Dear Apostrophe


Dear Apostrophe

By Nandy Ekle

Time for another lesson in the world of language – sort of.

We know and understand the rules of the apostrophe. (1) denotes ownership (you’re), (2) indicates missing letters (don’t), (3) stresses dialect (goin’), or (4) indicates emphasis within a word (resume’).

This week I learned about a different kind of apostrophe (shout out to a high school English teacher friend of mine J ).

A literary apostrophe is when the speaker, or narrator, detaches from reality and addresses an imaginary character. This tool has been used as a poetic device to illustrate the nature of emotions. It also helps the reader develop a fresh, creative perspective.

One of the rules is that the object is usually not present with the speaker/narrator. A woman goes to work early in the morning. She sits at her desk and yawns. “Dear bed, I’m sorry we had to break up this morning. I’ll see you again this evening.”

Another example would be something like, “Oh, Friday, we look forward to you all week long, but you really are the hardest day of the week.”

You could even do something like this: “Okay, Muse. Zap me with words.”

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






by Adam Huddleston

Before I began earnestly attempting to hone my craft through flash fiction, short story, and novel creation, I wrote a fair amount of poetry. Most of it was the sticky, sappy stuff relegated to the realm of love poems to my significant other. A few were decent; not good, but decent. It was the writing of poetry that opened up the creative channels in my brain needed for creating more complex works and I highly recommend all writers trying their hand at it from time to time. Why?

First of all, writing poetry forces us to examine the depth of the world around us. Poems are full of the color, love, hate, and beauty that make up our lives. It is a generous heart, open to criticism and examination that lets the world in to see its feelings.

Another reason to place poetry in your portfolio is that it exercises some of the mental muscles we don’t often use (just try finding a good rhyme for “elbow”). The poet must constantly be working to make sure the flow of the words is lyrical, otherwise it is just prose.

Finally, the process of writing poetry is fun. You can make your poem serious, loving, scary (I’m looking at you, Poe), or funny. It gives a nice change of pace to those of us struggling to churn out a longer work.

Happy writing!

Stressed Out

Outtake 204

Stressed Out

by Cait Collins


I recently purchased an adult coloring book. I thought getting out crayons and colored pencils would relax me. Instead I stressed over everything. Was I using the right shade of brown? Did I have to conform to standard colors of red, black, white or blue for a lighthouse Maybe the flowers did look like magnolias, but can I get away with coloring them a light shade of lavender? But the ultimate question became, “Why am I doing this?”

I began to realize I often have the same issues with my writing. I have allowed the details, my perfectionist attitude, and other peoples’ opinions to rob me of the joy of writing my story. I have come to the conclusion that sometimes the single word is not nearly as rewarding as a good manuscript. When I obsess over a word or a setting, I lose the spirit of the work. The story becomes stale and tired. But when I relax, when I allow the creative process to rule, the pace is corrected, and the story flows better. Instead of closing the mind to possibilities, thoughts are freed and the words flow.

A relaxed approach to writing does not mean the proper words are unimportant. The opposite is true. A word, a name, or a place has great value, but working with an open mind permits a more omniscient view of the whole work. And like the pages of my coloring book, the details and the shading can be applied in the editing process. And when the mind is not occupied with minute details, the joy of the creation shines through out the story. The pace is right and the emotions genuine.

Am I going to give up my coloring book? Absolutely not. Instead, I plan to color like a kid, paying no attention to whether I stay inside the lines or the tree has red leaves instead of green ones. I’m going to color my way. And I will write my way.


Comma, Comma, Comma, Comma, Comma Chameleon

Comma, Comma, Comma, Comma, Comma Chameleon

By Rory C. Keel

For me the correct place for using a comma seems as elusive as a chameleon. Hidden somewhere between subordinate clauses, independent clauses and coordinating conjunctions, the comma hangs out waiting for a slight pause.

Here are five basic rules to help in using a comma.

  1. Never place a comma between a subject and its verb or between a verb and its object.
  2. When a subordinate clause introduces an independent clause, separate the two with a comma.
  3. Don’t use a comma to separate the clauses when a subordinate clause follows an independent clause.
  4. Use a comma before the appropriate coordinating conjunction to join two related sentences.
  5. When in doubt, leave it out.

Remembering these basic rules will help you put them where they belong and leave them out where they don’t.



By Natalie Bright

When I added fiction writing to my job related and freelance work about 12 years ago, I had envisioned becoming a romance writer. My goals were to sign with an agent and attend the Romance Writers of America conference every year.  As a member of two critique groups, one which is all romance writers, it stands to reason that I’d be a natural at creating these kind of stories. Easy peasy.


The stories in my head are not of the romantic nature.

The characters that interrupt my dreams are young people, most often from the past. More specifically in the old West. Not only have I spent many, many sleepless nights wondering about these characters and their adventures, I’ve also asked myself, WHY am I doing this? I remember being fascinated with history, the Oregon Trail, and the old West at an early age, but I never imagined I’d be crafting historical novels. I’ve since walked many a mile on the dirt road behind my house, staring into the setting sun, trying to channel a 15-year old Comanche brave. Why this character haunts my head is a mystery.

This summer, my entire mindset has changed regarding my writing journey.

WWA is the West

I attended the Western Writers of America convention in Lubbock, Texas. This is a diverse group, with songwriters, poets, historians, museum archivists, writers of nonfiction and fiction, editors, agents, musicians, and newbies and veteran authors.

As a first-time attendee and new member I didn’t expect to know anyone there, and then a very nice lady from Utah introduced herself and said, “I’ll be your mentor.” (Thank you Rachelle “Rocky” Gibbons, SPUR Award finalist of Big Buckaroo & Moose the Cow Dog.)

Educational Panels and Much More

While there, I listened to a panel of New York City authors share facts about The Alamo that I’d never heard before. Songwriters and talented musicians shared their original music every night in the Roundup Room. A panel on writing about the Comanche Nation included great-grandsons of the great chief Quanah Parker!

At a table over a plate of Texas Bar-B-Que, I listened to the daughter of Don Coldsmith tell how her father gave up a successful medical career as a family practice physician to write stories set in the west. His first book came from the discovery of a valuable bit in an antique bin in Oklahoma, which he bought for a dollar. He penned 40 novels which involved a whole series covering centuries of history. She told us about his writing process and about how he never missed a WWA convention.

The Why Doesn’t Matter

Here’s what I learned during this amazing week: these people don’t worry about the WHY.

WWA members endlessly research the subjects they love. WWA members write about the people and the places that burns a hole in their gutt. My guess is WWA members would pen those stories, songs and poems whether anyone read them or not. A writer writes. From this day forward, I’ll strive to write the very best story I can and leave the why for somebody else to worry about.


If you’re a fan of history, cowboys, horses, and anything relating to the American West, close to 600 WWA members share your enthusiasm. You will LOVE this group. Check them out at

Perhaps I’ll meet you June 2016 at the WWA Convention in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Whatever haunts your dreams, stop questioning the why and write on!

A Delicious Torture


A Delicious Torture


I crave the pain.  Nothing can compare to this torture—the sweetness, the aching and the longing.  And I must have more, more, more.

I’m talking about the torture of the bookstore.  Inside the glass doors, among the page laden shelves, the torturer calls me.  It waits to dazzle my senses, blind me with colorful beauty and hypnotize me with the perfume of printed paper.  My fingers itch to touch and caress every single tome.  Even my hearing is involved.  The quietness of the store itself makes it possible to hear the books whisper their stories.

I look across the shelf at the bright colors and catchy titles whose sole purpose is to violently capture the attention of shoppers wandering through the aisles.  There have been times that I’ve seen, from the corner of my eye, a book move on the shelf and turn to watch me pass as if praying that I will pick it up. They beg to tell me their stories.  As I witness such extreme measures, how can I resist? Before I know what has happened, I have the book in my hands.

Then my fingers and ears twitch anxiously as my eyes search the cover.  How does it present itself?  What does the artwork say to me?  I measure the heft of the book and the warmth of the cover.  Does it appreciate my touch?  Turning the book over I examine the back and read whatever words are speaking to me.  Finally I open the pages to see the print and smell the feelings in the book—even adventure has a smell.

The torture of this exciting process is making a choice.  How I wish that I could take the entire store home with me.  There are about twenty books that I am seriously considering.  Which of these children, which of these little darlings is the most worthy? Aahh – the torture of deciding on one book from the entire store.

Wait a minute—here’s a shelf I haven’t seen.

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

Nandy Ekle

Nocturnal Descriptions

Nocturnal Descriptions

by Adam Huddleston


During a recent bout of insomnia, I lay in bed thinking of ideas for my blog. It finally occurred to me: A lot of writing is focused on describing what the characters see in the world around them, but what if we focused on the other senses that we use at night?

Try this experiment: Lay flat on your back in bed, the later the better. Very few bedrooms are in total darkness. What light is available? Where does it come from? Does it produce any oddly-shaped shadows in the room? Do you feel anything other than the bed-sheets (overhead fan, air-conditioning vent, etc.)? What do you hear (dog barking outside, significant other breathing next to you, refrigerator compressor, etc.)? Any smells (garbage from nearby kitchen trash can, vented air freshener, etc.)?

When your sight is diminished, your other senses can pick-up on lots of things you may not think about. Hopefully these will help you in honing your craft.

Happy writing!



Outtakes 203


by Cait Collins


On July 4th, I watch the kids from church play on a waterslide set up in the church parking lot. They were having a great time together. No one pushed ahead of the others or pulled hair. They weren’t fighting. Everyone got along and had fun. Even the insertion of a neighborhood child, a stranger, didn’t make a difference. He was just another kid.

Over the years I’ve learned kids don’t start out hating other kids. Instead they learn to be suspicious, to be bullies, or to crave and demand attention. Sometime the changes are subtle; almost unnoticeable. But the changes begin to take over and Johnny moves from bitter comments to outright cruel barbs. Finally, Johnny and Billy are no longer friends; instead they are life-long enemies.

This type of situation is not the domain of children. Adults fall into the same trap. A careless word begins the suspicion, a forgotten appointment, a lie comes between friends. And a relationship is destroyed. The sources of the problem as well as the progression of the feud make good reading in the hands of a skilled writer.

So how do we go from “Mom, he’s hitting me” to “keep your hands off my girl or I’ll kill you?” The answer is simple. You do it one nuisance at a time. Don’t blurt out the issues. Instead, leave a cookie crumb trail of hints and let the tension build until the final confrontation that ends with irreversible consequences. And don’t leave the people in the combatants’ inner circles out of the mix. Whatever happens with the protagonist and the antagonist affects the people around them.

I prefer to take a minimalistic approach to conflict. I replace adverbs and adjectives with strong nouns and verbs. I let the setting and the dialogue tell the story. No matter which path a writer selects, the climax should be explosive figuratively and possibly literally.

9 Helpful Tips for writing:

9 Helpful Tips for writing:

  • Avoid difficult words, which the reader might have difficulty in understanding
  • Avoid moralizing
  • Don’t force your point of view on the readers. In other words, let the characters say what you want to say
  • Don’t inform, show
  • Include the five senses (hear, smell, touch, see, speak) to rouse the reader’s emotions
  • Avoid unnecessary details
  • Be innovative
  • Use active tense, not passive
  • Read your text aloud and listen for jarring notes