Self-Expression in Photography & Writing

By Ann Minnett

Have I mentioned what a joy it is to live in Montana? You’re likely tired of hearing it from me, if not from all of us in Montana Women Writers. It goes without saying, and today is no exception.

For the past week, my husband and I have witnessed a red-tailed hawk teach her fledgling to fly and hunt. The nest is in a dead tree trunk about a hundred yards from where I write from my porch most summer days. We try not to bother their progress, but here you see mom is not pleased.

Red-tail hawk

It’s becoming difficult to distinguish mother from child, and we expect they’ll soon move on.

A more relevant joy of living here is the feeling of peace and serenity that allows for self-expression and creativity–in my husband’s photography and my writing. I recently published a third novel, Fifteen Years of Lies (excerpted below), and anticipate the release of a fourth book in early 2018. I’ve been an author in search of a niche and finally found it in Domestic Suspense.

Fifteen Years of Lies FINAL EBOOK COVER

Two police cruisers pulled away from the lakeside mansion, leaving an insurance agent’s car alone on the circular drive. Lark reached for a cigarette but thought better of it, shifted into second gear, and lurched to the right and around back to the servant’s entrance. 

In the service vestibule, Lark kicked off her boots and dropped her bag inside the laundry room door. Upstairs in the kitchen, Jan Hensen and husband Jack vied for the agent’s attention. She padded toward the stairs, stocking feet sinking into the rec room’s plush carpet. She dreaded going up there.

Who’s the first person suspected of theft? The housekeeper, that’s who…

~ Ann

Burden of Breath Revised Cover 5-21-17

Burden of Breath (210 reviews, 4.3 stars) will be available for free download on July 29th!


Theme Along With Me

Small SOH1

I’ve finally finished Shadows of Home, my romantic-suspense novel set in Louisiana and am now attempting to start the sequel to Breaking TWIG. Problem is, when I wrote Breaking TWIG, I never figured on writing a sequel until so many readers asked me to continue Becky’s story. How did life in Paris work out for her? Did she have a child? And the number one question readers asked: Did Becky and Johnny end up together? Now, as possible sequel scenes swirl in my brain, I once again face the adversary of all writers—the blank white page.

When I wrote Breaking TWIG, I had a question niggling my mind. When raised in an abusive home, why do some children grow up and repeat the abusive pattern with their children, while others manage to break free and become loving, supportive parents? Finding an answer to this question lodged in my subconscious, and it wasn’t until I’d written two-thirds of the book that I realized this was the book’s theme. Frankly, I didn’t give a thought to theme in the beginning. I just wanted to tell the story of Becky’s quest to survive her childhood as it unfolded in my mind.

I’ve read books on the craft of writing a novel that state emphatically that a writer should never consciously insert or apply a “theme.” Somehow, the theme of your book (if it has one) will reveal itself through your characters’ action and dialogue. Trying to force a theme onto your characters can come off as “preachy.” Yet other writing experts insist the writer must provide via the narrative a theme or several themes to give the characters depth and show the deeper meanings embedded in the book.

Thus the question arises–to theme or not to theme? Should you have a theme(s) in mind from the get-go? Or do you wait for the theme to effervesce through your narrative like bubbles through champagne? What works for you?

In Breaking TWIG, I wrote about the lives of three people who’d suffered mental, emotional, or physical abused by their parent. Two overcame their obstacles and became strong, loving adults. One could not break out of the pattern of abuse she’d known as a child. What made the difference in their lives? This became the major theme of the book. Perhaps Becky said it best, “Having one person who loves and believes in you is all a girl needs to keep hope alive.”

250,000 smallThanks for stopping by ~~Deborah

Move Over, Southern Writers

By  Karen Wills

Since my roomy at the Historical Novel Society 2017 North American Conference, Janice McCaffrey, has written about sessions she attended, I’ll continue the thread.

Libbie Hawker, a young writer I admire both for her talent and prodigious output, was to moderate a panel discussion listed as Historical Fiction through a Pacific Northwest Lens. Emphasis was on the region as our last frontier.  pacific nw

Since NW Montana as part of the Inland Northwest is a sort of cousin to the Pacific Northwest states only without a coastline, I decided to attend. A former member of Kalispell’s Authors of the Flathead, Janet Fisher (A Place of her Own, and The Shifting Winds) presence on the panel became another incentive. Additional speakers were Kirby Larson (Hattie Big Sky, the Audacity Jones series, and others), and Janet L. Oakley (Tree Soldier, Timber Rose, and Mist-Shi-Mus).

Panelists first addressed how curiosity about their region determines what they write. It also leads to sources chosen for research. These include Metzger maps, documents such as deeds, historical societies, old letters, and professional historians to interview. The list also included early regional newspapers. As an aside, Oakley reminded us when we’re researching online, to look for sites ending in edu or org. Also, in order to save later grief, for every source record its date and where you found it.

Kirby Larson also spoke to the special temptations of using everything you’ve found in research. She once wrote an entire chapter on how to bake bread in a wood stove. As Janet Fisher said, of historical fiction, “The background is the brush strokes. Give a sense of your era without going into great detail.”

When asked about writing about minority populations, such as the Japanese Americans interred during WWII, panelists agreed on very minimal use of offensive racist terms. Writers need to be realistic about the era being covered, while still recognizing twenty-first century sensibilities.

The panel surprised us by expressing a desire to have the vibrant group of Pacific Northwest novelists become as recognizable and distinct by region as the Southern writers, think Truman Capote or Harper Lee. I caught up with Libby later, and suggested us Inland Northwesters be included.

river with no bridge

Now available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kindle 

Face Book: Karen Wills Author

Historical Novel Society Conference 2017

Sis. McCaffrey

By Janice McCaffrey

The Historical Novel Society North American Conference convenes in the US during odd numbered years with its counterpart in even numbered years meeting in the UK. This year Portland hosted June 22nd – 24th. Karen Wills and I attended with participants from across North America, the UK, Australia, Europe, and South American.

In two days we had at least 15 hours of informative sessions led by successful authors, editors, agents, and publishers. As well as an interview of and speeches by the two Guests of Honor: Geraldine Brooks and David Ebershoff. And we had time in between to meet, greet, exchange business cards, and chat with other attendees.

Since I love research, my favorite sessions were the ones where ideas were shared about what, where, who, and how to learn and verify historical facts to give our fictional characters, settings, and circumstances credibility.

I’ll share a few:

Paterson’s Roads by Daniel Paterson gives detailed information about English travel from 1775 to 1820. Originally maps and notes for the military these publications were used by travelers as they took road trips to see the sites. Elizabeth Bennett’s Aunt and Uncle used one to find Pemberley.

If there are horses in your story than the book Writing Horses by Judith Tarr is invaluable. Google “everyday life of series” and you’ll find books about everyday life, past and present, for all classes of society in many countries. Htpps:// boasts a free non-profit online library with “millions of free books, movies, software, music, websites, and more.”

If you need historical clarification about military uniforms, weapons, transportation, etc. from ancient to modern times it’s For travel throughout the Roman Empire Words from the past? Try the Oxford English Thesaurus. Books of Manners were first published in 1500. I found some online at

To find experts to interview or ask them specific questions online try htpps:// and Profnet Connect at htpps:// One presenter said that she takes classes or lessons to learn about and understand specific trades and suggested htpps:// which has free online classes to help improve your career. Another said she has studied religions and cultures through Harvard htpps://

And who knew? Google Scholar says with them you can “Stand on the shoulders of giants” because they provide “a simple way to broadly search for scholarly literature. From one place, you can search across many disciplines and sources: articles, theses, books, abstracts and court opinions, from academic publishers, professional societies, online repositories, universities and other web sites. Google Scholar helps you find relevant work across the world of scholarly research.”

The conference concluded with the first ever after party where members of the Portland Jane Austen Club taught us how to play whist, the forerunner of contract bridge and past time of the gentry in 18th and 19th century England. In fact Edmund Hoyle wrote the first book of instructions for Whist which was published in 1742. And yes, that’s where the expression “according to Hoyle” began.

But my very favorite party activity was when an instructor, accompanied by live music of the era, led us through several English folk dances. It was such great fun and since I played the male partner all evening, I can dance like Mr. Darcy!!


July Book News


Montana Women Writers join our northern neighbors in celebrating


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Karen Wills

I traded many River with No Bridge bookmarks and author business cards with writer friends old and new at the Historical Novel Society 2017 North American Conference in Portland, Oregon, last weekend. Fellow MWW member Janice McCaffrey and I listened to Pulitzer Prize winner Geraldine Brooks, an Aussie by birth, speak about the process of writing. A former journalist and war correspondent, Brooks turned to writing fiction when she became a mother. She refers to the process of writing a novel as “mess, mess, mess, art.” Accurate, I’d say.

River with No Bridge has been released for a little over a week. It’s available online through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kindle. You can also pick it up in a store in or near Glacier National Park. One of these is the historic Polebridge Mercantile, located close to the novel’s setting on the North Fork of the Flathead River. river with no bridgeIf you’re in the area on the 4th of July, Polebridge hosts the best parade and barbecue around.  Face Book: Karen Wills Author


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Debbie Burke

Only one week left for my novel Instrument of the Devil in the Kindle Scout contest, which ends July 7. Then the final decision goes to the great unseen gods of Amazon.

As this contest draws to a close, I have to thank you for your support! I’m grateful for your nomination, as well as for having wonderful friends who’ve been sharing the voting link with email contacts, on Facebook, and other social media. Facebook has brought better than half of the “hits,” far more than I would have imagined. Guess I have to change my Luddite ways and join the 21st century!

To show my appreciation for your help, I want to send a FREE eBook of Instrument of the Devil to everyone who voted for it, whether or not it “wins” the contest. Please visit my website and enter your email in the “subscribe box” on the right side of the screen. I’ll send you a notice when your FREE copy is available to download.

In case you have additional reader friends who might like to check out Instrument of the Devil, here’s the link once more:

No matter the contest’s outcome, please know you have my heartfelt gratitude for your friendship and support in my quest to publish Instrument of the Devil.