Wednesday, January 30, 2008

7 Things About Me

by Marsha Ward

1) One of the great things that I've discovered about Blogger is the "Post Options" feature. It allows a poster to customize his or her delivery date and time. So, although I'm posting this a day late, to you it will appear that I'm a normal, on-time sort of person, with all my faculties, instead of an ADD-afflicted klutz. Ha!

Hmmm, I'll go back and make that Number 1. Heh-heh.

2) I finished the manuscript for my next novel yesterday, um, today, er, make that on Wednesday!

3) This is the third time I've "finished" it. It's a totally different book now than it was the first two times.

4) Now I can continue in the frantic novel-reading segment of time that, I suspect, will become a January and February Tradition.

5) That's because I'm a member of the Whitney Academy, and thus a judge in the final round for the Whitney Awards.

6) I'm a member of the Academy because I'm a member of LDStorymakers, Inc.

7) I need to send in my dues. Today! Thank goodness for PayPal!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Rethinking School Visits

Some authors can--and do--charge upwards of $1000 for a one-day author visit to a school. I'll be completely honest--I hope to be one of these authors some day. Because that will mean that kids everywhere know about my books and are reading them. Can it get any better than that (besides becoming a rock star)?

I LOVE the interaction with children that a school visit provides. Over the past 2 years I've spoken to approximately 15,000 students at over 2 dozen schools. I love reading to them, and hearing them laugh at all the right places. I love seeing the spark in the eye of a future Katherine Paterson or Richard Peck as I discuss the importance of "spilling blood" ( in red ink... Okay, it's really called editing or "making corrections"), setting goals, naming characters (hint--don't name the "bad guy" after someone you know, especially if you really don't like them), and how awesome it is to go to work in your pajamas--my favorite part about being an author!

This March I'm going to be in Utah for a week to speak at the LDStorymaker's Writer's Conference on the topic of Writing for Children and Youth on Real World Issues. When planning my trip, I figured in 2 days before the conference and 2 days after the conference to do school visits. I plan on attending 8 elementary schools somewhere between Ogden and Spanish Fork, doing 2 assemblies at each school...and I'm NOT going to charge $1000. Gasp! (Yeah, did I mention I actually want to get IN to the school.) For this mini Utah book tour, not only am I doing the school visits for FREE, I'm even sending the schools 4 complementary copies of my books Make Me a Memory and Make Me a Home (recently released) a few months ahead of my visit.

WHY? You ask.

Because my purpose of this book tour is to spread the word about my books! In order to spread the word somewhere, the door has to be open first. And even if you have an open door, it doesn't mean that the lights will be on, the heater humming, and a punch and cookie spread on the table top. I've done enough school visits over the last few years to know that if the students have read (or been read to) from my books, the energy goes up a notch--no, a gash! Only this gash feels GREAT! They're excited to meet you. The questions are so much more meaningful. The interaction that much more exciting. And, hey, they often want a copy of the book for themselves. A good thing, as I see it.

So if you live in Utah, somewhere between Ogden and Spanish Fork, and want me to speak at your child's school FOR FREE in March, drop me a line at tamra AT tamranorton DOT com. And if you're a blossoming author, get your feet wet doing some school visits. It's likely the closest feeling you'll ever have to being a rock star.

Monday, January 28, 2008

7 Things About Me

Before I get started, I've just got to add a few thoughts ... As I heard about the death of our beloved prophet, I was heartbroken and comforted at the same time. What a glorious reunion it must have been, and how blessed we've been to have known and received instructions from him. I will always carry fond memories of President Hinckley in my heart.

Okay, looks like it's my turn. Seven things about me? Here goes:

1. I love a good adrenaline rush. I love to go rappelling as fast as I can down big cliffs. I love to go rock climbing and even enjoy Jeep'n (the kind where you get a wheel off the ground because the rock obstacle is so steep you feel like you're flipping over and you have to hit the gas before you roll). I enjoy water skiing and motorcycles ....

2. I've always wanted to drive a race car. One day I will go to race car driving school and go fast!

3. I hate roller coasters and most amusement park rides. There's something in my equilibrium that says go on a roller coaster and expect a migraine for the next four weeks. I've tried over and over again to convince my equilibrium that it can be different, but so far we haven't come to an agreement.

4. I'm allergic to milk proteins. It's not the sugars that bother me, but the proteins. If I drink milk, I don't breathe, but I do sneak a little ice cream now and then.

5. I don't have any pets. We used to have horses and had a dog once, but we have no pets now and I see none in the future. I'm quite content with this arrangement.

6. I love to travel! Oh, not anywhere cold, though. Give me a beach or a tropical climate and I'm happy as can be. I love to swim, snorkel, go boating, lounge in the sand, walk the beach, and drink fresh, chilled coconuts from the shell.

7. I'm writing a New York Times best-selling novel. Yes, it's true. I'm working on a novel to rival the DaVinci Code. Oh, and my children say I'm the most positive-thinking person they know. So with that in mind, New York Times, here I come!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

7 Things About Me

By Marcia Mickelson

Stephanie Black at Six LDS Writers and A Frog Blog tagged the Ink Ladies in a seven-things-about-me game. Here's mine. I'm excited to hear the other Ink Ladies' responses as well.

1. I'm an awful cook. I have messed up rice krispy treats and those cookies that people give you with all the ingredients mixed together and all you have to do is add an egg and butter.

2. I have naturally curly hair, which I hate. So, I do everything I can to straighten it.

3. I speak Spanish fluently, but have done an awful job of teaching it to my kids. I'm quite ashamed of it, actually. And I hope to do better. I would love my kids to be bilingual, but it's up to me and I need to do better.

4. I'm a Democrat, but for some reason I love to listen to conservative radio. I don't know why; I don't agree with a lot of what they say. But, I have to listen. I don't listen to the crazies like Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage, but to the sane ones like Michael Medved, Laura Ingraham, and Dennis Prager.

5. I don't buy DVD's. I've bought a couple for my kids, but I don't buy any for myself. Unless you count the Abs of Steel one that I don't use anymore. As far as movies go, I've never bought a movie DVD for myself. I'm too cheap. I prefer to rent them or get them from the library. I just can't justify the expense; I probably won't watch them again.

6. I love being pregnant. It is my absolute favorite time. I miss being pregnant all the time when I'm not which is most of the time. I love the extra eating and the huge belly. I love maternity clothes. I love the amazing feeling inside of me. And, most of all, I love the extra eating. I only have three kids; and I think it will probably only be one more for me. I will be really, really sad after that.

7. I love to watch Charlie Brown shows with my kids.

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Terrible Two

by Elodia Strain

I’ve always kind of wondered why I never really knew how many books starting-out authors (those of us who don't hit the big time right out of the gate, anyway) are selling these days.

I think I know now.

Sure there’s the whole thing about how it varies from author to author and from genre to genre and from publishing house to publishing house. But I think the reason really boils down to the fact that authors guard this information dearly because of The Terrible Two.

And by that I mean the two possible reactions that follow an author's disclosure of how much he/she is selling.

The Terrible Two:
1) If the person asking discovers that the number is lower than she expected, an awkward flow of, “Well, at least you’re doing what you love” and "Well, maybe someday you'll hit it really big like (insert name of latest literary phenom)," ensues and doesn't end soon enough for either party.

2) If the person asking discovers that the number is higher than he expected, he starts to think, "Hmm, I bet I could write a memoir/short story/picture book in my free time and bring in a few Benajmins," and then asks the author for help writing/editing/cover-lettering/agent-hunting, etc.

Just about every author I know has been a party to both of The Terrible Two at some time or another. Have you?

I really think I'm on to something with this. Or maybe after midnight I start to think I'm a lot smarter than I really am. Let me know what you think. (About my theory, not about how the passage of midnight affects my ability to gauge my smartness.)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Taking a sick day

by Marsha Ward

What does a writer do when her stomach and head are doing flip-flops and it's her turn to blog?

I don't know what my fellow Ink Ladies would do, but I'm going to send you over to an Author Interview I did last week on Writer in the Pines with the esteemed leader of our pack and the founder of our blog, Marcia Mickelson.


Monday, January 21, 2008

Getting Directions

We had a party on New Years Eve again, a big one. The house was brimming with family, friends, neighbors ... and I spent nearly the entire evening sitting on the floor getting directions from a New York Times best-selling author.

I think the best instructions we can ever receive come from these one on one chats with people who've tasted success, lived it. Now, I won't say I totally neglected everyone else in the house. I looked up from time to time to make sure there were snacks on the table.

You see, I've struggled with a bit of the plot I've written for my novel-in-progress and so I asked for some advice, and he gave it freely. Wow! Am I ever ready to get moving on my book now, and I have been, which explains why I've missed a couple of weeks on my blog.

Bestselling novels in the mainstream market have several things in common, some of which I neglected when plotting, but have since revised. They have a conflict with nationwide or worldwide consequences. That means, that whatever is happening in your book better affect a lot more people than the immediate characters. They must also have a political angle.

Political? At first I cringed. I don't like politics ... but I've been studying them, and guess what, my plot is stronger than ever. I've introduced more subplots that keep my story moving and I've created a conflict that has been on the front page of every major newspaper.

All in all, I believe I received some spectacular directions for my writing, and I'm following them. David Farland emails a daily writing column to anyone wanting to further their writing. It's full of some of the same advice he gave me that night and so much more. If you're interested in receiving his emails, send a request to

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Watch This Video

Watch this video and help raise money for Autism.

The band, Five for Fighting, is generously donating $0.40 to Autism Speaks for each time this video is viewed. The funding goes toward research studies to help find a cure. When you have a moment, please visit the link below to watch the video and pass it along to your friends and family. They are aiming for 10,000 hits, but hopefully we can help them to surpass this goal.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Missing in Action

By Tamra Norton

So sorry I've been missing in action for the past month...or so. The holidays were wonderfully chaotic at our house. My three oldest are in college (two away from home) so with the gang all home, plus friends in and out, it was truly insane and spectacular.

Then, just as my college crowd was heading back to school, my latest book, MAKE ME A HOME, was released and I've been marketing like a mad woman. With the assistance of Wonderful Melanee at my publisher's office, I've sent out over a dozen review copies that were requested by magazines, newspapers, and support organizations associated with the military. You see, my story is about a 12-year-old girl dealing with the year-long deployment of her soldier father. I like to describe it as a story about the true meaning of family, friends, heroes and home. So far I've had great feedback from many associated with the military. I'm very excited to see what this next month or so brings.

Happy 2008!

2007 Whitney Awards Finalists

by Marsha Ward

Congratulations to the 2007 Whitney Awards Finalists!

The Whitney Awards were created by
LDStorymakers, Inc., an author's guild, to recognize the best fiction written by LDS authors.

The award winners will be announced at the Whitney Gala on March 22, 2008, in Sandy, Utah. Tickets are available
here. They are limited in number, so if you want to be there, don't delay in purchasing your ticket.

Awards will be given in five genre categories, and in two overall categories.

Dragon Slippers, by Jessica Day George; Out of Jerusalem, Vol. 4: Land of Inheritance, by Heather Moore; On the Road to Heaven, by Coke Newell; The Operative, by Willard Boyd Gardner; and Upon the Mountains, by Gale Sears.

Dragon Slippers, by Jessica Day George; Wet Desert, by Gary Hansen; Counting Stars, by Michele Holmes; Beyond the Horizon, by Judy C. Olsen; and On the Road to Heaven, by Coke Newell.

Counting Stars, by Michele Holmes; Desire of Our Hearts, by Sariah Wilson; Eclipse, by Stephenie Meyer; The Independence Club, by Rachel Ann Nunes; and Loyalty's Web, by Joyce DiPastena.

The Deep End, by Traci Hunter Abramson; Grave Secrets, by Marlene Austen; Hazardous Duty, by Betsy Brannon Green; The Operative, by Willard Boyd Gardner; and Sheep's Clothing, by Josi Kilpack.

Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians, by Brandon Sanderson; Bullies in the Headlights, by Matthew Buckley; First Day, by Allyson B. Condie; How to Take the Ex Out of Ex-Boyfriend, by Janette Rallison; and Rise of the Evening Star (Fablehaven, Book II), by Brandon Mull.

Book of a Thousand Days, by Shannon Hale; Dragon Slippers, by Jessica Day George; Hunting Gideon, by Jessica Draper; The Lights of Mahonri Moriancumer, by Phyllis Gunderson; and The Well of Ascension (Mistborn, Book II), by Brandon Sanderson.

Beyond the Horizon, by Judy C. Olsen; Out of Jerusalem, Vol. 4: Land of Inheritance, by Heather Moore; On the Road to Heaven, by Coke Newell; Spires of Stone, by Annette Lyon; and Upon the Mountains, by Gale Sears.

Also on the gala evening's list of events is the presentation of LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARDS to authors Jennie Hansen, Dean Hughes, and Anita Stansfield.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Secondary Characters

By Marcia Mickelson

In the past, I've hated writing secondary characters. To me, they were not as important and just something necessary to do in order to get on with the story. In the novel I'm working on now, I've taken a different approach. I've really tried to give them character.

Secondary characters are very important and not only drive the story along, but also add color to the story. I have really enjoyed working on my secondary characters and have had a lot of fun with them. This is an opportunity to get creative with dialogue. I especially have enjoyed putting in tidbits of conversation I've heard from people that I know. These are somewhat outrageous tidbits that I would never have my main characters say, but coming from a secondary character, it really adds to the story.

Just think, how much secondary characters add to some of your favorite books? What would Pride and Prejudice be without Mr. Collins or Lady Catherine.

So, look at the people around you that you come in contact with to find color to add to your secondary characters. I have a neighbor down the street who I am dying to use in a novel one day. He's over 70 years old and retired. He keeps a very immaculate yard and it is not unusual to see him down the street, shirtless, mowing someone else's yard. I've seen him a few streets over before edging a yard. He really cares about how our neighborhood looks and spends a lot of time doing what others won't do to their yards. I came home once and found a huge bag of edges trimmed off our lawn sitting in our driveway. I have to admit, we don't do a lot of edging. We're lucky if we get the yard mowed. I didn't have to think twice about who it was that came by to do that.

Anyway, he's such a colorful character. He is definitely going in one of my books one day. Of course, not as a main character but he'd be great as a secondary character. So, look around and find those fun, zany characters in your life who you can use to color your story.
On another note,
We're still running our contest to win a book. Click here to see some of the guesses. There's one that's very close. If you can give it a guess, you might win!!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Reading and Networking

by Marsha Ward

Writers need to do many things to be competent and successful. Among those things is reading and networking with other writers, editors, and agents.

Don't forget that American Night Writers Association (aka ANWA) is holding a writers conference on March 1. This is a wonderful conference with terrific speakers at a bare-bones price. Do consider attending.

Another conference--at which I'll be presenting--is LDStorymakers' two-day event on March 21 and 22.

Writers need to be readers, not only to check out the competition, but to develop a sense of what readers are buying.

Here's the list of books I read in 2007. I seem to be favoring mysteries lately. That's okay. The next project I'll be working on, although set in the Old West, has elements of the mystery genre.

1. The Wailing Wind - Tony Hillerman
2. The Witness - Dee Henderson
3. The Tailor of Panama - John le Carre
4. Agatha Christie Mysteries - anthology
5. River's End - Nora Roberts
6. Nocturne - Ed McBain
7. A Time to Kill - John Grisham
8. Skipping Christmas - John Grisham
9. O Pioneers! - Willa Cather
10. Atlantis Found - Clive Cussler
11. Sharpe's Escape - Bernard Cornwell
12. Sense & Sensibility - Jane Austen
13. Wife for a Day - Patti Berg
14. Skeleton Canyon - J. A. Jance
15. Our Game - John le Carre
16. Blindsight - Robin Cook
17. Exit Wounds - J. A. Jance
18. Buzz Cut - James W. Hall
19. Chromosome 6 - Robin Cook
20. Hard Aground - James W. Hall
21. The Dark Wind - Tony Hillerman
22. Birds of Prey - J. A. Jance
23. Sharpe's Fortress - Bernard Cornwell
24. Mischief - Ed McBain
25. Lightning - Ed McBain
26. Dave Barry is not making this up - Dave Barry
27. The Monkey's Raincoat - Robert Crais
28. Wild Horses - Dick Francis
29. The Christmas Tragedy - Agatha Christie
30. The Four Suspects - Agatha Christie
31. Sticks & Scones - Diane Mott Davidson
32. Free Fall - Robert Crais
33. LA Requiem - Robert Crais
34. Sunset Express - Robert Crais
35. Lullaby Town - Robert Crais
36. The Last Detective - Robert Crais
37. Poison Blonde - Loren D. Estleman
38. Indigo Slam - Robert Crais
39. Demolition Angel - Robert Crais
40. The Midnight Man - Loren D. Estleman
41. The Two Minute Rule - Robert Crais
42. Along Came a Spider - James Patterson
43. A Woman's Eye - Mystery Short Stories Anthology - edited by Sara Paretsky
44. Mary Mary - James Patterson
45. Jack & Jill - James Patterson
46. Smokescreen - Dick Francis
47. There Was a Little Girl - Ed McBain
48. Basket Case - Carl Hiaasen
49. Hell is Always Today - Jack Higgins
50. The Gift - Kirk Douglas
51. StripTease - Carl Hiaasen
52. The Fallen Man - Tony Hillerman
53. Wrath of the Lion - Jack Higgins
54. Deep Waters - Jayne Ann Krentz
55. A Session in Hell - Jack Higgins
56. Finding Moon - Tony Hillerman
57. The Street Lawyer - John Grisham
58. Tunnel Vision - Sara Paretsky
59. Cry No More - Linda Howard
60. The Hostage - Robert Crais
61. On Dangerous Ground - Jack Higgins
62. The Partner - John Grisham
63. The Brethren - John Grisham
64. Hey Cowboy, Wanna Get Lucky? - Baxter Black
65. Dave Barry Talks Back - Dave Barry
66. Cowboy Mentality - Baxter Black
67. The Big One That Got Away Blues - Baxter Black
68. Speaking in Tongues - Jeffery Deaver
69. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
70. Out of Sight - Elmore Leonard
71. Split Second - David Baldacci
72. Love is Murder - Linda Palmer
73. 3rd Degree - James Patterson & Andrew Gross
74. Dead Irish - John T. Lescroat
75. Absolute Power - David Baldacci
76. The Simple Truth - David Baldacci
77. The Forgotten Man - Robert Crais
78. Acceptable Risk - Robin Cook
79. Saving Faith - David Baldacci

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Some Things I Am Grateful For

by Katie Parker

  1. I am grateful for the restored gospel and my testimony of it. (I almost feel like there should be a "duh!" at the end of that one.)
  2. I am grateful for my family. (Another given, especially since they seem to get offended if you don't mention them. ;-)
  3. I am grateful to be home again after several trips in recent months.
  4. I am also grateful to have been able to take the trips.
  5. With my family.
  6. And that we arrived safely. Sometimes we weren't quite sure if we the time on New Years when we were somewhere in Kansas or Missouri or something and the gas level on our car dropped pretty drastically. We managed to run out of gas just as we were reaching an exit with a service station, and coasted on up to the pump. Yeah, I'm grateful. Very.
  7. I am grateful for dancing. I don't think I'd really danced since I quit going to the singles' dances when...well, when I quit being single. Yesterday at a company dinner there was a dance floor and a paid DJ, but few people were dancing. So several of the wives went out and danced (minus the husbands, although a couple of them did venture out for short spurts). Was it fun! So I am grateful that I did that. Dancing was not on my to-do list for my day (or my week...or my life...) but I am glad that I did.
  8. Speaking of being grateful for dancing, I am grateful for those little opportunities that come up to visit, to help, to play, to enjoy...those little things that aren't planned, but that really make life something special.
  9. I am grateful for the two people who have entered our contest so far.
  10. I am grateful for the MANY MORE people who will enter (subtle hint)!
  11. I'm grateful for chocolate.
  12. And, I am grateful for many other blessings, some too sacred or personal to mention, and all of them too many to number.

Happy New Year, everyone! We have much to be grateful for!

Friday, January 4, 2008

Simple Joys in Life: trip to the grocery store

So I went to the grocery store with my husand, Scott and my one-year-old son, Griffin. Griff was in a cute, new outfit- looking good, feeling good, so I took him out of the cart and let him walk beside us.
There was a woman walking past who smiled and said 'hello' to him. He giggled and hid his face in my legs, then wandered closer to her. When she smiled at him again, he ran back over and giggled and hid himself in my legs.
She told me how cute he was before she wandered down the aisle. When Griff saw her walking away, he went toddling off after her, waving his arm and calling out. She didn't hear him so he got right up to her legs before she noticed and when she did, well! It was like the Lord himself was smiling down at Griff the way he reacted! He was smiling and laughing and just so happy to be smiled at!
He talked and smiled at a few other people until two aisles later, he found another woman looking at the spices. She told me how cute Griff was, walking around like he was and then smiled at him. He went right up to her and reached out for the can of garlic salt she was holding. She shook it at him and then handed it over and he started shaking it and laughing with her and shaking it some more because he could tell that was impressing her. He had her eating out of his hand in mere moments and he was milking it.
He had interactions like those all over the store, with men and women -- pretty much anyone who crossed his path. It was so neat to watch how much joy he took in everything, in the people around him, in a display with balloons on it, in the brightly colored cereal boxes. That kind of joy is contagious and when I left the store, I felt so uplifted. I am so blessed to have such a great and beautiful family and doubly blessed that I am able to realize this so I can enjoy every moment with them.


Side Note: I also made an excellent joke at the store that I'm very proud of. Scott had put two pies in our cart, but then, at the checkstand, changed his mind and asked the cashier to put them back. I told the cashier that Scott had,"Pie-ers remorse!" Ha ha! Good one, Crystal.

My New Year's Un-Resolutions

by Elodia Strain

December 1, 2008: The fireworks were fired, the ball was dropped, and I was all ready to jot a list of resolutions that would help me make 2008 the year I become the perfect wife/daughter/friend/cook/planner
/organizer/author. But as I sat with my pen and paper I thought it would be much more fun to make a list of things I WILL NOT do in 2008. So here are a few of my un-resolutions.

1. I will not apologize for crying at that McDonald's commercial where the inner-city girl gets a job as a cashier and then works her way up to big-wig executive.

2. I will not pretend I actually like collard greens. The charade is over, my friends.

3. I will not say yes when I really should say no.

4. I will not look at fashion magazine covers and believe the women featured on them actually look like that in real life.

5. I will not feel weird singing in my car at a stoplight.

6. I will not scream “I blame the government!” every time I get my cell phone bill. Not that I’ve ever done that. But this is definitely not the year to start.

Happy New Year everyone! Hope it's a great one.

p.s. You can make it even better by entering our contest. A free book just for guessing which one of us received which weird gift…hmm…I’d enter if I was allowed!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Happy New Writers Conference Year

by Marsha Ward

I'm starting out the year with slightly scratched corneas, but I expect the situation to get better, eventually. I just need to rest my eyes, which means, of course, not working on the computer. I'll go take a nap when I'm finished here.

American Night Writers Association (aka ANWA) is holding a writers conference on March 1. I'm the web mistress, and I overdid it yesterday working on the event's webpage. Because our web host changed their platform recently (I know this makes no sense to a lot of you, but bear with me!), there were a lot of little differences to contend with, and installing the page and making sure it worked right took far longer than it should have. Now I'm paying the consequences of drying out my eyes with too many computer hours. Boo hoo, right?

At any rate, this is a wonderful conference with terrific speakers, charging barely enough to cover costs so that the average person can attend. If you're an author, you can take part in the book signing at a minimal cost, too. Please consider attending. I'd be so grateful, and will feel that the sacrifice of my vision meant something. Really! I mean it! Come see us in lovely Gilbert, Arizona, on March 1.