Friday, June 29, 2007

One down, three to go

I don't recall if I've mentioned it here or not, but for the past few months I've been rehearsing for a play that the community puts on every year, sponsored by our local church unit.

This year's production is a one-act play, a cute little number called "The Loathsome Lady," which is an Arthurian tale. Or maybe it's a farce. Whichever.

I play Queen Guinevere. In a blonde wig. And a crown. Wearing a maroon dress made of slippery curtain fabric. I'm having a ball. Everyone is having a ball. After Tuesday's final rehearsal, none of the cast or crew made a move to go home. That's how high the energy was that night.

Yesterday evening was opening night. Wow! We had an excellent audience, and they got right into the fun. Arthur goes into the audience, desperately trying to find out from anyone he can, "What do women want? What do they most desire?" His life and lands are forfeit to the ominous Black Knight [boo! hiss!] if he cannot produce the answer within three days. Our Arthur milked the audience responses for all they were worth, and he got a lot of love back from them.

I got several laughs for my portrayal of Guin's dim-wittedness. After all, she's a couple of stitches shy of a complete tapestry. It was terrific!

Tonight we do it again, then two times on Saturday. I know that come Saturday night when the lights go down for the last time, I'll be going into play withdrawal. But then, there's the book to write, and that's another kind of high.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Two Things

I've put a "Work in Progress Report" in the sidebar of this blog. It's down below the books. Updates will go up as often as I can manage, as I strive to get the re-write of Trail of Storms finished.

The project I mentioned yesterday is just about ready to unveil. Stand by for news. Later this week I'll have things ready to announce.

Monday, June 25, 2007

The Ink Ladies

I've been invited to join a new group blog called "The Ink Ladies," made up of LDS women authors. We each take a day, and mine will be Wednesdays. I hope you'll come visit me there!

Since I believe blogging is the newest best way for authors to communicate with readers, I'm enthusiastic about taking the time to share my life and my books with you. I have a project in the works that will debut here soon.

And yes, I'm working on Trail of Storms. I cut over 1,000 words today, and revised a couple of scenes. But now it's too hot to keep working. My brain is fried in this heat, and my eyes are getting weak. Time to do something else.

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Whitney Awards

I belong to a writers association called LDStorymakers, Inc. It's a pretty remarkable group of nearly 60 authors (and growing) who have banded together to, among other things, do what they can to increase the quantity and quality of LDS fiction.

Today marks a milestone for LDS literature: LDStorymakers is announcing the 2007 Whitney Awards, the definitive awards program for LDS authors! Here's a link to the site on which you'll find information explaining who we are and what we hope to accomplish with the Whitneys. Fiction by LDS authors has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years. Our desire is to encourage and reward that growth by recognizing those authors who entertain, inspire, and enlighten us.

Please take a few minutes to browse the site. Or, if you already know what we're about, head directly to the nomination form to make sure your favorite books are submitted for a Whitney Award.

If you want the explanation without clicking away from my blog, here's more info.

The Whitneys are an awards program for LDS fiction, and are sponsored by the LDStorymakers. One of the most commonly repeated quotes among LDS authors is from Orson F. Whitney: “We will yet have Miltons and Shakespeares of our own.” As it is the goal of LDStorymakers to increase the quantity and quality of LDS fiction, it's only reasonable that the Storymakers should also honor those authors who excel and continually raise the bar.

The Whitney Awards honor novels in the following categories: Romance/Women’s Fiction, Suspense/Mystery, Science Fiction/Fantasy, Historical, Novel of the Year, and Best Novel by a New Author. Novels can be nominated by any reader (via the Whitney Awards website or by mail), and nominees are voted on by an academy of industry professionals, including authors, publishers, bookstore owners, distributors, critics, and others.

The Whitney Awards are sponsored and endorsed by LDStorymakers, Inc., the authors guild for the LDS market.

Okay, now that you know a little bit, go browse the site for the full story. Please think about nominating a book published in 2007 by your favorite LDS author. I'm not in the running yet this year, but who knows what will happen before December 31st!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

In Defense of WAS

Lately, I've been listening to a lot of writers get hyper about the word was: how its usage in a novel surely marks the author as an amateur; how terrible it must be to have more than, say, 60 examples of was in a full-length novel; how we should all do a search in our manuscripts and root out the evil word was.

I demur.

No, I didn't misspell demure, meaning quiet and modest; shy, which many people think I am. Little do they know! I mean demur, to raise objection; take exception; object.

Yes, I demur. And now I'll digress a bit, too.

When I was in school, past tense had two forms: preterite (it can be spelled without the last e) and imperfect. Preterite is the simple past tense, like I walked. Imperfect has a helping verb, yes, often it happens to be the infamous WAS: I was walking. It could even be I used to walk.

Now that grammar is much more fancy than when I was young, preterite is called simply past tense and imperfect has been split into two, maybe three camps, depending on which source you cite. These are my buddy the imperfect, past progressive, and past continuous. Some people call past progressive progressive past. That's scholars for you, always changing things to get their name out there. The most commonly cited camp of the old imperfect is past progressive, but I like "imperfect," so I'll go with that in my discussion.

Preterite or past tense is used to express actions that took place in the past. Bang! The action was completed. Done. Finished.

Imperfect denotes a past tense with an imperfect aspect. The action is incomplete. It's ongoing in the past, or happened regularly or continuously until it stopped. This might be expressed with a verb ending in "ing": Mary was laboring for fourteen hours. Trust me, that's continuous and progressive, both.

Sometimes you use both preterite and imperfect in the same sentence: As I was walking in the park this morning, I saw a red-winged blackbird. Saw, was, was, saw, hmmmm.

I studied Spanish in high school and really learned it when I served a mission for the LDS Church in South America. You might say I was learning Spanish the whole time I was there. (Aha! Imperfect!) Spanish makes no apologies for using both past tenses. They each have their use.

Okay, back to why I demur about using the word was. Writers get told to use strong, active verbs to express their action. Yes. That is the best policy, and very handy to keep out passive voice. Most writers take this to mean they always have to use preterite tense.

However . . . when an action is not complete, when it is ongoing, you just gotta use the imperfect tense, which could mean you gotta use was. I maintain that was is misunderstood, misused, and misappreciated, er, unappreciated. All the popular novelists use it. I say you can too! Within reason. Also, with reason. Knowing why you're using it, and all that.

Agree or disagree? Tell me your side of this issue.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Addition and Subtraction

I've added a few things to my blog page, like photos and comments about my published books. Several of my writer friends have photos of their book covers on their blogs, and I thought it was time I got with the program. I haven't figured out how to make the cover photos clickable links yet, so to order my books (you will order them if you haven't read them yet, won't you?), visit my website at

I'm working on the second draft of my next novel, Trail of Storms, piling up the word count quite satisfactorily. However, now I've hit a spot where I have to incorporate the new plot lines and characters into the first draft work. I've shifted two scenes to different places and re-written them to fit. One of them is a cute little scene dealing with Heppie's fears that I was going to have to put in my cut file. However, I found the perfect spot for it, and since I re-wrote it, now it's a prelude to Heppie and George's honeymoon. The other scene is a recollection of Jessie's past romantic interest that fits nicely where she has to ride the wagon because her shoulder has been injured. I'm pleased that the scenes are working out well in their new locations.

Hmmm, was there a common theme in those rescued scenes? I love adding just a little spark of romance to my novels set in the Old West.

However, re-writing and deleting scenes doesn't pile up words! And when you delete the standard scene divider, three asterisks, there go THREE WORDS into the garbage!

sniff sniff

I love writing down my word count each day. There's something viscerally satisfying about watching the total climb. I am at nearly 78,000 words, and my goal for the finished product is more in the area of 75,000 words, so I do have words to spare to cut, and mangle, and smash-- Oh, my darling words! They have to be replaced with other words that shoehorn our new character Ned into the plot. Some of them will . . . have . . . to . . . go!!!

I never did like subtraction.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Capturing the Thought

I just had a great writing-oriented day down in the Valley.

It began with a meeting for the Executive Board of American Night Writers Association. We solidified plans for the retreat coming up in July, and made preliminary plans for our writing conference in March.

Afterward, I went to the home of my good friend Connie, where we enjoyed lunch together, then helped each other by brainstorming plot points for our respective novels. That was fun!

One detail didn't seem to gell, though. Then, as I was driving back home, it all came together.

Since my mind is built like a steel sieve, I desperately tried to find something on which to write down the idea. I didn't have my handy-dandy tape recorder with me, so that was a wash. No notebook was at hand. Then I said to myself, "Marsha, you're crazy! You're driving 70 miles per hour and you want to make notes?!?"

So, what did I do?

I pulled over to the side of the highway and called my answering machine. Do I love technology? YES!
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