Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Chatting with my Characters

by Marsha Ward

*Last week, I found out that some characters from my novels were camping out on the Mogollon Rim. Because it was so rainy, I invited them to ride down into the hamlet where I live and take advantage of the empty mobile home I own, as a much drier sleeping arrangement. They agreed, and the first problem I had was finding a place to put up the horses for the night. After I made a few telephone calls, a neighbor let the men stake out their animals in her orchard. I ferried saddles and gear and men back to the trailer, and introduced them further into the 21st Century.

ME: Here we are. Let me unlock the door and show you around.

CLAY OWEN: The door's made of glass?

ME: It's called an Arcadia door, and it slides open.

(RULON OWEN affectionately ruffles his younger brother's hair): Keep your mouth shut, little brother, or you'll collect a heap of flies. I 'spect that won't be the only wonder you're gonna see.

ME: A lot of things will seem strange. You've leaped past quite a few years.

CARL OWEN: That's so, ma'am. After we passed under the rainbow, we noticed a passel of oddments, like that vehicle you use. We saw some like yours, and others with an open bed in the back.

ME: Mine is called an automobile. Or a car. It's for getting people around, like a buggy or a coach. Those others you saw are trucks. They're best for carrying gear or goods. (I pause and look at my characters standing around the living room, dripping on the rug.) It's odd to hear you call me "ma'am."

RULON: We took a vote, ma'am. We know you're by way of being our "mother," but it don't seem fittin' to call you "Ma." We have a fine ma already. Well, you know that. You made her up.

ME: Yes, years ago. (I gesture around.) This is called a living room. Sort of a parlor. That's the kitchen, but the stove is very different than any you've seen. I'll show you how to work it later. (I shepherd them through the house.) This is the bathroom. It's more than an indoor privy. It's also a washroom. (I turn the faucet on, then off.) You wash your hands here. This tap turns on the cold water, and this one is for hot.

CARL: Hot water?

ME: Yes, there are taps like these in the kitchen, too. I have sort of a boiler outside that heats up the water. Then it's piped in to the taps. (I turn around and indicate the bathtub.) No buckets here, folks. Hot water on tap for your baths.

(CARL bumps Clay's arm): You're overdue.

CLAY (bumping back): Rulon's the oldest. He always says he gets the tub first.

ME: Um, you don't all need to use the same water. See this little hole? And this lever? (I work the lever.) The water goes down into a big pipe that takes it away down yonder. When each of you is finished, you can drain your water and the next man can start fresh. Or you can bathe in the waterfall.

CARL: Out on the creek?

ME: It's an indoor waterfall. (I demonstrate the shower, and the men make appropriate sounds of disbelief.) We call it a shower.

RULON: All these things are miracles to us, ma'am. What's this white chair for?

ME: That's the privy part. (I lift the lid.) We call it a toilet. You answer Nature's call here, then flush it away with this lever. If you're not going to sit, lift the seat and (I feel my cheeks beginning to burn) aim low. Here's the toilet paper.

(CLAY stoops over to examine it): It's a whole roll of soft paper, Rule. (He tugs, and TP unrolls onto the floor.) Oh, sorry, ma'am!

ME (laughing): Just wind it back up, Clay. It comes apart when you need to use it for cleaning up after yourself.

CLAY: Comes apart?

ME: Look at it. It's perforated into squares. Perforated means not quite cut apart. You hold here and pull here, and there you have a square or two. (I hold up two sections of TP.)

(CLAY's face is still red as he winds the TP back on the holder): Thanks for the instruction, ma'am.

ME (looking after RULON and CARL, who have wandered on into the bedroom): It's small, but it's cozy.

RULON: Ma'am, I reckon we all can sleep in that there bed.

ME: I thought you could spread your bedrolls out in the Arizona room, but if you prefer . . .

CARL: We're used to the ground, ma'am, but a bed! We ain't seen such a nice puffy one before.

ME: The house is yours until you need to go back. Do what you want. Except, I really am uncomfortable being called "ma'am." I understand your feelings about not calling me "Ma." You can keep that for Julia. How about calling me "Mom"?

RULON (tries it out): Mom. Mom. What's it mean . . . Mom?

ME: It's short for Mommy! I guess that's not a Southern form of address.

CARL: We use Mama and Ma, or Meemah, ma'am--Mom.

CLAY: I like it.

ME: It's better than calling me "Marsha."

RULON (nods): Yes ma'am, that's not fittin', ma'am, I mean, Mom.

ME: Let's go see the Arizona Room.

CLAY: Why's it called that?

ME: I believe it's because of all the glass to let the sunshine in. Folks think Arizona is hot everywhere, but that's not true. Up here in the forest, the sunlight is welcome.

CARL (looking around): Where's the fireplace, Mom? We can't build a campfire on this purty rug.

ME: You won't need a fire. You'll be warm here.

CARL: We need to cook our supper.

ME: I'll show you how to operate the stove. (We go back into the kitchen and I turn a knob.) This fire comes from piped-in gas. You can make the fire hotter by turning the knob a bit more. Just make sure you turn it off when you've finished cooking!

RULON: Much obliged, ma--Mom. This is surely a wonder!

ME: It is. Modern conveniences have come a long way since your era. (I look around.) I think that's all you need to know for now. There are clean towels in the cupboard in the bathroom. Get cleaned up and I'll wait for you in the parlor.


*This is a work of fiction. I don't really talk to time-traveling characters from my novels. I do like them a lot, though, and am glad they passed under the rainbow to visit me in my own place and time. To order my novels, The Man from Shenandoah and Ride to Raton, visit my website at

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Killing my Villain

By Tamra Norton

Sorry I'm not writing my blog today, but I've been busy killing my villain. And I'm having a blast doing it! I've never written a fantasy before so I've never had the pleasure of eliminating the evil villain. In a word, SUPERFUNILICOUSNESS! :) Such is the life of a writer.

I know what you;re thinking (aside from the Tami-is-a-nut-case thought). Yes, I've been saying for quite some time now that I'm ALMOST DONE with this manuscript. These words have escaped my lips (and fingers) several times over the past few weeks now. And honestly, I always think I can finish faster than I do. But in my defense, my second-to-the-last, big, climactic, super-whammy-of-a-chapter ended up being three separate chapters. And each chapter was a little longer than my average chapter in this manuscript. What can I say? Stuff just kept popping out of me (which sounds completely wrong, but it's the truth. I swear. Pop. Pop. Pop...)

So I'm FINALLY in the middle of the honest-to-goodness, second-to-the-last, big, climactic, super-whammy-of-a-chapter, and I'm tempted to not go to bed tonight until it's done.

Oops! Looks like I wrote a blog...sort of.

Stay tuned...

Sunday, July 27, 2008

What to do

What do you do when you finally finished a manuscript that you started over 3 years ago and took 8 months to edit? And, now it's submitted, in the hands of the publisher, and you have to wait to find out.

There are 5 days left of BIAM, but I don't feel like writing. I'm worn out.

I just finished reading Remember Me by Sophie Kinsella.

I just started reading Redemption Road by Toni Sorenson Brown.

I have to wait 6 more days until Breaking Dawn comes out. So, what do I do for six days? I do have the project I started last BIAM. I really want to work on it, but I think I'm worn out from writing. I think I'll save it for August BIAM which starts soon.

I think I'll just watch a bunch of movies. I haven't watched many movies lately. I do get half-price rentals at Hollywood Video for 20 more days because we're new members. Any good suggestions?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A heads-up on a new e-mail scam

by Marsha Ward

Feeling guilty about not posting last week, especially since no one else but Marcia did, I'm pre-dating this post. Yes, it looks like somehow it didn't come up when it should have, but I used a new Blogger tool to fool everyone. Well, not now. I've spilled the beans. I found a timely warning from Data Doctors in my email that I wanted to share:

Very few e-mail scams get past the seasoned user, but I almost fell for a very cleverly crafted message that came in this week. Tis the season to be flying, so anything that looks like an airline confirmation gets my attention (especially since others can book a flight for me on occasion). Here is what came in that almost fooled me enough to almost get me to open the attachment:

Thank you for using our new service "Buy airplane ticket Online" on our website.
Your account has been created:

Your login: Custfeedback
Your password: passNUX8

Your credit card has been charged for $406.44.We would like to remind you that whenever you order tickets on our website you get a discount of 10%!
Attached to this message is the purchase Invoice and the flight ticket.
To use your ticket, simply print it on a color printer, and you are set to take off for the journey!

Kind regards,
Ted Hensley
Frontier Airlines


The attachment was listed as:

Because I don't often fly on Frontier and wasn't familiar with their e-ticket process (and wasn't paying attention), I opened the zip file which had the following file in the extraction list:

Nothing that anyone sends you should ever be an "exe" file as they are executable files (a program that will run some form of code, in this case, malicious).

This was one of the more clever attempts at infecting through e-mail that I have seen in a while and wanted to make sure everyone keeps their "eye of suspicion" out during the summer flying season!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Almost Finished

By Marcia Mickelson

Thanks to Tristi Pinkston's Book In A Month Challenge, I am almost finished editing my manuscript, One On One. I made the goal to edit 1.5 hours a day for six days a week during the month of July. I have done very well in keeping my goal. I have about two hours left of editing to finish. Then, I will print it out, read through it one final time, and hopefully submit it.

I spent a lot of time working last week. On Friday, I decided to leave the house for a little while to finish up a scene. In our new home, I don't have an office where I can close the door like I did in our old house. The office is an extension of the living room. I gave up the office and decided to let the kids have playroom with the extra bedroom. If only I could get them to actually play in the playroom. They spend most of the time playing in the living room which doesn't offer much quiet time in the living room.

Also, can I say that my kids are never thirsty or hungry when I'm gone. As soon as I walk in the house, it's "Mom, can I have a snack?" "Mom, I'm thirsty." And I have to say: "Weren't you thirsty two minutes ago before I came home when Dad could have gotten you a drink?" No, they're only thirsty or hungry when I'm here.

So, I thought it would be best to go out for a while. I only had about an hour an a half before we had to pick up my son from Cub Day Camp, so I didn't want to go too far away. I opted to go to Bill Miller's Bar-B-Que, a fast food place and find a quiet corner. It was after lunch, so there weren't many people there. Also, I had already eaten lunch, so I wasn't very hungry. I ordered a drink and a loaf of bread. They have very yummy bread, but I think most people order it to take home. The lady looked at me kind of weird. I wasn't ordering a meal; just a drink and bread to stay, not to go. She asked me if I wanted it sliced, so I said 'sure.' The guy doing the order seemed puzzled. "She wants it sliced?" he asked her. "All of it?" Yes, all of it. I know they thought I was all kinds of weird.

So I took my bread and Coke and found a quiet corner. I was able to write for an hour and a half and am just so very close to finishing this thing. In my Bill Miller encounter, I think I just reiterated the fact that writers are just weird.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Heaven Scent

by Marsha Ward

Thanks a lot, Rebecca! You made me cry. Not to mention stay up too late!

Last night I read Rebecca Talley's novel, Heaven Scent, from cover to cover. What a gripping, compelling read!

It's a story of a young woman taking upon herself the task of putting back together her unraveling family--just as so many teenagers do, thinking somehow it's their job to do that. I was right there in Liza Compton's head, trying to figure out how to get my dad to pay attention to me like he used to do.

Then when something happened in the plot, I inwardly groaned, Oh no! It's a "Deus ex machina!" But I kept going, and soon I mumbled, "Yeah, but it worked, and it worked well."

This tale of overcoming unspeakable tragedy and getting on the road to emotional and physical recovery and reconciliation is a must read, for young people and adults, as well.

Thanks, Rebecca!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Writing Frenzy

By Tamra Norton

I'd love to blog today, but I'm busy writing! Yup, I'm right in the middle of a full blown writing frenzy! And I'm sooooooo close to the end of my manuscript I can taste it. Feel it. Smell it! I'm so close I can hardly think of anything and I can hardly even sleep.

Is this normal? Healthy? Good for the environment?

Oh well... It's summertime and I'm riding with it (since I can't afford to drive anywhere else). :)

I've missed my blogging Tuesdays and connecting with y'all, but I promise, a few missed weeks will be worth it when this project is done. And I also promise I'll be back to blogging soon.

Wish me luck! My self imposed deadline is THIS Saturday! :)

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Contest on My Blog

I am sponsoring a contest on my blog in celebration of my 14th wedding anniversary on July 21. Come on over and see if you can win one of my books.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Feelin' Kinda Weird

by Marsha Ward

I can't believe I didn't post last week. I actually thought I did, but things have been sort of weird lately. Having finished and submitted my novel, I feel like I'm in a lull, a down-time. You might say my writing field is set aside as fallow.

I tried to join Tristi Pinkston's Book in a Month, but I can't force myself to write, so I bowed out. I guess I need to be still, do some long-put-off reading, and prepare for the next phase, when it comes.

In the meantime, I saw a really awesome movie on the Fourth of July, Emma Smith: My Story. In my little rural area, we have a town of about 12,000 people (actually, I live out of town, but go in for shopping, etc.). There is a small six-screen theatre in town. The owners are members of the LDS Church. Their family arranged to have four free showings of the movie on their tab for the LDS community's benefit: two on Friday, and two on Saturday. I went with a girlfriend, and although we couldn't sit together, we got in and both enjoyed the movie. Then we went to lunch. I had a nice time, talking with her about liberty, and the War of 1812, and her visit to Fort McKinley, and the circumstances that led to Francis Scott Key's writing what became our National Anthem.

It was a good day.

But I still feel weird.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Bragging Rights

As the mother of a musical prodigy, I'd like to claim my bragging rights. Yes, it's true, I have a musically talented six year old child. I always knew she had an ear for music, literally. Her violin teacher announced recently that she could play nearly anything she heard, but she wasn't learning the notes on the page. We're still working on reading music, but it's coming.

This last couple of weeks have been especially fun as she's experimenting more with her music. My husband found a song on You Tube and cranked up the volume. From the basement my daughter began playing along with it on her violin. It's one she's played before, but it had been quite a while since she'd even looked at the song. Then the other day she began playing a song on the piano that was currently playing on the radio! She doesn't really even play the piano, or hasn't. Now she's playing her violin songs on the piano too, from ear.

We've decided she has music in her soul. She can't do a thing without humming or singing. Her cars on the Xbox games even sway to the music that's pouring from her cute little lips. She's memorized nearly every song on our karaoke game and can sing all the words to songs like "We are Family" and "Play that Funky Music."

A few nights ago we retired to the basement for a jam session, my husband on drums, my older daughter on guitar and me on bass ... the sun fell and my six year old drifted off to sleep, her foot still tapping out the beat.

Fireworks on the Beach

By Marcia Mickelson

I haven't gone to fireworks in a long time. We tried taking my oldest son when he was two, but he freaked out. The sound really scared him and he screamed. We left immediately and didn't try again. The blow dryer, electric mixer, and vacuum were all scary sounds for him, and we had to always take him outside when we used any of those items. Slowly, he's outgrown the fear of loud sounds.

Fireworks has always been scary for him and my middle son. On New Year's Eve, our neighbors like to set off fireworks and every year, we could count on my kids being woken up, terrified in the middle of the night. For the last several years, our ritual has been to take them in the car and drive out of the city where they couldn't hear any of the fireworks. Sometimes, we'd stay away for an hour or two until we knew it was safe to come home.

Last Fourth of July, my kids were brave and decided we would try some fireworks at home. I was so proud of them. The two oldest did very well and were not scared at all. Our 2 year old got a bit freaked and had to go inside.

This year, my two oldest continued in their courageous journey and agreed to go see a real firework show on the Fourth of July. We drove to Corpus Christi Beach and set a blanket out on the sand along with a huge crowd of people who wanted to see the show. We had about an hour and a half before the show began, so my kids played in the sand and water a little. We didn't bring our swimsuits like many other people had done, but they dipped their feet in the water. It was so fun to play on the beach as the sky darkened around us. At 9:30, the fireworks were to begin. A little before that, some people started setting off a few of their own fireworks as sort of a preamble. At first, my 2 year old was very scared and wanted to go home. He cried a little and then clung to me. When Dad came back from taking my oldest to the bathroom, baby went right to him and laid by him on the blanket. I think he knew Dad was the real protector in the family. The fear wore away slowly and when the real show began at 9:30, he wasn't scared anymore. He actually enjoyed watching the colors. Amazingly, the real fireworks were not as loud as the other ones. I think because of our location, the wind drove away the loud sounds and it was just perfect.

All three of my boys enjoyed the show and the older two never showed an inkling of fear. I was so proud of all my boys. This was a huge step for the Mickelson family. We can actually enjoy fireworks now instead of running away from them from now on.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Screen Dreams

by Elodia Strain

I cried while watching The Devil Wears Prada. And Must Love Dogs. And In Her Shoes. And P.S. I Love You.

For me, the girl who cries when cute little kids jump off the diving board at the public pool, this is nothing all that unusual.

But what is unusual is that I didn’t cry during the actual movies—well, except for P.S. I Love You. I bawled through that entire thing. I swear, the people at Kleenex must have worked out some deal with the screenwriter—I cried during the opening credits.

That’s right, the opening credits. When that little line showed up, “Based on the novel by:” I got all goosebumpy and felt myself welling up.

There was just something about knowing someone’s book, someone’s baby, had taken one more beautiful step toward reality. Real live people were about to act out the story someone had created. In real live places. Wearing real live clothes.

It really is crazy, how many books are being adapted for the screen these days. I recently Netflixed a made-for-TV movie called See Jane Date, based on the novel by Melissa Senate. I’m eagerly awaiting February ’09—the release date of the Shopaholic movie. And while in the theater waiting to watch the new Indiana Jones flick, I saw the preview for the much anticipated Twilight. I gripped my husband’s arm tight with excitement, not so much because I can’t wait to see the movie, but simply because there is a movie.

And, I’ll admit it, because it’s kind of fun to dream about what it would be like. To see, “based on the novel by: Elodia Strain” on the screen. Maybe someday I will. Even if it’s just on a three-minute, 1D animation I pay my little brother to make and post on You Tube.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Home Alone...Almost

By Tamra Norton

This week is very unusual for me because I'm almost home alone. Yeah--that NEVER happens for me. As a homeschooler and mother of seven, with all college kids home this summer to boot, I never get to be home alone. And this week, I'm still not home alone exactly...but almost! Confused?

Lemme 'splain...

My 48-year-old works all week (well, he gets Friday off). My #1 and #2 are working full time this summer--they're never home during the day and basically do their own thing anyway. My #3 is spending 2 weeks with cousins in Oklahoma. My #4 is at EFY (a church youth camp) all week. My #5 is at Boy Scout Camp all week (and I hope he's not turning into a tomato). That leaves #6 (age 9), #7 (age 6) and ME (Age 29 and 177 months).

What to do? What to do?

Well, I'll tell you exactly what I'm doing. I'm WRITING! And it feels great. I've set some goals. I've put the family on notice. And I've told everyone that THIS IS MY WEEK FOR WRITING.

So far so good. I've been quite productive, and REALLY hope to finish my "fairy tale." It's coming along great!

Stay tuned next week to hear how things went.