in July you have the Poineer Day celebration complete with parade, rodeo, fireworks, and food. Did I mention my kids love this place?

But I love Oakley for another reason. Whenever I visit, not only do I see relatives, but I also see characters from my books--at least in my mind (I know, a little scary). And as I revisit certain landmarks, scenes I wrote years ago play out in my mind. You see, my first novel Molly Mormon? was set in Oakley as well as scenes in both Molly Married? and Molly Mommy? And my children's novel, Make Me a Memory is set in ficticious Edna, Idaho, which was based on...Oakley, of course.

The other morning I was jogging around the high school track, and my first thought was, Oh my gosh--that's where Molly and Brandon had their first kiss! Later,I took my daughter to swing at the elementary school and I even said out loud, "Brandon and Molly came out to these very swings on prom night, kicked off their shoes, and swang" (swung, swinged? know what I mean).

On another occasion when I took my kids for a walk down to Clark's for penny candy, we strolled past the little post office with its combination boxes, and I thought, this is where Allie comes to pick up the mail, hoping there's a letter from Iraq, written in her dad's familiar handwriting.

Am I crazy?
No--I'm a writer!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

What did you just say?

Perhaps, I am a little oversensitive, but some people just don't think before they speak. I am Hispanic, both of my parents are from Guatemala. My husband is Caucasian, hence the last name Mickelson. I have always been super sensitive about the way race is talked about. I acknowledge this and try not to hold it against people when they say something offensive. For the most part, people don't mean to offend. I just offend easily, I guess.

Two recent experiences have given me the need to say something about it. One friend (a very nice person) just finished reading my manuscript in which my main male character is Hispanic. She told me that she actually liked him which surprised her because she usually doesn't like Hispanic men because of their attitude. I was too shocked to respond which is usually what happens. What was I supposed to say? I wanted to say, "I gave birth to 3 Hispanic males and my father is a Hispanic male, how am I supposed to take that?" I truly respect and admire this woman and I'm not upset with her, but how can she think it's okay to say something like that to me?

Two days later, another friend who is sooo nice and would never intentionally hurt someone's feelings said something similar. We were discussing a classic literature book club that we are all a part of. She commented about a Hispanic man who just recently joined the book club and said that it is nice to see a Hispanic man who is educated and can make intelligent comments. Again, I was shocked. How can she say that in front of me? She looked at the shocked look on my face and said, "You're Guatemalan. I don't think of you as Hispanic." I have no idea what that means which takes me back a few years. A very good friend once told me that she didn't think of me as Hispanic. When I gave her a look, she said. "That's a compliment." I guess I don't know how to take a compliment.

I usually don't say anything to people because I don't want them to feel badly that they hurt my feelings. But, I'm starting to think that maybe I should say something to them so they can see it's not okay to say things like that, at least not to someone who is Hispanic. I don't know; I guess next time I'll just say: "What did you just say?" and give them a minute to think.


All right, all right. You're probably getting tired of reading all these "tagged" posts. Who comes up with these, anyway? Is there some little imp at a computer who gleefully churns these things out and makes us feel like we have to play along?

Speaking of playing along, here goes:

Remove the blog from the top, place yours at the bottom, and move the others up one:
Ennui in the Grocery
The Lyon's Tale
Sundial in the Shade
The InkLadies

What were you doing ten years ago?
We lived in University of Utah student housing in Salt Lake City. We had a busy little boy and I babysat practically all the other kids in our apartment court while their parents worked or went to school. I wrote the rough draft for my first novel during nap times. Church-wise, I was ward organist and on the homemaking/enrichment committee.

What were you doing one year ago?
I was frantically studying the Doctrine and Covenants and Church history, trying to prepare for my upcoming assignment to teach early morning seminary. The intense study was a great experience, but I can’t really say I came into the class prepared to teach it. Some things you just can’t prepare for.

Five snacks you enjoy:
1. Anything chocolate
2. Popcorn
3. Grapefruit canned in syrup
4. Potato chips and French onion dip
5. Chips and salsa

Five songs you know all the lyrics to:
1. many of the Primary songs
2. "We Thank Thee O God for a Prophet"
3. "Minimum Wage" (They Might Be Giants)
4. "Stepsisters' Lament" from Cinderella (the musical)
5. "Joseph Smith's First Prayer"

Things you would do if you were a millionaire
1. Pay off all debts
2. Buy a new car or two
3. Buy new furniture
4. Travel
5. Intend to invest, but probably squander the rest

Five bad habits:
1. Impatience
2. Pride
3. Procrastination
4. I can't think of anything else
5. Did I mention pride?

Five things you like to do:
1. Read
2. Write
3. Eat
4. Be outdoors when the weather is nice
5. Smile

Five things you will never wear again:
1. My prom dress
2. the red polyester dress I had to wear for high school concert choir (the "red shrouds")
3. Makeup to make me look older
4. a size 2
5. a size 4

Five favorite toys:
1. computer
2. iPod
3. bread machine
4. rice cooker (hey, it cooks rice)
5. the Internet

Where will you be in ten years?
Incredibly rich and incredibly famous. Isn't that what happens to all published authors? ;-)

Five people to tag:
Candace Salima
Linda Paulson Adams
Carole Thayne
Matthew Buckley
C.S. Bezas

So there you have it, folks! Stay tuned for the next time the computer imps start a new game of tag...what information will we spill then??

(dramatic music in the background as the lead actress shows a look of pure horror on her face. Screen fades.)

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Great Reads for Writers

As a writer, I am always looking for books that can help me improve my craft. Here are two of my favorites and the top two lessons I learned from each.

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself into Print, by Renni Browne and Dave King

Top two things I learned from this book:

1. Not to overuse -ly words as descriptions

When I first thought about this seriously, I nodded my head gently, furrowed my brow slightly, pursed my lips tightly, and wondered intently if I would honestly be able to abstain indefinitely from the overuse of -ly.

2. “Said” is usually the way to go

A conversation like this is almost sure to make an editor want to throw a manuscript across the room:

“But I love you,” she breathed.
“I know,” he sighed.
Doesn’t that matter to you at all?” she interrogated.
“I guess,” he grumbled.
“Then how could you do this to me?” she squeaked.
“I didn’t mean to,” he barked.

A few variations of said sprinkled in can prevent monotony in a manuscript, but a book full of breathing, grumbling, barking characters just isn’t all that swell.

See Jane Write: A Girl’s Guide to Writing Chick Lit, by Sarah Mlynowski and Farrin Jacobs

As a chick lit writer, I was drawn to this book written by a national chick lit author and a former national chick lit editor. Although the book is geared toward the chick lit writer, it contains some very sound advice that applies to all genres.

Top two things I learned from this book:

1. Character Sketching is a fun part of writing, not just something to get over with before I can start writing

Getting to know that my character can’t eat just one cookie, runs faster on the treadmill when someone’s watching, and talks in her sleep is an important first step to writing anything about her.

2. I am not the only one who in the middle of writing a book starts to seriously wonder if I have any business writing at all

Two bestselling national chick lit authors were quoted in the book as feeling this exact same way. Whew. I’m not the only one who wonders if I should have been an Elvis memorabilia collector instead.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Finding Your Theme

by Marsha Ward

Several years ago I spent a wonderful week in cool Prescott, Arizona, where I attended the Hassayampa Institute for Creative Writing at Yavapai College. In the friendly atmosphere provided by the wonderful staff and faculty and the limited enrollment, I got to know many fine folks, and did some revisions on work that had been mired in mud for a long while. The intensive writing workshop led by Kate Horsley (pictured, left) helped me focus on aspects of my writing that I had neglected. I had a chance to reach deep within myself to find emotions and conflicts that needed to be present in my characters to make them real.

The most important thing I found, though, was my theme, my reason for writing. I discovered that I write to help people find hope amidst their trials, to learn to overcome, not just to wallow in misery. Now you may think that's a non-applicable theme for someone who writes fiction, but as I look back over my works, I think it fits nicely into what I have written. My characters pick themselves up in various ways and go forward with their lives. They illustrate how personal attributes and growth can help a person persevere.

I'm very glad to have found my theme, since I'd agonized over this very issue for years. However, I won't go into every writing session thinking, How can I make my characters toe the mark and hold to the theme? I will build my characters' attributes, motivations, and conflicts carefully and then let their actions come forth. Because I do this legwork out of my value system, the theme will be there, in one form or another, when I have finished.

How do you find what you want to write about? I won't say it's simple, but it took me by surprise when I was asked a single question and the answer was my theme. The question was: "What do you want to share with the world through your writing?" I was blown away when my answer gave me the thing I'd been searching for, for such a long time. Maybe the same question will help you isolate your theme, too.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Finished--or Just Getting Started?

Yesterday at 5:51 p.m., I sat upright in my computer chair, pumped clenched fists into the air and gave out a big, WOOOHOOOO! And then I did it again. And again . . . about five times until my voice was about to give out. I took a long swig of my diet Coke and fell back somewhat listless into my computer chair, a smile etched into my face.

I stayed in this position for roughly fifteen minutes, give or take.

My 15 year old son and his friend were sitting in the living room, and even though my brain was fried, and I was somewhat comatose, the ears were still functioning.

"Dude, what's up with your mom?"

"I think she just finished her book."

Bingo! I'd just put the finishing touches on my children's novel, MAKE ME A HOME, sequel to MAKE ME A MEMORY, a "Book of the Month" selection by the Utah Commission on Literacy. The books cover a year in the life of sixth-grader, Allie Claybrook who moves with her mom and little brother to the little "hick-town" of Edna, Idaho while her dad, a soldier in the US Army is deployed to Iraq.

As I sat basking in the joy of finishing another novel--the most satisfying feeling in the world, next to giving birth--another part of me knew that this was only the beginning. After I send the manuscript off to my publisher, there will be more editing and re-writes, and eventually I'll have a published book in my hand. And this is where the work really starts.

Hello--I have to market this book!

I've been considering various marketing strategies about MAKE ME A HOME since before I even started writing it. Book signings, school visits, website updates, contests . . . . I've discussed my ideas with friends, I've formulated, plotted, schemed, and daydreamed. I've even had a few marketing fantasies during church. (Shhhhh--don't tell. I try to avoid these, but sometimes they slip through.)

So when you're working on your manuscript, and focused on POV, character development, plot structure, and avoiding those sometimes unavoidable adverbs, keep a thought simmering in the back of your mind about how you're going to market this puppy once it's published.

Because really, that's the beginning!

Monday, July 9, 2007


I don’t know a thing about tagging, and you’ve probably noticed, I’m completely new to blogging, but I believe I was tagged by another one of our Ink Ladies, so here goes. By the way, I’m supposed to add myself to the bottom of this list, right? How?


The Lyon's Tale

Sundial in the Shade

Not Entirely British

Marcia Mickelson

Here are my responses.

What were you doing ten years ago?
We were living on a cattle ranch west of Lehi. We rode horses all the time, went shooting in the back yard and did pretty much whatever we pleased. We lived in one of two homes in the valley, five miles from the next neighbor.

What were you doing one year ago?
I was the managing editor of a newspaper and my very first novel had just come out.

Five snacks you enjoy:
1. Chocolate
2. Chips and salsa
3. Trail mix
4. Fresh fruit
5. Fresh vegetables

Five songs you know all the lyrics to:
1. I’ll Be
2. Several church songs
3. Don’t know why
4. Addicted (my five year old taught it to me)
5. Check you for Ticks (makes me smile every time!)

Things you would do if you were a millionaire:
1. Pay off all debt
2. Build an indoor pool
3. Buy a new SUV and ski boat to match it
4. Help others as we’ve been helped in our times of need
5. Take the kids to visit family in Alabama – maybe even buy a vacation home there.

Five bad habits:
1. Snacking – I love to eat
2. Staying up too late
3. Correcting improper grammar (says my 15 year old)
4. Critiquing everything I read
5. I’m incredibly spontaneous … too spontaneous … is there such a thing?

Five things you like to do:
1. Boating – waterskiing, tubing, swimming, etc.
2. Running, playing volleyball, racquetball, anything physically demanding
3. Singing karaoke with my family
4. Dancing
5. Rappelling, rafting, hiking or anything to “get a rush!”
(of course, all the above are better with loved ones who like to go with you!)

Things you will never wear again:
1. Gathered skirts
2. Pegged jeans
3. High-wasted jeans
4. Flip-flops
5. Parachute pants

Five favorite toys:
1. Skiboat
2. Computer
3. Fishing pole
4. Treadmill
5. GPS

Where will I be in ten years?
Probably still in Enoch, but perhaps another home. My novel in progress will have hit best seller lists around the world and still be selling copies, so I can only dream about my life in ten years. There are too many possibilities to mention!

While I've got your attention, check this out ... this is my mind movie, like a vision board but a movie with sound!! Robyn's Mind Movie.

People to tag:
Donna Brown


Okay, so it's Monday - and I remembered about the blog, despite sick children, publication due dates, passport applications and one very disobedient little boy.

But here I am in all my glory - no one's hidden a camera on my laptop have they? Seriously, it has been on hectic week, but a wonderful one. Aren't they all wonderful in one way or another?

I thoroughly enjoyed speaking at the writer's conference in Cedar City last Saturday and met some fabulous people. The scariest part of it though was speaking in front of my brother-in-law, who happened to be the speaker after me. Not only did he teach me nearly everything I know about writing, but he often graces the NYT best seller lists. But I must have done something right as he would smile and nod as I gave my version of creating characters. He even stuck around long enough to be seen with me afterward!

Of course creating characters has always been one of my favorite parts of writing. Even now I am making myself close Word so I can take a moment to communicate with real people. Then there's the research. I love to do research for my writing and this latest project is totally consuming me, but I'm enjoying every minute of it. Even my children and my husband are fascinated! Of course, by the time I finish my final draft, they will be covering their ears and saying, "Enough already! Let us have a few surprises when we read the book!"

My husband is my best sounding board. Talking with him, I'm able to sort out problems in my own mind and make my plots stronger, my characters more believable. What patience it must take to live with me.

Oh my rambling mind ... I mentioned passports in the first paragraph. My parents have convinced us to go to Western Samoa with them in November. What fun! I can hardly wait to enjoy the sandy beaches and fresh coconut milk. They just recently returned from a mission there and want to go to the graduation of the students they were teaching. I have a couple of siblings going with their spouses too, and can only imagine the time we'll have.

Did the photo come through? We're practicing for our trip in November, actually my mom and dad were teaching us some Samoan dances at their homecoming. That's me in the middle with the peach shirt ... my husband to the right.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Hey, That's My Cousin

This week I got the kind of news that most of us simply do not expect to get. One of my cousins, a returned missionary and an active Latter-day Saint, had been killed. Not just in an accident, or in combat, or by a sudden illness—any of those would have been difficult enough—but in an act of murder.

Fortunately, the alleged perpetrator was apprehended and taken into custody. He must have been mentally off-balance, and he had a gun and felt justified in using it. But that’s just not something you expect to happen among the faithful in any religion. That kind of thing’s only supposed to happen among the drug addicts and the other more carnally minded individuals. It’s supposed to happen to other people—right?

My cousin and I lived in different states and we didn’t visit very often. Case in point: I was surprised when I saw the photograph of him in the newspaper. Last time I remember seeing him, he had a full head of blond hair. The picture I see now is definitely his face, but the majority of his hair has, well, escaped. Shows how long it’s been since I’ve seen him.

But it still just makes you stop and think. Murder and death are things we encounter in the media on a regular basis, usually multiple times in a day if we have our TVs on much or if we follow the news. Often there are intriguing stories behind the murders we hear about. Upon learning about them, we might think briefly, “Oh, that’s too bad…” and feel glad that it didn’t happen to us or to anyone we know. And then we go on about our lives and forget about it.

Unless it strikes close to home.

This time the victim is my cousin. It’s difficult to wrap my mind around that one. He isn’t just an interesting story, I know him as an integral part of a good and faithful family who loves him. He was planning to marry a woman who loves him. He was a Sunday school teacher, and a college-educated working professional. A good guy who, like any of us, was just trying to do his best in the world.

I wonder if people swap stories in the next life of how they died. Kind of like how women swap childbirth stories here. It’s something almost all of us moms have gone through, so it’s a bond we share. Maybe it’s something people in the next life talk about: So, how did you die? Who met you when you crossed over to the other side of the veil? What do you remember about your premortal life now that you had forgotten while you were mortal?

Of course I have a million questions I’d love to ask my cousin now. If we could just communicate with those who have passed on, the separation wouldn’t be so painful for those of us left behind on earth. But death is something that all of us experience on this end, too. Sooner or later, it does visit all of us. We all go through watching loved ones go before us, and trying to make sense of what happened and filling in the holes they leave the best we can. Only after we pass through the veil ourselves will we see the whole picture.

Todd, I wish you the very best on your continued spiritual journey. I don’t doubt that you’ll be doing a great work where you are. Words cannot express how sorry I am that you and your family and loved ones have had to go through this at this time, and I wish there was something I could do to “fix” it for everyone. Casseroles and hugs and flowers just don’t seem to cut it.

But one day in the future, we’ll all be there with you, swapping death stories and getting to know each other again. And what seems horribly wrong now will be smoothed over and evened out in the Lord’s time. I’m sure you understand that much better now from your perspective than any of us do here. I look forward to seeing you again one day…with your full head of hair.

Friday, July 6, 2007

I am Elinor Dashwood

I am Elinor Dashwood. Not that I don't like Elinor, but I never thought of myself as Elinor. Elizabeth Bennet is my favorite, but I guess I'm not her.

According to this fun quiz I took, I am practical, circumspect, and discreet. Though I am tremendously sensible and allow my head to rule, I have a deep, emotional side that few people often see.

Like many of you, I love Jane Austen. I just finished reading Persuasion and am excited to see Becoming Jane like a lot of you. There has been a lot of talk about Jane Austen lately, and I thought it would be fun to find out which Austen heroine each of us is.

Take this quiz to see which Austen heroine you are. Then, come back here and tell us in the comments. I'd love to hear who everyone is.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Being "It" Was Never So Much Fun

I've been tagged by Anne Bradshaw!
The cool thing about this game of tag, though, is that now that I'm "it" I get to spend some time reminiscing. So here's me in 10 questions or less. Well, actually, it's exactly 10 questions. But "here's me in exactly 10 questions" didn't sound quite as cool.

Elodia Strain

What were you doing ten years ago?
I was getting ready to leave for my freshman year at BYU. I was watching lots of Felicity episodes and believing that like Felicity’s, my first year of college would be a time of deep conversations, academic-looking sweaters, and guys who talked like they were 35.

What were you doing one year ago?
Looking at apartments in Spokane, Washington and realizing that terms like “enchanted cottage” and “cute and cozy bungalow” often mean: “Run far, far away.”

Five snacks you enjoy:
1. Chips and salsa
2. Fruit smoothies
3. Puffins (the cereal, not the bird)
4. Grapefruit
5. Chocolate covered nuts

Five songs you know all the lyrics to:
1. Ice, Ice Baby (yeah, I know)
2. Enloqueseme
3. When You Wish Upon a Star
4. Pitseleh (by Elliott Smith)
5. Nearer My God to Thee

Things you would do if you were a millionaire:
1. Buy a house
2. Go to Hawaii
3. Pay a screen-writer to write a script based on my first book
4. Go to Barnes and Noble and spend hours looking and buying and drinking cocoa in the cafe
5. Learn how to invest the rest of the money
5a. Make sure there is a “rest of the money”

Five bad habits:
1. When I’m concentrating, I push the tip of my nose downward until I look really ridiculous (a few more years of this and I could be in trouble)
2. Worrying too much
3. Apologizing too much
4. Making piles of clothes on the bed/floor/couch/etc. instead of hanging them
5. Not expressing if I need something

Five things you like to do:
1. Read in the bath
2. Walk on the beach
3. Bargain shop
4. Swim with my husband
5. Talk with my family

Things you will never wear again:
1. The puppy earrings and necklace I won for selling the most Girl Scout Cookies
2. LA Gear shoes (though when Santa brought them to me, I think I actually kissed them)
3. My senior prom dress
4. My “Super Seniors” T-shirt
5. Pretty much anything from my senior year of high school…What was up with 1997?

Five favorite toys:
1. Wheel of Fortune board game (it has a wheel that actually spins!)
2. My electronic piano
3. Badminton set given to me by my husband
4. The TV/DVD player
5. My pretty new computer (thanks Mom and Dad!)

Where will I be in ten years?
Who knows? Hopefully not in Antarctica.

People to Tag:
Stephanie Black
Erin Klinger
Tristi Pinkston

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

This is Not an Essay on Freedom*

I've never before been with someone when they coded.

My sister had surgery on Monday the 2nd of July. The surgeon removed 2 1/2 organs and did a repair.

Yesterday was walking day--the first day post-op, when it's good for the patient to get out of bed, briefly, to keep the lungs clear and prevent blood clots from forming.

F, the handsome, shaved-headed Latino nurse, successfully got her onto her feet even though she said she couldn't do it, that she felt faint. She sat back down. He persisted, and she finally stabilized herself enough to get up, take a few steps to the window, then back again. She seemed to have her eyes shut a lot of the time.

When she got back to the bed, she sat, then her eyes rolled and she went limp.

F caught her and yelled out for the other nearby nurse. They called a code.

The rest is somewhat of a blur. I got myself and my stuff out of the room as fast as I could, knowing that a crash cart was coming. The room wasn't big enough for me, my computer roller, the bedside chair, and the 10 or 15 people who came to answer the alarms and quiet "Code Blue in ICU." Knowing the code is for your loved one is weird!

I had the most surreal feeling watching from the hall. I wasn't frightened--she'd been assured in a priesthood blessing that her trials would be as a small moment. That, of course, could go either way, but God is in the details.

I did pray. I reminded God of the blessings she had had. I told Him how much her disabled husband needed her, as well as her children and grandchildren. I reminded Him that her grandson was absolutely positive that she would be all right, since he had fasted and prayed for her. His young faith didn't need to be shaken, I told God, particularly since he's in a less-than-ideal home environment.

Someone asked me if I wanted to go sit in a waiting room instead of standing in the hall. I chose to do that, and she led me to the Consultation Room. I suppose that's where people sign consent forms for donating their loved ones' organs, but that's another story.

The kindness of the personnel brought me to tears, but I was remarkably calm throughout.

When order was restored, my sister was sent for a CT scan of her chest to check if she had "thrown" any pulmonary embolisms, that is, if any clots had moved into the blood vessels of her lungs.

F mentioned a possible cause of Sis passing out as something that on the fly sounded like "basil bagel." I think that's "basal," and there might be a "v" in there as well. I'll ask someone about the term later. I believe it has something to do with blood pressure.

I was asked to sign the consent to put dye into her blood system for good contrast on the CT scan. It might make her feel warm afterward.

F told me later that it was a questionable code but they had to call it--I suppose because that gets the personnel the patient needs together really really quickly, and that's good. He said she had a pulse throughout, but the problems were her not breathing, some tachycardia, and general lack of responsiveness.

My sister doesn't know why she got a code called on her. She wonders why all the excitement over a fainting episode. Because of her pre-op anxiety, I've downplayed the event to her. I won't be the one to tell her she was in the vicinity of passing over.

Sister's husband called me a guardian angel. I'm just glad I was there to keep her calm.

* Here's an excellent one.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Things I'm looking forward to

For the past few months, several of my children have been re-reading (for the 3rd, 4th, and 5th times) the various Harry Potter Novels. They are doing this, of course, to ready themselves for the highly anticipated releaase of the Harry Potter 7 novel (which I'm sure has a name, but give me a break--it's hard enough to remember the names of my seven children, let alone the HP books). I know--shame on me!

July 21st has been circled on our calendar for months, and I can tell you now, at midnight, July 20th, I will be standing in some line (probably Wal Mart) with at least 2 of the biggest Harry fans, waiting for our beloved copies of this final HP volume. Here's a picture from two years ago. Good times! (Disclaimer: These 2 darlings are normally the best looking teenagers this side of the Alamo. Please do not share this picture with any of their friends, acquaintances, or other "hot" teenager-types who might someday be interested in them...unless they saw this picture, of course.)

As for what I'm looking forward to most (besides finishing up my current project, and losing 30+ pounds), there are two events I'm anxiously awaiting:

#1 Becoming Jane (see link) I am SOOOO excited for the release of this movie. I love Jane Austen! I love Anne Hathaway! Short of Colin Firth escorting my girlfriend and me to this movie (my husband would rather have dental surgery) I can't think of a better evening out.

#2 Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer--the final book in the Twilight Trilogy. I loved Twilight! It's one of those "can't put down" books. It took me a little longer to get into New Moon, but by the end, she'd won me over, and I'll most definitely be at the bookstore bright and early on August 7, for the release of Eclipse. As a matter of fact, as soon as I finish my current read, I'm heading right for our copies of Twilight and New Moon. After all, I want Bella, Edward and Jacob fresh in my mind.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

I've been tagged

Okay, after I posted my earlier blog, I saw that I had been tagged by Anne Bradshaw. So, I hope it's okay that I posted again. A few other Ink Ladies have also been tagged, so go to Anne's Blog to see if you've been tagged.

Remove the blog from the top, move all the blogs up one, and add yourself to the bottom. You have to copy and paste the whole thing into a Word document (or whatever) and use it as a template for your own version.


The Lyon's Tale

Sundial in the Shade

Not Entirely British

Marcia Mickelson

Here are my responses.

What were you doing ten years ago?
Ten years ago, my husband and I were living in Ogden, UT while he was finishing his degree at Weber State. I was working in Salt Lake (long commute) at a non-profit running a foster care program. I loved my job, but it was emotionally difficult seeing children suffer and not being able to do much to help them.

What were you doing one year ago? We were preparing for our road trip from San Antonio, TX to Utah/Idaho to visit family and friends.

Five snacks you enjoy:
1. Brownies
2. Chocolate Chip cookies
3. Snickers
4. Sour cream and onion potato chips
5. Cherry Kisses

Five songs you know all the lyrics to:
1. I am a Child of God
2. Called to Serve
3. Teach me to walk in the light
4. I do
5. The Wheels on the Bus

Things you would do if you were a millionaire:
1. Pay off the mortgage
2. Pay off the other bills
3. Buy new clothes for my family (especially my baby who has too many 7 year old hand-me-downs)
4. Help others who need it
5. Buy a new computer (not from a thrift store or from someone getting rid of theirs)

Five bad habits:
1. Late night snacking
2. Staying up too late
3. Squeezing the toothpaste from the middle
4. Not exercising
5. Cooking too many prepared foods.

Five things you like to do:
1. Read
2. Watch movies
3. Eat
4. Make train layouts with my sons
5. Watch TV

Things you will never wear again:
1. Jellies shoes
2. dresses that make me look matronly
3. a size 7
4. denim shirts
5. overall dresses

Five favorite toys:
2. my son’s gameboy
3. The computer
4. microwave
5. DVD player

Where will I be in ten years?
I hope to still be in San Antonio, my oldest son will be close to graduating.

People to tag:
Katie Parker
Robyn Heirtzler
Marsha Ward

Likeable Characters

I had a few people read one of my manuscripts. Two, okay three of them, said that the main character was not very likable. This has me a little worried. She is not heartless or malicious by any means. She just has a few issues, but who of us doesn't? She doesn't do anything immoral or wicked, she's just a little cold at first. She does warm up a bit later.

This has made me think. How many of us disliked Mr. Darcy at the onset of Pride and Prejudice? Most of us, unless we were watching the A&E version of the movie with Colin Firth and who could dislike Colin Firth. He's so handsome, okay hot. He's hot! (I don't think I've used that word in that context since high school.) Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that not all characters have to be lovable. I think as readers, we can accept that people are flawed. As long as they grow through the course of the novel, we can accept them, right? Help, can anyone think of any characters that they didn't really like at the beginning of the novel, but could accept and ended up enjoying the novel.