I gaze into the eyes of the beast searching to find its soul. I am caught in the childhood game of “the first one who blinks looses,” yet he shows no emotion, no rising of brow, no blinking or shedding of tears, just a long menacing stare.

The creature’s leering eye grows brighter with every passing moment, seemingly intent on seeing the space of my existence. My vision is full of his sight, yet I see nothing.

I study his unrelenting look, my mind searching the far corners and deep recesses, constantly swirling, struggling to find some strategy, or weapon or even one simple word that might defeat my enemy and win this mind-numbing battle.

The desire to close my eyes tugs at the lids. The moisture surrounding my orbs in their sockets has become dry and I struggle against the urge to rub them. The creature shows no signs of weakening and continues to counter every glance.

Without my consent, sudden darkness is all I see. I blink. I am immediately torn between two emotions. First, relief. Moist droplets flood my eyes like waters of the sea crashing onto the shore. The fetters that once restrained the rubbing of my eyelids have now been unfastened.

And second, In the darkness of my blink, dread fills my mind as I wait for the wrath of my opponent to be unleashed. Or perhaps he has already struck with such a swift penalty that I didn’t feel the pain. In the deafening silence I dare to open my eyes. To my surprise I find that it was not I who blinked first, but the computer screen upon which I placed these words.

Rory C. Keel



By Natalie Bright


It’s a question I’ve asked myself a gazillion times. Would life be easier if we ignored the voices in our head? Or, maybe not. It’s a delightful dilemma, this world inside a writer’s head, and then I found this great quote on Pinterest:

“Why Write? Why should we all write?

This is what I recommend:

Purchase a small notebook. Post-its. Colorful pages. Plain paper. Hold a pen. Pick a word and see where that word takes you.

Because you store everything in your body: the gorgeous, the ugly, the painful, the ecstatic. It’s all there locked away in your cells where memory, tension and confusion remain day after day, waiting to be set free.

You don’t have to show it to an audience or your spouse or your children or even yourself again. But when it’s written down as a list, as a paragraph or poem or story, you can go to bed with a greater understanding of yourself, of the world, or even of both: yourself in this world.

And at the very least, you know all those things are out of your body. Writing is essentially becoming free. It all begins with a world.”








By Nandy Ekle

Crushed! How could they! I’ve never been so insulted in my life! I just don’t think I can go on.

The earth shattering thing that just happened was I received a rejection for my story. No explanation, just a form letter advising me my story does not fit their needs. They really had some nerve.

Okay, that may have been a little melodramatic. The truth was I probably didn’t send the right story to the right place. I should have done a little deeper research. And in this day and age, when research is just a tippity tap away on the internet, there really is no excuse for not researching the intended publisher.

But it does sting when we get the rejection letters. We tend to take it personally. We worked on this story, coaxing it to life, and working tirelessly on each and every word. We love the concept and believe the tale is as beautiful as our children. And the we’re told it’s not worthy for that particular publication.

But sometimes I think I just need an attitude adjustment. This is when I turn to the masters. It’s hard to believe that someone like Stephen King every had to endure the tragedy of rejection. In his book, On Writing, he reveals that as a teenager, he pounded a nail into the wall of his bedroom. Every rejection he received, he would impale the slip on the nail. He states that by the time he was fourteen he had so many rejections they would not all fit on the nail. And he was not even old enough to drive a car.

The other side of this confession is that by the time he was fourteen, he had submitted enough stories to receive more rejection slips than could fit on the nail.

The moral of the story is, rejections can be hard on your feelings, but they are also a sign that you’re writing and submitting your babies, which is what we are supposed to be doing.

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


The Thrill

The Thrill

by Adam Huddleston


“There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.”

                                                        -Alfred Hitchcock


For works in the horror or thriller genres, the high point of the story comes with a bang; the killer is revealed, the hero is murdered by the antagonist, the kidnapped girl is finally discovered. Fans of these types of books and movies are usually drawn more to the build-up of tension rather than the climax. So, if someone were inclined to pen a horror/thriller short story or novel, what methods could they use to increase this anticipation?

  1. Give small bits of information as the story goes on. It stands to reason that the reader does not want the ending spoiled and feels more involved if they can try to answer the puzzle themselves.
  2. Make sure that the reader cares about the character that is in danger. The closer they feel to them, the more “terror” they will fell as the climax approaches.
  3. Set up the “thrill-causing” events of the story in order of increasing dread. By the time the bang arrives, the reader should be flying through the pages.

Hopefully, I’ve given enough advice to help you in crafting your suspenseful story. Happy writing!


Outtakes 201


By Cait Collins

This past Sunday, Fathers’ Day, I watched Dads interact with their children. Some were very attentive to the kids. Other ignored them. A few were stern disciplinarians, while others allowed the kids to run wild. I wondered how their attitudes might affect their kids in the coming years.

I was a lucky kid as my folks managed to strike a balance between too strict and completely permissive. I had my share of spankings and my Dad’s I’m so disappointed in you looks, but the discipline was offset with lots of love. Their influence on my life helped me become the woman I am today.

So how much of a role do our parents play in our lives? Let’s look at the way we write our characters. A boy grows up without parents. Lacking the family relationship, he looks to the gangs to supply the close associations he thinks he’s missing. On the other hand, another young man who has no family aligns himself with a church group looking for brothers and sisters. He accepts that true love may not be part of his life, but he continues to hope for happiness.

Then there are the characters that have been abused and abandoned. Without proper guidance, they have no self esteem and seek acceptance wherever they find it. Or worse, become abusers themselves. Some take a higher road believing they have worth and work to better themselves and find fulfillment.

What about those who do have good parents? Let’s face it; a proper upbringing is no guarantee of happily ever after. But great influences can help. What if the child rebels? Perhaps he takes up drinking or gambling. There are endless possibilities for writing about the family unit and how the influences play on the lives of children. The manner in which the characters develop in the story makes the difference in an exciting attention grabber or a cliché/




Rory C. Keel

Recently I had the privilege of participating as a Judge in the Panhandle Professional Writers Youth writing Contest. This contest is an outreach to encourage and promote writing among school age children. I am truly amazed at the interest in writing from the students that enter their pieces to be critiqued.

On several other occasions I’ve had the opportunity to speak at public schools on the topic of writing. The first point I usually emphases is –

“If you can read and write – YOU CAN DO ANYTHING!”

If a person can read with understanding and can write ideas, there is no limit to what they can accomplish.



 By Natalie Bright

The color of robes for kings and wizards, making you think of wealth, spirituality, and the world of fantasy. If purple is your favorite color, you are probably a free spirit, compassionate, supportive of others. Your feelings run deep and people come to you for help.

The dye for purple was rare and very costly to produce, therefore only rulers could afford it. Queen Elizabeth I forbad anyone except close members of the royal family to wear purple. In modern times, it can designate things of high quality or superiority like cosmetics or Cadbury’s chocolates.

Write deeper using purple:

Lavender lilac orchid mauve plum fuchsia magenta

I like to write with a lot of emotion and a lot of power. Sometimes I overdo it; sometimes my prose is a little bit too purple, and I know that.

G. Bissinger


The Cast


The Cast

Auditions are now open for your story. You need a cast of characters to carry this tale and it’s time to find them.

First we need a main character who normally is the protagonist. This is the person through whose view point we see the world. This person tells us thoughts and actions, intentions, and feelings. We want him/her to be the good guy and win in the end.

Next we need an antagonist, traditionally the bad guy. This character tries to stop the main character from reaching their goal, whether on purpose with diabolical evil or strictly by accident. This character can be someone who starts out one way then changes in midstream, or can be a person who never changes or wavers an inch while the protagonist grows and matures. The antagonist doesn’t even have to be a person at all but nature or even the protagonist against himself.

The fun begins when we mix it all up. Maybe our main character is not a good guy. Maybe our protagonist is really the bad guy and we use him to show the world the other side of the coin. And then the antagonist can be the one trying to thwart the bad guy.

I have heard some famous actors say that playing the bad guy in a play or movie is the most fun acting.

Open your imagination to the “what ifs” of the darker side of the world and have some fun.

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

By Nandy Ekle

Good Lyrical Writing

Good Lyrical Writing

by Adam Huddleston


Very few of us smelly humans walking the face of the earth dislike songs of one type or another. The combination of music and poetry (the definitions get blurred at times) stirs something inside us. It can elicit a myriad of emotions and good lyrics play a major role in that.

Now, what makes a particular arrangement of lyrics good? The answer to that is as varied as the many forms of music. It’s all a matter of taste. To explain, let’s look at a few of my favorite examples:

  1. The Statler Brothers recorded a country music hit in 1965 entitled “Flowers on the Wall.” One of my favorite lines is in the chorus. “…playing Solitaire till dawn with a deck of fifty-one.” If you realize that a standard deck contains fifty-two cards and that all are needed to complete a game of Solitaire, you’ll see the level of futility the singer is attempting. It’s a simple line that implies quite a bit.
  2. REO Speedwagon had a number of hits over the 1970s and 80s. One of these was “Can’t Fight This Feeling”, a power-ballad from 1984. The line, “And even as I wander, I’m keeping you in sight. You’re a candle in the window on a cold, dark winter’s night” while errs on the side of cheesy, still contains sharp imagery and word flow.
  3. The last example is more of a movie line than a song. Near the beginning of “Mary Poppins”, Dick Van Dyke’s character Bert states, “Wind’s in the East, mist coming in, like somethin’ is brewin’, about to begin. Can’t put me finger, on what lies in store, but I feel what’s to happen all happened before.” It’s a quote with a slightly dark undertone and gives the remainder of the movie its sense of magic and wonder.

While most of these lines are lyrics from songs, we as writers should strive to inject the same emotional power in whatever medium we are working in.

Happy writing!

A Mercy Killing

Outtakes 200

A Mercy Killing

By Cait Collins


Lightening flashed. Thunder rumbled. The wind rose. Rain mixed with pea-sized hail pelted the windows. Tornado warnings sounded from her cell phone.

Lydia stood in the shadows behind the spiral staircase waiting for her slob of a husband to burst from his upstairs man cave and rush to the stairs. The son of a bitch would strut like a proud peacock with his tail feathers in full display. He’d squawk demanding attention. But at the first sound of thunder, the boasting coward would beat a path to the basement and huddle on the futon in the corner. He’d brought that hideous tropical print pile of padding and rickety frame to her home when they married. He wanted it displayed in the living room among her family’s priceless heirloom furniture. She’d put her foot down and banished the tacky piece to the basement.

Why had she married the blow hard? Okay, he’d been charming when they dated, and he had gotten a job fresh out of law school as a clerk with a good law firm. But the minute they returned from the honeymoon, he began talking incessantly about all of his accomplishments. Unfortunately, she’d learned too late, he had no accomplishments. They were all figments of his very active imagination.

Chad enjoyed discussing books, television shows, and movies. His books. His shows .His movies. But when she mentioned one of her favorites, he’d shut her down. “That’s nothing but a chick flick. It has no importance in the grand scheme of things. Now The Lord of the Rings, that’s a movie.” Lydia had enjoyed the movies, but she preferred the books. She’d read all three, but her husband hadn’t read any of them His sole understanding of Tolkien’s work was the spectacular cinematography and acting he’d seen in the theater.

Lydia had soon realized if Chad did not get his way, he would attempt to intimidate or belittle the person who had rocked his little world. Just yesterday, her husband had quit yet another job because “nobody likes me” and “everyone is out to get me”. They’d been married three years and he’d blown through nine jobs. She’d really appreciated his announcement over dinner last night.

“I have decided the business men and women in this town do not recognize talent. They continually stick me with junior clerks and have these inexperienced kids teach me the ropes. And those self-important ancient paralegals think they have the authority to return my briefs and opinions and demand I correct my errors. That’s a woman’s work. If it weren’t for men like me, those old biddies wouldn’t have jobs.”

She had said nothing, having heard the speech before. But this time, he proposed a different solution to his problems.

“Monday morning, you and I are going down to the bank and you will set me up with a line of credit. A million should do it. It won’t put a dent in that inheritance of yours. Then I’m going to open my own law office and run it my way. You just wait, Lydy baby, I’ll be adding big bucks to our income very soon.”

“No, Chad, I will not waste my money on your foolish venture. You’ll lose the whole million within six months and demand more. Find a job and try to get along.”

He slammed the vintage Waterford crystal wineglass on the table top. The fragile glass shattered. Fine cabernet spread across the top of the ebony Duncan and Phyfe table.

“See what you did, bitch? Your stupidity ruined a good meal and a fine glass of wine.”Chad jumped up, toppling the antique chair cracking the slats. “You will give me the money and whatever else I demand of you. Now you get your ass out of that chair, get upstairs, and get ready for bed. My wife will at least act like she enjoys having a stud in her bed.”

He turned his back and climbed the stairs to his “office”.

His wife! Stud! She almost vomited. “We’ll just see about that” She slept in the guest room with the door locked and with a chair braced under the door knob.

Lydia’s thoughts returned to the present. Forensic specialist, Lydia Lawler, was no man’s fool and the idiot upstairs was about to learn the last lesson of his miserable life.

The lights flickered and went out. Thunder boomed and rattled the windows. Upstairs, a door slammed against a wall. Footsteps pounded down the hallway.

Chad’s feet slipped as he ran down the shinning oak floors. He lost his flip-flops at the head of the stairs just before he began rolling head over heels down the steps, landing with a thud on the cold marble floor at the base of the staircase.

Lydia shined the light on the crumpled form in front of her. “Oh, you poor dear. I forgot to tell you Edna was waxing the floors this morning. I’m sorry you slipped.

“Can’t move,’ he whispered.

“Can’t move? What a pity.”

“Help me.”

“Of course, stud”

She plucked a pillow from the bench in the entry and placed it under his head. “There. Does that feel better?”


“I can’t do that. My cell phone is dead. The land-line is down. And look,” she picked up an object from the floor, “your cell phone is broken. My. My. What should we do?”

The tornado warning sirens wailed.

“I must get to the basement. Maybe the tornado will go away and leave you alone. But then I’ve wanted you to go away and leave me alone for years. How does it feel to be on the receiving end of things?”

“Leave the light.”

“But it’s the only flashlight I have. Do you want me to fall down the basement steps?” A mean smile appeared. “I don’t think so. Good-bye, Chad.”

He heard the snick of the closing door and the click of the lock sliding into place. And then dead silence. The air grew thick and breathing became difficult. From the silence the sound of a freight train grew. Trees splintered, The roof over the sun porch lifted as the front windows shattered and front walls were pulled from the foundation.

Chad felt his body lift from the floor and rise up into the swirling funnel. No one heard his final scream.

Chad Lawler’s corpse was found impaled on a broken tree limb a week following the destruction. Scavengers had been at the remains. It was a gruesome sight. He was buried without ceremony in a newly purchased plot as far from the widow’s family plot as possible. Only the minister and the widow attended the brief service.

I have always believed writing to be good therapy. I’m feeling much better now.