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?