Tag Archives: writing


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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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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Are You Ready for Indie Publishing, Part II

A Haunting in Trillium Falls_Mary Vine.jpgYou can find Are You Ready For Indie Publishing, Part 1 here:

I’ve written and edited a book, asked other writers to read it and then I made changes. So, now I’m ready to start the steps to indie publishing. Yes, I wallowed with whether I should try to submit this baby to a publisher, but only sent it to one who rejected it. After some disappointment, I reminded myself that with three published books to my credit, this is the one I’d chosen to branch out with.

To be sure, I talked with other authors about the self-pub business. Many found success and encouraged me to do the same. An indie author referred me to Indieromanceink, an email loop for those who are, or plan to be, an indie author. It is a large group of writers that ask questions, or answer them, and there’s quite a bit of knowledge to be gained from this site.

An incredible amount of work to self-publish is necessary and it can be downright scary. First, you need to hire an editor to do a line-by-line edit, especially for a first time author. Some suggest two editors. It takes hours of time to read about marketing to prepare for launching out on your own.

There are two things I just don’t know how to do, and don’t have the time or inclination to learn. Number one is: Cover art. There are many indie writers out there doing it all, including the cover art and some a very eye-catching. I am lucky to have a designer, graphic production, multimedia, digital artist guy in the family to do mine.

Number two is to publish the e-book and send it to various outlets. I chose Wildflowers Books, a division of The Wild Rose Press to self-publish and distribute my book, A Haunting in Trillium Falls. The cost totaled $199 and the package includes a digital ISBN, conversion of the book into various formats, and distribution to the following retailers and partners:
Amazon Kindle
All Romance
iTunes (iBookstore)
Barnes & Noble Nook
Overdrive Content Reserve (distributes to libraries and various retailers)

Whether you are published first or not, marketing your book(s) takes time and scheduling time to write is the one thing most authors struggle with. It’s like going to school to be a special education teacher and when you get the job find out you are overwhelmed with so much paperwork that you have little time to work with the students that fascinate you so much. Yet, going the indie route with an e-mail loop has helped me learn volumes about the book publishing business which seems to change every day. And to top it off, you will earn more money on your own for that book you’ve created after hours of hard work.


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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?


Posted by on June 18, 2013 in Idaho


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Kind of Over It

I’m not a trendy gal. In fact, I have been known to run the opposite direction in order to avoid a trend. As a reader and a writer, I don’t pay much attention to trends either. I read for the stories and the characters, and if the main character is a ghost or a wizard or an alien, I go with it. Sometimes, publishing trends coincide with things I like, and for a while I’m happy.

For example, I love dystopian novels—which I describe as utopian gone awry. Somebody had an idea for a society that seemed perfect at the time, only in practice it has turned out horribly wrong. Hunger Games. Nineteen Eighty-Four. Matched. Fahrenheit 451. All dystopian. I love a really good dystopian. However, in recent years, the market, especially the Young Adult (YA) market, has been saturated with this genre, and it’s grown a bit tiresome. Especially dystopian trilogies. Now, in order to catch my attention, a new dystopian has to be highly recommended by friends or other authors. Otherwise, I’m kind of over it.

Also trilogies in general. Sadly, the market is run by the need to make money, and I think what happens is publishers get a little greedy. They launch the first book with huge acclaim and publicity budgets, and often the first book is really, really wonderful. Here’s where the greed enters in: I think that the publishers push the author to write the second and third books quickly in order to get them out while demand is hot. Often resulting in rather lackluster books. Several trilogies I’ve started in the last few years kicked off with a bang, but the second book was so uninspired that I didn’t even open the cover of the third. (If you’re a publisher and you’re reading this, please feel free to dispute my claim.) Possibly the subsequent books in a trilogy aren’t as good because the author put in ten years writing the first, and only six months writing the second. I don’t know. But I’m kind of over trilogies.

I’m also over YA “issue” books. You know the ones. This is a sex abuse book. This is a cancer book. This is a runaway book. I just want a story, not a sermon, not a cause. I can say this with a grain of salt, because some of my books might be categorized as issue books, but I didn’t set them up that way, so I hope they are just good stories.

I never really got into the zombie/vampire/paranormal trend in the first place, so I can’t even say I’m over that. But I am. Over it. Same with teen romance. I think you know the one (with vampires).

Which begs the question: what am I NOT over? I’m not over historical fiction—although I am definitely over the ruthless monarch who wants to marry daughter off to gain world power. But other kinds of historical fiction, along the lines of Between Shades of Gray (never to be confused with—UGH—50 Shades of Gray) or The Diviners (which has a paranormal aspect, sorry). I’m not over good stories about teens who are trying to figure out life. I’m not over funny stories.

In writing, the tendency to buck a trend is a good thing. Because usually by the time a trend in publishing hits the bookstore shelves, publishers really aren’t buying any more manuscripts in that genre or subject. So it’s usually too late to jump on the bandwagon. Yay for ignoring the trend. I just keep on writing what I write, and hope other people want to read a good story without any vampires or magic or romance that oozes disgustingly out of the pages.


BONUS NOTICE: the Utah/southern Idaho region of SCBWI is holding The Great Critique event. It’s free, but there is an opportunity to sign up for a paid critique by a publishing professional (editor/agent).  Basically, if you sign up, you’ll get to critique and be critiqued by other authors in your geographical area. This is a fabulous opportunity if you don’t have regular critique group or partner, or even if you just want your manuscript read by a fresh set of eyes. See for details.


Posted by on June 5, 2013 in Idaho


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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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