Friday, October 31, 2008

The Book Was Better!

There's a reason people say, "The book was better."

When we who love to read get involved in a story we see things a certain way, we experience the book individually. I've heard that the same book is never the same to various readers, and I believe that. Reading is a unique, usually solitary experience and the reader finds herself living that book in her own way until she discusses it with others and broadens her perspective on it. Maybe she'll agree with other opinions, maybe she won't, but she comes away from the book with her own feelings about it.

J.K. Rowling once said that a young girl standing in a signing line was a little upset that there were so many other people there, that she felt Harry Potter was her book. I love that! And it's one of the reasons that I sometimes have a hard time with audio versions- it's like the reader is intruding on my experience or something. I know, weird.

The reason I bring all of this up is because I was thinking the other day about one of my very favorites, The Count of Monte Cristo, and the movie version that came out in 2002. I have loved the book for ages. I suggested it for my local book club, we read it, and then went and saw the movie together. (Should have seen us all, a bunch of married Mormon women, staring at the screen with our mouths agape at James Caviezel).

But other than the eye candy, I was really unhappy with the way the story had been totally altered.

I mean completely.

Why does it have to be that way? Monte Cristo gets a happy ending in the book! Why couldn't Hollywood have stayed true to the story?

It's funny to listen to my kids say, "That didn't happen in the book," when they watch movies. And one of my favorite memories along those lines was when I was first married and my husband had read John Grisham's The Firm. When the movie came out, we sat in the theater with him muttering the that-didn't-happen litany through the whole of it. The reason I was so tickled by this is because my husband isn't a reader.

So, I'd have to say that overall, the book is better than the movie. My Junior English Seminar teacher at Ogden High School once told us that this was true for every movie she'd seen except for the movie adaptation of A Separate Peace. I hated both the book and the movie, so I can't say I agree with her.

What about you? Can you think of any movies out there that are better than the books? Have you seen a movie adaptation that made your blood boil because it was such a shame they slaughtered your favorite book so much?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


by Marsha Ward

Do you ever get the feeling that you're drowning in all life has brought to you?

That's how I feel today. I thought last week was bad, when a dear friend died. I thought yesterday was bad, when I got a rejection on a major piece of writing. Then today's news happened, out of the blue with a phone call, and I have some things to really cry about.

Sometimes I wish I were a turtle and could pull my head in and ignore the world. That's not gonna happen, though. I've got to buck up and muddle through everything. Wish me luck!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Keyword Articles

I told my husband the other day that we should sell our house. So what if the economy is slow, house prices have dropped and we really don't want to move? I know how to sell the house, every last detail from putting in on the market to preparing it for an open house. I even know the steps to a successful closing! I also know how to repeat keywords so they don't sound repetitive.

Yeah, I just finished a series of keyword articles on selling a home. Now I'm working on the wonders of Utah. I'm no sports fan, but I can now tell you the names of every professional and semi-professional sports team in Utah, what they play and where. I can also tell you that the Utah Jazz originated in New Orleans in the 70s and moved to Salt Lake City in 1979 where John Stockton and Karl Malone earned names for themselves, but I won't bore you with the details.
Some of it has actually been fun and educational ... oh, and it's a paying job ... and now I'm exhausted.

I just updated the online calendar for the chamber and can tell you every upcoming event in the Cedar City area from now until Christmas. Anyone coming to visit soon? I'll direct you to the right location. How about a bonfire and smores at Brian Head on Christmas Eve? Sounds fun to me, but cold ... too cold.

I think soon ... very soon ... I'll be ready to get lost in a good book and I just happen to have one started in my Word program.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Family: A Proclamation to the World

posted by Marsha Ward - In this time of grave concern about political and judicial assaults upon the institution of the family, I thought it was appropriate to remind or inform our readers of the following.

The First Presidency and Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:

"We, the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, solemnly proclaim that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.

"All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.

"In the premortal realm, spirit sons and daughters knew and worshipped God as their Eternal Father and accepted His plan by which His children could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection and ultimately realize their divine destiny as heirs of eternal life. The divine plan of happiness enables family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave. Sacred ordinances and covenants available in holy temples make it possible for individuals to return to the presence of God and for families to be united eternally.

"The first commandment that God gave to Adam and Eve pertained to their potential for parenthood as husband and wife. We declare that God’s commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force. We further declare that God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife.

"We declare the means by which mortal life is created to be divinely appointed. We affirm the sanctity of life and of its importance in God’s eternal plan.

"Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. “Children are an heritage of the Lord” (Psalm 127:3). Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one another, observe the commandments of God, and be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations.

"The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity. Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities. By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation. Extended families should lend support when needed.

"We warn that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God. Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.

"We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society."

This proclamation was read by President Gordon B. Hinckley as part of his message at the General Relief Society Meeting held September 23, 1995, in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Grandma Love

By Tamra Norton

Last week I experienced something truly amazing--the birth of my first grandbaby. I was able to be with my daughter when she gave birth, and even though I've been through the process seven times myself, it was a completely new experience in the role of Grandma. Here was my baby having a baby. I was terrified, overjoyed, and everything in between. But my baby did great, and her baby is absolutely incredible--I'm sure the most brilliant grandbaby in the universe. (But I'm not prejudice or anything...)

Monday, October 20, 2008


I know it's my blog day, but it's been a long one ... Short and sweet: I've had to put my novel aside for a little bit to work on some keyword articles, lots of them. It's a change of pace, but as always I'll be glad to get back to work on what really fulfills me.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

I Can't Kill Him

By Marcia Mickelson

I haven't written in over a week. My BIAM goal is not going well. I have to kill one of my characters, and I just don't think I can do it. I've researched several times the symptoms of his death. I know exactly how he's going to die and why he has to, but as I sit down to write that scene, I can't kill him.

I'm so close to finishing this book; less than 10,000 words to go. All I have to do is kill him. I don't think I've killed any of my characters before. In Reasonable Doubt, one of the characters is already dead as the book opens, so I don't think that counts.

This is the first time I've had to kill someone, and I think that's the reason I'm having some writer's block. I really want to finish this book, and my goal was to have it done by the end of the month. I don't think it's going to happen. He still needs to die and I will do it, but I just don't know when. Maybe I need a few more days off and then I'll try again.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Greatness vs. Mediocrity

When I was 17 years old, I had my wisdom teeth removed over a long weekend from school and my parents rented the movie, "Amadeus." Imagine me bawling my guts out with a swollen face as they dump Mozart's body into a common grave and then poor that guck all over it to make it decompose faster.

Yeah. Nice wisdom teeth memory.

But what has stuck with me from that movie is the whole concept of Greatness vs. Mediocrity. Here we have Salieri, a nice enough composer, who is forever coming in second, (or third, or fourth), to Mozart, who was lecherous and scandalous. Salieri was a God-fearing man who couldn't comprehend that God would put such incredible talent into what he perceives as such a sinful vessel.

At the end of the movie, we are led to assume that Salieri poisoned Mozart and Salieri is in an "insane assylum" for trying to end his own life. He is wheeled down the hallway with his throat all bandaged and is basically calling himself the king of mediocrity as all of the other unfortunate inmates are running around half-crazed.

For YEARS that scene has haunted me as a writer. At times I have found it almost paralyzing as I try to write stories knowing full well that there are so many works of genius in the world that the best I can ever hope for is to be someday wandering around with a bandaged throat and calling myself the Queen of Mediocrity.

Somehow I've managed to stumble through this funky mind block and produce a few books. Some have been well received by readers, others have not appreciated my efforts so much. I've reached the point where my skin has thickened a bit and I'm able to try to focus my attention on all of the people who have said positive things about what I've tried to do.

But still! I'm no Chaim Potok. I'm no Dickens or Austen or Bronte. I'm no Barbara Kingsolver or Kaye Gibbons or Sandra Dallas. I'm no Tom Clancy or Stephen King or my personal hero, Frederick Douglass. So where does that leave me? What am I to do with that?

I'll tell you what.

I had an incredible epiphany a couple of years ago. I was thinking about classical music and how much of it leaves me in a real downer. I've played piano since the age of 8 and had a mother who loved classical music, so I'm no stranger to a lot of it. But man, some of it depresses me so much. Mozart is rarely an exception to this, for me. So as I was loading some music onto an iPod a while back, I loaded Vivaldi, some Handel and three select pieces of Grieg for their sentimental value, having grown up with a Norwegian mother who was often homesick.


I realized that as brilliant as he was, and as much of a genius as he was, I didn't want him on my iPod. Other than his Queen of the Night Aria, he depresses the blazes out of me!

And I started to realize something else. If I had only a few reading choices left to me in this life, as much as I admire Dickens, I don't think I'd pick him. Don't even know that I'd pick Potok, whom I love. I'd pick some fun, escape fiction.


Genre fiction? That's my choice if stranded on a desert island? Yes. (Aside from the scriptures, which is a given. I mean, come on). I would choose something that would lift my mood and spirits, and for me, genre fiction- romance, thrillers, mystery- that does it for me.

So while Mozart is indeed a genius and beloved by so many, and he deserves to be, he's not my favorite. And it's ok. And it's ok that I'm not a writing genius. I've received a few emails and letters here and there from people who say I've given them some reading enjoyment and it warms my heart like no other. I've been able to give people a few hours of reading pleasure and provide for them the same kind of experience I love to have as a reader. I am at peace with my talents and my limitations. I hope to live another 40 or 50 years and continue to improve my craft. I absolutely love what I do and that is such a blessing.

I guess, in the end, even if I am wheeled around in a crappy old wheelchair and moving my hand in circles like the queen at my mediocrity subjcts, I can die happy knowing that for a little bit, I helped someone escape and have a fun reading experience. I lifted a mood for a bit.

Like Vivaldi. :-)

Monday, October 13, 2008

At it Again...

So I've been at it again, making little movies on my home computer to share trips with others. As it got cold outside I had to revisit my Samoa photos and today, a trip to Kolob.

We love to hike and one of our favorite places to go is Kolob Canyon! Ah, so pretty, prettier than through the main entrance of Zion National Park, of which it is a part. We've hiked this particular trail several times, in the summer, winter and fall. It started as a research trip for a novel and became a favorite place.

I took lots of landscape photos the first time out ... did I ever mention I love photography? Anyway, it's a hike to the double arch alcove. Anyone been there? It's about five miles round trip, but it's not too hard. My six year old has done it twice.

There's another hike up Kolob we're thinking of taking soon, it's over 20 miles up the canyon, where you spend the night rustic style and hike back again. Of course, we'd leave the littler ones home and wait for it to warm up before we commit!

I'm always looking for great places to go hiking and visiting. What are your favorite spots to travel?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

You Stay Here

By Marcia Mickelson
Here's my three year old hugging his cousin. It's funny how the exact same phrase can mean different things in different circumstances. When he doesn't want me to leave the house, he'll say, "Mom, you stay here."

A few weeks ago, my parents were visiting and they wanted to take him to Burger King while the other two were at school. I was helping him into his car seat and he said to me, "Mom, you stay here." He didn't want me to go with them; he wanted special time with Grandma and Grandpa. That was fine by me. I had somewhere to go anyway.

It just makes me laugh that the exact same phrase meant two different things.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Things to do Before I Turn Thirty

by Elodia Strain

Back in college my friends and I were big fans of the TV show Friends. One epiode I remember well is: “The One Where They All Turn Thirty--” which shows the characters’ thirtieth birthdays. In this episode, Phoebe, who was always my favorite of the female characters, spends her day catching up on her list of things she wanted to do before she turned thirty.

Well, this month I celebrated my birthday. And, since I’m now a lot closer to thirty than I am to twenty, I thought it might be fun to start my own list of things I want to do before I reach this milestone birthday.

Here are a few of the things on my list:

  • Write a book that gets reviewed by Kirkus Reviews

  • Go to Hawaii

  • Watch my favorite movies in Spanish

  • Know enough about my iPod that I don’t have to ask my husband for help anymore

  • Know the moves on my favorite dance-workout DVDs as well as the instructor

  • Re-read the classics I read in high school

  • Go on more adventures with my husband

  • Find the perfect pair of jeans

  • Be able to lower my heels completely in yoga’s Downward Dog pose

  • Learn at least one song on the guitar

  • Become a favorite aunt

  • Design and sew my own grocery totes

  • And finally, because I believe in shooting for the stars, become the answer to a Trivial Pursuit question

    So what’s on your list? What do you want to do before you turn 30, 40, 50, 60, 70?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Location, location, location

Not long ago I read a discussion some fellow authors were having about how they see strangers in a crowd and begin to imagine stories about that person. I could relate to this author oddity, which is probably shared by a lot of other imaginative people as well, but I realized that even stronger for me than people is the setting.

How strange! When stories are all about characters, why is the biggest trigger for me the place? I don't really know. All I know is when I see an old Victorian home that could be fantastically beautiful but looks slightly eerie, I imagine all kinds of gothic romance. That slight twinge of scary along with the promise of a brave heroine and a tortured but dashing hero who will be ultimately emotionally saved by that brave heroine...Ah! Such good stuff!

The first four books I wrote are what I call Romantic Adventures. I don't know anyone in real life who would have these things happen to them. But so much of these books, to me, were the settings. I picked places I want to go see. The first, Love Beyond Time, was a Civil War time travel. (A noble enough first effort, but kind of hokey). The second, No Time for Love, takes place in London, Greece and South America. The third, (my personal favorite and is now, ironically enough, out of print), A Time for the Heart is set on an archaeological dig in Guatemala, and the fourth, Echoes, (recently re-released and available wherever fine books are sold), takes place in Savannah, Georgia and the Tuscany region of Italy.

Now, of course, I do extensive character sketching and back story in my personal notes before I ever even begin to write a book. I plot like crazy and make notes to myself to keep all the twists and turns straight. But oh, how I love the setting. And as a reader, with a delicious setting I can almost forgive weak characters or silly plotting. Weeelll, maybe that's actually stretching things a bit, but you see what I mean.

How about you? Where does setting fall in your list of priorities, either as a reader or a writer?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Dashner Does Houston

By Tamra Norton

My good buddy James Dashner, author of The 13th Reality: The Journal of Curious Letters, published by Shadow Mountain came to H-town for a week of school visits and Barnes&Noble events, so of course, I insisted he stay at "Hotel Norton" while he had events in the northern parts of my fair city.

Knowing James was coming and doing his presentation to a bajillion elementary schools, I asked if he wouldn't mind doing his presentation for the homeschoolers and others in my area. After a quick visit with the lovely Rebecca Denham, YA librarian at the awesome Barbara Bush Branch of the Harris County Public Library, the gig was scheduled, and I was psyched. I've seen James in action numerous times--even team taught a few classes with him--so I knew his presentation would be fantastic and get the kids pumped about reading, writing, and "Changing the World"--the theme of his book tour. He did that, and more!

I don't want to give away too much of James' presentation, but if you've ever been curious about what The Dude looks like in tights... Well, I've already said too much. But here are some photos, complements of the incredible and lovely Sunbum.

Me, James and my two youngest kiddos.
Every kid went home with an autographed poster.
And a bookmark!

The maaaahvelous Sunbum (my adopted daughter, if her mom would let me) and her fave author.

"Friends of the Library" not only had books for sale, but a nice spread of cookies, fruit and vegetable trays, punch and even cheese (which James gobbled up before anyone arrived).
What happens when James eats too much cheese!

James and me at Nauvoo Books--the rockin'-est bookstore in Houston!

Come back again, James...but maybe not during hurricane season! :)

Monday, October 6, 2008

Halloween ...

Halloween ... again? It's coming and I've committed to dressing up, again. Okay, so I had a ball last year, but can't quite figure out how to top the costume. I mean how can you top a punk rock outfit and blue hair?

My daughter picked out the clothes at our local D.I. and my best friend did my hair ... oh, she's an abstract artist ... a good one, so you can imagine! We were actually going for a mohawk, but no amount of gel could keep it upright, so we settled for this peacock looking do.

Now? Well, we've entertained multiple ideas. One friend has already ordered a French maid outfit, but that's not quite something I can even imagine! We've even talked of going as the Spazmatics, but seriously, who wants to dress up as a nerd? Oh well, a few more weeks and a couple more trips to second-hand stores and something will have to surface.

Anybody have any grand ideas?

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Watching People

By Marcia Mickelson

I'm a people watcher. I watch people. I can't help it. I think that partly, it's the writer in me. I just am so curious about people, what they're doing, where they're going. I hope I don't come off as rude sometimes because I'm staring at them, but people watching has helped me come up with story ideas or characters.

I might get a face in my head and think about that person's story or else I might come back to them later if I'm trying to imagine what one of my characters looks like. With the story I'm working on right now, I have the image of a woman I saw at a parade once. She was middle aged, had red hair and delicate facial features. She is now my character, Vivian, the main character's mother who is actually dead. She is just exactly what Vivian is supposed to look like. I spent a good part of the parade watching this woman--she just seemed so right. I hope she didn't think I was weird. Actually, I am weird.

I am now on the lookout for what my character, David, is supposed to look like. I am constantly watching people tyring to find the perfect David. I once saw a man at a pizza place that almost looked like him, but I didn't get a very good look at him and can't recall exactly what he looked like. He probably would have thought I was rude if I asked to take a picture of him for the character I was writing. I can't do that. But, I'm still on the lookout. Hopefully, no one out there will think me weird.

A few weeks ago, I was at Home Depot where there was a huge line of people waiting for plywood to cover windows in preparation for the hurricane. I couldn't help myself. I had to look at the line over and over again. It was such a curious phenomenon, and I kept looking at them. One man in line even asked me, "you looking at the animals at the zoo?" I was so embarrassed. I didn't mean to be rude, but I'm just a people watcher. I felt pretty bad about that. I'll just have to be more discreet from now on.

Well, if I find my David, I'll let you know. Until then, I'm still looking.

Friday, October 3, 2008

In Defense of Cinderella

Ok, so this is so lame in comparison to Tamra's blog! That was absolutely incredible. I love reading first-hand accounts and that was amazing. Tamra, I'm so glad you're all well and whole.

Now, this is a topic that has absolutely no socially redeeming value. I've posted it on my personal blog and now share it here in hopes someone will agree with me on this one! :-)

I've been thinking, lately, about Cinderella. The old one of Disney fame, not the newer versions.When I was a girl, I loved this movie. As I got older, I still loved this movie, but felt like I shouldn't because Cinderella really was just a dork who was waiting to be rescued by a man.

Now that I've given it more thought, I've decided that the Cinderella of Walt Disney's creation was quite ahead of her time. Ok, so she didn't have the wherewithal to leave her nasty stepmother on her own to find gainful employment as a governess or ladies' maid somewhere, but she did the brave thing by going to the ball at all, even after she'd been totally roughed up by the stepsisters.

When my daughter was young, I let her watch Snow White, but every time that scene came on where she sings (in that horrible shotgun vibrato!) "I'm dreaming for the one I love, to find" I'd snap under my breath that she ought to be dreaming of a scholarship instead. But really, much as I hate to admit it because I think Snow White is ugly, (I am so shallow), she did the brave thing too, by running into the woods, away from the knife-wielding henchman and facing all the scary forest creatures. (Who really turned out to be cute and cuddly and most helpful). And then she set up shop in a house full of men and totally took charge.

So, as much as I took the feminist high road about a decade ago, I've come around to the belief that, although not optimal choices given today's world, those princesses did pretty well for themselves.

Plus, I really still want a Cinderella dress-up dress. (And a tiara).

Thursday, October 2, 2008

I Don't Like Ike

By Tamra Norton
The good thing about a hurricane is that you know it's
coming. The evening news shows a big, orange swirly
blob in the south Atlantic, and our greatest hope is
that the swirly blob we'll never receive a name . . . because
then it gets personal. It becomes that annoying relative you
hope never visits. But odds are, eventually, ready or not,
that annoying relative will come . . . and it's not gonna be
fun! It does, however, give us a "heads up" to clean out our

The bad thing about a hurricane is that you know it's coming.
And as much as we don't want to, everyone goes into panic
mode. At the grocery store, there's a rush on bread, water, and
Spam (never mind that its nutritional value is questionable at
best). Thankfully, the stuff is yummy—especially fried—and
hurricane season is the only time this mommy will buy it.
There are lines at the gas station, Home Depot, and the
bank. Neighbors take down trampolines and put away yard
furniture. Some put up plywood over their windows.

And then we wait . . .

Three days before Ike made landfall, just northeast of
Houston, the craziness began. And though I felt we were
somewhat prepared, I still went out and purchased more of the
essentials. I mean, who wants to be caught in the middle of a
hurricane without Spam? (Our last supply was ravenously
consumed the week after the last hurricane threat). And since
I really didn't want to break into the fifty-gallon water barrels
disguised as furniture under tablecloths in the corners of my
bedroom, I went out and bought a dozen jugs of water and
extra batteries. (Thanks to GameBoy, I can't seem to keep
them stocked in this houseful of videogame-aholics.)

Friday afternoon, anticipation of the looming storm was
palpable. With gray skies and wind already stirring the tall
pines, magnolias, and elms of our neighborhood, we tried to
settle in. After the fiasco of Hurricane Rita three years earlier,
where the Houston freeways became clogged, those of us
living inland (we're 70 miles in, on the northwest side of
town) were asked by the mayor to hunker down so those
near the coast could safely evacuate. Even before a drop of
rain fell, the streets of Galveston were flooding. We were
glued to the television as slowly, the storm approached and
the sun set. They said it would arrive sometime between
twelve and two.

Since we don't have an "inner room" in our house except the
bathroom, we decided that the hallway and bathroom would
be the safest place for our little Hurricane-Ike slumber party.
After thoroughly scrubbing the bathroom (normally used by
three boys—yeah, you're feeling my pain already), I pulled
twin-size mattresses into our hallway and a crib mattress into
the bathroom. I even made a bed inside the bathtub for my
six-year-old. (She won't stay in her own bed all night, so I
have no idea why I thought she might sleep in a bathtub-bed
during a hurricane. Wishful thinking, I guess).

At 10:15 p.m. while watching the news, the lights went out.
Little did we know just how long it would be before our
precious electricity would be restored. My husband decided
to sleep in our bed, my twenty- and twenty-two-year-old
daughters slept in the room next to ours (away from the
window), so this brave momma-bear hunkered down in the
hall with her cubs—a twelve- and sixteen-year-old, while
the ten- and six-year-old occupied the bathroom off the hall
(probably the safest spot in the house).

When the flashlights finally went out at about 11:30, the
house was already hotter than h&!!. Houston's nickname—
H-town—is for more than one reason . . . and I don’t mean
hurricanes. Between the soaring wind, giggling six-year-old
(now sleeping at my head—picture the letter T) and sweltering
heat, I could not sleep. And that's when I had a brilliant idea.
With flashlight in hand, I wandered into the kitchen, opened
the freezer, and quickly grabbed the first cold thing I could
get my hands on—a frozen ball of leftover bread dough. This
ball, soon-to-turn blob, was my constant companion for the
remainder of the night. Forget about the husband, batteryoperated
radio, flashlight, and even water. All I wanted—
needed—was my blob of cold dough (confined within its
trusty zip-lock bag and plastered to my stomach or back) and
I'd survive this thing.

I think I dozed a bit—maybe an hour—and woke up feeling
like I was sleeping on the floor of a laundromat with every
dryer running with a handful of loose change thrown in. I'm
not sure what all debris was knocking against the living room
and family room windows, but the entire front and side of our
house was being pelted good. The wind was relentless. I
checked the time on my cell phone—2:00 a.m. We were in
the thick of it! At the same time, as if on cue, Dennis came
out of the bedroom. We were both absolutely stunned by the
violent roar of Ike. We grabbed the battery operated radio—
my lifeline for the next eight days—and started out into the
family room to listen . . . but quickly turned tail back to the
safety of the hallway. In a word, we were spooked. The tall
ceilings and large windows of the family and living rooms
suddenly felt very unsafe.

For the remainder of the night, we were stuck on the
"laundromat floor" listening to Ike's wrath. Due to the
noise, we all remained awake most of the night, dosing only
occasionally. We were hot and rattled, but we were together,
and we definitely felt the protective hand of the Lord.

By about 6:00 a.m. the winds had died down considerably
(although the storm wouldn't completely leave until about
noon). The view from our front door was like a vegetative war
zone. Tree limbs and foliage were strewn everywhere. We also
noticed that one section of our living room carpet under a
window was completely rain-soaked. With three very
absorbent towels, we sopped up the water over and over, and
wrung out the towels outside—for a good forty-five minutes.

We'd also noticed a few roof leaks during the storm and had
placed buckets and bowls underneath. One section of ceiling
in the master bedroom, roughly the size of a dinner plate, was
especially bad (actually starting to droop). This was directly
under an old antenna on the roof which should have been
removed long ago—grrrr. The winds had jostled it completely
loose, leaving an opening for all that rain to leak through.
When we received a second rainstorm the night after the
hurricane, it caused this section of ceiling to collapse, leaving
a gaping hole the size of previously mentioned dinner plate
between the attic and my bedroom. (More on this later.)

Well, I could go on and on, but at this point I think I'll just
offer in bullet points some random thoughts for those who
find themselves in the path of an oncoming hurricane.

» The scripture is absolutely true—if we are prepared, we
shall not fear. I'm so grateful I didn't have to brave the
grocery store and gas lines (at the very few stores and gas
stations that were even open) after Ike blew through. I
literally saw fifty-car gas lines, and every open gas station
was patrolled by police officers. Can you say scarynutzomania?!!!
The FEMA POD (Point of Distribution) across
from the grocery store where my kids work was insanely
chaotic. Again, more lines, more police officers. I'm glad
the food, water, and ice were available for those who
needed it, but I'm grateful that we didn't.

» Bathing in cold water really isn't all that bad when it's 500
degrees outside.

» Bathing in cold water is miserable for the first four days
after the hurricane when it has cooled off to the 80s (mid
60s at night). This is when we started to boil water . . . to
BATHE in (still had plenty of drinking water).

» After a hurricane, when you've boiled bathing water,
you are absolutely fine with—and even encourage—the
sharing of said bath water (especially when you are first
or second to use it—these things usually go by age).
And after everyone has bathed, you then use the same,
still fairly warm and quite cloudy water, to wash clothes.
Waste not, want not! :) We have eight bodies living at
home. NO WAY could we go eight days without doing
laundry. I think I counted four batches in the eight days
(the last of which was still on the rigged-up clothes line
when electricity was restored, and therefore re-washed).

» Blessed are the neighbors who own a generator and are willing
to run an extension cord to our house! Our dear neighbors
asked if we wanted it hooked up to our refrigerator.
We said, "Naah. How about the TV and DVD player?"
Yeah, we have our priorities straight (and we have children
employed at the local grocery store who can bring home ice
each night for the cooler).

» If you'd like incentive to do a speedy clean-up after a
hurricane, invite a famous author friend to stay while on
his book tour the day after you receive electricity. We'd
invited Jeff to stay at Hotel Norton months before the
storm, so I was sweating for more reasons than the heat
when his arrival date was approaching. Five days after
Ike hit, I called Jeff to see if he was still coming (all
schools had been canceled that week . . . and we still had
NO electricity). When his scheduled schools assured
him they'd be open, he tried to locate a hotel, but there
wasn't a room within 50 miles of the outskirts of
Houston. Jeff—the trooper—was prepared to "camp"
with us (though I think he would have preferred a cold
shower to the #9 bathing rank which he would have
received. Hey, we like having guests and all, but c'mon!)
:) Luckily it didn't come to that.

» Lastly, if you have a hole in your bedroom ceiling, fix it—
right away!

Dennis and Josh (our 16-year-old) had repaired all of the leaks
on the roof, but hadn't gotten to the hole in my bedroom
ceiling yet. Early Monday morning at about 5:00 (the day
after Jeff arrived) I was awakened by a huge thump below
"the hole." With trusty flashlight still next to my bed, I
pointed the light toward the hole and determined that a flap
of hanging ceiling must have fallen. Dennis thought it was
one of our two cats playing around. We went back to bed for
an hour.

Fast forward to 9:00 a.m.

I'm reclining in a water-heater heated bathtub, basking in
(and marveling over) such wondrous modern conveniences
as water heaters—not to mention hair dryers, microwaves
and the internet—when I hear my six-year-old daughter
squeaking outside of my bathroom door.

"Moooooommy . . . there's a biiiiiiiig raaaaaaat!"


"Mommy . . . there's a BIIIIIIIG RAAAAAAT!"

I heard her that time. And indeed, there was a big, gray,
furry creature comfortably seated on my bookshelf. Only it
wasn't a rat. It was an opossum—most likely the same one
that had twice been removed by my teenage son from our
garage a few weeks earlier and deposited down the street.
The critter had obviously returned and somehow made its
way through the walls and attic, and had fallen through the
hole in my bedroom ceiling hours earlier. Eeeeeew, ick,
yuck, and all that! This time my brave son caught the critter
and deposited him 20 miles from our home. I truly hope he
never comes back—the opossum OR Ike (or any of his
annoying hurricane relatives).

It was a crazy eight days, but I'd give up fried Spam forever if
we never had to go through that again. Carry on!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Technology is Awesome!

by Marsha Ward

When I read about Robyn's book trailer, then went to see it, I was awestruck at her accomplishment and thought I should go and do likewise - someday. I put the notion of doing a couple of trailers for my novels into the overflowing "to-do someday" section of my brain. Then I set out to find the Movie Maker on my computer so I'd be ready for "someday."

At first I couldn't find it. That must have triggered my "By dang! I'm going to do this now" contrariness quirk, so when I discovered that the software was indeed residing on my 'puter, I launched into a two-day stint of creativity.

Since I had some people check out my first efforts to portray The Man from Shenandoah on electronic video and got good suggestions to implement, and since my second version wasn't quite perfect either, I can't direct you to the exact location of my fledgling book trailer today. However, once I take my handy flash drive into town tomorrow and use my laptop at a free broadband hotspot so the upload doesn't take an hour like today's did, I'll come back here and add the address for youTube.

Besides, youTube is undergoing a scheduled maintenance.

--->youTube address for the Book Trailer is right here<---

In the meantime, let me tell you a bit of how I'm feeling in the aftermath of this outpouring of adrenaline.

I searched for the perfect words, the perfect music, the perfect images to convey the essence of The Man from Shenandoah. In all humility, I had help. This whole Internet thing--the ability to search a myriad of places for resources, the miracle of youTube and similar sites--is simply amazing. I must acknowledge, as well, that as I progressed through this process I had heavenly help. My heart is full of gratitude for the tender mercies I've received in my quest to do the best job I could.

When I began, I found a bunch of pictures that I thought would help sell my book. One by one I pared them out of the film. Instead, I used mostly titles set against a rich almost-maroon background that echoes the book cover. Review quotes are on a color that picks up the grays in the cover. Perfect grace brought me the image of a young red-headed pioneer woman in a red dress.

The first music didn't work for me. Then I found a piece that is lilting, haunting, evocative of the emotions in the novel. When I made my final cut and listened over and over as I watched the images flash by, I was astounded to notice that a certain melodic theme played as the girl stared at me, and it was repeated, more softly, at the sight of the book cover, The Man from Shenandoah himself. I realized that the pizzacato strings under the solo violin and the throbbing *bass viol lines accentuate the fact that these people traveled via animal power, with clip-clopping hooves an ever-present sound. Who would've thunk that a piece by the Baroque master composer Vivaldi would so well suit a tale of distressed Americans on the move to the West?

I didn't.

My soul is soaring.

Edited to add the youTube address.
*Yeah, it might be a cello playing, but my first impression was that it is a string bass, so I wrote it that way.