Thursday, May 29, 2008


by Elodia Strain

Ahh…Summertime. The time of Otter Pops and bicycles. Swimming suits and strawberries.

There’s just something about this time of year, when grown-ups migrate outside to porch swings and lawnchairs, and kids re-discover water games and cartoon tag.

I’ve had a lot of really great summer memories. Below are just a few. Listed in order of least to most traumatic. He, he. I'm just joking you! (Mostly.)

1. Yellowstone National Park. I loved seeing real, live buffalo and pretending I totally knew Jackalopes weren’t real. But I was so terrified of falling into a geyser and being sucked into the center of the earth that I don’t really remember much about the day we spent visiting Old Faithful.
2. My first trip to Great America. It’s a theme park in California’s Bay Area. I went with my Girl Scout troop and discovered what dot candy was. You know those sheets of paper with little colored dots of sugar on them? I was hooked!
3. Getting ready to leave for college. I was scared. I was excited. I went blonde. (And it took me about six years to get back, so maybe I should have thought twice about that one.)
4. The 4th of July Ymay Atherfay (name has been written in another language to protect identity) decided to set off fireworks in the backyard, and burned a hole in my favorite pair of shoes.
5. The summer my husband and I looked for an “inexpensive-yet-nice-and-safe” apartment in Seattle, Washington.

So, there are some of my greatest summer memories. What are some of yours?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Side Tracks

by Marsha Ward

I sent off my novel manuscript, laid back for a bit of down time, and was enjoying my Memorial Day weekend when I got a frantic call from Son, who needed some paperwork, if I had any, relating to an urgent personal matter.

Well, that put the kibosh on a leisure weekend. I've been looking for said paperwork ever since. Making a little progress, but not enough. I'll keep looking.

In the meantime, today I pulled up a manuscript I've had on the back burner. Tonight is my writer's group meeting, and I need something to read. Since this is the next manuscript I'll be working on, it's about time to dust it off and get back to work. You'll probably be hearing more about "Slim" in the weeks to come.

Wish me luck--both with the manuscript and the paperwork search. Thanks!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Creating Villains

By Tamra Norton

I've written six published novels and each one has at least one "villain" or "bad guy." They've ranged from mean girls and bullies to prissy prom queens and bad boys looking for nutin' but trouble. Basically, you could identify the "bad-guys" from my books within any given elementary school playground or high school cafeteria.

Even as an adult, you still remember the "villains" from your childhood and teenage years. If you're a writer you've likely written them into every story, and take great pleasure in creating ways for your main character to get even.

Sad, slightly satisfying, and true.

For my current work-in-progress I'm actually creating an honest-to-freaking-goodness, scare-your-pants-off, out-of-this-world, evil villain (or villainess--no spoilers here!) and I'm having so much fun!

And unlike my other stories, this evil villain starts out about as unassuming as a turnip in vegetable garden. The reader has no idea--for a while--that the kitty is actually a saber tooth tiger. Oh, there are some gradual hints along the way, but they are subtle, kind of like a bag of Nacho Cheese Doritos--always leaving orange gunk on your fingers that you can't help but lick off, and then dig in the bag for more, more, more. Muahahahahahaaaaa....

Don't forget to check under your bed tonight before you go to sleep!

Monday, May 26, 2008

How I Got Here

By Marcia Mickelson

When I was sixteen, I earned money for a brand new Mac Plus computer. At the time, that was a huge thing. I loved that computer--it was the joy of my life. That was when it all started. I began writing a novel. I actually thought I had invented LDS literature. I had never heard of Jack Weyland or Dean Hughes. I had only been a member of the LDS Church for two years and still knew very little. I really did not think that books about Mormon characters existed.

I threw myself into writing and could really imagine being published some day. Then, I went to college and had no time for writing. My Mac Plus was used for research papers and my novel was put to the side. Then came marriage, career, and children. There was no time at all for writing, and I rarely thought about that half-done novel from so many years before. I'd since discovered that there was already such a thing as LDS lit, but I didn't read any.

Then, in the summer of 2003, we were in Utah for a summer vacation. We only had a few minutes at the BYU bookstore before we had to hit the road, and I wanted something to read. I quickly scanned the shelves and grabbed a Jack Weyland book. That's what started it all. I was eager to read more and more and more. Later that summer, I was at a friend's house, and she offered to lend me two LDS novels. One of them was by Betsy Brannon Green. That book hooked me. All I wanted was LDS novels. I couldn't get enough.

I searched the LDS publisher websites, spent hours on Amazon and e-bay to get more books. Many late nights ensued as I devoured book after book. Unfortunately, I didn't know about Interlibrary Loan back then, so I bought most of the books on Amazon or e-bay and then sold them back so I could buy more.

Then, I just knew it. I knew I had to pull my old novel out and finish the thing. After more than 10 years of computer technology, my Mac Plus was so outdated, so after many days spent at Kinkos on their computers and after much frustration, I was able to transfer it to a Word document. I spent the next few months finishing it. It was quite awful, actually, but completing it made me realize that I could do it. I could write a novel. I spent months researching the business and read books about how to correctly write a novel. And, that is how I got here.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

American Idol Finale

by Marsha Ward

A couple of years ago, who knew I would be such a reality show junkie? Okay, let me qualify that. I watch two reality shows: American Idol and Dancing with the Stars. Let me tell you. Yesterday was horrible. Both of the shows were head-to-head, along with the season finale of NCIS. Without TiVo, what's a girl to do but flip channels all night? I know, I can get the DVDs for the series show, but the reality shows are live!

Tonight's American Idol finale was very enjoyable. So nice to see members of the Top Twelve back. I thought Carly and Michael were very hot in their duet of "My Baby Wrote Me a Letter." In addition to the regulars, the night was star-studded, and sometimes in surprising ways, like Gladys Knight and the pseudo Pips: Ben Stiller, Jack Black, and Robert Downey, Jr. I hope the downloads make a mint for charity.

Graham Nash and Brooke White rocked. So did David Cook and ZZ Top. Fernando Lapuz did much better in the audition round than he did tonight with "I Am Your Brother," though. However, George Michael looked and sounded even better than he did all season on "Eli Stone." His first American tour in 17 years kicks off in San Diego soon. The power of television is wonderful.

And the winner? Although I speed-dialed for my choice for two solid hours, with a lead of 12 million votes, it was David . . . . .

Spoiler Alert


You can look now

. . . . Cook!

Congratulations to both Davids, who fought the good fight.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Monster Migraine

By Tamra Norton

Today's my day to blog, but it's also day four of a monster migraine I'm basically good-fer-nuthin' right now. I did manage to put chicken and potatoes in the oven for dinner. Maybe watching the two Davids duke it out on American Idol tonight will make me feel better. Anyway...I'll try to blog later in the week.

Go David Archuleta!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Just Take Him Out

By Marcia Mickelson

I'm going through some edits for my current novel which is finished. Kind of. It has been finished for a while now, except that there's so much wrong with it. Maybe not so much, but definitely a lot that needs to be fine tuned. This is my fourth edit, and I just received a lot of feedback from my sister. She sent me a copy of my manuscript where she wrote notes. And, let me tell you she WROTE NOTES! She must have gone through several pens with how much is marked up, which is good. I'm glad she's not afraid to point out all the things that need to be changed.

One major flaw that she and one other person pointed out is with a certain character. I'm so unsure about how much I really want him involved in the the novel and with my main character, and apparently my uncertainty really shows. Both my sister and my friend who read the novel have issues with this character--Chase. And, I know I haven't portrayed him well and his relationship to my main character is not clearly defined. In fact, it's quite a mess, and I think it's because I'm not sure how I feel about Chase.

There is one particular scene with Chase in the book that two readers have questioned why it's not in the book. Aren't you going to show what happens, they ask? No, I say, that happened 'off-screen.' I just want to skip that scene and show what happens after. I just don't want to write that scene. So, my sister finally said, "why don't you just take Chase out?"

So, I thought and thought about this, and I'm just going to take Chase out. I don't think I ever wanted him there to begin with. This does mean more editing and some changing around of the storyline, but it will be for the best. He just doesn't belong in my story, I think.

If something or someone is just not working, don't be afraid to just take him out.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


by Marsha Ward

It's been a heck of a day.

First of all, I can't seem to get my fingers to hit the right keys. I think that's because, even though it's almost the middle of May, for gosh sakes, I'm freezing. My fingers are kinda numb.

Second of all, MSWord seems bent on killing my novel. It keeps telling me it has encountered a problem and has to shut down. Then it's been telling me it doesn't want to recover my book file because somewhere along the way it became corrupted. Pish and tush! Not true!

So, I decided to turn off the computer for a couple of hours and see if that helps Word get over its snit. I haven't tried it yet, since I just turned the computer back on, and remembered that I was suppose to blog here today.

The third thing is, Blogger is acting kind of weird. First I got the little yellow pencils that tell me I can edit the post. The problem is, I was on someone else's blog. Then I tried to log in, and Blogger wouldn't let me. I finally got on, and whew, I'm here, but I don't have much to say.

Fortunately, on the novel thing, I have backup files all over the place, and another computer with a better behaved Word. Right now, though, I'm going to bed and see if the morning brings a better outlook on life and some warmth to my house. C'ya next week.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Touching Elbows and Exposing Thumbs

Did you know that if you develop "skillful elbow touching" you triple your chances of getting what you want? That means that if your booksigning is slow and you decided to converse with those browsing the bookstore and you touch them on the elbow, they are three times more likely to come buy your book. Cool, huh? I'm going to try it sometime.

And did you know that a person who places their entire hand in their pocket except for their thumbs is displaying their confidence and authority?

My friend loaned me this great book called The Definitive Book of Body Language by Allan and Barbara Pease ... I recommend it to everyone. Not only will it help you understand people's reactions at booksignings, conferences, etc., but it could be a great book for character development as well. What habits do your characters have when sitting at the bus stop or talking with their superior in the office?

Not only has it been informative, it's been very entertaining ... and they use a lot of real-life examples: Bill Clinton holding two fingers in front of his mouth (the biggest lie giveaway) while answering questions about Monica Lewinsky ....

Anyway, I've been having a ball reading it and thought you may find it informative or entertaining. Just be warned, you will become self-conscious about how you're holding your arms, hands, crossing your legs, etc. You will also begin analyzing everyone you know, and the discoveries are quite interesting.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Her Sacrifice Has Been My Success

By Marcia Mickelson

Her name is Lidia Corina, but her family and friends call her Cory. She is my mother and her sacrifices have brought to pass my successes.

My mother came to this country in her early 20's, leaving behind her home, her country, her family--her life. Leaving Guatemala was difficult for her, and she missed it. The U.S was a strange land with a language she didn't understand. Her sister and many of her friends came here as well in search of opportunities not found back home. My mother didn't adapt easily and longed for home. However, she stayed to build a life--she got married and had my sister.

Her home still called to her, and she went back to her beloved Guatemala for a time. That's when I was born--in Guatemala. I didn't live there long before she moved back here, this time, leaving her home for good. I wonder if she always thought she'd go back for that is where her heart is, but she didn't. She stayed here for me, for my family because she knew we would have opportunities that may not be found back home.

She made the sacrifice to stay here in the United States to raise her family, and it was a sacrifice for her because she loved her family and country. For that selfless act, I will always be grateful for the U.S. is my home, and I couldn't imagine living anywhere else. She gave up her home so that I could have mine.

Every sacrifice that my mother has made in her life has provided an opportunity of success for me. She never finished school; she gave that up to help provide for our family. She cleaned other people's houses so that one day I could have a home of my own. Where I am today, what I have in my life is all due to her and my father.

It was she who led the way for our family to be baptized in the Church of Latter-day Saints. If it hadn't been for her courageous step into the waters of baptism many years ago with no family by her side in support, I would never have joined this church.

All that I have--an American citizenship, a college degree, a writing career, an eternal family-- would not have been possible without her numerous sacrifices through the years. Those sacrifices, along with her continuous love have made my happiness possible. I know that there is not a possible way that I could ever show her how fortunate and grateful I am that I was born her daughter. And, I can only hope that one day I could be a fraction of the mother she has been and continues to be to me.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Mother's Wisdom

by Marsha Ward

I'm pleased to announce that an essay I wrote about lessons I learned from my mother has been published in a book recently released from
Leatherwood Press, Mother's Wisdom: Lessons from Sons and Daughters. The hardcover compilation is available at Deseret Book stores, and online at My essay is entitled "Perfect in Salt, Perfect in Soda."

My wonderful mother worked hard to show her seven kids how to live the gospel. I highlight a couple of those examples in the essay. I hope you are able to get a copy of the book and read the tributes to the more than fifty mothers featured there.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Lap of Luxury

By Tamra Norton

This picture by Mary Engelbreit is my absolute, most favorite picture in the universe. I even have it framed and in a prominent location in my house. I suppose I love it so much because it speaks volumes of truth. The true "riches" we find in this life do not have a monetary value we can place in the bank and buy a new mini-van with, but are found in our relationships with the people God has linked us to. And it all starts with Mom.

If my theory of riches is true, then I'm the wealthiest person in the universe, because I definitely grew up in the lap of luxury. I'm child number five in a family of eight siblings--seven girls and one boy. We're a Yours, Mine & Ours, or a Brady Bunch family, consisting of seven girls and one boy (but please, don't feel sorry for my big bro. The dude held his own just fine!)

I remember back in elementary school--I believe it was fifth grade--and two of my closest friends switched schools. One moved away, and the other started attending Catholic school. This was a awkward stage in my life and I suddenly found myself feeling very lonely and isolated at school. After a few miserable weeks, I decided that for my half-hour lunch, and half-hour lunch recess, I would run the few blocks home during that hour every day, and spend that time eating lunch and hanging out with my mom. That hour with just Mom and me became the highlight of my day, and likely contributed to my decision to homeschool my own children.

Another difficult time in my life happened in seventh grade--junior high. Need I say more? At the time, I found myself seated at a table with three other girls during English class, and for whatever reason, "The Three" (as I will henceforth and forever call them) decided that they hated my guts, as well as my best friends guts. The really unfortunate part of this whole scenario was that my best friend (and her much-hated guts) wasn't in our English class. It was just me, and "The Three." After a few weeks of thinking that I'd rather eat a frog whole than attend another day in this class, I expressed my woes to my mom. I was almost hoping she'd sign me up for boxing lessons, or provide brass knuckles, but Mom was much more wise than that. She shared with me the simple phrase: kill 'em with kindness. She suggested I just ignore anything negative these girls had to say, and whenever I ran across them in the hall, simply say, "hi" and be on my way. As scary as this was to an insecure 12-year-old, I did it, and the whole brouhaha blew over faster than you could say seventh-grade-really-sucks-rocks!

Mom saved the day!

Now I'm the mother, with seven children of my own (and I have no intention of catching up with Mom). When lo and behold, just the other day, I had the most marvelous motherhood moment that made me feel like the wealthiest person in the universe. My 21-year-old daughter (child #2) admitted, of her own free will, that all those years ago when I'd broken up sibling squabbles and sisterly cat fights with the proclamation, "Some day you two are going to be best friends!" that I was right. She said she has more fun with, and would rather hang out with her siblings (child #1 and child #3), than anyone else. After pealing my face from the floor, I couldn't help myself, and said those four words your kids hate to hear: I TOLD YOU SO! I couldn't help myself.

Thank you so much Mom, for all the great advice you've given me over the years, and even the few "I told you so"s. :) You're the best Mom ever, and I'm the wealthiest child because you are in my life.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Writing Frenzy

Ahhh, it feels good. I've been in quite a writing frenzy the last month and a half. It hasn't felt like this in almost four years. Prior to 2004, I had a year of writing frenzy. I wanted to write every night. I thought about the story all day long and couldn't wait to hit the computer. I didn't care to watch any TV. I just lived for the story.

In 2004, I sort of hit a writer's block. The presidential election tempted me away from the computer. I watched CNN every night, read books about the candidates, and left writing to the side. After that, I became pregnant and was too tired almost every night to write. My son will be three in August, and writing has not been the same. After that, I wrote out of necessity. I made myself write to meet deadlines, but the passion was not there anymore.

Until now, my passion is back. I started writing a new book in March and have been writing like crazy since. I think about the book most of the day and long to get to the computer. It's been a while since I have felt like this, and it's good to have it back. The presidetial election is looming, and I worry that my attention will be diverted once again. Luckily, we don't have cable anymore, so no more late nights with CNN. And any pregnancies looming? Who knows.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Feeling Sorry For Brit?

by Elodia Strain

I was in the doctor’s office reading a magazine when I found a poll. 86% of magazine readers said they “do not feel sorry for Britney.”

Usually I wouldn’t have remembered a stat like this, but something happened to me that day that kind of branded it in my brain.

The day went like this:

1. I spent the morning working on a freelance-advertising job only to have my computer go wacky on me and destroy a good chunk of my work.
2. I spent forty-five minutes on the phone with a customer service rep from my bank trying to sort out the problems that came about when the bank sent me a new debit card and attached it to the wrong account.
3. I spent two hours at the Student Health Center as the phlebotomists tried not once, not twice, not three, or four, or five, but six times and one near-faint to get a vial of blood.
4. Covered in Snoopy Band Aids and feeling pretty sick, I drove to the dentist where I was going to have a tooth fixed. The visit did not go well. (See below.)

The dentist I’d made an appointment with was not the one who greeted me once I was in the chair, and I made the mistake of assuming the guy asking about my tooth was a dental student giving me a pre-check. That did not go over well.

Then when I expressed my preference to have the procedure done by the dentist I’d made the appointment with (he’d been recommended by a friend and after the Health Center fiasco I just didn’t want to take any chances) I was told he wasn’t working that day. When I reiterated that I really did prefer to see the other dentist, I could feel myself being labeled a “problem patient.”

The appointment ended quickly and uncomfortably, and I walked out of the office in a panic, thinking: What if one of the office’s employees goes shopping with a friend this weekend and sees my book and says, “That girl insulted the dentist I work for. She didn’t think he was good enough for her!”

These panicky thoughts led me to a conclusion: I do feel a bit sorry for the Britney’s of the world.

I don't want to get into a discussion about poor choices/consequences and all of that, but it can’t been easy to live with the fear that if you aren’t always completely “on” in every way people will talk about you, write about you, and use your imperfections as a reason to reject your art/music/whatever-kind-of-work-it-may-be.

I got home that evening with a new resolve to just cut people a little bit of slack. To remember how it felt to hope that those dental office employees were cutting me some. After all, who knows if maybe the woman who’s rude at the grocery store has just lost her job? Or if the man who steals that parking spot needs to park close to the post office because he's just had back surgery?

Who ever really knows?