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!

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


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


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!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Best Job in the World

Okay, so I did it. I actually applied for "The Best Job in the World!" My kids are already planning for their six month stay in Australia and my husband's backing me all the way. He really encouraged me to give it a try ... think of it as the ultimate writing retreat, he said. So I did it, and I must say I'd love to actually get the job, because honestly, who wouldn't want to live on a tropical island for six months (besides my dad)? 
Anyway, now all I've got to do is beat out about 30,000 other applicants and it's all mine! It's do-able. Go ahead, check out my application video and wish me luck!