November Book News


This year has had so many blessings it is hard to think of just one. My family is going to grow by two more great grandchildren in the month of November. I still think of myself as a kid, so it is rather amazing I have nine great grand-kids and counting. Another thing is some family has moved back to the valley.  I know whose cooking turkey this year. I love to feed kids. Lastly I have to mention that Don’t Mess With Mrs. Sedgewick is finally released on Amazon and Create-space. It will be on a countdown sale beginning November 6th. Several days at $.99 and then $1.99 for a couple and then back to its usual $2.99. Early reports is that readers are loving it. I can now breathe.

Happy Thanksgiving, Marie F Martin

Lise McClendon:  Whew! What a year 2016 has been — so far! But we are women, we will survive… 🙋🏻  In book news I am happy to announce a giveaway of my very first novel, a mystery set in Missoula and on the Flathead Indian Reservation: The Bluejay Shaman. Yes, completely free! I love to hear from new readers so please share, respond, get social.

bluejay-instafreebieThis novel was inspired by a Salish man I met years ago. He wanted to tell some tales of his experiences with New Age groups — and some UM professors — who came to the Reservation to, well, go native. He conducted sweats for them and had a few opinions as well. I wrote up his stories then, with his permission, used them as a jumping off point for The Bluejay Shaman. The book introduces my first protagonist, Alix Thorssen, a Scandinavian Montanan and Jackson Hole art dealer. I went on to write three more novels about Alix. And lived in Jackson Hole myself later… life does imitate art.

Getting an e-book is easy over at InstaFreebie. Pick your favorite format, sign up, and you’re done. Here’s the link: THE BLUEJAY SHAMAN   •  Enjoy, and happy holidays

My Scary Starry Scar


Sandy Oitzinger

     Guest Blog

By Sandy Oitzinger




My Scary Starry Scar

Before March 24th of this year, the name Merkel for me was loosely associated with my misgivings as a global citizen about mistreatment of the nation of Greece.  Post March 24, however, it looms personally larger because of its part as an identifier of a dreaded skin cancer known as Merkel Cell Carcinoma.

As a self-fancied wordsmith, I am deeply affected by the lyricism in the medical community.  The lesion between my right cheekbone and jaw line had to come out, of course, but who knew that there was a “sentinel” node positioned at the angle of my mandible.  With our Firetower landmark, what Helenan would not be impressed by a “sentinel” node?  I was also impressed by the descriptors used to describe cancers.  Did you know that some cancers are “indolent,” while others are “avid.”  I don’t mind my sportsmen being avid, but I prefer that my cancers be slothful lay abouts,  please and thank you.  On the upside, there are cancer fighting weaponry drugs we can brandish that inhibit a protein known as the “Programmed Death” (PD-1) cell.  The drug prompts the immune system “to get up out of its rocking chair” and go attack the cancer,” says Paul Nghiem, an investigator with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle who led the Merkel cell study.[i]

As a kid, my Sicilian last name, Scire, pronounced “skee-ree,” drew lots of hilarity from the neighborhood kids.  Many thought it should be pronounced Scary as in Sandy Scary-Face.  No big leap to change the appellation to Sandy Scarry-Face, and I’ll tell you why I am just thrilled to do that.  My dermatological nurse and I decided we would do a deep punch on the nodule on my cheek.  It seemed like no big deal at the time. A week later the labs came back and we learned that a wide-extraction along with removal of a small lymph node was needed.  Why? 

Well, the Merkel Cell beasty likes to metastasize into the lungs, brain, liver, etc.  The lab also said the markers for lung cancer were not evident, so my hope was that we caught it early.  In order to avoid a 4-hour only mildly sedated surgery, we opted for a quickly scheduled one-hour surgery under general anesthesia at St. Pat’s in Missoula.  Sentinel lymph nodes material was negative, so we thought we were home-free.  Pathology said there was not enough of a clear margin in the depths below the tumor, however, so a second surgery was scheduled. 

This brought to mind the lesson in tenacity shared by my first college accounting professor, Charlie Mandeville of Carroll College.  He was asked “suppose it’s only a dime?”  His answer:  “You gotta keep lookin’ for that son of a buck UNTIL YOU FIND IT!”  Another upside, we headed off the beasty, by removal of the nodes, and my dermatologist says my healing inflammation may kill off the remaining cells.  We can’t know that though, so another .2 cm must come out. 

Truly, I don’t want to whine about this, but just Google “lyrics with face in the title.”  I lost my uterus 22 years ago, and honestly I barely missed it.  But sheesh, I was just getting to like this face.

In keeping with my usual penchant for itemization, there are many up-sides to this:

  • A neighbor who says: “Your face is still pretty, and now you look so mysterious.”
  • Using up the saggy bits on the right side, a one-sided facelift, if you will.
  • A kind of dimple, though honestly, not that well-placed.
  • When you’ve got this scar thing going on, it’s really an incentive to up your game hair-wise.
  • And BEST OF ALL, there is a very good chance that I may well avoid the kind of cancer that is more likely to shorten my life.

So that’s why I choose to emphasize the planetary part.  For now, at least, my facial scar looks a bit like a descending shooting star.  Or alternatively like a waxing crescent moon.   So if you want to take a picture of me, be sure to take it from the scary, starry side.  That’s the good one.


Sandy Oitzinger has written a novella series, a memoir and several humor books.  Her service as Helena City Commissioner from 2001 through 2008 informed her work and family life at the time.  In retirement she remains active enough in her community to annoy any number of people, her adult children chief among them.  Sandy received word on June 9, 2016 that her two facial surgeries to treat Merkel Cell Carcinoma worked, and she is now cancer free.





In the Company of Friends

  Writing can be a solitary life, so it is important for our craft and our sanity that we spend time with other writers. I’ve invited a long-time writer friend, Janet Fisher, to tell us about a trip she and three writer friends took recently when they attended the Women Writing the West conference in Oregon. I also sweet-talked her into showing us the cover of her newest book, The Shifting Winds, which is due out in April, 2016.

Post by: Janet Fisher     

Janet Fisher

Janet Fisher

Three friends from my Eugene writing group trekked east with me the first weekend in October for some western flavor at a Women Writing the West conference at the Eagle Crest Resort near Redmond, Oregon.

The highlight for me was meeting my editor Erin Turner. She’s the Editorial Director of TwoDot Books, the Globe Pequot imprint for A Place of Her Own and for my next book, The Shifting Winds. It was great meeting Erin face to face and having a chance to sit down and talk with her about my upcoming book. She’s a wonderful editor. I feel like a very lucky writer.

The Shifting Winds, to be released April 2016 by Globe Pequot Press/TwoDot imprint.

The Shifting Winds, to be released April 2016 by Globe Pequot Press/TwoDot imprint.

The Shifting Winds, a historical novel this time, takes the reader to 1824 Oregon with plenty of real history wrapped around a fictional tale. Young Jennie Haviland never wanted to go to Oregon, but a British Hudson’s Bay Company clerk and an American mountain man vie for her as the two countries vie for this rich frontier land.

Something I kept hearing at this conference was how so many women felt they had found their tribe with Women Writing the West. I felt that too for my pioneer stories. It’s such a warm and supportive group.

Janet Fisher - A Place of Her Own

A Place of Her Own, published by Globe Pequot Press/TwoDot imprint in 2014.

My friends and I from the west side rented a condo at the resort for the weekend, a lovely place nestled among the tall junipers, a bit apart from the conference center, so quiet only the delightful twitter of birds surrounded us. We each had a room of our own in the two-story building. We decided we could live there if we took a notion.

Writing conferences inevitably inspire me with all the workshops, networking, bookselling, and fun. My fellow travelers agreed wholeheartedly, all of us ready afterward to do great things with our next big writing projects.



Sounds like a fun time, Janet. We look forward to reading The Shifting Winds.

Thanks for stopping by,


Ebook on Sale $0.99

Ebook on Sale $0.99


Keeping It All in the Family — guest post by Linden Berry

Today, we welcome our friend and neighbor Linden Berry, celebrating the publication this March of Dances with Wolf, her first novel, a collaboration with her son, Josh, written as Farrah Taylor. Welcome, Linden, and congratulations! 

Dances with WolfRomancing the Story: Keeping It All in the Family

by Linden Berry

Last spring, when my son asked me to help him write a book for Entangled’s Bliss line, I was flattered and excited about the opportunity to work together. And overwhelmed. I’d never had a novel accepted for publication. Short stories in obscure journals, a handful of poems and three manuscripts gathering dust under my bed: that was my entire publishing history. Like Josh, I teach in public school, and editing three anthologies of middle school poetry comprised the work I was proudest of.

The novel would be set, like his first romance, Love Songs for the Road, in our favorite little town of Bigfork, Montana. Our work was cut out for us when we decided on our main characters, a horse-whispering woman and a leather-thumping rodeo cowboy. Our search for authentic Western names turned up Wolf Olsen for the guy and Abdabadun Maccready for the girl.

Before he dumped her at the Prom, Wolf was the leading man in Abby’s thoughts (though he’d scarcely noticed her in high school and thought of her as his younger sister’s sidekick.) When Wolf returns for Doc Macready’s birthday after eight rough years on the rodeo circuit, and Abby moves back from Seattle with her horse-healing trailer in tow,  the two are poised to fall in love against the dramatic backdrop of the Continental Divide. Though I was ready by page 25 to have Abby and Wolf ride off into the sunset on matched palominos, Josh warned me that we’d have to create one conflict after another to keep them apart until they (and the readers) were good and ready.

My son and I live three thousand miles apart, so getting the manuscript off the ground was our first challenge. One snowy February afternoon, we traveled to a cross-country ski retreat and outlined the book. By the time I got back on the plane, my fingers were itching to write. If a metaphor for our process exists, it involves an untrained horse running around a ring (that would be me) with a disciplined rider in the center, flicking a whip at the horse’s heels (Josh). I quickly evolved into the writer of first drafts while he edited and made sense of nonsequitur scenes and characters. I watched You-Tubes of rodeo events and talked to a horse whisperer several times to give our manuscript authenticity.

We finished the book in eight months with Josh “super-editing” the sections about a day or two after I’d emailed them. I use the term “super-edit,” because I literally had no argument with any of the changes he suggested; he listened to our characters and got them just right. I hid out from friends and family dogs at our local library where I knew at least three books were being created around me; Josh wrote on the run between other writing projects and family.

The high energy level, the excitement of seeing the story progress, the awareness that this was a rare form of collaboration between mother and child: all of this creativity exacted a price. I was hungry ALL the time. And I wanted chocolate. Not good, expensive chocolate, metered out at an ounce per hour. But Safeway-ready chocolate. Cadbury’s 32-ounce Fruit and Nut Bar on the second aisle, on special 2/$3.00 with a Safeway card.

Thank you. That will do nicely. No, I don’t need help carrying my groceries to my car.

Seven pounds later, I arrived at the ultimate challenge: to write the important love scene on page 110, the one that would determine the future of the Entire Human Race.

I wrote a few smoking paragraphs, trying to offset my premonition that Josh would be shocked by their intensity with a genuine memory of myself as a young girl, falling in love with someone who loved horses as much as he loved me. He returned these pages without comment; my chocolate consumption dropped back to an ounce per day, and we finished the book on schedule.

Writing a romance with my son was a wonderful invitation to combine our talents and see what happened. Postpartum, I returned to a normal life of literary seclusion last summer in a cabin with my laptop, a Nespresso machine, and the eternally Unpublished Literary Manuscript.

My writing life is much duller without my writing partner. His editing skills – from the ruthless red-penciling of characters to his deft sequencing of scenes – were skills I lacked. My research on a sport new to both of us, rodeo, and a profession that was gaining credence among horse people, horse-healing and gentle training, proved essential to keep the story, and the romance, moving.

I learned a lot. And I came to value Josh’s literary skills more than ever.

LindenNo longer the hovering mother helping her child pound out draft after draft of the personal essay for college entrance: a role reversal had taken place.

If the opportunity arises, I’d partner again with him in a Montana minute.

#   #   #   #   #  #

Dances with Wolf, by Farrah Taylor, was released by Entangled Press on March 10th. You can order it as an e-book or print book on Entangled, Goodreads, Amazon, B&, and other sources. Ordering info and an excerpt here. 

A Sense of Place — A Guest Post by Heidi M. Thomas

We are delighted to welcome guest blogger, Heidi M. Thomas. Heidi grew up on a ranch in eastern Montana, writing stories and riding horses. From one small piece of information about her grandmother has come three novels and one soon-to-be-released non-fiction book about old-time rodeo cowgirls, Cowgirl Up! Heidi’s first novel, Cowgirl Dreams, won an EPIC award and the sequel, Follow the Dream, won the WILLA Literary Award. She is a freelance editor, teaches community classes in memoir and beginning fiction writing in north-central Arizona where she also enjoys hiking the Granite Dells.

A Sense of Place    

Heidi M. Thomas

Heidi M. Thomas

Montana is my inspiration—for my books and many other things in my life. The “Big Sky” stretches from horizon to horizon like a great blue dome. Its sunsets are unequaled, with streaks of orange and gold painting the edges. In spring, green-tinged hills roll through the landscape, buttered with bright yellow wildflowers. White-faced reddish-brown calves frolic through the meadow pastures, happy to be alive.

Spring in Montana often comes late, after a long, snow-filled winter that seems to last forever. After four or five months of isolation, cabin-fever, and bone-numbing cold, spring is the new awakening, a new beginning, a season of hope.

As the saying goes, “You can take the girl out of Montana, but you can’t take the Montana out of the girl.”

Montana is the setting for my “Dreams” trilogy based on my grandmother who rode in rodeos during the 1920s: Cowgirl Dreams, Follow the Dream, and the newest novel, Dare to Dream. 

When I began researching the first book in 1999, I wanted to find the ranch where my grandparents had lived when they were married in 1923. The only thing I knew was that it was the “old Davis Place under the rims” near Sunburst. After being referred from one “old-timer” to another, I finally located a cousin who could tell me exactly where it was.

Imagine my surprise and awe to find the house still standing, although in bad repair, and being used as a cattle shelter. I spent about an hour there, taking pictures and imagining what the newlyweds must have felt like, living in this beautiful place “under the rims.” This is the backdrop for Cowgirl Dreams, where the dreams began.

Follow the Dream continues with the rodeo and ranching dream, but as the terrible drought of the “dirty thirties” progressed, Nettie and Jake (based on my grandparents) moved more than 20 times and finally trailed their herd of horses 400 miles from Cut Bank, Montana to Salmon, Idaho to find grass. 

Dare to Dream travels on to the 1940s when Nettie, Jake, and Neil are settled on a ranch near Ingomar, Montana. The town was established in 1908 as a station stop on the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad. Although the land around Ingomar attracted numerous homesteaders during the decade following the railroad’s completion, the region proved to be far too arid and inhospitable for intensive agricultural use, and the town declined. The railroad through the area was abandoned in 1980, and only a handful of people remain in Ingomar today.

Synopsis: Nettie has recovered from the loss of her friend Marie Gibson in a freak rodeo accident and is ready to ride again. To her dismay, the male-dominated Rodeo Association of America enforces its rule barring women from riding rough stock and denies her the chance to ride. Her fury at the discrimination can’t change things for women—yet.

Dare to Dream is available from the author’s website, on Amazon, and from the publisher, Globe-Pequot/Twodot Press, along with her re-published first two novels, Cowgirl Dreams and Follow the Dream.

3 book covers

Our thanks to Heidi for her excellent post, and thanks to our readers for stopping by today.

Deborah — for the MT.WW crew.