Improvement


Outtakes 350

Improvement

By Cait Collins

I’ve been reviewing some of my under-the-bed and box-in the-closet manuscripts.  I thought I had written some really great stories.  But when I compare these earlier offerings with my more recent works, I realize how much better the new stories are.  Over the years I’ve learned more about characterization, plots and turning points, and dialogue. With new tools, I do a better job of crafting a story.

I’ve also learned that honest criticism is not a bad thing.  I can trust my friends with WordsmithSix to be honest in their critiques.  I can listen to their ideas and thoughts but still feel comfortable in choosing what to incorporate in my story and what to discard or hold for future use.  They encourage me to be just me.

While I see major improvement in my writing, I am well aware I’m not where I want to be and could be.  I have to keep looking for better ways to say things, practice getting into my characters’ heads and figuring out how they will respond to the milestones of life. More importantly, I cannot base my characters actions on how I see things or how I would handle the situation. I must step outside the box and allow the character to map his or her future without my interference.

So what am I going to do with those old manuscripts?  I’m keeping them.  Some of the stories have good bones.  They just need a little reshaping and restructuring.  And maybe the passing years have allowed some good characters to grow up and provide a new perspective on an old plot.

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What’s Next?


Outtakes 349

What’s Next?

By Cait Collins

 

I’ve always had more than one writing project going at a time. Sometimes I put one aside because the muse is working for another.  When the ideas dry up, I move to another one.  Right now I have four projects in the works.  First Love Forever Love is a memoir about my life-long love affair with the sea.  I’m working the edits on this book.  I’ve received the feedback from my beta readers, so it’s a matter of reviewing and implementing the necessary changes.

The second project is Tables, a memoir about growing up as a military brat in the fifties and sixties.  Much of the book is written, but there are stories I want to add.  I’m considering a chapter on seeing President Kennedy just weeks before he was assassinated and how my parents handled our questions and concerns.

The third project is the editing of my novel How Do You Like Me Now.  Kate Walker shows the town elite how to get even…legally.  It’s too long so I have to decide what can be taken out without impacting the story.

The fourth work is my short story for Wordsmith Six’s second Route 66 anthology Holiday’s on Route 66.  I have some ideas but I must do substantial research before I even consider writing the work.

My goal is to have at least two of the projects completed by the end of this year. Now that Our Time On Route 66 is available as an eBook on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, I’m excited about getting more books out and in the hands of readers.  I never really understood the thrill of seeing my name on a book jacket.

OUR TIME ON ROUTE 66


OUR TIME ON ROUTE 66

Five unique short stories and novellas set on historic Route 66 in Texas:

  • A gripping story of family betrayal, deep despair, and a young girl’s courageous triumph. MAGGIE’S BETRAYAL by Natalie Bright
  • A young soldier leaves his new bride for war sharing their life through letters in this heartfelt story. WAITING by Rory C. Keel
  • A down-on-his luck cowboy sees opportunity in a young widow’s neglected ranch in 1944 Texas. SUDDEN TURNS by Joe Nichols
  • A Cherokee Chief predicts Mora O’Hara’s future as she travels The Mother Road seeking closure after a career related tragedy. SHOWDOWN AT U-DROP INN by Cait Collins
  • Raylen Dickey learns the difference between her friends, lovers, and enemies. FEAR OF HEIGHTS by Nandy Ekle

 

Five authors tell five different stories, through five different time periods, and all crossing the same place—the Tower Station and U-drop Inn.

Read it now!

Amazon       Apple iBooks        Barnes and Noble

Carpe Diem Publishers

A Good Read


Outtakes 348

A Good Read

By Cait Collins

 

I have a list of favorite authors and look forward to the announcements of new releases.  Nora Roberts is on that list.  Her most recent release, Shelter in Place, is a great read. We hear about mass shootings almost daily.  Too often, the focus seems to be on the shooter and less on the victims and survivors.

In her new book, Ms. Roberts focuses on the lives of the victims and survivors. While the mastermind of the shooting lives and tries to pick off her select set of survivors, the main characters are those who lived and found a purpose for their lives and peace for the loss of those they loved.  The Mastermind contributes to the novel without becoming the prime character. Her presence in the story is to elicit responses from the other characters and contribute to their decisions and to their fears.  It is the strength, vulnerability, and the determination of the living that move the plot.

Roberts’ dialogue is, as always, spot on, allowing the characters to express their doubts and dreams.  The inner thought reveals so much about CiCi, Simone, and Reed.  It moves each person toward climatic revelations.  I learned about them as they discovered themselves. I could not put the book down.

Settings are another selling point of her work.  She picks interesting places: Ireland, the horse racing and breeding farms of Kentucky, the haunted regions of Louisiana, Chesapeake Bay, and the rocky coastline of Maine.  The reader can picture himself or herself in the locations.  And if it’s a new place to the reader, they create a desire to experience first-hand, the settings.

Does this mean I have enjoyed every Nora Roberts novel that I’ve read?  The answer is a simple no.  While there are titles I have not enjoyed as much as others, I’ve always found good, even brilliant, passages or characters, and I’ve always found new approaches for difficult situations.  She has taught me much about the craft of writing.  I always look forward to her releases because I know they will be good reads.

Voices


Outtakes 347

 

Voices

By Cait Collins

 

On Mothers’ Day my sister posted a photograph of my Mom and all six of us girls on Facebook. I don’t know what all she said about Mom, but I received over forty notices about being tagged in that photo. I started reading all the comments and so many memories came back. You see, they were voices from the past: members from our congregation, kids I grew up with, and my sisters. I could see each face and hear each voice. There was Terry’s gentle and simple response, “Loved your Mom.”

And Bonnie’s “Uh…7 girls. I know I was a challenge for her but she always let me know she loved me. Best everyday day mom I could have had. Love you and miss you Mom!My mother took care of Bonnie while her mom worked. She was another sister to us.

And then there were the cousins. She even stayed graceful and loving when she 8 girls for two solid weeks. I know we had to have driven her crazy. Miss her too.   A Blessing to all of us.

I think the one that really got me was a post from my nephew:  How she ever put up with all us grandchildren is a mystery! Many great memories at Grandma Brown’s house!!!  In fact, it was Grandmas house that was my last stop before I left Texas.

In each comment I recognized the speaker without even reading the name. The comments were so like the people who are so dear to me.

Writers have distinct voices. I can pick up a book without a book jacket or cover and know that I’m reading a Nora Roberts’ story, or a James Patterson novel. Even the Wordsmith Six members have distinct styles. A voice is something we cultivate so that we stand out from the crowd. We have no need to copy another writer, to try to make their voice our own. We should be unique. We want to be remembered for our work and style, and not for being an imitation of someone else.

My advice is to find that voice and build on it. Let readers fondly recall memories of our stories. After all the reader is the audience we write for.

IDK


Outtakes 346

IDK

By Cait Collins

 

 

I don’t know what to write next. Do I work on my next Route 66 story or do I work on the edits for my memoir?

I don’t know when I’ll finish the edits on the last draft of my novel How Do You Like Me Now?.

I don’t know the best way to inspire my students to write about their dreams and fantasies.

I don’t know who my best mentor is.  My life has been blessed with many inspiring people.

I don’t know where I’ll find the perfect place to write my next story. There are many choices.

I do know I will finish both the Route 66 story and the memoir.  I just have to put my mind to it.

I do know How Do You Like Me Now? is my favorite of my novels.

I do know young people need inspiration and as a writer I must help them develop their verbal and written skills.

I do know that I must be willing to mentor others because I have been blessed.

I do know that there are many places where beauty inspires me to write.  Some are close to home and others require travel, but each destination brings peace and the opportunity to create.

I know that I don’t have all the answers, but my job is to seek knowledge.

I know that knowledge requires dedication to study and by studying I learn not only facts but how those facts can impact my life and my surroundings.

I know that it’s often difficult to come up with a topic for my blog, but the fun is in playing with the thoughts and words.

History and Kids


Outtakes 345

History and Kids

By Cait Collins

I teach a group of fourth and fifth graders at my church.  They’re great kids and are really starting to figure out that the past often has a bearing on the present.  They know I’ve been working on a story about Route 66 and have expressed an interest in the Mother Road.  So I’m planning to take them to 6thStreet here in Amarillo.  This stretch of the historic highway is a haven for antique collectors, music lovers, and art gallery patrons.  I plan to show my kids how we lived back in the “olden days”.

This section of the Mother Road is a still a business district with antique shops, galleries, and music.  The Old Nat Ballroom still stands.  The history of a kinder gentler time lives on in a few blocks of the older part of Amarillo.  I really want them to see that even though it’s different our lives were still full and happy and we had technology.  Well, sort of.

I think young people are more willing to learn history when they have hands-on or eyes on the artifacts.  But there’s another reality…they keep me young.  I get to see the life I lived through their eyes.  I get a second chance at living the good times and the bad times through their interpretations of the items they see and touch. And I will pick their brains for a historic building to house my antique pottery and china shop in my next Route 66 story.  The location has to be special because the mission is life saving.  I have my eye on a store front.  I wonder what my students will think about my pick.

A Good Saturday


Outtakes 344

 

A Good Saturday

By Cait Collins

 

Last Saturday a new coffee company opened across from my office.  They had a special going—any medium coffee was $1.00. I decided to support the new business in the neighborhood. So I left home early to get in line for a white chocolate mocha.  When I got to the window the barrister handed me my coffee and said that another company had paid for the first 100 cups of coffee. My coffee was paid for.  Now a dollar cup of coffee doesn’t seem like much, but just the idea of someone doing something nice for a bunch of people really made my day.

It made me think that we all should find ways to make someone’s day.  Writers have opportunities to give back to the next generation of authors.  Schools have mentoring opportunities, kids after school programs might need story readers, judge a youth writing contest, or sit with a young person and teach him to read.  Kids need adults to help them grow and blossom.  They could use a high five when they write their first poem or story.  And we need them to remind us of all the people who helped us develop our talents.

Just an hour, a Big Chief tablet, a pen could mean more that we imagine. So pay it forward and mentor a kid.

Brothers


Outtakes 343

Brothers

By Cait Collins

I’ve always been told that romances should have brothers or good friends. That way you have the basis for a sequel.  I got to thinking about my story for the next Route 66 anthology.  What if I made Aiden Thornton’s brother, Ian, the hero of my holiday story?  He’s handsome, educated, and above all, he’s available.  Besides he deserves his own story.

I have not tried a sequel, but it does have a certain appeal. I can bring in characters from the previous story to the new one.  Ian has recently moved to Amarillo and he’s getting to know the town when he meets Annaleigh Talley, an expert in antique pottery and china. Her china shop on historic Route 66 attracts visitors from around the world. She has been commissioned to locate a tea set that dates back to the Edwardian Era.  Her client is a mysterious British gentleman who claims his grandmother owned the set.  When Ian and Annaleigh meet its Saint Patrick’s Day, the 4th of July and Christmas all rolled into one.

I look forward to writing their story.  But first I have to get Moira O’Hara, Aiden Thornton, and Moira’s dog, Mutt, to the U Drop Inn in Shamrock, Texas.  Shamrock will change when the O’Hara brothers take on the town.

Spring Cleaning


Outtakes 339

Spring Cleaning

By Cait Collins

 

I always hated to see my mom bring out the buckets, mops, brooms, and garbage bags. I knew it must be spring and mom was going to do the spring cleaning. My sisters and I had a part in the ritual. It was a time when we were supposed to dump the trash and really clean our rooms. When mom deemed the house clean, we could step back; inhale the scents of cleaners, furniture polish and sun-dried linens. (We didn’t have a dryer, so all the laundry was hung on the clothes line in the backyard.)

Writers need to do some spring cleaning. W need to take time to assess our accomplishments and our failures, toss out expired ideas and rejected pages, and clear the clutter from our minds. Here’s where I plan to start.

Go through the boxes of old manuscripts and unfinished projects. Keep the pieces that have potential and toss the dead-weight.

Clean out the office supplies. Yes, there’s a lot of junk there. Donate or trash electronics that I no longer use.

Clean up my attitude. If I’m not writing, it’s my fault. I can’t blame it on others or on circumstances.

Make time to write. No more “I work long hours at the office and just can’t look at the computer one more minute.” This is an excuse not a reason.

Understand that others are having difficult times and be encouraging instead of dismissing their importance in the grand scheme of things.

Remember this is a business and not a hobby. Reject my “It’s okay if I never publish. Just finishing a project is an accomplishment.” Really?

Dump negative thoughts. I can do this.

Once the trash is tossed out, commit to keeping my writer’s life clutter-free. Junk and trash are not conducive to success. Besides, I hate spring cleaning.