Feb 27, 2016

Writing Tip #4 ~ By The WWD

by Cindy R. Williams

Writing Tip #4 By The WWD

Don't be afraid when your characters talk to you. It just means they want their story told. You are not any crazier than the next person.

Someone asked me to give them some writing tips. This sure got me thinking. Hmmm, . .  I could go online and find some for them. I could peruse my many books on writing and share. Then I realized that I have a few things that have come to me through the school of hard knocks. So I dug deep and came up with these. I call myself  the "WWD--Writer With Desire".  I will post them throughout the year.

Feb 23, 2016

Writing & Google Docs

by Terri Wagner

I am taking a Google Docs class from the Alabama State Board of Education offerings. The best part is the class is made up of educators all over my state. We are learning so much from each other. The other great part is that our local county school board just approved switching out Mac Airs for Chromebooks. Although, the Macs are awesome and can do so much more, I do think the more computer experience our students get the better. Before the Mac Airs, they had Windows in computer labs. We now have the 1:1 program. In view of what I do for my school, I thought it would behoove me study up on Google Docs. Since I am still collaborating with my friend, I thought we could practice. Sadly and thus far, she has not embraced the idea. I'm still working on her.

The best part of Google Docs is the ability to edit/comment directly. For a while I worked with an online publishing company. At first, we tried to use Word, figuring most people had Word or access to Word. On that note, we were actually wrong, especially with our international submitters. We also discovered that Word versions were an issue. I would open and edit and send back to the author, he/she would open and nothing would be there. Oddly now that I think about it, I always had to accommodate the author lol. So our editor-in-chief decided on using this thing called google docs. I cannot tell you how hard I found it. I was constantly downloading the pages into my Word version, doing the edits, and then uploading it. I somehow missed the whole you can edit/comment in the docs on the drive without having to download. In fact, that's the big yahoo for the word processing tool.

As a school district, we always were told you could only print in the cloud. True is HP in particular has a patch you can download and wala you can print from a Chromebook on a "classical" printer via a USB cable. That was both a relief and a roll of the eyes. A relief because my teachers love to print. They have yet to grasp the concept of grading things on a computer. And the 4-6 like to fill their rooms with printed projects. And it keeps my brother in business since he works for a paper company lol. A roll of the eyes because there is too much printing around here. And as the keeper of the printers I am always asked by the bookkeeper why I need so much ink. I have to remind her that I only have the printer in my room. And it's not really me printing things out. So the "big" issue of printing was resolved.

Another issue that came up in the publishing company that Google Docs helped with was the proofing. Multiple readers can log in, offer up comments, edit if necessary, and the master editor can accept or reject. Those comments can be marked resolved and disappear from the document view but are always there. That helped cut down on the but-I-suggested-and-you-didn't-respond. I have discovered that people like to have their comments answered.

You would think armed with all of this publishing background knowledge, my first assignment in the class would be a breeze. Create a lesson plan document and share it with comment ability and link it to the forum. My first attempt failed. When you clicked on the link, you had to sign in. I think I went wrong because I used my county school gmail instead of my personal gmail. When I redid the link in my personal gmail account, there were no problems. So who knew that would be a concern??? Bottom line: I like Google Docs and our next assignment in the class is Google spreadsheets which I hear are as easy as Excel. Begs the question why did Microsoft not go this route? I imagine you can already see how this can work well for collaborations, but it can also work for the lone wolf writer. Whenever you are, whatever device you use, sign into your gmail account, click the rubic's cube looking icon and access your docs, change them, edit them, it saves automatically, and keeps revisions of former documents. The future? We'll see.

Downsides? Possibly security issues. It is possible that someone with your gmail credentials could access your writing and then steal it away. It does require Internet access. And you are in a Cloud environment. We do not yet know how secure that is. Although with the latest issue between the FBI and Apple, maybe we are more secure than we think. Anyone else out there with Google Docs experience?

Feb 20, 2016

Tell yourself the story

By: Cassie Shiels

Ever get in that, I am not telling this right mode, where the words are not pouring out, but are being dragged out of your brain. Like you have to push and shove them out, and then what you read isn't right. Ah its so frustrating when the characters or the descriptions will not cooperate with you. When it worked out so nicely when you were outlining but now is a completely different feeling. The moment where writing becomes harder then you want it to be. Not fun! Anyone who has ever felt this would agree. Some people call it a version of writers block, others just throw in the towel or muddle through it only to go back and rewrite it all later. It can be super frustrating! I know.
So what do you do?
How do you fix this?
Here are a few ideas. Take a moment to breathe. If you need to step back and do something else for a day or two to let go of the frustration do it. Then something I like to do when things haven't been working out right is I tell myself the story. Be prepared with a notebook just in case it suddenly all works out.

But one of the biggest reasons that I write is because I love to read. I love to get lost in the story and sometimes when writing we loose that. So stop and take a shower, go to bed a little early and tell yourself your story, your scene what ever it is that is bugging you.

Let go of all the writing advice, let go of this has to happen this way next. Let it all go and just tell yourself the story. Who knows? It might open up new thoughts, but it hopefully should help get rid of the frustration and the anxiety of trying to get this right. But I mean it, have a notebook near by, because if you don't, you know how it works, the ideas leave for good if you swear that you will remember it later. We all know this to be true.
I also tell myself to just tell myself the story the first time I write it, but I don't always follow my own advice. But if I can do that, it makes the first draft more fun in my opinion. You can go back later and add in the other stuff.
So tell yourself the story. Let it be just for you, the first time. Or if you get stuck, put the paper and keyboard away for a moment and have a moment with your characters.

Feb 18, 2016

A Lesson In Friendship From Job

by Kari Diane Pike

I have so many words to say. I have no idea how to say them. At least that's what I have been telling myself.

Instead of giving up, I did the next best thing. I read. News articles, fiction, inspirational pieces, and my scriptures. Of course, having the opportunity to teach early morning seminary gives me great incentive to study and read and pray and study some more. When I prepare to teach seminary, I pray and pray to know what it is the students need to hear. I don't want to waste the efforts they make to get up extra early in the morning to study the gospel. They experience so much pressure to get good grades, excel in sports or music or other extra curricular activities, and maybe even work part time after school and on weekends. 

One student told me that her biggest challenge comes from feeling that her friends expect her to be perfect. Our topic of discussion that morning came from the Book of Job. Job had friends who misjudged him and I used to focus on how horrible it must have been for Job to have his friends rail on him and tell him that losing all of his material possessions and all of his children, and then suffering horrendous, painful physical ailments came about because he sinned. Who needs friends like that? 

This time, however, I came away with a different perspective. Have you ever shared a concern or problem with a friend or spouse and ended up even more frustrated or even angry because that person had all kinds of advice and ways to solve the problem but not really, because of their limited perspective of the situation? Or what about the times you just need to vent about something that can't be fixed...like the weather?

Job's friends had a limited perspective. They came from a culture that taught that bad things happened to bad people. Losing your crops or your family came about because you sinned and the only way to stop the punishment was to confess. But Job knew better. Job knew that bad things happen to good people and sometimes the wicked prosper. The limited vision of Job's friends caused them to bring him further heartache. What I love about this story is that once the Lord spoke to Eliphaz and pointed out the mistakes he and his friends made, they repented and offered sacrifice as the Lord directed. 

Job's friends sought his forgiveness. Job did what the Lord told him to do. He prayed for his friends.  
And "the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before" (Job 42:10). Afterwards, everyone - family and friends - met in Job's house and comforted him. (side note: I used to wonder why Job got twice as many oxen, camels, etc. but only ten more children to replace the ten he lost. Until someone pointed out that Job didn't lose those first ten children. They were born in the covenant. They were his forever. They were not lost, they were just on the other side of the veil. Job was given ten more children to add to the first and therefore twice as many.)

Far too often I am guilty of the same actions as Job's friends in the beginning of the story. I hear about a problem and I want to fix it. I don't want my friends to be in pain. I think I have good intentions. But sometimes what I say hurts them even more. Then I am scared to say anything to anyone. 

On the flip side, when I have a problem and a friend offers advice, I am occasionally guilty of assuming that person's motivations without taking the time to understand and I let my feelings get hurt. Occasionally, that leads to anger and frustration. I don't think I am alone in this challenge, because I've noticed a growing trend. Sarah Udal put a name to it during our last ANWA chapter meeting. She referred to it as "one-down-man-ship." I see it happening all over social media, talk shows, and even Relief Society meetings. Instead of sharing experiences where we try to "one up" and tell about bigger and better accomplishments (which is its own problem), we get in a rapid downward spiral of  who has the biggest time commitments, the most serious health ailments, or the naughtiest children. 

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf said it best: "STOP IT!"

I think I am going to make myself a little "STOP IT" sign for my desk so that I can remember to: Stop comparing. Stop judging. Stop beating myself up. Stop being afraid to share my words and ideas. Be the best me that I know how to be. Focus on the positive. Be grateful. Be charitable - to others and to myself. Trust in the Lord and His redeeming Atonement. Be happy. Actually, be enthusiastic - because life is magnificent.


Feb 16, 2016

The Zion Trail is launching this Friday!

by Marsha Ward

This is an exciting week for me. My newest novel, The Zion Trail, will be released as an ebook on the 19th, which is this Friday.

The ebook is available for pre-order at the following venues:

Here's an endorsement a fellow writer gave the book:

“In The Zion Trail, Marsha Ward weaves an intriguing tale of a young man’s journey in faith. From an unexpected beginning in Pennsylvania, Elijah Marshall travels through heartbreak to cross the American plains to claim his purpose in life. While the story illustrates the early history of the LDS church, the message is one of personal triumph through perseverance. The relationships kindled throughout the book lead through unimaginable trials, culminating in a most satisfying resolution that you won’t want to end.”
~Carolyn Steele, author of Soda Springs and Willow Springs

I'm going to share a brief tidbit from The Zion Trail that shows one of the relationships Mrs. Steele talks about: that of Lije and his younger sister, Mary Eliza.

By the time Pa dismissed us to go about our assigned tasks, Mary Eliza had awakened and gotten herself to the table. She had a cold bowl of porridge before her, into which she had slopped a healthy portion of milk. Her hair hadn’t been combed and hung halfway into her face. I chuckled and patted her on the head as I proceeded on my way outside, and felt her squirm under my hand.

“Lije,” she protested. “Don’t mess my hair.”

I squatted to look into her face. “You look beautiful, Pumpkin,” I said. “Eat hearty. We’re going on an adventure.”

“A ‘venture, Lije?”

“You’ll see tomorrow,” I told her, and left her with those teasing words hanging in the air.

Here are the places where you can reserve your ebook copy of The Zion Trail:

The Zion Trail will be available as a trade paperback print book on March 25.

Feb 13, 2016

Writing Tip #3 ~ By The WWD

by Cindy R. Williams

Writing Tip #3 By The WWD

Writers with grown kids still don't sleep well at night. Their pesky characters wake them at all hours.

Someone asked me to give them some writing tips. This sure got me thinking. Hmmm, . .  I could go online and find some for them. I could peruse my many books on writing and share. Then I realized that I have a few things that have come to me through the school of hard knocks. So I dug deep and came up with these. I call myself  the "WWD--Writer With Desire".  I will post them throughout the year.

Feb 9, 2016

I'm just the aunt

by Terri Wagner

Being a biological aunt or an honorary one is eye opening. Parents (and friends that have been parents) are always fussing at me because the only rule at my house is get along to have fun. I will not tolerate anything less. I think it came from my own childhood. We all (hopefully) have that relative that just loves us unconditionally. I was lucky enough to have more than one. Anything...I mean anything...I wanted my grandmother tried to get for me. When she died way too soon from cancer all five of her grandchldren believed we were her favorite. She was that good at making us all feel that special. I treasured every moment. In the midst of a terrible situation, she came to my rescue when I needed it the most. I will never forget how she made me feel. When she died, her spirit touched mine and said goodbye I love you. And at times I am reminded she still loves me from across the veil. But she was not the only one who cared that way.

In a different but completely unconditional way, I had an aunt who accepted me as I was not one word about what I needed to be, should be, was going to be, just as I was, at whatever stage in life I was. She was so good at it, I went to her many times for questions I was not comfortable asking my parents. Not once did she ever act shocked or disappointed or judgmental about my question. It is hard to believe she was an alcoholic of the worst sort. It changed her badly and deeply and her children have a different memory of her.

When the unthinkable happened, and I ended up not having children, I found myself "just the aunt." And because my family was fractured, we all lived in different places, with different lives, and were not especially close. That has changed I am thrilled to say. My first foray into aunthood was when my BFF had her first child followed by 8 others. I adored her children and was allowed to be their "aunt." I discovered something about myself, she allowed to happen naturally. I was a pushover in the pattern of my grandmother and aunt. Love them unconditionally, answer whatever questions they had without editorializing, and plan fun. Sometimes it was as simple and inexpensive as throwing rocks in a pond, sometimes as grand as trips to Busch Gardens. As I grew older, and had friends with children, I had many more opportunities to be aunt.

Then my sister moved in with her two boys. What a delight. My life went from 30s single to step in parent overnight, and I loved it. It helped that my friends embraced my nephews as well. Now I could lavish all that love on my "own" set of nephews. We had fun. We had unconditional love. And yes we had major spoiling. Then came a chance to do so with my brother's children, and now his grandchildren. I don't try to be grandma, or mom, just the aunt you want to hang out with.

However, there is great criticism from certain sources who must not be named. At first those criticisms hurt and made me question my approach to aunthood. I mean after all it's a big hard world out there, was I really helping them? In the end I decided, I was the "just the aunt." And everyone needed what I had, that relative that just loves you as you are where you are. I don't try to force myself on the family, I back off when dad or mom are in parent vortex mode, I work hard at just being a sideline go-to person.

Recently I came under fire again, and the person I least expected to stick up for me, did. I was told she advised my critic that's who she is, that's her philosophy on being an aunt, and really who are we to say it's unhealthy to give children too much love and acceptance? She does not have them long enough to really spoil them. My kids grew up under her spoiling and both of them still remember it (and still get it) now. I was wrong, let her love them her way.

Feb 6, 2016

Computer died

by Cassie Shiels

So I missed blogging on Saturday because the saddest thing happened. My computer crashed. For a writer that is especially devastating if we haven't been regularly backing up our computer. And I haven't done that in a long time, so I am dreading what I might have lost. I am hoping I can recover some things, but if not I learned the hard way.

So back up your computer.

If you work with google docs where all your stories are on he cloud, then that's nice because your stuff is accessible from any device but if not, back it all up.

You could:

1. Get an external hard drive and monthly or weekly back it up.
2. Email yourself your stories and put them in a special file.
3. Print it out regularly
4. Put your work on a thumb drive
5. Put your things on the cloud.

I am sure there are more, but the point is back it up. You do not want to feel the devastation I do, looking at potentially loosing everything I have been working on. Cross your fingers for me that I can get the info off my hard drive.

Post dated

Feb 4, 2016

Life Can Change in an Instant

by Kari Diane Pike

One might  think that all the craziness in my house over past four months would have given me enough writing fodder to last the rest of my life. Yet here I sit, typing and deleting sentence after sentence, word after word, character after...well, you get the picture. I skimmed through my journal for ideas, only to discover I'm in danger of becoming that old lady that can't talk about anything except doctors, bills, and health concerns. Ugh.

Quick play October 2015 - January 27, 2016: Due to health problems, the decision was made to move my parents in with us. Both of our houses went on the market. We decided to build a new home. Then we undecided. We took our house off the market. Searching for the root cause of a constant state of reflux, the doctors noticed my rising blood pressure. Which led to more medication. Which led to allergic reactions to said medications. Which got me pondering and praying and throwing all the meds out. Dad fell and hit his head and suffered brain bleeds and seizures. Throw in Thanksgiving, burglary of my parents' house, preparing our missionary to go out the door, Christmas, family pictures with everyone (!), New Year's celebrations, more medical procedures, including a bone marrow biopsy, and then one of those phone calls that no one ever wants to get,  - "I'm sorry. Your bone marrow biopsy indicates that you have multiple myeloma." Then I sent off our missionary with prayers and a promise to be here when he gets back.

Back to real time: January 29th, I sat in my oncologist's office prepared with questions and determined to be proactive in my treatment. And after asking me where I had my labs done and telling me she hadn't seen all of the reports yet, she looked me in the eye and said, "You don't have cancer, you know. You just have monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS). All you need to do is come in twice a year and have some blood work done to make sure it hasn't turned into multiple myeloma." In other words, she told me over the phone that I have cancer before she even read the results of all the lab work. Go back in six months? I think not. At least not to her office.

Talk about mixed emotions - elation and relief that I am cancer free, mixed with negative feelings about the way the doctor handled things and anger that she put my family and friends through such an emotional wringer. On the other hand, thoughtful consideration over the past week revealed glorious blessings that have come as a result of this experience. I came across this quote:
Our Heavenly Father is aware of our needs and will help us as we call upon Him for assistance. I believe that no concern of ours is too small or insignificant. The Lord is in the details of our lives. ~Pres. Thomas S. Monson, Ensign, November, 2012
I learned that I am most decidedly not alone. I learned that "little things" can make a significant difference - like a passing smile, a random text just to say "Hi. I'm thinking about you.", a bouquet of daisies, an offer to go for a walk, stupid jokes, and of course a big hug. I learned that Heavenly Father keeps His promises. The reality that life can change in an instant hit me full force. I appreciate my ability to witness sunrises and sunsets, hear my grandchildren laugh, walk a mile with a friend and hold hands with my eternal companion more than ever before. Even bacon never smelled so good!

So there you have it. Every little cell in my body is healthy and happy and well (That's for you Deb!).
Life is magnificent.

Feb 2, 2016

Classical Music is All Around Us

by Marsha Ward

Folks who follow me on Facebook know I sometimes have music playing in my head, like the several days last week, when Maurice Ravel's "Bolero" kept up its incessant repetition with the tattoo of snare drums and the whine of saxophones.

It began quite innocently. I clicked on a video link to a piece by The Piano Guys, and I was lost on YouTube for several hours.

I eventually ended up obsessed with the 1984 Winter Olympic Gold Medal Ice Dancing Free Skate performance of Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, which has never--in my humble opinion--been surpassed in its beauty and grace (I saw the performance live on television back in the day). The piece was performed to a re-arrangement of "Bolero," which runs for some 15-odd minutes in the original. Since the limit of the ice dancing free skate in the Olympics is four minutes, something had to be done, so the pair had the musical piece re-orchestrated especially for their routine.

Watch the performance here.

I can go on and on, about why Torvill and Dean started out on their knees, swaying to the hypnotic music, and other factoids about that classic performance, but I won't. Suffice it to say that for several days afterward, I couldn't get the music to leave me alone. It played and played and played, like the proverbial broken record (which if you're too young to remember vinyl, you won't understand anyway), but in its entirety each time, not stuck repeating one phrase over and over. You can catch my running commentary about the misery of the music, beginning here on my Facebook Timeline.  (I like the video [shown above] in the comments better than the original one I cited in the post. No commentary, just pure enjoyment of the dance.)

You all realize what a risk I'm running of that music embedding itself for several days again, all so I can share with you, don't you?

Believe it or not, all the above was a prelude to the point I really want to mention today. Yeah. I do get snagged on a theme, don't I.

Have you noticed lately how a lot of ads on television feature classical music as their background?

I have, since I'm such a music nut.

The classical music usage caught my attention with the Infinity commercial showing cars gliding smoothly over the snow through an obstacle course and went on to encompass an ATT ad, a commercial for the Ultra HD Vizio television screen, a Cadillac Escalade ad, an Intel commercial, an Audi automobile ad, and ended up--so far--with the Dyson V6 vacuum cleaner commercial featuring the naughty dog.

And you thought classical music on television was confined to old cartoons!

Nope. It's everywhere. Watch an ad tonight and see if you don't catch one or two of those commercial efforts.

**I do apologize for missing my assigned day for posting, but hope you will forgive my absence with this little offering.**