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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

1,000 True Fans

by Marsha Ward

In my perusal of Twitter links, I ran across a reference to 1,000 True Friends, and decided to find out where it came from and what it could mean for me.

I tracked it down to an original post called "1,000 True Fans" on The Technium, written by Kevin Kelly, an "original thinker," blogger, and technology writer. I'm sure he is many other things, as we all are, but let's just call him what I already have, for the sack of brevity.

Kelly asserts that a creator--such as an artist, musician, or author, among others who create works of art--needs to acquire and maintain only 1,000 True Fans to make a living.

He defines a True Fan as one who will purchase anything and everything you produce. If your 1,000 True Fans each spend an average of $100 a year on your work, your income will amount to $100,000 a year. Minus your expenses and taxes, that's a living for most folks.

Nice!

I probably spend $1,000 to $1,500 a year on books. I don't think the average person does that, but I hope some of my readers would spend some of their book money on my novels.

But do I have anywhere near 1,000 True Fans?

Let's see. As I write this I have 559 Facebook friends, 161 Fans on my FB Fan Page, 223 Followers on Twitter, and 69 Friends on Goodreads (although I'm sure a lot of those are duplicates), so, in theory, I'm nearing the 1,000 goal. But here's a question: Are they True Fans by definition? Do they each buy $100 worth of my product each year?

Well, no. Not all the friends I've mentioned above care that I write novels. Some are chums from long-ago school days. Some are extended family members I barely know. Some are friends or relatives of my friends. Besides that, I don't have $100 worth of product to sell to my True Fans, even if they each paid into my wild fantasy of making a living from writing. I have much work to do to create product for fans, and to make alternative and derivitive works available to my True Fans.

Kelly mentions that once you've found your 1,000 True Fans, you need to nurture them. You have to maintain direct contact with them. Technology makes this possible. Tweets and blogs and emails and Facebook help a great deal.

I still have a long way to go to achieve a fandom of 1,000 True Fans, but I hope I'm on my way.

Oh, and did you know WD-40 can be used to untangle jewelry chains?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

yWriter5


Remember the novel writing software, yWriter5, that I talked about a couple of weeks ago? I am absolutely loving it. I hadn't intended to begin writing until yesterday, but I started early, and already have put in characters, locations, and notes. Also, the best thing, of course, I have written five scenes, and I'm in the second chapter. Sweet!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Writer Appreciation Week

by Marsha Ward

Agent Nathan Bransford has proclaimed this Writer Appreciation Week. It's a good idea, and I encourage you to implement it by showing your appreciation to your favorite writer, living or dead.

One way you can accomplish this, if your fav is living, is by seeking out their online presence and sending them a message of gratitude. Do they blog, have a Facebook, Goodreads, or Twitter account, book trailers posted on YouTube, or have a contact process on their website? Spread the love. Tell them how much you admire their work. Go to Amazon.com and make a comment on one of their books.

And that brings up books. Have you bought one this week? Go do it!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Trying out New Writing Software

by Marsha Ward

I've been testing a software called yWriter5 by Spacejock Software for a couple of days now. I'm starting to get the hang of it.

Today I learned how to make the first chapter not a Chapter but Information, and put in the brainstorming notes from my session with Connie Wolfe while we crossed the country a few weeks back. 470 words. Do they count for writing?

Friday, August 21, 2009

BTS Night

I have been so absent here for the longest time! Marsha, I'm sorry you've been the Lone Ranger. At any rate, I thought I'd share some thoughts on school.

Aw yeah. Back to School night for both my daughters. Mark went with Nina and I took Anna. (And Gunder. Doh.) We talked to teachers, noted the required supplies, walked the crowded halls and said hi to friends they haven't seen for three months. Part of me was excited for Anna, and the other part wanted to throw up. I really did like school, but the drama with friends and hoping people would like me and wanting to look perfect, etc etc came back with a vengeance.

In terms of Anna's classes, I found myself being excited for her. The geography teacher said she needs colored pencils because they do a lot of maps. Natch. Ok, I so would have been all over that. I have a weird affinity for both colored pencils and maps. The math teacher was really cool and I think it'll be a good match for my daughter, and the English teacher was one I would have loved having as a kid. And she has the kids write something every day!

They're writing every day!

I think this is one of the most valuable skills that helps students across the board. If you can read and write, success in multiple subjects is much more attainable than otherwise.

I'm reminded of the line in "You've Got Mail," where Tom Hanks tells Meg Ryan that he wants to buy "bouquets of sharpened pencils." Dork that I am, I love that. My favorite pencils ever are the Ticonderoga Tri Write. They are unbelievably sexy. Yes, I just said that about a pencil.

All things considered, as much as I will miss the freedom of summer, I am looking forward to reestablishing routine around here. I'm much more organized during the school year. Summer becomes a free-for-all.

To my sweet children, I wish you good luck and fabulous friends and good study habits. I hope that you'll learn many wonderful and useful things this year, and that your successes will be satisfying.

Better stop before I get all misty-eyed.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

More Character Notes

by Marsha Ward

Maybe I don't need that byline. I seem to be the Lone Ranger on this blog lately.

Anyway, I'm featuring Clayton Owen over on my character blog, so I thought I'd put my comments here, too.

Clay Owen is next younger than Marie. On his character card, I used a photo of actor Bruce Penhall of televisions's "CHiPs" (1977-1983) . I don't see him around much anymore. He was the World Motorcycle Speedway champion of 1981-82, which predated his '82-'83 role as Officer Bruce Nelson, a cadet in the California Highway Patrol, playing in the lineup topped by Erik Estrada, Robert Pine, and Larry Wilcox. Since CHiPs featured motorcycle officers, I'm sure his motorcycling skill stood him in good stead.

Now you know how long ago I clipped this photo from TV Guide(R).

Anyway, getting back to Clayton Owen, here's when I typed on his character card:

CLAY OWEN
At fifteen, Clay is still too gangly to be handsome, but he has promising features and a mop of crisp blond hair. His eyes are grey. Clay kept the family in meat for a year after James was drafted, is responsible, but when he pops his cork, look out, he is apt to do something rash and unthinking. He plays as hard as he works. In a few years, he will be a major character in the continuing saga of the Owen family.


Well, we'll have to see what surprises Clay will bring to the family's adventures. What do YOU think he's going to do?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Character Notes

by Marsha Ward

Many years ago, I typed notes about characters in my Owen Family novels on 3- by 5-inch or 4- by 6-inch index cards. It's pretty illuminating to go back and read those cards and see if anything I wrote remains true now, three novels later.

For example, one of my female characters is the elder daughter in the Owen family, Marie. She was born between James and Clayton, and is five years older than her sister, Julianna. She was first seen in The Man from Shenandoah, and appears in Jessie Bingham's memories in Trail of Storms.

I have two photos on Marie's card. They are both far too old for the real Marie. One is of a female newscaster whose name escapes me, and the other is of an actress whose name I never knew. Ha! I didn't need names for the photos. Their purpose was to provide a general physical description I could visualize and describe as needed.

Here is what I wrote on Marie's character card:

MARIE OWEN
Marie has thick dark hair and a beautiful smile. She loves a good mystery, and is good at ferreting out people's secrets. Her eyes range from hazel to dark brown, according to hertemperament . She enjoys teasing her brothers. Marie is aware of becoming a woman, but has no anxiety to wed. She would love to have several beaus to play off against each other, but will take what comes with a good will. She loves adventure, and looks forward to the trip west with high excitement.


I'm looking forward to getting to know Marie better. Are you?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Glimpse at a Character in My Head

by Marsha Ward

Oops! I never should have brought up the subject of my character Elijah Marshall on my Character blog. He's demanding that I introduce him to you. Since I don't think any of The Zion Trail is on disk anywhere, I'll have to wing it from a typescript. Problem is, I have a couple of differing copies. I guess I'll try the one on top. It's probably the latest revision. Ha! From back in the late 80s! With two spaces after a period! I'll try to restrain my Inner Editor as I type. Here goes: Elijah Marshall in all his imperfect First Person glory.

THE ZION TRAIL
by Marsha Ward
Excerpt from Chapter One

As I made a half-circle at the end of the row, I pulled the horse to a halt, swept off my old hat, and wiped the trickles of sweat from my eyes with the back of my wrist. I ran my fingers through my dripping black hair to train it back from my eyes before I replaced my hat. Settling the shade once again on my head, my eyes caught a movement far up the road to my right. (Yikes! A big woopsie!)

Across the rows of fresh young corn stalks I saw the dust rising slowly into the air as two figures walked along the dry surface of the lane. I knew them for strangers by their dress, for no one in our area wore a black suit except on Sunday, and this was Tuesday.

Curiosity was part of my makeup, so I leaned on the plow a while, watching their progress and wondering about their errand. They saw me, and hopped the ditch to approach the fence as they came alongside my position.

At fifteen, I had reached nearly my full growth, and I wasn't beyond considering myself a man. I did as much as my father on the farm, except for the planning and the worrying, so I wasn't surprised when they hailed me as a man.

"Hello, Brother. Can you give us a drink?" the taller man called, indicating my water bucket under a nearby tree.

I wrapped the lines around the plow handles and strode to the fence. "Plenty, and welcome." I bent to shoo away a drinking yellowjacket, and lifted the pail to the top of the fence.

The taller man drank first, and I saw that he was older by three or four years than the shorter man. As they slaked their thirst, I wondered how long since they had tasted water, for they drank with great gusto, and an air of thankfulness.

Their suits were covered with the fine dust that abounded on our roads, but they seemed not to mind, giving all their thoughts to dipping water down their dusty throats.

While the shorter man drank, the taller one looked at me and smiled. "It's been a long, dusty walk. We're thankful for the water. I am Nathan Caldwell, and my companion is Matthew Long. We are ministers of the gospel, and would welcome the opportunity to preach in your neighborhood."

I stuck out my hand and pumped his. "My name is Elijah Marshal, and my pa will be glad to see you. He's a God-fearing man, and every man of the Lord is welcome in his house." I squinted up at the sun. "It's nearly dinner time. Come and eat with us."

Mr. Long grinned his acceptance as Mr. Caldwell nodded.

"Just follow the road to the first lane on the right," I directed them. "Tell my ma I sent you. I'll be along with the horse by and by."

They waved their thanks as I hauled the bucket off the fence and turned back to the plow. Old Tom still stood where I'd reined him in, flicking flies away with his tail and standing three-legged in the sun. His ears twitched at my approach, and I patted his flank before I unhitched him from the plow.

"Tom, boy, we've got company. Won't that make Ma's eyes dance!"

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

My Interview on CraziBeautifulWomen

by Marsha Ward

Lori Nawyn did a beautiful interview with me that has been posted on the Girlfriend to Girlfriend section of the CraziBeautifulWomen website. I hope you'll go take a look.

Although I've been down with the flu, I'm pretty much recovered now, and gearing up again into promoting my latest book, Trail of Storms. The novel has been getting very good reviews, often from people who didn't ever think they would enjoy reading a historical novel set in the Old West.

Have you ever read such a book? Are you open to the idea of expanding your reading universe, or do you tend to stick with one or two favorite genres?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

URL Shorteners

by Marsha Ward

We all know how long URLs can get, those Uniform Resource Locators that point to website addresses. This is especially so when we're dealing with "absolute" URLs, or the unique addresses for exact blog pages or online magazine or newspaper articles.

Long URLs can be a nuisance. They can get so long in emails, for example, that they fold over into two or three or more lines, often "breaking" and causing problems for those unschooled in Internet use and how to reconstruct broken links.

With the popularity of social media sites and Twitter, where shorter messages are desirable or required, the problem of long URLs has become, well, a greater problem.

Thus, we have seen the growth in recent months of URL Shorteners, websites dedicated to converting the long URL to a smaller code that redirects the user to the absolute URL. One of the first,--and still probably the largest--is TinyURL.com, but there are dozens to pick from. Some I have seen used frequently by people I follow on Twitter are:
is.gd
bit.ly
short.to
tr.im
hub.tm
and snipr.com

See how some don't use the dot com domain convention? Dot com is the business or "commercial" top-level domain (TLD) extension we see in so many URLs. But...there are many more, like dot net, dot biz, dot us and even dot tv.

Those last two, dot us and dot tv, are actually "country code top-level domains," or ccTLDs. The United States has been assigned dot US by the governing body of such things, the IANA, or Internet Assigned Numbers Authority. Dot TV is the country code of the nation of Tuvalu, whose Ministry of Finance and Tourism rents out the use of the code to the television industry!

So it is with other URL shorteners that don't end in dot com. Bit.ly uses a Libyan address, is.gd originates on the island of Grenada, short.to gets its code from Tonga, hub.tm (hubspot) is authorized through Turkmenistan, and tr.im is licensed by the Isle of Man.

There is much discussion on the competitive blogosphere of whether URL shorteners are evil or not, depending on if you need search engines to bump your site to the top of their lists to gain revenue or not. It appears using URL shorteners may confuse the issue of who gets the recognition for the visit to your site. Discussion also centers on whether longevity of the shortener sites will be a future problem.

I'd suggest that if you send an email or tweet or update your Facebook profile, using a shortener to suggest a link is of little concern, since those are momentary communications. If you post a link on your website--designed to be up and sending links to presumedly long-lived sites--you'd better use absolute, though long, URLs.

That's up to you to decide.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A Stellar Review

by Marsha Ward

Trail of Storms
got another review that made me jump for joy. In fact, the reviewer, Jennie Hansen, who writes for Meridian Magazine, included her thoughts on the first two books in the Owen family series, as well.

Hansen begins by saying, "
Trail of Storms by Marsha Ward is the third book in a western series featuring the Owen family that takes place during those first years following the conclusion of the US Civil War."

In between, she says some very lovely things, then ends thusly:
"Historical and Western fans of either gender will enjoy this series from the compelling covers to the last word of this third volume. It's a series I'm glad I had the opportunity to read."

My reaction?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Happy Happy, Joy Joy!

by Marsha Ward

I've had a busy May. Not because I have children finishing up school, since I'm beyond that in my stage of life. It's because of the craziness related to having a new book come out, plus life in general. You can read about some of my adventures last week here or here.

Um, about that last link. Yes, I've taken on another blog. I've been asked to be a perma blogger at The Millennial Star. The Administrator joked about nepotism, since my nephew, Ben Pratt, already blogs there, but I don't think Ben lobbied to get me the post.

On Sunday evening I got word that a review of Trail of Storms had been posted on LDS Fiction Review. To my great delight, "Erin" (all the reviewers on the site are anonymous) gave me 4 1/2 Stars. The awesome thing about that is she doesn't even like historical fiction. Besides that, it's the highest rating she's given since she joined the site! The news made this week a very happy one.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Book Signing Fun

First, a shout out to Cy Tymony, who commented on my last post. Thanks! Six books in the series!

Next, I had a solo book signing yesterday at the local library. It was four hours of fun talking to folks, checking my email, tweeting a bit, and selling a few books. Am I disappointed that the book sales were in the single digits?

NO!

Many authors mistakenly think book signings are about selling loads of books. Wrong. Book signings are about making contacts, sharing smiles, building friendships, directing people to the restroom, and getting to know the personnel in the location--in this case, librarians. They are about networking, building your brand, and reaching out to people to encourage them to read.

Too many people these days don't, you know. Read, that is. Too many other activities whirl them away in this fast-paced life of ours. They don't have time to sit down and relish living another life, perhaps another time, within the pages of a book.

That's really too bad, very sad. Humans need the recharging time, the relaxation and getting outside their own troubles for a while. I recommend reading for that respite.

Next time you see an author at a book signing, share a smile with them, even if you don't buy their book. They may not yet know that you can be friends for that brief moment, that they can enjoy the process of getting their name and their books known.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Researching

By Marcia Mickelson

I don't like doing research. I just like to start writing even though I don't have all the information. That's probably why I could never historical novels. They require too much research.

Even with contemporary books, there is still research to be done. Thankfully, we have the Internet which makes research a lot easier. Even there, you can't find all the answers.

With my latest manuscript, I've had to research several aspects of the story. The Internet has played a large role, but I've also had to talk to people who have specific knowledge. Thanks to Facebook for helping me reconnect with a friend from high school who is now a doctor. He has been so kind to answer many medical questions I have. He has taken time to respond, very quickly, I might add to my questions.

There is a man in my church who is a police officer and he recently took the time to answer a few questions I e-mailed him. A friend of a friend of a friend took time to respond to an e-mail I sent her about Scotch. A sister-in-law of a friend answered some questions I had about Child Protective Services. The list goes on.

All of those e-mails, facebook messages, phone calls to people with extensive knowledge about certain subjects count as research. I'm thankful all of these kind people have taken the time to answer these questions. Doing the research is part of writing, no matter how undesirable the task is. Making sure you get it right as you write will make the story believable and stronger. So, research on.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Sneaky Uses for Everyday Things

by Marsha Ward

I frequently get books on tape from the library, since the tape player in my car functions while the CD player doesn't. I like audio books. They help me while away the time that I have to spend in my car to reach civilization. I also "read" them at bedtime.


Sometimes, though, the cassettes can jam, or stall, and necessitate winding from one mini-reel to the other by hand. This process is slow using a little finger. It goes a bit faster using the handle of a spoon or fork, but it's not really fast. I've longed for a manual audio cassette rewinder to tuck away for these
occasions.

Last night was such an occasion. I'm "reading" Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens, the unabridged version read by Martin Jarvis. It's a masterwork, but it comes on 120-minute tapes, and they are notorious for causing problems. If your tape player is underpowered, it can chug slowly along when it gets past the midpoint--slowing and distorting the reproduction, or lose power entirely. If you need to rewind the tape, forget it!

The tape stalled and needed to be rewound. I decided it was time to find my desired manual audio cassette rewinder, so went to my computer and googled the term.

The search came up with plenty of DVD cassette rewinders, and several for small video recorder cassettes, but the only options showing for audio cassettes were commercial products for up to six cassettes, running between $330 and $550.

Not exactly what I had in mind.

However, on page three was a reference and link to a book, Sneaky Uses for Everyday Things, which promised that a manual audio cassette rewinder was within my budget. I clicked on the link and arrived at Google Books.









Complete instructions--with illustrations--ensued about how to turn a large paperclip into the device I longed for. I immediately got up, found a paperclip and a pair of pliers, and made the item. It works GREAT! (Notice the turned ends? That's MY innovation to prevent pokes!)



Then I clicked on the Amazon link to the book, by Cy Tymony, and put it on my wish list. The volume has two follow-ups: Sneakier and Sneakiest Uses, etc. I highly recommend these books for interesting reading and for following your inner MacGyver.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Ahh...Women's Conference


by Elodia Strain


Ahh…Women's Conference.

If you’ve ever known an LDS woman, you’ve probably heard of this hugely fun and uplifting event.

This year I was able to do a book signing on the last day of the conference, and it was AWESOME! Here’s why, in a nutshell:

First, I shared a time slot and table with Josi Kilpack, whose interview with Nancy Campbell Allen precedes this post. It was so fun to get to know Josi, who I realized I had only met electronically before. She’s as sweet and cool as her new book, Lemon Tart!

Second, I was able to meet so many of my readers—who hailed from everywhere from Spokane, Washington to Mexico! It was an absolute honor to meet you! You make what I do worth it. Thanks for stopping by to chat.

Third, I was able to think about the wonder of books. To think about my friends who have books coming out this month: Fellow Ink Lady Marcia Mickelson’s book Pick-Up Games is out this month, and it is FABULOUS. Really, I flipped through the pages of the thing like you wouldn’t believe. To think of those whose new books I’ve finally been able to read: I picked up a personalized copy of Ink Lady Marsha Ward’s, Trail of Storms and am falling in love with historical fiction again. And mostly, to think about how in an age when news headlines are almost too much to bear, there is no shortage of good books that can remind us of what’s good in our lives, in our world, and in ourselves.

Thanks, BYU, for another amazing conference!


Monday, April 27, 2009

THE Teen Writers' Conference


Hey all- the following is an interview with Josi Kilpack, THE Teen Writers' Conference chair. I'm honored to be on the committee with her and am looking forward to this conference. It's going to be great, and if you know any kids aged 13-19, please pass the info along!!

NANCY: Tell us a little bit about yourself, Josi.

JOSI: I’m a mother of four, ages 15-7, and an author of 9 novels, with a tenth coming out in August. I have been a member of multiple writing groups, large and small, and a committee member and former conference chair for numerous writer’s conferences. In addition, I’m a frequent presenter to schools and groups, a fabulous cook (if I do say so myself) and amateur chicken farmer.

NANCY: You are the conference chairperson for an upcoming writers' conference for kids. Please tell us about the purpose of the conference.

JOSI: Several of the committee members and myself have been involved with putting together writing conferences for several years. We started small and have grown until our most recent conference had well over 250 attendants. Over the years we have had some teenagers attend our conference, and while they have enjoyed the experience, it seems to also be a bit overwhelming to walk into a two day, morning to night information-fest. So, we began discussing the idea of having a conference where the format, classes, and overall environment is created specifically to give kids, ages 13-19, the best overall introduction to writing conferences as well as instruction that will be most helpful to where they are now on their journey of being a writer. From there we started throwing out ideas and it really just rolled all together until we have this; THE Teen Writer’s Conference.


NANCY: What is your purpose for the conference? What do you hope the teens who come discover?

JOSI: Our hope is that the attendees will discover a lot of things, 1) that they are not the only kids that write, 2) that whatever goals or ambitions they might have in regard to becoming a writer are within reach, and 3) that it takes knowledge and time and concerted effort to accomplish those goals. Those of us on the committee, all of us being writers ourselves, have spent years honing our craft and are excited to help set these kids on that same path—perhaps earlier than we ever started.

NANCY: What kind of classes will you be offering?

JOSI: We will have classes that focus on actual elements of writing, as well as classes on book markets, the publishing process, and what they can do now to best prepare themselves for a future in writing. We have a variety of classes so as to appeal to both new and experiences writers.

NANCY: What if a teen would like to come, but is really shy? Will there be anything that will make him or her uncomfortable?

JOSI: Our entire focus and reason for putting this conference together is to create a comfortable place for young writers to come, learn, and flourish. We have been and will continue to put their comfort as our first priority because we know if they are intimidated and anxious, they will not benefit from this experience. However, we also expect them to be ready for this experience. Each youth, along with their parents, will need to determine if they are ready to be a part of this. Not all teen writers will be, and that’s okay. We hope to make this an annual event, so if this year won’t work, then perhaps by next year they will be ready.

NANCY: What is your overall goal for every youth that attends the Teen Writers' Conference?

JOSI: That they leave encouraged and inspired to do their best, to hone their craft, and to truly reach for the stars in regard to their writing and their life. We also hope they will make friends with one another and feel a sense of community among other writers their own age.

NANCY: How were you able to get such excellent editors and famous writers to attend?

JOSI: Well, in all humility I have to admit that they are my friends—my very good friends. We are like-minded people that saw a common goal and made it happen. I admire each and every person on this committee, and understand the sacrifice they each make to be a part of this. We are joined in this purpose as well as in our passion for great writing. I am blessed to rub shoulders with some of the best writers out there and the attendees get to benefit from that gift in my life.

NANCY: When is it and how do teens register?

JOSI: Registration is open for another 4 weeks. To register, attendees need to go to the website www.teenwritersconference.com and print off the registration form. Those attendees under the age of 17 will need parental permission to attend; then they will mail the completed registration, along with payment, to the address printed on the page. They, and their parents, will receive a welcome e-mail upon receipt of their registration as well as updates as the conference gets closer. Updates will also be posted on the website.

NANCY: Finally, this conference is for 13 to 19 year olds. Why that age group?

JOSI: We discussed this issue at length, and then simply decided since it was a TEEN conference, we would make it open to TEENS only. We feel that having them among their peers will help them relax and yet be willing to ask questions, meet other kids, and focus on the instruction we’re providing. For the older attendees, this will likely be a kind of introduction to adult-focused writer’s conferences, showing them what to expect and how the typical conference is organized. For the younger attendees, we hope they will come back year after year and continue learning about what they can do in the future.

NANCY: Any other information you'd like to share?

JOSI: We’ve had some parents express concern in regard to leaving their children at the conference without them. Again, this conference isn’t right for all teens, or all parents, but we do ask that parents consider the value of letting their children experience the independent nature of this conference. As a committee, we are dedicated to their safety and comfort; they will come to no harm while attending. And while we ask that parents stay clear of the conference rooms, there are many places on campus that are great for reading or getting some other work done if they worry about going too far away. We will also allow attendees to keep cell-phones on silent throughout the conference so that parents are only a phone call away. For those attendees without cell-phones, they are welcome to use a committee member's phone at any time.

NANCY: Where can people go to find more information, and especially to learn about the writing contest made available just for those who attend?

JOSI: www.teenwritersconference.com has all the details of the conference, contest, venue, etc. If something is not answered, there are e-mail links that will send you to us so we can give you the details you are looking for.



**And a final note from me- this is going to be so fun. What I wouldn't have given to have had something like this when I was a kid! I'm looking forward to it and am pleased to be teaching a class, myself!

Questions or comments? Check out the website or feel free to email me.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter At My House

You know how some girls get a new Easter dress ever year? Those pretty, pastel, frilly dresses that overwhelm department stores every year? Well, I never got one of those special Easter dresses. I've always wanted one and still look longingly at the racks of pretty dresses each season.

My mom just didn't do Easter. I never got an Easter basket either, except for one year when my aunt gave us one. Don't get me wrong; my mom is great--really great. She's just not very traditional and doesn't give importance to customs she considers trivial. She does do Christmas every year just because my dad loves it so much, but if it was up to her, she wouldn't do Christmas either.

I think it all has to do with how these two holidays, based on the Savior, have been over-marketed to the point that they don't even resemble what they are supposed to symbolize. I understand that; but I still love holidays.

I don't go overboard though because I like my kids to not focus on Easter baskets and candy, but to remember why we celebrate Easter in the first place. So, they have an Easter basket that I reuse every year and put a few things in there for them. Simple things like candy, Matchbox cars, toothbrushes, pez dispensers, snacks. Nothing huge. They don't expect much and don't dwell on it. In fact, it's now 3:00 and they haven't even asked about them. I'll probably give out the baskets right before dinner or something.
Once, I celebrated Easter with some extended family and it was crazy. It felt like Christmas. Each adult gives each child an Easter basket so they end up with like 5 or 6 baskets filled with crazy stuff like clothes, electronics, purses for the girls, toys. I didn't like it. It's too much; way too much. I don't like my kids to have too much, just enough. Those kids tore through the baskets like it was Christmas (don't even get me started on Christmas with these folks), leaving behind baskets and trash in their wake. That was the last year we spent Easter with them. We like simple. So, we do a small Easter egg hung, small baskets, and some kind of lesson about the Resurrection.

People kept asking me what we're doing for Easter this year. Are we going to visit my parents who only live 2.5 hours away? I kept thinking, no we're just going to stay here--keep it simple. My mom just doesn't do Easter. As for Easter dresses? Well, I have 3 boys so I don't know if I'll ever get to buy one of those cute pastel-colored dresses after all. And me? Well, maybe my longing for a special Easter dress is perhaps long gone. I just wore a black dress today.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Write What You Know?


So one of the most basic pieces of writing advice you're ever likely to hear is the old, "write what you know," phrase. It's certainly good advice; when you're writing about something with which you have a lot of experience, it's bound to come off sounding authentic and will draw your reader that much more into your story.

But what if you don't like what you know? Take me, for example. I'm a SAHM with a degree in elementary education. Now, there's probably a great story out there waiting for me where the heroine is a teacher and a bunch of crazy things happen. But that's really not what I want to write about. Now, anyway.

In my books, my characters have time traveled, been doctors, spies, private investigators, archaeologists, antique experts and survivors of the Civil War. Some of my heroes have been accountants, tech guys, former drug addicts, blacksmiths and victims of amnesia.

Nothing in my shorter novels, (those that exclude the Civil War seris), has ever happened to anyone I know. A lot of what I've written is what I call "escape fiction," and is totally out there. That's because it's what I like to read, as well. When I read for enjoyment, I like to be completely and thoroughly entertained.

I also happen to love research.

Eeewww! So many people hate research, but I really love it. And here's one of the biggest benefits to spending a bit of time researching: it becomes what you know! I know, how great is that! If you spend some time becoming familiar with something else- a different occupation, location, time period- you have moved yourself into the realm of knowing something about the subject and when you do that, all sorts of things open up for your writing. Suddenly it becomes very easy to imagine a character with a given set of traits who, when you put her into a given set of circumstances or a profession, takes off on her own.

I suppose what I mean with all of this is that while yes, you will write with your own set of experiences behind you, it's ok to venture out into the unknown and make it known. Don't be intimmidated about writing something you haven't personally experienced just because you haven't personally experienced it.

Crack open a book on ancient Egypt, google archaeology, buy a guidebook on India or England--the sky's the limit if you don't limit yourself.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Promoting a Book

by Marsha Ward

Since I received 12 cartons/packages full of my novels--Trail of Storms, The Man from Shenandoah, and Ride to Raton--this week, I'm keenly interested in moving them out of my 740-square-foot trailer.


What am I doing to help that happen?

First of all, I've let the entire contents of my email address book know that autographed copies of my new book are now available. This includes numerous Yahoo groups.

I'm letting my social networks know, as well. Events kind of snuck up on me, so I didn't have all of those in place previously, but now I've joined Goodreads, and Twitter is in the works for later today.


I'm sending out review copies of Trail of Storms. Conventional wisdom says you have to get reviews out before your novel is published. Indeed, many review sites won't take a book that has already been published. However, ARCs don't come with the iUniverse process. There are sites that will do reviews on already-published books. Since my book doesn't depend on a limited bookstore shelflife, I can get reviews from here on out for continued sales.

I'm planning a blog tour to publicize my new novel. If you want to be involved, please contact me here.

I've posted a book trailer on YouTube.com. I know of at least one book sale that will come from that.

I'm attending an obscene number of conferences and conventions this year, books in tow.

I hand out business cards to everyone I meet. These are specially prepared, with my novel's cover and information on how to obtain it. I print them from my computer.

I update my website and blog frequently.

I carry books with me wherever I go.

I hope it helps! =)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

You're Invited: Ladies' Night at Cedar Fort!

Hello all!

This Saturday, LDS bookstores everywhere are hosting Ladies' Nights. I've attended a number of these super fun events over the years, and this year I get to do a book signing at one! So, check out the invite below, and come join me for a night of fun and friendship!

(In case you can't read the address on the invite, here it is: Cedar Fort, 2373 West 700 South, Springville, Utah.)

Hope to see you there!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

What is Her Goal?

By Marcia Mickelson

Recently, I had someone evaluate my manuscript and at about page 34, she said what is the main character's goal?

That question really made me think. Sure, my character has goals in life and there are things she wants to accomplish, but my evaluator was right. I hadn't clearly defined what the main character's goal was--what she was in pursuit of.

So, now I'm revising and trying to make it clear what her goal is what she is in active pursuit of during the book.

Each main character should have a goal they're trying to reach and that should be clearly defined early in the book. Even if they don't obtain that goal, which a lot of times they won't, it still needs to be clear to the reader what that goal is. Why are we even interested in this book? If we understand their goal and want them to reach it, then that will make us care about the character. As writers, of course we want readers to care about the characters.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

"Be Prepared" is not just for Boy Scouts

by Marsha Ward

I have to make this quick, as I have a class at 2 p.m., but I wanted to pop in here from my retreat to urge writers and other artisans to always be prepared to make a sale.

I'm at a retreat for members of TOPS - Take Off Pounds Sensibly - and for talent night, I asked if I could do a reading from one of my novels. The director said yes, and since I had copies in my car, I was able to find an appropriate passage to read.

I always carry copies of my books, but I wish I'd brought more. Although I hadn't intended to sell books here, all of them are gone!

Be Prepared!


Friday, March 20, 2009

Old Heroes

I just wanted to drop in and share a link to a new blog with you. Check it out. The quote is very interesting!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Cover judging

I know I've done it. I've judged books by their covers. And a good cover will practically have the book leaping into my hands. I think covers are so crucial to a book's sales.

Of all my books so far, there's only one that I thought was kind of lack-luster. As for a favorite- it's a tie between my second book, No Time for Love, and my most recent, Isabelle Webb. Mystery/romance is what speaks to me with both of these images.



Have you ever read or not read a book based solely on the cover?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Trail of Storms is now available

by Marsha Ward


Trail of Storms showed up on Amazon.com yesterday. The listing says they don't have any books yet, but that will cease to be an issue once you start ordering. It's eligible for Free Super Saver Shipping (on orders over $25), by the way. If you don't own a set yet, order the other novels (The Man from Shenandoah and Ride to Raton) and get the series shipped to you for free.

The funny news is that someone already found out the book is available and has it for sale for a penny less than Amazon. It's a new copy, too.

It's also at booksamillion.com, although they've increased the online price there. Do they do that on all their offerings so you'll join the club and get a "discount"?

Soon Trail of Storms will be on BarnesandNoble.com (aka bn.com).

Go forth and buy. It's one way to save the economy. =)

Once you're read Trail of Storms, be sure to return to the online booksellers and do a review or put on a comment. Thank you. I appreciate that.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

March Madness Contest

By Marcia Mickelson

I'm hosting a March Madness contest on my blog. Go to www.marciamickelson.blogspot.com for details.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Confession: I really want one!

I can't believe I'm even admitting it! I love, love books. I love owning them, holding them in my hands, writing all over them and keeping my favorites. I never thought I'd see the day when I would actually want an electronic reading thingie. This one is the Kindle 2, and it can all but fly you to the moon.

But this is so cool! Download entire books in nothing-flat! Someone tells you about a great book- say no more, download it now!

And yet...I will always love the act of walking through a bookstore on the hunt for something really good.

This will be yet another part of life I'll learn to balance. I'll always love the old-fashioned book. Yet, this cool, sleek new toy is just too yummy to resist. Someday I'll own one. And in the meantime...I'll keep flipping pages.

What about you? Preferences?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

HURRAY!

by Marsha Ward

Trail of Storms has gone to the printer!


Although this milestone makes me very happy, I'm saving the "jumping up and down" for the day when the first carton of books is delivered.

=)

Pretty nice birthday week present, huh?

Edited 3/16/09 to add: Trail of Storms is now available as a trade paperback and e-book at iUniverse.com. Online book sellers will have the novel listed in a couple of weeks. Go see the book trailer at YouTube. =)

Monday, March 9, 2009

Fifty & Fabulous

by Elodia Strain

Today one of my dearest friends is celebrating her 50th birthday.

This friend was my original BFF--there for me whenever and wherever I needed her. She was there when I went to Yellowstone National Park. There when I watched the Olympics for the first time. There for me after school during those years I got teased a lot.

She was the first to teach me about fashion, hair, and makeup. Sometimes she got a bit of flak for this, but for me, it was empowering to have a friend who could be an astronaut, an Olympian--or whatever she wanted to be--and do it all in heels!

In fact, it was playing with this friend that I first started to make up stories. Sometimes very elaborate ones that picked up every day when I got home from school.

Who is this friend, you wonder? Why none other than Miss Barbara Millicent Roberts--aka Barbie.

That's right, Barbie is 50!

And in celebration, today Mattel is throwing my dear friend a pink-carpet birthday bash in a 3,500-square-foot real-life Barbie's Dreamhouse--located in Malibu, California. Found in this dream house: A closet filled with thousands of shoes!

Now that's the friend I know and love.



(I want that Barbie rug! Photo from lasnark.com)
Happy Birthday, Barbie! Thanks for the memories!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

What I've Been Up To

By Marcia Mickelson

Well, I haven't blogged in a while and I haven't been present on Facebook much lately. What have I been doing, you ask?

1-Reading like a maniac. I'm trying to read about 8 more books before April 4th so I can vote for the Whitney Awards. I have never read so much in so little time in my life. I think I'm getting a little tired of reading. I'm ready for a break come April.

2- Not writing. I have been neglecting writing due to all the reading. It was a good time to have a break in writing, but I'm missing it. I've been waking up feeling a little aimless because I have no story running through my head right now. I need to get that story going soon.

3- Sleeping on the couch. My husband was out of town last week for training with his company. I get so scared at night that I don't like to sleep in my bed. So, I keep the lights and TV on and bring my blanket and pillow on the couch. It's the only way I can fall asleep when he's not here.

4-Trying to keep a 3 and a half year old busy. My Ruben is so different than my older boys. He doesn't like to sit still to play a game or do a puzzle or color. So, he goes from one activity to another. His favorite game is 'Get Me' in which I have to run around the house to grab him and kiss or tickle him. We play 'Get Me' at least once a day. He also loves to play Ruben Sandwich which is when I put him between 2 pillows to make a sandwich and nibble his ear. I just wish we could sit down and play a game of Memory or do a puzzle without him throwing everything in the air. Or, play some Legos without him demolishing what I build. He keeps me going with very little down time.

5-Trying to keep on top of my other 2 boys. My oldest has had so much homework lately as he's been preparing for a standardized test. With all their homework and appointments 3 days of the week, we've just been going, going. It will be nice to have Spring Break in 1 week. They need some down time.

Well, that's what I've been up to.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

You Go Get Your Palace


One of my favorite movies is Cool Runnings. It's about the first Jamaican Bobsled team and I really like the actors who played the four main parts, along with John Candy, their coach.

In one scene, one of the characters, whose name is Yul Brenner, dares to mention his dreams and he holds up a picture. He says, "I'm going to live there." Another character, Sanka, laughs himself silly at the picture because it's a photo of Buckingham Palace. So Yul gets all embarrassed and crumples the picture. A third character, Junior Bevil, retrieves the picture and straightens it out. He gives it back to Yul and says, "Go ahead Yul Brenner. You go get your palace."

I love that part of the movie the best. (I hope I've remembered everything more or less correctly. It's been awhile since I've seen it). Many times when I've been discouraged or ready to throw away a silly dream, I remember that line.

Makes me also think of Langston Hughes:
Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die,
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.


That's poetry I can wrap my brain around.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A Little Like Andy

by Marsha Ward

I'm feeling a bit fractious today, with all the little glitches in my life that I'm having to endure, so here's a mini-essay a la Andy Rooney of 60 Minutes.


During the cold weather this winter, my mind wandered over a lot of options for keeping warm. At one point, I determined that if I kept my core temperature warm, maybe my skin wouldn't think it was so cold. I mulled over drinks of the warm-to-hot variety, since one can only ingest so much soup.


I don't drink coffee--never have--so that's out.

Hot chocolate is nice, but it has its limitations. Too much of it will send me packing into a small room of my home for long spells of time, where I won't be very productive.


Hot apple cider is okay if it's fresh, but the dried, packaged version has too many chemicals for my taste.


I settled on Postum, a roasted grain beverage from my childhood. It comes in two varieties: regular, and coffee flavor. Like I said, I don't drink coffee, so I set about looking for the regular stuff in my local grocery stores.

I looked and looked. In vain, it seems. Needing something, I bought Pero, which is made from barley, but I'd never tried it before. It's not quite the same flavor as Postum.

Since I don't like to be a quitter, the next time I was in town, I looked in another store, but they didn't even have Pero. I was with a friend, and when I was trundling my groceries out to the car, I mentioned my search.


"Oh, they don't make it anymore," she said.


"What?" I rejoined. "They don't make Postum?"

"I even called Kraft Foods, and no, they don't make it." My friend looked as downcast as I felt. "I have one last jar, and I'm nursing it along."

This is dreadful, folks. Postum has been on the market since 1895! When I moved, a friend helped me, and she threw out my jars of Postum, telling me I could buy more. Well, I can't. And that just stinks! I'm unhappy, Kraft Foods.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Ten Random Things...

It's Monday, and although you may be unaccostomed to hearing from me on Monday, it is my day to blog. So, yeah, I made it! 

On my facebook, I've been invited multiple times to write a note called 25 random things. I haven't done it but decided today on Ink Ladies I'll do ten. Here goes:

1. I saw the trailer for my neice's new movie today (Danielle Wolverton). Looks fabulous! Check it out here: http://www.uncheckablefilms.com/Trailer.html

2. I had a great weekend with all my children! I got photos too. I love photography.

3. I still want to buy a Ruesch side-by-side and will one day. It's like off-road racing! Speed and ruggedness!

4. I can't for the life of me figure out what to make for dinner, so I'm stalling.

5. My friend from high school posted photos of us at a high school Valentine's Day dance on Facebook. I had forgotten I'd gone with Chris.

6. The two movies we rented Saturday night were terrible. Really don't waste your time on Open Season 2 or All Roads Lead Home. If you saw either and happened to like them, well we have vastly different opinions on what makes a good movie.

7. I haven't queried an agent in about a month on my finished novel. Sometimes it's difficult to jump back in after multiple rejections.

8. I recently painted my son's room and added vinyl lettering. He loved it! We did it as a surprise for him.

9. I'm freelancing again. I write for the local paper and have an article coming out in another national magazine soon.

10. My friend, Jennifer Rasmusson, forwarded this link to me. It's a talk about creativity by a best-selling author. Fabulous! Check it out here: http://www.ted.com/talks/view/id/453

Well, that's it. Ten random thoughts. Have a great Monday and I'll do my best to blog next Monday with something that flows, something wonderful and captivating ...

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Reading Binge

By Marcia Mickelson

I'm on a reading binge. I've been reading so much this last month. I'm not a fast reader, but I'm really trying to read the Whitney Awards Finalists so I can vote next month.

I actually read an entire book in one day this week. I've never done that before. It always takes me at least 2 days to read a book. I've read three books this week and just started a new one tonight.

I have 10 books left to read before I vote. I'm not sure I can do it. That's a lot of reading, and I think my kids are tired of seeing my nose stuck behind a book. Here I go. Five weeks, ten books. Sounds doable, right?

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Previously Engaged- The Movie

by Elodia Strain

This month a movie based on one of my favorite books, Sophie Kinsella's Confessions of a Shopaholic, has hit the theaters. I have a ten dollar bill I've set aside to use for my ticket to this movie, and it's been burning a hole in my pocket for two weeks now. And it's all got me thinking a little about the whole book-becomes-movie process.

So, today I thought it might be fun to cast Previously Engaged, the movie.

Hey, a girl can dream.

Annabelle Pleasanton is a girl with a good heart, an eye for a bargain, and a seeming magnet for bad luck. I think Emmy Rossum's sweet and approachable look would be perfect for this part.

Annabelle's best friend Carrie Fields-Newton is pretty and earthy with a devotion to green living and being a loyal friend. Chiara Zanni looks pretty much exactly how I picture Carrie in my own mind with the exception of eye color. But mabye Chiara would be willing to sport some blue contacts for the part.


Isaac Matthews is good-looking and athletic with a certain kindness about him that also accounts for his occassional--but endearing--cluelessness. Milo Ventimiglia comes pretty close to the way I picture Isaac--though Isaac has a few inches on 5 foot 9 inch Milo.

East-coast cool guy Alex Mikels is smooth--and has the suits, car, and beachfront home to prove it. Hayden Christiansen--you may recognize him as Anakin from Star Wars--would be perfect for the role with his sort of Abercrombie & Fitch look.

Former model, Chloe Payne is the girl of Isaac's family's dreams--to the chagrin of Annabelle. Chloe has it all together--the hair, the clothes, the charm. She's part pageant-girl part sly fox. I've loved Joanna Garcia since she was on Reba. She played that role--the cute, self-centered cheerleader--perfectly. She could definitely pull of a great Chloe.

So whaddya think, readers...would you watch Previously Engaged the movie?

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Writerly Encouragement


Long, long ago, in a mindset far, far away, in the days before I was published, I used to lap up positive writing quotations and stick them on the wall by my computer. Once I'm published, I used to think, I'll be over this insecurity.

Well, guess what. That mindset isn't really far, far away. I still grab onto positive thoughts regarding writing and publication because it's never a sure thing, especially in the market right now. What is a great career now can change on a dime if you're not careful.

One of the best quotes I came across was from Anne Rice. I think I found it in either a Writer's Digest or maybe online somewhere. I didn't write the source down and I wish I had. At any rate, this is it:

"...[People who write have to] a)believe in themselves totally, b)work like demons and c)ignore the rejections.
When you mail out a transcript, you are not turning in a paper for a grade. You can mail out a perfectly wonderful and publishable novel and then have it rejected 10 times. And the reason it's rejected is because you hit 10 different people who, for various reasons, don't want to work with this idea. You have to keep going. You have to never interpret rejection as a failing grade. They are not failing grades. they mean almost nothing...I kept writing and kept mailing out. My attitude was, 'I'm going to become a writer.' I was a writer
."

And that's Anne Rice! Like her or not, you must admit the woman tells an amazing story and has done really, really well with it. The fact that, for me, this advice came from such a credible source was a real kick of inspiration.

I'm not sure how many writers read this blog, but if you're out there and wondering if your work will ever see the light of day, take heart! It's possible, it's doable, you just cannot, cannot quit. You hone the art, you perfect it, you polish and scrub it, you get objective, kind feedback, you work and work and work.

I love that billboard that has a pic of Edison on it. The quote is, "After the 10,000th try, there was light." Good thing he kept at it, or we'd all still smell like kerosene.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Blogging Seminar

by Marsha Ward

Last Saturday I attended a seminar on Blogging. The main speaker was Dave Barnhart, whose business in Phoenix, Arizona, is called
Business Blogging Pros. He also, naturally, has a blog for his business.

Here are some of the highlights of what I learned about how a blog can help a business owner, or by extension, a writer.
  • It gets you Google juice. Google loves blogs, primarily because they always have new content. Therefore, your name or business name, can be on the top of the search engine lists if you blog with regularity.
  • It's free exposure. Influential people, like newspaper reporters and magazine editors, read the blogosphere. They might need background for an article, or is could be a slow news day and your input is just the thing they want to highlight.
  • It provides direct access for your clients/customers/readers. Once example Dave mentioned is GM Fastlane, wherein the management of a giant automobile company interacts with customers, actually providing customer service!
  • It humanizes you and builds trust in you and your business. This leads to the possibility that customers will drive past your competitors to buy your products, even when they are priced higher!
  • It leads to conversation in which your business is the topic.
  • It improves your business's image. Having a blog today is comparable to having a website in 1994. It brands you as a forward thinking, cutting edge business. Websites are pretty static, but blogs are highly updatable. Businesses need both.
Dave pointed out the usefulness of using business blogs to educate and inform, to do customer service, and to target the customer's needs. Writers do the same things with their blogs, in a writerly way.

Monday, February 23, 2009

When You DVR something...

By Marcia Mickelson

We now have Direct TV with DVR and I love it. I love being able to record something easily and run through the commercials. Last night, I recorded the Oscars and watched it in half the time, fast-forwarding through the commercials and the boring parts.

Know what I forgot? I forgot that the Oscars always go over and into the news hour. Well, I only recorded the program for the duration of the Oscars, so I missed the last 3 awards. They went past the time and into the news hour. The three biggest awards of the evening, and I missed them. I checked on-line afterwards to see who won, but I guess I'll check Youtube to see the actual acceptance speeches. I love to watch the acceptance speeches.

So, nex time you DVR something, don't forget to record the show after your show if there's a chance it will go over.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

My New Book


by Elodia Strain



On this weekend’s Academy Awards, Tina Fey and Steve Martin paid tribute to the writers behind the movies that makes us laugh, make us cry, make us think, and even, in the best instances, make us better. When I think about the power of stories, I feel so amazingly blessed to do what I do. To put a cast of characters between two book covers is just the best thing in the whole world. So, this weekend kind of feels like the perfect time for me to officially announce into blogland the release of my new book, Previously Engaged.

So, here it is, in the form of the official book trailer—animated by my awesomely talented husband Jake!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xkHjEIHFD6s

Thanks for watching!


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Electronic Proofing

by Marsha Ward

Today I'm working on the interior and cover proofs for my new novel, Trail of Storms. This process involves carefully examining every detail to see if I like the design, finding errors, making corrections, and suggesting changes. There's only one chance to get it right, and this is that chance. One thing I'm definitely requesting a change on: my name on the cover must be bigger, since one of my colleagues missed seeing it at first glance.

Yikes! We can't have that happening!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

And in honor of Valentine's Day...


"Is not this the true romantic feeling--not to desire to escape life, but to prevent life from escaping you?" -Thomas Wolfe

Truthfully, sometimes I'm desperate for life to not escape me, and other times I'm wishing it would just keep flying by so I can reap my eternal reward for sticking it out.

I love the days when I feel like I've got life by the throat and want to accomplish everything under the sun. Oddly enough, (or not oddly enough, if you ask my parents and grandparents), I'm happiest when I'm productive. Nice as it would be to sit around and do nothing but eat chocolates, (or chips and salsa), I feel such supreme satisfaction at having cleaned a horribly messy room or written thousands of words.

It's all about balance. That's kind of my life philosophy. Too much of any one thing leaves us lopsided. Everything in life requres balance, love included. Too much love and you're an obsessive stalker. Not enough love and you have damaged relationships.

Since it is Valentine's Day, I hereby give a shout-out to my husband. He makes me laugh, and always has. It's one of the things I love the most about him. When his sense of humor runs out, I'm kicking him to the curb. We're coming up on our 20th anniversary and I want him to know that it really does feel like it's flown by.

There's a quote whose source I can't remember, but in essence it's this: Eternity can be a long time, but with the right person, it's not long enough.

I'm glad I've signed on with someone who makes me laugh, or eternity would be long indeed.

I love you. :-)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Snowbound!

by Marsha Ward

A couple of days ago when I opened my front door, this is what I saw:



That put me in mind of a scene in my first novel, The Man from Shenandoah:


The weather grew steadily colder as the men continued with the logging. James found his creek, and started cutting logs for a cabin for Ellen. Carl chose the wooded bench with a natural clearing in the center for his home site. An artesian spring rose just below the clearing, which became the headwaters of a little stream that ran to join the creek far below his father's home. Carl had staked out a homestead that took in both sides of the stream and down into the valley. Ida would favor the cabin being surrounded by trees, snugly tucked into the forest.

The walls of both cabins were half way to the top, and the Christmas party was ten days away when the good weather broke in late afternoon. White clouds laden with snow rolled down from the mountain summits. A freezing wind blew from the north, forcing Carl, working alone at the cabin, to pull his gray coat collar up around his chin. He saddled Sherando, headed him south, and told the gray gelding, "Take me to Pa's, boy."

The horse started off into the driven needles of snow. Carl hunched his back against the wind, crossed his arms, and stuck his hands beneath them. After a while, the trail lay through the sheltering trees between his cabin site and Rulon's, but at the end, there was still the meadow to cross.

Carl halted Sherando before he left the trees to let the horse rest. He dismounted and stamped his feet to restore circulation, beating his hands together to warm them.

"Sherando boy, this storm can't last long. I've got to get that cabin built before Christmas." Climbing into the saddle once more, Carl urged the gray into the biting wind. "It's only a quarter mile," he told the animal. "It's mighty cold, but you're tough, Horse."

The moaning wind blew his words away as the icy blast hit them. On every side, Carl could see only swirling white ice crystals. He gave the horse its head, trusting its instinct to reach the cabin.

Sherando moved slowly, fighting the cross wind as he headed west up the meadow. The wind increased and tugged at Carl, almost dislodging him from the horse's back. Ice caked his hair and snow sifted down into his collar. Then they passed the bulk of Rulon's cabin on the right, and Sherando changed direction to cross the creek.

The horse paused at the log bridge spanning the water, and Carl saw that ice was forming at the sides of the stream. He shivered, and urged the tired horse to step onto the bridge.

"Come on, boy," he shouted over the keening of the wind. "Them logs are set solid."

The gray stepped tentatively onto the slippery surface of the logs, then skittered hurriedly across.

"That's a boy," Carl shouted triumphantly.

Snatched by the wind, his voice carried to his father's cabin, and a light shined out into the white yard as the door opened.

James blocked out the light as he came through the door and caught Carl, who was sliding off the gray's back.

James called out, "Clay, grab them reins and take care of the horse. I'll get Carl into the house."

"You're well nigh froze, son." His father helped James assist Carl across the doorsill. "That blow came up mighty sudden. It's a wonder you made it back here."

Carl shivered, then said, "It's my fault I got caught. I want that cabin up so bad, I let the storm take me by surprise."

***

Morning came without a change in the weather, and Clay had to lean heavily against the door to crack loose the ice binding it to the jamb.

"Pa, that storm's still a-blowing, and the snow's piled up next to the door. How am I going to get out to feed the stock?"

"There's always a way for a man to feed his animals." Rod went over to the door. He tugged it open and faced a wall of white. "Fetch me a stick," he told Clay. "Maybe it ain't packed down tight."

Reaching as high as he could through the doorway, he flailed the stick into the snow. "It's still loose. Get some pails, boys."

Rod buttoned on his coat while Clay and Carl brought the buckets. "Clay, keep that second pail until I need it. Carl, you empty the full ones into the washtub."

Rod scooped out a pail full of snow at the top of the doorway and handed it over his shoulder to Clay. Taking the other bucket, he scooped again. Repeating the process until he had a hole big enough to crawl into, Rod then wiggled his way out the door and entered the icy cavern. "Clay, give me that stick again." His voice boomed in the confined space. "We'll see how deep this drift is."

Thrusting the stick into the snow above him, Rod felt a light resistance. He coughed as a load of snow fell into his upturned face. "Get me a longer stick," he commanded, angry at the elements.

Carl handed him Julia's broom, and Rod took it with a jerk. He stabbed it upward and broke through into the howling morning. New snow burst into his cavern, blinding him for a moment. Then he broke loose more of the crusty roof, and packed the snow down on one side to make a ramp to exit the hole. Triumphantly, he pulled himself out into the storm, floundering in the cabin-high drift.

"By gum, Colorado does everything in a big way," he shouted down to his family. "I have never seen a blow like this before."

Of course my door wasn't iced shut, nor does the drift reach the door top, but we do have about two feet of snow in a location where four inches is considered a good snowfall. I can truly better empathize with my characters now.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Trying not to Fall Asleep

By Marcia Mickelson

So, I've finished my current manuscript, and it's all printed out. Now, I'm reading through it to proofread, revise, and edit. It's already gone through a good edit and some revisions. I'm just reading through to make sure I'm consistent. I've already caught several mistakes--things I forgot to take out during editing that makes no sense now.

I'm about 2/3 done with it, but for some reason every time I sit down to read it, I get really sleepy. I hope this isn't saying anything about how boring it might be. I don't think it's boring, I'm just really sleepy these days.

I had the opportunity to have a whole half day to myself without kids. So, I went to the library with manuscript in hand hoping to read for two hours. I think it's best to read through it quickly because it helps me check for continuity errors. If there's too much time left between reading, I might not catch something.

So, here I was in a beautiful, brand new library with no kids in tow. I didn't even have to step foot in the kids' section. And, what happened? I started to fall asleep. It was the middle of the day, about 1:00 PM and I could not stay awake. I lay my head down on the table for a few minutes and finally gave up after an hour. Again, I don't think my book is boring, but gosh I couldn't stop nodding off. It felt like my old days at BYU where I'd look for a secluded corner or couch to take a nap.

So, I gave up and just went home. The other night, I sat at the kitchen table to read over the manuscript again and a half hour later, there I was again falling asleep. I want to finish reading this thing, but I just keep falling asleep. I think I just need to get more sleep. It's 11:42 PM. I really better go to bed. I'll try again tomorrow and hope that I don't fall asleep reading my book. I might start to lose confidence in my manuscript.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Distinctive Voices


Just sitting here listening to a little Fleetwood Mac and thinking that I'd know Stevie Nicks' voice anywhere. There are some voices like that- you recognize them right off the bat because they're so unique.

A few more that come to mind: Freddie Mercury, Barbara Streisand, Britney Spears, (much as I dislike her voice), Steve Perry, (until you hear his replacement for Journey, which sounds just like him!), Celine Dion, Elvis, (of course- and I can't stand his voice!), Ethel Merman!, Rod Stewart...

Ok, this list was way long longer in my head when I started this post and now I'm drawing a blank. You know what I mean, though. The kind of voice you hear in a new song and you don't have to ask who the artist is.

I'm probably un-American to admit to not liking Elvis. I do like Frank Sinatra, though, so that counts for something. (Sending pleas for forgiveness heavenward to my grandfather who thought Sinatra was a not-talent hack. We're not Italian, though, we're Scots. Maybe that's the difference. Had my grandfather been Italian, it would have been in the blood. I mean, can you be Italian and not like Frank Sinatra? I should think that would be morally reprehensible or something. Somehow defiling a natural law of the universe).

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Trials of Trail of Storms

by Marsha Ward

I've had a novel in the works for quite a while, entitled Trail of Storms. It seems to me that this book has an important purpose to someone somewhere, because I've been undergoing various trials in getting it published. I believe in an Evil One who doesn't not want me to succeed.

Among the trials I've experienced this past month: pretty severe depression, problems with Internet Explorer crashing and finally not loading and having to convert to Firefox browser usage (including finding all my favorites and bookmarked sites), problems with the iUniverse site timing out during uploads then not opening the author section, my manuscript getting corrupted and my having to revise margins and insert tabs

FOR.EVERY.SINGLE.PARAGRAPH!

Also, having to re-center each chapter heading and every three-asterisk scene break, several late nights that wreaked havoc on my eyes, electrical power failures at crucial times, etc., etc., etc.


Oh, did I mention all my italics were gone? I had to compare the manuscript side-by-side with a previous version to find them, and I certainly hope I found them all.

Among the tender mercies of my Heavenly Father, I count my wonderful friends who have literally saved me from sliding into deep despair, a son who traveled over 100 miles to fix my leaking roof, and God's hand in keeping my Internet connection going during the 2 hour and 49 minute upload of the photo file. I know He had His hand in the works, because I kept hearing the ominous click that signals the modem shutting off, but the connection maintained a live status and the photo kept uploading throughout. Not three minutes later, I lost the connection.

!

God lives, and He loves His Children!