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



Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Domino Effect

This week I taught a seminary lesson about the importance of marriage within the covenant. There was an accompanying video that compared it to a chain of dominoes. Just like how the whole chain of dominoes falls down when you tip the first one, a whole chain of lives is affected when a couple chooses--or chooses not to--make covenants with the Lord and marry in the temple. (And then, of course, keep those covenants.)

Well, the lesson didn't go the way I wanted it to. First off, we only had one student show up. Second off, the stake supervisor was there to observe our class--which was mostly fine, but it's always a little scary, and besides, we only had one student show up. Third, I got the TV and DVD player all set up in the classroom, only to find out that I'd left the DVD at home. So, we didn't get to watch the domino video after all.

In a moment of inspiration--or maybe desperation--I invited our one student to make a domino chain with the hymn books in the room. There were enough in there that they illustrated the effect well enough. And we talked about the effects that our choices have on others. We talked about the marriage covenant and the effect his making it in a few years would have on his children and grandchildren. We talked about the effects our choices have on our families now--for instance, if we go yell at our brother, what's our brother likely to do? Go yell at someone else, right? And then pretty soon the whole family's mad.

Or if you do something nice for your sister, then she's likely to be happier and do something nice for someone else. And then maybe they'll be nice to someone different in turn--just like a domino chain.

Even going past that, an author in Blogland this week talked about writers that have had an influence on their own writing. When you send your words out there for the world to see, you have no idea who will be touched by them and what it will inspire them to do in turn. The list goes on and on.

We all have a powerful potential to bring about good in the world, one domino at a time. (And next time we have seminary class I'd better remember my video.)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Crazy Jobs I Could Write About

by Elodia Strain

A reality show star. A greeting card writer. A singer. An attorney. A therapist.

No, I’ve never been any of these things, but I’ve been able to learn about them as I’ve read books whose main characters have. And all this reading got me to thinking…What crazy jobs have I had that I could write about?

Well, for your reading pleasure, here are just a few.

Party Power Ranger- I felt pretty cool as I walked into Brandon B.’s birthday party all garbed up in my red Power Ranger gear and was greeted by smiles and applause. But my fame wore off the second I said, “Hello kids!” The birthday boy glared at me and grumbled, “You’re not the red Power Ranger. You’re a girl!” And not even the deformed-looking balloon animals I made could get the kids to stop questioning me.

Movie Theater Janitor- Why is it that you can put a bunch of normally tidy people in a dark room and all of a sudden it’s a free for all?

Hotel Front Desk Clerk- The night shift. No I never fell asleep on the job. I was just resting my eyes the night the trucker came in and stole half a case of hotel soap.

Restaurant Hostess- It may not sound like a crazy job. But let me tell you, Friday night dinner hour: Crazy. Note to impatient diners: It’s not the hostess’s fault the wait is long. There is no need to yell. No need to swear. And your “Well then we’ll just go to Chili’s!” is probably not the awful threat you hope it to be.

Elementary School Spanish Speaking Office Assistant- I heard every excuse in the book for being late to school. In two languages. “My mom didn’t wash my lucky pants and I have a test today,” was definitely one of my favorites.

So…tell me. What crazy job could you write about? This should be fun!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Snoggable Fictitious Males

by Marsha Ward

This is supposed to be my Wednesday post. I might have miscalculated the time, so please forgive me.

In her Tuesday post, Tami Norton tagged all the other Ink Ladies for the “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” reveal.

I'm game to play, especially since I'm single. However, the heroes are fictitious, so that puts a kink in my disclaimer.

Since the term "snogging" has been used a lot in connection with this tag, and to protect myself from any intimations of hanky-panky, I checked the definition in several online dictionaries. Apparently snogging ranges from 'cuddle and kiss' and 'make out,' through French kissing, to more intimate activity. It usually--but not always--precludes s*x. I'll stick to the milder meanings, thank you very much.

Okay, I had a hard time keeping this list down to only ten male literary characters. There are so many good ones out there with whom I could play kissy-face. I decided to keep my choices grounded in national, not LDS fiction, since for years that's all I read and I have a bigger memory pool there to pull from. I also wanted to bring some new names to light.

This list is just as I made it, tossing away the fellows I wouldn't care to snog with, so they're in no particular order.

1. Richard Sharpe, soldier/rifleman extraordinaire from Bernard Cornwell's novels set in the early 1800s. Sean Bean (who played him in the TV specials) isn't too shabby, either, but he doesn't count, because he's real.

2. James Owen, my character from The Man from Shenandoah, Ride to Raton, and the forthcoming Trail of Storms. Doesn't give his heart lightly, but when he does, he's committed forever.

3. Ranger, Stephanie Plum's mentor as a bounty hunter in the series by Janet Evanovich. Just. Plain. Dangerous.

4. The mysterious Joe Pike, from the Elvis Cole mystery novels by Robert Crais. If I were in a fight, I'd like to have Joe backing me.

5. Robert B. Parker's Spenser. He is a private eye with the soul of a poet.

6. Rhett Butler, from Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind. A rake, a scoundrel, and a devoted father.

7. Tell Sackett from the Sackett books by Louis L'Amour. He taught me to keep my fires small, no bigger than needed.

8. Travis McGee, from the series by John D. MacDonald, who gets to live on a boat when he's not finding killers.

9. Deep thinking Joe Leaphorn, from the Four Corners novels of Tony Hillerman. We share a love of maps.

10. The upright Shane, a traveller and ex gunfighter, from the novel of the same name by Jack Schaefer.

Okay, you may think the list is top-heavy with bad boys, but it isn't really. Only about four, actually. They're mysterious, hunky, men of action, but not bad through and through. So there!

I tag Janette Rallison, Rachelle, and C.L. Beck.

Ten Totally Snoggable Literary Characters

By Tamra Norton

I love to play games, and Julie Wright invited me to play! It's been a few decades, however, since I've indulged in any kissing games (well, except with a certain very kissable guy who also snores and actually likes sweet potatoes). Anyhoo...

So here's the original challenge: “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.”

Let's play...

#1: Edward. Okay, so he's a vampire and stone cold, and seventeen years old. Or is he 100? Anyway, he's definitely tied at the top of my list.

The other #1: Jake/Jacob. Okay, so he's a warewolf and hot when he's a warewolf...and when he's human too. I loved the scene in Stephenie Meyer's Eclipse when he approaches Bella in the meadow and licks her face!

#3: Neil from I capture the Castle. I love the scene when they're swimming in the castle moat by moonlight!

#4: Joshua Steed, from The Work and The Glory series. I never went for the "bad boys" in high school. I actually married a really good guy in real life. So what's the attraction to Joshua Steed? I dunno--but he's my #4 and I'm stickin' to it.

#5: Mark--Agent Iverson--in Betsy Brannon Green's Hearts in Hiding. Is there anyone more kissable than an FBI agent? :)

#6: Mr. Darcy--need I say more?

#7: Captain Wentworth from Austen's Persuasion. Who can resist a man in uniform? (See photo above)

Okay, I'm going to cheat a little. These are characters in my books, but if I was still a teenager or in my college days, I'd totally fall for these guys...

#8: Gordon "The Goofball" Nelson from Molly Married? and Molly Mommy? He's a ballroom dancer. I rest my case.

#9: Jarrett from Comfortable in my Own Genes. What a sweetheart! I wish I'd dated him in high school.

10#: Least I upset every one of my teenage readers, I absolutely must have Brandon Mace on this list. I can't tell you how many e-mails I've received from teenage girls telling me that Brandon is their "dream boy." He's definitely a teenage incarnation of my "dream guy"--almost as good as the real thing! :)

Now it's your turn to play. I tag my fellow "Ink Ladies"...and anyone else who wants to play!

Monday, October 15, 2007

What's your story?

I often wonder about the stories behind different locations. Take the one at the right ... As you can see, it is indeed a streetlight in the middle of the desert. In the middle of the photo, way in the back is a group of trees, amid those trees is an incredibly old home, not much of a fixer-upper even.

There are old buckets scattered all over the ground, split in two with holes in the bottom in the shape of an X. There are electrical outlets poking up from the ground. How far is it from civilization? It took us nearly an hour, most of it on dirt roads to get to this spot. So, quite a way from any street, much less a paved one.

There are many inhabitants here, however, as my five year old explained as she looked at a pile of rabbit droppings. Yes, it's infested with jackrabbits, probably other rodents and predatory animals, but no people.

The story? Oh, there are so many stories I could come up with for such a place. A haunting, perhaps, a drought that devastated the plans for the owner? Okay, after investigating the location for an entire three minutes, we all came to the conclusion that it was an RV park, why in the middle of the desert? That, we haven't answered. The buckets held trees, that are now planted and either dead or dying, with rabbit wire around them. There is absolutely no water anywhere around, so the drought is a definite possibility, but aren't there other stories that may be more interesting?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Who Inspired Me

By Marcia Mickelson

Elodia's post got me thinking about what inspired me to be a writer. I have always loved to read. As a youngster, I loved to curl up with Ramona Quimby books and Nancy Drew mysteries. I loved the library & books. That's probably the case for most of us. In my mid teens, I also found I liked to write. I still have some old notebook sheets with my first stories. When I was sixteen and had been a member of the Church for only two years, I came up with an idea that I thought was uniquely my own. Why not write a story with Mormon characters? I had never heard of Jack Weyland. I honestly thought it was my idea. I lived in New Jersey and had no LDS books around. No Internet back then, either.

I'd just purchased my very first computer-- a Mac Plus. So, I went to work on my Mormon novel. I remember those days with much joy. I loved my computer and I loved writing. My novel went unfinished as I went to BYU the following year. I was too busy there to write or even read for fun. I had still to read an LDS novel. Several years and 2 children later, we went back to Utah for a visit and I browsed the shelves at BYU. I loved browsing the LDS fiction and it was hard to just pick one. I finally picked up my first Jack Weyland novel- Cheyenne in New York. I read a few other LDS novels that summer- Mormonville by Jeff Call and Until Proven Guilty by Betsy Brannon Green. I was hooked! I had to get my hands on every one of Betsy's books. I e-mailed her and told her how much I loved her books. She e-mailed me back and told me how she got started. That summer I read a lot of LDS novels. Jennie Hansen became a quick favorite.

I decided I wanted to finish my novel I'd started 10 years before. I pulled out my old disks & obsolete Macintosh. I spent many hours at Kinkos trying to update my document. So, I finished my novel and submitted it. It was rejected and I realized it wasn't good. However, I did learn a lot about how not to write a novel. After several other rejected novels, Star Shining Brightly was finally published. In the end, I have to say that I was very inspired by Betsy Brannon Green and Jennie Hansen. I love their novels and have spent many hours devouring their books.

I returned to the BYU bookstore last year to browse the LDS fiction shelves. How exciting to see my book on the shelf. What a memorable day that was. (Look, Katie. Your book's there too!)

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Rocks in your backpack? It could be worse

In recent years, we’ve had Church leaders liken sins to rocks in a backpack. On a hike, you only want to carry the essentials in your backpack. You certainly do not want to be weighed down by useless items such as rocks. These would make your journey unnecessarily difficult.

And so it is with sin. Sin creates unnecessary burdens upon us. If we will only cast aside our sins, our backpacks will be so much lighter and our journeys will be so much easier.

Well, that’s how the parable goes. Let’s talk about real life now.

In real life, my son carries a backpack to school and back home every day that is unnecessarily (he says) weighed down with homework assignments and textbooks. Over time, this can cause strain on the backpack: zippers popping, seams ripping, and all that stuff. My son's suggestion for easing the burden on the backpack was to cast away some of the textbooks, sort of like sins. But Mom didn’t go for that idea.

Eventually the zipper broke on the poor backpack, and I had to bundle it up and send it back to the manufacturer for repair or replacement. I’d done this before with other backpacks, under their respective lifetime warranties. Once the company had sewn up a hole in a backpack for me, under the warranty. Another couple of times, they’d simply replaced the whole thing with new backpacks.

So when a box arrived this time from the backpack company, I wasn’t too worried that they’d included a note that said they were no longer producing the kind of backpack we'd sent them. Instead, they'd sent us a brand-new backpack of another (but comparable) design.

Then we opened it. It was pink.

Now being the teenager that he is, my son was not impressed with this new backpack. And being the perceptive and sensitive mother that I am, I of course recognized this right away. I am proud to say that I did not ever, not once, consider trying to convince him it was red and he was just color blind.

But my sensitivity unfortunately created some more work on my part. I found the number to the backpack company, called them up, and explained my dilemma to the person that answered the phone:

Me (sounding somber; after all, this is a very serious problem): We sent in a backpack for warranty repair or replacement a couple of weeks ago. You guys sent us a new one. The problem is, it’s for my teenage son and the one you sent us is pink.


She transferred me to the correct department. Once again I told our sad tale.

Me: We sent in a backpack for warranty repair or replacement a couple of weeks ago. You guys sent us a new one. The problem is, it’s for my teenage son and the one you sent us is pink.


Once everyone had enjoyed a good laugh, they did put in orders to send us a more appropriate BLACK backpack. They are also sending us a mailing label so we can ship back the pink backpack free of charge. So all’s well that ends well.

The moral to the story is, sometimes it isn’t enough to take the rocks out of your backpack. Sometimes you just have to send back the whole dang thing.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

How The Baby-sitters Club Changed My Life

Not too long ago I received an email from the totally awesome gal who edited my book, The Icing on the Cake. The email said that an author recently submitted a manuscript and explained that it was reading my book that made her decide to submit her own.

This got me to thinking about the circle of creation: An author/artist/musician creates a work. That work inspires another author/artist/musician who then creates another work. And the circle continues.

Many authors have been in my circle, and I thought it would be cool to list a few of them.

Gilbert Delahaye and Marcel Marlier. This team authored Debbie’s Visit to the Countryside, my very favorite book when I was young. I still have my copy, and it still makes me feel giddy just to open it.

Ann M. Martin of Baby-sitters Club fame. Although some of the later books in the series were ghostwritten, Ms. Martin wrote the first 35 books. I was a gawky youngster whose best friend moved away after fourth grade, and I found a place with Kristy, Mary Ann, Claudia, Stacy, Dawn, and Mallory. The Baby-sitters Club books were among the first to teach me that books and their characters can be some of a girl’s best friends.

Norman Cousins. A journalist, author, professor and advocate, Mr. Cousins penned some remarkable works on the power of humor. He received the Albert Schweitzer prize in 1990 and died in November of that same year.

Sophie Kinsella. This supremely successful chick lit author, whose real name is Madeleine Wickham, has an amazing knack for writing comedy. I’m not usually much of a re-reader, but I can re-read her books over and over.

Fellow Ink Lady Tamra Norton. Tamra’s genuine, funny, kind personality comes out in her books. It’s easy to love her books because Tamra is the kind of person you would love to have as a friend. I think this is one of the highest goals to aim for as a writer, and Tamra does it so well.

So, tell me, who's in your circle?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Hangin' with Janette Rallison OR The Flip-Flop Fall

In February 2001, I read two LDS YA novels back to back that literally changed the course of my life. (Wow, that sounds so...hokey. But it's true.) The books were Deep Blue Eyes and Other Lies, and Dakota's Revenge by Janette Rallison. I loved these book! They combined every element I looked for in a good read--humor, romance, and good writing. When I finished the last of the two, I was determined that I, too, would write a romantic comedy for the LDS market. I literally started writing that day, and a year and a month later, my first LDS YA novel, Molly Mormon? was published.

I eventually met Janette Rallison through a support network of LDS authors--first via an e-mail listserve, and then at an LDStorymakers Writing Conference. By then Janette had moved on to writing Young Adult novels for the national market. I tried not to act like a gushing fan when we first met, and I doubt she had a clue of the impact her writing had on my life.

A month or so ago I asked Janette when she'd be doing a school visit in Houston. She e-mailed me back stating that, as a matter of fact, she had a school visit scheduled here in a few weeks. I offered to be her host while in Houston and we fast forward to the past few days...

My momentous meeting with one of my favorite authors almost started out in disaster. It was a stormy day in Houston (ugh--it already sounds like the start of a bad novel), and I barely made it to the airport in time. After parking, I rode the elevator down to the lower-level corridor to get to the main terminal she was arriving at. There weren't a ton of people in this long curving hallway-like section that connects the parking garage to the terminal--and thank goodness for that. My watch told me she'd already landed so I decided to jog the length of the empty corridor to make up for lost time.

Bad idea!

I was wearing flip-flops (which hold no traction on a wet surface). Before I knew what was happening, my butt--and entire back side, for that matter--hit the ground faster than you can say "khaki's-when-they-are-wet-turn-dark." Yeah--you get the picture. I stand up only to notice that now, I look like that poor kid in Kindergartner who, on the first day of school was afraid to use the "facilities."

I'll admit it--I swore. I swore a lot.

By the time the swearing had subsided, a few people had gathered to make sure I was okay since I was standing there, still looking stunned, with my backside now facing the wall. After assuring them I was fine, I waited until they were on their way, I then placed my purse behind me and waddled back to the elevators and back to my mini-van. There was NO WAY I was going to walk through the Houston airport looking like I'd wet my pants!

I quickly called Janette's cell phone, but only got her machine so left a message saying I was there--somewhere--and for her to call me. I could only hope her plane had been delayed.

For the next 20 minutes, I sat in back seat of my mini-van, in the darkness of the enclosed parking garage of Houston Intercontinental Airport waving around my britches like a mad woman. I alternated between this and the "fanning-dry-with-a magazine" method. I even tried blowing on them, but that just made me want to pass out. Maybe that would have been the best option after all. Miraculously, all the waving and fanning and blowing worked! The pant material was lightweight and dried quickly. And now I'd like to take this moment to personally thank the brilliant person who invented tinted windows. I LOVE YOU!!!

Even though my pants were now dry, I still hadn't heard from Janette, but I figured she hadn't gone far. Again, but this time with much trepidation, I ventured down the elevators and through the curving--and in one spot, still WET--corridor, and made it to the terminal.

No Janette. Anywhere! And no mention of her flight on the little TV monitor thingies. So I approached the US Airways counter and they proceed to tell me the flight was delayed 45 minutes and should be arriving shortly. I didn't know whether to rejoice or cry.

Eventually Janette made it here, and for two-and-a-half days we had a blast together. On Monday she spoke to my homeschooling group, then at Bluewillow Books. She spent the day Tuesday at Cook Middle School and it was really cool to see another author's school presentation--something I've done quite a bit of myself. And Tuesday night we met with a group of local children's authors for dinner.

Thanks for coming to Houston, Janette. You are funny and fun, and I'm so glad I can call you my friend. I will definitely take your advice and put the "flip-flop fall" into a book at some point...after I've recovered emotionally. But next time you come to Houston, maybe I'll just pull my car up to passenger pick-up, 'kay?

What is it about Libraries?

by Marsha Ward

One of my challenges as a writer is staying focused. This is probably due to my having ADD, but it could also be that I'm very good at procrastinating. I also tend to check my voluminous email, surf my favorite blogs, and look up fascinating things to buy, such as vintage movies. I'm constantly struggling with this issue at my desktop computer.

I found out last week, however, that I work very well--without becoming distracted--in my little local library.

The only catch is that I have to make a 45 mile round trip to do it. I'm not sure I can justify the gas cost. Or maybe I should consider it?

What do you think? Would you make such a daily commute to the library if it helped you focus on your writing?

Monday, October 8, 2007


Okay, so I just couldn't help myself ... after the post about cooking? Ah, I love to cook. I wish I had more time to cook. My favorite dish? Gumbo... done right, Gumbo takes several hours to complete, but the entire house smells of fresh green peppers, onions, smoked sausage and other fabulous odors! I guess that's one of my favorite things about cooking, smelling everything separate and then together as it mixes flavors over a warm fire. Roux, sausage, broth, garlic and everything else fabulous and nice makes for a savory meal that can't be duplicated by any box!

Other favorites? Lasagne, anything in the Dutch oven and - oh, I love buffalo chicken wings ... the homemade ones are the best! I learned to make them recently with a recipe that exceeds Chilis! It's a favorite in my house now and I get to stand beside my children, all adorned in aprons, as we roll the chicken pieces in milk and egg, into the flour and seasonings and then to the oil.

I suppose that's one reason I love to cook, spending time talking with the children as we scrub potatoes or mix chocolate chip cookies. I love teaching them to cook also! My kids love baking and they're learning to cook quickly and loving it too. It's the process we fall in love with, I guess, the time it takes to relax and combine ingredients that will melt in your mouth.

My children all bake entirely on their own now, from the flour to cracking the eggs to scraping the cookies off the pan. My youngest, five, even bakes cookies by herself, though I insist on helping her with the parts that involve heat. It's a riot watching them learn new recipes and experiment in the kitchen. Sure it makes a mess, but when you bite into that slightly baking soda flavored cookie and the kid has this huge smile on their face ('cause they made it all by themselves), any amount of mess is worth it.

I learned to love cooking in the south. Now they can cook! I learned homemade puddings, bisque, jambalaya, etouffe, beans and cornbread. I learned to fry fish and even squirrel. Ma Ma taught me to make chicken and dumplins with real homemade dumplins ... no noodles for this family! Of course, Ma Ma rolled her dumplins just so and cut them each exactly the same size. I opt for a little more creativity in the dumplin sizes.

Oh, I'm ready for supper. Oh, yeah, and for those of you looking for something new, check out my mom and dad's website. We all wrote a Dutch oven cookbook a while back and now have a website with free recipes and tips and all kinds of good stuff. You've got to try the peach pie, or so I've been told, the one with the cream cheese in it ... my sister said it's heavenly!

Sunday, October 7, 2007

I Hate to Cook

I really hate to cook, hate every aspect of it. I don't mind housework. I'll clean all day long, do laundry all day long. (Although my mom says that I don't do the laundry, a machine does. Can you imagine having to wash everything by hand like in her day?) But, cook? No, thanks. In college, my sister and I were roommates and we had a great deal. She would cook and I would do the dishes. I don't mind doing the dishes so much. My poor family rarely eats anything that doesn't come out of a box or a can. I don't mind grilling, so we have grilled chicken and hamburgers. I hate all the mixing and such. I rarely touch any recipe that has more than 3-4 ingredients.

In most families, Sunday dinners are a big deal, but I especially hate to cook on the weekends, so Sunday is fend for yourself day. Most Sundays, my husband opens up a can a soup. (He eats a lot of soup, and not the homemade kind, but the canned kind. I've never in my life made soup except from a can.) Actually, a lot of times, he opens up a can of soup. A typical Sunday is, pasta for my oldest, grilled cheese for my middle one, a scrambled egg for the baby, a can of soup for my husband, and a sandwich for me.

I always said to myself in years' past, I'll do a better job of cooking when I don't work full-time, when the baby gets older, when we're not in the middle of this or that, after I have the second baby, when I don't work at all, when the baby gets older, when I have more time, when I finish this book, after I have the baby, when the kids get bigger. And, I have come to a realization, I'm never going to get better at cooking because I hate it! And, it's okay. My family still gets fed. They eat fruits and veggies at every meal. I'm still a good mom. I would just rather spend an hour on the floor playing with them than in the kitchen making something that will all disappear in a little while.

I think that's what it comes down to. Time is so precious, I like to have something to show for my time. At least if I do laundry, that lasts a week. A clean kitchen floor lasts a few days. Playing with my kids lasts forever. Writing is something I can see for a long time after. Cleaning a toilet lasts only a few hours at my house, but at least that's a few hours. A cooked meal is gone so soon and then you're left with a mess in the kitchen. So, I'm going to stop feeling guilty at hating to cook.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Watching General Conference

I love Conference. I love Conference weekend. Most of all, this weekend I love BYU-TV. For the first time since we moved from Utah, we're able to watch General Conference right on our very own TV at home. Our local cable company finally picked it up and we are rejoicing one and all. Much as I'd root for the Utes over BYU any day, I am grateful that BYU-TV has grown into a channel that even a cable company in Wisconsin feels is worth picking up.

Growing up in western Oklahoma, we used to listen to General Conference via what they called "direct wire broadcast." I believe they rigged up some kind of radio connection through the phone lines at church. (I was a kid at the time; I may have the technical details all wrong.) So we would dress in our Sunday clothes, go to church, and listen to disembodied voices speak to us for hours on end. Looking back, it was truly a blessing for us to be able to receive this. However, it was tough to stay interested when you couldn't see what was going on. I remember drawing lots of things and playing quietly with other kids in the back of the room where we received the broadcast. (Sometimes we weren't too quiet.)

Then one year the NFL went on strike. Miracle of miracles, someone in our branch knew the owner of a local bar--who wasn't using his satellite dish and large-screen TV because there were no football games to show at the bar--and we got to use them to watch Conference. (They took them to the church; we didn't use them at the bar.) What an amazing day that was! I remember that all of us were so excited to actually be able to see the Conference proceedings, see the speakers, and see the Tabernacle and the choir and the surrounding beauty in the outdoor shots. Not many years later, our branch received its own satellite dish and the arrangement was permanent.

Our first Conference in Utah several years later seemed almost odd. The idea of being able to just turn on your TV and watch all these spiritual talks begin given was just, well, weird. But we got used to it. Maybe even too used to it. When we moved away from Utah nine years later, Conference was by then available by Internet streaming. And like good little Utahns used to watching Conference at home, we stubbornly strung wires through the house and continued to listen from home. We learned that while only does live audio streaming, you can get live video streaming from It's kind of blocky, and things can easily go wrong with the connection, but if you don't mind sitting around your computer you can watch Conference that way. So we did.

And I've got to admit that once again I'm grateful to BYU for making BYU-TV available online. Even though our cable company didn't see fit until recently to make it part of our package, we've still always been able to view Conference and talks from Women's Conference and other shows of that nature. (And U of U/BYU gymnastics meets.)

But today, we've got BYU-TV on our very own television. And we watched Conference at home. No problems at all. And it's become something of a ritual, or a holiday. It's the first weekend in October. It's Conference weekend. And no matter where we are, no matter what setup we have, we go and watch Conference.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Literary Scams—and how to avoid them

by Marsha Ward

All serious writers spend a lot of time looking for places to submit our work, running after the ultimate vindication of our lonely hobby or vocation: publication.

We even follow advice to submit to contests, to see how our work stacks up with that of others. The problem comes when unscrupulous “contest” operators try to scam earnest poets who just want to be published.

A typical scam begins with an expensive advertisement in a Sunday newspaper supplement such as Parade. The headline screams “Free Poetry Contest,” and maybe “$50,000 in prizes,” or “250 poets will receive top prizes,” or something similar.

Two questions come to my mind. Why are they advertising in a general consumer magazine and not a writers’ magazine? Why are there no entry fees? Where do they get all the money for the prizes?

Actually that’s three questions, but you get the picture.

You might ask, “So what is wrong with a free poetry contest that pays nice prizes to a limited number of winners?”

What is wrong is that every single poem that is submitted is accepted for publication! Every poet receives a letter of congratulations for his or her “unique vision” and outstanding quality of work. Each poet is named a semi-finalist in the contest. Then comes the fun part.

Every single poet is promised publication in the company’s latest “anthology.” Every single poet is invited to come to a convention in Washington, D.C. to receive his prize, maybe even a trophy. Every single poet is offered a CD with his poem read by a “famous” voice. Every single poet can have her poem placed on a handsome hardwood plaque.

There’s just one catch: every single poet pays through the nose for each honor afforded her.

To buy the anthology is fifty bucks before it’s printed, more afterward. A biographical note will cost an extra $20. The convention is $600 to attend, not including such necessities as travel expenses, housing, and food (since they only provide two scanty meals for the convention fee). The CD and plaque also cost money.

Fortunately, while the notorious “contest” company—that uses many names—is now using the Internet to further its reach, savvy poets can use it too—to protect themselves against such nefarious ripoffs.

Typing a keyword or two into a search engine such as is the second step. Type “poetry scam” or “literary scam” and you’ll be referred to such sites as and

These sites tell it like it is, and some contain lists of “contests” to avoid, companies to shun, and places to run from. Horror stories abound to warn the unwary poet. Some victimized poets report that they even had to pay for their own trophies.

If you’ve become a victim of such “contests,” you have my sincere sympathy. Please don’t give up. You really do have merit, and your poetry does, as well. You’ve just been “taken” by wicked men, and you aren’t the only one.

If you haven’t fallen prey to the “contest” operators, you might enjoy the hilarious attempts of poet Wergle Flomp, also known as David Taub, to get a poem rejected by such contests. Visit this site to read some of his tries:

I mentioned the second step in self-protection above. The first step is to develop a healthy skepticism to the notion of getting something for nothing. Remember the old adage, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.” But also remember, if you’ve been victimized by one of those infamous “contests,” to get back up and write again. You can succeed. Just be wary of ripoffs.

Marketing Mode

Sorry I didn't post yesterday. I spent the entire day with one goal in mind--get the brochures in the mail by 5:00! You see, I'm in "marketing mode." My middle-grade novel, MAKE ME A HOME (sequel to MAKE ME A MEMORY seen here) comes out in February, four short months away, and as I've learned the not-so-easy way, these pre-publication months can be crucial.

"So what is this brochure about?" I hear you ask.

"Why, thanks for asking," I reply.

These are my "school visit" brochures. I sent out 90 yesterday. Since my children's novels--MAKE ME A MEMORY, and MAKE ME A HOME revolve around the life of a young girl named Allie, whose soldier father is deployed to Iraq, I focused this first round of brochures at "military impacted" schools--schools on or near military bases. I've spoken at several of these schools, and it's a humbling experience to meet these children who are living the life of my character, Allie. I feel such a connection to them and I'm so inspired by their strength. They are the reason I wrote these books.

I'm especially excited about this brochure because I just received the following endorsement:

"MAKE ME A HOME is a great story and truly captures the 'roller coaster' of emotions that a young person might experience during the deployment of a loved one." --Stacye Parry, The Military Child Education Coalition

I was SO EXCITED to receive this endorsement! The MCEC is a wonderful organization dedicated to military children and they are affiliated with every branch of the military. I hope this endorsement will help to open doors for my little story. And this brings me to the next thing on my marketing "to-do" list:

Reviews and endorsements!

I need to coordinate with my publisher to see that ARCs (advance review copies) are sent out to the major reviewers of children's literature--School Library Journal, Booklist, etc. I stand a much better chance of my book landing in a school library and then a child's hands if it is first reviewed in one of these journals.

Next, on to the local media...

"Does it ever end?" I hear you ask.

I hope not!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Pumpkins & Teachers

Today, I went as a chaperone to my son's field trip. There were five kindergarten classes. We went to a pumpkin patch. It was a fun time. The kids painted pumpkins, had a hay ride, listened to pumpkin stories, counted pumpkins and pumpkin seeds, and explored the pumpkins. Although, my five year old refused to stick his hand inside the pumpkin to feel its squishiness. They even brought home a pumpkin seed to plant. It was a fun trip.

My son's teacher had 21 students. I'm continually amazed at the teachers I meet who have to teach, interact, and deal with kids on a daily basis. I substitute teach twice a week, and I'm always exhausted when I come home. And, these teachers do it every day and many of them go home to their own kids. I'm a pretty patient person, but I literally feel my patience diminishing as the day progresses when I substitute teach. And, I have to admit, there isn't much patience left over for my kids when I get home. That is why I only do it twice a week. I deeply admire teachers and the great service they do for our children. My kids love school, and we've been fortunate to have had wonderful teachers throughout the year. I'm blessed to have wonderful teachers for my kids again this year.

Windy Monday

It's Monday and the wind is blowing again. I really don't think it ever stops in the spring or fall, but as soon as the hot summer sun comes out, it stops until the temperature drops again, bringing the piercing cold right to the bones to declare a change of seasons. I don't hate living in Enoch, but do long for warmer temperatures in the spring, fall and winter.

Perhaps I'll buy a vacation home on an island somewhere after my next novel hits the bestseller list. I'd love to live on the beach. For now though I'm looking at photos of beaches while I plan my winter trip to Samoa. 85 degrees, sandy beaches, snorkeling, volleyball ... Oh, I want to go get my swim suit on right now, but perhaps I'll wait a little longer, maybe a few more miles on the treadmill and a few trips to the tanning salon.

As for now, the cooler temperatures are keeping me indoors where I need to sit to get my novel finished. Perhaps I'll get a couple of manuscripts done before the weather warms back up. I've got to do something when I'm not on the lake.

Yes, I'm rambling. My brain's reloading after working on a synopsis all morning. And while I'm rambling, I'm posting a random photo. This was taken overlooking Cedar City on a little research trip we made recently. I didn't find information that would be particularly useful to my new book, but it was a great hike!