Promise

by Catherine Browning

                                    in my dreams we dance

                                    perfectly matched

                                    to the tune that plays

                                    over and over.

                                    then, like spiders,

                                    we spin our webs over each other

                                    wanting to possess for the moment

                                    the beauty we see . . .

                                    to keep it safe from other eyes;

                                                forgetting that beauty

                                    to be beautiful

                                    must be shared;

                                                forgetting that love

                                    to be love

                                    must be given away;

                                                forgetting that people

                                    are to be cherished

                                    not for the moment but forever.

                                    i cherish you

                                    i am your guardian of beauty.

                                    i don’t possess you–

                                                you are free

                                    but keep always a place

                                    in your soul swept for me

                                    as i keep a place in my soul

                                    for you.

NEXT TIME …

by Catherine Browning

                        next time we meet

                        let’s open the doors separating us

                        so we can hear the words

                        we say and

                        clean the windows of our minds

                        to see clearly the angles

                        of our deception.

                        let’s crawl inside the sun

                        in the name of life and love,

                        remembering that

                        we could get burned.

                        next time we meet

                        it’s possible we will be polite, cool,

                        not knowing the other’s mind,

                        hesitating to be the first

                        to play the fool

                        even if we sacrifice

                        the opportunity to love.

                        let’s run naked through an orange grove,

                        baring even our souls

                        to the sun

                        next time we meet.

For March, Montana Women Writers Is Celebrating Poetry in Our Blogs

The Other Woman

                                                     By Deborah Epperson

I saw her again today,

the other woman in my life.

I was with my daughter, sharing family secrets,

when I heard the other woman’s voice

repeating my words

mocking me, taunting me,

daring me to deny her presence once again.

The first time I saw her, I turned away.

“She’s not real,” I told myself.

“Just the imagination of a middle-aged wife and mother.”

But then, I saw her again in the dress shop,

checking prices first, sizes second.

“Go away,” I ordered. “You’re not welcome here.”

After all, I know who I am, what I like,

and how best to get through the day.

She laughed and said, “Get used to it, honey.

I’m here to stay.”

With each passing year, her intrusions continued,

less subtle, more frequent.

Until at last, I grew weary

of fighting her inevitable presence.

Her influence, I could no longer deny.

More and more, her mannerisms seep inside me.

Qualities I once ridiculed now demand my belated respect.

So in grateful defeat, I wrap myself in her cloak,

letting her wisdom and memories merge with my own

until they are one.

Yes, I saw her again today,

the other woman in my life.

I saw my mother . . . in me.

March Book News

Montana Women Writers

NEW RELEASE BY CATHERINE BROWNING,

Macrae’s Gold, by Catherine Browning

In 1907 Alexander Macrae, a man intent on saving his family land, is hired by the Pinkerton Company to protect a shipment of gold heading by train to the Pacific Northwest for the Great Northern Railroad.  While passing through NW Montana, thieves kill a man and steal the payroll, escaping into the wilderness of the Rocky Mountains.  Alex is too late to stop the murder and theft but sees the men riding off into the woods and gives chase.  His goal is to follow the money.

            Alex’s path leads him to Bigfork, Montana and into an acquaintance with Mariah Saunders, a young woman intent on proving herself in spite of family rules and society’s strictures. While enlisting the aid of local law enforcement, Alex finds himself thrown into Mariah’s company.  But when she overhears Alex and her father discussing the theft, and determines to secretly join the search, it starts a chain of events that are disastrous.

            When the payroll is finally found Alex is tempted to keep the payroll in order to dig himself out of his growing financial crisis. But his affection for Mariah is growing, and he is faced with a dilemma:  keep the gold and lose Mariah, or keep Mariah and lose his land?

From the Bavarian Alps and Scandinavia to the Rocky Mountain West, “Voices in the Past” follows the journeys of a family over 200 years of adventures and trials.

A BRAND NEW STAND-ALONE BOOK FROM M.F. ERLER

Will be released May 15, 2021 –

Now Available for Pre-order on Amazon or from First Steps Publishing .

The Beta Reader

by Betty Kuffel

Writing “The End” at the finale of a work of fiction is a great achievement. You can sit back and take a break. Let the novel sit for a while. Do something else. Maybe think about your next book or take a few days off to clear your thoughts before beginning rewrites and self-editing.

For most writers, edits are numerous and tedious. Check for repeated words, sentence structure, believable dialogue and make sure subplots enhanced the storyline. When you are satisfied, only then is it time to share the manuscript with a beta reader.

What exactly is a beta reader? A manuscript reader poised to provide the specific feedback you request. They are usually non-professionals who critique a completed manuscript. If you are in a critique group, your writing has been repeatedly evaluated so you may be accustomed to some negative input, but inexperienced writers are often sensitive and intolerant to changing words or even altering dialogue. This is the time to be openminded and listen carefully to the reader’s opinions.

Who you choose matters. You might ask friends, family, or co-workers. However, your mother may love it the way it is and provide no meaningful feedback. Co-workers and friends are not a good choice, either. Offending you or hurting your feelings by pointing out negative aspects can harm personal or workplace relationships.

Timing and purpose for beta readers varies. The beta reader request should specify the type of feedback you want. An essential beta read should be timed to incorporate accepted suggestions into the manuscript before proceeding to hire a professional editor. If you have published, during the pre-release period, you might ask a beta reader to provide an online book review in exchange for an autographed copy. Some professional editors will also beta read for a fee.

The best beta reader is a prolific reader in your genre. Someone able to evaluate and analyze your work with a thoughtful critical eye and able to provide feedback before you pay for a professional edit.

When you have chosen a beta reader be sure to prepare a list of questions you would like addressed in the critique. Here are a few examples:

Please suggest word changes and sentence structure clarification.

Did you relate to the characters? Were they believable? Is the dialogue natural?

Did you notice confusing parts or areas that lagged or didn’t move the story forward?

In the beginning, did you learn the setting, story and meet the main character soon enough?

Is there enough intrigue, conflict and tension to keep you interested.?

Was the ending satisfying?

Any general comments would be appreciated.

After you have read the critique, remember, you don’t have to follow any of the suggestions. It is your book, your story, and sometimes a critique can be brutal, changing your storyline and incompatible with your thoughts on the book. If you trust this person, once you recover from the body blows, be sure to look at the manuscript with a critical eye. There may be a glaring hole in the story that you missed.

Completing a beta read critique and manuscript adjustments are giant steps toward publication.

Best wishes and happy writing in the New Year.

Betty Kuffel

A Christmas Mouse

by Laura Thomas

Early on Christmas morning, as my husband and I lay in bed, talking, I heard a rustling sound. I thought of our presents under the tree, but it was just the two of us at home this year. So, no kids were trying to sneak a peek. And no dogs trying to chew open the tempting presents. So, I settled back down under the covers, snuggling under their warmth from the chill of the early winter morning. Soon, however I heard the rustling again!   

“What am I hearing?” I asked. And again went through my list of possibilities and still the answer was the same, nobody but us, and yet I kept hearing the noise. The sound was definitely one of paper rustling and something was moving around. But the noise wasn’t loud, wasn’t persistent, just coming every once in a while.

“Well, I’m sure there’s no burglar in the house, so go back to sleep”, my husband said to me. So, once again I snuggle down. There, there’s that sound again! This time we both got out of bed to find the source of the noise. My hubby went over to the Christmas tree to inspect around. I suspected he thought, she’s hearing things, when he announced, “All is well”.

But as I was standing near the warm woodstove, I again heard the noise, so I went to do some investigation in the kitchen; sure enough the noise was louder. And as I approached the trash container, I realized the sound was coming from there. I looked around the container and then something caught my eye.  And what do I see?  It’s a small mouse sitting at the bottom of the container looking up at me. I started laughing out loud, and my hubby came to see what was so funny.  All I could do was point at the cause of our noise.

He looked and said “What?”

And through fits of laughter, I said, “It’s a mouse in the trash!”

He smiled, and said “Ok honey, I’ll deal with it later.”

“Honey”, I said “It’s Christmas, please don’t kill it”. “Ok”, he said as he gave me a hug. And with a merry twinkle in his eye, he took the container outside and set the mouse free.