Wednesday, April 30, 2008

I Have Finished Trail of Storms!

by Marsha Ward

I don't know for sure how it is with other writers when they finish a project, but for me, completing Trail of Storms this evening brought elation, tears, and a prayer of thanksgiving for the gift of creativity, in that order.

Thank you, all you readers and critiquers who have put your souls into giving me advice. It is well and truly appreciated.

I already have a one-sentence summary written. I will write the one-page synopsis tomorrow, and then I WILL SEND IT OFF!

Now I've got to let the emotions drain out of my fingertips. I feel very weak, and very humbled.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Operation Purple Camp

This past week I received an invitation to participate in Operation Purple--a free summer camp program for military children who have a deployed parent. There are dozens of these camps all over the United States funded by the National Military Family Association. What a great program! I'll be at the one in Trinity, Texas.

I feel so so humbled and honored that I was asked to speak to these kids about my books Make Me a Memory and Make Me a Home. These brave children are actually living the life that I wrote for my main character, Allie. I can only hope that through our conversation they will feel support and encouragement to carry on.

These children are incredibly brave!

They are the reason I wrote these books.

Last summer CBS Sunday Morning did a spotlight on the Operation Purple camps. Click HERE to watch.
To donate to Operation Purple chick HERE.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Openings ...

So I had this great opening come to me while I was running the other day. It was so fun I actually laughed out loud. Of course, I was running alone on a dirt road and the cows on the other side of the fence couldn't care less about a crazy human laughing alone while running.

It just hit me and made me increase my pace until I came through the door of my home sweaty and a bit anxious to get on the computer.

So I got it. I caught it in print and got my bath, much to the relief of my family. I love it when scenes just hit you like that!

Then I told my best friend about it and she loved it and we brainstormed and OH! I can see this going somewhere very good. Now I've just got to do a few months worth of research, make a trip to New Orleans and get started. Fun, fun, fun.


On Saturday, I attended a Stake Women's Conference. One of the speakers talked about forgiveness and quoted the following excerpt from Corrie ten Boom. I read Corrie ten Boom's book, The Hiding Place, many years ago. She and her family helped to hide Jews during the Nazi invasion. When she was arrested, she and her sister Betsie, were sent to a concentration camp. Here is what she says about forgiveness. It is so touching.

"IT WAS IN A CHURCH in Munich where I was speaking in 1947 that I saw him-a balding heavyset man in a gray overcoat, a brown felt hat clutched between his hands. One moment I saw the overcoat and the brown hat, the next, a blue uniform and a visored cap with its skull and crossbones.
Memories of the concentration camp came back with a rush: the huge room with its harsh overhead lights, the pathetic pile of dresses and shoes in the center of the floor, the shame of walking naked past this man. I could see my sister's frail form ahead of me, ribs sharp beneath the parchment of skin.
Betsie and I had been arrested for concealing Jews in our home during the Nazi occupation of Holland. This man had been a guard at Ravensbruck concentration camp where we were sent.
Now he was in front of me, hand thrust out: "A fine message, fraulein! How good it is to know that, as you say,, all our sins are at the bottom of the sea!"
It was the first time since my release that I had been face to face with one of my captors and my blood seemed to freeze.
"You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk, " he was saying. "I was a guard there. But since that time, " he went on, "I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fraulein-" again the hand came out-"will you forgive me?"
And I stood there-and could not. Betsie had died in that place- could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking?
It could not have been many seconds that he stood there, hand held out, but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do.
For I had to do it-I knew that. The message that God forgives has has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. "If you do not forgive men their trespasses," Jesus says, "neither will your Father in Heaven forgive your trespasses."
Still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. "Jesus, help me!" I prayed silently. "I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling."
And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this jealing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes. "I forgive you, brother!" I cried. "With all my heart!"
For a long moment we grasped each other's hands, the former guard and former prisoner. I had never known God's love so intensely as I did then. "

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

I Love Being a . . .

by Marsha Ward

Of course I'm supposed to go with Tami and put in "Writer," yes? Of course I am. And of course I love it.

But, last night I had a little blip. My inner musician surfaced and caused me to lose sleep.

I blame it on the music in my head.

This is the week I'm supposed to finish up all the little corrections on my book and send it off to a certain publisher, right? Well, instead I've spent at least two days checking out blogs and doing research on the Internet--but not anything relevant to my book or my next novel. I've been downloading MIDI files of patriotic songs.

Why? you ask (and I do, too).

Because I bought this music program several years ago that I've put off installing on my computer. It's notation software, for writing down/printing off any musical compositions or arrangements I might have lurking in my head (and they've been coming out lately!). I had the notation software, and I have this electronic keyboard, plus a cable thingie to hook it up so I could play and see the notes appear on screen. At least that was the plan. For someday.

I opened the cable thingie last week and discovered that my new computer doesn't have the 15-pin joystick interface I needed to attach it. Bummer! I found a USB powered interface on the Internet, ordered it, received it, opened it (discovering that the manual is not there, but I think I can figure out how to install it), and it's still sitting near my computer. Waiting for someday.

Late last week I installed the notation software and let the icon sit on my desktop. I even moved it around a bit, but I didn't open it. You see, I have this novel to finish!

Well, last night I remembered that I'd left my dial-up connection open, and returned to my computer from watching "Deadliest Catch," to check my email.

That's when everything went to heck!


Not only did I open the program and discover that when I opened the MIDI files in it, I could see the notation guts of the songs--some in up to seven tracks--I scrounged around and found some long-ago-written music and entered it into the program.

Do you know how alluring hearing your music played flawlessly on a piano, or a church organ, or by a string ensemble, is?

Sheesh! I didn't get into bed until 5 a.m. this morning.

AND MY NOVEL STILL ISN'T FINISHED! Yes, I'm yelling, but it's at myself. Today I'm headed for the library with my laptop and flashdrive to get away from the music so I can finish those last little changes.

Did I ever tell you how badly I can get distracted? It's the ADD.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

I Love Being an Author!

For the past month I've been crazy-busy-and-lovin'-it, and most of this business has revolved around writing and book promotion (the reason you haven't seen much of me here--sorry! I'll do better.)

It all started with the LDStorymakers Writer's Conference. In a word: Fantabulous! I was so inspired by this event, it's hard to even put into words. Great speakers, great company, great time. And to make it even better, my 22-year-old son, Preston, came down from BYU-Idaho for the weekend to attend the conference with me (see picture). He's an incredibly talented writer and we both commented on how much we were both in our element hanging out with a bunch of writers. At the conference I taught a class called Writing for Children and Teens on Real World Issues. I thought it went fairly well, but I couldn't help noticing how much more comfortable I am speaking to a gym full of 500 elementary school kids, versus 30 adults. Which brings me to my next adventure...

While I was in Utah I gave 10 assemblies at 5 elementary schools. This is ABSOLUTELY, WITHOUT A DOUBT, my FAVORITE part about being an author and writing for children. I spoke at Hill Field Elementary, Noah Webster Academy, Silver Mesa Elementary, Lindon Elementary, and Eagle Valley Elementary (see article in Daily Herald). All of the students (some pictured here from Eagle Valley Elementary) were nothing short of awesomelicious as we attempted--in a group effort--to plot a story. Creativity is alive and well in the minds of children everywhere, that's for darn-tootin' sure!

Next was my little Michigan get-away with my sweetheart. Actually, HE was on business, but I decided to tag along, so we stayed at The Queen's Residence Bed and Breakfast in Ypsilanti. While he was out doing his thing all day, I spent three blissful days writing in the solitude of a beautiful, 130+ year-old house. I was quite productive, and the experience was unlike anything I've ever done before. And did I mention that I probably gained 5 pounds from the incredible breakfasts?! Marla and Joe Queen are angels and the experience was heavenly!

Another week or so at home, and then I was off again for 2 days at the Texas Library Association Convention in Dallas. I drove up one day and back the next so it was two very long days, but again, very productive. I was able to hand out 100+ school visit fliers, 100 or so bookmarks, sell some books, and hang with my SCBWI buddies (see picture). This event was SO HUGE! Every major publisher was represented. My highlight of the event, however, was definitely running across the ARC (advance reader copy) of Cybele's Secret by Juliet Marillier, the companion novel to Wildwood Dancing, which I had just finished two days earlier! I'd read the first chapter in the back of WD and was hooked, but terribly distraught that I'd have to wait till September to read the novel. NOT ANYMORE!!!! I'm LOVING this story. Marillier is a brilliant author and I want to meet her some day and become her BFF! Hey, it could happen...

This Saturday I'll be doing a reading, and signing books at 6th Annual Humble ISD/ Lone Star College Fine Arts Festival in Kingwood, TX. Can't wait! I love life. I love writing stories. And I love the experiences that being an author blesses me with!

Monday, April 21, 2008

More Time Off

Good for you Marcia! I think we all need to take time off to recoup occasionally. I've been off for a couple of weeks now, between novels. My family wanted to see me again and the spring cleaning? Well, it was time. We've planted a lawn, taken out two flower beds, gutted several rooms in the house and hit the case-lot sales. I've also been trying to finish up our family yearbook for 2007, my solution to scrapbooking.

Okay, so I have actually started some plotting, done a little research online for my next novel, but it's been a good rest. I'll even give it a few more days before I really crack down and begin developing characters for my next novel. I actually find it difficult not to write, especially between books. It's almost an empty feeling that accompanies not creating.

So, as I clean out under the stairs and switch out sprinklers, my mind is still going, creating conflict and experimenting with setting. I think I've got a good start to get some plotting on paper.

A Week Off

By Marcia Mickelson

I took a week off of writing. A sore throat last Monday turned into congestion and cough, giving me the minimal excuse I needed to take a week off. Of course, there's always the guilt associated with taking time off after milking a sore throat for a whole week. I also took a week off of running--more reason to feel guilty today.

Now, it's the beginning of a new week and I need to get back on track with writing and running. I'd been doing well in my BIAM (Book In A Month) prior to last week. In fact, I may have overdone it and probably needed a week off because I'd been pushing myself too much.

A week off is sometimes needed to get back in that place where you want to write again. During the week, I took time to watch a few movies, do a little reading, and listen to music. These are three things that sometimes inspire me to want to write. Seeing someone else's creation, such as a really good movie, inspires me to want to be creative again and makes me want to get going again.

So, I'm back to work this week, back to writing again. No excuses.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Revisiting Spam and Other Curiosities

by Marsha Ward

Hmm. There's something so, um, cosmic about getting two spamming comments to a post where I complained about spammers. [they're gone now]

Although the comments were written in English--and were identical except for the links--they went to blogs written in Portuguese. One was for a book promising all kinds of surprises having to do with electricity, like cures for unsavory life styles. The other promised to help me eliminate cellulite.

I guess I could use pointers on cellulite elimination, but I'd have to struggle too hard to read them in a foreign language that is only somewhat similar to one I can read without too much trouble.

One wonders why these kinds of blogs only have one post to them. And no profile.

One also wonders why I get all the spammers who speak Portuguese. Do people google words like the names of languages to find places to spam? Did I ever mention that language here? Surely a blog like this would show up far down the list in a Google search. You'd think, huh?

Spanish. Spanish, Spanish, Spanish! Western novels. The Man from Shenandoah. Ride to Raton. There's some fodder for the search engine robots.

And how did Google become a verb?

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Write Stuff

I'd like to welcome our guest blogger, Stacy Gooch Anderson. Thanks for stopping by to tell us about your writing experience. I'm excited to get to know you better.

The Write Stuff

by Stacy Gooch Anderson

As I have entered the world of publishing and found snippets of success, many people have commented that I am very lucky. I would have to agree but there is more to it than that. Besides luck, there are many prayers, a few choice gifts from God and a LOT of the "write" stuff.

Before there was national contracts for The Santa Letters and Life is Tough - I Doubt I'll Make it Out Alive, before there was talk of movie rights, before there was a trip to the Book Expo America,....there was close to twenty years of frustration, late nights, rejections, building a resume, thoughts that I could not convert to paper, rejections, trying to find my inner voice and,....oh yeah, did I mention rejections?

When another rejection would come, my children would once again think I was slipping into a delusional psychosis as I'd throw what came to be known around my home as a "rejection party" which usually included dinner, dancing and music. I looked at every rejection as one step closer to success - all 48 of them.

During a seven year period of time I endured a house fire, heath crisis's, my own cancer scare, two pets' deaths, my husband's unemployment, my dad and grandmother's deaths, finding out my sons had been in a sexually abusive situation, a couple of years of intense counseling for them and the rest of our family, a burglary and a couple of car thefts. Through it all, I persevered and clung to what I figured was becoming a real case of neurosis and continued to write.

I eventually landed a small job as a journalist in a local paper, threw myself into learning all I could and became the best I could be. That landed me the trust of my editors who then gave me more responsibility and some pretty big stories to work on. That earned me some awards - some of them considered pretty prestigious amongst my band of peers including the ones at the big dailies. That brought job offers which I turned down because my head was already swollen from the stories floating around in there because I hadn't had time to put them to paper.

At one awards ceremony as they were introducing the recipient as the person who'd done so many articles, they quit counting at three hundred, I leaned over to one of my close friends and said, "That idiot must either really like writing, not care about having a life or both."

They called out my name.

That was when I decided that I needed to return to my roots and tell MY stories. I'd had a grand time telling everyone else's,but I needed to pull back and deflate my head. Then my mom was diagnosed with cancer and since my father had passed away three years prior from the same disease, I became her sounding board, her care-giver, her taxi service and her medical advocate. At 40, I was facing becoming the matriarch of my family and I was not prepared. How did I handle it?

I did the "write" stuff and put every emotion and heart felt desire and lesson I personally learned into stories that eventually touched the hearts of those who read them. When I finally did submit The Santa Letters, one publisher contacted me in three days with an urgent request to schedule a meeting and to tour their facilities. Another sent me an anonymous email with the evaluations attached and an admonition "to get published - this story needs to be told". And the third sent me a box of books with a note enclosed saying, "We hope to see your titles amongst these very soon."

A year later as I sit at the precipice of The Santa Letters making its national debut, I marvel at what has gone on. I am indeed lucky, but I cannot and will not dismiss a loving God who directed my life in such a way that I could do my best and write stories that touch the nerves of those who read them. Nor can I dismiss the pleadings of an aching heart or the effort I put in hoping for a blessing after the trial of my faith as I continued day after day doing what I now affectionately call the "write" stuff.

Luck? Yes,....but it took a whole lot more too before I could get to that place of having a bit of it.

One year ago on Christmas Eve, William died. For Emma, the hit-and-run driver killed more than her husband; he killed her joy in life itself.

Now, as Christmas approaches again, Emma Jensen finds herself sinking into a depression that nothing can breach—not her job, not her love for her children, and certainly not the season. Money is tight, and emotions are taut, and this year Christmas will be a meager, empty, and painful experience. Only six-year-old McKenna believes in miracles and the magic of Christmas. The rest of the family knows that Christmas can never be the same. But when a mysterious package and an ornate letter arrive on the doorstep, things begin to change. Each day, a package and a letter signed “Santa” arrive for the family, and together they come to understand that the joy of Christmas does not have to be lost forever, and that God’s love can heal any wound, no matter how deep. The Santa Letters will take the Jensens on a journey through a Christmas experience that will have the power to heal them all.

Thanks, Stacy for sharing your story with us. Good luck with the rest of the publishing experience. I look forward to reading your book. You can check out Stacy's blog, Stayin' Alive with Stacy.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Pet Peeves

by Marsha Ward

I have a couple I want to mention here today:

1. Spamming commenters. I got hit six times on my blog this morning. Had to turn on the word verification in an attempt to discourage further blood-sucking attempts.

2. Tax season. The anxiety of gathering the records to prove to Uncle Sam's IRS minions that I don't owe any taxes is an annual burden I'd love to dump. However, as I stated in my gratitude journal today, I'm very grateful to live in the United States of America, even though I have to go through the yearly "dance of the paper-gathering" for the privilege.

Sunday, April 6, 2008


By Tamra Norton
Far be it from me to pass up the opportunity to get a free book...especially one I know that each of my seven fantasy-freak kids (and I mean that in the most loving way) will likely long as I get to read it first! :)
Here's the link to J. Scott Savage's contest over at his blog: FIND YOUR MAGIC. He can explain it better than I can, but I'll not only be reviewing the book later in the summer but interviewing Mr. Savage himself. (I may even go as far as to interview his wife and daughter to get an inside scoop on the man. Hey--I live to please.) I'll also do some sort of contest--maybe J. Scott Savage trivia. Here's a little tidbit to whet your appetite. Mr. Savage is exactly one year and one day my senior and we both grew up in the lovely state of California, and we both think that James Dashner obsesses way too much over the smell of feet. What can I say--J. Scott and I, we're practically fraternal twins. Okay, not really...
Now do I get my books, Mr. Savage?

That Stinkin' Synopsis

So, it's that time that I don't look forward to--writing the synopsis to the manuscript I will be submitting soon. I hate writing the synopsis. It's my least favorite part of the writing process. You have to take your 300+ page manuscript and condense it to 5 pages.

Josi Kilpack did a workshop on writitng a synopsis at the LDStorymakers Conference. I should have gone; I imagine it was great, but since I hate writing a synopsis, I didn't attend. Luckily, I remember that Josi did a great blog on the Writing On the Wall blog about writing a synopsis last May. Has it already been almost a year? It happened to be during the time that I was working on my synopsis for Reasonable Doubt. Her blog helped me out a lot and I am now reviewing it again to get ready for this stinkin' synopsis I'm working on for my manuscript, One on One. Check out the links below if you happen to be working on your synopsis. They're great!

Josi Kilpack's That Dreaded Synopsis, Part 1

Synopsis Part 2

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Introducing...Our Lawn!

OK, about a month ago I posted some pictures of the snow all over our yard in Wisconsin. Well, for the past month the temperatures have been slowly but surely increasing. For it to be above freezing is all it takes to make the snow melt.

There have also been some snowy days throughout the month of March. In fact, on Tuesday, April 1, there was enough snow that they canceled school here. Seriously. I think we all must have wondered if it was an April Fool's joke, but it wasn't.

But that batch melted off quickly. And the past couple of days have seen highs in the 50's, and this evening I discovered it was 62 degrees! Wow! So I had to take advantage of the opportunity to walk the dog without wearing a coat. It was quite nice. There were people outside talking and riding bikes. The sidewalks were finally all clear of ice (hooray!). There's still quite a bit of snow around, but I think today I actually saw more grass than snow. I even saw a few trees starting to bud.

I think we've really, finally hit spring!

The downside of that, of course, is that our newly uncovered lawn is now in need of some serious lawn care. Ugh.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

A Slice of My Life

by Elodia Strain

Sometimes I have those moments. The ones where I know this whole writing thing was, not to be corny, but, “meant to be.” I had one of those moments tonight.

Some of you may know my story. Some of you may not. Not too get all spilling-my-guts-ish on you, but I have struggled with a painful illness and the related infertility for nearly ten years. I have cried when I pass the baby section in Wal-Mart with its onesies and teeny tiny shoes. I have curled up in a ball on my bed and sobbed, “Will my body ever find a way to heal itself?”

But then last year, through the tender mercies of the Lord, my first “baby” came to be in the form of black marks on paper. Suddenly, I had a way to flex what I like to call, “My Mommy Muscles.” I could sit at the computer and spend time thinking, learning, creating. And then I could send my “babies” out into the world and hope they have an impact for good; that they can give someone laughter, inspiration, gladness. I was beyond grateful for this amazing blessing and opportunity.

So about tonight’s moment: Shortly after 7 pm, I received some great news about my book from my publisher. Probably the best news I’ve heard all year. And I’ll admit it, as I took it all in, I cried. Cried rather like a proud mommy, I surmise.

And you know what? It felt great.

Thank you blog readers for reading this blog and for allowing me to share with you this little slice of my life! Have a wonderful day!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Dragging my Feet

by Marsha Ward

I don't know how it is with you, but when I know I'm doing a final edit on a book, I can hardly bring myself to get to it.

This week was supposed to start out strong with the final polish of my manuscript before I sent it off to the prospective publisher. Well, Monday and Tuesday flew by in a blur, and I never even opened the file!

Today I buckled down, and went through the whole thing, doing a side-by side comparison with a critiqued file from another writer, including extensive notes. I made a lot of little changes, ignored some suggestions, and arrived at the end.

The End!

That sounds so final.

It is pretty final, except that I have one more much-valued critiquer to hear from. It might be a week before I get all the notes from her, as she works a full time job. I know she's up to page 106 of 295, so maybe I'll know more by the end of this week. I hope so. I don't want to get into foot-dragging mode again, 'cause it takes a couple of days to get beyond that. I'd prefer to have the manuscript out the door so I can get on to something else.

Like taxes.

Oh gag!

Why can't we just pay a flat rate like a tithe and be done with it?

Sorry. Rant off. Subject closed. Have a great day!