Monday, March 31, 2008

Meeting Deadlines

I've missed a few blog days, but every free second has been spent trying to make my self-appointed deadline for my new novel. Well, I got it done, but I'm still working on a little editing before it's ready to send out. I should have it out to several agents in about a week.

Am I ecstatic? I will be as soon as it's in the mail! Well, it's short and sweet today. I've got a meeting at 1 p.m., the chamber Enews to get out and more chapters to edit before all my children begin trickling in from school.

I hope you all have a fabulous day and I promise to keep you updated in my quest for an agent.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Talk About Writing

by Marcia Mickelson

I'm not sure how it is for everyone else, but when I start on a new book, I don't like to talk about it to anyone. I keep completely quiet about it because I feel that if I start to talk about it too early on, the magic will go away. I know that sounds weird, but during the infancy of my book, it's too fragile to talk about. It's at the point where if I talk about it, it might not even get written.

I don't mind people reading my work when it's about halfway done or more. I like and need to get good, honest criticism. The more negative the better. I welcome it. I want to hear how I can improve it, but not too soon. Once, the idea is more firmly cemented and past its tentative stage, then I can share it.

Maybe it's like when it's very early in my pregnancy, I don't like to tell people. I prefer to wait until after the second doctor's appointment to share my news. I guess I'm too worried to tell anyone just in case. In case of what? I don't know, just in case. By the way, this is in no way an announcement. I'm just making a comparison--a pregnancy in its early stages is like a book in its early stages, and I'm too worried to share it until I know it's well into development.

So, I am working on a new book. I can say that much, but I can't even say what it's about. It's too scary. I'm about 10,000 words into it and I'm grateful for Tristi Pinkston's Book In A Month challenge this month so I can work like crazy on it.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

What a Mess!

by Marsha Ward

While I was enjoying myself in Utah at the LDStorymakers Writers Conference, Nature was having fun in Arizona.

I'm sure the land slips and slides around all over the continent, but this slide occurred next to a highway--and not just any highway! The highway in the picture is the major link between where I live and the Phoenix area, where my family members live. With part of the mountain hanging so precariously over the roadway, the department of transportation has closed it.

There's also the problem of the pavement having buckled.

Pictured here are some heavy-duty chasms. I don't want to travel through there until a lot of earth is removed to some other place. Of course, that is the plan. There is no announced date for re-opening the highway, although some talk has gone around about using the other side for one lane each way come Memorial Day weekend. That's a long way off, when there are birthdays to celebrate very soon in my family.

There are alternate routes, adding over a hundred miles to the one-way trip, and doubling the time necessary to get to where I'm going. I look for prices to rise on basic things like food, water, soap, chocolate, etc.
I wonder if the earth roared when it let go?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Touching Scene at the Airport

This past week, I was in Salt Lake to attend the LDStorymakers Conference, and I was going to blog about that. However, I witnessed a touching scene at the San Antonio Airport today when I flew back home. I wanted to blog about that instead.

I was waiting outside at the departing/arriving curbside of Terminal 2 at the San Antonio International Airport. I was waiting for my husband and three boys to pick me up after their church ended. At that terminal, there are cars both dropping off passengers or picking up people who've arrived.

I saw a minivan pull up to the curb right in front of me. There was an older man driving, the grandpa, I assume. Out came a woman in her late 20's or early 30's. She was dressed in an Air Force uniform. I noticed next to her was seated a young baby, probably 18 months or so. From the back seat, came a man, also dressed in an Air Force uniform. I couldn't help but watch the scene unfold. The baby was cranky and crying right off. At first, I thought that both mom and dad were leaving, perhaps deployed somewhere on military service. The baby was crying and holding his arms out toward his parents. The couple embraced for a few minutes and then dad continued into the airport. The mom got back into the car. All the while, the baby was crying for his dad. I almost couldn't watch. I was sad. Mom was not leaving that day, but perhaps one day she too will be called away. It hurt my heart about the little boy. I am in awe and admiration to all those who sacrifice their time to serve our country. What a great service they give; what a great sacrifice. They are people of great honor and duty.

I felt so guilty that I would be soon seeing my family. I missed them for the few days that I was away, but I was really glad to be seeing them. But, I felt so guilty that I was saying 'hello' while they were saying 'good-bye.' I don't know how long that dad will be gone, but 'good-bye' is never easy. A few minutes later, my van pulled up. It was so good to see them, and I still felt guilty. I'm still thinking about that family. I just hope that all the people who serve our country can soon be with their families.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Whitney Awards (!)

It's almost here! Tonight the 2007 Whitney Awards for LDS fiction will be announced at a gala celebration following the LDStorymakers annual writers' conference.

Yeah, I think everyone else is there except for me. Yeah, everyone else will know who won before I do. Yeah, I'm feeling sorry for myself, a little. But not much. Some wonderful Storymakers will be blogging the results at
and of course, you can see the results later at

Personally, I think this will be a rockin' set of awards, and I fully intend to win one in the future.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Why Do I Bother to Worry?

by Marsha Ward

It was branch conference last Sunday.

For those not of the LDS faith, it's a once-a-year occasion in the local congregation when the next-higher tier (stake) leaders--both the ecclesiastical and auxiliary leaders--come and give the lessons. The stake president also gives a talk in the worship service. These lessons and talks contain insights the leaders want to share with us, and encouragement for further advancement in faith and good works during the coming year.

Our choir leader choose a special arrangement of a well-beloved hymn for the choir to prepare and present. Mind you, our choir generally consists of about ten people. The arrangement she chose was written for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir of over three hundred singers. Most of the choir members don't really read music, especially the men. The Mack Wilberg version of the hymn is quite complex, including several key changes, and eight voice parts at the end.

Well. We don't have any tenors to speak of, and eight parts into ten people generally leaves 1+ person per part. Our chapel isn't huge, so that's okay. It wasn't volume that concerned me. I worried about our ability to render the arrangement in any recognizable fashion. Not that amateur singing was my paramount concern. I know that the spirit the choir brings to the congregation's worship experience is much more important than whether or not a few sour notes get produced. I worried that Lynn would be disappointed, that the choir would feel deflated, or that God would not accept our puny efforts to do the arrangement justice.

Why do I bother to worry? Lynn did her due diligence to recruit visitors and more people from the branch to sing today. Some had practiced with us a time or two; others had not. The results: awe-inspiring!

The sound was full--angels must have joined us, as they have in the past. The spirit of God was in the performance. I felt it so strongly that when I sat down I cried for the overwhelming sense of love it brought. I'm crying now as I recall it.

The hymn?

"The Spirit of God Like a Fire is Burning."

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Leavin' on a Jet Plane...HOPEFULLY!

By Tamra Norton
All my bags were were packed, I was ready to go...when the call came. "Mrs. Norton, we regret to inform you that your flight from Houston to Salt Lake City was cancelled due to bad weather."

"WHAT?!!! But I'm giving an assembly tomorrow. 500 kids are counting on me. And I'm going to my friend's booksigning tonight! And I've been looking forward to and planning this trip for months! And, and and..."

Apparently mother nature could care less about my plans. Right now Houston is under a tornado watch (which, honestly, we don't take too seriously in these parts because we have tornado watches at least once a month for a good chunk of the year).

I suppose I should be grateful to the airlines for watching out for my safety. I'll definitely be in their hands all day tomorrow! Instead of my non-stop flight that was supposed to take place today, I've been booked on a flight at 6:45 am to Cincinnati (yup--as in OHIO!!!) where I will then sit in the airport for 4 hours until I catch my flight to Salt Lake City.

The bright side of all of this? I hope to have a good writing day tomorrow.
Wish me luck! Oh, and I was able to reschedule the school visit for next Monday--whew!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Bonding with You Tube

I could browse videos on You Tube for hours. Let me rephrase that ... I have browsed videos on You Tube for hours, tonight, in fact. But my daughters were all with me. Bonding time on You Tube. It's possible you know.

It started when we looked up the Queen songs my daughter's learning in orchestra. Yes, you read right. My daughter's playing We Will Rock You, We Are the Champions and Another One Bites the Dust in her next orchestra concert. She's also playing The Rose and Eleanor Rigby. We had to find them online so she knew what the originals sounded like.

That led to Numa Numa, the original version, my daughter informed me, you know the one with the guys in/on the airplane? Neither did I. Then on to the Ebay Song by Weird Al, White and Nerdy for my 15 year old and Purple People Eater for my two little ones (we all like the chipmunk version best).

Then, much to our surprise, we found The Little Blue Man, a song my mother used to sing to me all the time, and Sweet Violets, another my mom sang when I was little.

Our luck ended there. We couldn't find Please Help me I'm Crawling, one my dad's famous (infamous?) for singing or I Married Me a Dandy.

I would recommend checking out the Ebay Song though. You should get a laugh.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

"Til Two In the Morning

Today, someone gave me a great compliment--probably one of the best compliments an author can receive. Someone told me that they were up until 2:00 in the morning reading my book because she couldn't put it down. That felt so good. What a wonderful thing to hear!

I've been up until 2:00 in the morning finishing a book because I couldn't put it down. It feels good that someone thinks that about my book. What a great start to my week, and it only promises to get better. On Wednesday, I leave for the LDStorymakers Conference. I also have 2 book signings scheduled in Utah. Here are the dates and times. If anyone is in the area, come say 'hi.' To my fellow Ink Ladies who are going to the conference, I can't WAIT to meet you!

Thursday, March 20
Borders 1050 N. Main
Logan, UT 84321
6:00 - 8:00 p.m.

Saturday, March 22
Missionary Emporium
Redwood Village Shopping Center
7110 South Redwood Road
West Jordan, Utah 84084
11:00 - 12:00 p.m.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Thanks, Teach!

by Elodia Strain

I don’t know exactly when it happened, but sometime around age 12 or 13 I developed an extreme fear of speaking in front of people. In school I would avoid reading aloud in class by feigning a sore throat, pretending I needed to use the bathroom, or simply shaking my head and shooting my teacher a silent please-take-pity-on-me look. Usually they got it.

Until I had Miss Scheele for Freshman English.

The first time she called on me to read a passage aloud and listened to my shaky, panicky voice and saw my red, down-turned face, I thought she’d never call on me again. But after that, she called on me to read aloud nearly every day. I still remember some of my classmates chiding me, calling me “teacher’s pet.” I would just look at them and think, “She doesn’t like me. She hates me. She’s torturing me for some twisted reason!”

But after a few weeks of torture, I noticed something: Reading aloud was beginning to be less awful. My fear was slowly melting away.

When I was in college, I somehow tracked down Miss Scheele’s phone number and called to thank her. I got her answering machine and was pleased to find that my voice wasn’t shaky at all as I left a message, telling her what an impact she had had on me.

Fast forward a few years: I was at home writing when I received a phone call from a mother who had read my book and had shared it with her daughter who suffers from cerebral palsy. The woman expressed her very kind opinion of the book and asked if I would be willing to speak to a group of women in her town on the subject of talents. My answer was a big fat, “I’d love to!”

As I stood up there and addressed this amazing group, I have to admit my voice was shaky for the first few minutes. But after that, I spoke fairly easily and even managed to make a bit of sense! I am so immensely grateful to have had that experience.

And as I drove home, tears of gratitude falling down my cheeks, I couldn’t help but think, “Thanks again, Miss Scheele.”

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me!

by Marsha Ward

Sorry I don't have anything spectacular to report like Tami did. Wait, wait, except that I did get a great review of my manuscript from a critiquer yesterday. Thanks, Dan! He is awesome!

It's that time of the year again. Time to stress over taxes, that is. Oh, and BTW, celebrate reaching that ripe upper middle age of 62.

I very much appreciate getting to this age. The alternative is not somewhere I want to go just yet. Maybe that's why when my husband died prematurely almost ten years ago, and people would pat my hand and say, "You'll be with him soon," I would recoil in horror! Not me! Not yet!

I intend to live to a very old age. I have so many stories to tell, so much service to give, so many family issues to see resolved (mumble, mumble).

You tell me. By looking at my picture, would you guess that I'm in my sixties? Early sixties, to be sure, but I don't see a tremendous lot of wrinkles or gray hair. Do you? (That's my natural color, BTW.)

No, I didn't think so. My Birthday Wish is to continue celebrating many birthdays down the years.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A Letter From The White House

By Tamra Norton

Yup--you read that subject line right! I got a letter in the mail yesterday from LAURA BUSH! :D Since she used to be a children's librarian and since my book deals with deployment, I decided to send her a copy of my latest children's novel, MAKE ME A HOME (signed, of course with just the right amount of sucking up.) :)

So what did I find in my mailbox today but a huge envelope with the words THE WHITE HOUSE in the upper left hand corner. The first thing I found inside was an autographed picture from our first lady, and I thought, what?! But then I noticed a smaller piece of stationary (with the embossed presidential seal at the top) and a personal letter from Mrs. Bush! Come on, come on--I know you want me to tell you what it said. Okay, you talked me into it...

Dear Ms. Norton

Thank you for your letter and the inscribed copy of your book, Make Me a Home. You are kind to think of me, and I appreciate your generosity.

President Bush and I are grateful for your words of support. He joins me in sending best wishes.

Your BFF,
Laura Bush (only it's not typed! It's her John Hancock--right there at the bottom of my letter!!! Okay, and I added the BFF part, BUT I'm sure that after she actually READS my book, she's going to like me so much that she'll invite me to The White House to eat some BBQ with her and "W"! I can't wait!!! :)

Treasure Hunting

I took the kids treasure hunting over the weekend, well geocaching. Here's how it works, you plug coordinates for a geocache into your GPS and hit the "go to" button, then you follow the directions until you find it (usually an ammo can or tupperware container filled with toys). Then you're free to trade out an item. The kids love this! They gather tons of toys from home in hopes of making a good trade on the trail.

The kids navigated ... I don't know if I can adequately explain what happened next, but rest assured that no one got hurt of hopelessly lost. We did circle one geocache several times, hike halfway up the hill and back, across the side hill and through the mud before finding it ... after we realized my daughter was reading the GPS wrong. Oops. We also took a grand hike up another very steep mountain, saw 14 deer, cut cross country, dodging cactus and sagebrush before finding another, which just happened to be right on the side of a dirt road opposite the direction my son took us. That was a fun one!

We had some great hikes and a lot of fun. My kids would say they made some great trades, too. If you're interested in geocaching, there are thousands of them all over the U.S. Check out and search for your zip code. I know there are hundreds within an hour's drive of us.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

A New Blog In Town

Come over to A Ton of Authors and A Wannabe. It's a blog by over 23 Cedar Fort authors and the public relations director, Doug Johnston. There are fiction authors, as well as non-fiction authors. Come by and say 'hi.'

Saturday, March 8, 2008

The Frozen North

OK, some folks (mostly not you guys) have been asking how much snow we have on the ground here in Wisconsin. Yes, we are well into March. And this is what it looks like.

This is the fire hydrant in front of our house. You can see why that stick thing at the top is needed, because it can easily become lost.

And this is the dugout snow fort that lives in our front yard. It's adjacent to the driveway; a lot of this snow was piled here as we shoveled off the driveway...and shoveled it off again...and shoveled it off again... (or used the snowblower)

And here we have someone reclining in an area cut out of the snow with a snowblower.

And last, but not least, this is a picture of me in Hawaii a few months ago. I was trying to clean off the camera and I accidentally took a picture of myself. Hey, it's me in Hawaii. Honest.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

How I Spent My Weekend

by Marsha Ward

Some of you know that I've been intimately connected with American Night Writers Association (ANWA) for many years. Maybe you know that I'm the founder. Anyway, it's always a thrill to meet other members at our annual Writers Conference.

We held this year's event last saturday at a school in Gilbert, Arizona. That's in what is called the East Valley portion of the Phoenix metro area. Our keynote speaker was Kathryn Jenkins, managing editor of Covenant Communications.

I first met Kathy on Friday at a lunch attended by some of the presenters and members of the ANWA Board. I found her to be a very interesting woman of vast experience. Her keynote address and class the next day increased my respect for her.

Also at the lunch were my dear friends Kerry Blair and Tristi Pinkston. I enjoyed their classes so much. Heather Madder and Jon Lewis were not at the lunch, but I've known Heather for a couple of years, and found her class to be insightful. I didn't get to attend Jon's class, but from all accounts, those who attended appreciated his presentation.

Saturday was exhausting but exhilarating, and I sold a few books. I hope my trip to Southern Arizona in a couple of weeks is as rewarding.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Sports Pain and Writing Contests

I can't believe I missed another Monday, last Monday anyway. You see, last May we went waterskiing and had a ball! Wow! The thing is, I think I seriously damaged my shoulder and last Monday I couldn't move my arm at all. That made it tough to get my weekly Enews out or update the Chamber of Commerce website, but after some great yucca, I was able to finish and crash. I didn't make it to Ink Ladies, however. Today, I think it's time to call a doctor.

Back to writing. A few weeks ago I was asked to judge a writing contest. Fun! Of course I said yes, and I still don't regret it, although I'm learning that it's much harder than it first sounded. I have my first place picked out, that was the easy part, but second?

It's a great experience, I'll say that much. It's a great way to see what really works and why some stories just don't. It's been fun, too. Topics do range ... I really had no idea.

I'm grateful for the opportunity and think all the authors are fabulous just for taking the time to enter. I wish them success and determination to keep going.

As for my next novel? Well, February has come and gone so I've decided I need to finish it before the end of March. By sharing that goal online, hopefully I'll stick to it.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Book Signing

I did a book signing at Temple View Books in San Antonio, TX on Saturday. The store is right across the street from the temple, a perfect location. It went really well; my most successful book signing yet (only my 4th). The staff there is so nice. It was a pleasure talking to them. I had many friends come by to buy books. There were also several customers who bought some books as well.

I really enjoyed talking to the customers who came in. There were several groups from other parts of Texas that had come to town to go to the temple. I had great conversations with several people. The staff was so nice; they even told me I could stay past the end time since it was going well. This was definitely my most enjoyable book signing. I wish they could all go this well. It was nice meeting and talking to new people.