Singing and Dancing in the Rain

Outtakes 258

Singing and Dancing in the Rain

by Cait Collins


The Texas Panhandle is flat as far as the eye can see, but about 25 or 30 miles south of Amarillo, the grassy Plains drop off into Palo Duro Canyon. It’s amazing the abrupt change in the landscape.

Palo Duro Canyon is the second largest canyon system in the United States, second only to the Grand Canyon. Much of the canyon is privately owned and not open to the public. But Palo Duro Canyon State Park is operated by the State of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. It’s a beautiful place to camp, hike, and enjoy nature. It is also the home of the Pioneer Amphitheatre and the musical drama T*E*X*A*S.

I don’t go every year, but I do attend a performance every few years. Last Friday evening, my nephew, his three kids, and I braved threatening weather to see the play. We were about half way to the canyon when rain drops began splashing against the windshield. The shower was brief, so we had hopes everything would be great. No such luck. It misted, sprinkled, or rained from the middle of the first act to the end of the show. We were wet and chilled, but the show was still stunning. The thunder and lightning only added to the spectacle.

I am always impressed with the talent and professionalism of the cast and crew. No matter the weather or the adversities, these gifted men, women, and children adhere to the old adage, “The show must go on”. They were as wet and cold as the members of the audience, but they smiled and thanked the theater-goers for attending.

My question is how do we as writers maintain our professionalism when faced with rejection, criticism, and lack of support? Do we write nasty blogs about the agent or editor who rejected a query? Do we toss the manuscript into the trash? Or refuse to work on another piece for months because no one understands our artistic musings?

I won’t say writing is easy or always fun, but if we choose to be writers, then shouldn’t we also choose to be professional? Do we want an agent to remember that we accepted his rejection graciously? Of course we do. But if we storm off we will be remembered but not in a positive way.

I choose to be a writer; therefore, I must also choose to act in a manner that makes a positive impression on those I meet. The bottom line is attitude and actions can make or break a career.

I wonder how they used to do it?

I wonder how they used to do it?

Rory C. Keel

I thought I would write a few observations. We are surrounded by such a diverse assortment of super technology. For example, we have smart phones that are so powerful they can interrupt a personal, face-to-face conversation with an individual, and allow us to talk, text and send pictures simultaneously around the globe to multiple unseen individuals.

Computers are now a way of life. They check our spelling and grammar and make learning the many beautiful loops of cursive penmanship once taught in schools obsolete. And what is a pen anyway?

We sit in dark rooms like hermits, wearing our pajamas,  tangled hair and unshaven, and faces with no makeup, and with the push of a button circle the globe. We gather information on places we would love to go, and things we want to do–if we ever got dressed and left our home.

The sun is no longer needed to determine which direction is north, south, east or west. Grown men who stubbornly refuse to listen to their zealous wives give them directions will react, without hesitation, to the soft and sultry female voice of a GPS system, accepting every command without question.

With vehicles that can automatically parallel park, the useful skills needed in backing automobiles are forgotten, and the rearview mirror that automatically adjusts to the lighting, is relegated to review our hair, lipstick, or to check for pimples.

The aeronautics industry is also awe-inspiring. The kid down the block that used to chase the other children, dive-bombing them with his remote control airplane, is still in his backyard chasing the Taliban on the other side of the world with remote war drones.

Speed has not always been a friend to avionics. The world’s fastest commercial passenger jet, the Concord, is now retired. The expense of chasing itself around the world was too high. Crossing the International Date Line, it could arrive at its destination tomorrow, and come back yesterday.

The truly amazing thing about all the technology that we experience today is that it causes us to ask questions. But the most frequent question I hear today is not, “How will we do things in the future?” but, “I wonder how they used to do it?”

As an exercise, write about a few things in your past that have changed.



By Natalie Bright

Let’s switch hats for a minute and be a reader. Let’s think like a fan of books.

Do you follow your favorite authors on social media? Do you enjoy learning more about them and their books through Instagram or Facebook interactions? Do you appreciate glimpses into their daily lives and their writing process? I follow the people and the topics that are of a personal interest to me.

As Facebook evolves into a “Pay to Play”, I am being gutted with ads. And then there are ads on Twitter too. The good thing is that I’m having ongoing info overloads on topics of my choosing, like bestselling authors, book publishing, genealogists, historians, and parents of teenagers. On a regular basis I receive email notification from Twitter on posts labeled “Popular in Your Network”. This week’s included several tweets from a favorite author which annoyed me greatly. It read: “Make sure to buy my book on Amazon.”

Pushy. Intrusive. Down right rude. I’ve been a life-long reader of this person’s work, and yes, I am well aware that there are books for sale.


Your followers have probably purchased a book or two. Maybe even read it, told a friend, and perhaps posted a review. They know you have books for sale. Or perhaps they haven’t made a purchase yet, and just want to learn more about you. If there’s a connection, they may become interested enough to read your work.

I want to buy YOUR book. I want to discover great stories by new-to-me authors. Perhaps it’s the beautiful cover that entices me, or a brilliant tagline. It’s NOT going to be a pushy, condescending ‘call to act’ that makes me want your book.


If you don’t enjoy social media, do not pretend to be engaged with your fans by posting mundane, meaningless posts because someone told you to. It’s not sincere, you’re only irritating us, and you’re most certainly not attracting new follows, which should be your goal. If a new follower visits your twitter page and your feed is full of self-promotion, they’re not going to follow you. Would you follow you? Either be your true self because you sincerely want to engage with people, or stop it. Don’t post meaningless garbage. Just don’t. If you’re not interested in it, more than likely your fans won’t be either. I’m not naïve enough to think that big name authors do all of their posting, but the savvy ones have assistants who can be authentic and work hard at reflecting the personality of their clients.

Social media is a powerful tool. Marie Force, bestselling Hybrid Author, engages regularly with her fans and recommends that authors spend as much time on Facebook as possible. Nora Roberts is posting this week from Italy, with breathtaking views, delicious food, and tales of her shopping exploits. Eloisa James posts tidbits and pictures from all over Europe on her many travels. Indi author, Joanna Penn, of the Creative Penn, credits her success to Twitter. These are just three examples from a few of my favorite authors who use social media in extraordinary ways. There are many more.

Happy Tweeting!




By Nandy Ekle
We are now in the middle of August. In my part of the world we are still in the throws of a huge barbecue under the sun, temperatures soaring into the hundreds daily. However, there is a slight change in the air reminding us that summer is coming to a close. I may be because of the ads and the themes the stores and malls are spreading to remind parents to get their kids ready for school to start. Or it may be the calendar, hanging so proudly on my wall announcing that we have indeed entered the eighth month of the year. Or it could be that we are all so tired of being roasted daily like marshmallows that we are dreaming of those cooler days.

Most assuredly, the approach of autumn is felt with much excitement to those like me because all of the above reasons, and a few more: colors, weather, adventure, smells . . . I guess the only thing I do not like about the fall season is the fact that where I live, we only have about two weeks of true fallish type weather before the deep freezer door hangs open letting in all the ice and snow we can stand. And then, by late April, we will be praying for the heat of summer to come back.

Autumn holidays are practically non-existent. Of course, the biggest day of autumn is Thanksgiving, which opens the Christmas season and starts the holly jolly madness of the winter holiday. There are also a couple of smaller holidays between Indepenced Day and Christmas: Labor Day, Columbus Day, and Halloween. And then, Of course, Thanksgiving. 

There is another thing about autumn that is very exciting. NaNoWriMo. This is a group of authors who have gotten together and sent November as Novel Writing Month. The challenge is to write a novel of 50,000 words, at least, in the 30 days of November. The first couple of times I participated in this, my attitude was, piece of cake. I could write anything any time. But I have learned what a pompous attitude that is. It is a challenge, and the challenge is big.

Beginning midnight, November 1, through midnight November 30, 50,000 words will be put on paper. The only rule is you cannot have written any of the story before midnight, November 1. On that night, you may type “Once upon a time,” or “It was a dark and stormy night,” and kick off your story. The story does not have to make sense, it does not have to to be one long story. And it may be one that goes on further than 50,000, or stops short. As long as you have 50,000 words by midnight November 30, you will be able to say, “I beat NaNoWriMo.” And being able to say this is worth the prize, which is more of a prize than than the other NaNoWriMoers could ever give you.

So the time is right. November is still a little ways away, It may still be blisteringly hot outside, but it’s not too early tho begin thinking about November.

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

Waiting for the Phone To Ring

Outtakes 257

Waiting for the Phone To Ring

by Cait Collins

 How often do you pick up the phone and will it to ring? Maybe it’s not so bad these days as most of us carry a cell phone, but we still find ourselves checking to see if we missed a call. I can tell you that patience is not one of my virtues and I loathe waiting. So what can I do while I wait? I can see how many scenarios I can create on waiting for the telephone to ring.

A teenage girl has a crush on the captain of the football team. She’s convinced he’s going to ask her to be his date for the homecoming dance. She sits by the phone planning what she will wear. Her dress will be the shade of blue in the school colors. It will be cocktail length so that she can show off her legs. She’ll have her four-inch heel sandals dyed to match the dress and her toe nails will be painted the same shade of gray in the cheerleaders’ uniforms. The phone rings and it’s her best friend calling to tell the girl that the captain of the football team has asked her to the homecoming dance and she’s accepted. What happens to the friendship?

The minister sits at his desk dreading the telephone’s ring. A member of the congregation is seriously ill. The test results should be in at any moment. He plans to give the family some time to deal with the news before he meets them at the hospital. The phone rings, a police officer is calling to tell him his son has been injured in an automobile accident. Who will the minister call?

Two candidates for the same job, a quiet young man and an attractive girl, are sitting at different tables in a coffee shop. Her phone rings and he can see the disappointment in her face. She ends the call and his phone rings. He’s offered the job. What does he say to the girl?

I keep thinking of other situations, but I must ask you to excuse me. My phone is ringing.

Ok, Where’s the Title?

Ok, Where’s the Title?

By Rory C. Keel


Many good projects have been written with a “working title”. That’s a temporary name given to your piece while you are still working on it. When the writing is done, you will want to give your masterpiece the perfect permanent title. Often, this can be more difficult than completing the actual piece of work.

When choosing the best title, consider these two basic points.

First, the title needs to fit within the theme of the story or work. Consider using the name of a person, place, or thing within your story. A specific kind of action that takes place in your writing could even make a good title.

Secondly, make the title easy to remember. While there are works that carry long titles, the shorter it is, the easier it is to remember. One exercise to help with this is to try and describe your story in one word. Can you do it? Consider the theme, the action, think about the people, places and things and boil the idea down to one or two words.

With this basic formula, you can have the perfect title.



By Natalie Bright

Writing an entire novel is the most wonderful, soul-changing, frustrating, dreaded task you’ll ever tackle. In fact, I once said that I’d never writer a book. My articles and short stories were enough for me.

Several years ago I started a lovely historical story with a 16 year old protagonist targeted to YA market. The suggestion was made that I consider dropping her age to 12 or 13. I rewrote it, and now I have two 7,000+ word manuscripts. I never finished either. Both versions seem wrong, leaving me uninspired and frustrated. Where did my main character go? Will she ever emerge again?



These past several months, this character has been nagging me a lot. She still holds much mystery for me and I must know more about her and the time of her life. The historical period continues to hold much intrigue. I see her as a young girl, on the verge of being woman. I see her being involved in a forbidden love, so a 13 year old is not going to work. YES! I SEE her and she’s getting clearer every day. As to her exact age, I haven’t a clue. Both versions are a muddle in my head.

Note to self: Don’t question the why. I have a beginning and I have an ending. I need to make a list of possible conflict that she must overcome. I will write the scenes in my head, no matter the order. Make it to the end. With the help of my WordsmithSix group, we’ll make it tidy and tight.

Write more.


I’m not saying that it was a waste of my time to rewrite the book with a younger protagonist. Maybe it will help me see the main character and her journey more clearly. At this point, who am I trying to please? The answer: me.

Take writing advice with a grain of salt. In the end you’re the author and only you can make the final decision. Absolutely, make that scary leap and let other people read your work before you publish. I know that you’ve dug to the depths of your soul and sweated over your pages for months and months, perhaps years.

Step back. Listen carefully to your trusted beta readers. Consider all of the possibilities, but in the end you have the final say.


I’m starting over. For the third pass I’ll use elements from both versions. My gut is telling me this story has potential. Hopefully, I can find the heart of the story and it will emerge from the mess I’ve made. This will be a great project for NaNoMo in November, and I’m going to reach the end this time. Phew. I feel so much better about this. Thanks for listening, WordsmithSix!





Story Exploded


Story Exploded

By Nandy Ekle

It happened again. I woke up listening to a voice telling me an adventure. As the words scrolled across the great movie screen in my head, I realized that would make an amazing story. Probably ten or fifteen pages, a nice juicy short story at best.

As a “pantser” (one who writes “by the seat of their pants”), trying not to do so much planning that all the fun turns into a fill-in-the blank, essay-ish type of work, I took out my trusty computer, opened the word processor and let my fingers transcribe the scenes playing out in my head.

And then I came to a decision-making moment. Sometimes this is where I get locked down, waiting for the characters to tell me what comes next. Most of the time I can see the scenes clearly, but the transitions between the scenes is the muddy white noise part of the brain-feed movie going on. So I have to think for a minute. This is usually not wise if I want a short story because a lot can happen in a decision-making moment.

In this story I began to see twists and turns multiply to look like a roller coaster gone haywire. The hidden truths I will build to are good ones. In fact, I broke out in goosebumps and giggled like an insane madwoman every time a new twist popped up.

Research. I needed to research a couple of things I knew nothing about. And I had to research some things I knew a little about, and one or two things I completely understood, but wanted to find a way to connect to the new things I would be learning. And all the while a new secret would wink at me and I would giggle a little more.

So now I look at my “short story” and realize it’s a good tale, but it exploded into an outright novel. Only, I absolutely don’t want to say it out loud because the muse will pack up and leave me holding a paper cutout of my character in one hand and an dry ink pen in the other.

So, for the moment, we will continue to call this a short story.

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



by Adam Huddleston


Here’s another quick literary term to add to your repertoire: malapropism. It is defined as the use of an incorrect word (with a similar sound) for a correct one.

Why would you do this?

It can be used to show that the speaker is confused, upset, or otherwise impaired. It is important to understand that in order to be effective, the two words must be similar in sound or structure.

For example, in “Much Ado About Nothing” a character states: “Our watch, sir, have indeed comprehended two auspicious persons.” In this case, the speaker substituted comprehended for apprehended.

I hope this helps in your writing!

A Glimpse of the Past

Outtakes 256

A Glimpse of the Past

by Cait Collins


I’ve come to realize how pampered I am. The boiler system for my apartment complex broke down and we’ve been without hot water for several days. Frustrating, absolutely. I’m so used to turning on the tap and out comes an unlimited amount of hot water. But for the past few days, I’ve had to get up half an hour early to heat water for a bath and to wash my hair. The inconvenience caused me to think about times when hot, running water was not available.

Think about early settlers who had to dig a well, draw the water, and build a fire to heat the water. Imagine a 100 degree Texas Panhandle afternoon, stoking the fireplace just to have hot water. It gives new meaning to Saturday night baths.

Our forefathers were made of sterner stuff. No grocery stores to provide fresh produce and butchered meat. Of course not. They tilled the soil, planted seeds, and nurtured the growing plants. The harvest was canned or preserved to provide food during the moths between the harvests. As a child, I helped weed our garden. We’d buy vegetables from roadside stands, and mom would rope all of us into shelling peas and snapping beans. She’d can or freeze the prepared veggies. She made pickles, jams, and jelly. I think of the hours my mother spent making sure her family had good food to eat.

I wish I’d listened to the stories of hog butchering and wringing a chicken’s neck. Or grinding meat into sausage and stuffing the ground meat into casings. Maybe if I had listened, I would better appreciate what I have now.

And maybe, I could use that knowledge to spice up some characters. Think about the hermit who has chosen to live in an area where there is no indoor plumbing, no electricity, and no running water. The closest water is the creek that’s a couple of hundred yards away. In the winter, snow is melted for drinking water. How would I describe him? How would I structure his day? What made him decide to live without modern conveniences? There are so many possibilities for this scenario.

I do not long for the good old days. I like my creature comforts. That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate my forefathers and their “can do” attitudes. It makes me wonder what they’d think of their children. I’ll also admit I’ve been pretty grump these past few mornings. But there is a silver lining to the inconvenience. At least I didn’t have to haul the water from the nearest playa lake. Man, I don’t even want to think about that.