Old Man Weather


Outtakes 284

Old Man Weather

By Cait Collins

 

 

“If you don’t like the weather, stick around for five minutes and it’ll change.” I used to think that statement applied only to the Texas Panhandle. Now I know the statement is pretty typical of the entire country. We all have issues with the weather. But as writer’s we can make the local weather a supporting character in our works.

Let’s start in the Texas Panhandle. After one really good year of rain, the clouds have been all show and no blow. Let’s correct that. There’s always blow. Gusts up to 70 miles per hour can do a real number on the landscape. But when there’s been little or no rain, those winds can whip up a small spark into a raging wild fire. In this case, Mr. Wind Storm traps a young mother and her small child in the midst of a fire storm. Seeing no way to escape, she finds a dugout and shelters in praying for a miracle. And then…

Our next scene is a tropical island in the western Atlantic. Honeymooners are enjoying the white sand beach, snorkeling, and wandering the streets of quaint villages. Toward the end of their week-long stay, the clouds begin to turn dark. Winds increase and the tide rises. Hurricane Odin approaches the island. Our newlyweds follow the evacuation order, but as their ship heads toward the mainland, ash begins to fall from the sky as a long dormant volcano awakens. And so…

One more scene. A fishing vessel heads to the Grand Banks in search of schools of fish to fill the empty cargo holds. Not one storm but two storms and a hurricane converge to create an unprecedented monster storm. The ship’s captain attempts to turn back but he and the crew are trapped between rains, winds, and the waves. The ship goes down with all hands. Sound familiar? You got it..The Perfect Storm. The movie was based on the fate of the Andrea Gail and her crew as they attempt to return to port. The cast was magnificent, the screenplay top notch, but the main character was a storm and not a man.

 

Avoid the Cliché


Avoid the Cliché

Rory C. Keel

Teachers of the writing craft are unanimous about avoiding the cliché. Have you heard that one before?

A cliché is the use of phrases or expressions that are overused to the point of losing the desired effect of the intended meaning.

One example might be “Are you a man or a mouse?”

While you may want to express the level of strength or fear in your character to that of a small animal, to use this phrase would show lack of originality in your writing. Try to find other words that will demonstrate the meaning and will bring originality to your writing.

Formatting Your eBook for Publication


Formatting Your eBook for Publication

Natalie Bright

I tried.

With open mind, I tried to learn everything about book formatting, because smart business owners should have an understanding about every component of their operation. Because I kept reading about issues with Microsoft Word conversions, I decided it might be best to make sure my book looks perfect in the format each distributor prefers.

The Scrivener online class was great [learnscrivenerfast.com] and I LOVE how organized my writing projects are, but the power of Scrivener is in the compile feature. I don’t like those 15 space paragraph indentions when my book comes up in the Kindle previewer and I cannot make them go away. Uhggg.

Another online class on Adobe InDesign for my picture books, researching conversion software with reviews out the whazoo (use this one vs. never use it, only use this one…), more instructional videos. And yes, I know there is exceptional software for MACs only. Don’t own one.

Appeals to our 20-something office manager who is supposed to be keeping our other stuff going while I do book stuff. Even she couldn’t help me, and she’s brilliant, so moving on. 1 month, 2 months, 3 months. What did I write during that time, you might wonder? A few blogs and the draft for an easy reader, and we did finish parent taught driver’s education which is HUGE and has nothing to do with my writing career.

Here is a rundown on the different formats to take our book “wide”. In a nutshell, set up an account and submit your properly formatted manuscript:

Amazon Kindle: MOBI

Kobo: refer to their conversion guidelines, but everything is converted to EPUB.

Smashwords: prefers DOC, DOCX which goes through a MeatGrinder, which turns it into an EPUB.

CreateSpace: PDF for print; fonts and pics must be embedded.

Ingram/Lightning Source: refer to the 37 page “File Creation Guide” (yikes! This made my stomach hurt.)

Draft2Digital: Their process creates an EPUB. Good news: you can skip the distributors above, as D2D will do the conversions for free and put it everywhere you want for 10% of your sales.

The Question

So, it boils down to this very important question: would you hire me to do your book formatting?

Absolutely NOT. Are you crazy? You are a savvy Indie Author and a smart business owner to boot. I wouldn’t hire me either, so I fired myself. There is this guy I know who is an absolute whiz and saved me another three months of learning software that I have no desire to understand.

Thank you, Phillip! www.GessertBooks.com

The Next Question

Accounts are set-up, submitted books are approved, tiny prayer for no typos, and then I am moving on to the next question. Who are my readers and where can I find them?

 

The Saturday Morning Blogger – Show, don’t tell


The Saturday Morning Blogger – Show, don’t tell

James Barrington

I generally consider myself a pretty good writer, but that doesn’t mean I know all the rules to be a pretty good writer of fictional novels. That’s a whole different animal.

Four of our Wordsmithsix group got together this week to review our latest efforts at literary brilliance. I am constantly grateful for the input of my partners. I can see my work improving, but I recognize I still have a long way to go.

One (of many) writer rules I’m still struggling to learn and internalize is the “show, don’t tell” rule. I need to want to narrate a story instead of planting visual images in the minds of my readers. While that may be OK in a blog, it’s not acceptable in literary fiction. I have the rule pretty well fixed in my mind. My problem I haven’t fully grasped the application of how to follow that rule. I’m working on it, but it’s too easy for me to fall back into the narrator role. My wordsmithsix friends are very expert in pointing those issues out as I read my developing work. It seems like I make a few steps forward and then I have a tendency to slip on the narrative slope. Each time I’m caught doing that, I get another lesson. Hopefully I’m learning.

The concept I’m working on internalizing is letting the characters in the story reveal facts through their dialogue rather than simply spelling it out. Telling is much simpler, but not nearly as interesting.

“So on I worked, and waited for the light,

And went without the meat, and cursed the bread…” (with a tip of the hat to Edward Arlington Robinson).

And hopefully “show not tell” will take roots in my creative system and become a natural thing.

Quoting the Masters II


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

Quoting the Masters II
By Nandy Ekle

I like to read quotes by authors who know what they’re talking about. I find a lot of inspiration, instruction, wisdom, truth, and humor.

Here’s a few I’ve picked out from other sites on line to share with you.

1, Every first draft is perfect because all a first draft has to do is exist. — Jane Smiley

2. You might not write well every day, but you can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page. — Jodi Picoult

3. Fill your paper with the breathing of your heart. — William Wordsworth

4. You can, you should, and if you’re brave enough to start, you will. — Stephen King

5. A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit. — Richard Bach

6. I wrote my first novel because I wanted to read it. — Toni Morrison

7. If you want to be a writer, write. Write and write and write. If you stop, start again. Save everything that you write. If you feel blocked, write through it until you feel your creative juices flowing again. Writing is what makes a writer, nothing more and nothing less. — Anne Rice

8. Write like it matters, and it will. — Libba Bray

9. Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on. — Louis L’Amour

10. It is a delicious thing to write, to be no longer yourself but to move in an entire universe of your own creating. — Gustave Flaubert
Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.

Bard’s Intrusion


This week, I’m presenting a short story I wrote after choosing a writing prompt from reddit.com. It’s very rough, and the ending is quite weak, but I’m pretty sure it’ll work for a children’s story for my kids.

Enjoy. Maybe.

 

Bard’s Intrusion

by Adam Huddleston

 

Bard took a moment to gather his strength, then ran straight at the wooden door. It shattered inwards in a shower of splinters and bolts. The warrior rolled along the stone floor and sprang to his feet, raising his sword skyward. He opened his mouth to scream the triumphant monologue he had been preparing for years now, but stopped short.

The giant beast before him, the bane of their kingdom since the death of the last great hero, stood hunched over, pointing a skeletal finger at another identical creature.

“You listen to me, Borok! Your mom and I have been over this with you. We don’t want you attacking and plundering with those Kirnee boys. They’re horrible influences, son, especially for a youngling like you!”

“Da-ad,” the smaller beast whined. “They’re not that bad. Just the other night-“

Bard cleared his throat and the two creatures spun around and glared wide-eyed at their intruder.

“Uh, I’m sorry to disturb you two,” the human said. “Is there any chance that we could battle to the death right now?”

The two creatures looked at each other than back at the warrior. The taller beast looked down and shook his deformed head.

“Yeah, well, about that Bard, I’m really sorry. Is there any way we could push this to next week. The “fam” and I are kinda having issues right now…you know how it is.”

“No, Blortok, I don’t. You ate them all, remember?”

Blortok raised his head and laughed.

“That’s right! I totally forgot about that! If it makes you feel better, they were pretty tasty.”

Bard sighed. “No, you moronic heap of filth. That doesn’t make me feel better. And I really don’t want to postpone this. I’ve been journeying for a long, long time to get here. I mean, what am I supposed to do for a week, sit around here watching ya’ll argue?”

“I know, I know. It’s just that-“

“Ah, c’mon Dad,” the son interjected. “Just fight him. Don’t be such a scaredy-chicken!”

Blortok turned around and frowned at his son.

“Stay outta this, boy,” he said.

“Look,” Bard began. “I don’t mean to butt in here, but maybe your son is right. It won’t take very long, I’ll dispatch you quickly, and then everything will be fine!”

Blortok rolled his yellow eyes.

“Oh, whatever, Bard! You’re honestly going to stand there and claim that you can defeat me. Me? In combat?”

The human thought for a moment before responding.

“Well, yeah…I guess. I mean, I am the savior of mankind and all…”

“Alright,” the monster said. “Alright. If that’s what you think, let’s do this.”

Bard held his sword up and slid into his familiar battle stance.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa! Just what do you think you’re doing?”

“What do you mean?”

Bartok shook his head. “We aren’t fighting in here! I’ll spill your juices all over the place…and do you have any idea how hard it is to get human blood out of a carpet?”

Bard looked at the ground then back up and rolled his eyes. “Ugh! Fine! I’ll meet you outside.”

The battle-hardened pair filed out of the room and walked to a grassy clearing a stone’s throw from the monster’s house. They stood several yards away from one another and crouched into fighting positions.

“Ready when you are, Bortok.”

“I was born ready,” the beast responded.

Bard rolled his eyes again and charged. He pulled his sword back, ready to swing in a wide arc. Bortok bore his sharp fangs, preparing to drive them into the warrior’s muscular flesh. Just as they were about to land their massive blows, a tremendous shriek came from the monster’s house.

A huge creature, even larger than Bortok, plummeted out of the front door of the home.

“Bortok Bartholomew Slaverpot! What are you doing!”

The two combatants stopped in mid-strike and turned to the giant being. Before they could respond, it stomped over to Bortok and smacked him on the back of the head.

“Sorry honey,” Bartok said. “It’s his fault! He talked me into it!”

Both warrior and beast looked at the ground and kicked at the dirt.

“I don’t care who did what,” Bartok’s wife responded. “I’m sick and tired of all the fighting! You’ve got a son that needs a good talking-to inside, and here you are, dancing around with some scrawny human! You two shake hands and make up. After that-“she looked at Bard, “you get on outta here before I show you some real fighting.”

“Heeey,” Bard whined. “I’m not that scrawny.”

Bartok’s wife took a threatening step toward him.

“Yes ma’am. I’ll be on my way.”

The two fighters’ faces turned red as they slunk over to one another and shook hands. Without saying a word, Bard turned and mounted the horse that had been tied to a nearby tree. He spurred the steed and sat tall in the saddle as it sauntered off into the distance.

When the warrior had disappeared over a hill, Bartok turned to his wife and put a wart-covered arm around her shoulder.

“Thank you, Fugbunch. And I’m sorry. I promise never to fight a human again without your say-so.”

The two creatures clasped hands and walked side-by-side back to their home.

 

It’s Spring


Outtakes 283

It’s Spring

by Cait Collins

 

I was driving home the other evening and noticed white blossoms on the trees. I was astonished at the beauty of tree-lined street. But wasn’t it too early for blossoms? It was late February and the threat of snow or ice was still out there.

A couple of weeks have passed and the scene has switched from white blossoms to tender green leaves and purplish-pink pink lady blossoms. Soon bluebonnets, butter cups, and native wild flowers will spring up. The crops will be planted, and live stock and wild animals will birth their young. Thunderstorms will rattle the night skies. Hopefully the rain will fall. Spring is life renewing itself.

Wild fires sparked by a careless hand or a defective machine ignite parched grass lands and dry timber and devastate the Panhandle. Hundreds of acres of grassland and fields are scorched. Lives, both human and animal, are lost. Grain for the livestock is unusable. And in true American spirit, folks around the country are sending aid to those who have lost much of their livelihood. True pioneer spirit prevails as farmers and ranchers ask the volunteers to take care of neighbors first because the neighbors need the help more. When the time comes to replant volunteers will arrive and neighbor will help neighbor to rebuild.

Nature thrives in all seasons. The promise of spring, the growth in summer, the harvest in fall, and the rest in winter move in a cycle that never changes and ever changes. Heat and cold; wet and dry; storm and drought build and define human drive and ingenuity. And they fuel and feed the writer’s art.

Where Do I get my Characters?


Where Do I get my Characters?

Rory C. Keel

When we begin to write a piece of work, we need characters to fill our pages. Beginning with our protagonist, our main character, who will normally be opposed by the antagonist. Supporting characters fill in the gaps and make our stories interesting and full of life.

Characters are all around. Every day you’re surrounded by characters such as a spouse, children or even pets like a cat, dog or a goldfish. Maybe your boss at work or co-workers could add that personality you need for a story. And animals can offer the type of character you need based upon the creature’s instincts and habitat.

As you go through the day, notice who is around you and take notes on how they act and what they say.

Before long you will have the perfect characters for your work.

WORDS WITH POTENTAIL


WORDS WITH POTENTAIL

Natalie Bright

At last week’s critique meeting, we listened to a story that had been written many years ago. Even though this writer has improved greatly, it was solid—very entertaining and horrifying—we loved it! The potential is even greater based on the feedback. Written as a short story, it’s going to be part of an anthology. I think this author is on the right track by compiling several of her strongest short stories together in one publication. ( I can hardly wait to buy that book, Nandy Ekle!)
Whatever your work in progress might be, whatever fire is burning in your gut at this very minute, whatever idea deserves your attention, those words can become something entirely different in the future. Keep your mind open to the opportunities. For heaven’s sake, don’t delete it! Even bad writing has potential. You can’t edit a blank page. (Wish I had all of those stories and poems I wrote in college. I tossed that journal years ago.)
After I found my way back to writing, a story I wrote about a cowboy called Cecil was accepted in an anthology published by TCU Press almost 13 years later. There is no way I could have known that I would meet a ranch hand with the same name! Meeting the real-life, horse-riding cowboy named Cecil just added more depth and color to my short story. It needed work and it needed a critique from WordsmithSix peeps, for sure. The story became better because of my experiences a decade later. With the help of my critique group, that short story became good enough for publication.
You may be at a point in your writing when it seems rejection is a clear message to give up your dreams of becoming a published author. The very first words by David Morrell, creator of Rambo, keeps echoing through my brain after I heard his talk at an Oklahoma conference,

“Don’t question the why.”

I share this because I have spent, actually wasted, too many years questioning the why. And now I’m asking myself, why for different reasons. Why didn’t I finish that book? I’m staring at a stack of sticky notes and marked up articles for blog ideas, so why didn’t I write them? There’s no way that I could have known back in 1999 that I’d need material in 2017 for two blogs and three orgnizational newsletters. I would have never imagined that I’d have a talented critique group who could boost my confidence and my words. The struggle to write never ceases. Now I’m faced with a part-time day job that will probably go back to full-time soon, and I’ll be frustratingly juggling writing time. What crazy life is this? Opps, there I go again—questioning the why.

The story is in us. The story picked us. We can’t possibly know why. I have to keep reminding myself to stop stressing and find joy in the process.

“Every story I’ve written was written because I had to write it. Writing stories is like breathing for me, it is my life.”
RAY BRADBURY

Find Natalie’s blogs and articles here:
Blogging every Monday about writing life at wordsmithsix.com
Blogging every Friday about the Texas Panhandle at “Prairie Purview”. Read her blogs at nataliebright.com or on the Amazon Author page.
Sign up for here for the newsletter: nataliebright.com
Natalie is editor of “The Window”, the official newsletter of one of the oldest writing organizations in the country, Texas High Plains Writers, org. 1920 in Amarillo, Texas. Here’s the link. panhandleprowriters.org.

The Saturday Morning Blogger – Continuous vs. segmented


The Saturday Morning Blogger – Continuous vs. segmented

James Barrington

I have written five previous novels. None have been published. I hope I am learning with each successive effort. While the idea of having a legion of fans of my writing is appealing, I have found each effort personally rewarding whether they ever leave the confines of my hard drive or not. In each of my earlier efforts, I have essentially written from start to finish as ideas flowed, but in my current effort I’m finding that the ideas are coming in interconnected but not continuously flowing patterns.

Perhaps my disjointed story segments result from the nature of the story – a twenty-year class reunion being the “current day” and the events of the intervening years laying background to peel back the layers of motivation and character interrelationships. As I mentally “see” action unfolding, my mind begins telling me the roots of the latest developments.

I’m finding this technique challenging, but stimulating at the same time. Mainly I’m finding it a great opportunity to put more depth to each character. I believe it will produce a better product in the end. I’m also finding the wordsmithsix critique group extremely helpful in keeping me grounded with suggestions and questions that I realize I should have already considered.

The Texas High Plains Writers will be meeting today (March 18) at The Oasis on Canyon Drive at 9:30 a.m. For anyone interested in writing, there are always great ideas, great information, and great fellowship. See you there!