Training Wheels

Lg book case.brighterAfter more than ten years of research and writing, my biothriller set in Montana is nearing a final edit. Fatal Feast has had many beginnings. I always knew the middle and end but getting the story started at the right point is the most important part of any book.

This is the eighth book I’ve written, including two nonfictions Indy-published on Amazon. The first books were all training wheels for Fatal Feast. After many attempts that didn’t really get you into the story, I pulled out a stack of books I liked and surveyed the first 1-2 sentences. Do these authors get you hooked?

Stephen White Manner of Death: Adrienne’s tomatoes froze to death the same night that Arnie Dresser did.

Caleb Carr – The Alienist: Theodore is in the ground.

Grace Metalious – Peyton Place: Indian summer is like a woman. Ripe, hotly passionate, but fickle, she comes and goes as she pleases so that one is never sure whether she will come at all, not for how long she will stay.

Ridley Pearson – The Angel Maker: The young woman’s pale, lifeless expression cried out to Daphne Matthews from across the room. Nearly all of the kids who sought out The Shelter were high on something.

Nora Roberts – Montana Sky: Being dead didn’t make Jack Mercy less of a son of a bitch. One week of dead didn’t offset sixty-eight years of living mean.

Sharyn McCrumb – She Walks These Hills: The woman had been running through the woods a long time.

Opening words of these novels made me want to read more. Many books didn’t sound interesting, even best sellers. I encourage you to look at your works. Do your novels give readers a jump-start with intrigue? Conflict? Foreshadowing something important? -Or do they drag your readers through a description or setting. Does your beginning get your readers into the who, what, when, where and why should they care?

Prologues are often skipped by readers. Prologues don’t show, they tell. To get your reader involved immediately, some experts say to open with dialogue. Show something is happening. Involve your readers. Get them hooked.

Writing skills evolve over time and reading many books in your genre is key. When I look back at my first books, I can see my writing has improved over years. Each conference, each class, each critique, and each completed manuscript added skills.

References My personal library is filled with books on writing. I found many of them useful including Stephen King’s book On Writing and Jack Bickham’s Scene and Structure. But Jodie Renner’s Writing a Killer Thriller – An Editor’s Guide to Writing is the best I have read to date. Not only does she provide examples from many sources, this is a concise quick read I would recommend to writers of both fiction and memoir. Jodie will help you raise the stakes and not bore your reader.

A sample beginning:


Deathwatch September 2020

“Callie, I lied to you. I have Mad Cow Disease.” A shudder rocked my father’s frail body. His mumbled words delivered an aftershock of disbelief and grief. Anger flashed at him for his carelessness and at myself for not recognizing signs of the fatal disease. How could my scientist father have allowed himself to become infected?

His head bowed in shame. “Before I go crazy and demented like everyone with prions swimming in their brains, I’m going to kill myself.”

Sitting beside him on a rocky outcrop above a thousand foot drop, I put my arm around his shoulders to comfort him, but after his confession, I braced myself, fearing he might try to jump. In his weakened state, I hoped I could stop him.

Happy Writing and best wishes to the people participating in NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Writing Month. By the end of November, in just 30 days, many will have finished their first draft. Then the real work begins.

Betty Kuffel

I Don’t Know What I Think Until I Write It Down

I attended a women’s retreat on the banks of beautiful Flathead Lake yesterday. About sixty of us discussed spirituality in all its loose forms and how we might demonstrate our personal beliefs in daily life. I was struck by the importance of writing in the process. We wrote letters to ourselves to be opened at next year’s retreat, and time to journal was built into the schedule.

As soon as I could print, I recorded my thoughts and feelings on paper.

Journal photo

I’ll reread all my old journals one day, and for that implausible reason I can’t bring myself to burn or toss them. All those intimate self-revelations are part of me. Truthfully, sometimes I don’t know what I think until I write it down.

One Saturday among women from all backgrounds reinforced my belief that my writing today started with journaling. My work represents far more than stories. It represents what I have to give back.

~ Ann

Played Forward with Memories

gunnar fish (2)A tale of fishermen. On my refrigerator hangs a picture of my great grandson holding up his first fish caught all by himself. The proud happiness gleams from the pinch of his fingers. This is a pay it forward version of family fun. The stories range from whoppers to minnows, but the love of fishing is paramount and passes from generation to generation. The peace and blessing I receive at looking at this fish picture is payback for the many fishing lines I have untangled, the many disputes over who gets what rod or who stands on what rock that I have settled. And for the skinny, white, hidden bones I have picked from fried trout. Not to mention the hours spent boning and canning smoked sockeye salmon. This picture brings me joy.  So do the others. Hope you have time to go fishing.  Marie

my son's biggest fish

my son’s biggest fish

He is still fishing

He is still fishing

Montana Rainbow

Montana Rainbow


November Book News


Congratulations to LESLIE BUDEWITZ, elected this month to the board of Sisters in Crime, an international organization of writers, readers, booksellers, librarians, and publishing professionals founded by mystery writer Sara Paretsky and other women in 1986. SinC’s mission is to “promote the ongoing advancement, recognition and professional development of women crime writers.” Leslie will serve as vice president/president elect.

Leslie and CHRISTINE CARBO will be attending Bouchercon 2014, the International Mystery Convention, held this year in Long Beach, California. Leslie is looking forward to participating in a panel discussion on food in mystery with national bestsellers Kate Carlisle, Daryl Wood Gerber aka Avery Aames, Connie Archer, Karen McInerny, and Ovidia Yu — because writing and talking about food is almost as much fun as eating! And Christine will be hosting a “meet the author” session to introduce her first book, which will be out next June.

Ratham Creek

Ratham Creek


The final stages are taking place on Marie F Martin’s new novel, Ratham Creek. It is now in the hands of a person who knows how to format for Create Space and Amazon.  Soon it will be uploaded.  What a huge process.


The audible audio edition of DEBORAH EPPERSON’S top selling ebook, BREAKING TWIG, will be available on Amazon in November. Read by the talented Rebecca Spear, produced by SpeakEasy Audio Books of Whitefish, and edited by seven time Emmy-award winner Allen Secher, it’s great listening anytime, especially for those long holiday drives coming up. Please check it out!

Breaking TWIG

Breaking TWIG






Montana Women Writers met on October 30th to plan blog topics for next year and welcome new members. Some of us brought copies of our books. Here are just a few of our titles.