Author. Speaker. Girl About Town.


Author. Speaker. Girl About Town.

Natalie Bright

The Amarillo Club is located on the 30th and 31st floors of the tallest building in downtown Amarillo. I was invited to join a study club for lunch and to present a program on the history of energy in the Texas Panhandle. It’s a very interesting group of ladies, mostly retired educators, several local, long-time business owners, ranchers and professional women. This group is fun. They had lots of comments and questions, which makes for lively conversation and an enjoyable experience. This is my second time to present a program for them.

The view is breathtaking from this lofty vantage point. I posted a picture on Instagram and Facebook of the downtown skyline and the flat Texas Panhandle.

When I got back to my car, I checked the mirror to apply lip gloss and noticed a speck of food. In my teeth. For the entire talk? Gross! I held on to the hope that perhaps the people at the back of the room couldn’t have seen it. I half cried as I checked Facebook comments on the picture I had posted. My Uncle commented: “Eating at high altitude produced gas (Boyle’s Law). You can control it by eating slowly.” So much for hanging on to any credibility for my #authortalk.

Embarrassment and horror turned to giggles as I drove back to my office. No matter how sophisticated and worldly I might be in my own mind, I’ll never escape these redneck roots. I’ll always be a small-town Texas girl, even in pearls and high heels while dining at the top of the world.

The same holds true for my writing.

No matter how hard I wish it, the stories in my brain are not mainstream. Honestly, I had big plans of being a romance novelist. I’d love to write the next zombie mega hit. Or even better, why can’t my muse ignite me with an earthshattering future world adventure that breaks all records as a New York Times Bestseller? Yes please, I want to write that.

Reality check. More than likely, it’s not going to be my book with, “Now a Major Motion Picture” printed on the cover.

The stories in my head are set in the past. My characters are thundering across the wide open prairie on a paint pony, or storming through a clump of Redcoats. In my mind’s eye, I see wagons and horses and Comanche braves. I have no idea why.

The why is a mystery.

The where and who are moving picture shows in my head.

The doing is the hardest work I’ve ever done.

Follow your characters, no matter where they may take you….

 

The Mighty Thesaurus


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

The Mighty Thesaurus

By Nandy Ekle

Writing a story can be a little like playing chess. You want to be descriptive, but still allow the reader to imagine their own pictures. And you want your words to fit your characters.

One thing that can happen, and I’m the queen of this, is getting hung up on the same word. It’s the perfect word to describe what you’re talking about, it fits your character, and it sounds just great. However, it can become distracting to the story to hear the same word over and over. The best way to test your work for an “echo” is to read your story out loud.

When I discover this happening in my writing, I go to a thesaurus—a book of synonyms. It’s sort of like a dictionary. You type in the word that continues to show up on your pages and it gives you a list of words that mean the same thing. And sometimes there are some very interesting words in that list. Especially when you’re sitting at the desk in your office during lunch hour and people are walking around your desk.

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

 

 

 

Procrastination


Procrastination

by Adam Huddleston

     Procrastination.

It may not be the hallmark of all great writers, but I’ll bet it pokes its little head around the corner in the minds of most. It’s easy to do, and if done frequently, it can lead to a serious backlog of work. So, what can be done to curtail this bane of efficiency? As it pertains to writing, I believe there are two main weapons:

  1. There are a plethora of tools available to help a writer keep on track. Most smartphone and computer software has scheduling options that will send alerts at specified times. One writer’s software I’ve used in the past and highly recommend is Scrivener. You can set a certain word count and deadline and it will calculate how many words per day are needed. Very helpful!
  2. Fellow writers. It can be quite beneficial to have other writers’ encouragement when you have a project that needs to be finished. They are usually in the same boat and can easily relate.

Hopefully you can use these tools to help meet deadlines easier. Happy writing!

Professionalism


Outtakes 209

Professionalism

by Cait Collins

 

The outdoor musical drama, TEXAS, is a seasonal event in the Texas Panhandle. The show is spectacular and is loaded with special effects and fireworks. A couple of weeks ago, the young stage manager, Peyton Trueblood, was killed in a tragic accident at the amphitheater in Palo Duro Canyon. Performances were cancelled for Friday and Saturday, but the cast and crew chose to start again on Sunday.

I was privileged to be in the audience for the second performance following the accident. The average age of cast and crew could be considered young. Many of them are students pursuing their educations at West Texas A&M University in Canyon, Texas or at another area college or university. The actors, singers, dancers, musicians, and crew bond as a family. No doubt they were still grieving the loss of their friend, but they performed. From the opening number to the close, I did not see a missed dance step, no lines were dropped, no voices faltered. Even as they opened the second act with the beautiful song “West Texas Rain”, they remained strong, and in perfect harmony. These young men and women along with the older members of the company showed true professionalism from the appearance of the Rider on the Rim to greeting guests after the performance. I was impressed by their courage; by their dedication to their craft and to the audience. They taught a valuable lesson just by keeping on keeping on.

Sometimes I get discouraged when my writing does not go the way I think it should. I wonder if I will ever make it in the business. I make excuses for not getting out my computer and working on my current project. I am not always living up to my personal standards. I have no reason to sluff-off on my commitments. I’m sure I’m not alone in this. So I am rededicating myself to my writing. No more failing to have my blog ready to post. I will have something new to read every critique meeting. No more hiding accomplishments. I will put my name on everything I write. I am a professional writer. And the emphasis will be on “professional”.

 

Research your setting well


Research your setting well

If you do not want to set your story on the city you live in, then get ready to do some research. It is important that you visit the place you are going to write about. Some writers do it with characters too. If they are writing about a murderer, they will go and interview one to know his psychology. For your setting too, you need to know the psychology of the city, town or village in which your characters live.

Below is a broad guideline on what all to include in your research:

City– Small town, city, countryside, country, village

Geographical aspects– Mountains, rivers, beaches, desert, forest, ocean, hills, plains, vegetation, animals

Culture– Clothes, shops, streets, people, religion, language (dialect)

Climate– Hot, cold, moderate, desert, tropical

There can be more than one setting in your book. For shorter works of fiction, having one setting is best, but for longer works, you can have more settings than one. In Life of Pie by Yann Martel, there were three settings, the zoo in India, the ocean and Mexico (the last one was only a glimpse). He dealt with all the settings brilliantly. That is because he had visited India many times and knew it well. Of course, the writer cannot experience everything he wants to write about. Yann Martel never experienced a shipwreck, still he wrote about it. That is what research does. In one of his interviews he said that he researched about animal behavior for months on end on the Internet after he decided that the story would involve lots of animals. www.literaryzone.com

Roryckeel.com

PILES OF RESEARCH


PILES OF RESEARCH

By Natalie Bright

Tracking and Controlling Research Notes

Research notes and piles of reference books have totally taken over my life. At the recent Western Writers of American conference this past June, I had the opportunity to visit with two historical novelists. My question to them—what system do you use to track and control your research?

Three-Ring Binder

As seat mates on the bus during a field trip, Nancy Plain explained her notebook system. She fills a three-ring binder for every book she writes. The information includes hard copies of information she might need to refer to again such as pictures, online materials, interview notes, or library materials. Sections are identified by subject. Main take-away idea for me was a section in the binder just for quotes. These will be an important component for the final book, whether its fiction or nonfiction. Good quotes relating to time period or history of your story can be used for promotion in the way of tweets or other social media posts. I

ndex Card System by Subject

I’m a huge fan of Lucia St. Claire Robson. I approached her at the WWA Conference between sessions and posed the same question to her. As a former librarian, she uses a fascinating index card system. Believing that, “75% of the work is organization” when writing historical fiction, she has developed a system to keep track of those thousands of details any researcher might need for their novel. She scribbles notes on 4×6 index cards, using a different color for each work in progress. Every source is assigned a letter and a number, starting with #1. Cards are then filed by subject. As she writes, she prints each chapter and might add note cards to the pile, if she comes across anything that’s relevant. After the first draft is done, she goes back and picks up that information needed for each chapter based on any additional research and the notations in that pile. Here’s the thing about her system: any issues that might come up from an editor or fan, can be readily answered and verified. Mr. Robson has established a reputation for being a meticulaous researcher. Her books certainly reflect that. You’ll find detailed imagery that transports you back in time.

For more about Ms. Robson’s system, read her blog here: http://www.luciastclairrobson.com/featured/just-call-me-lucia-minutia/

Time to Get Busy

As I type this, on the floor behind me are separate piles of spiral notebooks along with manuscript drafts and copies of stuff related to my novels. On the shelves are open baskets for each book title, where I’ve tossed related material. How do I find something? You might have guessed already. I have to sift through the entire pile. What a mess. I’m hoping to combine both of these author’s systems and get a handle on my stacks and stacks of research.

To minimize the mess on the floor, I’ll use the binder or notebooks to file away the information I’ve amassed to date. Because I’m a junky of used books and dusty old book stores, I’m starting a card file system right away to identify these reference materials. As time permits, I hope to go back through some of my earlier spirals and make index cards for those factual tidbits as well.

For more information about these novelists and their work, visit their websites listed below.

Nancy Plain is an award winning author of biographies and histories for children and adults. Her most recent work is THIS STRANGER WILDERSNESS, about the life and art of James Audubon. www.nancyplain.com

Lucia St. Clair Robson is most famously known for her book about Cynthia Ann Parker, RIDE THE WIND. As her first book, it won the Spur Award, made the New York Times Best Seller List and was included in the 100 Best Westerns of the 20th century. www.luciastclairrobson.com

Keep researching and keep writing WordsmithSix peeps!

Important Lesson


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

Important Lesson

By Nandy Ekle

 

Writing courses. I’ve taken a few. Really and truly, I absolutely love writing courses. This girl begs for homework. Please, just give me an assignment, a work count limit, and a deadline. I guess that’s why I like prompts so much.

“Write a 50 word story it must be a formal gathering where a shocking announcement comes out.”

“Write a short story about a young man suffering from schizophrenia and he and his delusion are at war.”

“Start a story with this line: Looking back, he could not believe what had just happened.”

“Write a story in the form of a diary. Your main character, the diary writer, wakes up in a strange room with no idea how he/she got there.”

These are just a few I’ve used to help jumpstart myself when I get in a rut.

So now, I’m going to give you an assignment, and I really want to see your homework in the comments below. Ready?

Step 1:             Put your hands, palm side down, on the seat on which you sit.

Step 2:             Push yourself up to a standing position.

Step 3:             Walk across the room.

Step 4:             Raise your dominant hand and extend your pointer finger.

Step 5:             Take one or two steps forward.

Step 6:             Make contact with the on/off button on your television set.

Step 7:             Push that button.

Step 8:             Now listen to the silence that replaces the silliness of “the tube.”

Step 9:             Now, write what you hear.

 

Your characters don’t have to fight so hard for your attention without that blasted squawk box on.

And I write this with all the bravery in the world since I’m really aiming it toward myself.

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

 


Favorite Quotes

by Adam Huddleston

 

Writers love a good quote. What classifies as “good” may differ between individuals, but most would agree that it should be witty and memorable. That being said, here are a few of my favorite quips:

“It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.”

Mark Twain

“When I die, I want to go peacefully like my grandfather did–in his sleep. Not yelling and screaming like the passengers in his car.”

Bob Monkhouse

“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.”

Douglas Adams

When you are courting a nice girl an hour seems like a second. When you sit on a red-hot cinder a second seems like an hour. That’s relativity.

Albert Einstein

A government that robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul.

George Bernard Shaw

 

Happy writing!

Timeless


Outtakes 208

Timeless

by Cait Collins

 

Do you ever wonder why certain books, plays and poetry are still taught in school? I have a theory. The classics were written by men and women who perfected their craft. They didn’t rest on laurels; instead they invested time in making the next work better.

Students groan when they open Julius Caesar but the story is still worth telling. The characters have the same concerns as men and women today. We have issues with government and power grabbing.

Mark Twain revealed a dark time in American history. TOM SAWYER AND HUCKLEBERRY FINN did not necessarily defend slavery. The stories revealed a truth that can bring about change. Tom and Huck are so right as boys in the late 1800’s. I’ve met a few shysters who could pull off the whitewashing of the fence with a wink and a smile.

JANE EYRE depicts the times when men ruled and women held a second class status. But it also shows the growth of a young woman beyond the customary role to become a strong and faithful lady of means.

Then there are new classics. I truly believe the Harry Potters series will stand the test of time. After all daring deeds and heroic action will always be popular. And like the previously noted volumes, the Potter books will be part of my library. As will Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series, Craig Johnson’s LONGMIRE stories, and Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark Hunters.

These authors and others like them found the formula for success. They developed memorable characters, had good stories and plots. They employed the basis of grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Above all, they wrote for the reader and not just for themselves.

What books are in your library? Is there a mixture of old and new? Are the covers pristine or worn? Are there some volumes that are dog-eared and faded from handling? I do hope your library is just like mine. I hope you have a mixture of everything and you read and reread your old favorites and acquire new favorites. After all, good writing never goes out of style.

 

Research your setting well


Research your setting well

If you do not want to set your story on the city you live in, then get ready to do some research. It is important that you visit the place you are going to write about. Some writers do it with characters too. If they are writing about a murderer, they will go and interview one to know his psychology. For your setting too, you need to know the psychology of the city, town or village in which your characters live.

Below is a broad guideline on what all to include in your research:

City– Small town, city, countryside, country, village

Geographical aspects– Mountains, rivers, beaches, desert, forest, ocean, hills, plains, vegetation, animals

Culture– Clothes, shops, streets, people, religion, language (dialect)

Climate– Hot, cold, moderate, desert, tropical

There can be more than one setting in your book. For shorter works of fiction, having one setting is best, but for longer works, you can have more settings than one. In Life of Pie by Yann Martel, there were three settings, the zoo in India, the ocean and Mexico (the last one was only a glimpse). He dealt with all the settings brilliantly. That is because he had visited India many times and knew it well. Of course, the writer cannot experience everything he wants to write about. Yann Martel never experienced a shipwreck, still he wrote about it. That is what research does. In one of his interviews he said that he researched about animal behavior for months on end on the Internet after he decided that the story would involve lots of animals. www.literaryzone.com

Roryckeel.com