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.

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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.

Aunt Lucille’s Book

By Marie F Martin

About a year and a half ago my cousin Jeanie phoned. Scared the heck out of me because she never calls. She had a strange request. Her 92 year-old Aunt Lucille, my shirttail relation, wanted permission to print my grandfather Yeat’s poem in a book she was publishing. Of course I agreed and we emailed back and forth. I can’t remember ever seeing her as a child. When I got the mail a few weeks ago, a strange package was in it. To my great surprise was a copy of Aunt Lucille Jensen’s book about the life and times along Montana’s highline.

It is so wonderful. Full of old time living and pictures, about her faith and how families should be and treat each other.  I am so pleased for her that at almost 93 years of age, she published her first book. She tells about being an avid reader all her life and the knowledge from all that reading comes through in her pages.

Aunt Lucille included sticky notes for me on the inside cover, saying she has now read all my books and that I remind her of my aunt Fran Minnick. How delightful. I am so happy her dream of writing has been fulfilled.

This is what Lucille wrote for the forward of her book: the old-time cowboys were hired on only for the summers. When winter came they were forced to fend for themselves and then they would travel from ranch to ranch staying and helping for a few days at a time wherever they happened to be. They called this “Ridin’ the Grubline” since each ranch furnished food and shelter. I have tried to be accurate in my telling for the most part but I have to admit that my memory is not what it once was. So if you disagree with the way I have told it just mark it up to the vagaries of “old age”. 

This is the link to her book at Westbow Press.

http://www.westbowpress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001116642

 

 

 

 

 

www.mariefmartin,com

Critique Groups

I had a nice young woman approach me about guidelines for critique groups she is helping to organize for Authors of the Flathead. I told her I’d see what I could come up with. I wrote this list and then ran it by fellow critique partner and author. The following suggestions are what we like in our groups. Having another writers read your manuscripts is really the most basic way to learn. I have developed and honed what skills I have through two groups of very  dedicated writers. They  share in what success I have had.  This is one of my pages from “The Car Ride” after Ann worked on it. Good suggestions that I took to heart and my page is much better because of her.

My page after a critique.

Suggestions for critique groups.

  1. The reason for critique groups is to help other writers refine their craft in a kind way, suggesting changes in plot, character building, whether wording is clear. We are all here to learn from one another.
  2. When your section is being discussed, simply take each suggestion as that, only a suggestion. The story is yours and you do not need to defend it or argue your point.  At home use what suggestions you want to. Give each careful consideration. This is how to develop stronger writing skills.
  3. Limit the size of the group. I find no more than 6 to be ideal. More than that and you will spend more time critiquing others work than what you spend on your own writing.
  4. Limit the number of pages each writer submits for critique. 20 pages for a small group or 15 for a larger group
  5. The meetings should be a couple of hours. Not too long as minds grow tired and become bored.
  6. Keep your critiques of others short and to the point. Be prepared to explain your suggestion and why. Do not try to rewrite another’s story.  Simply give input and let it go. Never argue a point.
  7. I prefer to meet every other week. Remember you need to allow time for your own writing.
  8. Never ever discuss politics or religion!
  9. In my group we do page by page with input from everyone who has a suggestion on a page and then go to the next. Less confusing that way. Be open to discussion.  That is how we learn from each other.
  10.     Sometimes folks new to critiquing are easily hurt when they hear their wonderful words don’t make sense or the plot is slow or characters are hard to visualize. Be kind to them with gentle words. And also newbies don’t take everything said to heart. The suggestions are for your growth in writing skills. Offer kind/objective suggestions to every member, especially newbies. We are all ‘married’ to our words, and harsh criticism only stifles creativity.
  11. If you can’t make a meeting let another member know so the others can start on time.
  12. Edit typos on your copy. Discussing these minor details wastes valuable time as a group.