POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE
By Nandy Ekle
I have a book of writing prompts called 300 More Writing Prompts, and I thought I’d share ten of them with you.
1. Name a novel you’d love to model your life after.
2. How far would you go to get what you want?
3. Have you ever been betrayed? If so, how?
4. Create a short story about your life that is complete fiction.
5. You’re in charge of a murder mystery dinner theater for one night. Describe the scenario you’ve set for your guests to solve.
6. How do you feel about secret admirers?
7. What is your idea of the perfect summer?
8. When you close your eyes, what do you daydream about?
9. Name something you’re never willing to risk or take a risk on and why.
10. What was the scariest urban legend or ghost story you’ve ever heard, and how did it originate?
Short Story Submission
By Adam Huddleston
Here’s a short story I submitted to WritersDigest.com. It was based on a picture of a young lady peeking her head over the edge of an office cubicle partition.
Macy’s head slowly surfaced over the edge of her home-away-from-home like a tiny periscope.
“I see another one, over in Bill’s cubicle.”
The woman in the square opposite Macy’s rolled her eyes and took another sip of coffee.
“Girl? What are you talkin’ about?”
Macy lowered herself back into her seat and spun around to face her computer. Jessie never believed her, and why should she? When you’ve only been released from the “facility” for a few months, people don’t want to put any credit in your perception of reality.
“I know it sounds…crazy, but there’s a little pink dog in Bill’s cubicle. Can’t you see it? It’s right over there, chewing on his seat cushion.”
Jessie made an over-dramatic effort of standing up and craned her neck in the direction of Bill’s workplace. She gave his station a once over then plopped back down.
“Nope. Nothin’ there but Bill, Macy. Why don’t you get back to your calls?”
The brunette temp resisted the urge to poke her bottom lip out; a habit her parents had thought endearing when she was a child, but now came across mildly irritating.
Macy spent the next few minutes rearranging the office supplies on her desk, typing a few lines into the computer, and disinfecting her phone. She hoped the urge to look again would lessen, but eventually, it caught back up with her. Chewing her ragged nails, she poked her head over the cubicle’s edge again.
“Bill,” she whispered. “Bill, its Macy. Don’t turn around too fast, but there’s something in your cubicle.”
Bill Johnston had his earbuds in. The only sounds he heard were coming from the iPhone in his pocket.
Macy watched in agony as the pink dog (she was pretty sure it was a poodle), nibbled ever-closer towards Bill’s backside. It was inches away when she sprang into action.
In a rather impressive exhibition of athleticism, Macy hurdled the partition between their workstations and dove at the little canine. She crashed into the back of Bill’s chair and the pair of them went sprawling onto the carpeted floor.
“Macy! What are you doing?” Bill screamed.
When she finally got to her feet, she looked around for her prey but the cubicle was empty save for the two co-workers.
“I…I was trying to…help you.”
Bill stared at her with his mouth dangling open. Gently, Macy reached over and lifted his bottom jaw back to where she felt it belonged.
A huge guffaw came from behind her and she spun around to see Jessie with her hand pressed over her mouth, wiping away tears.
“Wow. Just, wow. I can’t wait till corporate hears this.”
Bill looked over his assailant’s shoulders at the woman laughing at them. He popped the speakers out of his ears and tossed them onto the desk.
“Quiet, Jessie.” Then he turned his attention to the temp. “What exactly where you helping me with, Macy”
Macy stood in silence, her bottom lip slowly edging away from the upper.
“I thought I saw something.”
“It doesn’t matter. It’s not here. It never was! I’m so stupid!”
Bill let out a sigh and slowly pulled the girl into a hug. He held her for a second, then approached the woman still giggling behind them.
“I wouldn’t laugh too much.”
“Why is that,” Jessie asked.
“Because something left a little pile of pink poop by your computer case.”
Let’s Start Here!
Rory C. Keel
Whether you’re just starting to write or you have advanced into the realm of an experienced professional writer, Quality writing is the number 1 reason people buy your books.
Here are some suggestions to get us started.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Seek advice from other writers, join writer groups and use editors.
- The old saying “Write what you know,” is still good advice. Use what you know as a foundation to springboard into further research on your subject.
- Add a different twist to a story. Approach a dilemma differently. Create a new dimension in time.
- Be realistic in setting your goals. Have you ever wanted to be a Best Selling Author, but you haven’t ever finished a book? Write it, Finish it!
- Write as much as you can—when you can. Schedule reasonable time to write, Publish and promote. Understand that achieving each of your goals for one day, each day, is being successful!
Best Quotes from WWA
The Western Writers of America meeting was held in Billings this year, and I had the chance to attend, as you might have noted from previous blog posts. Here are the best quotes from that four-day meeting.
“Write about your passion. Consider it lucky to follow that passion your whole life. Research is the key to everything.” Rob Word, TV writer, producer, host of the YouTube celebrity talk shows A WORD ON ENTERTAINMENT and A WORD ON WESTERNS
“You have to get out from behind your desk.” Toby Thompson, author & creative writing instructor at Penn State University.
“Thank you for coming to Crow country. The land you are standing on is mixed with Crow blood.”Alden BigMan Jr.
“Western writers have a strong sense that place is special.” Linda Jacobs, geologist & award-wining author.
“Just because you know beef, you don’t know buffalo.” M. Michael Gear, archeologist & award-winning author.
“Bison are not worked physically. It’s more like a chess game.” Kathleen O’Neal Gear, archeologist, historian, and author.
“So many different ways to connect with readers. Be findable.” Kirsta Rolfzen Soukup, owner Blue Cottage Agency.
“Be prepared to get on social media and promote the hell out of yourself.” Cherry Weiner, Cherry Weiner Literary Agency.
“Take a moment to consider the breadth of subject matter our organization represents. We have a great group of finalists and winners.” Kirk Ellis, WWA President & television producer.
“I had to remind myself this is not a documentary. It’s art.” Marcus Red Thunder, technical adviser on Longmire.
When your book becomes a television show…”It’s like ranching. You get the very best people you can to work with and leave them alone.” Craig Johnson, WWA board member & best-selling author of the Walt Longmire mystery series.
“I tell kids, get into the books. They are a hell of a lot better than that TV show.” Marcus Red Thunder referring to the Walt Longmire mystery series by Craig Johnson.
“Write good books; the one thing writers have control over. Never underestimate those characters.”Craig Johnson
Spending time with other writers reminds me of why I can’t ignore the stories and characters in my head, and why I don’t want to stop no matter what life throws in my path. Listening to someone else tell you about their work and hanging around others who are passionate about stories is very inspiring.
If you are a fan of history, the western genre, or stories set in the American West, you might be interested in these organizations for writers.
Women Writing the West is a group of writers and professionals who promote the contributions made by women to the history, culture, and growth of the American West. For more information, visit http://www.womenwritingthewest.org The 2018 meeting will be held October 25-28 in Walla Walla, Washington, or join us in 2019 in San Antonio, Texas.
Western Writers of America boasts historians, nonfiction authors, young adult, romance writers, songwriters, poets, and screenwriters for film and television within its 650 members. We all have one thing in common—our work in every medium is set in the ever-changing American West. For more information go here http://westernwriters.org Join us in Tucson, Arizona in June 19-22, 2019.
Natalie Bright is an author, blogger and speaker. The two newest books in her RESCUE ANIMAL SERIES features a Tennessee Walker named Flash and a registered Hackney named Taz. Click on the books tab above for more information, and check the events calendar. For a funny, Wild West adventure, the TROUBLE IN TEXAS series is perfect for middle grades and family read-a-longs. Coming soon for young adults, WOLF’S WAR is a dark adventure set in the Texas frontier about a muleskinner and Comanche brave who reluctantly join forces to fight a ruthless gang of outlaws. Also in the works from NKB Books LLC, tales from an Arkansas Vet and a book for novice cow punchers about the unwritten rules of the cowboy code.
By Cait Collins
After years of writing for broadcasters, non-profits, and corporate training groups, I was finally published. Our Time on Route 66is now available..I had always longed for a chance to sign my stories. It sounds a little silly, but autographing your works is a thrill. It’s a way of acknowledging writing success.
I so enjoyed our two days in Shamrock at the Route 66 Festival. Not only did I get to sign our books, I had the chance to meet the real travelers of the road. They taught me to see the Mother Road through the eyes of those who built the new highway. I met people who had traveled the route from Chicago to Los Angeles multiple times. I learned their stories and their dreams for revitalizing the old road. One group had recently purchased the Dutch Windsor’s Painted Desert Trading Post in Arizona. They have no plans to reopen the site. The goal is to restore and maintain a piece of American history. Their shirts had the white and red “Cold Drinks” logo from the sign painted on the exterior wall of the structure..
I was flipping through their coffee table book Route 66 Sightingsand came across a picture of the Santo Domingo Indian Trading Post. I had visited the post a number of years ago and even witnessed a trade between the proprietor and a Native American. Sadly the original structure has burned down. It has been rebuilt, but much of the history has been lost.
I met a Park Ranger who works at the Washita Battlefield near Cheyenne, Oklahoma. We talked about how the Sand Creek massacre triggered the Washita massacre. He said “If Sand Creek hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t have a job.”
I was able to speak to children about rescue horses and how they have new lives because someone loved them and believed they could be rehabilitated. And Miss Route 66 spoke of her students and wanting them to learn more about writing.
It was a weekend of joy. Three of my sisters drove up to buy our books and get them signed. They will never truly understand how much their support means to me.
I photographed old cars. (I wish I owned the T-Bird.) And I relived a scene from my childhood. The Blarney Inn is an older motel built in the three-sided design from the fifties and sixties. From the outside the inn didn’t look like much. It has had a face lift, and the rooms have been updated. The place was immaculate.
I guess this is my long-winded way of saying the weekend was a success. I signed books, I made contact with others who love history and want to preserve the pieces that can be salvaged. I met with people who love to write and want to teach others to enjoy the written word. I rediscovered what I’ve always known, reaching out to new people and new ideas helps me grow not only as a writer, but also as a person.
INDIE AUTHOR MINDSET
Several weeks ago, at a Western Writers of American conference, I pitched an idea for a book featuring pictures of a cattle ranch, an explanation of the work Texas cowboys do, and original recipes from a ranch house cook. The editor told me that bookstores will never know where to shelve it, and she is absolutely right. She raised several good points that I had never thought about. My idea doesn’t fit with cookbooks because it has picture of cowboys, not that much food. Maybe ranching related, but it’s not a coffee table book because I’m not a professional photographer and my name wouldn’t be the draw. What about regional or local history, but it has recipes.
If you publish traditionally you must have an iron clad genre, theme and target market. That question will be asked of you in the pitch appointment. By the way, my roommate and I had practiced our pitches several times. Yes, she shot down my book, but I wasn’t nervous or offended, and I really appreciated an editor’s insight on my project. Business is business.
The mindset for Independent Authors is slightly different than taking the traditionally published route. I understand retail selling and bookstore shelving labels, but on the other hand as an Indie I can turn my idea into a book anyway. My target market is the local ranching community, a group I am very familiar with. I would sell it at library and book events in my area. Will it be worth my time and expense to have a book in hand? I’ll have to do the math and give it some serious consideration.
In the Indie world of publishing, I see myself as a writer with a gazillion ideas that cross all genres and numerous markets. I want to monetize my work in every way that I can. Parts of fiction books become short stories in anthologies. The theme for my nonfiction book can be rewritten for the magazine market or as a children’s book. Related topics would make great blog posts. If you’re bound by a literary agreement, you are limited in turning those characters, themes, or ideas into something new.
The mindset of a traditionally published author is slightly different which involves a literary agent and publishing house editor. You may have heard traditionally published authors advise, “pick a lane“. It’s valid advice. I am a fan of numerous best-selling authors who write only one genre and do it extremely well, resulting in very successful careers. Write, write, write, and keep writing what you’re good at. It’s a gamble for those who stray. What if your regency romance readers hate your new young adult fantasy? Will it cause your fans to stop buying your books all together?
A good story is a good story. That will never change for readers. Today’s readers don’t care if you’re traditional or self-published, and probably don’t really understand the difference. They just want to be entertained.
Indie Authors are free spirits in many ways. We don’t write to any pre-set list of rules. Indie Authors can define our own story elements such as word counts, settings, characters, and plot lines regardless of publishing trends set by acquiring publishers. We acknowledge the characters that wake us up at night. We set our stories in the places that call to us. We write the stories of our heart, and that can make for a very satisfying work day.
The Em Dash
By Adam Huddleston
This week, I wanted to provide a quick reminder on how to appropriately use the em dash when writing dialogue. The em dash is typically utilized when spoken dialogue is interrupted. It can be used inside the quotation marks or outside, depending upon the circumstances.
For example, when dialogue interrupts dialogue:
“I don’t know what you’re talking-“
“Of course, you know what I’m talking about!”
For an example when action interrupts dialogue:
“I’ve had this truck for over ten years”-he ran his hand along the hood”-and I don’t plan on selling it now.”
I hope this helps in your writing!
By Cait Collins
Our Time On Route 66 is a reality. Wordsmith Six has worked hard to create our stories about Route 66. The tales span the Depression Era to about five years in to the future. The stories trace the beginnings of the Mother Road to its replacement by the super highways. Different stories. Different points of view. One destination…the Tower Station and the U-Drop Inn located in Shamrock, Texas.
Now we look forward to July 12-15 and the annual Route 66 Festival held this year in Shamrock, Texas. We will be selling and signing the book on Friday and Saturday. I’m looking forward to greeting visitors from around the world who love the Mother Road.
I have vague memories of Route 66 from my childhood. When Dad was transferred to St. John’s, Newfoundland, we traveled parts of the road. Dad was later transferred to Bangor, Maine, and we drove parts of Route 66. My most vivid memory is Burma Shave signs. I would love to make the trip again. I think it’s something I need to see with adult eyes. But for this weekend, I will see the road through the eyes of visitors.