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Author Archives: stephanieberget

NaNoWriMo-Who’s In?

NaNo

November has become one of my favorite months of the year. In eight days, National Novel Writing Month will arrive with all its excitement and angst. My excitement comes from the anticipation of writing another book (in rough draft form), seeing characters come to life and marveling at where the story will lead me. The angst comes from diving into a book with no preparation and no idea where it’s going to go.

I’ve written the first draft of five books during various NaNo’s, winning the last three times. Sugarwater Ranch was written two years ago during NaNoWriMo with Cherry Adair’s Write the Damn Book contest at the Emerald City RWA conference in mind. I’m revising a WIP I wrote three years ago during November of 2010.

2013-Participant-Facebook-Cover#1All of my NaNo Novels were written with no pre-planning and not much of a plot. I usually had a character or two in mind and maybe an idea of a setting. I just dove right in and wrote.

This year, for the first time, I’m developing an outline. The thought of plotting a story gives me the trembling shudders, but in a class I’m taking, the teacher promises we don’t have to stick to the outline, just make it.  So I’m working on plotting my story, doing character studies on my hero and heroine and preparing for November first. I’m looking forward to once again jumping into the fray that is NaNoWriMo.

Plus they have a great store with all kinds of fun writing things. I love these stickers.

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Have any of you participated in National Novel Writing Month in the past? Are you a plotter or a plnaster? Who’s doing NaNo this year? Post your buddy name here, and I’ll friend you. We can support each other during this outrageous, stupefying, matchless month.

 
12 Comments

Posted by on October 24, 2013 in Idaho

 

Doesn’t Everybody Know About Freezer Jam?

The raspberries are ripe! This is a big thing around our house. We finally have a big enough crop to make freezer jam without buying any extra. I’m a raspberry lover, and I tell you, it’s every bit as hard to find fresh raspberries as it is to find great tomatoes.

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I picked the bushes clean the last few days, had some on ice cream, yum, and set about gathering what I needed for jam. Of course, I didn’t have enough sugar. Which made me think, could one ever have too much sugar? Sorry, my mind wandered there for just a bit.

It’s been a couple of years since the last time I made jam, so I decided to check the internet and see if there were any new recipes. I found that the recipes had changed slightly since I’d made it last and it’s even easier that before. One website I found was Tastes Better From Scratch http://buff.ly/15H3hng, and something caught my eye.

In the comments, a number of people said they’d never heard of freezer jam. Yeah, it surprised me too. I grew up thinking everyone had a mother or grandmother who made freezer jam from strawberries, raspberries, blackberries or any other fruit you can imagine. I’m going to try the grapefruit next.

So for those of you who haven’t enjoyed the heaven that is raspberry freezer jam on your morning toast or dinner biscuits, there is a simple way to make it with no canning allowed.

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After extensive research, I found that the best recipe is the one in the box of fruit pectin. I used Sure-Gel, but any kind will do. They make regular and low sugar, and I made both to see which one is best. We like the low sugar, but even in that one, there is a lot of sugar. Don’t use less as it prevents spoilage.

The instructions are simple. First mash the fruit and measure out the sugar. Each type of pectin has a slightly different recipe, but in all of them it is important to measure exactly, otherwise your jam will come out runny.

Make sure you stir until the sugar is dissolved and no granules are left. This usually takes me longer than the recipe suggests. When all the ingredients are mixed, spoon them into small glass or plastic containers and let them sit for twenty-four hours on your counter. Don’t worry, they won’t spoil. Then freeze up to a year.

Since I have never learned to can, this way we can have great homemade jam all winter.  Time to enjoy the jam yourself or put it in cute jars and give as a gift.

Were you raised with freezer jam? What is your favorite flavor?

 
14 Comments

Posted by on September 24, 2013 in Idaho

 

Blogging Weekly

My publisher has a blog called Marketing Monday, and they post ways to market. Last week the suggestion was to create a blog by picking a subject, any subject, and posting once a week.

After researching various subjects, I decided on Rodeo Cohorts. One of the definitions of cohort is a companion or associate. That is what the equine contestants in rodeo are, companions and associates. I’m going to spotlight a different horse each week, including barrel, rope and dogging horses along with bareback and saddle broncs. I might even throw in some specialty acts and an occasional bull or two. These are the equine personalities who make rodeo such an amazing sport, and many have fascinating stories.

To start this off with a bang, I’m highlighting Gills Bay Boy, better known as Scamper. Scamper accomplished what no other barrel horse has come near to doing. He and his owner, Charmayne James, won ten Women’s Pro Rodeo Association World Titles in a row between 1984 and 1993.

Charmayne and her father bought the AQHA gelding from a feedlot when he was a six year old, and she was just twelve. Two years later they qualified for the National Finals Rodeo. They went on to win the NFR that year along with the WPRA World Championship and the WPRA Rookie of the Year.

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One of his most amazing runs came during the 1985 NFR. As they came down the alley to enter the arena, Scamper’s bridle broke. He ran the pattern on his own and won the round. In 1986 the pair won money in all ten rounds at the NFR, a feat only three other riders have accomplished.

Scamper ended up with the enviable record of ten WPRA titles, six NFR titles and ten RodeoHouston titles, along with many other circuit finals and major rodeo championships. He carried Charmayne to more than one million of her $1,842,506 lifetime earnings. He was retired after the 1994 season and was inducted into the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame in Colorado Springs, Colorado in 1996.

Because he is a gelding and cannot reproduce, James made the decision to clone Scamper. The animal genetics corporation Viagen performed the cloning, and the ensuing foal, nicknamed Clayton, was born in 2006, kept a stallion and now stands at stud.

Scamper died at the age of thirty-five on July 4, 2012 at the age of 35. James said he enjoyed good health to the end.

“He’s one in a million. He’s a miracle…I doubt there will ever be another horse like him.”

Charmayne James, describing Scamper, 1989

I was only fortunate enough to be able to watch Scamper run in person once, but I watched on TV many times. He was one of a kind.

I’m about four weeks into my blog and have had some new readers. Time will tell if it gathers in readers for my book. What ideas do you have for a weekly blog?

 
14 Comments

Posted by on August 22, 2013 in Idaho

 

Finding the Knothole

I never thought I’d be a writer. I didn’t spend my childhood making up stories about my Barbies or my teenage years penning books about my perfect love. I was a reader, and although books were one of my favorite gifts, I was crazy about horses. Since I was born and raised in the middle of town to parents who had no use for the large animals, getting a horse of my own was a fantasy.

A little thing like that didn’t stop me. I hounded them year after year, for birthdays and Christmas.  Every time they’d ask what I wanted, I’d answer, “A horse.” They were all-mighty sick of hearing about my dream, but being my parents, they loved me anyway. They bought Breyer toy horses, cowgirl outfits and all the western books they could find in an effort to appease me.

When I was fifteen, I wore them down. My dad came home with an appaloosa, quarter horse cross, a two year old, and unbroken. The fact that I didn’t have a clue how to train him didn’t make any difference. I had a horse. Life was great.

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Over the next thirty years, I learned from two of the best barrel horse trainers in the country, Larry and Kay Davis. I was fortunate enough to have some great horses that made me look good. I married a cowboy and had pretty much everything I’d ever dreamed about.

As I said, I’m a reader. I’m a romance reader, and I devour books like chocolate chip cookies. Well, I did until I started writing them. One day about six years ago, I read a book about a barrel racer. As the heroine was preparing to go to the National Finals Rodeo, she fell in love with the hero, a man who knew nothing about rodeo.

The author also knew nothing about rodeo and hadn’t bothered to do her research. The romance part of her book was well written, and I’m sure to someone who hadn’t rodeoed it was fine, but to me, it wasn’t authentic. What I couldn’t get past was the way she portrayed the horse training, barrel racing and rodeo scenes. They couldn’t have been more unrealistic if she’d tried, and really, all she needed to do was ask. Most barrel racers love to talk about their sport and their horses.

I thought how hard can it be to write a book? I’ll write one the way it should be done. And so I did. The first book was read by my mother and only my mother–she loved it by the way. With that book, I discovered how hard it is to write well.

There’s an old cowboy saying, “Training a horse is like looking at a solid wooden fence. Good trainers see a knothole, look through and discover all they’ve got left to learn. Most people don’t even find the knothole.”

The saying applies to writing, too. Six years later, after countless classes, with five books written and one published, I think maybe I’ve found the knothole. Now to learn what’s on the other side.

 
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Posted by on July 23, 2013 in Idaho

 

Marvin the Manic Meadow Lark or When to give up.

For some reason, we attract the loony Meadow Larks. The sane ones go someplace else to live. For the last few years, we had a female who nested in the rain gutter by our front door. She wasn’t happy when people came in and out that door. Each year, her protests became more aggressive until people feared for their lives. Bet you haven’t ever heard the words aggressive and Meadow Lark used together.

Last year, she became so belligerent, we had to have her humanely put down. End of the Meadow Lark problems—until a few weeks ago. Enter Marvin.Image

We have birds fly into our front windows all the time, usually when the light is right, and the window looks like a mirror. Marvin, however, is a little different. He’s started trying to fly through the window, the closed window, about every half hour.

After considering several suggestions, I taped paper over the window, the consensus being that he could see himself and was protecting his territory. He continued to try to enter around the edges of the paper. Silly bird.

Last week, he expanded his attempts. He tries the small window he first used then moves around the corner to the picture window. He flaps along, banging his beak against the glass. When he gets tired, he sits in the cottonwood tree and plots. We’re going on four weeks with Marvin blasting at the window every half hour. Now that’s perseverance . . . or stupidity, I don’t know which.Image

What does this have to do with writing, you ask? You didn’t ask? Well, pretend you did. I have a book I wrote five years ago. It’s the first book I ever wrote, and it has a sentimental spot in my heart. The problem is it isn’t very good. It’s full of all the mistakes a new writer makes.

I’ve been attempting to revise this story for quite a while now. The characters are engaging and the story is pretty good, it’s just the writing that’s crap.

I’m kind of like Marvin in that I can’t seem to just quit with this book. I keep bashing my beak against the pages until I get tired and go sit in the tree (work on another book). Then a few days, weeks or months later, I’m back.

How do you know when to give up and just hide a book under the bed? Have you ever totally rewritten a book you loved?

 
16 Comments

Posted by on June 18, 2013 in Idaho

 

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Finish the Book

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I started writing over five years ago when I first found out about NaNoWriMo. It sounded like fun, and I wrote 26,000 words that year. I added another 25,000 over the next six months or so.
I was so proud when I found Coeur du Bois, but then my RWA friends started giving me tips, and I began to realize writing is hard. Who knew? Boy, did I have a lot to learn, and I was lucky enough to have friends willing to help.
I took classes, read craft books and joined a critique group. I continued entering NaNoWriMo and turned out a book for each year. The problem was I didn’t do revisions or polish any of them. Heck, I didn’t even know what a revision was. I’d get around 50,000 words written when a shiny new idea would come along, and off I’d go.
Several friends and I went to the Seattle Emerald City Writers Conference in 2011, where I pitched a book and entered Cherry Adair’s Finish the Damn Book contest. Cherry recruits top name agents, editors and publishers to review everyone’s books at the next year’s conference, but her first rule is they must be finished and, as she says, polished to a perfect shine.
Now I had incentive. I had to finish a book if I was going to get my work beyond the slush pile and into someone’s capable hands. It came down to the wire, because I tend to procrastinate, but I got that book done in time for the ECWC in 2012.
One of the top agents in the romance world read the first three chapters and requested the full. Although she declined, she said she liked the book and thought it would sell. While at ECWC, I’d pitched the same book (the only one I had finished) to an editor. She requested a full. I was on cloud nine as I flew home from the conference.
A few weeks later, I got an email from another publisher I’d submitted to months before, and they wanted my book. I couldn’t believe it. Someone liked me.
The editor I’d pitched to at ECWC contacted me a few days later, and she wanted the book, too. Talk about treading water in a flood. During this time, I had two more publishers request my book. Now, I had to decide who to sign with (tough problem, I know), and for a newbie, it was overwhelming. After a lot of research and talking to friends, I decided on Evernight Publishing, and I haven’t regretted it for a minute.
The book from the contest, Sugarwater Ranch, was released on April 26, 2013. That never would have happened if I hadn’t entered Cherry’s contest and was forced to finish a book. Ideas are easy for me, but revising is not.
What did I learn from this? Simple, no matter how well you write, you have to Finish the Damn Book for it to be published.
What do you do to help push yourself to finish a book?

 
16 Comments

Posted by on May 14, 2013 in Idaho

 

Ranch Kids Have Weird Pets

I firmly believe kids should have pets. They help develop a caring attitude and responsibility. Our kids had a full range of normal pets, plus a few non-normal (abnormal?) ones. They had dogs and cats, lambs, calves, pigs and the odd goat or two. By the time they were four, they each had their own horse.

Our daughter ran barrels and poles on the sweetest mare named Ammer. They were a great team. Our oldest son had two goofy horses, Bugsy when he was younger, and Ruff Luck Lynx, aka, Lucky. Somehow he managed to coax success from both of them. Our youngest son was fortunate enough to have a huge, gentle, talented horse called Rimrock. We first got him when Joe was five years old, and he’d sit on Rimrock in a pen with no bridle or saddle while I saddled the other horses. It was the safest place for him to be as some of the horses I rode were colts and not too stable. Rimrock was one of the best babysitters we ever found.

Besides all the regular pets they had, they picked up a few odd ones along the way. My daughter brought a hermit crab home from a trip to the coast, and it lived for years. We’d find a bigger shell every once in a while, and it would move to better quarters.

Every Easter weekend during the seventies and eighties, there was a large barrel race and team roping held in the small town of Murphy, Idaho. The kids spent most of their time catching Horned Toads. There was an abundance of them in the sagebrush area that surrounded the Murphy rodeo grounds. Our middle son brought several home over the years, and they were fun pets. He’d catch ants and feed the toads.

My youngest son’s weird pet was a snake. I know that sounds fairly ordinary, but I didn’t know he had it in his room. I was cleaning one day and lifted a stack of fabric in my sewing room. There was a dried snake skin. Son #2’s secret pet snake was on the loose, and he was afraid he’d get into trouble. He was right. The snake shed its skin as it grew. We never found the snake, and it was a jumpy few months around our house.
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The most unusual pet the kids ever had was a spider. It made a web behind the curtain rod, and being the fastidious house cleaner that I am, I didn’t discover it for several months. (No comments on my housekeeping skills here. I’ve heard them all from my mother.) By then, Son #1 discovered that if he got a tiny piece of hamburger and tossed it into the web, the spider would run out, snag it and scurry back to the center of his web. He’d wrap it all up into a ball and eat on it for several days until all the moisture was gone.

One of the kid’s favorite sports was to take a piece of popcorn and toss it into the web. The little spider would race out, grab the popcorn and spin it into a ball. Then it would taste it, realize there wasn’t any moisture, or maybe it just didn’t like popcorn, and would cut it loose and drop in onto the carpet.

The spider lived behind the curtain all one winter. As the weather warmed up the next spring, one day, it was gone.

What are some of the stranger pets you’ve had during your lifetime? Bet you can’t beat a spider.

 
19 Comments

Posted by on April 9, 2013 in Idaho