The Great Reward


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

The Great Reward

By Nandy Ekle

Your favorite author has a new book on the shelf. You read all the books he/she ever wrote. You’ve waited for a long time for this new book and you spend the whole evening at the bookstore waiting for the midnight release. You grab the book, run to the check out counter and the clerk has to pry it from your fingers to ring it up and take your money.

You immediately begin turning pages and devouring words, but suddenly realize this will not be your favorite of his/her books. The story starts slow, the drama is over the top, and the inner dialogue makes you want to simply curl up and dream of something else. But you’re so committed to this author that you can’t just quit the book. You have faith that they will eventually pull out all the stops and become the same wonderful writer you’ve always loved.

Pressing on. You’re now half way through the book and a little interest has been sparked. If nothing else, you have an idea of the path the story is taking, or even a couple of different paths. And you’ve begun to wonder which way it will go in the end.

But the main reason you keep reading that book is your belief that this author can do no wrong. True, this has not been the best beginning he/she ever wrote, but you’re a die hard constant reader fan, and you will die before you quit reading the book.

Three-fourths of the way through the book, you can tell the crescendo to the climax has begun. While it’s still a little predictable, and you feel a big flat anti-climax coming up, you are committed. At the point you reason with yourself that you have invested too much time and too much faith in the author to stop now. By this point, you have to finish it on principal alone.

And there it is. The great reward. The twist at the end. It may not have been a complete total surprise, but it was satisfying enough that you’re glad you finished the book. After all, you are no quitter. And one dud book does not make a normally amazing author into a dud.

And that is the lesson you learn from reading this book, because there’s a lesson in every book you ever read.

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

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A Little Trick


Outtake 319

A Little Trick

By Cait Collins

 

I don’t mind researching information for my stories, but I really dislike being in the middle of a productive writing session and need a fact and it’s not in my research notes. I have to save the work and switch to research mode. By the time I find the information I need for the scene, I’ve lost the muse. My writing doesn’t have the spark it did earlier.

I think I may have an answer for getting information without losing ground. I bought an Echo Dot. I’m still in the process for setting it up, but so far, I like saying, “Alexia, what is the distance between Chicago and Lexington Illinois on old Route 66?” While the Dot doesn’t replace in depth research, it can provide answers quickly with little interruption to the writing flow.

I do admit that technology often baffles me, but the Dot does help me by providing quick information. I just have to remember to ask the right question. For example, I asked “When did Al Capone go to prison?” The question wasn’t clear enough. I got a brief biography but no prison date. I should have asked “What year did Capone enter prison?”So not only do I have to train the Dot, I have to train myself.”

The great thing is I can start with a few basic apps and then add others as I need. If I had a smart home, the Dot would lock my doors and reset the thermostat. If I get stuck and a little frustrated, I can download an app that would allow Alexa to tell me a joke or play my favorite music. That’s not too bad for a device that’s only about an inch high and three inches in diameter. Best of all, it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. You can “test drive” it at your local Best Buy or electronics store. The Best Buy clerks introduced me to the larger Alexa device and stood back to let me play. I was sold on both Alexa and the Echo Dot in no time.

Again the Dot will not replace real research, but it is a tool to get quick answers. I think I’m going to enjoy making friends with my Echo Dot.

Things that make you say, Humm?


Things that make you say, Humm?

Rory C. Keel

 

I recently had the opportunity to spend a couple of weeks in the state of Massachusetts on a business trip. Several friends had asked if I had ever been there during the time that the leaves change in the fall. Between all the maple, Sumac and Birch trees the change in color is said to be unbelievable. When I arrived, the trees were still green, however, like a magic trick, change appeared within a week. It was an amazing thing to see.

I decided to take one day and go to Boston and experience some great American history. In my search for the most fantastic piece of history, I found the Boston drain. Many people would spend their time imagining all of the creepy things underneath this heavy metal stopper, but not I.

My query was how long it would take for the city to begin to swirl and be sucked down through this little drain.

 

 

Short Stories


Outtakes 318

Short Stories

By Cait Collins

 

 

I love trying new genres and seeing if I can put a story together. Since I normally write novels, I’m finding short stories to be a bit intimidating. The short story limits my time to develop a character and tell the story. There’s no long way to define the hero or heroine in 30 or 40 pages. My protagonist still talks to me, but she’s a lot faster about telling me what’s going on in her head. I can’t be too subtle in revealing her issues; there’s just not enough word count.

Here’s what I’m learning.

One word can be more important than detailed description. Brilliant sunset says as much as the “bright orange glow of the sun setting in the western sky…” and it saves your word count.

Moria, my heroine, doesn’t have 250 pages to decide whether or not she’s attracted to Aiden. She either is or she’s not.

Aiden has to go a little slower in order to reach Moria, but then again, he can’t be too subtle. He has to make his move without scaring her off.

Forget men, a good dog can be a girls’ best friend.

One other thing I’ve found to be important is getting the details straight. Route 66 is a well known and well traveled road. People will know if your work is not accurate.

While I’m finding the short story a bit daunting, I am enjoying the challenge. Maybe I’ll consider writing a series of short stories and publishing them. And then again, maybe not.

How Do You Define Success as a Writer?


How Do You Define Success as a Writer?
 
by N. Bright
 

The Texas High Plains Writers program this past Saturday featured a Q&A panel of authors. Two traditionally published and two Indie Authors answered questions about their writing process and the publishing industry. Jodi Thomas, New York Times Bestselling author of 48 books, moderated. It was a fun morning, and I was honored to be a part of the panel along with Linda Broday who writes a successful series for SourceBooks, and Ryan McSwain who is an Indie Author.

 
“Secrets of Success” was the title of the program, and Jodi pointed out that each writer can define success in totally different ways. For very successful, tradtionally published authors, success might be the number one spot on a national best seller list, or seeing their book on a movie screen. As I juggle two teenagers, a busy day job, and all of the ideas in my head, success for me is holding one of my stories in hand. As an Indie Author, that is the immediate pay off for me personally, and then the book promotion is another faucett of the business that will continue through the long term.
 
The morning discussion included some great tips.
 
Jodi says, “Pick a lane,” which in some cases mean genre. Do you want to write kid lit or mainstream romance? In today’s publishing environment, I take it to mean considering the best publishing option for your work in progress as well. Every project may be different and writers have so many choices today. 

Jodi told us, “Everyone in this room has talent. Are you willing to do what it takes? Pick a lane. Develop your career.”

 
Linda says to include lots of conflict in your stories and use true events and personal stories to add depth to your writing.
 
Ryan keeps a character file, where he puts specifics about his characters as they develop. His ‘supplemental file’ is a list of changes that need to be made in previous chapters as he writes the new chapters. Instead of stopping to make changes, he references the supplemental file and makes the changes to his completed manuscript all at one time.
 
Traditional or Indie involves time and money, but as I told the group, it’s a completely different mindset. If you have a high concept book and you think readers all over the world will read it, then you have to go where the agents and editors are. You need to summarize your book into a one sentence pitch, and you have to practice that pitch. Attend conferences and sign up for appointments with the traditional publishing house professionals who will want your book. Your book must be exceptional in order to rise above the other 500 writers pitching during that same weekend.

As an Indie Author you have to write an exceptional book too, and then you have some aditional decisions to make. Pick a genre. Pick your target market. Pick a writing organization. Pick a cover designer. Pick a professional editor. The work is endless, but the rewards are extremly satisfying.

The secret to success takes hard work, but can be defined according to your terms. Jodi reminded us of one of our favorite local authors who, sadly, is no longer with us. DeWanna Pace always said that her writing goals never involved big dollar signs.
“It’s not the money,” she’d say. “I want people to love my work.”
Do you live in or near the Amarillo area? Texas High Plains Writers meets on the 3rd Saturday of every other month.

IT Review


IT Review

by Adam Huddleston

 

Ok.

So, knowing how much I like to do movie reviews, and my preference for works by Stephen King, how in the world was I going to get by without blogging about this film?

I saw it at the end of last week with a couple of friends, and I must say, it is a fantastic horror movie! The 1990 mini-series starring Tim Curry will always hold a special place in my heart, but the current iteration, with its new special effects and freedom to explore darker themes, takes the story up a notch. The child actors nail all of their parts as well. The dialogue has a perfect mix of terror and humor. Although jump scares have become quite cliché in horror movies, most of these are done very well, even the ones that the audience could see coming from a mile away.

Now, this year’s version of IT, unlike its predecessor, is rated “R”. It is a fairly hard “R”, tamer than some but more violent than others, so be warned.

If horror is your thing, I highly recommend seeing this film. It didn’t set the opening weekend box office record for a horror picture for nothing!


Outtakes 317

Memories

By Cait Collins

 Wordsmith Six is in the process of putting together an anthology centered around old Route 66. Researching the Mother Road brought back memories from my childhood. I have some recollection of driving through Missouri. I recall going through Joplin, but don’t remember if we stayed the night there or just drove through.  
 I’ve studied pictures of the restaurants and motels along the route and they match my memories of ones we stayed in while traveling to St. John’s Newfoundland and Bangor, Maine. When we moved to Amarillo, we stayed in a motel on Amarillo Boulevard, part of Old Route 66.

The motel had a diner attached, and we would eat breakfast and dinner there. Since there were eight of us Dad has to get two rooms. Each room had two double beds and we got a roll-away so that everyone had a bed. When Sister #5 was a baby, Mom took a drawer out of the dresser and made her bed in the drawer. It might sound weird and wild to young people today, but it was a great childhood.
 I think one of my favorite memories of driving Route 66 was having my dad read the Burma Shave signs. I still remember one of them:
He lit a match

to check the gas tank.

That’s why they call him

Skinless Frank.

Burma Shave
 I pulled a list of sayings from the Internet and don’t remember any of them, but some of them were full of satirical driving tips. Not only was Burma Shave advertising their products, they were reminding travelers to stay alert. Sadly, the development of the super highways spelled doom for Burma Shave signs. They have been resurrected in the western sections of the road and in Missouri. 
 I feel sorry for kids today in that technology has in many cases made traveling by car boring. Highways often block the beautiful vistas we witnessed while traveling. Old roads like Route 66 provided such lovely scenery. Working on my story for the anthology has awakened so many good memories. Route 66 was not the only road we traveled, but some of the scenes were similar. Along the way, I learned a respect for history and for a simpler way of life. There truly is something to be said for the “good old days”.

Jump Start Your Writing Challenge – A weather change


Jump Start Your Writing Challenge – A weather change

Rory C. Keel

 

One day this week the temperature drops to minus two degrees and then rises to peak at seventy the next day, and the week ended with three inches of rain topped by two inches of snow. Now that’s a weather change!

Perhaps that’s the kind of change that prompted ol’ timers to use sayings like,

“Whether it’s cold or whether it’s hot; we shall have weather, whether or not!”

To tell you the truth, sometimes the best way to forecast the weather is to look outside and see what’s happening at the moment.

Did you have a weather change this week?

PROMOTING YOU: What’s Your Word Count?


PROMOTING YOU: What’s Your Word Count?

Natalie Bright

We had a great discussion at last week’s critique group meeting about word count. Nandy Ekle found this bit of information on Pinterest:

Short Story = 7 scenes

Novella = 27 scenes

Novel = 60 scenes

Our current group project in progress will feature six novellas around the common theme of the famous highway that goes through the Texas Panhandle: Route 66. We are striving for around 20,000 words each, but it can be a struggle. Sometimes you have to tell the story you want to tell, however long or short it turns out to be.

Here’s another word count guideline I found, which includes several options I’d never thought about:

Twitter fiction (really?)

Under 1000 words = flash fiction

Under 7500 words = short story

7500 – 17500 = novelette

Up to 40,000 = novella

Around 90,000 – 100,000 words = novel (360-400 page manuscript)

Series = 1 scene 1500 words (a change of setting or location is a scene change and usually signals a new chapter)

Let us know your thoughts and suggestions on word count. Thanks for the comments and thanks for following WordsmithSix!