Decisions, Decisions, Decisions . . .

By Janice McCaffrey 

I am a huge fan of Michael Lewis, the non-fiction author who wrote Blindside, Moneyball, and The Short Game to name only those that Hollywood made into feature films. His latest book is The Undoing Projectundoing-project a prose which explains how two Israeli psychologists, between defending their country during three fierce wars, figured out how human brains make decisions.

Soon after World War II Amos Tversky, a Russian, and Daniel Kahneman, a German, became citizens of the new State of Israel. They met at the Hebrew University and began asking one another the whys and what ifs of decision making. Their collaboration continued for over twenty-eight years. They co-authored numerous articles published in scientific journals as they lived and worked in Israel, the United States, and Canada.

 Their subjects included university, high, and elementary school students; medical doctors; psychologists; and economists. The study questions Tversky and Kahnman utilized are based on common situational decisions. I can add that in turn, these examples are simple, complex, and humorous.

For details I’m studying Daniel Kahneman’s book Thinking, Fast and Slow.thinking-book He explains in the introduction that his goal is to “create discussion around the office water cooler.” In other words, he wants everyone, not only academics, to understand how we reach our decisions, and learn steps to help us arrive at better ones. The synopsis says:synopsis

Tversky and Kahneman shared their findings with a variety of disciplines: besides psychology, they included medicine, team-sports management, financial investing, and economics. In fact, in 2002, Daniel Kahneman became the first psychologist to receive the Nobel Prize in Economics. Sadly, Amos Tversky passed away before he could share the honor.

As a beginner fiction writer, who’s still on the bunny hill, I wondered how I could use this information. Studying and pondering has brought me to the hope that I can practice the mental steps necessary to make better decisions about my writing and to create characters with more depth.  

I want to show readers the humanness of people portrayed in my stories as they make their choices–the good ones and the not so good. I want to show why their illogical decisions seemed reasonable to them at the time. And I want to put them through their own undoing projects. I look forward to creating multifaceted characters as I learn from these experts.

Thank you, Michael Lewis for bringing Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahnman into my life.

The Truth About Memoir

By Anne B. Howard

Our willingness to make ourselves vulnerable while writing honestly in an authentic voice can pose challenges for even the most seasoned of memoir writers. Linda Joy Meyers, a practicing therapist and president of National Association of Memoir Writers likens the necessity, in memoir, to invite strangers into our homes, and lives, and psyches, sometimes even to our bedrooms, to that of being on a stage with no clothes on, and I think she’s right. With each story committed to the page, we memoirists must repeatedly make the daunting decision to keep writing. And, write we must if we are to uncover and reveal anything meaningful or useful to ourselves, and our readers.

ipad-photos-15-009For some people, this is much harder than they ever imagined. Opening up to the scrutiny of others such personal information as our dreams, thoughts, secrets and shame, as well as our pleasures and joys, can be a very scary proposition. The old adages of “what’s private should stay private,” and one should “never air one’s dirty laundry in public,” prevent many a poignant story from ever seeing the light of day. Past beliefs and family mottos inferring that we should keep everything tucked neatly away—even things that might encourage and inspire others, or change our own lives if we’d allow ourselves to dig deep enough—are almost always based on fear.

Just when I thought I’d conquered my own fear, at least enough to approach the completion of my first long-form memoir, Evil Beloved, I decided to take a crack at the fiction writer’s character-development homework  from Lisa Crohn’s excellent new book, Story Genius. Although intended to help writers of fiction pinpoint the underlying motivations of their characters—so their stories make emotional sense—the same writing exercises were incredibly revelatory to me, a memoirist.  So revelatory, in fact, that I realized some very painful but important details I’d unknowingly tucked away. Details that I now realize must be included in order to answer, for the reader, some very important questions I hadn’t even considered.

It was damn scary. I felt vulnerable and exposed. The work was a lot like therapy in that I completed each assignment, but then had to step back, mull it over for a few days, before pressing on. This wasn’t some contrived character under the microscope, it was me—my life, my decisions, good and bad, my delusions, my incredible misbeliefs—and  my memoir is now a better representation of the story I need to tell, just for having done that work.

Writing memoir is an act of courage. It requires fearless self-examination and a willingness to claim—actually, to own—your life experiences. Good, bad, or in-between, they belong to you, and you decide if you will keep them hidden, simply record them, or share your story with others. For anyone considering writing a memoir, I highly recommend seeking the support and instruction of a professional organization such as National Association of Memoir Writers. And remember, you are not alone. Be brave—write your story!


Ski Montana


by Nan McKenzie

Many years ago, my former husband RJ, my 17-year-old son Curt, and I were in Big Sky, Montana for a ski weekend.  When we went outside Saturday morning, it was 35 below zero ski-liftand the wind was blowing.  A thermometer at the bottom of ski lift said it was 20 below on top.  We decided to go home.  However, the truck was too cold to start, so we sat around awhile, waiting for something interesting to happen.  A wrecker was supposed to come help start the truck, but the people said it could be hours.

A while later, I noticed that the temperature on top was now at 2 degrees below zero, still 35 below at the bottom.  I grabbed Curt and said, “Let’s go skiing.  We’ll get warm while we ski.”

That’s a fallacy, you just get colder, especially riding an open chair lift to the top, but the sun was out now, and we could pretend it was a perfect day for skiing.  RJ had to wait for the wrecker to come, and he didn’t care as much for skiing as Curt and I did.

I’m not much of a skier, too much arthritis, but I’m game.  Curt and I discovered a whole hill covered with moguls, and my short skis were amazing as we roared along to the bottom, rocking and rolling over the bumps on the hill.  Curt was always in front, always hollering, “Come on, Mom!”  We’d slide to the bottom and I knew for sure that I was too cold to ride that bugger again, but I’d head for the lift and ride it to the top.  We skied for hours, Curt and I, and yelled in exhilaration and fun.

RJ finally stopped us at the chair lift, saying the truck was running and we should go, 180 miles from home.  “One more,” we both shouted, and since he wasn’t there at the lift when we reached bottom again, we took advantage and made it six more runs.

One of my best-ever days, bar none.  We grinned all the way home, Curt and I, and shivered for at least 100 miles, with wet feet, pants, and sore knees.

Not much of a skier, but I’m game.

Happy Skiing,


Ride the Lovely Wave

Ann Minnett MWW photo

by Ann Minnett

In November I wrote about my immense gratitude to have found my writer’s voice after a barren year.  I’m riding that lovely wave of productivity into 2017. With three-fourths of novel #4 on the page, it seems to write itself. Yippee!

My new creative flow has impacted novel #3, which remained dormant for months.  The manuscript was completed last spring, but I procrastinated with final edits, query letters, synopses, and pitches, not to mention a marketing plan. I call these components clean-up projects. The work can be drudgery, yet difficult to do well. Try summarizing 350 pages into a three-sentence pitch or a one-page summary.

Novel #3 gave me trouble with the most basic of issues—the title. Sometimes the perfect FINAL TURQUOISE FONT COVERtitle appears fully formed. Serita’s Shelf Life stated exactly what I intended about a woman who goes off her medications to find love, but she knows her time and sanity are limited. It took weeks to select a final title for my third novel. I settled on Zane’s Bloodline (1) because it fits the story perfectly and (2) I became mired in hundreds of phrases and clever word combinations as a way of not making a dang decision.  Within days of selecting the title, I had written a query letter, a pitch, and three synopses (2 pages, one page, and 250 words).

Here on the first day of 2017, a new manuscript takes shape, and clean-up writing projects for Zane’s Bloodline have cleared the way for agent queries. Whatever else this new year brings, I’m an optimistic writer, bolstered by words and ideas to share.

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January, 2017, Book News

LESLIE BUDEWITZ: I just learned a new phrase, liminal time, meaning time on a threshold, or time between phases of life. Perfect for the move from one year to the next, don’t you think?

I’m just moving from one project to the next myself, writing “the end” to the first — and very rough! — draft of a psychological suspense novel which will now rest for a few months while I write the 2018 Food Lovers’ Village mystery, set at Christmas time in the village of Jewel Bay. And I will say it’s nice to start a book set in the current season — a lot less taxing on the imagination, and easier to get in the mood! I’ll be home most of the winter, with a short trip mid January to speak to members of the Orange County (California) Chapter of Romance Writers of America on common mistakes writers make about the law.



Marie F Martin will be at Flowers by Hanson’s Taste and See Event on Friday, January 6th, 5:00 PM to 8 Pm. Hansen’s is located at 128 Main, Kalispell, MT.
Sparrows Nest, Special Olympics. Homes for Veterans, Sudden Rush Espresso in Somers, Table Tree Cherry Juice and Flathead Lake Cheese will all have tables.
Marie and three other local authors, Shirley Rorvik, Sara Weaver and Nancy Moser will be signing their books.
It will be a fun time of meeting and greeting and drawings. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to local non-profits.

Marie hopes to see you there.  book-covers-2





A new edition of Modern Birth Control is now available as an e-book and modern-birth-control-kindle-coverpaperback on Amazon. The 44-page booklet is a quick reference containing essential information for both men and women. You’ll find basic biological facts, OTC and prescription contraceptive options, along with information on sexually transmitted diseases and sexual assault.


Your Heart – Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease in Women, Men and Children is now available at a reduced price on Amazon in your-heart-book-cover-final-1-ed1both Kindle and paperback. This reviews the science behind coronary artery disease, prevention and treatment for the number one cause of death in both men and women. Learn about the Mediterranean 5/2 diet, a perfect way to lose a few pounds after the holidays and improve your heart health in 2017.

Best wishes for a Happy New Year.