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:

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




Are You A Writer?

Writers are compelled to write. If you are one of those people, even when not sitting in a favorite nook with a keyboard or notebook, characters are wandering through your thoughts asking you to write their story. From conceptualizing a book to completing a first draft can be a long journey, usually years, but some hardy souls dive into writing a novel in just four weeks.

In November each year during NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, many writers take the challenge. If you look at, you’ll see how it works. The website is interactive and supportive, so if you need a boost to finally finish the first draft of that special book, this might work.

The concept is to write 50,000 words in thirty days. Not everyone can take a month off and just write. If your busy life demands attention, but you are driven to write anyway, you are a writer. You will finish your manuscript without the push of time and camaraderie found with NaNoWriMo. However, critique groups are extremely valuable and a necessary party of producing a professional manuscript.

People in my critique groups over years have said, if they are in the middle of a book and must take a break because life gets in the way, they miss their characters as if they are living, breathing people who are part of their lives. There are very few times writers don’t write. One key is to always be ready to record a note, no matter where you are. I found working twelve hours a day didn’t stop me. Our guru, Dennis Foley, has some of us carrying markers in our cars so if a thought comes at an awkward time, we can write a reminder on the side-window without running off the road.

Finishing a first draft is just the beginning. Multiple edits are required to make it publishable. A running outline of your story line, including twists and turns, is a start, but some writers use no format, they just write. Others develop extensive character descriptions and pages of scenes before ever beginning to write the book. I began writing years ago without an outline of any kind and completed two books that have since been rewritten many times and finally to completion after discovering two creative writing books.

  • Larry Brooks’ Story Engineering: Mastering The Six Core Competencies of Successful Writing,
  • Jack Bickham’s Scene & Structure

I have read many excellent books on writing with varied useful concepts, but using skills I learned from Brooks and Bickham pulled me into a different realm. In the past year, I have rewritten and extensively edited three novels. They are breathing life, and after professional copy editing, are finally ready for publication. I finished a fourth one yesterday and will submit it to my copy editor today.

Another tool I’ve found helpful over the past year is to use a text to speech product to review a final manuscript draft. This sounds tedious, but is valuable for identifying word repetitions, missing words, missing periods and sentences that need reconstruction. There are many options including Natural Reader, a free online product. (; Microsoft word following the menu for Review>A Read Aloud Speech; and Kindle, where you can easily save your entire manuscript and listen to it.

Writing The End provides mixed feelings. It is a huge achievement and a relief to finally have the whole story written. If you find you’ve reached the end, yet are not satisfied with the action, intrigue, rising tension or final scene, consider reading a few of Larry Brooks’ analyses and deconstruction of best sellers at (

If you are looking for a critique group or help with writing, check out the active local writers group at

Betty Kuffel


By Nan McKenzie


In 1946, I started to teach myself to type on Dad’s old black Underwood upright.  Took me a long time, but I began to get an idea of how things worked.

In 1953, when I was eleven, I decided that being a writer was the best thing that could happen in my life.  Problem was, I didn’t know how to write, hadn’t had any big adventures to report, and was lost as to what to do.

By that point in my life, I’d read probably two thousand or more books, but didn’t have the discerning talent to tell what was good and what was drivel.

I tried, really, but couldn’t make any of my stories come out and make sense, not to mention that my grammar skills were pretty shaky.

Fast forward about thirty-five years, to when I was attending FVCC, while it was still located in downtown Kalispell.  I wrote for class assignments, and for fun, but still wasn’t polished enough, or had enough knowledge to get myself published.  I had set out to have adventures, and boy howdy, I had Adventures!  Now I had something to write about, but still no way to publish.

After I quit going to classes and was living alone in Whitefish, a phone call came one day.  One of my advisors was calling from FVCC.  She asked if I would be willing to teach a writing class for the college, maybe to older people.  I started to cry and said, “I have taught real estate on a college level, but don’t think you folks could use me, since I don’t have a degree.”  I wanted to do this more than anything at that point in my life.

She assured me that I didn’t need a degree, that they weren’t giving credits for my classes.  I leaped at the chance because I’d always enjoyed teaching.  So was born “Writing Your Memories”, a class I taught in Kalispell and Bigfork for a couple years.  Through this class, I met wonderful, interesting older people who had amazing stories to tell.  A man named Pat had walked from Woods Bay south of Bigfork into Kalispell every day for work, rain or shine, 25 miles each way.  And, if lucky, made two dollars a day.  Can you imagine?

A woman named Fran had lived all over the world, following her husband who had worked for the National Cartographers, making maps of hidden pockets.  Her stories were fascinating, especially the ones about wild elephants in must.  My aunt Elizabeth, a former teacher, wrote of how she had started and taught two Montessori schools, still being taught today by my cousin in Oregon.

When people would arrive to see what my class was about, they’d tell me that they didn’t know how to spell, didn’t know how to structure a story.  I asked them if they could drive a car, and they all had said yes.  So I said, “You don’t have to know how to work on the engine to make the car go—I’m the word mechanic and will do the heavy lifting.  Just write your memories and together we’ll clean up the prose.”

I came to care for those folks, and I think they liked me, too.  Our twice-weekly meeting became a fun time, eagerly looked forward to by all, me especially.  My writing skills were honed in that class while I edited and suggested and encouraged my pupils.

When the time came to write Twin Peril, then Bigfoot, I was polished enough to make a go of it, and now the second book in that series, Bigfoot Returns, may be a bit better than the first.  I always learn by doing, and bless my computer that helps me with spelling, punctuation and making sense of the story.  It’s a far cry from whacking one key at a time on an old Underwood.

March 6, 2017

Books by Nan

Book Event Friday March 3rd


Please join us!



 Friday March 3rd from 5-8 p.m.

128 N. Main, Kalispell, MT

Enjoy a special event the first Friday of each month with

artists, artisans and authors.

Book-signings, drawings, treats and fun in an inviting atmosphere.

 Author Deborah Epperson

250,000 small

Breaking Twig


Author Betty Kuffel, MD



 Your Heart Book Cover- Final 1 modern-birth-control-kindle-cover               & Feather Art   twelve


The Mystery of Mystery


By Karen Wills

My adored one and I have been discussing elements most found in best-loved fiction. We came up with the following: mystery, conflict, suspense, doubt, implied or real sex, implied or real violence, and resolution.

Mystery to me is that haunting element in a character, situation, place, or series of events that eludes easy explanation. It’s the thing that keeps us reading to grasp or comprehend. We don’t want to be hopelessly mystified. We do want to be endlessly intrigued. It’s why we want to talk about the book afterwards with other readers. It’s something that made an internal shift in our thinking and feeling and awareness. My mystery is an element, not a genre centered on crime and murders. The mystery I mean can exist in any genre.

It is to literature what outer space is to the physical world.mystery space


For example, how could Lonesome Dove’s Woodrow Call refuse to ever acknowledge Newt as his son? Yes, Call is stiff necked and proud, but this has to do with a paralyzing personal reticence. Where did it come from? And what about the fairy tale element in Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See? Fairy tales always have mystery.

Mystery isn’t magic realism, because the explanation for that is that it’s, you know, plain old magic, and so we don’t have to think and search for explanation. Likewise with reports of religious miracles where the conclusion will always be that God caused them. End of story.

Poetry always has mystery, so perhaps poetic writing, prose with metaphors and similes that reveal amazing connections, has it. A deep connection to nature or any passion may have it.

Mystery is delightfully hard to pin down, but think about your favorite books. mystery intrigue

I’ll bet they have at least a little tantalizing mystery.