Author Archives: Janis McCurry

About Janis McCurry

I write romance because there's magic in love.


Gem State Writers began on April 1, 2011. Since then, we have posted 572 blogs. Along the way, our members have been published, been successful in writing contests, and developed their craft.

As with much in life, things change.

As we devote more of our time to writing, the group has decided it’s time to retire Gem State Writers. We all want to making writing the best books we can a priority in our lives. We leave knowing GSW has helped us grow and learn about this time-honored profession. And we’ll miss all of you.

Our members share their thoughts below.

Stephanie Berget: When I was asked to be a contributor to Gem State Writers, I was so excited that this group of talented women considered me good enough to write alongside of them. I was also terribly nervous. I’d never blogged before, had really never written with any kind of deadline, and that scared the crap out of me.
Throughout the last year and a half or so, blogging at Gem State Writers has expanded my knowledge of writing craft, taught me to have the post ready whether I feel like it or not, and how to research topics. I’m thankful for that, but I’m more thankful to have had a great group of writers to learn from. I’m going to miss each and every one of you.

Peggy Staggs: In the short time the group was together, I learned a lot about my fellow bloggers. I’ve enjoyed everyone’s perspectives and techniques. Even when I sometimes struggled for ideas, I still looked forward to stretching my mental muscles. The good news is I have a ton (or at least a few pounds) of blog under my belt. The bad news is I will miss you all.

Janis McCurry: When Gem State Writers began I asked myself what interested me about writing. Language was the answer. I loved researching for the language blogs I wrote. The evolving of the language and the continual change intrigues me. I loved having deadlines to “keep me honest.” I loved getting to know my co-GSW-ers and learned something from every blog. Reader comments were delightful and insightful (how’s that for rhyming?). It was a great 2 ½ years and I don’t regret a minute. Thanks to all of you, both bloggers and readers.

Judy Keim: Blogs are considered a waste of time by a lot of people. In my opinion, some are; some are not.

If one is committed to write blogs to the detriment of writing stories, then it is a waste of time. If one thinks writing blogs is a sure way to get the attention of an editor or an agent, it is a waste of time. If one thinks you can sell a large number of books by blogging on a regular basis, it is, in my opinion, another waste of time. (There are other ways of promoting your work.)

On the other hand, if you are writing or participating in a blog to learn about others (both in your group and those who respond) it can be worthwhile. If you’re blogging as a means of sharing industry information or skills, it also can be valuable.

What I’ve learned by blogging with the Gem State Writers is that we have a group of talented, interesting, knowledgeable people whom I’ve gotten to know a little bit better. That’s been time well spent!

Mary Vine: I’ve enjoyed being a part of Gem State Writers, a shared effort to get our blogs out to the world. I will miss Neysa writing how important it is to go to conferences; I will miss Janis giving us a look at language and sharing about her travels; I really appreciate Peggy’s piece on The Bad Guy Tree for mystery writers; I enjoyed reading about Corina’s life near McCall; Lynn helped me understand trying to write with a tiring, busy schedule; I’ve gotten to know Judith through her move and writing journey; I’ve learned more about the rodeo from Stephanie; Through Jennifer I am reminded what it was like trying to write with children in my home; Meredith gave me a glimpse of living in a faraway place where one can meet up with a wild animal or nearly get snowed in; I’ve already missed MK and her individual pursuit of writing. Yes, every time someone has moved on to other writing pursuits, I regretted seeing them leave. Finally, cheers for Marsha who has stayed with us to the end, to inspire us in our writing, and to share her own journey.

Lynn Mapp: At the inception of Gem State Writers, we blogged every two weeks. I didn’t think I had that many blogs in me. What I learned during my time with the “Gems” is I actually had the ability to write two articles a month. It doesn’t sound earth-shattering, but it was for me.

I also had the opportunity to be with a group of women committed to writing and sharing their journey with other people on the same path.

Someone told me that my blogs tended to be of the “you can do it” nature. I am a cheerleader, a supporter, a believer. Thank you for allowing me to share my thoughts with you.

Neysa Jensen: I’ve enjoyed blogging about writing, specifically children’s writing. It helps me put things in perspective when I try to explain it to someone else. Anyone who would like to be with and learn from fellow writers is welcome to join our SCBWI events. You can find out more on

Corina Mallory: Thank you to everyone on this blog for letting me join your ranks. It’s been a real pleasure to read your work and get to know you better through your comments. I’ve learned a lot, not just about my fellow writers, but about myself. You’ve made me think about why I write the way I do, why I love some things and others leave me cold. You’ve helped me become a better writer. I’ll miss coming here and seeing your bright happy faces in your avatar photos and hearing what’s going on in your lives and what topics you’re finding interesting. But the internet is forever, right? We’ll always have pixels.


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What makes a catchphrase?

The dictionary definition is:  1) a phrase that attracts or is meant to attract attention. 2) a phrase, as a slogan, that comes to be widely and repeatedly used, often with little of the original meaning remaining.

I came across a list of “TV’s 60 Greatest Catchphrases” and looking at them out of context, how on earth did they become so engrained in our popular culture? I think the answer is the “context.” We attach significance to programs we watch that we enjoy, usually more than one time.

When we write, we try to make every word count, but I’m sure our readers like some passages/scenes more than others. It’s what makes writing challenging. Reaching out to readers and making their experience enjoyable. I hope they would read my books more than once.

Below are a few of my personal favorites. Click on the link above for all of those on the list.

1. “Heeeere’s…Johnny!” Ed McMahon hailed the arrival of Johnny Carson from behind the Tonight Show curtain for 30 years and it never got old. Just ask Jack Nicholson.

2. “Yada, yada, yada.” The ultimate show about nothing gave us more than its fair share of catchphrases, but this Seinfeld signature uttered by Elaine to gloss over a bad date and favored by George’s felonious girlfriend is still really something.

3. “And that’s the way it is.” Long before the advent of cable news, revered newsman Walter Cronkite closed his nightly broadcast with these iconic words. And we understood we’d just seen and heard everything we needed to know.

4. “It’s gonna be legen — wait for it — dary.” He’s a one-man one-liner machine, but our favorite Barney Stinson (Neil Patrick Harris) quote on How I Met Your Mother brilliantly captures his bro-vado.

Other favorites of mine (by older decades)

“Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s Superman!” — Adventures of Superman
“The thrill of victory and the agony of ¬defeat.” — Jim McKay, Wide World of Sports
“Ruh-roh!” — Astro, The Jetsons
“This tape will self-destruct in five seconds.” — Mission: Impossible
“Live long and prosper.” — Spock, Star Trek
“Who loves ya, baby?” — Kojak, Kojak
“Let’s be careful out there.” — Esterhaus, Hill Street Blues
“Make it so.” — Picard, Star Trek: The Next Generation
“Resistance is futile.” — The Borg, Star Trek: The Next Generation

And then there’s is the movies…

“Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” — Rhett in Gone With The Wind

“I’ll be back.” — Terminator

And, so on.

Check out the list and see if your favorites are in the list and let us know which ones. Or, if there is a catchphrase you didn’t find but love, share it with us.


Posted by on October 10, 2013 in Popular Culture, readers, writers, writing


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hashtagI am not against change. I try to keep up with our language and how it evolves. One of the beauties of language is how it is ever-changing.

However, some trends are run into the ground and just plain annoying, IMO. The ubiquitous use of the “hashtag” has gotten out of control.  I hear it on TV, see it in print newspapers, on Twitter, movies, radio, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Google+, etc. The list goes on.

Hashtags date back as early as 2007, but they have exploded as a means of communicating in the last couple of years. According to Wikipedia, it is a form of metadata. “This kind of metadata helps describe an item and allows it to be found again by browsing or searching. Tags are generally chosen informally and personally by the item’s creator or by its viewer, depending on the system.”

And herein, lies what I object to in using hashtags. The informal creation of ridiculously-named hashtags to voice opinions. #idontlikehashtagssodontusethembecausetheyarestupid would be a hashtag I create. Not elegant enough for me, I guess.

I googled “hashtag abuse” and came up with a lot of links! One article, in particular, states, “When anyone uses a hashtag (simply a way for people to search for tweets that have a common topic and to begin a conversation) on a website, text message, or anything that does not pertain to Twitter. This is quite annoying considering hashtagging only works on Twitter.”

Here’s an article from Chris Messina, an engineer generally considered the creator of hashtags, talking about abusers.

And here’s where 7 Hashtag Abusers are listed. I love the verbal hashtagger because I’ve heard so many celebrities do this.

Let me have it with both barrels. Do you use hashtags? Do you like them as a useful search tool?


Posted by on September 10, 2013 in Idaho, twitter


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Insignificance & Inspiration

ireland-mapAs negative as the the first word in the title may sound, this is a positive blog! I returned from vacation this week, having visited Ireland and Scotland. In Ireland, we rented a car and made a circuit from the eastern coast at the capitol city of Dublin and drove clockwise around the country before ending up in Belfast. We visited Waterford, Cobh, Killarney, Galway, Inis Mor (largest of the Aran Islands), Sligo, Donegal, Derry, as well as driving through many smaller towns.

We all know the U.S., as a nation, is young in comparison to other countries. But, I was struck by the scope of the wonders of Ireland. The Cliffs of Moher (five miles along the coast) in County Clare rise up from the ocean and take one’s breath away.

The Cliffs of Moher

The Cliffs of Moher

When standing at the top of one, you can look out across the sea and envision earlier times. Early people would use currachs, and those small boats would buck the waves, while the people would look up at the cliffs and hope they wouldn’t be dashed against them in the tides.

photo 4As we headed out of the Republic of Ireland north to the UK part of Ireland in County Antrim, we traveled the Giant’s Causeway. The scientific explanation is a series of huge basalt columns formed from a volcanic eruption. Myth states that the Giant Finn MacCool built a walkway to get to Scotland for a battle. I prefer the myth because to see these “steps” plunges me back to that time. photo 1photo 3 photo 2I can see Finn taking

“giant” steps on each flat surface.

I’ve chosen only two of the natural wonders of Ireland to put into perspective how insignificant one feels when seeing such magnificence for the first time. But, rather than feeling diminished, I feel inspired. What stories these rocks could tell; what things they’ve witnessed over the centuries!

We spoke with locals, dined at pubs, and had an unforgettable journey in so many ways. I came back refreshed and energized, eager to tell stories in my voice.

Oh, and if you can see the tiny L-shaped island at the very top northern part of the map, it is Rathlin Island. Rathlin Island is in the very first book I attempted, a historical set in 1560. My wonderful son and daughter-in-law surprised me with a ferry trip to visit it. The island is only 7 miles total in size, so we took a tour bus around it and I could clearly envision where my hero and heroine would camp, where the outlawed druids had hidden from persecution, and from which coast the h/h could set out to Scotland. So excited, I might go back to that book and rewrite it. Trust me, as the first one I wrote, it sorely needs it!


Posted by on August 8, 2013 in inspiration, travel


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Melting Pot

Happy 4th of July! Before we popularized the “4th,” the holiday was always referred to as Independence Day. I wonder how many young people know this? Language changes, cultural references are born, change, die.

The United States is a melting pot and with different people comes different languages, meanings, and customs. But we need look no further than each other for regional differences in the way we speak the same language of English.

Do you say pronounce “aunt” like ant or awnt? Do you say route with a sound like out or a sound like boot?

Here are some short quizzes to determine your American accent. The first two links test your accent by sound alone. I put in two for comparison. The third is more what words you use. Example: Do you call the level in a house below ground a cellar or a basement?

Test 1

Test 2

Test 3

When you create your characters, take into account everything about them, including their regional accent or dialect.

What accent from our great melting pot do you use?


Posted by on July 4, 2013 in Etymology, Tests


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208 Words

I read an article the other day about how the most lucrative song ever written is “Margaritaville” by Jimmy Buffett. Quoting from the Bloomberg Businessweek, “To think that all of this poured forth from a goofy, three-chord song—a mere 208 words, roughly half the length of this article—written about being lazy and getting drunk.”

This “most lucrative” title doesn’t stem from the royalties of the song or Buffett’s concerts alone. Margaritaville Enterprises franchises tourist entertainment complexes, sells beachwear, furniture, alcohol, blenders, and more.
While an interesting article, the fact that it all started from 208 words fascinates me. Somehow, the way he put those words together with the melody hooked people and started a financial empire. Was it luck? Or the ability to make listeners feel a certain way. In this case, carefree, relaxed, happy! How many of you can sing a few lines? I can.

BTW, the song’s popular ranking isn’t even in the top 10 richest songs. The two highest-ranking pop songs are You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling, by the Righteous Brothers, and Yesterday, by the Beatles. (No. 1 was Happy Birthday to You.) However, as a branding and a lifestyle having most total impact, Margaritaville wins with a couple hundred million dollars.

Another thing adding to this culture happened when Buffett dubbed his diehard fans Parrotheads in 1989. Parrotheads travel to Buffett’s concerts and party, party, party. These fans support the Margaritaville culture. It’s worth noting the Grateful Dead had Deadheads in the ‘70’s and young Justin Bieber has Beliebers, which was started around 2008 by his YouTube fans.

When we write, we spend agonizing days looking for the right words to communicate our work to the readers. It’s not the number of words, it’s how they are on the page and what they convey.

Sometimes, we think we’ll never get it right. Ah, but when we do…it’s worth it.

208 Words


Posted by on May 30, 2013 in artist, community, Theme, writers, writing


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bouquet3I’m continuing the discussion from Mary’s blog about finding your own writing path. I follow Nathan Bransford’s blog and, coincidentally, he posted In Order to Write, Writers have to Live, on the same day. The original post was a guest blog on NaNoWriMo, but it serves as a message for all writers all the time.

Nathan’s point is that writers tend to be solitary, shutting out the world and everything else to write. How many of you beat yourselves up when you give up a writing session because you feel like going shopping? Or even sleep in when you’d planned on rising early to get in two hours of writing?

You have to get out and experience the world, observe people and your surroundings. Absorb every bit of information that comes your way, whether it’s watching two octogenarians hold hands while walking down the sidewalk, or seeing a Canadian goose perched on top of the Sonic Drive-In sign while a fellow goose is on the ground squawking at it. You write what you live. Your writing will be better if you live life to the fullest with your friends and family. Stop and smell the variety of flowers!

Do you find yourself playing the guilt trip if you aren’t writing regularly? Or if you put it off to do something else?

As Nathan puts it, “Writing can wait. Living comes first.”


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