Trends in Writing, The Arts, Regional Events, and High Desert Living

Posts in category High Desert Writers

How can I…?

Innocent Labor

Innocent Labor

After lots of hard work, re-writes, and hysterics the finish line is almost in sight. The release of my book, Innocent Labor is right around the corner.

I’m so excited I want to scream…then cry, usually followed by the need for a glass of wine. Don’t judge me, I’m a writer. Being an emotional basket case is part of who we are. I saw it on Facebook so it must be true.

It’s interesting now that I’m releasing a book, I’m being asked “How does a person write a book?” A couple years ago, I was the person searching for a mentor and answers to my questions.

Over time, I’ve learned everyone, myself included has a different writing style. I don’t know if there is a guide for the “Ten Steps of How to Write” (I’m sure it’s been written, but I’m always asked for specific answers and not general guidelines). However, I believe everyone is different and should find their own way to allow their muse to speak.

This isn’t to indicate you shouldn’t implement a few rules to control the chaos that is your creativity. My first priority was to always carve out time to write (Best Advice Ever). If I didn’t schedule that time, the magic didn’t happen. When I was lucky the ideas would churn around in my head while I went about my daily tasks. The words and scenes pushed me out of bed, the characters becoming so real I’d forget they lived in my head and not in reality.

What's in My Head by Cynthia (aka MrsPeel) Love the words inside the silhouette here!But I couldn’t depend on those magical moments to write a book. It’s like waiting for a cool day during the summer months in the High Desert. If you want rain, you’ve got to make it happen. Dig deep within yourself. Watch movies similar to your story, make notes about the feelings a particular scene invoked. Go outside, describe what you see, feel, and smell. Even researching information can help form ideas, propelling characters forward in the story. (Again, great advice I received.)

Oh yes, the writing process can be an indescribable rush when a story has the writer clenched in its grasp.

I’m also the kind of writer who prefers music playing in the background rather than television while I’m writing. Creating a playlist to match the vibe of what I’m looking for in my story helped build a connection with my characters and the scenes. I’d close my eyes and picture what I was trying to put into words; the music taking me to that place emotionally where I wanted to take the readers.

But remember, writing a book is just the beginning. In addition, there are revisions, rewrites, professional editing, critique groups, book blog tours, marketing, networking, and creating a presence on social media.

Writing and re-writing.  authors.  writer quotes.  goals.  advice.  wisdom.  life lessons.

The Beautiful Part..

Writing can be a daunting task. And becoming a self-published writer can sometimes seem overwhelming. However, the feeling of satisfaction of having a completed and professional literary piece that you have created cannot be denied.

Would I do it again? Indeed, I would.

As a matter of fact, I’ve already started on a second project and I’m ready for round two.

For more information or to get to know Just a HD Mom you can connect with her on Twitter @MGEdwardsWrites and Facebook

All Procrastinators Unite! … Tomorrow

It’s that nagging “procrastination” word. credits
Everyone says do what makes you happy. And if procrastination had a useful and monetary outcome, I would be queen of the hill. My husband does not own any procrastination genes; he keeps busy after work until the sun goes down. He’s also my first person who asks me what I did that day. I feel unfulfilled. In my mind I’ve accomplished a lot.

Me, I could get up late, think about the stuff I should be doing, “putz” around the house doing a load of laundry, moving this or that, stopping to watch TV, eat some lunch, even pay some bills, without getting a lick of writing work done. I do believe it’s my “mulling over it” phase. Other writers have said that, more than half the time, a writer is simmering on what to write. Yeah, that’s me. I simmer, and mull, and procrastinate.

When I am productive I need to set a timer to remind myself to take breaks. Someone said that the best work environment will be your most productive zone. So I do what makes me happy and listen to my wind chimes while I type, or play native flute music (I have an extensive collection) or play a few computer games to allow simmering before writing.

The bottom line is that procrastinators are always working… you just can’t see the outcomes physically until the mental work is done. Knowing that makes me feel better about myself …  and happier.

So how do you do the mulling in your mind before you write? Are you an early riser with a load of writing to get on paper? Are you typically a reader-researcher and then a writer? Are you feeling guilty for not committing to a 1,000  words a day? Who said that was a reasonable amount to set? Are you guilty for thinking you’re guilty?

Rusty LaGrange

Rusty is a guest blogger and life-long procrastinator, who knows just why she does what she does, and enjoys being happy in mulling. Read her other blogs at and




How Will You Change Life in the High Desert?

“Inspiring Change”, the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day (IWD), which took place four days ago, is not just a flashy thought for one day. The idea of change can come on slowly and percolate into a movement or it can appear suddenly as an inspirational thought with momentum.

What Would You Change?  

International Women's Day

International Women’s Day

Today, organizations, governments, charities, educational institutions, women’s groups, corporations, and the media all celebrate the day in different ways, usually incorporating the annual theme that the United Nations declares. Previous examples of such themes include action to end violence against women and empowering rural women to end hunger and poverty.

The events happening around the UK this year – of which almost 400 have been logged on, is outstanding.  About twice as many as are planned in the United States – and could hardly be more varied – ranging from conferences and talks to comedy events, dances, and afternoon teas.

 What’s In It For You?

Sometimes it’s just the first kernel of a thought that becomes the motivation to do something. All motivators are not equal  fewer ever amount to much. But of those that are acted upon, it can make a change.

I would like to see a regional magazine in the High Desert that offers our community of writers a platform for change, motivation, showcase, and communication. Some magazines have come and  gone over the years. Technology has changed, too. I have in mind a magazine focus that I will work on. It will be in digital format with a subscription base to allow for growth. I have yet to work out the details but I have the background to create it and make it happen. With years in journalism, editing and writing, I’m certain it can happen.

Stay tuned as my inspiration for change Vintage West magazine – grows from an idea to a dream to a possibility for writers and readers in the High Desert of Southern California.

 Rusty LaGrange


Set a Strong Ritual Instead of a Weak 2014 Resolution

I’ve been reading a lot about how rituals are more deeply conforming to a creative person’s needs. Music raises the mood of the mind and fits in nicely with ritual. So, if a ritual to write, let’s say, 500 words per day, is a way to establish your focus to accomplish that task, then let that task be a writing assignment, an exercise, or another blog post. By also finding a comforting way to start your ritual, you will be more attuned and expectant in seeing the results.

Let’s use one of mine as an example. When I write Western-themed short stories or poems, I like to set the mood with music. It becomes a ritual. I pull a CD with Native American flute music or a CD with flamenco-style guitar riffs. My awareness to the sounds introduce my brain to the task at hand.

Flamenco riffs

Flamenco riffs

The music sets the tone, the tone sets the memory of how it affects me, and the outcome primes me into writing. Many successful writers and poets have used this method. By making this a ritual method rather than just another resolution that I’m apt to stop or ignore, I accept it in my routine so it becomes comfortable.

Resolutions are so … pedestrian.

With a recognized ritual, a process that I determine and control, I feel I can better relate to the task I wish to do. Try it for two months and see if it works for you, too.


What type of ritual do you use in your daily life? Let us know if you establish a new ritual for 2014.

Rusty LaGrange

Discovering the Thesaurus Vortex

 I was having a conversation recently with some marketing writers on LinkedIn. The idea of amateur writers vs. professionals came up. In some ways, we are all trying to attain a certain status of writing … something we perceive to be better than what we are doing today. But does that make us less professional on our rungs up the writing ladder?

Colorful and descriptive words became the topic.

Use Cation when Describing


Some writers believe that more descriptive adjective-use makes them seem more skilled. While others contend that simplifying the word choice to con

Flowery Words

vey and distill the wordiness, is a sign of a skilled author.
Our discussion centered on flowery uses of words. Do you have a Thesaurus? No, it’s not the dinosaur of the day. It’s a tool that I would think resides right at the elbow of most writers. Opening a thesaurus can be dangerous: it exposes you to new word usage, expands your world of word categories, and, if you’re not careful, sucks you into its verbiage vortex. You may not get out alive. I can spend hours trapped in the word-chain-discovery-definition vortex. Hours go by.

When I finally do gain my senses, I have gathered astounding new twists on old words. I’ve found new definitions that I may never use. And, I have tapped into a creative lobe of my brain that loves to hunt for new phraseology. It’s how I use them that will determine if I am a professional writer or not.

I admit it. Hey, I’m a wordsmith. I will cringe when I see someone’s attempt to find a new colorful word that hasn’t been used before in a description of a web site. And I will cringe when a Fortune 500 web site uses corporate-speak trying to make itself sound astounding.

More astounding is the fact that many incarcerated authors are trying to be heard through their books. I volunteer at a Federal Prison in an Outreach Program where authors are helping writers attain professionalism in their writing. Some aspire to be published. Some are just trying to write worthy prose about their experiences. Some are trying to write a legal brief to help them get out of prison.


chalkboard_show and tell


 Here’s a short lesson example we discussed about the use of voice in a setting, and how your word choices can draw the reader into your scene:

A) They sat in a white room with a series of desks aimed at the white wipe boards. They were waiting to learn. (Simple description and a bit of anticipation.)

B) He walked in quietly and stepped up to the white board, dragged his finger along the chalkless tray before he turned to glare at the open faces of eager inmates within white walls. (Here is a man with attitude who expects to be seen. The words convey control, adversarial expectation, and an edginess not seen in the other example.)

Both attempts can fail if not done well. 

So when I come across a writer who works his craft, chooses a creative twist …l like alchemy… or see that a writer has caught my attention with their website bravado, I will give them a silent nod and a grin.
It may not always be extraordinary. In fact, it just may be over-the-top. But, they caught my attention in the bazillion web soup sites that fill my senses daily. I would like to find that perfect word for my niche, too.
So, my advice is the same. Keep looking. Be creative but please never turn your poor Roget’s Thesaurus into a dog-eared over-used resource. Reserve that urge to over-do. Be selective. Sense-filled simplicity is always better.

Rusty LaGrange


Today is Sunday. Most Sundays you might find grumbling that work is the next day but not this Sunday. This is a Sunday filled with joy and happiness and reminders that joy is a gift that is given to us freely and we ought to enjoy it. As of late I’ve seen grumbling before me and I’m reminded of the saying my mother says still today, “Get glad in the same pants you got mad in.” In other words no one really cares what you are mad about.

Today was a day full of peace in my high desert world. I got to spend time with great people. I got to spend time with my mother and sister. I got to enjoy another beautiful blue skied day in the desert. Fluffy white clouds dotted the horizon and made the sky look like an inviting pillow. There was a calm over the desert. Even though the weather is hot, it’s not as hot as it was yesterday or the day before.

What more can a person ask for, blue skies, good people to mingle with and an assurance of the Sunday Joy that surrounds the day. Tomorrow is a work day, but if I look around I will find joy in that day too. No one, no one person in this world can take joy from our hearts. Joy is a feeling and even in the midst of a crises, joy can be found.

Thank you for a great ending to a fourth of July weekend. Thank you for joy in our hearts.

Add Blogging to Your Writing Craft

High Desert Bloggers, Bodacious Bundts, Hesperia

High Desert Bloggers, Bodacious Bundts, Hesperia









The craft of writing covers several genres. Is blogging considered one of those genres?

Genre Styles

Each genre includes multifaceted styles. Take poetry for instance. Listening to Poet Mary Langer Thompson speak to High Desert California Writers Club in Apple Valley, CA yesterday made me aware of a particular fact about types of poetry and the people who create the craft. One style rhymes. Another doesn’t. Some poets create lines quickly. Other poets fall into the gotta-think-it-out category (I’m one of those).

After Mary talked about renowned artists and their histories, she distributed art cards with various paintings to the group of writers. Several (the quick group) read poems they had written in yesterday’s class. I was impressed by the quick group at how they could craft such poetry that portrayed specific messages from the poets to the audience.


Perception is interesting. When you first observe a painting, you see one thing. Wait a day or two or until an object catches your eye, and your perception will change.

Purple Iris

Purple Iris from My Spring Garden











What I saw on the art card that was handed to me while Mary was teaching our writers’ group was a field of many blue irises, one white iris, green stems, a fiery bed of desert dirt – and gold California poppies. Anyone else might have seen gold irises. But in my own garden I recently pulled up a bed of blue irises because the aphids (and probably cats walking through) destroyed them. They had turned ugly, and I wanted to be rid of them. On the other side of the garden now there is a large patch of vibrant California poppies.

California Poppies with Raindrops

California Poppies with Raindrops










While I’m typing this blog post at a Starbucks, I’m looking outside at a bunch of gold irises in a rock bed. Ah! The art card. Blue irises. A single white iris. GOLD IRISES. Why couldn’t I see that yesterday? Two reasons. One, the gold irises were in the back of the iris field. Two, the gold flowers looked smaller than the blue and white irises. Mostly, though, I could envision those gorgeous California poppies. Later I looked on the back of the little card. Irises. Yes, the gold ones were irises. Reality has a way of changing how we perceive things.

The Craft of Blogging

Is blogging considered a genre in the craft of writing? Absolutely! Like poetry, there are different blogging styles. Let’s name a few.

  • Conversational
  • Informative
  • Political
  • Art blogs
  • Music blogs
  • Lifestyle blogging
  • Brand blogging
  • Review blogging

Which style of blogging do you prefer? I invite your comments. You may think of another blogging style not mentioned in the above list.

If you are a writer, incorporate the craft of blogging into your genres. The art of writing has been accomplished with pencils, pens, manual and electric typewriters, wordprocessors, computers, and digital writing devices. Can’t part with your old manual typewriter or feather pen and quill? That’s okay. There’s an art to them as well. Keep the old, but learn the new. Connect the dots from old to new. Blog about your talents of typing 50 words a minute on your old-faithful manual typewriter. Add another blog post on feather pen and quill history of writing.

Writing is a craft that never gets old.


“Don’t sweat the small stuff,” he said. “Look around at the big picture and see what God has given you.” Good advice from some one who knew me well. This person is my father. If you think of what a father is, you get all kinds of pictures that come to mind. My father was the Ward Cleaver of my generation, not perfect because no one is. He always gave me sound advice. As we approach Father’s Day so many memories come to mind.
He always said, “Is what you’re whining about really necessary?” My father was down to earth, to the point and didn’t like whining, although he would listen first and then comment. He could always tell when you were lying about something and sometimes he would call you on it and sometimes he would let you stew in your own lie. Those were the times when I really knew he was my father. Letting me figure it out was his way of teaching.

My father was sometimes rough but mostly kind and as the years went by he mellowed. He often had a tear in his eye when talking of the past and a smile on his face whenever he reminisced of the past.

I love to tell the story of the camping trip. Someone loaned us a tent and one night on Friday after he had worked all day we set out to go to Sequoia. We arrived in the nighttime, not an ideal time to be pitching a tent in the dark. The bad thing was that the person who loaned us the tent did not know that the tent poles were not included. It was dark and we had no tent poles. There was nothing to do except sleep in the car or sleep on the ground in our sleeping bags. My mother wasn’t willing to sleep on the ground without being in a tent; I suppose because of critters. We all piled in the car, quite crowded for four people. Sometime in the night my mother started laughing because of the situation. Laughter is contagious but my father did not find the humor in it. My sister, myself and my mother continued to laugh. My father was tired, and being a no nonsense guy he sat outside the laugh filled car with his blanket and his freshly brewed coffee. Needless to say. no one got any sleep that night. In the morning, in the daylight we begin the trip home and as I fell asleep in the back seat, I heard my father chuckle to my mom. I looked up at them and they were holding hands and talking low about the events of the night. You see one thing my father realized was we were family. He put a great deal of effort into family.

This is my tribute to Father’s Day. I believe that a father that puts family at the heart of the household is a real father. What is your father’s day story? I’d love to hear your comments.

How Conversational Blogging Helps Authors Market Books


High Desert Bloggers group

High Desert Bloggers Meetup

“I don’t know what to blog about.” Have you ever heard those words before? You may have  said or thought  them yourself. If you have, you are not alone.

Authors sometimes get confused about blogging and wonder what to blog about. I am a member of a writers club that is honored with many members who are talented published authors. Joining this group was one of the best decisions I ever made. There is never a time that I attend a meeting that I don’t learn something. We have speakers come that talk to us about their genres. Once a professional blogger spoke to the group. He pays his mortgage by blogging – Bill Belew.

One of the pluses of my writers club is that there are several critique groups. There is almost a critique group for every kind of genre – except blogging. Blogging is not always a top priority of a writing group. So I did what Bill Belew advised. I started my own blogging meetup group. That was the best blogging advice I could have received. Do you know the best way to learn? Teach. I found that out years ago when I started teaching Bible studies. I learned more about the Bible than I had ever known – and I grew up in a preacher’s home (a wonderful and inspiring preacher to boot).

Blogging is writing. If you are a blogger, you are a writer. Just saying.

What to blog about

Blog about the books you write and what made you write them. Give your readers insight into who you are as a person. They want to know about you and what inspires you to write like you do. Include pictures of places that inspired you to use a particular setting. Talk about the real you. That’s what readers are looking for in a blog.

How to blog

What gives you ideas for the settings and the characters in your books? Think about how you introduce your characters. You use conversations. Dialogue is now often preferred over a long expose. If you write more than a couple of descriptive paragraphs without including a conversation between your characters, you’ve already lost this generation’s reader. Blog as though you’re talking to your reader. Conversational blogging is preferred because it includes the readers. Just a note here – join a blogging group if you haven’t already. Blog networking with other bloggers will motivate and inspire you.


Writers like to receive feedback. Bloggers refer to feedback as comments. A comment section is added at the end of a blog post. By the end of the post, the blogger may ask the readers a question and invite their comments. I’m sure you’ve heard or read the Bible verse, Acts 20:35, that says it’s more blessed to give than to receive. Apostle Paul said, “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” Paul continued sharing the Gospel everywhere he went. He went through many hardships but never stopped giving in spite of much suffering. You can apply the same principle in whatever you are trying to accomplish in life. Think of that verse when you want to receive comments about your blog posts. You write to entertain, inspire, encourage, motivate, or to make people laugh. It’s always good to receive feedback from readers that they agree or like what you are blogging about. It’s rewarding when you have learned that somehow through your blog posts, you helped or inspired a reader. On the other hand, give feedback to others. Leave relatable comments on blogs that you like to read. You should often visit other blogs that you like and comment about what you like that the other bloggers are blogging about.

Make time to blog

Most writers would rather be writing their novels, memoirs, scripts or whatever genre they write than blogging. Blogging takes time. An author mentioned to me recently that she doesn’t have time to blog. Crafting a book makes one of the top priorities on an author’s things-to-do list. Bringing in cash flow to pay the bills also rates pretty high on that list. I’m a member of a writers’ group and understand well that writers would rather be writing their books than marketing them. However, writing without the money doesn’t pay the bills. Like Zig Ziglar said, “Money isn’t everything; but it ranks right up there with oxygen.”

Market your books on your blog

You can add pages to a blog. One of those pages can be where you market your books. Offer specials, discounts, an excerpt of your new book, news of your book signings, etc. Add a PayPal button that says “Buy Now” to make it convenient for readers to purchase your books on your blog. Give away something, an eBook or an autographed book. , .

Blog often. How much is often? Once a week, three times a week, every day. Blogging often can mean any of those. Opinions on this matter differ. If you don’t have time to blog every day or a few times a week, schedule your blog posts. You can also invite guest bloggers to blog for you. You want people to continue reading your blog, so give them something to read – often.

Why Does a Writer Write? by High Desert Author Jenny Margotta

By Guest Author, Jenny Margotta

Cookbook by Jenny and John Margotta

Some Like It Hot! by Jenny and John Margotta













I am a writer. I have been writing since I could hold a pencil in my small, chubby hand.

As a child, I was fascinated with writing stories about Indians and early American

colonists. Later I added school papers, work-related technical articles, political opinion

pieces and more to my growing stack of fiction efforts. And along the way I added

editing others’ works to writing my own.

Two questions have been posed to me over and over for nearly as long as I have been

writing. Why do I write? What inspired me to begin writing?

I’ll answer the easy one: reading inspired me to write. I don’t think you can truly call

yourself a writer if you do not also read. I have been reading voraciously since the age

of 3. One particular book remains in my mind, although I read it well over 50 years ago.

The Day Must Dawn by Agnes Sligh Turnbull. It was the first book I read in the adult

section of our public library. I was in 4th grade and I remember the librarian making a

huge fuss that I wasn’t old enough to check out adult books. My mother, never one to

accept ‘no’ from anyone, proceeded to tell her I’d read everything of any interest in the

children’s section and I would most certainly be moving to the adult section.

The book had a fairly standard colonial-pioneers-on-the-frontier-facing-hostile-Indians

plot, which is why I initially wanted to read it. But as I read, I became enthralled with

the author’s descriptive phrases. One about the sun shining in the overcast sky like a

polished pewter plate has stayed with me all these years. When I read that phrase as a

9-year-old, I thought, I want to write like that. I wanted to be able to describe the world in

ways that people would remember for years and years to come.

I don’t know whether I’ve reached my goal yet, but I keep trying. And I keep reading. I

read for the stories, themselves, of course but, also, always hoping to discover another

author who will delight me with imaginative, innovative words to add to my store of

unique and memorable descriptions.

I recently reread The Day Must Dawn, by the way. I had long remembered that book

as a huge, weighty thing – on a par with Michener’s ‘let’s-start-with-the-beginning-of-time’ massive

efforts. The paperback edition I picked up was just 304 pages. Maybe

the hardcover was bigger. Or maybe I just remember things as they should have been.

Whatever the truth of the memory, I know one thing. A part of me these many years

later is still that 9-year-old delighting in discovering a huge, untapped store of books to


I continue to write. And I continue to read.

Jenny Margotta

April, 2013


Jenny is a member of the High Desert Branch California Writers Club.

Jenny Margotta and the late John Margotta authored the Some Like It Hot! cookbook. 

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