An Excerpt of Harbored Secrets by Marie F Martin

In selecting a short sample of my book Harbored Secrets, I mulled it over and over. I finally decided to share my character Didier Platt’s poem. He is striving to build a life for himself and his family by homesteading in the north eastern Montana prairies. My character is driven by loss and hardness. He writes this in his loneliness after the death of his wife and son.

The pictures are of the old Montana homestead along the Milk River my grandpa Yeats had. He used to write poetry that was published in the Havre newspaper. The pictures were taken on his place.

The man that was me wrote the unbidden,
The rhythm wouldn’t, couldn’t stay hidden.
Words flowed from exhaustion buried in he,
Earned by him doing what never should be.

His daughters sent away on rails of iron,
As he watched, hidden behind the grain tower,
Choking back bile in a throat way tight,
‘til the last of the train was lost to sight.

Unending grief, and he cursed at his trials
as his wagon rolled the childless miles,
moved by a team simply given their head
by a man with a spirit totally dead.

Finally, his fields, the ones of his own,
appeared in the dusk looking darker of tone.
Hues of caramel touched his over ripe grain.
He needed to harvest ‘ere the next rain.

But now he had time, he would hurry no more.
He’d gather the crop to calm his heart sore.
A house he’d rebuild, and find a new wife,
to sire sons and put an end to the strife.

He guided the team past his house all burned,
And away from the charred chimney he turned.
But magnet of sorrow it drew him once more,
And forced him to write of a lad and a war.

Mortar shells blew holes in houses of stone.
He ran and he ran, terrified and alone.
He fell near rubble, the church o’ his youth?
He saw the lone cross, a symbol of truth.

Oh God let this be your heavenly sign,
spare my family, they’re all that is mine.
Finally he reached the house he called home.
Part of the roof blown down on the loam.

Inside his mother and sister lay entwine
hugging in death as if they were fine.
The pool of blood that ran below them
was darker, far darker than ink from his pen.

Parts of his father scattered the ground.

The lad that was still wanders around
inside the heart of the man, that was me.

Harbored Secrets will be free on Kindle downloads on April 1 2020.

http://www.mariefmartin.com

 

 

 

PS a note from the author in today’s Covid 19 world: Here is an email I wrote to my buddies after I got home today from the grocery store.

Needed groceries. Left off my hearing aides and glasses so I’d have enough room behind my ears for my cute little homemade mask and for my cute little 1920s style Cloche hat. I wore a slick coat. Felt pure criminal.  I put on my plastic gloves, entered the grocery store and selected all kinds of stuff. The deeper into the store I got, the hotter that hat and coat were and I couldn’t breath through the damned cute mask. I finally got to the check out line and the pesky card reading machine kept asking me to reenter my code numbers for my debit card. Then it shut my card off.  ???  The young clerk, terrified to raise her voice above a whisper, kept repeating redo and I kept saying huh? Had to be the gloves. I don’t carry another credit card, its safe in my drawer at home. I also never write checks so my check book was safe in my desk. Well f-blank oh dear. Yep, I had to go home and get my check blanks and went back to the gracious store and paid for my groceries that will certainly not taste as good as they should.

Sister’s 80th Birthday

Norma

My Sister Norma

My Sister’s Eightieth Birthday Party

by Marie F Martin

I received a call from my younger sister, Doris, that we should throw our oldest sister, Norma, a birthday party because we gave Mom one when she was eighty. Sounded reasonable to me. Then my younger brother came up with the idea of doing a video for her about things she pulled as our oldest sister when we were kids. The following story is one of my favorite memories.

By the time we were in the fourth and sixth grades Norma was a complete through and through tomboy and the controller of our small Montana country neighborhood.              Norma-nator should have been her name. I was always meek and shy which drove her out of her mind.

We didn’t lack for playmates. Next door in a long green stucco house lived the Grilley boys, across the highway were the Nelsons. They were old, but their granddaughter played with us when she visited. The three Horner girls lived on the other side and on top of Saurey Hill lived the Saureys. This bunch of kids were who we played with or fought with depending on Norma’s mood for the day.

I loved to swim and fish. Luckily, a creek was only a half mile away. We would follow a country road north until we came to a spot where the creek passed under the road, made a bend and went back under the road. This area was ours. We fished and swam, built forts and ate picnic lunches there.

Shy Brookies lived in that stream. We caught them on worms and Schnell hooks, size number six. We crept, hush-hush, along the bank, not making a sound and making sure our shadows didn’t reflect on the water, as we cast our baited hooks into the water. The current carried the wiggling worms downstream under overhanging bushes where fish hid.

Norma caught her share as we all did, but woe be to any of us who made noise.

One day, walking ahead of me, Norma shrieked and high-stepped quickly in the opposite direction.

“What’s the matter?” I asked in a loud whisper. “You’re scaring the fish.”

“I almost stepped on a damn snake,” she answered.

“Not afraid of a little snake, are you?” I asked, surprised at her forbidden word.

“Of course not! I just don’t like them.”

Norma is afraid of the small green water snakes, my mind said. This was an enormous discovery! I now had an equalizer! I bided my time. Sure enough a few days later I had finally found the perfect spot to cast my line into the water.

She said. “Move that’s my spot.”

“No, it’s my spot.”

She balled a fist and ordered, “Go.”

Mumbling to myself, I trudged downstream and plopped on the bank. Movement caught my eye. I reached into the weeds and pulled out a wiggling, hissing snake. It was only a small water snake, but when I held it by the back of the neck, it dangled down a good foot. Wiggling. Mouth open and forked tongue sticking out. Perfect. I quietly circled around behind Norma and stood at her squatting back, holding the snake above her, the wiggling tail almost touching the top of her head.

She glanced up and saw what I held. “Yukkkk,” she screamed. “Get away!”

I held it closer.

She kicked and screamed like death was nearby. “Wait till I tell Mom what you did!” She ran for home.

A little guilt should have nagged at my mind, but fishing was good that day.

Montana Leaves

By Marie F Martin

The Montana Maples are in full glory along my street in Kalispell. Three of my great-grandsons showed to clean my yard. What a fun beautiful time it was. After the leaves were all cleaned up I sent them home with a container of my beef barley soup and brownies filled with canned cherry pie filling and frosted with chocolate. Just a fun slice of Montana life.

Pile’em high.

I wouldn’t want to try this move.

Buried alive.

A Redo On A Backlist Book

I have been reading that one way to boost sales of a backlist book is to change the cover and work on a new blurb. Ratham Creek has been lagging in sales and new reviews so I am following the advice and we’ll see if the people in the know are right. Here is a peek at the new look with the help of Karri Klawiter, my cover designer and writer friends, Deb and Ann, who are always willing to edit and proof my many typos and awkward sentences.

 

New Cover

 

 

Ratham Creek, a woman-in-jeopardy thriller

Arianne Hollis figures tossing a rose in her husband’s grave is the worst of all endings. Then reality sets in when she is forced to sell their home and used up her savings to clear his debts. To escape and come to terms with her future, she moves into an isolated cabin along Ratham Creek. In the quiet Montana setting and with a new job in the nearby small town, Arianne begins to recover. She meets Ross Ferrell, a handsome lonely member of the clannish mountain people. He slowly wins her love, but a deadly family feud erupts among rival groups living along the creek. Arianne can’t understand the violence that runs deep in Ross and his family. He cannot abandon them. Then Arianne becomes a target. Can she avoid the same vengeance that’s corrupting the clan? Can she save him and their relationship?

 

Self-publishing after age 70

 

The following is an article I did for an online magazine, Women Writers, Women’s Books.  It was published Oct 18

One of the first questions I usually get at book signings or in front of groups is how I managed to write, publish and sell four novels in the five years after I turned seventy. The honest answer is I didn’t. I had drafts of Ratham CreekMaternal Harbor, and Harbored Secrets on a shelf in my closet for years before I dared to do anything with them. I had sent them around to different agents and publishers only to receive the dreaded rejections. I set them aside and lived life.

Several months after my husband passed, a writer friend phoned and invited me to have brunch with her at a lovely shop tucked away from Main Street. After we ordered, Angie looked me straight in the eyes and told me, “Your stories are too good to be sitting on a shelf. Get one out, polish it and publish it on Amazon.” I like this gal, but at that moment I thought she was crazy.

But…she’d planted the seed. I reworked Maternal Harbor and hired a fellow to format and upload my manuscript to the Kindle program. He helped design a cover and my book went live. I remember sitting in front of my computer admiring my book’s sale page. Nice, but how on earth would anyone find it, let alone read it? I knew I needed help in promoting my story.

I found it at a group called Authors of the Flathead. There, I learned about websites that promote Kindle books with free sale days. I set up my first promotion, paid my twenty-five dollars to a promoter and waited. And panicked. After all, that was my money at risk. I also found a few websites that did no-cost promotions. They agreed to include my promotion in their emails.

Did the promotions work? 20,184 people downloaded my free Kindle book. I couldn’t believe it. More unbelievable is 830 copies then sold for $2.99 a download. That was my beginning.

Reviews on my book began to trickle in. I suffered with each one. The readers seemed to like the story, but kept remarking about errors and typos. Good grief. I thought I had found them all. I learned I need lots of proofers. I cannot see my own misspellings or missing words.

A couple of gals proofread it again. We fixed a ton of mistakes. I reloaded the new version and continued to run free promotions and paid for promoters. Some months I made money, others I lost.

At the same time, I designed my own website and Facebook author’s page, trying to save as much money as possible to invest in professional covers and other expenses. I also rewrote another manuscript.

Harbored Secrets went up for sale on Amazon five months later. It turned out to be my most successful book according to reviews and sales. It too makes money and loses it. But I always seem to earn more than I spend. As of a month ago, my combined Kindle books have been downloaded by more than 500,000 readers and have received over 1300 reviews. Almost 700 of them are five stars.

That pretty much covers the nuts and bolts of my self-publishing, but I think to be successful, a person first needs to have a story readers can relate to. Mine are stories of women, strong determined women, who fight for what is right and good.

In my first book Maternal Harbor, Teagan owns a fish shop in Seattle. She is pregnant and alone after her boyfriend walks out on her. She meets and befriends three other single moms at her OB-GYN clinic. Teagan ends up having to protect all the babies from a grief-filled insane woman.

In the second novel Harbored Secrets, readers meet middle-aged Blinny Platt, who is building her very own house in the middle of the Montana prairies. As she pounds nails and pours cement, memories of her childhood won’t leave her alone. Through her recollections, the reader learns her story of survival.

In Ratham Creek, Arianne makes a new life for herself after her husband dies and leaves her nearly destitute. She moves to a wild Montana mountain to live within her means and start again.

Don’t Mess With Mrs. Sedgewick has four smart, fun-loving widows who just want to live the good life in a quiet companionship. Doesn’t happen. A blackmailer targets them and their world is turned upside down.

As you see I choose to write about the needs of women. To be independent, strong, yet love to the fullest.

Where I find the heroines of my stories is in my family and friends. Take a deep look at who you know, their mannerisms, their actions over the time you have known them. Don’t look for just the good things but recognize the defects. We all have them. Good believable characters are built from the defects and how they overcome them.

I found success with my writing only because I didn’t give up. I never fulfilled my first desire to have my stories published by a major publishing house, but I do have hundreds of thousands of readers, fans who write me nice emails and reviews. Fans who get excited to shake my hand or receive a hug or a free paperback.

Publishing after your hair turns white is just fine.