Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Writing Wednesday - StoryMakers Conference

My amazing sister helped me get to Storymakers this year. It was a wonderful experience - like always.

Thursday started with Plot Chat. Annette Lyon gave me some great pointers and insight. I can’t wait to start revising! Next up came the First Pages Clinic. I was a little bummed because it seemed like I had been put in the wrong group. There were some really off-the-wall comments, BUT I did receive some feedback I can implement and use to make my work better. I guess I should put on my alligator skin jacket for these because this isn’t the first time I’ve come away feeling like the proverbial whipping boy. Ironically, I took the same book to these… Go figure!

Friday was nothing less than amazing! I met with Sara Crowe for a manuscript consult. She made very few changes to the 10 pages she read from Wish Upon A Warrior. I was so excited! She suggested I flesh it out a bit to add about 15k words, making it a full-length novel instead of a novella. My favorite classes were by Marc Cameron and Mike Perry. And then the keynote speaker! Oh the keynote!

Ally Condie knocked it out of the ballpark! It was such a good speech.

My most awesome roomies took me out for desserts at a French bakery. Oh, such wonderful goodness! Wowie!

Saturday came early, much too early. It took quite a bit to pull myself out of bed & to get dressed. I braided my hair and went to classes. My all time favorite class was Ally Condie’s intensive. She got us writing - actually writing in class. It was wonderful. I wished I’d have brought my laptop. It was so fun!

Then Jennifer Nielsen’s keynote address during lunch was spectacular! Oh. My. Gosh! WOWIE!!! It was hard to top.

Eschler Editing managed to squeeze me in for an editing spot. They were so sweet! I got so much good feedback! I have so much to fix. Again… Sara Crowe and Eschler Editing looked at the same piece.

And then… the Whitney Awards! My good friend, Jenni James, and her daughters came to help me get ready. They did my hair and makeup.

It was magical - such a transformation! I literally felt like a princess once I stepped into my dress. I got so many compliments. It was great!

I have so many things rushing through my head as I returned to my normal life. I have so many new story ideas, so many thoughts on how to improve my writing, so many THINGS!

It’s been said the main reason we go to conference isn’t the classes (although they help), it’s the PEOPLE! The networking! The feeling of family! The wonderfulness of it all! It’s like entering a magical universe that not everyone “gets.” This writer family that I’ve chosen is so much fun. We’re all living this solitary lifestyle and then, once a year, we’re thrown together in this big building to learn, laugh, chat, and hone our craft. I’m so glad I have these writer friends of mine. They are so supportive, so wonderful, so unique. I’m honored that I can mingle with them, if only for brief snippets of time. These fellow Storymakers, they are my friends!

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Medical Monday - A couple days early...

We’ve been going to the doctor every 2-3 months because Jaydon is finally on a growth hormone that’s working! He’s responding beautifully! He’s over 5 feet tall and has crossed the 100 pound threshold! He’s so proud of himself.

A wonderful moment happened today when I pulled out a pair of pants that have been kicking around for quite some time. “Hey, these were Chazz’s pants but they’re 4 inches too short for him. Try them on. If they don’t fit, I’ll send them to the DI.”

He and Dakota tried them on. And, with a belt, they fit! Good grief! We’ve gone from the size 10s to the 12s to the 14s to men’s sizes in pants in ONE year with these two!

At the last appointment, we changed up Jaydon’s blood pressure medication. If we can keep his blood pressure lower, we can keep the kidney functioning longer. “Here’s the RX and the lab order. Get the labs done in 7-10 days.”

It was closer to 10 days when we got it done. Still within the timeframe we had been given. I didn’t give it another thought.

UNTIL, I was at the Storymakers Conference. I was riding the escalator. My phone was on silent so I wouldn’t disturb the wonderful presenters. I felt the vibration of a new message and listened in shock.

“Stephanie, you need to stop that new med immediately! I don’t know what happened and why there was a delay. But the results from TWO WEEKS AGO indicate that his kidney is failing! I don’t know why there was a delay, but we need immediate action. I’ll call again on Monday.”

I made a frantic phone call to my sister who had my kids. “Take that little green pill out of the baggie RIGHT NOW! It’s literally killing him!”

Heads turned in the lobby. I’m sure they thought I was crazy or part of a plot or part of some class.

It’s crazy to know that you’re 100+ miles away from your kid and there’s nothing you could do even if you were there. Combine that with the flooding that was happening and the cow insanely close to her due date and it’s a recipe for stress.

Luckily, I had the best roomies who took me to a French Bakery for desserts - yes, plural. I’m not sure they knew what was going on… but I’m so thankful!

Monday, I had a great discussion with our doctor. We’ll go back to the previous BP med with labs in 7-10 days. If this fails, we’ll need to stop/delay the growth hormones. We may even need to look at dialysis.”

My heart is lurching in my chest. But, already I can see a bit of improvement. His coloring is better, he’s more active, he’s not sleeping as much. He still sleeps a lot. BUT! Things are looking better.

The flooding has receded a bit. The cow still hasn’t calved. We still don’t have the answers we want or need. BUT, it will all work out. We are praying and everything is in God’s hands.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Of Butterflies and Bracelets...

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful infant. This infant was longed for, prayed for, hoped for, and loved. So much excitement filled the air at the news “We’re going to have a baby!”

And then, as sometimes happens, tragedy struck. The doctors assured the mother that she did nothing wrong. Nothing could have been done to prevent the miscarriage. “These things just happen. Especially in the first trimester,” they told her. At seven weeks, the infant was delivered into the loving arms of her Heavenly Father, to hold and to keep until the mother could be with her again.

Deep wounds were torn into the mother’s heart. It’d be so long before eternity happened and she could hold her infant again. And then, a butterfly came… A beautiful blue iridescent butterfly. It came and and landed on her hand, caressing the skin with its wings. At this moment, the flutterings from within were felt and the mother knew. She knew she carried another life, not to replace the one that was lost but to help her heal from the loss. This butterfly, Kimana, seemed to kiss the mother’s hand before it fluttered away into the sky - knowing it’s beautiful message had been delivered.

After the butterfly disappeared from sight, the mother went into the nearby gift shop and was amazed to find a beautiful bracelet - one with a butterfly with wings made from abalone. The beautiful blue wings seemed to flutter much like the wings that had just moments before caressed her heart and soul. The bracelet was purchased and treasured. Worn when the mother needed comfort from her unseen angel.

It is amazing how much sentiment is collected into one, seemingly small, piece of jewelry.

On this day, my rainbow baby, the one who came to us after the loss of our Kimana, climbed up onto the high shelf and retrieved the beautiful bracelet. She wore it proudly. I’m sure she wanted to be pretty “like mama”. She kissed the iridescent wings as she danced around. And somewhere, somehow, in the hands of the little mischief-maker, the bracelet was broken. The silver band straightened. The butterfly charm became detached. Unsure of what metals were used, jewelers are unable to reattach the charm. And so, the butterfly bracelet sits - broken.



Now, on this day, the mother’s heart aches for the treasure, the tangible piece of reality that tied her to her infant. In her heart, she knows that the ties to eternity are not tangible. They are felt as the strings are woven together into a blanket that wraps around one’s soul and brings comfort to the aching hearts.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Writing Wednesday

I have been writing quite a bit lately. My house has been much neglected because of it, but it seems my mind just won’t shut off. Scenes replay over and over through my mind until I get them on paper. Thankfully, most of my characters understand when it’s dinner time or time to feed the creatures or milk my cow (twice per day). Sometimes, they don’t and they carry on conversations in my mind.

“Gee, I wish she’d hurry.”
“Come on! I’m waiting here!”
“This idea is GOLD! Just forget the cow and get on with the book.”
“You should put this into that scene you just wrote.”

Helpful, aren’t they? My imaginary friends are ever-so-entertaining most days. My imaginary friends are quiet today. I’m thinking they’re exhausted from keeping me up at night. At any rate, I’ll be cleaning my woefully neglected house until ‘something happens’ - whether it be the imaginary friends start talking, my house gets clean, someone pops into the writing chat room, or my kids decide they’re on strike again. Until then, I’ll leave you with this little snippet to enjoy…


Kiara’s teeth chattered as she staggered through the snow. It seemed to be getting deeper the further she went.

“Am I even on the road?”

Tears slid down her cheeks and almost instantly froze in place. Dark clouds obscured the moon as the sleet beat down on her. She pulled her jacket closer around herself, trying to keep the cold at bay.

Her teeth chattered and her body shook as she trudged a meandering path. She glanced up and blinked, almost wondering if the smoke rising from the trees was a mirage. As if drawn toward the oasis like a thirsty desert traveler, she switched directions and headed toward the trickle of smoke. Soon, the scent of it teased her nostrils and tempted her forward with it’s promised warmth.

Walking, or rather, stumbling became easier beneath the pines. Her eyes widened as a tiny cabin came into view. Lights beckoned through the windows. “Come inside,” they seemed to beg.

She fell to her knees when her legs refused to climb the stairs. She clawed her way onto the porch and reached for the doorknob, praying she could open it. Hope fled as she crumpled into a heap, unable to move, unable to open the door, unable to go any further. She curled into a ball, wishing a tiny bit of warmth would seep out from the crack near the floor.

“Please help me,” she uttered.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Medical Update (I know it's not Monday)

Some of you know this story, but not all of you do. We were at State Wrestling at the end of February. The kids started getting sick. We didn’t think much of it, kids get sick all the time. Most of the kids recovered within three days. But not Jaydon. Jaydon got worse. I’d been dealing with barf and fevers and barf and whiny and did I mention barf? For well over a week. I decided the younger kids and I would go to PeeWee Wrestling while Jaydon stayed home.

We got in late and he was asleep so I went to bed. In the morning, I went in to wake him up. Everyone else was awake but him. I walked into his room and he laid there, gray pallor, sunken eyes, lips pulled back from dried out teeth. My eyes went wide. My heart almost stopped. “Jaydon, it’s time to get up.”

He didn’t respond. There was no discernible rise and fall to his chest.

“Jaydon. Come on. Get up.”

Nothing.

So I screamed. “Jaydon! GET UP!”

He finally stirred. “What?”

Relief washed over me and I sent him to the tub.

“Mom. I’m done. I’m so tired.”

I wanted to scream. “What do you mean?!?!” But I didn’t. “You’ll be okay. I’m calling the doctor.”

Trying for as much normalcy as possible, I sent the younger boys to swim school and came back to the house. He’d curled into a ball, barely dressed.

A call to the doctor was less than productive. I hauled the kids to my mother’s as I packed a bag, knowing we were going to a hospital but not knowing which one. The doctor finally called back. The instructions were simple. “Go to your favorite hospital.”

Our wonderful home teacher came and gave my son a wonderful blessing. One I would hold onto throughout the coming weeks and months. He would get better. It would be a struggle. BUT he WOULD get better.

We drove. I’ll never know how I didn’t get pulled over. I know I had angels with me. My husband met us in Evanston and we drove, and Jaydon barfed and screamed and barfed. He was almost catatonic when we got to Primary Children’s Hospital. I almost had to carry him inside.

Multiple tests and xrays later it was determined that because of the illness and dehydration, he was in renal failure. He had so many diagnosis that all revolved around his dehydration. We spent a week in the hospital and finally were released.

Two hours. Two hours was how long it took for him to become exhausted. He went to school for those two hours, working as hard as he could until he couldn’t. They’d call and I’d go get him. He’d last a little longer every day until he was back to school full time.

Then, we had to petition the school for credit for his entire freshman year. It was granted - we have the best SPED adviser and principal. There were several other disagreements and arguments along the way. Momzilla made her appearance on occasion.

Yesterday’s appointment was EXCELLENT! My son has gained weight! SEVEN pounds! He went from being below the 1st percentile on the growth charts to being close to the 10th percentile! IN THREE MONTHS!! We’ve discussed the use of growth hormones and steroids to aid in his growth. We have several groups working with us at the insurance and hospital to find the best way to bill so we get the least expensive option.

The prognosis is good. The labs have stabilized. My son has so much energy and is teasing his brothers and sisters mercilessly - much to my chagrin. He’s getting better, slowly. He’s my superman!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Wyoming Writers Conference

As I drove across the gray-green sagebrush flats, heading for South Pass, I looked in the back where my clothes hung. I’d packed in the dark, afraid to wake my husband and toddler. “Wow, did I really pack the brown pants instead of the black ones?”

I pulled over at the rest area and consulted the schedule, happily discovering that I did indeed have time to buy new pants as well as check into the hotel before the activities started.

I changed from my jeans, stained with slobber from cattle, goats and kids into the new jeans, brushed my hair and set out, unsure what experiences I’d find, but determined to draw something from the wealth that was being offered.

The fiction table was entertaining. So much talent flowed from the pages that were read and critiqued. I am constantly amazed at the caliber of writers we have in our state. After dinner, we filtered into the room, passing around a sign up list for the Open Mic session.

“I don’t know,” I said.

“Come on. The winners are reading their works first. They’ll never get to the list.”

“Fine,” I hedged as I scrawled my name on the tablet.

And the list moved on, jumping from table to table as writers added their names to it. I was sorely tempted to cross my name off and add it to the end of the list, but it wouldn’t have done any good. They made it through and beyond.

My name was called and I took the mic, heart thumping in my chest so hard that I was certain everyone could see it even through my clothing. I read an excerpt from my novel, Saving Grace. It didn’t take the full five minutes, but it was long enough, especially for my stage-frightened self. “The Bear Excerpt,” as it soon became known, was quite popular. I was stopped numerous times on Saturday and Sunday by people praising and asking questions about me and my work.

I thought, “Wow. People really do like my stuff. It’s not just my friends and family telling me.”

Then the pitch session… There was a scheduling snafu somewhere. I was put on two lists at overlapping times. As such, I pitched to Ms. Wales, who very politely declined my manuscripts - all of them - but she did give me several tidbits of treasured advice. I missed the pitch to Ms. Turner and almost cried. Chris was very accommodating, and after some discussion, rescheduled the pitch.

Ms. Turner, with High Hill Press, was very interested in my novel, Bid For Freedom. So much so, that she requested a full! I’m so excited! I have my work cut out for me over the next month, polishing before I press send, coming up with marketing schemes and updating my woefully neglected blog.

For classes, I attended Pamela Fagan Hutchins’ classes on self-publishing. I am almost overwhelmed with the knowledge that she shared. After the classes, we had a great discussion about marketing and she gave me several hints along the lines of what to include in the marketing plan I’ll be sending to High Hill Press. She also put me in contact with an author that lives in Star Valley, only an hour north of me. We’ve chatted via email and are in the process of reviewing our schedules to see not if but when we can get together.

I met several amazing authors and I’m in awe of their willingness to help me. Their willingness to share their knowledge so that others can and will be successful. Their joy FOR me as I shared my wonderful news. I’ve met several friends and have already connected with them on social media, discussing what we learned and the experiences that we had.

This conference was everything I wanted and needed and was so much more than I even dreamed. As a mom of six, I arrived, frazzled and nervous - almost broken - having misplaced my creativity somewhere along the line. When I left, I was revitalized and overjoyed. Who knew I’d left my creativity in Riverton?

To the BearLodge Writers, thank you so much for sponsoring me. This opportunity will always be treasured. You’ll never know exactly how much I needed this. The phone call telling me I’d been chosen as the scholarship recipient came the day we got home from the week-long hospital stay as my son fought yet another battle for his life. THIS battle with his kidney disease was successful. He won’t need a transplant yet. We’re hoping for at least another two years before that event.

Thank you so much for allowing me to take a much-needed break and revitalize myself, to gain such a love for my fellow writers, for the opportunity to rub shoulders with greatness, and above all, to instill a confidence in myself that I didn’t have before. As a result, I am a much better person, a better wife, a better mother and a better writer. THANK YOU!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Writing and Photo Shoots

The past six months have been FULL of writing and kids and photo shoots. It's been such a fun learning experience! I've learned so many things about myself and some of my talents. I've completed four books since October. I'm learning how to use my camera so that I can use some of the pictures I've taken for the covers (or at least parts of my pictures)