Goblins, Ghosts, and Ghouls

Outtakes 172

Goblins, Ghosts, and Ghouls

By Cait Collins


I love kid holidays. Halloween is probably the best holiday for our young ones. Last Saturday night, our congregation held our annual Fall Festival. There were about 300 children participating in our Trunk-or-Treat event. I saw bumble bees, witches, scarecrows, Transformers, Captain America, Batman, Elsa and Anna, Olaf, a fairy princess, and a little zebra. I even met Velma from the Scooby Doo cartoon series. She reminded me a bit of Beezus from Beverly Cleary’s Beezus and Ramona series. Then there were the ghouls and zombies.

Seeing the array of costumes, I began to wonder what drew the child to their costumes .and to the characters. Did the glittery ice-blue dress make a little girl want to dress like Elsa from Frozen? Did the dress and crown make her stand taller, assume a regal air, and create an innocent beauty? Did the Batman costume make a young man feel like a hero? And did Velma finally become comfortable with her knowledge. Did the costume choice reflect a personality or a desire to be more like the alter-ego?

What if I could have sat down with just one child and asked questions in order to get my answers? What kind of story would I write about the child and his character? Would it be a happy tale or would my information reveal a frightened lonely child? If there were only time to visit and learn more about each child, I could have outlined and written 300 children’s stories.


Write to make Diamonds

by Rory C. Keel

I recently conducted some interesting research on diamonds, how they are formed in the earth, the process used in mining these allotropes of carbon and what happens to them on the journey from mining to the market.

Dealing with diamonds the industry uses what is called the 4C’s. The first “C” is the Carat. This is a term used to reference the size of the diamond. The second is Color. This can range from colorless, the most valuable, to a yellow hue. On occasion a diamond of another color is found such as the blue Hope Diamond. These are rare. Thirdly is the Clarity. This describes the degree to which a diamond is free of blemishes and inclusions. Finally is the Cut. The cut is the jeweler’s touch. The angle at which a diamond is cut makes it attractive to the eye and gives it its shimmering brightness.

I have found that these “4C’s” are very useful in writing.

First, the carat. What size does my writing project need to be? Many contest pieces, devotionals, short stories and articles are subject to a specific word count. Publishers and agents may also require a word count in the length of some novels.

Secondly is the color. What is the genre’ of my writing? The answer to this question will not only help you in what to write, but in determining your target audience when it comes time to publish.

Third is clarity. What point of view are you writing from? Is it first person or third person, past or present? Double check your grammar usage and make it proper for the piece; and don’t forget the punctuation and spelling. These things can determine whether your story shines or is as clear as mud.

Finally the cut. The goal of this stage is to produce a faceted jewel where each angle between the facets optimizes the luster of the diamond. The jeweler cuts out weaknesses and flaws to focus attention on the beauty of the diamond. As writers, we type as fast as we can, elaborating on every little detail and sometimes find ourselves in a dark alley away from our storyline; or we add filler just to make the word count. Let’s face it; there are some things that will need to be taken out to make it shine.

At the jeweler’s a rough diamond is placed in a small vice, then carefully and strategically cut, and when it’s polished, it’s beautiful!

The diamond is your story.


The Semicolon

The Semicolon

By Natalie Bright


To separate two closely related sentences joined without a connective.

To separate sentences joined by conjunctive adverbs (e.g. however, moreover, therefore, or other transitional expressions).

To clarify the main break when sentences joined by coordinating conjunctions, which are ordinarily separated by commas, contain enough internal punctuation to obscure the main break.


Painting From Corners and Cutting Off Branches


Painting From Corners and Cutting Off Branches

By Nandy Ekle



I love a good mystery show, especially if it has a twist. And sometimes the biggest twist is actually no twist at all. Here’s how it works.

You begin building the story in the usual way, introduce the character who is amazingly handsome and brilliant but who also has a sad little flaw. He reveals this flaw but justifies himself by listing the rules he has set for himself to control it. Then we go through a day or two of his life to see how it works. As the action/drama builds, we suddenly realize there is no way out for our character. He either has to break his own rules, or he has to give up. The more the story progresses, the tighter the noose gets and we are sure he’s about to be undone. Finally, at the end, just before he gives up, the light comes on and you realize what was forgotten. One of the smaller rules in his self-imposed control. As soon as that loophole opens up, he wins and lives happily ever after.

But then there’s the story line where he has to cut off his nose to spite his face. This is the character who does everything right. But the problems he faces grow huge enough and chase him out on a branch. You know he will have to do something, but everything he tries is thwarted. And in the end, he has to cut the branch he’s hanging from and drop to the abyss. But the twist is that he only drops a couple of feet. That’s when you gulp a deep breath of air and fall back in your chair.

This is great writing.

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

What If?

Outtakes 171

What If?

By Cait Collins


It amazes me how little people know about history, geography, and basic civics. I watch some of these man-on-the-street interviews and cringe. How is it possible young people and adults do not recognize a picture of the Vice President of the United States? What country is the home of the Eifel Tower? I was shocked to hear answers like Rome, Africa, and Italy. Is it really imaginable that our young people cannot put the following events in chronological order: War of the Roses, the fall of Rome, the signing of the Magna Carta, the battle at Thermopile, the American Revolution? Why can folks not name the 50 states and at least half of the state capitals?

I have a couple of theories. One, video games, the Internet, and television have eclipsed homework and study. Two, so many of the text books and extra reading materials are dry and boring. So what do we do about it? What if we write history, geography, and civics better?

Bill O’Riley has hit pay dirt with his Killing series. While not excessive, the descriptions in KILLING LINCOLN put me in the action. Hour by hour events, introductions of cabinet members and military figures put a new perspective on the events. I actually enjoyed the reading. Young people like the books. So what if we take a page out of O’Riley’s play book, select an event, forget the politics and ideology, use verifiable facts, and write the story? What if we revealed the event through the eyes of an ordinary person?

I enjoyed Rick Riordan’s mythology lessens in his Percy Jackson series and Heroes of Olympus series. I began to realize how much I had forgotten and started to research the gods and goddesses. Myths and legends are a part of the culture and history of nations. They are viable influences on history. So what if we took other myths and legends and created stories?

With so many distractions, it’s a challenge to teach our children, teens, and even adults the past and how those old events affect today. If we don’t know where a city or country can be found on the map, how can we possibly understand the importance of events in that country? What if each writer chose an event, a location, or a person, and wrote a story? If we do our jobs well, we will not only teach, we will create readers.

A Thrilling Suspense


A Thrilling Suspense

By Rory C. Keel

Whatever happened to action/adventure stories? Today they’re called thrillers or suspense stories.

This genre defines itself with stories that evoke an emotional thrill by placing the reader in the middle of situations such as a conspiracy or an eco-thriller.

Suspense might include an aviation story set in the past, or even a future time, and may include a familiar theme such as legal or medical thrillers. In thrillers that have espionage, exploration or treasure hunters, the protagonist’s life goes beyond the ordinary.

Thrillers are usually full of fast action and the hero always wins and leaves the reader wanting more.


Attention, Please

Attention, Please
By Natalie Bright

Oops, they’re it is. Their’s no place like home. There use of this word is driving me crazy!

Please Spread the Word

Yes, spell check can be a pain, but for the love of grammar please share this post with your friends and enemies.


They’re—short for “they are”.

There—a place, a physical location.

That is all.


Writing Prompts


Writing Prompts

By Nandy Ekle


I have written about writing prompts before, but I’m going to write a new blog here about them because sometimes they can really give us that jump start we need. I once ran across a prompt that was to write a short flash fiction story backwards and to start with the words, “Finally he (she) heaved a sigh of relief.” I guess that was exactly what I needed because I quickly wrote a story less than 1,000 words. It had a beginning (which was really the end), a middle, and an end (yeah, the beginning). And I had a ball writing it. (You can find it on flahesinthedark.com – search for author Nandy Ekle and it will pop right up for you to enjoy *shamless plug*)

Another prompt I stumbled on was to write a story using exactly 50 words. It had to contain people dressed formally and a fatal action had to happen. My words poured out and my fingers flew and I had a 50 word (exactly) story that soon became an idea for a great novel. Well, we’ll talk about finishing a novel some day in the future.

However, there are a few prompt sites and generators that really do the opposite. These are the ones that are like slot machines. You give each wheel a spin and they all land on topics that could not possibly go together or make any sense whatsoever. I try to stay away from those.

There is one other prompt that I enjoy and it is sitting in a time waste with a pad of paper and a pen. This would be like a doctor’s office, or some other type of dead time space. One time I found myself waiting for an appointment in an office full of other people just sitting around staring at the wall. I decided to describe the room. I started with the gray walls and described them down to the bumps in the sheet rock. I went into great detail with the carpet, the furniture, and finally some of the people sitting in the chairs. I could see all the emotion in their faces: the desperation, the fear, the frustration, fatigue, anger and hope. Before my name was called I had a discovered some characters, a conflict, and a story started.

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


Quiet Please. I’m Reading

Outtakes 110

Release 09-04-2013


Quiet Please. I’m Reading

By Cait Collins

I know the trend is to download books and read them from a Kindle, Nook, or tablet. While I see the convenience of carrying a small electronic gadget, it’s just not the same as opening a hard back or a paperback. I bought three books today. In between work on my memoir and the final edits on my novel, I’m going to take a break and read.

Diana Palmer is a multi-New York Times bestselling author and one of the tope romance writers in the United States. Her recentl released hard-back PROTECTOR is the story of a Texas Sheriff who is always around to comfort the heroine who loves another guy. Hayes Carson knows all about losing the gal. But his lonely days are numbered. Ms. Palmer’s novels are always well-written, her characters well-developed. They are worth the read.

Irish author Maeve Binchy died in July of 2012. Her last novel A WEEK in WINTER. is set in the small town of Stoneybridge on the west coast of Ireland. When Chicky Starr sets out to renovate an old decaying mansion on the cliffs overlooking the Atlantic, the towns’ folk think she’s lost her mind. Her first guests are a hodgepodge of characters destined to spend a week in winter at the renovated resort. This novel has been on my must read list for several months. I look forward to another hit from this popular best-selling author.

An imprisoned evil is unleashed after centuries of captivity and is out for revenge. Atlantean god and leader of the Dark Hunters, Acheron, and his twin brother, Styxx, have spent more centuries battling one another rather than protecting each other. Now Styxx has the opportunity to prove his loyalty to his brother. The epic novel STYXX by New York Times bestseller, Sherrilyn Kenyon, explores the age old question — What happens when the most powerful beings in the world go to war? Ms. Kenyon’s works are the best in escape reading. No matter the genre, she never fails to provide hours of entertainment for her readers.

So pardon me if I request in my best librarian’s voice, “Quiet, please, I’m reading.”



By Rory C. Keel


At one end of the street three bodies lay in the dirt, at the other end smoke drifted from the barrel of a pistol that a man in a trench coat held in his hand.

Who were these three dead men? Why did they challenge the man in the trench coat? What was this gunfight about?

The first few sentences of a piece of work should draw the reader into the story and cause them to read further. A good introduction may tell the reader what kind of story it will be and help them decide if it’s their kind of story.

Listed below are five basic opening techniques

  1. Picture or unusual image
  2. Dialogue
  3. Action
  4. Question
  5. Interesting fact

Try using each of these in your writing and see which one creates the greatest interest in your opening paragraph.