Mar 31, 2015

Indie Writer's Resources

by Marsha Ward

I'm an indie writer and author. That means I don't take the traditional path to publication through an agent and publisher. When I began to publish, I was forced into doing it myself (with the help of a now-despised outlet) because of a medical diagnosis. My days were numbered, my doctor said. Fortunately, he made a slight mistake, for which I am very grateful. Nevertheless, I was set upon a path that I've embraced wholeheartedly, because, well, I'm a control freak!

My current books are published by WestWard Books.

As my own publisher, I write, arrange for beta readers and editing, do my own covers or use a designer, format both ebooks and print editions, arrange for distribution, maintain websites, do all the publicity and marketing, and engage readers through social media and an email newsletter.

Yes, it's hard work! However, I love what I do, and most readers seem to like the results of my labors.

I could not have done all that I have achieved without the help of many, MANY people; and thousands of websites. My thirst for knowledge keeps me learning all the time, because so much changes in the world of book publication, and I have to keep on top of the changes, to the best of my ability.

Here are some of the sites that have helped me along the way. The list is not very long, so you'll likely need to expand it to include places you find yourself through links and referrals of other writers.

The Writings and Opinions of Dean Wesley Smith: one of my first mentors--check out the series of posts under "Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing"

The Passive Voice: A Lawyer's Thoughts on Authors, Self-Publishing and Traditional Publishing

A Newbie's Guide to Publishing: advice and thoughts from the often-profane but very helpful J.A. Konrath--go back and read 2009-2013 posts for a college education

David Gaughran/Let's Get Digital: a good watchdog for writers' interests, and always helpful

Advanced Fiction Writing Blog - Randy Ingermanson (the Snowflake Guy): if you're a plotter, the Snowflake Method can be invaluable to you in planning out a novel

Kristen Lamb's Blog: Very helpful to my style of writing--I never miss reading all her posts

Hugh Howey: a newer mentor

The Write Conversation: a Christian-oriented blog that has many helpful posts

I'm sure that as you check out these links, you'll find a wealth of knowledge, not only for those of you who are investigating or are on the indie writer path, but for other writers who need tips on using the Internet for publicity efforts, as well.

Which site can be most helpful to you?

Mar 26, 2015

Broken Nights, Lots of Vomit, and Even More Television

by Andilyn Jenkins

Forgive my late post. I know the day is nearly done, but life over here has consisted of broken nights, lots of vomit, and even more television. But last night, as I mopped up the bathroom floor because my four-year-old didn’t quite make it, I reflected on this story and have been looking for a quiet moment all day to write it down.

* * *

“I can’t be a mom,” I realized as I watched my mom on her hands and knees mopping my puke off of the white tile. I was probably thirteen or fourteen, and rushing to make it to the bathroom in the middle of the night to relieve my cramping stomach, I didn’t realize I also, apparently, had to puke. And I did. All over the floor because the toilet was occupied with my other end. I was embarrassed, tired, and sick; feelings that escalated because now my mom was awake cleaning up my putrid mess like I was a gross over-grown baby.

“Why is that, sweetheart?” my mom replied, pulling out the can of Lysol, disinfecting the mopped floor. She had rushed in after my first choked attempt of “MOM!” sounded down the hall, assessed the situation, and returned with a bowl, which she handed to me, then rubbed my back while I cried and apologized repeatedly for the disgusting mess. She told me I was fine. She was happy to clean it up for me. What are moms for? Once she had calmed me down, she gathered the cleaning supplies.

“I can’t be around other people’s puke. It always makes me gag,” I said remembering an unfortunate babysitting episode when the child had the stomach flu. “And you always clean out the shower drains,” I physically shuddered at the memory. “I can’t do that.”

“Oh, honey, you’re going to be a great mom,” she said, plopping the last wet paper towel into the designated puke trash bag. “When it’s your own kids, you’re more worried about how they’re feeling than how the puke smells. Love makes you a lot stronger.” She tied up the bag and stood to wash her hands half-way up her forearms. “And as for cleaning out the shower drains, you just need to marry somebody who will do that for you.”

I flushed the toilet and washed my hands when she finished, drying them on my personal hand towel to avoid spreading germs to my siblings. Then I brushed my teeth, watching my reflection in the mirror doubting my mom’s words and wondering how I could ever mop puke off the floor without adding my own to it.

* * *

So here I am. I hold my daughter close and wish I could remove her pain while she convulses into a bowl. I patiently mop and scrub messes and mistakes like second nature. I have to hold my breath, but my mom was right. Love has made me stronger.

And as for cleaning out the shower drains, my mom was right on two accounts. Thanks, Aaron.

Mar 24, 2015


by Terri Wagner

I don't do serious well. I am much better at humor, but lately things seem so serious, I think I am going to have learn serious. Both Christy Monson and Kari Pike's earlier posts are about serious matters. One of my biggest regrets is not having children and therefore no grandchildren...and perhaps more important to me no second generation Mormons. I think my sister and I will be the one and only LDS members in our families. At least at the moment it is definitely heading that way. That's serious business. Try as I might, I cannot possibly get everyone baptized, ordained, and sealed. My ancestors need work, and the non-LDS descendants need the church. All very overwhelming. And Christy's post about the cost of testimony is one I ponder on a lot. I just cannot find myself looking these pioneers in the eye. Can you imagine standing beside them on the judgement seat?

So how do you do serious? My sense of humor has saved me from depression, and at times, despair. But lately I am finding little to laugh about. Even my taste in TV shows has changed. And the music I once enjoyed seems so shallow. I hope this weird mood passes on.

Or perhaps I should give up my study of about serious. He pulled no punches. Pride, greed, utter destruction are favorite themes. Yes, yes, I know Isaiah speaks of the coming Savior, both the first and second coming, and gives us insight into what will follow the second coming, but over all he spends more time decrying his country's ultimate end. And that only makes me worry about our country's descent into coarser, harsher ways. All in all serious business.

I'm seriously thinking of taking time this weekend to sit on the sugar sand, gaze into the azure water, and recharge my batteries. Find my laugh again. Wanna join me?

Mar 21, 2015

The Price of Testimony

by Christy Monson

In the early 1800s, Nathaniel Thomas was a wealthy farmer, living on the Fox Islands off the coast of Maine.

Wilford Woodruff preached the gospel to the people of the islands, and Nathaniel and Susanna, his wife, were baptized. Nathaniel sold his land and home, and he committed to lead the little band of Saints from the Fox Islands to Missouri, outfitting his family and others for the arduous journey.

Nathaniel and Susanna, daughter, Clara, age 5, son, Martin, age 2, and a new baby left their beloved island home on October 3rd,, 1838. Snow storms and bitter winds raged, hampering their journey across main land. Little Clara became ill and died on the way. Can you imagine how Susanna felt, leaving her child’s grave and knowing she would never return to it? What a price she paid for her testimony.

By the time they reached Portage Ohio on November 21st., they were spent—Clara was dead, Susanna and the baby were ill, and Martin had a cold. The family and many of the company stopped for the winter.

By the time they reached Illinois the next spring, the Saints had begun to return from Missouri to settle Nauvoo. Nathaniel died during the persecution in Nauvoo. Susanna, her small children, and her widowed mother trekked westward to the valleys of the mountains alone.

What a price they paid for their testimonies!

Several years ago we took our six children and their families to visit the Fox Island homeland the Thomas family left when they joined the church. It was truly a life-changing experience for us all.

The land is lush and green. The smell of the sea is all around. The old luxurious family home—brought piece-by-piece from the mainland and reassembled in the 1700s—has been refurbished.

The well they dug is green with moss and unused, but still a landmark. The old graveyard, decayed over the years, haunts one with visions of life before ours.

The left this green paradise to settle in the land of the sagebrush.

Testimony? They knew the truth because the Spirit bore witness to them—the sacrifice they paid was not too great.

I ask myself, “What am I willing to pay for my testimony?”

The Holy Ghost bears fervent affirmation of the Truth for me today. No offering is too great—whether it’s temple attendance, church callings, raising a righteous family, connecting with my ancestors, or battling the evil influences of today’s society.

My contributions are different, but no less valid. My price is before me, and I will pay it willingly—a thousand times over because I love the Lord.

Mar 19, 2015

What I Want My Grandchildren to Know

By Kari Diane Pike

I love to dream. I get easily excited about "possibilities." Following through and making things happen is a different story. Why is that so hard for me?

At least I used to think that way. Now I know that I can reach goals, finish projects and make things happen. It's okay to do those things at my own pace. I can climb to the top of the mountain and enjoy the view and come back down again to live and appreciate life. Sunrises and sunsets are magnificent from any place I find myself. Perspective is everything. 

These past few weeks I've spent a lot of time with family -- both alive and dead -- as I've worked on family history and spent time with my parent's, siblings, children, and grandchildren. I've learned to treasure these experiences. They go too fast. Our youngest son Levi announced this morning that [after 31 years of doing so] I have about 40 school mornings left to send him off to school with a hug and a "Remember who you are." Those are precious,  prayerful moments that I will miss terribly.

So -- my goal to raise my family is nearly finished. Or is it? Another epiphany I had recently reminded me that my stewardship to my family is eternal. The next generation is already in their teen years. Research shows that grandchildren are far more likely to listen/watch/do what their grandparents show them than they listen/watch/do their parents. So what do I want my grandchildren to know?

I want my grandchildren to know that they are children of a Heavenly Father who loves them. I want them to know that I know that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Jesus Christ possessed the power of God and voluntarily gave His life for each of us. He WILLINGLY gave His life and took it up again so that we could also overcome death and return to our Father's presence. He atoned for our sins. The Savior was willing to do this because He loves us. I know this to be true. I know it with all my heart. Only Jesus Christ was able and willing to accomplish such a redeeming act of love.

I want my grandchildren to know how much I love them. This requires me to do more than just speak the words. I need to show them my love through acts of service -- and spending time with them. The Savior died for me, but He also LIVED for me. Now is my time to live and love and learn. Especially love. My relationship with others is one of the few things I can take with me. That and my testimony of Christ.

I'm reading through this post, editing and spell checking and laughing at how my thoughts take different forks, branching off and landing me somewhere completely different from the circle I drew on the map. But guess what? President Thomas S. Monson taught, "Come what may, there is no need to worry or to fear. Our Savior, Jesus Christ, whom we follow, whom we worship, and whom we serve, is ever at the helm." Even though I ended up somewhere unexpected, the view is spectacular. What matters is that I prayerfully tried to make something happen. 

I want my grandchildren to know that even though they live in a scary, scary world, they can find peace in the Savior's words, "Be not afraid, only believe." I want them to know life is magnificent and that through Jesus Christ, they can make things happen.
Sending Levi off on his "mini-mission" experience. Isn't he a good looking guy?


Mar 17, 2015

Questions and Quandaries

by Marsha Ward

My mind is a busy place. Sometimes, however, it grinds to a halt, as though something has gotten caught in the gears. This usually happens when I'm stressing about something.

I think I'm trying to second-guess where I'm going with my current WIP. I've written historical romantic fiction for a general audience up to now, but this novel is different. It begins on a farm in Pennsylvania, where life changes for the Marshall family when two visitors introduce them to a new religion.

Yep, it's those awful Mormons, come around to gain converts to their cult.

Or so many general fiction readers will think.

I'm not trying to round up new readers who are uncomfortable with the concept, or unwilling to take this journey with Elijah Marshall. But will my current non-LDS fans accept this step in a new direction?

It's not so much a permanent change of direction. It's more like a temporary detour. It's a piece that has been hanging around, awaiting completion, for a very long time. Since I bought the perfect cover back in 2013, it's really time to finish up the novel and give it birth.

The top half of the cover

I pledge to write my usual character-rich prose, full of adventure and romantic tension. Whether it's a novel about Mormons or Buddhists or Catholics, it shouldn't matter. It's about people overcoming adversity and finding a satisfactory ending by the conclusion of the book.

If I can only find assurance that my readers will stick with me through this deviation from the Owenverse (Owen Family + Universe), I think I can unclog my mental gears and write with my usual hectic brain feeling the story.

What do you think? Will you stick, or will you wander? Will I be devastated or comforted? Let me know in a comment below.

Thank you.

Mar 12, 2015

Why Auditioning for the Mesa Easter Pageant was a Terrible Idea

by Andilyn Jenkins

This year our family is in the Mesa Easter Pageant. We auditioned in October, received the cast list in December, and began rehearsals last Saturday. At first, I was hesitant to bring up the idea to Aaron. I know the time commitment a play takes, and I wasn’t confident our young family could handle the stress that late nights cause. But a friend of mine encouraged me, promising me that anything we sacrificed would be replaced by immeasurable blessings. So I took a step of faith, spurred by my own burning desire to be back in a show, and brought it up with Aaron expecting resistance; after all, he’s been a show-widower before and knows probably even better than I do what kind of sacrifice theatre is on the family.

I researched the show, read the requirements, checked the dates, asked lots of questions, and then came prepared with my pros and cons to discuss our options with Aaron.

“Aaron, auditions for the Easter Pageant are next week. I think it would be an incredible opportunity for our family if we all auditioned together now while we don’t have any kids in school,” I said, waiting for his questions.

“That sounds like a great idea.”

“Oh. Well,” I said, wondering what to do with all of my preparation, “yes. It is. Cool! Let’s do it, then!”

And that’s how we got to rehearsal on a sweaty Saturday in March in front of the temple standing on the stage with a crying 15-month-old and a four-year-old swinging from my arms whining, “Mom, when will we be done? This is so boring!”

And I kept wondering . . . where are all those blessings?

My patience was thin at-best, Evan the toddler came down with a fever, and Evelyn was obstinate and moody—reflecting my own mood like a big, whiny mirror.

This pageant was a terrible idea. Look what I did to my family. We are all so stressed; I have no energy left to deal with kids, and I have fifteen other things going on right now that need my time and attention beyond this.

So I prayed. I prayed for patience. I prayed for sleep. I prayed for strength. And I prayed for optimism. And nothing really changed. Until last night. We left Evan at home with my mom while Aaron, Evelyn, and I went to rehearsal to block the “Jesus with the Children” scene.

The scene felt so familiar. I’ve been at many playgroups where Evelyn’s quiet first impression leads to invisibility and she watches from the wall while the kids play a game. Rarely, a kind child notices Evelyn and includes her. And so it was here: all the young children circle around Jesus Christ and dance, and Evelyn lacks the courage to be included. She stands and moves closer to me instead of meeting Jesus. And my heart breaks because I know what she’s missing, and it’s not Candyland. She’s missing a chance to hear her name from His lips and know that He loves her infinitely more than Aaron and I are capable of.

But I try to console my motherly heart. Evelyn doesn’t know what she’s missing. And she is healthy and whole; there is no reason she deserves to meet Him more than any of the other children. We can see Him. We can feel the Spirit. Surely, that can be enough.

But then He seeks her out, and I get to give her away. He brings her to the heart of the group of children and places her on His knee then gives her a squeeze. And Evelyn, feeling His love for her, treats Him like her own big brother, even though moments before He was a stranger, and gives Him a kiss. End scene.

And that's when I knew this Easter Pageant thing was a terrible idea—because it kidnapped me. And I was powerless to loosen its grip. This was not a one-year experience. I would do whatever I needed to be in this show again and again. Because I now know why I’m sacrificing—why my whole family is sacrificing. We are testifying that Christ lives. Christ knows you by name and finds you when you are alone to give you a hug from an infinitely loving big brother.

I found this image from last year's show here. Photo by Scott P. Adair

Please come support those who have sacrificed so much to make this season's production possible. Please come to see a beautiful witness of Jesus Christ and refocus on Him this Easter. For information on dates and times click here.

Mar 10, 2015

Teaching Gospel Principles

by Terri Wagner

I felt pretty secure teaching just about any age group and any lesson until I got called as the Gospel Principles teacher. I never realized how important it is to both stay focused on the general doctrine and accommodate a wide range of gospel knowledge. The questions can be extremely challenging. Not because I do not know the answer, but because I find it hard to explain it simply. Fortunately, the instruction manual gently suggests do not worry if you do not really cover the lesson, let the discussion flow in a natural direction.

Yesterday was one of those Sundays we all sigh over. I have spring allergies and a raspy voice, so I was counting on my class to carry the lesson as they usually do. For some reason maybe the same reason they were not inclined to talk. That meant I had too. The lesson was on keeping the Sabbath Day holy which is a tricky principle at best. Tricky because so many people here are in part member homes, coming from another religion, or have family situations where the Molly Mormon way won't work well. Wow, did you see how many "w" words I got in there? Ok back on track.

The lessons are written to facilitate discussion in a class filled with non members, returning members, and non members married to members. Half the time I'm taking time to gently correct the member who has not quite learned a certain principle is not necessarily set in concrete. For example, if you have to work on Sunday, are you exempt? No, you are not. The Lord kinda leaves up to you the individual to come up with creative ways to still keep the Sabbath Day. Fortunately I had a visitor who was in the medical field and offered up some fun ideas to both work and yet acknowledge the day for what it is.

I thought we would have a nice lively discussion on the fact that we are given guidelines about the Sabbath, but are cautioned not to become like the Sadducees and Pharisees of the Savior's day. That's really what I mean by tricky. I like the fact that Heavenly Father gives us the guidelines and we then can make choices that serve our families better. But I have found that coming from another religion, investigators are looking for hard and fast rules they can check off. I appreciate that. I sometimes wish there was a set of rules. Do this, don't do that...but then again I'd probably be the one that griped about the rules not giving me much freedom. It's a balance.

Please don't take all this as a rant about teaching this class. It has to do with making wise choices for you. On this blog, we have often discussed the pros and cons of writing on Sunday. After teaching this class, I stand pretty firm on the it's entirely up to your personal circumstances. Does that make me a situational ethics person? I'm not sure. Why do you think?

Mar 7, 2015

Sally and Her Hip Replacement, The Ongoing Saga

by Christy Monson

I don't know how many of you remember Sally (not her real name). She was a dear friend we made (and I wrote about on this blog) while we were on our mission in Memphis Tennessee last summer. We still keep in touch with each other.

She had a problem with her smoking. She just couldn't quit. We bought her more gimmicks to help her, but nothing worked. She wrote us a letter this week, saying that she has been cigarette-free for the last 30 days.

She is very excited about it, and we are thrilled and told her so.

She's been in and out of a mental hospital over the years (she partially fried her brain on drugs while she was living in Southern California.) She's been in the hospital for the past 30 days, so she's had support to help her leave smoking alone. I hope and pray she can continue to be strong now that she's at home by herself.

She has a great testimony of the temple. We took her to visit the waiting room and walk around the outside of the Memphis Temple last summer, and she is so excited to inside someday. Now all she has to do is pay her tithing. That will be a big deal for her.

She only has her disability to live on, so she has to budget carefully. Besides, she's a hoarder of money. She's been without so often in her life, that she HAS to keep a bank account as big as is possible on her limited income. So tithing with be a challenge for her.

But I know she will make it someday.

Here is part of her last letter to us. I just think it's adorable. I will treasure it for the rest of my life.

Sometimes you meet people that you know you will love forever. Sally is one of those friends. I do love her.

Mar 5, 2015

The Post Conference Crazies

by Kari Diane Pike

A number of years ago, a close friend mentioned that her family counselor noticed how he always seemed to have a large peak of  LDS clients right about the first two weeks of September. Intrigued, I asked if he thought that the craziness of getting children ready for school was to blame for the increase of stressed out moms and dads (This was back in the day when most schools began classes the last week of August or the first week of September).

Debbie shook her head. "No. Think about it. What big event involving thousands of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints occurs at Brigham Young University the third week of August ?"

I looked at Debbie, my eyes wide with a flash of understanding, "Education Week." 

"Yep. Think about it. We go to Education Week and spend three or four days attending class after class, discussing how to be better parents, better marriage partners, better Gospel students, better Christians, betters missionaries, better everything. We fill our wells, prepare our oil lamps, and sharpen our minds. And we are excited! Life is going to be different. We are going to implement changes and transform our entire family." Debbie swung her arms open and twirled once in the middle of the kitchen.

"Then we go home." Debbie paused for a moment.

"And guess what. No one else is excited. They weren't there to hear Sister Smith expound on the benefits of that new chore chart or Brother Jones' tear jerking testimony about family home evenings. Nope. They just shake their heads and whisper to each other, 'Mom's going through another one of those phases.' By the end of the second week home, we feel like total failures and find ourselves on the counselor's waiting list." 

A vivid memory of Debbie's rant flashed through my mind yesterday when I found myself drowning my frustrations and insecurities as a writer in copious amounts of chocolate covered cacao nibs, Lindt truffles, and back-to-back episodes of Bones. What was my problem? Oh, wait. What did I attend two weeks ago? Aha. The ANWA Time Out For Writers Conference. You know - that amazing conference for writers where I learned about becoming better at creating prose, climbing mountains, developing interesting characters and intriguing plots, leaping publishing hurdles, and counseled on how to deal with a leaky precuneus. 

I had a terrible case of "post-conference-let-down." The negative chatter in my head made me feel like I was gargling BBs. But now, I knew what to do. I turned to my writing friends and asked for advice. I have very wise and caring friends. They reminded me to:
  • Pray
  • Ponder
  • Take a break
  • Try something new
  • Focus on my strengths
  • Write something just for fun
  • And never, ever forget that I am a writer. That is who I am - whether I'm writing in my head or my journal, a blog, a letter, a novel or a grocery list. Writing is how I make sense of my world. Even if I am the only one who ever reads what I write, I am still and always will be a writer.
So take that precuneus. 

Life is magnificent!


Mar 3, 2015

Writer, Beware! Nook Press = Author Solutions

by Marsha Ward

In the Indie Author world, until recently, there have been two accessible print-on-demand-technology print edition options: CreateSpace and Lightning Source. Last October, Barnes & Noble launched Nook Press, giving authors another printing option . . . or so it seemed. Nook Press also offered a selection of author services that included editing and cover design. "Yahoo," everyone thought. "Now I can get a good editing job AND a cover, without going on the hunt!"

Questions quickly arose about why the prices seemed, well, a bit high for the services. Luckily for Indie Authors everywhere, several people have been digging into the answers, and David Gaughran is one of the best watchdogs around. Here's his post today, which I highly recommend you read and digest.

Author Solutions, Bloomington, IN. Image from Wikimedia, by Vmenkov, CC BY-SA 3.0
Vigilance is always required in order to avoid getting ripped off. Thank you, David Gaughran!