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.

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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

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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!

March Book News

march 2018

Greetings from Northwestern Montana

LESLIE BUDEWITZ: Cookie CrumblesWhat a winter! Cold and snowy, calm and lovely. We are all delighted to see the days grow longer and the light stronger. And I’m thrilled to share some Very Big News! My Seattle Spice Shop series will return in early 2019 with CHAI ANOTHER DAY, from the wonderfully excellent Seventh Street Books , named for the street Edgar Poe lived on. Meanwhile, the fifth Food Lovers’ Village Mystery, AS THE CHRISTMAS COOKIE CRUMBLES, will be out in June, in paperback, e-book, and audio.

My first mystery publication ever was a short story, and I’ve been rediscovering my love for the short form recently. “With My Eyes” appeared in the February issue of Suspense Magazine, one of the premier short story publications. Subscription only, but it’s such a great magazine that I’m sure you’ll love it. My story is set in Seattle and Athens, and was inspired ages ago by our honeymoon trip to Greece. The Greek gods and goddesses were often tricksters, and if one still roamed the earth, she might be called Melina…

Stay warm, and curl up with a good book!

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.

 

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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