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?


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.      

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.


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.

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




Nan McKenzie, January 25, 2016

The loving month of February is just a hop and a skip away, so my thoughts automatically go to affectionate feelings. I love:
♥ My handsome loving son, caring for his half-paralyzed wife (stroke) with kindness, humor and endless patience.
♥ My beautiful amazing daughter, doing her best to stay happy in her difficult world.
♥ My five grandchildren, Brit, Greg, Brianna, Audrey, Kenzie.
♥ My five great-grandchildren, Drifter, Autumn, Isaiah, Jonah, Rylee.
♥ My three sisters, Faye, Sue, Kona, and their pile of kids, grand-kids, great-grand-kids.
♥ A slew of fun good friends.
♥ Former loves, all the goodness they left me with.
♥ My house, always my sanctuary, my comfortable home.
♥ My co-workers, fine men and women all, who do the right thing always, not the easy thing.
♥ Montana, the best-kept secret in the fifty states. All it lacks is an ocean to be perfect.
♥ My country, America it is, born in struggle and genius, carried on by the best of people, always looking to find the best way, the kind way.
♥ My amazing memories of a long life lived with an eye to having adventures, not just surviving.

Resolutions, Goals or Bucket Lists

Author: Janice McCaffrey


Resolution: a firm decision to do something. (Encarta Dictionary: English (North America). Goal: something that somebody wants to achieve. (Encarta Dictionary: English (North America). Bucket List: a list of all the things you want to accomplish before you expire. (Bucketlist.org).

If a resolution is a firm decision to do something, why don’t we act on them? I know I’m more inclined to complete a goal than stick to a resolution. For me the key word is “wants”. I’ve learned that anything I should do (resolution type things: lose weight, exercise, etc) doesn’t get done, but anything I want to do (goals: keep my plants alive, Christmas gifts mailed by December 10th) usually does. And then there’s the Bucket List. From my perspective this has become more pressing as I age. The closer to my expiration date I get the more intent I am at refining and completing my list.

Twenty-five years ago I became friends with a 77-year old woman named Daphne. One day as we visited she handed me a small square of yellowed paper. Once in my hand, it felt worn thin and fragile so I used gentle care unfolding it. It was a plain rectangular shaped piece of note paper that had been folded and refolded many times and it contained a hand-written list. What I remember of it: become a teacher, live in the country, own my own home, study at Oxford, enjoy a financially secure retirement.

Daphne answered my questioning look, “As a young woman I worked as a secretary in the city and I wasn’t happy. One day I made a list of what I really wanted, folded it up and put it in my wallet. As I moved through life, and opportunities presented themselves, I followed my heart. What started as a list of desires is now a list of memories. I accomplished them all.”

Daphne’s experience inspired me. I went home and immediately wrote out my list. Over the years I have refined it adding and subtracting at will. And, like Daphne’s, my list is becoming cherished memories.

As Tennyson’s Wild Bells ring out the old and we enter the New Year, whether you choose Resolutions, Goals, or Bucket List, enjoy the vision and the journey.

Janice McCaffrey