Category Archives: Idaho

Thank you!

I’m the kind of person that thrives on keeping busy. I like to see a full calendar spread out before me with  various events filling the spaces. Being a stay-at-home mom makes me especially excited to attend gatherings where I get a chance to interact with other people whose ages are of the double digit variety. As a matter-of-fact, the busier I am the more I usually get done. There is something about knowing I only have a small amount of time allotted to accomplish something that forces me into action. The more time I have to do something, the more likely I am to put it off until later.

However, even someone like myself has a point at which maximum capacity has been reached. Just when I thought things couldn’t get any busier, they did. I’m going to spare you the gory details of my hectic schedule. Sufficed to say, I’ve recently come to the conclusion that if I am ever going to finish that book, I ‘m going to have to let go of some of my commitments. Unfortunately, blogging is one of them so this will be my last post with Gemstatewriters.

Thank you to my fellow bloggers for giving me a forum to discuss one of my favorite topics. Also, thanks to all the people who have read my blogs and left comments.

Happy writing!


Posted by on October 29, 2013 in Idaho


NaNoWriMo-Who’s In?


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.


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.


Posted by on October 24, 2013 in Idaho


Why Do I Write?

Why do I write?

The answer isn’t complicated. I have stories I want to tell. People I want to create. Adventures I want to live.

It’s sounds simple enough.

That’s the twist. It isn’t, at least, not for me. I have confessed my many problems. I hate to torture people.

I am a member of the local Romance Writers of America chapter. I remember a meeting we had a guest was in attendance. She introduced herself and explained she had aspirations of becoming a writer. She said she thought she’d start writing romance novels because they would be an easy starting point to launch her career.

Now, anyone who knows me knows that I am a kind person, and tend to go out of my way to make people feel comfortable. But, on that day, her words caught me off guard. I laughed. I couldn’t help myself. That reaction set off a chain of responses. The poor thing. Bless her heart, that’s code for “what an idiot.” She was wrong.

The woman in question didn’t join the chapter and to my knowledge never wrote the great American novel.

I don’t think there is an “easy” genre out there. Storytelling is a calling.

Crafting characters readers care about takes skill. Plotting a book’s intricate twists and turns take skill. Bringing all those elements together take skill. But sometimes skill isn’t enough.

I’ve known writers who have walked away due to frustration with and the industry. They abandoned their dreams of publication.

Maybe I should have given up, reassessed my dreams, but this is part of me I want to share. I want others to see the world through my special lens. I want them to come with me on the journey. I want to bring them an escape from their everyday lives.

Why do you write?


Posted by on October 22, 2013 in Idaho


Boot Camp Tips for All Authors

I was just in Salt Lake City for a wonderful workshop with Alane Ferguson sponsored by the Utah/southern Idaho region of the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). During this self-titled Boot Camp, Alane tackled 15 manuscripts’ first few pages.


Some Boot Camp authors hard at work

I took notes, and here’s what I discovered, from which we all might learn.

Common mistakes and comments:

  • Great description and lyrical prose is a lovely talent. However, without plot structure and character development, it gets you nowhere. (Kind of obvious, but still, almost every single manuscript received this comment, and these were really good writers.)
  • No matter how you start a story–whatever genre, whatever age group–if we don’t get to know the character enough to care, you have lost your reader.
  • Conflict and tension must enter very early on. It’s not enough to just introduce the character and allude to the plot. We need to get a sense of the conflict.
  • You make a promise to your reader within the first few pages. You have to write the book that keeps that promise. So make sure what you promise is what you intend to deliver. In other words, don’t start the book with a character who isn’t the main characters; don’t start the novel with a love interest (or other element) if that’s not the main focus of the plot; don’t promise a story about one thing when the rest of the book is going to be about something else.
  • You cannot tell a story using only one technique: just dialogue or just narration or just internal thoughts. Your story has to have a careful blend of dialogue, action, narration, and internal emotions of the the character. It’s a skill that you can learn, but you have to do it deliberately and it has to be woven with skill. It doesn’t work if you have a scene of dialogue then a scene of action. No. All the techniques have to be woven into each scene.
  • Story is essential. A lot can be overlooked if there is a good story. However, if story is missing, no matter how great your writing is, no one will want to read it.
  • READ YOUR GENRE. (Again, this seems pretty obvious to me, but you’d be surprised how many people have no idea what the conventions are for certain genres, especially within the children’s age groups.)

Of course, you can pull of breaking these rules if you are experienced and if you do it for a specific reason. Practice following the rules until you have mastered them, then you get to experiment.

Alane was a fantastic cheerleader for each and every manuscript, giving encouraging advice even for beginning authors. I learned by watching her excellent critiquing skills how to be positive to each author no matter what.

By the way, here a some of my favorite books by Alane.


Posted by on October 17, 2013 in Idaho


Riding the Roller Coaster with Friends

One of the things I love about other writers is their ability to climb on the roller coaster with you. It isn’t always fun. The highs are highs and the lows are very low and they usually come close together.

The other day I was trying to explain to a new friend about the process of writing. She’d like to write a book and said she’d started and it was very, very hard. I, of course, assured her it was very hard indeed, producing ups and downs to a crazy degree that non-writers might not understand.

Long after we parted, I thought about it. I’ve laughed, cried, been delighted with my words, and wondered how I could ever keep going when it all looked terrible. But as I’d explained to my new friend there is something inside me that is willing to work hard to get my stories out. I can’t stop doing it, even though there’ve been many times I’ve wanted to.

The following day, a writer friend showed me a revision she’d made to her book. I was and am totally thrilled by the changes she made, taking the story to a whole new level. I might be even more excited by the book than she is because I truly think it will be her breakthrough novel.

That got me to thinking about fellow writers and how we’re willing to climb aboard a ride that we never seem to be able to stop. But sharing the ups and downs of writing is a wonderful thing. It brings out the best in you, even when you’re hanging on for dear life and swooping down before making another climb up.

Being part of a group is essential for writers. Who do you get your inspiration from?


Posted by on October 15, 2013 in Idaho


Self-Publishing 4

Do it yourself self-publishing can be a scary thought, but if you can write a book and get it ready to publish, then you do have enough skills to get that book out there. I took the plunge and so can you.

What made me change my attitude from scary to possible? Sure, I talked to others who had done it, but I was still hesitant, until I came across a book by Lucinda Moebius called Write Well Publish Right. First of all, I was interested in reading a book about writing from a high school and college teacher. Her book is what she teaches her students from beginning to the end at publishing. Mainly, I thought maybe I could implement some of her concepts into ideas for teaching language to small groups. Moreover, what I really took away from this book is that it is possible for me to self-publish a book.

Lucinda states that it is easy with the use of the formatting guides available through ePublishing platforms. She hired a formatter for the Kindle version of her science fiction books, but formatted the Smashwords version on her own. Also, she had help with her cover, hired an editor, and went through Amazon CreateSpace as her printer. Many times she states that it is up to you to do your own research and do what is best for you.

Yes, she inspired me, so I went to and got started. There an author can put in the title and paste in your manuscript and cover. Remember you have to have an ISBN number for your e-book, another one for your print book and CreateSpace can provide them for you. I did have to hire help with the e-book, my son did the front cover work, then I hired Fiverr for the spine and back cover for which I paid a little extra. Instead of five dollars with Fiverr, it was ten dollars and I’m very happy with their work.

I learned that the CreateSpace process for me was somewhere between adding art and print to a Vistaprint writing advertisement to doing my own taxes (on an easier year).

Yesterday, I went to hear multi-published author, Joanne Pence, give a talk about self-publishing at my local writers group in the Boise area. After already using CreateSpace, I learned the following information:

For those of you that want to add a publishing name to their self-pubbed books, Joanne says that you can go through SBA.GOV for your assumed business name. Registering a name will cost you $25.00. For my writing business name of Melland Publishing, LLC, I went through the Secretary of Idaho and paid $100.

Joanne also says that off-white or cream is the paper color of most fiction books. The 6 x 9 inch book size is becoming the industry standard and costs less than a book sized 5 ½ x 8 1/2 inches. You can buy a cheaper, older version of Adobe Photoshop on eBay for making your own covers.

Finally, Joanne adds that, especially for multi-published authors, the value of going to and using them exclusively to sell your e-book for your first 90 days can give you five free days on Amazon. It’s a way to get your name out there in hopes of readers choosing to buy and read your other books. After 90 days you can renew with them, or you can put your book into an .epub format and download it to other bookselling sites.

Yet, as Lucinda says, you need to do your own study and then decide what is best for you.


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I don’t hate winter. I don’t. I complain about winter more than any one human being really should, but that’s only because there’s just so darn much of it. San Franciscans complain about fog but they couldn’t really stand to live in San Francisco if they hated it. Seattle-ites complain about the rain, but they couldn’t bear those long grey winters if they really loathed it. My little mountainous corner of Idaho has winter and I complain, but I’d never survive if I really hated it.

Winter just feels so big, and lasts so long, that I never really escape it. Snow lingers on the mountains I see from my windows into July, which is also the month where I start fretting if I haven’t ordered firewood yet. I’ve lived here for seven years as an adult, and during one of those years I saw snowflakes, at least once, eleven months out of twelve. (That was a bad year. Summer lasted from July 1st, when the temperature broke 70 degrees for the first time, to August 29th. On Aug 30th it snowed.)

This wasn’t one of those years. This year we had a truly glorious summer that started early in May (MAY!) and lasted deep into September. My problem is that I’m already thinking about winter. Dreading it, preparing for it, fretting over how cold it will be and whether it will be a heavy snow year or a light one. Wondering if this is the year I should finally buy studded tires for my car. (Last year I got stuck in my driveway and had to put on chains to make it to the house.) Wondering when my neighbor will get around to delivering the firewood I ordered (in July).

It’s fall, and fall is glorious, but instead of enjoying it, I have a laser-like focus on what’s to come. But, except for getting on my neighbor about that delayed firewood, there’s nothing I can do. Winter will come, and it will be exactly as harsh or as mild as the jet stream (and whatever else goes into making weather, heck if I know) dictates and my dithering won’t change that. Maybe we’ll get a big storm and I won’t be able to make it into work and they’ll just have to figure out how to do without me. And maybe we won’t. That’s all for the future. This is a lesson I have to re-learn constantly. My life is happening *now* and I’m missing it.

Right now? The maple by my drive is a glorious red and the aspens that fringe my pasture are turning yellow. The crocuses are blooming, just like they do in the spring, making my flower beds look almost season-less. It’s time for butternut squash soup and pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, and digging my bread pans out and putting them to use. I have a home-made chai recipe that never feels right any other time of year. NaNoWriMo is just around the corner and I’m plotting out the last half of my never-ending book in the grand hope that maybe, this November, I’ll finish it. So I’m trying not to think about winter. I’m preparing, but I’m trying, so damn hard, to enjoy the fall. To “be here now” as Ram Dass wrote.

What about you? What are you doing to be here now? To mark and enjoy the changing season?


Posted by on October 3, 2013 in Idaho