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Please note: MWW is a diverse community of authors. We strive to maintain a professional and quality blog of interest both to readers and fellow writers. The authors are varied, write books on many topics, and come from many backgrounds. While we support and respect each others’ work and opinions, the statements expressed by individual bloggers on this site do not necessarily represent the group as a whole.

With that in mind, read on!

Montana Women Writers 009

Back row, L to R: Christine Carbo, Patti Dean, Marie Martin, Ann Minnett, Jeannie Tallman, Anne B. Howard, and Constance See

Front row: Gail Ranstrom, Kathy Dunnehoff, P.A. Moore, Marlette Bess, Leslie Budewitz, Nan McKenzie, and Betty Kuffel

Camera shy: Deborah Epperson, Angela Miller, Ina Albert, Karen Wills, and Lise McClendon

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Natural Observers: Susan Fenimore Cooper, Mary Hunter Austin, and Nan Shepherd

By Karen Wills

Nature writing reaches my heart. It does that through poetic, detailed description of an outdoor setting. In the last months I’ve read three wonderful books by women nature writers. Let’s consider them from earliest to most recent.

Susan Fenimore Cooper,cooper James Fenimore Cooper’s daughter, founded an orphanage in Cooperstown, New York, a town established by her grandfather. She made a success of the enterprise in every way. In 1887 she also wrote Rural Hours, nature writing that covered a year in Cooperstown season by season. Much of it appeared as journal entries recorded after walks that ranged over the countryside. Both writer and artist, she also made watercolors of birds, coopers birdflowers, animals, and the lake near the town that drew her to its shores over and over. Her writing was accurate and poetic.  “Spring has a delicate pencil; no single tree, shrub, plant, or weed, is left untouched by her, but Autumn delights rather in the breadth and grandeur of her labors, she is careless of details. Spring works lovingly-Autumn, proudly, magnificently.”

Already sorry for the damage caused by the post Civil War increase in America’s population, she also conveyed a warning familiar to modern conservationists. “The rapid consumption of the large pine timber among us should be enough to teach a lesson of prudence and economy on the subject.”

Mary Hunter Austin wrote a collection of nature essays, The Land of Little Rain, in 1903. mary austinShe focused on the Mojave Desert including Death Valley. She considered Nature as an entity with a beneficial connection to Native peoples and recent arrivals alike. She mixed small matters of opinion in with the big themes.  “This is the gilia the children call ‘evening snow’ and it is no use trying to improve on children’s names for wildflowers.” She is poetic. “The origin of mountain streams is like the origin of tears, patent to the understanding but mysterious to the sense.”

Finally, there’s Nan Shepherd who wrote her best-known work, The Living Mountain, with a mountaineer’s authenticity. nan shephardHer setting is the Cairngorm Mountains of Northern Scotland. Writing in 1944, she shared her belief in nature’s grand unity. “The disintegrating rock, the nurturing rain, the quickening sun, the seed, the root, the bird—all are one.”

Each of these writers had a poetic respect and thorough knowledge of her most favored area of the natural world. We are the richer that each shared her love of nature with us.

https://karenwills.com

Face Book: Karen Wills Author

Complex Lives of Local Characters

By Ann Minnett

I live in the mountains of NW Montana, twenty miles from a tourist town. My small town used to be known for logging and then became a railroad town, but the impact of those industries has waned. Our economy relies upon visitors, mostly in winter and summer, who come to enjoy our great outdoors. Construction, service industries, restaurants and bars, outdoor exploration, and retail shops keep this valley buzzing.

best sunshine 3 orange and pink

Sunrise in the Last Best Place

Thirty years ago, I was one of those tourists. I fell in love with this area and returned for vacations at least once every year for two decades. We bought property early on, finally built a house in 2009, and followed through on a promise to ourselves to live here fulltime.

 

 

 

We’ve lived here year-round for eight

31517h

Courtesy: Whitefish Convention & Visitors Bureau

years. We love sharing Montana with friends and family and have no thoughts of leaving. While dreams do come true, I’ve thought a lot about the differences between visiting a place and residing there. In all those years of playing outdoors and eating hearty meals and shopping for souvenirs, I paid scant attention to the lives of everyday residents.

 

The ‘locals’ in my picturesque hometown—those with complicated, embedded lives–are the rich characters I write about. I’ve come to know them through writing groups (everyone has a book or a poem in them), advocacy for abused and neglected children, drug/alcohol recovery in this valley, and toe-in-the-water political activism. The hairdressers, shopkeepers, wait staff, once existed to tend to the Tourist Me. Now I see them juggle childcare and work, try to find affordable housing while earning minimum wage, work one or two seasonal jobs, find time to play, and cling to the values of their grandparents, all while rubbing shoulders with billionaires or just the moderately rich.

Fifteen Years of Lies FINAL EBOOK COVERMy third novel, Fifteen Years of Lies, recounts the story of three local friends—a housekeeper, hairdresser, and owner of an auto repair shop—and the wealthy stranger who comes to town to threaten their lives. My forthcoming fourth novel, tentatively entitled Me Between Them, also takes place here. Long story short: A middle-aged widow fights to keep her family together and her grandchildren safe from domestic violence despite a daughter-in-law’s vicious lies and her husband’s revelations from the grave.

I hope you’ll visit NW Montana. If and when you do, enjoy! but notice the locals you meet. Sometimes they have the most remarkable lives.

~ Ann

Ann Minnett MWW photo

April Book News

spring in nw montana

LESLIE BUDEWITZ: Oh, April! Such a tease of a month in Northwest Montana. Days can be wintry or warm, snowy or sunny, often all within a few minutes!

April is also home to National Library Week, April 8-15. The Montana Library Association is hosting its annual meeting in Bozeman, April 11-14, and I’m delighted to be the Author Brunch Speaker on Saturday, April 14. I’ll be talking about the cozy mystery — the light-hearted side of the genre — what it is, a few trends, and some author recommendations.

IMary Fields‘m also pleased to say that my historical short story, All God’s Sparrows, will appear in the May-June issue of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, available mid April, by subscription and in bookstores and newstands. Set in 1885 in Montana Territory, the story features Mary Fields, also known as Stagecoach Mary and Black Mary, who was born in slavery in Tennessee in 1832 and later worked for the Ursuline Sisters at St. Peter’s Mission near Cascade. On a trip to the mill to pick up lumber for the girls’ school, Mary encounters a young family in trouble, and uses all her wits—as well as the skills of young Sister Louisine—to save a child and mete out justice, or as much justice as can be had in this fallible world. Look for another Mary Fields short mystery next year.

Happy reading!

BOOK REVIEWS

Apple blossom.1Today marked the first day of Spring. The winter doldrums are behind us. If you haven’t accomplished some of your New Year’s goals in writing, maybe now is the time to start. Let the warm sun energize you and your writing. Finish reading some of those books and set a goal to help fellow writers by providing them with a book review on their Amazon purchase page. Writing book reviews is an important part of your writing career.

Indie publishers on e-book platforms like Kindle meet with many surmountable obstacles they may not have envisioned when they started writing a book. Finishing the first draft is exhilarating but is only the first step. Completing multiple rewrites and generating a polished manuscript is a great achievement, but then there’s more.

Formatting, developing front matter, acknowledgments, and a short author bio are all important for a professional finished product. Before launching a book to cyberspace, if you aren’t already on Facebook with an Author Page and have an author website designed, those are important actions to finalize. Once your labor of love is perfected, online with a perfect cover image and title that nail the story and is readable at 25% size, the real work begins – marketing.

Obtaining quality book reviews is part of good marketing that can begin before the book is published. Finding reviewers may sound easy, for those who already have a fan base built from readers of your previous books, it is. If you have “launched your book” with an organized campaign of advertising, writing guest blogs, press releases and giveaways, you may see an immediate boost in reviews for your efforts.

Reviews by loyal fans who know you because of your platform in writing, such as those who have read previous books, including family and friends, are valuable. But, Amazon will reject reviews by known family members and associates, or as some found out, by illicit paid reviewers.

Amazon has prosecuted individuals who earned a lot of money and the company ire for producing rigged reviews. To stop them from appearing on sales pages, Amazon developed an algorithm that removes some reviews. The algorithm crosschecks authors and reviewers from the same source/email. Montana Women Writers members in the same critique group were identified as unacceptable reviewers through the algorithm. After a review was posted appropriately, the author received a notice from Amazon stating it had been removed. It’s worth a try to review a friend’s book, but if you are an author-friend and it is recognized your author-friend also reviewed your book, it may be removed.

Recently, Marie Martin told me of a way to have reviews from associates appear on your Amazon Author Central site. An editorial review can be provided to the author whose book you want to review but are not allowed to do it directly on the Amazon purchase site. Send the author an email with the review and she can then type your words into a post on her Author Central page.

Marketing takes knowledge and time, but the time is worthwhile. Ask some of our group members who have crossed many barriers, learned the marketing process, and made more than enough to meet mortgage payments. One goal to get more traffic and more sales is to have more than one book for sale on your author sales page. So get started on another book!

Reviews are important, almost as important as your book cover. As an author, you must first catch the perusing reader’s eye, then snatch her attention long enough for her to take a look inside and read a couple reviews on your book. The goal for a review is to accurately describe the book and generate interest to trigger a purchase.

Writing a brief book review on Amazon may be daunting even for an author, because in just a few words you can generate a sale or lose one. Reviews are easiest to write when you have just finished reading the book. It is helpful to set the time period and location, noting how these drive the plot. Include the theme or message of the book. A brief summary of plot could be included but do not give away key details, called spoilers. Then, include your opinion, like, dislike. Would read other books by the author? Would you encourage others to read the book? Your words are important.

There are hundreds of indie book reviewers online, many are free, others are costly. Check out the link to Publishers Weekly for an overview of numerous options. REVIEW IDEAS

If you are now thinking you’d rather get an agent and have the publisher do all the marketing, you must embark on the journey of finding an agent. Unless you are already a star, traditional publishing with representation is daunting and the publisher seldom supports a marketing program with book tours. Once on contract, it takes about two years before a book is finalized and published.

After failed tries to find an agent, many authors are going straight to self-publishing online. There, the product is sound, readily available and for an e-book on Kindle, the royalty is 70% of the cover price, much higher than traditionally published books and it can be completed in less than a week.

Choosing a paperback or hardback self-publisher is often fraught with high expense and a garage full of unsold books. The print-on-demand platform on CreateSpace through Amazon is an efficient and free. For personal sales and signings, you can order a few at a time that can be shipped to you or drop-shipped to another address.

Today we have many options as writers. Authors of the Flathead is a group of dedicated writers helping writers where four Thursdays each month you can find camaraderie and assistance in your writing, publication and readership goals. If you are looking for a critique group, improved creative writing skills and coaching over some hurdles, check out the group at: authorsoftheflathead.org.

Montana Women Writers is a small group of women who formed a coalition to help each other with product completion and marketing. We meet monthly. Leslie Budewitz is presenting this week on Thursday from 1-3 p.m.: “Going Public – Getting the most out of conferences and other writer’s gatherings.” Coming in April: Jesse Owen will share an overview of Kickstarter and her favorite social media applications. In May: Catherine Browning: Grammar Primer

Thanks for stopping by.

Betty Kuffel

Amazon Author Page

 

Writing Historical Novels

historical fiction

By Janice McCaffrey

February’s Montana Women Writer’s meeting featured a discussion on Writing Historical Novels led by Karen Wills and me. Karen read the following quote  by Fiona Veitch Smith author of Pilate’s Daughter from M.K. Tod’s blog Inside Historical Fiction:

I build my worlds in concentric circles. The outer circle is the social, political, religious, economic and historical backdrop within which my story takes place … The next circle in will include the ‘props’ that the characters interact with … the innermost circle is the emotional core of the characters living in a particular period. 

An excellent segue into my favorite topic, research. Below is a handout listing some, I’m sure not all and in no apparent order, details historical novelists use to fill in Ms. Smith’s circles.

Facts of people’s lives – names, birth, marriage, death dates and places
Food – what, how produced, hunted, gathered, prepared, served, preserved
Water – supply, how does it get to people/animals
Other drinks – coffee, tea, alcohol, juices
Living quarters – structure, furniture, room set up

Lighting – inside and out
Social structure – social classes, details in each level, reactions, impact on society and individuals
Education – schools, apprenticeships, home learning
Manufacturing – for local use, exports
Imported/exported goods – what, from/to where, how transported

Purchasing goods – where, how often, from who, display or set up of goods, barter or currency
Money – coins, paper, denominations, country’s currency
Occupations and their how-to
Heating and cooling – homes, people, animals
Clothing – fabrics, colors, patterns, how are they made, by whom
Public Health – clean water, sewage, diseases, medical practices

Personal Hygiene – cleanliness, teeth, hair, clothing
Socials – what, where, with who
Games & Sports, pleasurable past times
Story telling – oral, books, legend, lore
Neighborhoods – city, town, rural

Patriarchal or Matriarchal – societies, families, governments, values
Rules spoken and unspoken – within family, community, groups, government
History of place – country, state, county, town
Civil laws – who writes them, how they’re upheld, justice system, consequences
Geography – terrain of land

Maps
Governments – leaders, issues, controversies – past & present
Politics – local, national, global
Military – preparedness, uniforms/armor, weapons, strongholds (fort, bunker, cave, etc)
Weather/Climate – seasons, temperatures, precipitation

Communication – (usually before phones at least before cell phones)
Travel – local and distant/international, land, sea, air, walk, ride, vehicles,
Ethnic & religious customs – national, local, family, personal
Religion – beliefs, ceremonies, conversion, spreading the Word
Stereotypes – common of the time and place

Language – written, oral, dialects
Death, burial, cremation – traditions, rites

            If you think of any that aren’t on the list, please let me know and I’ll add them.