Time Out

Outtakes 31

Time Out

It’s tax season in my business. We’re working long days plus Saturdays and never seem to make much of a dent in the work load. By the time I get home from the office I’m so tired I don’t want to read my personal email or work on my novel. I’m sure many writers who have full time jobs face the same issue. We realize there are times when life interferes with our creative endeavors.  It’s at this time, we must “knuckle-down, buckle-down and do it, do it, do it”.  Quitting or taking a break isn’t in the vocabulary. Then again there are times my characters won’t let me stop.

Just yesterday morning, my antagonist, King Phillips, visited me while I applied my make-up. “They won’t get away with it, you know. Does that stuffed-shirt of a bank manager think he’ll foreclose on my property? I keep saying I have leverage, and I do. I can’t wait to see the look on the man’s face when I walk in, hand him the certified check, and pay off the loans. Then, I’ll close my accounts. What do you think of that, writer lady?”

“Hmm, good question. But, Phillips you haven’t found out about the federal investigation into the loans. Nor do you know what Kate read in the journal and the documents Chad found. So when you demand to close your accounts, you’ll get hit with a major curve. Your assets are frozen. What do you think of that, King?”

“No way! Who planned that little zinger? My money is my property, and no one can have it.”

“Oh, guess again, Phillips. I have plans for your money and property. You may hold four queens, but someone else has four aces and a joker. Joker’s wild. You lose.”

“Wait a minute, writer lady. You can’t…”

“Sorry, King, I have to run or I’ll be late for work.”

Darn, reality. I was on a roll.

Cait Collins



The scene, a story with a murder in the first chapter and a trail of vague clues scattered like glass from a shattered vase dropped on a cement floor. It’s a Mystery, the genre where no one knows who did it.

Your assignment is to read along with the protagonist through the complex descriptions and help solve the puzzle. As you unravel the case step by step, you will need to avoid multiple misdirections to succeed and reveal the truth.

This genre is full of detectives both highly intelligent, or those who seem to be bumbling idiots. Amateur investigators who stumble onto the clues and those who are highly experienced and always get their man.

Rory C. Keel

Show, Don’t Tell

Show, Don’t Tell

By Natalie Bright

What does that mean exactly?

If you’ve ever been to a writers conference or taken a writing course, you’ve probably heard that term.

Here’s a great example:

John is angry.  (telling how John feels)

Instead of telling your reader, John is angry, show the reader:

John kicked the door in, stormed across the living room, slapped Maria, and hurled Joaquin through the window.

How is that for imagery? No question how John is feeling, is there?

That example is from a session I attended with Harvey Stanbrough, who is a short story writer, poet, and writing instructor. He’ll be back in Amarillo for the Frontiers in Writing Conference June 28-30.

To find out more you can visit website for Panhandle Professional Writers, link here: http://www.panhandleprowriters.org

Happy Writing!

Natalie Bright

The Long Hard Road

         TRAILS END – The Novel

              The Long Hard Road

My wife and I went out to supper tonight with our friends who are in the race horse business. They are the trainers for our horse, Rare But Special.

Hauling horses every mile, they had made two trips to El Paso, yesterday and today, getting back to Canyon at 5:00 this evening. They are leaving at 2:00A.M. this morning to go to OKC. They’re a bit younger than us, but I can’t imagine having that much energy and stamina anymore.

Rodeo requires this kind of travel, and in my day, I thought nothing of all night drives with too many miles and not enough time. One time, my traveling partners were both injured over the July 4th run. They turned out at all the next weeks rodeos, and I went by myself.

I drove from Kansas City, MO to Roswell, NM to Tucumcari, NM to O’Donnell,TX.

From a night performance at O’Donnell, which is 60 miles south of Lubbock, I had to make it to Buena Vista, CO for an afternoon performance. I could write a short book on just that one trip.

Jim Barnes, in the story of TRAILS END, has the same challenges. He makes it from a night performance at Coleman, TX, to an afternoon show in North Platte NE. Then two other cowboys get in with him and they drive to Reno, NV, for the performance the next night.

If you want a taste of what it’s like on the rodeo trail, I hope my novel will serve that purpose. Keep in mind though, there’s much more to the story.

Thanks for reading,


Visiting Old Friends


Visiting Old Friends

We had some really good times together. We laughed, we cried, we made mistakes and cured mistakes together. I listened when they cried and complained and they led me in directions I wasn’t sure I could go. I haven’t seen some of these friends in a while and getting back to them has been a wonderful experience.

These terrific friends of mine are the characters in my stories. I have spent a great deal of time with some of them, a little less time with some others, but every one of them has a huge spot in my imagination. Even after I write “The End” on a story, the characters live on in my head.

I like to visit these friends when I feel like I’m in a rut. Re-reading something I wrote a while back is like reading something brand new written by someone else. The theme is easier to see, as well as what works and what doesn’t. And the voices of the characters are more distinct.

Go back and read some of your earlier work and see what you learn from the characters and their stories. You will find a new way to relive an adventure with old friends.

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

Nandy Ekle



by Sharon Stevens

“If we want their attention to tell them stories,we need to shout something riveting in the first few words.” – Nandy Ekle

Post Cards From the Muse – Wordsmith Six Blog

When I read Nandy’s blog regarding “underwear” I was instantly jolted back in time to a memory that jogged my heart.

When our daughter, Andrea, was attending WTAMU she worked part time at In His Hands Preschool at the United Methodist Church in Canyon. Her group was studying the alphabet and each day was devoted to a different letter. One day the class read U and the accompanying image had to do with underwear. Of course the kids hooted and snickered. They didn’t know why, they just knew it was funny.

I have no idea what the symbol for V was the next day, but I remember quite clearly that the letter for W represented Washington…George to be exact. The kids didn’t really care as much for this visualization as they did the underwear until Andrea connected it locally. She asked them if they knew what color George Washington’s hair was. Of course they all thought it was white, representing his age as well as the powdered wigs they saw in the picture books. Andrea informed them that the actual color of his hair was closer to a strawberry red and she could prove it.

Our daughter had been volunteering as a Girl Scout at the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum for several years. She knew that the archives housed a lock of George Washington’s hair along with a letter of authenticity and also the provenance.

Andrea arranged with the preschool and the museum for a field trip to check out not only this, but some of the other treasures housed there. I don’t know how many kids remember this almost twenty years later, but doubtless there are some who can connect the trip to the museum to Washington himself.

Andrea has led hundreds of tours in her teaching career since then. Just like any other teacher she loves to recall bits and pieces of those who have touched her life, brightened her heart, and strengthened her path. And with her years in Girl Scouts she has become creative in using any item as a teaching tool.

We again used the story of Washington’s lock of hair when Andrea asked us, her parents, to come speak to her class at Stipes Elementary in Irving Texas as part of her Flat Stanley project. (She is now at the Sally Elliot Elementary School). After years of volunteering at the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum we knew the history of our area and loved to share our heritage. My husband and I were in our costumes from the 1890’s and encouraged to talk about pioneer life in the panhandle of Texas.

To our delight several other classes came to hear us speak, and it was wonderful to have input from Margie Stipes. We learned from her the true meaning of a “Baptist Pallet.” Stipes Elementary was named after Margie and John Stipes. They were both long standing members of the school board and influential in supporting teachers and schools.

But back to our visit…that year celebrated the 275th year of Washington’s birth, and I presented Mrs. Stipes and principal Marty French a George Washington dollar coin along with the story from the museum about his lock of hair and a picture of Flat Stanley showing it off.

This past Monday we celebrated Presidents Day commemorating the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington. When this holiday rolls around every year I remember the time that our daughter who was going to college to become a teacher arranged a field trip of young children to visit our local museum to see a lock of history.

Andrea was able to take a letter of the alphabet and give it meaning and make it tangible. She made it just as real for the kids as the image of the U in underwear. Like every teacher from time immemorial she helped those students to take this symbol and make a word, and then connect it to an idea, and turn it into a story.

Isn’t this what we as writers try to do?

Several years ago I found a quote from George Washington on the back of a medal presented from the Freedom Foundation of Valley Forge that I think says it all.

“Impress on the mind of every man from the first to the lowest…the importance of the cause and what it is they are contending for.”

Sharon Stevens

Ye Old Antique Shoppe

Outtakes #30

Ye Old Antique Shoppe

Researching can be really tedious. Locating and reading old documents may require cotton gloves, a note pad and pencil, and a box of allergy medication. Many old documents cannot be photocopied, so hours of note taking are part of the bargain. But when you find that first clue that leads to a more detailed item that takes you to the mother lode, you have that eureka moment. The ultimate results are worth the effort. Then again, research can be loads of fun.

HOW DO YOU LIKE ME NOW, my current work in progress, is set in a small Texas town. The town is fictional, but I fashioned Lucille Walker’s house after my grandmother’s home. I had no trouble duplicating the layout and some of the furniture, but the kitchenware, vintage jewelry, and some of the clothing required a bit of legwork. Fortunately, Amarillo is blessed with a number of good antique and consignment shops.

Route 66 runs through Amarillo’s 6th Street. This district is full of old buildings converted into antique shops. I’ve learned which ones are best for locating various items. For vintage jewelry, Depression Glass, and glass kitchenware, I like 6th Street Antique Mall. The shop has cases of costume jewelry and good quality semi-precious pieces. I found beautiful foil-back rhinestone broaches and matching earrings that reminded me of my grandmother’s jewelry. Grandma Fouts wore hats and used hat pins. While this shop does not carry much clothing, I did find a couple of nice hat pins. I purchased a string of matched jade beads for my own jewelry collection.

I was pleased to find original Fiestaware in one of the back rooms. The original Fiestaware may not be safe for serving food as some of the colors contained lead. The colors are more muted than the reproduction line. Still, the early pottery looks beautiful when displayed in glass-front cabinets. I also found Jadeite mugs, green Sandwich Glass bowls, saucers, juice glasses, and milk glasses, ruby glass vases, and 1950-1960 aluminum tumblers.

Red Door Antiques and The Village Antique Mall are south of Interstate 40 off Georgia Street.  Red Door Antiques not only carries Depression Glass, they also carried a line of older Disney collectables. These served as the inspiration for some of the collectables in Kate’s room at the Homestead. I found the Jadeite mother lode at the Village Antique Mall. They had the mugs plus the cake plates, cookie jars, bowls, salt and pepper shakers, and canisters. The original Fire King Jadeite is expensive, so I examined the items instead of buying. While I love the line, I cannot justify purchasing antiques I will not use. My best find at The Village Antique Mall was a Pyrex Dripolator. I had found pictures of the old coffee pot, but actually seeing the forerunner of Mr. Coffee was truly amazing.

Armed with my antique shop finds, I was able to furnish Miss Lucille’s kitchen, jewelry box, William Walker’s accessory case, and add accents to the house. Not only, did I enjoy my research, I was able to add to my personal collections. Antique stores, vintage book shops, consignment stores and antique shows can be valuable resources for the writer. Strolling through these shops provide inspiration for various period settings. Take a day, and visit your local shops. You might find your grade school lunch box or favorite toy on a shelf.  I did, and it brought back wonderful memories.

Cait Collins

Go West Young Man, Go West!

Go West Young Man, Go West!

“Not a hard man to track. Leaves dead men where ever he goes.” – Outlaw Josey Wales

The Western genre is defined by a specific time and place. Most are set west of the Missouri River from Mexico to the south and as far as Alaska to the north. The stories flourish with greenhorns, gringos and cattle driving cowboys. Usually set between about 1800 and 1890, the rugged hero or heroine always endures through any adversity.

Some of the most popular authors include Louis L’Amour, Zane Grey, and Elmer Kelton.

 Western Subgenres include:

Black Cowboy (buffalo soldier) and Civil War westerns.  Bounty Hunter stories of men chasing outlaws, and Cattle Drive westerns which are set during a frontier cattle drive, such as Larry McMurtry’s novel Lonesome Dove.

Cowpunk, these tales depict all sorts of bizarre happenings on the remote frontier with slight sci-fi slant. Eurowestern, Gunfighter, Indian wars such as James Fenimore Cooper’s 1826 novel The Last of the Mohicans.

Land Rush stories usually focus on the Oklahoma land rush. Lawmen (Texas Rangers) are about the honest lawmen who brought order and justice to the wild frontier. Mexican wars (Texan independence), Outlaw westerns, and yes, most of them wear black hats.

Railroad stories connect the east with the west and Range wars are stories where ranchers are pitted against the farmer. Romance is an overlapping subgenre, which features romance relationships in a ‘western’ novel. An excellent example of romance western is the anthology Give me a Texas Ranger by Jodi Thomas, Linda Broday, Phyliss Miranda and DeWanna Pace.

Wagon Train westerns tell the historical stories of the pioneers’ struggles on their transcontinental journey on the Oregon Trail.

Just remember “Every gun makes its own tune.” – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Rory C. Keel

In a rut? For heavens sake, don’t stop writing!

In a rut?  For heavens sake, don’t stop writing!

By Natalie Bright

Here’s a few exercises to keep flexing that writing muscle while your brain stews on the work in progress:

Rewrite your favorite fairy tale, and add a twist.

Change the female protag to a male, alter the time period by rewriting the entire story in present day, or create an entirely new ending.


Do you have an idea journal? Write down every idea that comes to you, no matter how silly it may seem at the time.

Start a travel log. A hiking log, with descriptive phrases of the sights and sounds and smells during your outing. Glue things you might have picked up along the way; ticket stubs, gum wrapper, leaves, twigs; you get the idea.

Dig Deeper

Scream to your journal, say your deepest hurts, sorrows, and admit your darkest fears. Those emotions are what you’ll draw on and translate to your characters.

A Word Book

I refer to my word journal often. It’s filled with phrases and sometimes entire chapters by some of my favorite authors, that I’ve copied. As I read their amazing words, I feel rejuvenated and inspired.

Keep exercising that writing muscle, and stay out of those ruts. Happy writing!

Natalie Bright

Politics and Life

 TRAILS END – The Novel

    Politics and Life

The political season is among us, and whether we are involved or not, or if we are informed or not, our daily lives are effected by election outcomes. I hope you are knowledgeable about the issues of this great and free country, and exercise your right to make your voice heard.

Cowboys have their political battles as well. Professional Rodeo holds elections for directors, event representatives, selection of top pickup men, bullfighters, contract acts, and a continuing barrage of rule changes and proposals. Also, the cowboys vote on the top timed event horses and bucking stock of the year awards. This is a specific part about the story of Trails End.

Jim Barnes, who is a hero in the eyes of Donnie Williams, is a veteran bronc rider and past event director. He campaigns for Trials End to be Bucking Horse of the Year. Although the owner of the horse is his close friend Jerome Jarrett, Jim believes the bronc deserves the title.

The current bronc riding director, the villain, won’t agree. His Uncle owns a rodeo company and he would rather promote a horse owned in the family. “Pretty Boy”, (nicknamed by Jim) refuses to acknowledge the ability of Trails End.

The award means substantial financial compensation and a significant upgrade to a rodeo company. This can lead to higher paying contracts and overall success.

Learn how this conflict develops, and see some of the politics of rodeo.

Thanks for reading,