Friday, February 29, 2008
by Elodia Strain
It was late February, 2008. I had been waiting for this day for months: The day Funny Author* released her newest book. I called Waldenbooks when it opened to make sure they had copies. I rushed to the mall. I was in and out in what felt like seconds, ignoring the whir of the Orange Julius blenders and the big Sale sign in front of Bath and Body Works.
I rushed to my car where I sat down inside, opened the book, and started reading. I had heard the premise of the book already and couldn’t wait to laugh my way through the pages. But soon, I was on page 285, and I had only mildly chuckled twice. Not even close to the third-page-crack-up I experienced in a hair salon while reading Funny Author’s prior release. I’m not going to lie: I really missed the laughter-induced stomach ache.
I used to think Funny Author was some kind of writing mutant, blessed with a hilarity gene. But now that she’s written seven hilarious books and one I’m not finding quite as hilarious, I’m beginning to think maybe she’s more like the rest of us humor-writers: People who’ve always liked to laugh and make others laugh, but who find that writing humor can be pretty darn hard sometimes. People who don’t just sit down at the computer and feel the hilarity flow through their fingers, but who have to wait for the funny to come. (For me it has come in places as odd as a masseuse’s table, where I had to repeat the idea over and over in my head because it was better than saying, “Excuse me, miss, do you mind taking a break for a second so I can write something down?”) People who after reaching #1 on the New York Times bestsellers list, traveling across the country promoting, and giving birth to 3 children, maybe have a little more on their minds than putting people in stitches.
So today, as the sun shines and winter looks teasingly close to an end, I will finish the last three chapters of Funny Author’s book and enjoy every last fun (though not quite hilarious) page. And I will breathe a sigh of relief that (for now) my mutant hilarity-writing-gene theory has been debunked, and I therefore still stand a chance.
*name has been changed to protect me from feeling bad about naming names
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
March is going to be awesomely busy. I'm a bit nervous, though.
I'm going to attend two Writers Conferences (one in Gilbert, Arizona, and one in Sandy, Utah) and a Book Fair where I'm going to sign and sell books in Sierra Vista, Cochise County, Arizona. That means lots of traveling this month.
The first conference is this weekend. The weather forecast looks good, so I'm not agonizing about driving down to the valley.
But then, on the 14th, I'm driving from the middle of Arizona to the bottom, and I have no idea what the weather will be. Since I'll be going through the more temperate (some say hot) parts of the state, I shouldn't have to worry about snow storms. Rain may be another story. At least there shouldn't be dust storms to concern me. They are a summer event. Besides, Southern Arizona has been getting a lot of rain in the past weeks, so that should keep down any dust.
Here's the thing. In the fourth week, I'm heading for Utah. They've been getting a lot of snow. Will it all be gone and done with before I try to get over the mountain passes? Maybe I'll have to go through Las Vegas instead of trying Utah State Highway 20 from the US 89 to I-15. I know that the 20 is sometimes closed due to snow.
There's no short way to get to Las Vegas from here. It involves miles and miles of driving through the desert. I can go down to Phoenix and head out through Wickenburg on US 93. That's the long, fair-weather route. Or I can chance taking mountainous US 87 toward wintry Flagstaff, where I'd take I-40 west to Kingman and thence up the 93 to Las Vegas, where I'd hook onto I-15. Sigh.
Where can I get a long-range weather forecast? Anyone? Anyone?
How about some advice from you Utahns out there?
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Oprah has Gail, Lucy has Ethel, Mary has Rhoda, Anne Shirley has Diana Barry, and I have Chambrey. Every girl (even a forty-something girl) needs a best friend--a willing partner to watch chick-flicks with over a tub of buttered popcorn and a large diet Coke, someone to debate "Edward versus Jake" with, someone to go to John Meyer and Cheryl Crow concerts with, someone to swoon over Colin Firth with, someone to get excited about ANYTHING Jane Austen with.
For me, this is Chambrey.
Funny thing is, the year I graduated from high school, Chambrey was just finishing 4th grade--how weird is that? And yet you'd never know--well, until a Depeshmode song comes on while we're eating fish'n chips at TGIF and she goes all head-boppin' on me. Apparently this group was popular while I was in Babymode (a condition that occurs when you have three babies in three years and your only recolection is of baby bums and breastfeeding). Incidentally, I have a similar head-boppin' reaction when a Steve Miller Band song comes on. I think Chambrey's MOM was in Babymode during the SMB era.
Thank goodness for John Meyer!
So what does any of this have to do with writing? Weeeeeell...my recently released novel, MAKE ME A HOME not only deals with deployment, but it's also a story about friendship--best friendship--between my main character, Allie, and the new girl who moves to town--Ivy. So when it came time to write the dedication for this novel, there was only one person I could dedicate it to: Chambrey--my Ivy.
Love you, girlie!
P.S. Sorry the BFF pictures are so dark. They were both taken while waiting for a "chick flick" to start. Don't you love cell phone cameras!
Sunday, February 24, 2008
Saturday, February 23, 2008
When You Feel Like Your Head's Going to Explode and Your Hair Looks Like You Slept On It--Oh Wait, You Did--and...
You know you're in for an interesting day. Happy Saturday, everyone!
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Note: It's been a crazy-busy week, so I decided to fish out this little essay on motherhood that I wrote many years back. It was this little piece, incidentally, that landed me with my first paying gig--a bi-monthly (is that twice a month?) family-life column in the local freebie newspaper. This experience of writing on a regular basis gave me the courage to attempt a novel.
If Life Were a Sandwich, Mom Would Be the Peanut Butter
We like Dad. Let’s face it, he’s a handy sort of guy to have around. There’s no one better to open tightly sealed pickle jars, play Tickle-Monster with, or have as your partner in a heated game of Monopoly. The quality of life is greatly enhanced when this car-loving, remote-hogging, lawn-mowing guy is a part of our lives. We love him from the top of his bald spot, to the soles of his athlete’s feet.
But as much as we love Dad, there is a certain philosophical truth that we just can’t deny. If life were a sandwich, Mom would be the peanut butter. She’s that binding force that holds us all together.
There are days when Mom is smooth and creamy, and other occasions when her wrath is best described as crunchy. At times she is called old-fashioned, but no matter how often the kids, a bill collector, or even her mother-in-law tries to stir her up, as sure as oil, she rises to the occasion.
A mother’s advice often sticks to the roof of her child’s mouth, yet he just can’t seem to resist coming back for another bite. To help it go down a little smoother, Mom will always add a little squeeze of honey, or the sweetness of jelly. This makes it all so much easier to swallow. Now, the child’s life is complete.
Nutritionally speaking, peanut butter, like Mom, is loaded with strength producing protein. This important fact, however, can often be overshadowed by the realization of its fat content. But, as we all know, the things with the best taste in life have at least a little fat.
The best advice that can be given, when it comes to peanut butter, as well as Mother, has held true for generations throughout time. If, on occasion, you can get her all by herself, and smother her with chocolate, the results will be heavenly!
Monday, February 18, 2008
Even though I thought I had a "killer" opening in my current work-in-progress, I was able to make some great changes after checking out his tips. So check some of these opening lines out:
"He was so mean that wherever he was standing became the bad part of town." from "Bad Part of Town" by Les Edgerton.
This one I love -- "When I got there they were burying the lion in the back yard again." from "A Need for Gardens" by Richard Brautigan.
Okay, then there's this one from "Children on Their Birthdays" by Truman Capote: "Yesterday afternoon the six-o-clock bus ran over Miss Bobbit."
The book is full of fun examples and written in a quick-read style. As I was reading it, I remember the first line from a book I read years and years ago. It's just stuck with me. "One day Jane went for a walk and forgot who she was." I don't remember the title or the author, but I do remember the first line.
After reading that story so many years ago, I actually came up with my own first line that I may or may not use in the future. I've come up with many variations, but essentially, it's this: "Jane had never unearthed a human skull while gardening before."
So what do you think? Is that a "killer" first line or what? Now I've just got to figure out the rest of the story ... after the book I'm working on now, and the next ....
Saturday, February 16, 2008
Here’s the back copy:
She'd wanted her father to pay more attention to her, and she'd wanted her family to be like it used to be. She hadn't wanted everything to change so drastically that she may not even survive it. As Liza proves herself a basketball star, everyone - from college basketball recruiters to the gorgeous Kyle Reynolds - seems to take note of her. Everyone, that is, except her own father. While her father is busy at his law practice, Liza learns about a strange new religion from Kyle. Could Kyle's religion help her family? Or is it already too late for her father to make amends? When yet another broken promise finally leads to tragedy, Liza doesn't know if she will ever be able to forgive her father. It will take a good friend, a new belief, and a miracle straight from heaven to help Liza see that she still has a choice. The compelling story of a high school basketball star, this is a novel every girl will want, and none will be able to put down!
This story was inspired by my mother who passed away when I was a little girl. Besides writing, I also enjoy knitting, crocheting, reading, and dancing to disco music while I clean the house. Thank you so much for inviting me to be a guest blogger!
by Katie Parker
WERE YOU NAMED AFTER ANYONE? Yes.
WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU CRIED? During President Hinckley’s funeral.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE LUNCH MEAT? Deli-style ham.
IF YOU WERE ANOTHER PERSON, WOULD YOU BE FRIENDS WITH YOU? I might be, but only if I spoke to me first.
DO YOU USE SARCASM A LOT? Sarcastic? Who, me?
DO YOU STILL HAVE YOUR TONSILS? Yes.
WOULD YOU BUNGEE JUMP? No.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CEREAL? I’m not a big cereal eater. But Froot Loops are good.
DO YOU UNTIE YOUR SHOES WHEN YOU TAKE THEM OFF? No, unless I can’t get them off without untying them.
DO YOU THINK YOU ARE STRONG? Physically, no. Mentally, emotionally…of course. (Until I’m faced with a crisis.)
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ICE CREAM? Anything chocolate.
WHAT WAS THE LAST THING YOU ATE? Flourless cake. Full of eggs, butter, and chocolate. Very rich. I just finished it.
WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW? Air
FAVORITE SMELLS? Barbecue on a charcoal grill!
WHO WAS THE LAST PERSON YOU TALKED TO ON THE PHONE? My husband.
FAVORITE SPORTS TO WATCH? Gymnastics.
FAVORITE FOOD? Just about anything that’s not good for me
SCARY MOVIES OR HAPPY ENDINGS? Happy endings.
LAST MOVIE YOU WATCHED? That I didn’t fall asleep during? Hmm…
SUMMER OR WINTER? Neither. Spring and fall all the way.
WHAT BOOK ARE YOU READING NOW? How to Take The Ex out of Ex-Boyfriend by Janette Rallison
WHAT IS ON YOUR MOUSE PAD? I don’t have one.
WHAT DID YOU WATCH ON TV LAST NIGHT? Mythbusters.
ROLLING STONES OR BEATLES? Not a big fan of either of them
WHAT IS THE FARTHEST YOU HAVE BEEN FROM HOME? Germany.
DO YOU HAVE A SPECIAL TALENT? Of course. I am dripping with talent.
WHERE WERE YOU BORN? Earth
Friday, February 15, 2008
Hope Marsha doesn’t mind if I jump on the bandwagon too…
WERE YOU NAMED AFTER ANYONE? Yes. My great grandmother Elodia who said our name was a Mexican Indian name meaning “queen of the day.” I’m not sure if she just said that, but hey, sounds good to me.WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU CRIED? Today when I read my Valentine’s Day card from my husband.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE LUNCH MEAT? Grilled chicken patty.
IF YOU WERE ANOTHER PERSON, WOULD YOU BE FRIENDS WITH YOU? I guess it would depend who I was…I mean, I don’t think the leader of an “I hate books and beaches and babies” club would like me very much.
DO YOU USE SARCASM A LOT? Not really, but I think it likes to use me.
DO YOU STILL HAVE YOUR TONSILS? They’re no longer in my body. So if I did still have them, it might be a little weird.
WOULD YOU BUNGEE JUMP? Maybe if the laws of the universe were completely different.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CEREAL? Puffins! I can’t get enough of those things.
DO YOU UNTIE YOUR SHOES WHEN YOU TAKE THEM OFF? Well, I wear flip-flops in the summer, Uggs in the winter, and heels to church so… not a whole lot of lace action going on here.
DO YOU THINK YOU ARE STRONG? I finally graduated to the 10lb dumbbells so if you think that’s strong…
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ICE CREAM? Anything Blue Bell. Why do I not live in Texas?! Or in an Outback Steakhouse.
WHAT WAS THE LAST THING YOU ATE? A dill pickle. I seem to be going through a weird pickle phase.
WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW? The sound of the white-noise fan, since I’m typing from the bed before sleepy time.
FAVORITE SMELLS? Citrus, clean laundry.
WHO WAS THE LAST PERSON YOU TALKED TO ON THE PHONE? A woman at my health insurance company.
FAVORITE SPORTS TO WATCH? Dancing (if you consider that a sport) and ice skating.
FAVORITE FOOD? Chips and Salsa.
SCARY MOVIES OR HAPPY ENDINGS? Happy endings. I’m such a sissy when it comes to scary movies—I had nightmares after watching Transformers. So definitely happy endings.
LAST MOVIE YOU WATCHED? No Reservations—which I actually really enjoyed.
SUMMER OR WINTER? Winter.
WHAT BOOK ARE YOU READING NOW? Gucci Gucci Coo—I couldn’t resist the title.
WHAT IS ON YOUR MOUSE PAD? I don't use one with this computer.
WHAT DID YOU WATCH ON TV LAST NIGHT? Back episodes of Project Runway. I’m ridiculously obsessed with that show.
ROLLING STONES OR BEATLES? Beatles. I could listen to Blackbird every day of my life.
WHAT IS THE FARTHEST YOU HAVE BEEN FROM HOME? Philadelphia, PA.
DO YOU HAVE A SPECIAL TALENT? It depends what qualifies as special. I have an internal alarm clock. You know, like Kramer on Seinfeld. Seriously, I can tell myself before going to bed, “Wake up in 8 hrs.” and I will (barring a bout of mono or something) wake up within 5 minutes of my target. I think I inherited that from my military Dad.
WHERE WERE YOU BORN? Fairbanks, Alaska.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
To mark the fact that my cardiologist said my heart is good and please, how about losing another 40 pounds, I'm offering this poem I wrote several years ago about food. It's not really about food; it's actually about something entirely different. It only talks about food a little bit. Or something like that!
by Marsha Ward
In childhood, I learned
I ate by evens;
8 peas in a spoon,
6 Tater Tots, 4 black olives.
Kit-Kats—ready divided—were easy;
A single piece of chicken meat
was a challenge:
I counted bites.
One day in youth,
I sat at table
and “fessed up” to my quirk.
My father’s grin
transformed his face.
“I thought I was
the only one alive
who does that,” he said.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Following the lead of my friend and author, Marsha Ward, here I go...
WERE YOU NAMED AFTER ANYONE?
My middle name, Layne, is after my older sister who died before I was born.
WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU CRIED?
Watching Oprah yesterday--I know, I know, it doesn't take much to get this gal blubbering.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE LUNCH MEAT?
Sliced turkey breast (same as Marsha) :)
IF YOU WERE ANOTHER PERSON, WOULD YOU BE FRIENDS WITH YOU?
Yeah, I'm fun (if I do say so, myself). :)
DO YOU USE SARCASM A LOT?
I'm trying to tone that side down--really trying.
DO YOU STILL HAVE YOUR TONSILS?
WOULD YOU BUNGEE JUMP?
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CEREAL?
DO YOU UNTIE YOUR SHOES WHEN YOU TAKE THEM OFF?
Sometimes--but they definitely come off the minute I'm in the house.
DO YOU THINK YOU ARE STRONG?
In many ways, but not so much physically. You have to understand that I live in a house with a bunch of powerlifters.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ICE CREAM?
WHAT WAS THE LAST THING YOU ATE?
Frosted Shreaded Wheat
WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW?
Kids playing and doing school work, dryer turning, computer humming.
Babies, grass after a rain
WHO WAS THE LAST PERSON YOU TALKED TO ON THE PHONE?
FAVORITE SPORTS TO WATCH?
Chinese or Mexican (Chili's Southwest Eggrolls!!!)
SCARY MOVIES OR HAPPY ENDINGS?
LAST MOVIE YOU WATCHED?
Pride and Prejudice (with Colin Firth)
SUMMER OR WINTER?
WHAT BOOK ARE YOU READING NOW?
Counting Stars by Michele Paige Holmes--great stuff!
WHAT IS ON YOUR MOUSE PAD?
Don't have one
WHAT DID YOU WATCH ON TV LAST NIGHT?
ROLLING STONES OR BEATLES?
Beatles...and if you asked Paul or John, it would be PAUL!
WHAT IS THE FARTHEST YOU HAVE BEEN FROM HOME?
DO YOU HAVE A SPECIAL TALENT?
Writing, cooking, baking
WHERE WERE YOU BORN?
San Francisco...almost on the Golden Gate Brigde, so the story goes.
Sunday, February 10, 2008
Sub ject: Travel Confirmation. That was the subject of a recent e-mail I received. I was ecstatic. I don't travel much, usually just to visit family. I am very excited about a plane ticket I just purchased. For many years, I've wanted to go to the LDStorymakers Writer's Conference in Utah. And this year, I finally get to go. Oh, I've been to Utah before and even lived there for 7 years. All of my husband's family lives in Utah/Idaho, so we've taken many a family trip there before.
But this will be different. I'm going by myself. I haven't gone on a trip by myself in a long time! I'll probably see some family while I'm there. I am most excited about the writer's conference. It's actually the first writer's conference for me. I've never been to any before. I'm also especially excited about meeting all my new blogging buddies. I've never actually met any of the Ink Ladies before, and I think a lot of you will be there. There are also other blogging buddies and LDS authors that I'm anxious to meet.
I am also going to do some book signings while I'm there. The Book Table bookstore in Logan is my favorite store of all time. It's so cool, and I'm so excited that I will be signing books there on Thursday, March 20 from 5:00 to 7:00. I'm super thrilled for this trip. I can't wait to meet you guys!
Wednesday, February 6, 2008
I borrowed this set of questions from Christopher Bigelow's Rameumptom. Chris is the publisher of Zarahemla Books.
WERE YOU NAMED AFTER ANYONE? Not someone, but the month and time of my birth: March at dawn. Marsha Dawn.
WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU CRIED? When President Gordon B. Hinckley died
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE LUNCH MEAT? Sliced turkey breast
IF YOU WERE ANOTHER PERSON, WOULD YOU BE FRIENDS WITH YOU? Yes, if I could get through the reserved nature to the real ham.
DO YOU USE SARCASM A LOT? Not a whole bunch, but some
DO YOU STILL HAVE YOUR TONSILS? Yes
WOULD YOU BUNGEE JUMP? Are you nuts? I’m not!
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CEREAL? Special K
DO YOU UNTIE YOUR SHOES WHEN YOU TAKE THEM OFF? No. I’ll undo the Velcro, though
DO YOU THINK YOU ARE STRONG? Physically, I’m getting older, but spiritually, I think so.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ICE CREAM? New York Super Fudge Chunk
WHAT WAS THE LAST THING YOU ATE? Boost Nutritional Drink
WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW? The sound of snow falling onto my roof from the overhanging pine trees
FAVORITE SMELLS? Wood smoke from a fireplace, but not from a wildfire!
WHO WAS THE LAST PERSON YOU TALKED TO ON THE PHONE? A writer friend
FAVORITE SPORTS TO WATCH? Ice skating, ski jumping, winter sports
FAVORITE FOOD? Mexican
SCARY MOVIES OR HAPPY ENDINGS? Happy endings
LAST MOVIE YOU WATCHED? A Richard Widmark Western called The Last Wagon
SUMMER OR WINTER? Summer where I now live, winter where I used to live
WHAT BOOK ARE YOU READING NOW? Bullies in the Headlights by Matthew Buckley
WHAT IS ON YOUR MOUSE PAD? It’s plain gray
WHAT DID YOU WATCH ON TV LAST NIGHT? Primary election coverage on Glenn Beck
ROLLING STONES OR BEATLES? Beatles
WHAT IS THE FARTHEST YOU HAVE BEEN FROM HOME? Venezuela
DO YOU HAVE A SPECIAL TALENT? Writing
WHERE WERE YOU BORN? Phoenix, Arizona
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
Tinkerbelle has decided to study Psychology, although, if she could figure out how to make money in the fashion industry, this would be her true calling. Isn't she cute!
Cracker Jack is majoring in Geology, and minoring in Geography. OY--just the thought hurts my brain! These analitical and scientific atributes definitely come from her father, the engineer. She will never have trouble finding a job here in Houston, the heart of the oil industry. (Catfish - left, Crackerjack - right)
And Catfish, our oldest--well, he just wants to write! Now this, I can relate too. This is a kid who wrote a 350+ page fantasy/adventure novel at the age of 16. Catfish initially attempted the Journalism major, but changed to English after one semester of mass communication classes claiming that they were sucking all the creativity out of his writing. Right now, he's especially loving a creative writing class focusing on screenwriting. At the end of the semester he's supposed to walk away with a completed script.
Some would say that as a parent it is our duty to help guide our children into careers that offer stable working environments. I say, what the heck is that? As an Engineer, my sweetheart has been through 3 lay-offs.
As the parents of seven, we definitely encourage our children to attend college, but as for a career, in the end, we always tell them to follow their heart. For Catfish, this means writing novels and screenplays. And that's okay, because he's incredibly talented--especially with dialogue (and I'm not just taying that because I'm his mom).
As for me--I'm doing exactly what I want to be doing. I'm a mommy, and I'm a writer. God has given me seven incredible treasures in my beautiful children. How could anyone be more blessed?