Archive for November, 2009

I never really gave western fiction a chance, except on the big and small screens. Even there, with the exception of The Man From Snowy River and 3:10 to Yuma, I had observed that it tended to be too formulaic for my taste. Big, tough cowboy meets a sweet, but strong pioneer type girl and falls in love, then has to fight off some big, bad hombre to save her and the town…you get the picture.

But Marsha Ward has opened my eyes to the historical nature of the Western. If I hadn’t gotten an iPhone and been able to download her first novel, The Man From Shenandoah, for next to nothing, I might never have been tempted (except for the fact that I had already bought a paperback copy of her most recent volume in the Owen Family Saga, Trail of Storms…more as a sign of respect for her writing ability than an indication of my true interest). But now I’m hooked.

They spoke differently back then, and I don’t know if Marsha time travels in her sleep, but she sure has a feel for their language and ways. That must come from either a past life or significant reading and research. Since I don’t believe in reincarnation, I’ll assume it’s the latter and take my hat off to her (figuratively speaking).

In any case, once you’re three or four pages into her book, you can’t help but feel you’ve been transported 150+ years back in time to a day when America was still being discovered and tamed…and when gentlemen and ladies had very defined roles and ways of behaving around each other. It was also a time when marriages were often arranged; practicality and a man’s word held sway over such feelings as romance and love.

She captures all of that and more in this saga of a Virginia family nearly wiped out by the Union soldiers and struggling to find and make a new life for themselves in the Colorado territory after the Civil War.

I encourage you to watch her new book trailer for The Man From Shenandoah and then check out her website and blog for more information on all her books. As for me, I need to quickly order her sequel, Ride to Raton, so that I have time to read it before tackling Trail of Storms.

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I recently read the somewhat controversial memoir by Elna Baker, The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance. While it was truthful (sometimes painfully so) and quite a humorous take on what it’s like to be a young single adult in the LDS Church (and I could identify with many of the issues she raised, since I didn’t get married until age 31), it left me with more than a taste of disillusionment–about her and about the Church singles scene. I’ve heard similar stories of disappointment from my divorced sister and a divorced friend. Is there no reason to hope?

Of ONE HEART: Being Single in the LDS World

Cover for Valerie Steimle's New Book

Fortunately, Valerie Steimle has recently published a more uplifting book. While I have not yet read Of One Heart: Being Single in the LDS World (ISBN #978-1449537821), I understand that it frankly discusses the challenges faced by so many singles in a Church so focused on the family…but it does it in a hopeful way. Granted, it’s geared more to older singles because that is the prism through which the author looked at the issue. She lost her husband after 25 years of marriage and was suddenly faced with the loneliness so many in our church know all too well. But her approach to dealing with this challenge can be a lesson in faith, endurance, and good will.

I encourage you to check out her book on Amazon, and see if it can provide you with some solace or encouragement. You might also want to visit her website here to learn more about how she came to write it.

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It took me about a week and a good bit of research online, but finally I was able to create a trailer that encapsulates the essence of my novel in about a minute.

I owe particular thanks to one blogger who shared how she put hers together using iMovie (since I also have a Mac). And I lucked out with the music because I found it (entitled “Tigris”…how appropriate, eh?) in the iLife collection of music and sound effects. The only other option that I’d come across online would have cost me $130 to license!!! I did have to pay some license fees for most of the photos, though I rummaged through some old family black and whites for the flashback parts.

Anyway, it will be interesting to see if, and how much, this trailer boosts sales. Let me know what you think of it by rating it and/or posting your comment directly on the YouTube site, okay?

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My daughter is majoring in Elementary Education at BYU. Now, according to her former elementary school principal in Riverside, California (who is not a member of the church), she gets some of her best teachers from BYU, so I’m not one to second guess their program.

However, I have long felt that our entire education system needs a major overhaul because we educate our kids as if one size fits all…and that’s not the way they come! These days, particularly, with all the emphasis we put on standardized testing and teaching to those tests, we are turning off the creative juices in so many of our young people.

I’m fortunate. I found my creative outlets early (writing, music, and drama) and happened to have two very creative parents who encouraged the arts in our home. But many children don’t have that kind of nurturing and so, as a society, we need to make certain that, at the very least, our schools don’t squelch whatever creative impulse exists in the minds and bodies of our youth.

Please watch this video of a presentation by Sir Ken Robinson, an expert in creativity, at the 2006 TED Conference to better understand what I’m talking about. It takes 18 entertaining and very enlightening minutes…well worth the time!

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