Monday, December 31, 2007

Interview: Marcia Mickelson

Marcia Mickelson is the author of the newly released, Reasonable Doubt, a story about basketball and murder. She is also the author of, Star Shining Brightly. Thank you, Marcia, for a great interview. Her books are available at LDS bookstores.

What made you decide to write for the LDS market?
In high school when I bought a new computer, I decided I wanted to
write a novel. Automatically, my characters were LDS. I thought I was
being unique. I had never heard of Jack Weyland or had ever read an
LDS novel. I never finished that novel. I went to college, got
married, had kids, and writing stopped.

About four years ago, I became hooked on LDS novels. My favorites were
Betsy Brannon Green, Jennie Hansen, and Rachel Ann Nunes. I quickly
read any of their books that I could get my hands on.

Then, I remembered the novel I started in high school, but had never
finished. So, I pulled it out and finished it, realized it wasn’t very
good, and then went on to write new ones.

Have you written for other markets?
I haven’t written for any other markets. Right now, my heart is in the
LDS market. I hope to one day write a novel that I could submit to the
national market.

What was it like to submit your first novel?
It was very exciting, but scary as well. It made me anxious to think
that someone would be reading what I wrote. As a writer, you really
put yourself out there.

How did it feel when you first saw it in print?
It was like a dream come true. When you’re writing, you envision that
moment so many times and think about how it would be. When it finally
happened, it was just so exciting.

Have you ever felt like giving up?
I don’t think I ever felt like giving up. When I received my first
rejection, I was actually excited. My first rejection! Hooray, I
thought. It meant I was on my way. Each rejection just made me feel
like I was one step closer to achieving my dream. I saw rejections as
just part of the path that would take me where I wanted to go. I think
that’s how life is. If we didn’t have disappointments and challenges,
we wouldn’t be able to appreciate the triumphs and good times.

What inspired you to write about basketball and murder?
I’ve always been a sports fan. When I was at BYU, I really enjoyed
going to college basketball games. A few years ago, during March
Madness and as the NCAA championships were approaching, I had the idea
that I wanted to have basketball be the backdrop of my novel. The
murder part just kind of worked its way into the story.

I still enjoy sports, but sometimes I feel guilty that when I married
my husband, I was a bigger sports fan than I am now. As I became
busier with kids and writing, I had to leave a few hobbies behind, and
sports was one of them. I held on to the ones that were really
important to me—reading and writing.

How did you keep track of all the clues you had to plant?
I kept notes that were pertinent to the story such as names, dates,
timelines, and other such details.

Do you outline?
I don’t usually outline very extensively. I write about a page of
notes that tell in a few words the major events that take place in the
novel. Then, I cross off the events as I write them. I have another
page of notes on which I write the characters’ names and a brief

I once tried doing a very detailed outline with each chapter and the
major events that happened. I finished the outline and have the story
completely mapped out, but now I don’t really have the desire to write
it. This particular novel is still a work in progress, and I think I
will eventually finish it one day. I think I overdid the outline and
so I have realized that for me, it is better to not do detailed
outlines, but rather a very concise, short list of events and write
from that.

It is different for each writer and I think we all eventually figure
out what works for each of us.

How long did it take from submission to release of, Reasonable Doubt?
This last submission didn’t take as long as my first. I heard back
from the publisher within a week or so. That was a nice change
compared to my first novel which took the publisher several months to
contact me. It was nice to not be kept in suspense for so long this

After they accepted Reasonable Doubt, it took about six months for it
to be released.

What is your writing routine?
I don’t have a real routine; that’s hard with three little kids. I
can’t write when they’re awake at all. It’s too hard to focus when I
know they need me. My two oldest are in school, so sometimes I write
when my little one naps. Mostly, I write at night when they’re all in
bed. I prefer to write in a closed room where there are no
distractions—I can’t see the dirty dishes in the sink or hear the TV
if my husband is watching.

I always carry a small notebook with me and sometimes find a few
minutes here and there to write a little. Just today, I was in line
for over forty minutes at the post office and was able to get a few
pages written. I did get some stares, and the man in front of me asked
what I was writing. It gave me a chance to tell him about my books,
and I even gave him a business card. I wonder if he regretted asking.

What authors have most influenced you?
I think that Betsy Brannon Green and Jennie Hansen who write in the
LDS market have influenced me the most. I loved their books. Reading
their novels made me want to pursue the dream I’d had many years before.

Any advice for aspiring authors?
I really suggest doing as much research as you can about the market
you want to write in. There is so much information available about LDS
publishing that was not available even 3-4 years ago. Read books about
writing and publishing. Know the business really well before even

Have someone you trust read your manuscript and be ready to accept
their feedback.

Don’t give up. Get excited about your first (and second and third)
rejection. That means you’re on your way!

Other than the scriptures, if you were stranded on an island, which
book would you choose to have that you could reread over and over again?

My favorite book of all time is Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. I
love Elizabeth and Darcy and could reread their interchanges over and

Plans for more novels?
Yes! Right now, I’m editing and revising the sequel to Reasonable
Doubt. I hope to submit it to my publisher in January or February. I
also have a few others that I’ve started and really want to finish.
There are more ideas in my head than I have time for.

Purchase your copy now at Cedar Fort.

A beautiful and promising athlete is dead. The only suspect—her fiancĂ©—has been apprehended. And as a defense attorney, it is Julia’s job to prove that Mick is innocent. But Julia believes he is guilty. No stranger to the crimes that men commit against women, Julia can easily believe that rich, talented, spoiled Mick did indeed kill Avery. Both were basketball stars at the University of Utah, and both were popular; yet everyone—except Mick’s family and Julia’s boss—believes that Mick is the murderer. As the evidence against Mick mounts, Julia stumbles across a secret Avery had kept hidden from everyone, even Mick. Julia realizes that perhaps she may have more than just reasonable doubt to support Mick’s case—if she can face her past and reveal her own secret. Meanwhile, Pablo, Julia’s new co-counsel, becomes convinced that Mick did not murder Avery, but can he convince Julia? Guilty or innocent? With Pablo’s help, Julia may be able to overcome her own fears and uncover the truth about Avery at the same time—if the murderer doesn’t find her first.

Friday, December 21, 2007

12 Random Christmas Facts

Marcia Mickelson tagged me so I'll play along.

1. I grew up in California so I spent Christmas vacation at the beach. Snow? No way.

2. Now I live in Colorado and we pray for snow every year at Christmas. Yeah, weird.

3. I love how a real tree smells.

4. We used to cut our own tree, but since the drought and a beetle infestation many of the trees have died so we no longer cut down a tree.

5. We have a beautiful artificial tree. I hate the way it doesn't smell like Christmas.

6. My kids are official present shakers, squeezers, and feelers so I have to hide some presents until Christmas day just so my nosey kids won't figure out their gifts.

7. I love Kenny G's Christmas album and Manheim Steamroller's Christmas albums.

8. My husband usually tells me what he'd like and then goes out and buys it for himself before I can purchase it for Christmas. So he gets boring clothes.

9. I hate the song, "Go Tell It On The Mountain."

10. I finally put up lights outside this year--we are sooooo festive.

11. My kids all choose a name of a sibling and then make or purchase a gift for that sibling. On Christmas Eve they open their gifts from each other and try to guess who gave it to them. (Santa comes and delivers those gifts to the kids on Christmas Eve long before he delivers the other gifts later that night.)

12. I spoil my kids way too much at Christmas--I can't help it, I inherited it from my grandmother who raised me. She was all about Christmas all year round.(I think she may have actually been be Mrs. Claus).

The Polar Express

A few nights ago, in our pajamas, we boarded "The Polar Express" and headed to the North Pole. After a magical ride that included hot chocolate, a reading of the book, and the conductor punching holes in our tickets, we saw Santa and his elves waving to us from a snow mound at the "North Pole." All the trees were decorated with lights. The sheer glee of the kids on the train was infectious.

We then headed back home. While singing Christmas Carols the kids all let out a shriek when, you guessed it, Santa himself entered our car. He even said, "Ho, ho ho." He handed each of the children a bell and then waved goodbye. We continued to sing carols while the kids all rang their bells. It was a fun and entertaining ride complete with chefs (who both happened to be my daughters) who made jokes, led the songs, and catered to all of the guests. Our kids were fascinated the entire way.

The Durango Silverton Narrow Gauge makes "Polar Express" runs beginning in November and through the whole month of December. The DSNG, a real train that was used back during the railroad era, also runs during the summer months through gorgeous mountains covered in pine trees and occasional sheer cliffs.

What a magical experience to ride a train back in time and become just like one of the kids reveling in Christmas.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Lights Out!

Every year we have a community get-together to sing Christmas carols and watch others perform. This year we had a few kids play instruments, choirs from the different churches in our community sing various traditional songs, and one woman who did sign language to an unfamiliar, yet beautiful Christmas song. It's a time when all of us from different religions gather together to recognize what we share in common, the celebration of the Savior's birth. It is a wonderful time to see community members and feel of the Christmas spirit.

Each year a different church sponsors the Community Sing. That church organizes the program which includes musical numbers from each of the other churches and it also supplies the location and the refreshments. This year the Baptist church sponsored it and they held it at their summer camp headquarters which is about 20 miles from my house. It was breathtaking because the tall pines still gracefully held puffs of snow on their branches and the sky was crystal clear, allowing a night sky filled with sparkling stars. The members of their church also decorated the outside with lights which added to the atmosphere.

We returned home to a very dark house. Apparently, while we were at the Community Sing our electricity had gone out. It was a weird checkerboard of homes with and without electricity and we happened to be one of the homes without it. We lit candles and huddled around the table where we read and ate ice cream. We then moved down to the basement to enjoy the blazing fire. It was fun to spend time as a family without any of the distractions that electricity can provide. We talked and laughed and snuggled. It was a perfect ending to the evening and when the lights suddenly turned back on, I was a bit disappointed.

Sometimes, in our rush to "do Christmas" and live our lives, I think we forget the simple pleasures of sitting by a fire and reading or telling stories. I hope we can all take a little time to enjoy the simplicity of the season and remember what's truly important in our lives.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

My Aura

Your Aura is Violet
Idealistic and thoughtful, you have the mind and ideas to change the world.And you have the charisma of a great leader, even if you don't always use it!
The purpose of your life: saying truths that other people dare not say
Famous purples include: Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Susan B. Anthony
Careers for you to try: Political Activist, Inventor, Life Coach

7 Things About Me

Darcy Pattison at Revision Notes (a great blog for children's writers) has tagged me for a meme that requires me to tell 7 things about myself, then tag 7 others.

Thanks, Darcy!

Rules of the Meme:
1) Link to the person who tagged you and post the rules on your blog.
2) Share 7 facts about yourself.
3) Tag 7 random people at the end of your post, and include links to their blogs.
4) Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

Seven Things About Me:
1) I have 10 children--ages 22 months-20 years old. (I hated to babysit when I was a teenager). 2) I have one sister. She also has 10 children and we live across the highway from each other.
3) I love to dress up for Halloween and do so every year (including make-up and a wig).
4) I love to redecorate my house (much to my husband's chagrin) and would flip houses in a nano-second if I lived in the right market.
5) I could live on ice cream, chocolate, and fresh fruit (I know, weird combination).
6) I graduated from BYU with a degree in Communications (I was also voted "Biggest Flirt" one year in my student ward).
7) I love to swim, especially in the ocean, and would live in Hawaii if only I could convince my honey to move there (he wants to live in Alaska).

Tag, you're it:

Candace Salima
Ali Cross
Stephanie Humphreys
Kerry Blair
Karen Hoover
Marsha Ward

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Apology, please

Recently, my daughter's fifth grade class traveled to the local college for an activity. While they were waiting to board the bus, a college student rode his skateboard directly through the group of kids. He did not ride around the group. He did not stop and pick up his board and politely make his way through the kids. He did not say, "Excuse me," and wait for the group to part. Instead, he rode straight through the middle and in the process ran over my daughter's foot. Immediately, my daughter was told by her teacher to apologize for "getting in his way." She apologized. The college student? He grunted at her and then took off on his skateboard.

My daughter came home limping and when we removed her shoe, her foot was swollen and her big toe was visibly injured. Thankfully, the toe wasn't broken, but for several days she hobbled around until her foot wasn't so sore.

Both she and her cousin (who was with her during the incident) were bewildered as to why my daughter had to apologize since it wasn't her fault. I told her that apologizing was the right thing to do, even if it wasn't her fault, because it showed she was sorry that the collision occurred and usually people don't apologize enough (rather than too much). With that said, she asked why the college student (probably 8-10 years older than her) never apologized even though he'd clearly injured her. I couldn't answer her question. I think her feelings were hurt much worse than her foot.

I'm appalled that this young man, seeing he'd injured a little girl, didn't apologize. Have we, as a society, forgotten common courtesy? Have we become so self-absorbed that when we see we've hurt someone else, even if it's unintentional, we don't care? This college student didn't even ask my daughter if she was okay. He simply jumped on his skateboard and rode away.

I hope I can remember to apologize when I need to, and even if I don't. An absence of an apology can go a long way, but a sincere apology can go even further.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Romantic Notions

Long before I actually started writing, I did ascribe to the romantic notion of sitting next to a window that overlooked the ocean, a soft fragrant the sea breeze wafting through the room, while I wrote the Great American Novel. (And I'd eat chocolate all day and never gain a pound).

Reality set in (especially since I live nowhere near the ocean and I haven't found any calorie-free chocolate) and I soon realized that if I wanted to write it would have to be between pregnancies, nursing babies, poopy diapers, barfing kids, homework, dishes, mountains of laundry, yard work, cooking, cleaning, chauffeuring, church callings, service to others and all the other day-to-day things. I decided that my desire to write was strong enough to motivate me to figure out how to work it in. I adapted.

This gave birth to a new romantic notion. After studying and practicing and studying and practicing, I would pound out nearly perfect manuscripts that would be accepted on the spot. You're laughing, aren't you? Well, it didn't take too long for me to realize the error of that notion. I adapted.

And, yes, a new romantic notion emerged. If a publisher liked my manuscript well enough to offer a contract on it, then it must mean I would not have to revise or rewrite any of it. It would be published just as I had submitted it. Maybe that's true for some. Maybe some writers can write so flawlessly that they never have to rewrite anything. I wish that were me, but it's not. Again, I adapted.

Cedar Fort accepted my YA LDS novel, Heaven Scent, several months ago. Since then, I have been revising it, making it better (I hope) with each revision. My editor is great, she's caught blunders and asked insightful questions so I could clarify the story. She told me this week they may move up my press date to January 15th. This is exciting news, but it's also a little scary.

I don't think I have any romantic notions left, except maybe, someday, that one of my stories will touch someone, somewhere, somehow. That's a notion I'll hang onto.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007


My two daughters were cast in, "Fiddler on the Roof," for the fall 2007 musical. It was an amazing production. Our high school program is extraordinary when it comes to theater productions and my kids have been very lucky to be able to participate in such an outstanding program. Tradition is the underlying theme in "Fiddler" and it explores how one man deals with daughters who no longer wish to adhere to their long established traditions. It's a powerful play.

We have many family traditions during this time of year. One of those is to decorate our tree the day after Thanksgiving. When I was a child, living with my grandparents, Grandma pulled out boxes and boxes of decorations the day after Thanksgiving and we decorated the house and the store-bought tree. We spent the entire day getting ready for Christmas. Grandma loved, loved, loved, Christmas and she went all out. She bought gifts all year long and was more excited than we were for us to open the gifts she'd purchased.

I never even considered the idea that others didn't decorate the way we did until I got married. My husband and his family actually trudged through the wilderness to pick out and then cut down their Christmas tree. They decorated for Christmas well into December and celebrated a more Christ-centered Christmas.

My husband and I both had traditions coming into our marriage. We compromised. Even though I had never met anyone who cut down their tree, we decided to adopt that tradition along with my family's tradition of decorating the day after Thanksgiving.

We've spent hours and hours in the mountains following my husband's search for just the right tree. You know, the one where the light shines down upon the tree and choruses of angels sing in the background. I've carried small babies, drug toddlers by my side, and picked up small children who couldn't hike one more step. Usually, the tree we (translate: my husband) find(s) is at least 3 miles from our vehicle so dragging it back to load it is always an adventure. Of course, our best, albeit unintentional, tradition is to drive into our garage with said tree on top of the vehicle and wedging the tree between the roof of the car and the garage door. Even when we've specifically talked about not driving into the garage with the tree still on top, we've still managed to do it.

A few years back, a beetle infested evergreen trees in our area. The beetles and the severe drought we encountered for several years both combined to destroy about 2/3 of the trees in our region. We have very few trees left on our property. We decided at that time that we just couldn't bring ourselves to cut down a live tree when so many had perished, so we purchased an artificial tree.

Our artificial tree is very nice, but it's not the same. It doesn't smell like a Christmas tree should and though it is pretty, it doesn't look like a real tree, either. So we've adapted our tradition of cutting down a tree. We did still decorate the day after Thanksgiving (no black Friday for me) and have continued our other traditions.

Another tradition is to wrap and place all the gifts under the tree soon after it's been decorated. I've wrapped presents like a madwoman over the last several days and they're all finally placed under the tree. My kids have squeezed, shaken, and otherwise tried to analyze each wrapped gift--one of their traditions. Every day the gifts are all in different places. (This year, I might have outsmarted them because all the gifts that might be "obvious" from their wrapping, I've saved and won't put out until late Christmas Eve--that may become my new tradition).

This time of year is filled with traditions. But like Tevye in, "Fiddler," I guess I'll have to be open to adjusting some of my traditions.

The best traditions we have, though, are those that remember the One who initiated the celebration. Without the Savior, not only would Christmas be meaningless but so would life.