Smoke!

 By Nan McKenzie

   When we were kids growing up on Whitefish Lake, there were no summer days filled with smoke.  There were no days so hot that you could feel your ears sweating.  There were bugs and snakes, huge thunderstorms, and infestations of tiny toads hopping to the water, thousands of them.  But no smoke.

   I think Montana is making up for lost opportunities now, filling our skies and homes and mouths and eyes with endless smoke from endless fires.  Today, though, a blessed rain is falling, bringing my lawn and trees back to life, clearing the smoke from the air, turning into snow up high.  I want to sit and read, wrapped in warm blankets and napping when it’s necessary, taking advantage of the phenomenon of rain, welcoming its presence after months of nothing. 

   The terrible fires have destroyed thousands of good Montana acres. Many people are living in fear of having their home destroyed, and many have already lost their homes.  Sad, sad. 

   But next week is the first day of autumn, so surely we’ll have more rain, and maybe even snow before long.  Some roads in Glacier Park and other places have closed because of snow and water running down the roads.  Conversely, it seems too early for winter, since we didn’t really have much of a summer.

   It’s a good day to work on editing another book, so I’ll get after that now and quit whining about bad weather. 

Nan McKenzie, September 18, 2017.

 

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Thinking About CASA

By Ann Minnett

I’m a CASA/GAL (Court Appointed Special Advocate/guardian ad litem).

Background about CASA:

  • Nearly 700,00 children experience abuse every year.
  • Over 1,000 CASA programs train and support 76,756 CASA volunteers. Volunteers get to know the child by talking with everyone in that child’s life: parents and relatives, foster parents, teachers, medical professionals, attorneys, social workers and others. They use the information they gather to inform judges and others of what the child needs and what will be the best permanent home for them.
  • 250,323 abused and neglected children had a CASA volunteer speaking up for their interests in the last year. (452,000 are waiting for a volunteer empowered to find them a safe, permanent home)
  • Go to casaforchildren.org/ for information about how you could make a difference in children’s lives.

What does this have to do with writing?

Fellow CASA volunteers read my first book, Burden of Breath, because it deals with the long-lasting effects of childhood abuse. Our local executive director’s reaction to my writing surprised me. She said, “Lucky you, you can make up a happy ending.” She meant that my writing might ease my own concerns because child abuse cases, the courts, the foster care system, all of it, are often messy and sometimes end with us wondering… Were the children’s best interests served?

I set out to do just that—bend events into a happy resolution–in my manuscript inspired by the question, What if the estranged parent comes back? I concocted a gripping story with an end in mind. My critique group read the final twenty pages last week, and they would have none of it (the ending, that is). My main character behaved one way, but the all the secondary characters and my wise critique pals believed the main character would behave very differently.

I will change it.

The truth is that I can’t make a happy ending or a la-la-la outcome when the story doesn’t lead me there. This strange writing process is not to be controlled. Rather, I start by asking a question, apply my experiences, and hang on in amazement at what happens on the page.

Recently released Fifteen Years of Lies has nothing to do with CASA, but you might like it!

 

 

 

September Book News

sept in mt

LESLIE BUDEWITZ: September is a month of mixed feelings in these parts. A signal of a fresh start almost as palpable as January, as the weather begins to change and the kids head back to school (we all feel it, don’t we, no matter what our age), mingled with a sense of loss, as another glorious Rocky Mountain summer slips behind us.

In Book News, Christine Carbo and I will be on a panel together, along with mystery writers Gwen Florio and Mark Stevens, at the Montana Book Festival in Missoula, Sept 29-30. (We don’t know the date or time yet, so check in with the Festival or one of us, if you plan to go.) We’ll be talking about modern mysteries set in the west, how place influences character, and much more. I hope to see you there!

Meanwhile, delighted to say that Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine will publish a short story of mine next year titled “All God’s Sparrows,” featuring the real-life—and larger than life—character, Mary Fields. I’ll share the pub date and ordering info as the date approaches.

Enjoy these last glorious days of summer, and thank you for spending them with us.

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LISE McCLENDON Okay, it’s not quite slippers-by-the-fire weather yet but in case you’re stocking up for chilly weather, my new mystery, The Frenchman, is coming out very soon. This is the fifth installment in the Bennett Sisters Mystery series and we’re back in France this time. Merle Bennett is writing her own novel while taking a leave of absence in the Dordogne, so, yes, this is a story-inside-a-story. When that Frenchman, Pascal, runs into an old nemesis and goes missing, Merle must rally the troops to find him.  After an exclusive run I’m back on all e-book platforms (yay!) Amazon Nook KOBO iBooks  Also available in paperback. Happy autumn reading 🍁

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Book Signing by Karen Wills author of River with No Bridge  Saturday, September 16, 2017, 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at Montana Book and Toy Company, 331 North Last Chance Gulch, Helena, Montana.                  

river with no bridgeThis month’s issue of Cowgirl calls the novel a “compelling and touching story.” Booklist’s review of the novel called it “a gripping, sometimes heartbreaking story of immigrant survival in the West.” The August Historical Novel Society Reviews sums up with,   “I love pioneering stories and gritty women, and Ms. Wills’ engrossing tale provides both.”

Sunday, September 17th at 2:00 p.m. the Lewis and Clark Library at 120 South Last Chance Gulch will present Questions and Answers on Writing a Historical Novel with Karen Wills.

Karen looks forward, as always, to a visit with friends in Helena.

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