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Friday, November 23, 2012

Buying American


I think this year I'm going to do all in my power to buy (or make) American. The people who work so hard to write books will love my business. Or those on Etsy or other such sites who make such interesting items. I'm going to find things like music lessons for my daughters, or give handmade goodies of my own design.

There will still be a few things I can't find or make, but I'm going to limit those this year. This is my way of putting a finger in the dike. I know there are a bazillion other holes bleeding our country dry, but if I say something, it'll be one other way to plug a hole.

My ideas: Go to Pinterest, or Etsy or any other of a plethora of interesting blogs and find cute things to make yourself. Do something kind. Recognize those who serve you with service. Shorten your Christmas list. Realign your ideas of what Christmas really is. Drop a huge dollop of serenity into the swirling vortex of craziness which goes with this modern Christmas season. We don't have to be bullied into spending more than we should.

Remember whose birthday it really is. What kind of present would Christ want?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Thank Heavens For...


photo by incite-realty.com

It's November, a month I love to fill with thanks. We spend so much time during Christmas running around like chickens running, buying, decorating, wrapping, eating, drinking, singing, celebrating, wishing, plotting, and regretting. November is the calm before the storm.

Sometimes I think I'd just like to celebrate the real birth of Christ after all the stores have gasped through their last holiday advertisement, their last grand push to entrap the wallets of the masses, during that black hole right after the twenty fifth when people are lying around bemoaning their thickening middles and thinning wallets.

Somehow I feel Christ fits there better. He is the calm joy, the serenity.

Perhaps it was the Lord's design that a day of thanks was placed just before all the wildness of the Christmas season so that we can take a breath to really think about what we already have, partly because they may not be around soon. We of this generation have grown up feeling we were owed these things we take for granted. We don't understand those things our grandparents fought for, sweated for, died for. 

We've never had to cut the honey with water. We've never had to fill our shoes with newspaper because they're full of holes and let in the snow. We've never had to walk twenty miles to school (six, yes). Many of us have always had music playing right in our ears, computers at our finger tips, and a vast choice of programs to watch on TV. We haven't had to wait for anything. We haven't had to wish for something so badly we could taste it. And we're spoiled. We think we're owed all that. But we aren't. Someone had to pay for it all.

It chaps me greatly to see Christmas trappings already adorning the stores along with Halloween costumes. While we should treat people like it's Christmas all year round, the trappings are out of place before we've had that chance to think, to count the blessings He's already bestowed on us all year around.

So here are a few things I'm glad were in my life this year. I'm thankful for so many things. I'm thankful for manatees and bubble wrap, well-working can openers and velcro. I'm thankful for soldiers who give their lives in service to their country. I'm thankful for missionaries who give their lives in service to God. I'm thankful for mint chip ice cream. I'm thankful for (in no particular order):

my family
my church
books


photo from theatrehouse.com
striped socks
fingerless mitts
heated swimming pools in the winter
my husband's job
good health
friends
lemon meringue pie
photo from lebanair.com
apple pie
pi
foreign languages
a good voice
art erasers
pens that work
wing nuts
duct tape
rain on the sagebrush
snow
the freedom to worship
the right to bear arms
the right to vote
warm blankets in the winter
shade in the summer
cars that work
fudge
shrimp
photo from thislifeisacinema.wordpress.com
avocados
cheese enchaladas
dogs
the Constitution of the United States
horses

the ability to travel

hippopotamuseses
the planet Pluto
the color indigo
computers that work
lasagne
my home
and shoes

There are many other things I'm grateful for, but I'm running out of time before I have to go prepare the delicious food our family is blessed with. I'm definitely glad for that.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Doing Difficult

I've been thinking about DIFFICULT today. So many times we choose to forgo something we think is difficult to do. I do this all the time. It's difficult for me to bite the bullet and send my books out to publishers. So I have a backlog of FOURTEEN books in various stages of readiness to publish and a husband who doesn't think I'm a writer because I haven't published anything but one book, and that one struggles because of my decision on which publisher to use.

It's difficult to keep my house clean while I'm trying to pump out 50,000 words this month, so I let things slide and the house starts looking like the Clampetts live here. There are smudge marks on the doors and cupboards. My fridge is full of schmutz--a perfect germ haven. There was once a vacuuming and loads of dust bunnies emigrated to the book shelves.

It's difficult to talk to the people I love, so I just don't. I let things stew and simmer until they're boiling over and spreading goop all over the floor. Opportunities disappear, appointments go out the window, and our children grow up like they were raised by wolves. And then the others get lax too, and pretty soon I have no idea what's in the hearts and minds of anybody around me. Lonely!

It's difficult to clean out the shed and walk-in because of triple digit heat and the chewing out when the MAN gets home (he complains that he can't find his stuff in my carefully labelled boxes) so it's impossible to find anything or climb in there (you have to know how to chimney) or go camping with any speed. We've even had to do battle with two hives of bees and countless wasps because of the state of the shed.

All of these things involve choices and the payments for those choices (ie. consequences). What many people don't understand is that there are consequences for the things they choose to do, and those choices are cumulative. If a person chooses to vote for a certain person, they are, in a sense, responsible for some of the things that person does. I won't get into politics more than that.

When I think of people I greatly admire, it's those people who have done difficult things. Edward Pistorius was in the 2012 Olympics as a sprinter. Olympic-level sprinting is incredibly hard even with two sound legs. Pistorius has to run on blades. He ran in several sprints, even into the semi-finals. He was on his country's relay team...with stumps for legs. He's a beast, as my kids would say.

I've related in a previous post about the movie, Touching the Void which is done from a 1988 book by Joe Simpson, recounting his and Simon Yates' disastrous and nearly fatal climb of Siula Grande (6,344m) in the Andes in 1985. Simpson ended up climbing most of the way down that mountain with a broken leg. His friend had given him up for dead. Simpson had to make continuous choices to grasp life instead of lying back and caving to oblivion. He has my undying respect.

One of the leaders of my church once wrote that he never remembered his mother raising her voice. When I read that, I harked back to all the yelling I have done. How could she have gone his whole life without yelling once at her son? That idea amazes me. But each scenario, each annoyance or bad choice on his part she greeted with a choice of her own. She chose to meet his poor decisions and mistakes with grace and understanding. To me, that would be almost as difficult as climbing on a broken leg.

Many people have felt they've gotten away with ducking consequences for their actions. That simply isn't true. Even if it's unapparent on the outside that you've made poor decisions, those choices in the inside form who you are. You are making a groove with each choice you make. We all are. If we choose to repeat that action, the groove gets deeper. It becomes a habit and then an addiction.

We can whine and holler until our eyeballs fall out, but we're still the one who dug that ditch so deeply that we have a terrible time getting out. It was our own actions and choices that brought us heartache and misery, to a great extent. We made each decision to carve the rut deeper, or to hop out of that ditch and strike out on a different course. 

When I was small, I lived in a town, which had a little ski area right in town. I learned to ski on Calico Hill. It boasted two rope tows, one for the little hill and one for the big one. A rope tow is wound in a set of giant pulleys. When you want to go up the hill, you situate yourself correctly (or risk face planting in front of your jeering friends), grab tightly to the rope, and it pulls you as far up the hill as you can hold on.

As the day grows later, usually it cools off and the snow gets icy. The rope tows also get icy. But also the ruts get deeper. You'd better hope you get into the right ruts as the day wains, or you'll find yourself plowing into the ice with your nearly frozen face. Not fun. Or, you might hope you can do a standing jump in your skis. Not easy or fun. Either way, the rut you have carved all day will guide you where you'll go.

Even if the difficulties are not our fault, we can decide how we will think and act. One of my favorite books is by Corrie Ten Boom, called THE HIDING PLACE. She and her sister were incarcerated in a concentration camp because of their choice as Christians to help people escape from Nazi Germany. While in that camp they could have bowed to the incredibly hideous odds--something most people did in there. Corrie and her sister chose not to. They made their minds up to do the best they could. And they did it.

I've been reading a wonderful book by a gifted, successful, and insightful man named James A. Owen, called DRAWING OUT THE DRAGONS. It's all about the choices he's made and the forthcoming consequences he's suffered or enjoyed. He says in his book, "If you want to do something badly enough, you will. And people will help you. And if there's something you don't want to do, nobody will be able to help you."

It's all cumulative choices and decisions, weaving and interweaving to make a grand tapestry of life. You are the weaver. You are the doer of deeds. You can do difficult things. I can carry off those things which I never thought I could. I just have to make the decision to start, and then proceed to the finish.


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Marsha Ward Blog Tour!

Spinster's Folly is coming out! 
 
Marie Owen yearns for a loving husband, but Colorado Territory is long on rough characters and short on fitting suitors, so a future of spinsterhood seems more likely than wedded bliss. Her best friend says cowboy Bill Henry is a likely candidate, but Marie knows her class-conscious father would not allow such a pairing. When she challenges her father to find her a suitable husband before she becomes a spinster, he arranges a match with a neighbor's son. Then Marie discovers Tom Morgan would be an unloving, abusive mate and his mother holds a grudge against the Owen family. Marie's mounting despair at the prospect of being trapped in such a dismal marriage drives her into the arms of a sweet-talking predator, landing her in unimaginable dangers.
This fourth book in the Owen Family Saga is infused with potent heart and intense grit.
Bio:
Marsha Ward is an award-winning poet, writer and editor whose published work includes four novels in The Owen Family Saga: The Man from Shenandoah, Ride to Raton, Trail of Storms, and Spinster’s Folly; and over 900 articles, columns, poems and short stories. She also is a workshop presenter and writing teacher.
Interview with Marsha Ward:


Q: Tell us about when you first started writing and a little about your writing journey.

A: I've been a writer all my life. My sister tells me that when I was of pre-school age, I covered pages of notebook paper with scribbles and said it was my novel. I have no idea how I knew what a novel was. I do know I excelled at English and composition classes throughout my schooling. The teacher of the English class I took during my junior year of high school told me I should be teaching the class. Whoa! That blew me away.

I began what became my first novel, The Man from Shenandoah, in 1965. At the time, my goal was to write “The Great American Novel.” Soon I had a manuscript of twenty chapters that I carted around with me for years, but I didn't seriously work on it again until the 1980s, when I began to consider sending work out to publishers. I'd been reading certain books and told myself I could write as well as any of their authors. I dusted off my “Great American Novel,” realized it was only a summary, then studied creative fiction writing with several teachers and through reading many instruction books.

In the meantime, I started writing commercially for LDS newspapers, so feature and news articles were my thing for several years.

After learning what commercial fiction writing really entailed, I began to hone what natural talent I had, and bit by bit, after throwing away a lot of chaff—such as too many characters—and adding the good stuff—like sensory details and emotions and actual plot—I had a manuscript to send out. That I did.

I was getting good remarks from editors (but no offers yet), when I had a health crisis in 2002. It looked pretty bad. I wanted to leave my work behind in fixed form so no one would throw it out upon my death, so I looked into self-publishing. After some intensive study and thinking about what form of self-publishing I wanted to engage in, I chose to go with iUniverse. After a terrible false start on the cover, I provided them with a photo to use. I was so delighted with the quick turn-around and then the great response to The Man from Shenandoah from readers, that I decided to use the same method of publishing for the follow-up novel, Ride to Raton.

When word leaked out that my third novel, Trail of Storms, was finished at last, I was encouraged to submit it to a couple of publishers. I knew it wasn't right for them, but did so. I regretted wasting those eight months until rejection when a reader came up to me in a grocery store and begged for the new book. Why delay what clearly had a ready market? I went back to iUniverse for a third go-around.

After the success of my electronic books, I decided to go in another direction to publish the print edition of Spinster’s Folly. It is published by WestWard Books, my company.

Over the years I've won national prizes for poetry, and published columns in several periodicals. I've also written chapters for non-fiction books on writing and publishing. All of my novels include romantic elements. There may come a time when I'll write a mystery.

I had an epiphany several years ago when I realized that I write to let people know there is always hope, and to show them through the experiences of fictional characters that they can get through hard times, even really, really terrible times, and find happiness at the end of it all.

One of the hallmarks of my fiction is fast-paced adventure peopled with believable characters. Readers tell me when they're forced to put a book down they worry about my characters until they can read about them again. If I can take people out of their own worrisome lives enough to be concerned about fictional folks and see them through to a satisfying ending, then I've done the job of relieving some of their day-to-day stress. Isn't that what books are for?

Q: Tell us about your novels and where we can find them.

A. Actor Tom Sellack once said there should be a shelf in bookstores labeled "Darn Good Reads." I like to think my novels go there. My fiction works are historicals set in the 19th Century West. That broadly classifies them as Westerns, but if you think all Westerns are about outlaws and lawmen, or cowhands and sheep-herders, guess again. The Western genre has grown and evolved into many sub-genres, including my action/adventure/sweet romance novels dealing with Western Migration and post-Civil War angst.

My novels have evolved into The Owen Family Saga, with more books to come. The Man from Shenandoah, featuring son Carl, introduces the series and the family in post-Civil War Virginia, and starts the group moving west. Ride to Raton tells the other side of the coin to Carl's happiness, as it details his brother James's travels to get away from an unhappy situation, and his growth through some really interesting events. Trail of Storms goes back to Virginia and brings neighbors of the Owen clan out of the beleaguered South. A stop on their trip to Albuquerque brings new turmoil into the life of Jessie Bingham, the protagonist. Spinster’s Folly recounts the harsh adversities Marie Owen endures because of poor decisions she makes in her desperate search for a loving husband.

The first three books are available in print at iUniverse.com; and at retailers Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble.com, and other online booksellers. Spinster’s Folly is published by WestWard Books. It is available from my website, marshaward.com; at CreateSpace.com; and at the above online retailers. Autographed copies of all my novels can be purchased at MarshaWard.com.

Electronic versions of the novels in The Owen Family Saga may be found at Smashwords.com, BN.com, and all the Amazon Kindle stores. I also have various collections and short stories available as ebooks.

I’m in the research stage for the fifth Owen Family Saga nove, Gone for a Soldier. Since it deals with the Civil War experiences of oldest Owen son Rulon, I suspect I’m in for some intensive study to get the details right.

Q: What is one piece of advice you would give to new writers?

A. Do your homework and learn how to write well. Then don't be afraid to check out the freedom and almost instant readership being an independent self-publisher can give you. If you are the kind of writer who wants to connect with readers, you may want to do an end run around the very time-intensive and very limited traditional publishing world and check out the electronic and print self-publishing arena. If you are the kind of writer who needs the validation of gatekeepers and has plenty of time to spend chasing down an agent or a publisher, not so much. Over all, have faith in a bright future!
 

Links to her author pages at Smashwords and Amazon:
And links to her Social Media sites:
Online Book Release Event at Facebook on November 10:

Thor Lives on My Street!

Thor lives on my street! I'm convinced it's him because there are signs up all over the neighborhood asking if anyone's seen his hammer. I even have his phone number. Unfortunately, I doubt he looks like Chris Hemsworth.

I'm pondering what it would be like to have a superhero living nearby. It seems like every time you see one, lots of infrastructure is getting ruined. You see them crashing into buildings all the time and they never toss off a "Sorry about the loss of your skyscraper" or anything. They just merrily go about the business of offing the bad guy as the shards of glass and drywall shower to the ground.

And the bullets. Bullets are flying everywhere. Never mind that bullets rarely kill the bad guy even though every bad guy known to man is a sucky shot. Bullets fly around and tag total strangers. Mostly those strangers are running for their lives, granted.

It's all about collateral damage. I'm wondering if, on the scale of life, that particular bad guy was worth taking out a whole section of town. Was he worth three city buses and a baby in a buggy? Is there a list somewhere of what a villain is worth in the way of damages wreaked?

I suppose it would be nice to have the crime gone from my section of town. But it seems like crime seeks out these superheros. This means my section of town could become not safer, but a target for more crime.

Maybe I'm going to go find that stupid hammer and get Thor to move somewhere else. Or buy him another hammer.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Woo Hoo!!!

I'm so going to have a huge party when I'm done with NaNoWriMo because at some point last week this blog got its (Doot doo doo dooooo) one hundredth follower! There will be jubilation and perhaps a spiffy prize to ensue.

Meanwhile I am ten yards deep in words (half of them Spanish) and ideas. The wading is getting prohibitive. I fear when it gets above my waders. (And not THAT kind of wading.)

I also finished some great books lately:
Austenland by Shannon Hale (I can't wait for the movie!)
Evangeline's Miracle by Lisa Buie-Collard
Behind Jane Austen's Door by Jennifer Forest
Twin Souls by DelSheree Glad(something)
and Unlovable by Sherry Gammon
All of which I've greatly enjoyed.

I'm halfway through Ali Cross's Become. It's proving an interesting read. Reviews to come shortly. And now, back to LETTERS TO STEPS!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Nano Neurosis

It's NaNoWriMo month. This means that I'm writing a novel in a month. At least that's the idea. I did this last year with Psyquake and made it to the end as a winner. The book I'm working on this year is LETTERS FOR STEPS, a book about a missionary in Ecuador and one of his contacts, a girl from Colorado, USA, who is living in Ecuador for a lark. She's a photographer and lives above the restaurant she works in.

For much of it, I'm depending a lot on my daughter, N. for her mission experiences and knowledge of the area and people. I am taking other stories and anecdotes from other friends and relatives. The rub has been in trying to make it an engaging story without having Elder Holloway unlock his heart. N. is adamant that he can have not a smidgen of romantic regard for her.

On the other hand I have several examples of people who went back later and married people from their mission. So I'm really having to be careful as I tell this story. It's a tightrope dance.

It's taking lots of research on Ecuador--people, habits, clothing, population counts, etc., which slows me down a bit, along with tightrope part. My first visit was to Chimborazo volcano, the highest mountain near the equator. From there I went to llamas and alpacas and thence to street food of Guaranda. Soon I'll be looking up info about monkeys and the Colorado Indian tribe.

I love writing! You learn so much while doing it!


Friday, November 2, 2012

Time Out For Writers

ANWA’s 21st Annual Writers Conference
Mesa Hilton, February 21-23, 2013
Welcome to the registration site for the ANWA Writers Conference, “Time Out For Writers.” This conference is held annually in the Phoenix area and is open to the public. Attendees can participate in a query/pitch workshop, attend two full days of classes with industry professionals, enter our “BOB” contest (Beginning of Book) and win fabulous prizes, and pitch their work to both national and local agents and editors. EARLY REGISTRATION BEGINS OCTOBER 15th. 
 
*There will be wonderful classes on all phases of writing and publishing.
*BOB contest--First five hundred words of your Work In Progress
*Breakfast with the 'Stars'
*A Protagonist Ball
*Query/pitch workshop
*Pitch sessions
*Wonderful faculty

Come and be filled with inspiration and knowledge! Knowledge is power.