Who Was She?

By Ann Minnett

A black hole blocks me from the real story of my paternal third great grandmother (ggggrandma). Every other line in my family tree can be traced further back, mostly thanks to fastidious recordkeeping by Quaker ancestors.

But not ggggrandma Merritt or Merrett or Merett or Marat as it was sometimes spelled. I am obsessed with what little we know about her and who my ggggrandfather might have been. If you have plotted your own family tree, you know how difficult it can be to locate and follow the women who came before.

Here’s what we know about her:

·       Born in SC in 1810

·       Two sons born in north GA, 1832 & 1835

·       Listed as head of household 1840 – north GA 

·       Married a Mr. Lankton in 1844 – north GA

·       Widowed in 1868 and moved to Missouri to live with her son

Possible scenarios:

·       She was a Merritt and had two boys out of wedlock

·       She had two illegitimate sons by a man named Merritt but they never married

·       She married a Merritt, had two sons, was soon widowed, and remarried 

I would like to settle on one of the above and just let ggggrandma be, but I also feel honor-bound to get her story right. So, guess who is not writing or marketing her novels? Who has conducted endless Google searches and purchased reference books on daily life and customs in Antebellum Georgia? Who has lost days reading about The Indian Wars between Georgia pioneer militias and tribes that resulted in forced westward migrations of native populations? 

I’ve learned a lot. Perhaps what’s keeping me from writing domestic suspense will lead to my first novel of historical fiction.

 

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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

Shout Out to Book Clubs

Ricci Wolman, founder and CEO of Written Word Media, blogged about Top Ten Publishing Trends Every Author Needs to Know in 2018. Four predictions appeared most relevant to a recent discussion among Montana Women Writers:

  • Authors will continue to grow ebook share
  • More Indie authors will achieve success
  • Marketing will become more expensive
  • Authors must go ‘direct to reader’
brooke-cagle-195777

Photo: Brook Cagle via Unsplash

Each published author in our group goes directly to readers in one form or another:

  • Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest
  • Blogs
  • Email newsletters and promotions
  • Book signings and readings
  • Speaking with book clubs

Obviously, social media is a godsend for authors like us who live in remote parts of the country. We do our best to connect in person with local book clubs and special interest groups, but we live in northwest Montana in a county the land size of Connecticut with a population of 100,000.

Our book club exposure is limited. Or so we thought.

Photo: Mike Coleman

We propose connecting with book club readers directly through social media. Skype and FaceTime will allow even those of us living in Montana to participate in discussions all over the world. Read one of our books, and then invite the author to your book club meeting.

Some of us have added book club discussion questions and personal contact information in the backs of our books. You can also find our individual author information on Montanawomenwriters.com, our individual author websites, or simply email me, and I’ll forward your request to the author you wish to contact.

Get to know us, and happy reading!

Ann Minnett MWW photo

Ann Minnett

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!

 

 

 

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!