Natalie Bright


We had a great discussion at critique group about the myriad of publishing options for today’s writers. One of the reasons I love our critique group, is we each have so many different projects in the works and we write in various genres. Somebody is always coming up with a new story idea. It’s like an inspirational feeding frenzy of words.

This week, one of our members brought the first draft of a children’s book about a rodeo horse based on one of his published magazine articles. What a great idea! Someone pointed out that kids books have a longevity because there are always new generations of readers waiting to discover your book. You just have to keep telling parents about it. I got to thinking that it’s not just children’s literature. With electronic books, our work will stay out there floating around in eBook land long after we’re gone. Will my kids keep tweeting about my backlist? Will Amazon be around in 10 years? 25 years?

Regardless of the opportunities to choose agented traditional publishing or to be an Indie Author, the decision to become a writer and publish your work is for the long haul. You will be talking about your stories and lugging books around for the rest of your life. This is a marathon, just like any passionate career choice. The bad news, there is a new title published on Amazon every five minutes. It’s getting more and more tedious to get the word out and connect with the readers who care. The good news, authors are finding ways to connect directly with their fans and readers like never before. Crafting an engaging story is hard work. Identifying your target market—the people who will love your book—is an even bigger challenge.

“If you can’t figure out your purpose, figure out your passion. For passion will lead you right into your purpose.”

The Saturday Morning Blogger – Travel Diary Israel

The Saturday Morning Blogger – Travel Diary Israel

James Barrington

As a child in the summer of 1964, I began a diary of the sights and experiences of our family vacation to Yellowstone National Park. That was lost somewhere in our moves over the years, but my habit of keeping such travel diaries was never lost. My most recent tome was in November of 2015 as I traveled to Israel with a group sponsored by Red River Family Encampment.

Having made the flights from DFW to Newark and Newark to Tel Aviv (and back) on United, the recent black eye United has been taking over forcibly removing a man from one of their flights who happened to be sitting in a seat they wanted seems appropriate to one of my diary entries. To the best of my memory, the flight from DFW to Newark was my first experience with “the friendly skies” of United. My diary entry regarding the landing in Newark says, “We had a really rough landing at Newark. The USS Kennedy arrested landing was smoother. The landing gear slammed down and the plane gave the motion of skidding sideways for a couple of seconds before straightening up on the runway.” Fortunately, the rest of our landings were technically smoother.

I’m not sure I want to know the case of the roughness. While many friends and family members have asked me (before and since flying) if I was concerned for my safety, I must say that the most concerned I was during the two weeks of the trip was when I thought we were about to skid off the runway at Newark. It might have been nice to have a Southwest Airlines flight attendant to break the tension a bit with a wise crack. But I guess Southwest Airlines flight attendants have more sense than to fly United.

Six and a half hours into the flight, we were “feet dry” over Spain. The TV console in front of me said it was -65 degrees at 37,000 feet while traveling at 629 mph. Sunrise over the Mediterranean Sea was memorable. My dairy reported, “After seeing stars against the black sky at 37,000 feet, the sun rose as we were above the toe of Italy’s boot.”
We weren’t even to Israel yet, and I had already written four and a half pages in my diary. Many of the details I’ve mentioned here were probably meaningful only to me, but they form part of the fabric of the adventure – like the ice crystals on the window and the sun shining up off the surface of the Mediterranean. Look down was like seeing a 3D map of lands I had seen before on globes or maps, with cities and geophysical contours that I could readily identify.

I highly recommend travel diaries. I believe the relatively short duration and the unusual sights and experiences off the incentive to stay with it. I’ll share more of my musings in future blogs.

The Writing Playlist


The Writing Playlist

By Nandy Ekle



In my world music is the backdrop of a lot of things. I listen to it while working at my day job of writing letters. I listen to it while I drive my car, if I’m not listening to an audio book. I usually wake up with a tune in my head and go to bed humming.

I have stockpiled a lot of music on my phone and my tablet. It’s a very eclectic collection from Irish instrumentals, Spanish instrumentals, western ballads, movie soundtracks, operas pieces, disco, dance tunes (Macarena), and techno.

However, there are certain pieces of music I’ve purchased just for the purpose of writing. And I’ve created my own “Writing Playlist.” These are the ones that make my skin prickle with excitement because I can feel the story hiding in there. Some of the stories are very evident, like watching a movie. But some of them are like playing a hidden pictures game. It’s there. The instructions tell you it’s there. There may even be a ghostly shape of what the story looks like, but I have to see it. And then, half way through the song, it begins to glitter and I wonder why I didn’t see it straight-out before. So I look away, then look back, and I have to find it all over again.

So, I’ll show you some of my writing playlist, and I’d love to know what your writing playlist looks like.

  1. Music of the Night – from Phantom of the Opera
  2. Phantom of the Opera (Junior Vasquez Club Remix) – from Phantom of the Opera
  3. Don’t Fear the Reaper – Blue Oyster Cult
  4. Total Eclipse of the Heart – Bonnie Tyler
  5. It’s All Coming Back to Me Now – Celine Dion
  6. Dark Lady – Cher
  7. Hotel California – The Eagles
  8. Fire On High – Electric Light Orchestra
  9. Here We Are – Gloria Estefan
  10. Hallelujah
  11. Tom Dooley – The Kingston Trio
  12. El Matador – The Kingston Trio
  13. Need You Now – Lady Antebellum
  14. Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show – Neil Diamond
  15. Try – Pink
  16. Just Give Me a Reason – Pink
  17. Another One Bites the Dust – Queen
  18. Cell Block Tango – From Chicago
  19. Blood Theme (Alaska in Winter Remix) – from the TV series Dexter
  20. Perfect – Pink

Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.


The Drive-Thru Girl (Part 2)

This is the second half of the flash fiction horror story from last week. Again, parental guidance is suggested…


The Drive-Thru Girl (Part 2)

by Adam Huddleston


I phoned my wife on the way to Driver Street to tell her I’d be a little late. Head Honcho was coming in tomorrow. Had to do some paperwork. She said okay and be careful. I said okay and I loved her. Did I though? What kind of husband has an affair with someone he met at a fast food drive-thru line?

Twenty minutes later I was pulling into the entrance of a massive home sitting behind a brick wall and iron gate. A pole with a small keypad stuck out from among a thick collection of greenery. I hit the button marked “six” until the mechanism beeped and the gate slid silently open.

The driveway to her house was completely clear, which was surprising because her yard was covered in large oaks and they should have shed their leaves weeks ago. There was something else odd too; it was almost totally silent. No birds, no wind in the branches, nothing.

I pulled up in front of the house and killed the engine. Double glass front doors; swanky. I fingered the doorbell but when she didn’t answer I let myself in.

“I’m upstairs! Take a left at the top! Last room on the right!”

My legs grew weaker with each step I took and a nervous excitement began to grow in my gut. By the time I’d made the top of the stairs, I was sucking in great gulps of air.

I came to the door she’d told me to and peeked in. There she was, sitting up in bed with her back against the headboard. She was wearing lacy, black lingerie.

Oh my.

“Come in and close the door.”

I obeyed and instantly regretted it. As soon as the door clicked behind me, she leaped to her feet in the bed and opened her mouth wide. What was inside will haunt me for the rest of my life. Row after row of tiny, sharp, blood-stained teeth glistened in the light of the room’s lone bulb. Then she began this low, gravelly moaning. I’m not gonna lie, I threw up a little on the floor beside me.

The eyes I had loved to gaze into during my twenty seconds in the burger line morphed into these black…slits. I could see the pupils spinning behind what used to be eyelids.

I think I screamed for a second and when I reached behind me, the door was locked. I didn’t think I’d locked it, but, whatever. She moaned for a few more seconds then just…came at me! Her mouth actually got wider as she ran.

“Stop! Please stop!” I yelled.

She didn’t.

I tried to dodge out of the way but she was so fast, so incredibly fast. I mean like, too fast to be real. She grabbed me and bit into my cheek. The pain was beyond anything I’ve ever felt. I kicked hard and managed to flip her off me for a second.

Without thinking, I sprinted for the bedroom window and jumped through it. I didn’t care. Anything was better than being eaten alive!

The fall was bad. The landing was worse. Doctors say I broke both legs and most of my ribs. Morphine does wonders for the pain but I do have to eat on a full stomach or I’ll toss my cookies.

My family came by a few minutes ago toting a white, paper bag with heavenly aromas drifting from it. The wife said a nice, young check-out girl asked how I was feeling and to get better soon. She told her that she couldn’t wait to see me in the drive-thru again.


Maybe I’ll switch to Taco Hut.


Outtakes 286


By Cait Collins



Recently my nephew and I went to see the live-action version of Beauty and the Beast. The artistry amazed me. Maybe I should back up. The artistry begins with the story. Grimm’s Fairy Tales were a little dark for me. And Into the Woods was a bit fractured. That said I enjoyed both. But I’m glad Disney Studios dressed the tales up. The vilens stayed, but stories became romantic. Sweeter. More of a dream. And thus began the Princess tales. And the wish of every young girl to believe that “Someday My Prince Will Come”.

Disney’s animated version of Beauty and the Beast was a spectacle It was a perfect marriage of love story and technology. Who can forget the dancing dishes in the “Be Our Guest “song? What about the doors opening to reveal a magnificent library? And the ballroom where Belle and the Beast danced was magnificent.

Now translate all that to a movie set.

The live action version combined the best of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Disney animation, a Broadway play and music to create a masterpiece. Every frame drew emotion. That is the artist’s magic. Walt Disney would have been proud of his teams.

From what I learned in my Traditions classes, Disney always looked for new ways to do things. Each movie had its own sparkle and foot print. He was an innovator with an eye to eliciting that gasp of surprise and delight.

Even though I worked the retail side of the Disney Company, I learned the importance of having wings, and flying. The goal of exceeding customer expectations allowed me to use my acting talents, to stand in front of groups of kids at movie premiers. I stepped outside my comfort zone and danced with Jungle Book characters. I was free to reach out to others with more experience and knowledge so that I could become a better writer.

Happy thoughts and a bit of fairy dust allow the artist or writer or editor the freedom to test new methods, to open doors to new worlds, and to find our special place in the artist’s world. I treasure my years with the Disney Company and I appreciate the lessons I learned. While not at the level I want to be, I still look for twists and characters that keep the reader wanting more. While I’m on the journey, I will “wish upon a star” and “just keep swimming”.

Thank you. Walt Disney for an education and years of entertainement.

Jump Start Your Writing Challenge – A vice

Jump Start Your Writing Challenge – A vice

Rory C. Keel

It’s funny the things you observe at an intersection. I recently sat at a stop sign watching the flow of traffic come to a halt behind an old pickup. The old man driving the truck waited patiently for the oncoming traffic. His flasher blinking in a universal electrical rhythm indicating his desire to turn left.

Within a minute or two, the woman behind the pickup began to honk and the tension of the moment increased with the speed of the Morse code she was sending with her car horn. As the gentleman finally turned, the woman waved goodbye with middle finger of her right hand.

Head-Jump Point of View


Head-Jump Point of View

Natalie Bright

I am alternating chapters between two main characters points of view, and in the first draft I used third person for one character and first person for the other. The reason I used first person is the idea of digging deeper into that character who has a lot of inner conflict. He is very complex and I want the reader to understand that. When using first person point of view, it’s harder to “head-jump” from one character to the next, however it is a challenge to find something to replace the repetitive “I” word. And now I’m rethinking the whole thing during the editing process. Perhaps I will rewrite those chapters and keep it all in third person. And then there are the overlapping scenes; the action from one character’s viewpoint and then the same scene interpreted by the other character’s point of view. I like books with that perspective when it is well done. The problem will be to make sure I stay in one character’s head for that one scene and chapter, and not switch.

If you begin the scene in one character’s head and then jump to another character’s head, and then maybe another, your reader will get lost. It is too hard for the reader to stay with your scene. Have you ever been reading and had to go back several pages to figure out where you were and who is talking? I hate when that happens.

The most common situation when writers purposefully “Head-Jump” is in romance scenes, and that is called “turning on a dime”. A common action or item, is that cause of the switch from one character’s head into another. A kiss, for example. When it’s done well, it can be very smooth, but sometimes it can very awkward and disorienting for the reader.

The Saturday Morning Blogger – Portraits of Courage

The Saturday Morning Blogger – Portraits of Courage

James Barrington

In the forward to George W. Bush’s latest book, “Portraits of Courage,” Laura Bush wrote, “When George and I married, if someone told me that he would become President, I would have thought, ‘Well, maybe.’ He was running for Congress at the time, and we loved politics. But if someone had said, ‘One day you will be writing a forward for a book that includes George’s paintings,’ I would have said, ‘No way.’”

In his life after the presidency, George W. Bush took up painting. He eventually graduated from flowers, pets, and landscapes to portraits. With his love of our nation’s military personnel, and especially his commitment to our nation’s wounded warriors, he began painting portraits of many of the men and women he has come to personally know and help through the Wounded Warrior programs he supports.

“Portraits of Courage” includes George Bush paintings and brief stories of more than 100 current and former military personnel who were wounded in combat. The stories detail the circumstances and nature of their wounds and their paths to recovery. Reflecting real life, not all the stories have “fairy tale” endings, but all offer hope and display courage in overcoming adversity. They display adaptability and the strength of character of so many members of our military who put their lives on the line and are now recovering from horrific injuries.

I recently won a copy of the book at a presentation by Todd and Dallas Bell of Burrowing Owl Bookstore. After eagerly reading every story and examining every portrait, I am donating the book to the Canyon Area Library to make it available to everyone. For those who want their own copy, the Burrowing Owl Bookstore at 419 16th Street on the east side of the courthouse square has copies for sale. It’s a beautiful coffee table book filled with stories of courage and inspiration.

The Reluctant Hero


The Reluctant Hero

By Nandy Ekle



“A reluctant hero is a tarnished or ordinary man with several faults or a troubled past, and he is pulled reluctantly into the story, or into heroic acts. During the story, he rises to the occasion, sometimes even vanquishing a mighty foe, sometimes avenging a wrong. But he questions whether he’s cut out for the hero business. His doubts, misgivings, and mistakes add a satisfying layer of tension to a story”. (From Wikipedia)

As a reader, the reluctant hero has always fascinated me. This is the person who wants a normal life, hearth and home, living in his own world fulfilling his own desires. But due to circumstances he has no control over, he is forced to think about the good of others.

In my opinion, the epitome of this type of character is William Wallace in the movie “Braveheart.” I’m not sure about the historical accuracy of the story. I’ve heard a lot of talk about how there’s not a shred of truth to it. And, to be fair, it does give a pretty dark light on a certain group of people. But, let’s face it. Most, especially those of us with an overdeveloped sense of imagination, don’t really care how accurate of a biography it is.

Braveheart is a masterfully told epic with a true reluctant, unwilling hero at the very center.

Scotland in the 1300s has been taken captive by England, and the king of England is a cruel man who rules his people (including his family) with an iron fist. At the first of the movie, William Wallace is a boy and his father and older brother leave him in to look after the cottage and the farm while they go to peace talks between their clan and a the English rulers over their homestead. William watches as a wagon brings the bodies of his father and brother back home. At their funeral, a little girl offers him a thistle, her gesture of comfort for the new orphan. His uncle rides into the village and takes young William off on a journey where he is educated to read, write, other languages, and calculate numbers.

When he’s grown, he comes back to his home to live as part of the clan, raising animals and vegetables, and to marry the now grown thistle girl who has been on his mind for all the years he was gone. His only wish is to marry her, run his farmstead, and raise children. The circle of life, as it were.

But then, his wife (they did marry, but only is secret to protect her from the attention of the lusting English soldiers.) This ended his wife’s death. And this is the moment the hero reluctantly emerges. William kills the English soldiers, and the rest of the clan help him out and was able to pinpoint the exact moment when he became the successful leader that lead a country to freedom.

Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.

The Drive-Thru Girl

This week, I’m posting the first part of a flash fiction horror story I wrote some time back. It’s only been slightly polished. Oh, fair warning, it’s probably a PG-13 rating.


The Drive-Thru Girl

by Adam Huddleston


So, there’s this girl that works the drive-thru at the Burger Barn on Alton Street. I’ve only seen her at the first window, you know, the one where you pay. She always smiles as she’s giving me my receipt; and she’s gorgeous. Light blonde hair, a little below shoulder length and blue eyes that reflect the glow of the register monitor in front of her. Well, this morning something pretty weird happened.

I drove through and ordered my usual sausage biscuit combo. I had my fingers crossed that she was at the window, and sure enough, there she was. I paid and when she handed me my receipt, I noticed there was this little card there; a business card. On the back was a phone number scribbled in blue ink.

I looked up at her and she gave me a wink and pressed her finger to her lips (lovely, full lips) in a shush gesture. I literally felt a buzz run through my legs. I opened my mouth to say something, not sure what exactly, and she slid her window closed with a snap.

Pulled forward, got my food. It was good as usual. Hot and greasy constitutes “good” in this case. I spent the rest of the day running my fingers over the smooth paper of that business card in my pocket. Should I call? I always thought of myself as a faithful husband, but how often does a chance like this come around?

I thought about my wife and kids. Then I thought about those red lips and how I wanted to explore them and every inch of her wonderful body. What if I just called and talked? That wouldn’t be cheating, right? Maybe she just wanted to talk?

I stuck around for a bit after the office closed this afternoon. I stared at that phone number for a few minutes then dialed.

The voice that answered after the second ring was soft and sensual. My heart melted and if I hadn’t been in my cushioned office chair, I’m pretty sure I would have slid into the floor.

“Hello?” I answered back.

“I’m glad you called,” she whispered.

“Yeah, well, I wasn’t sure if…so, how’s it going? Your biscuits were great!” I winced.

“Hehe, thanks. So, what are you doing now?”

I thought for a second. I couldn’t tell her I was about to go home to my family. If this was going to work, I had to play it cool. Super cool.

“Not much, not much. What are you up to?”

“Do you want to see me? If you do, I’m at 6700 West Driver. There’s a code to get in. Just type all sixes.”

My brain was scrambled. I blurted out something incoherent then hung up the phone. It stared at me accusingly so I jumped up and headed out the door.