A Great Experience

A Pinch of Rodeo

By Joe R. Nichols


A Great Experience

I’ve never been paid to be a pick-up man at a rodeo.

My experience has only been at college practice sessions, or trying out horses.

When people watch a rodeo, the men who assist bronc riders safely to the ground, and clear the arena, mostly go unnoticed. If they’re doing a good job, there is no reason for the average spectator to pay any attention to their duties.

I’ve always wanted to be involved at the Cal Farley’s Boy’s Ranch. My wife and I have no children of our own, yet young kids are very important to us. I have personally seen how the sport of rodeo can change and effect lives for the better. A dear friend of mine has given me the opportunity to be a part of this great organization. J.B. asked me to help him pick-up at the practice sessions for the Labor Day Rodeo.

This is the biggest and most important event at the Boy’s Ranch for the whole year. The young women at Girls Town are also involved all the way.

I’m only there to try and help, not to take over or get in the way. J.B. is not there for any benefit for himself, only to help and improve the kid’s chances, in and out of the arena. That’s what I’d like to do as well. Surely, my knowledge of the rodeo events could effect someone in a positive way.

I’m honored to have been asked to help pick-up at the Labor Day Rodeo. I hope I do a good job and can live in the moment. These kids are phenomenal. They come from everywhere and anywhere, and they try harder than most kids.

I wish them the best, at this rodeo, and for the rest of their lives.

The Dump


The Dump 

By Nandy Ekle


“The most important things to remember about back story are that (a) everyone has a history and (b) most of it isn’t very interesting.”

Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

One time I read a story with a very complicated plot. A lot of this plot depended on the 200-year family history. The author had an incredible tale, but I was never able to finish it because the first one hundred pages gave the whole history at once. It was a very convoluted history with lots of characters and lots of twists and turns.

This is called information dump. I asked the author about the reason for placing the backstory at the front of the book in one giant swallow and the answer was that it was critical to understanding the present day story. And this was, to some extent, true.

However, there are other ways to accomplish this. If you’ve ever read any Stephen King books, you’ve seen this done brilliantly.

One of his methods is with dialogue. Two who have not seen each other in a while will have a conversation bringing each other up to date on news from the past. This can also be used to drop clues as to the trickier parts of the story.

Another one of Mr. King’s methods is to start the story at a place in the backstory as if it’s happening at that moment. After the pertinent information is out, he flashes forward to the actual story.

Another interesting way to get the history out there for the reader is in dreams. This can be fund because dreams are symbolic and just about anything can be used to transfer the important history.

And, of course, there’s always flashbacks. But always remember, elephants are best eaten one bite at a time instead of all at once.

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

A Writer’s Thanksgiving

Outtakes 175

A Writer’s Thanksgiving

By Cait Collins


Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day. At noon I will sit down with my family and enjoy a turkey dinner and fellowship. I’m saddened that this holiday is downplayed. The day after Halloween, the Christmas ads and Christmas specials began. It was as if there was no holiday between Halloween and Christmas. But this day is special. It’s a time to remember all that I have to be thankful for and my writing talent is just one of them. I would like to share my blessings as a writer.

  • I can read and write. How many people around the world cannot enjoy opening a book and reading a story? How many are unable to writer their own name?
  • I had parents who encouraged me to read and write; who wanted me to get an education and use what I learned to better myself.
  • I have supported myself with my writing. My jobs have allowed me to write, to have my work aired in newscasts, commercials, and documentaries. My sales materials were published to ad agencies across the country, and my proposals resulted in ad sales. Now I write letters to clients explaining provisions of their contracts. I may not have a published novel, but I am published.
  • I am limited only by my own drive and imagination.
  • I can write what I want to write. Freedom of speech and expression is a keystone of our culture.
  • I had good teachers who never allowed me to get away with less than my best.
  • I have friends in the writing community who stand by me when the work is progressing well and encourage me when I’m blocked.
  • I have been fortunate to meet other writers who were willing to share their experiences and help me become a better writer.
  • I have the best critique group and circle of beta readers.
  • Researching and writing helps to keep my mind sharp. True, if I don’t put events on my calendar, I forget, but dates, places, and people are often etched in my memory.
  • I don’t reach retirement age as a writer until I have no more stories to tell.

Yes, this writer is thankful. We have been given the gift of informing, inspiring, and entertaining. And because of this gift, we all should have a list of writer’s blessings. Think about it and I’m sure you will agree.

Happy Thanksgiving.



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.


A Perfect Writing Space

A Perfect Writing Space 

By Natalie Bright

We have a lovely home office. Oak bookcases span one entire wall from floor to ceiling and a leafy plant engulfs a huge picture window, with two comfy chairs – one for typing at the desk and one for reading. It is the perfect place to dream, imagine, explore words, and create. When it came to the work in progress, I couldn’t write a darn thing in that room.

Instead, the kitchen table called out to me. Smack in the middle of an open floor plan, I watched television, the kids, the dogs in the backyard, and the pot bubbling on the stove. Kitty watches the world from the window sill, and even though my mother has been gone eight years now, I have her aloe vera just behind me and the lively family of chickens she painted. I feel like I can create in this spot.

The topic of my story was a difficult one. For fifteen years the story of our first son has been on my heart and mind. Finally, in the middle of today’s chaos notes on loose papers, partial outlines, and journal entries came together. GONE NEVER FORGOTTEN is an eBook about hope and healing for families who have suffered the loss of a baby.

What surprised me was that my productive home office had abandoned me. So beware, fellow writers, the perfect writing space may relocate without giving notice.

What about you – have you found your perfect writing space?

Natalie Bright

Learning how to lose – Part Three

A Pinch of Rodeo

By Joe R. Nichols

Learning how to lose – Part Three

Riding broncs provides a completely different way to lose. So many variables that are out of your control. For instance, the opinion of the judges.

Or; the men opening the gate can give you a bad start, not intentionally, usually by not paying attention, or just not understanding the importance of their job. The flank man can miss pull the flank for several reasons, or just not have it adjusted right. The pick-up men can get in the way and distract the horse. It might have rained and some horses won’t buck well in the mud. The stockman loading the horses might put your horse in the front chute when he wants to circle to the right, giving him no room to do so. Or maybe they put him out of a right hand delivery when he always circles left. Lot’s of things get overlooked during a rodeo performance because of the time limits and pressure to keep the event moving fast. When you draw a good horse, you expect to win, and it’s very frustrating when someone on the labor crew screws up your chance.

Sometimes, a bucking horse just won’t have his day, for no reason anyone can explain. In San Francisco, 1985, I place in the second go-round, and qualified for the short-go. First or second place was out of reach, but third in the average was mine with a score of seventy-three or better. They had previously scored seventy-six and seventy-seven in his first two outs on the horse I drew. I watched the film of him, and he was just a good solid bronc. I couldn’t wait. He started good and I was tapped off. He weakened, but I couldn’t tell what my score would be. Sixty-seven points later, I wanted to puke. I split sixth in the average three ways for a check you couldn’t pay for a six-pack of beer with. Go figure.

One more example of a hard loss to take. The New Mexico State Finals. A two go-round good amateur rodeo. I won second in the first round, and had kind of a rank horse for my second one. Big John of Edgar Wilson’s. Big Bay horse that would go about four jumps down the arena, then turn back and spin to the left. Hard son-of-a-gun to ride. Even though I knew his pattern, he still dumped me to the outside of the spin. I spent three seconds of the ride pushing off my right stirrup, trying to get square in the saddle. Finally, I got back in position and finished the ride well. The instant I heard the eight second horn, I reached down with my free hand and double grabbed my rein. I had all I wanted of Big John.

Even though I had my difficulties riding this horse, I figured I should still win third in the round, and that would be plenty good to win the overall average.

One judge gave me a no score, said I reached down before the whistle. I made my case, saying I heard the whistle, then double grabbed. He said no, I grabbed with my free hand just before the horn sounded. I said, “If I was going to grab down, I would have done it when I was hanging off like some kind of growth on the side of the horse, not after I got back in the middle of him.” He wasn’t interested in my theory.

Behind the chutes, a friend said to me, “You know why that happened, don’t you?”

“I guess I don’t,”

“The buzzer is at the other end of the arena. You heard the sound before the judge did.” I didn’t know, he didn’t know. He wasn’t trying to cheat me, it was just a circumstance. There’s lot’s of ways to lose, none of them good.

It takes perseverance and a good attitude to prevail, no matter what trail in life you’re heading down.

Top of the Ferris Wheel


Top of the Ferris Wheel

By Nandy Ekle


We hadn’t watched one of those court shows in forever. You know what I’m talking about—the Jerry Springer type judges, hearing the cases of Jerry Springer type parties. The cases sound contrived, the judges sound scripted, and the parties scream and yell at each other when the judge bangs her gavel.

As we flipped through the channels we came across one of these shows and decided to watch for a minute. There were two women, two best friends, who were suing a carny man. Their claim was negligence. They had been trapped at the top of the ferris wheel for more than five minutes. One of the women suffered from severe acrophobia, fear of heights.

The story was that one of the women, the one who was not afraid of heights, decided to administer some psychotherapy to her friend. The best way to overcome an irrational fear is to face it. So she talked her acrophobic friend into getting on the ferris wheel at the state fair. After all, the ferris wheel is a very tame ride—no terrifying speed, no slowly climbing mountains to plummet down toward the earth with a promise of death. You simply sit in a bucket and look at the landscape as the wheel turns.

As you can imagine, the wheel stopped while the two women were at the very top due to a sudden mechanical problem. According to the carny man, the wheel is inspected three times a day, so the sudden problem was very unexpected and the man immediately stopped the ride.

The acrophobic woman had a panic attack. She began screaming and flailing causing the bucket to rock and bounce. As her panic turned into outright terror, the door of the bucket flew open, causing her fit to peak, and the other woman also began to flail around.

Eventually the wheel was repaired enough to bring the women back to the bottom so they could leave and go on their merry little lawsuit-for-pain-and-suffering way.

After listening to this story in total disbelief, I realized what the women were describing was the perfect image of plot writing. You have a character with a problem who wants a solution to their problem. Then you have them do something so different from anything they’ve ever done before, only for everything that can go wrong to . . . go wrong. Then you have a character who seems to be at fault for every problem that comes up. And finally, we have the secret bad guy, the one who stands behind the machinery with a pair of wire cutters.

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



To the Extreme

Outtakes 120


To the Extreme

by Cait Collins

I have a lot of respect for my doctor, but I hate taking medications. Medicines and I often do not get along. So whenever the doc suggests a course of treatment, I start researching a holistic approach. I visited one of our local health food stores recently to gather information to discuss with my doctor. I’d had dealings with the folks in this store in the past, so I was really surprised when I encountered the Health Food Maniac.

“I can help you but you have to be willing to change your diet.”

“What do you mean by change my diet?”

She handed me a sheet of paper. Both sides were covered with lists of food to avoid. There was a small section of approved foods. No more junk food, which meant anything she considered unfit for human consumption. The list continued. Soft drinks, chewing gum, cookies, throat lozenges, milk, processed cheese, breath mints, oranges, grapefruit, soup, pasta, white flour, white rice, margarine, corn, and Cool Whip were banned substances.

While I was recovering from the shock of fasting for the remainder of my days, she began she began a campaign of it’s your fault. “So you work 80 hours a week. You don’t have time to cook healthy food.”  “It’s your choice, but if you want to get better…” “You’ll need to take this.” She began to place boxes and bottles on the counter.

I tried to make sense of this nonsense. Where was the sweet, compassionate gentleman I worked with before? I picked up the sheet and left the store. Wow, what a witch. I don’t respond well to the “my way or the highway” mentality.

My disgust turned to an idea. The health food nut would make a great character in a novel. I saw so many possibilities. She is so obsessed with her causes she alienates her family and friends. Or she gets careless in her pursuit of her desires and destroys the lives of her neighbors. Or she could be the comic relief character.

Extreme characters can be fun.  They can be annoying or terrifying. But they are interesting and they are remembered. Think about some of the way-out folks you’ve met and how their obsessive traits can be written to add sizzle to a story? The people we encounter on a daily basis can be a fantastic tool in our writing arsenals. Do some people watching, write mini character sketches. Keep a file of these wacky folks and use them judiciously. There’s really something special about extreme characters.

After School

Outtakes 174

After School

by Cait Collins


Recently I spent a day cleaning out the closet in my study. I knew there were a number of boxes of supplies I used for teaching younger kids, but I was surprised to see all the craft naterials and project books I’d purchased over the years. Since I no longer teach the early childhood groups, I decided to box everything up and find a group that could use the supplies. A teacher friend told me they have an after school program for the kids, but there was no real budget for materials. She said they would be thrilled to have arts and crafts supplies.

I started thinking about all the education programs that go either under-funded or unfunded. Is there a place for us in enhancing the teaching of our kids? Of course we can help by donating craft supplies and small notebooks for journaling, but what about giving our time? Would the schools welcome writers coming in and helping students with homework, or writing projects? Maybe those who illustrate children’s books could assist with art projects.

I do believe we all have a place in educating our kids. It doesn’t have to be a big event. It could be something as simple as sitting with a child who is struggling with reading and helping him to improve his skills. Maybe it’s teaching colors or numbers. Perhaps it’s just allowing a child to have one-on-one time with a mentor. Why not check with your local school district administration and find out what opportunities are available? Helping one child improve his skills is worth the effort. That child might one day write the great American novel, or become a great teacher. It begins with a telephone call.