Service


Outtakes 365

Service

By Cait Collins

 

Good service matters.  I think we sometimes forget this.  The business type doesn’t matter as much as how a customer is treated when they walk through the door.  I had an unfortunate encounter with a post.  The thing just stepped out in front of me and broke my bumper.

I called my insurance company and they recommended several body shops.  I was thrilled to learn Drury body shop was on their list.  They repaired my car after a young man rear-ended me.  I was treated like royalty.  I called them and made an appointment.  They checked the damage and told me what parts they would order.  They set a date for me to bring the car in.  When I arrived I was treated like royalty.  They called the rent car company to let them know I was ready for them to come get me and then promised updates on the progress of my repair.

I received an update about two hours later letting me know the repair was in progress.  Around 3:30 I received a text telling me my car would be ready for pick at 5 PM.  I couldn’t believe it.  When we set the appointment they told me four days, but it was all done in one day.  And the final total was about half the original estimate.  When I arrived to pick up the car, it looked like new.  On top of the great repair job, they had detailed both the interior and exterior.  That’s service.  I’d recommend this shop to everyone.

I so appreciated the service I received, it made me wonder if I am as thoughtful of my customers.  I’m not just talking about the people who are my work customers.  I am also considering my readers.  Do I always try to see my plots and characters from their viewpoint? Do I use enough description to bring them into the setting?  Are the characters believable?  Have I done my research?  Do I settle for okay when the story could and should be magnificent?

Will the ending satisfy my readers?  Have I provided the royal treatment for the reader? Will they want to buy the next story? If even one of these questions has a negative response, then I have failed the service test.  I think my readers deserve better than mediocre efforts.

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Holiday Thoughts


Outtakes 364

Holiday Thoughts

By Cait Collins

 

Thanksgiving is two days away and Christmas will be here before we are ready. With so much going on I find myself making excuses for not working on my writing projects.  This year I have set a challenge for myself.  I will work on my projects each evening.  Even if it’s only thirty minutes or an hour, it will dedicate time to editing or writing at least a paragraph each day.

Enjoy the holidays, but do not neglect those projects.  It saves backtracking after the festivities have ended.

What Did You See?


Outtakes 363

What Did You See?

By Cait Collins

 

 

Test your powers of observation.

You are standing in line at the bank.  Every teller is busy.  Each teller has five or six people in his line.  It’s nearly 5:00 P.M on Friday.  The lobby is warmer than usual.  The teller for your line is moving slowly.  You’re getting impatient.  Just when you start complaining about the sloppy service, the patron at the counter leaves.  The teller’s face is pale and her hands are shaking.  You place your deposit on the counter and put your palms flat on the polished wood counter top.  She hesitates, and says “Excuse me.  I’ll be right back.”  A few minutes pass and the bank manager comes to the window.  “I apologize for the inconvenience, but I need you to move to the window on your right.”  Not so fast, I’ve been waiting for half an hour.”  “Please cooperate.  The bank’s just been robbed.”

The police arrive and begin questioning the customers.  Put yourself in the shoes of the witnesses.  Answer the following questions from the point of view of the following patrons:  yourself, a harried young mother with three small children, and the teller.

 

What did you see?

Was the person in front of you male or female?

Height, build, hair color?

What was the suspect wearing?

Did you notice any jewelry, glasses?

Did you touch anything at the counter?

 

This really happened.  I was the person standing in line and getting impatient because I was running late for my shift at the Disney Store.  Not only did I give a statement to the police, the FBI interviewed me.  I could give them the gender, height, hair color, clothing, glasses, yes, I had touched the counter top.  The FBI agent showed me a picture of the suspect leaving the building. My description was accurate.  It’s been nearly 15 years and I still remember the look on the teller’s face and remember her apology for walking away from me when I came up to her window.  I can describe the teller and the suspect.  And I remember that “I don’t believe this is happening feeling.

Writers must be observant.  We must look around and really see the scene.  Do you go to the mall and watch the people?  A couple of hours after leaving the mall could you describe at least one person?  What did you smell? What did you hear?  Observing not only the place but also the sounds, scents, colors, and people allows us to recreate a similar scene in our stories. Observation empowers our work. Test yourself next time you’re out and about.  Look around. What do you see?

Memories


Outtakes 361

 

Memories

By Cait Collins

I was looking for a Halloween sweater the other day and ran across an old autograph album.  It was a gift from the youth group from our congregation when Dad was transferred to Maine in 1962.  Autograph albums were the rage back in the 60’s.

The white cover with gold embossed images is worn with age, but the notes and signatures brought back so many memories. The ink and pencil words and drawings have not faded.  As I read the messages I began to put faces with names.  Sometimes the face escaped me, but I still found much that brought a smile, a raised eyebrow, and a few tears.  The memories were good.

It’s strange that this book was found shortly after I received a note from my older sister who lives in Wichita Falls.  She asked me what I thought about writing a memoir about growing up back in the 60’s.  I called her and asked, “What would you say if I told you I have about nine chapters written?”

I think I surprised her.

Rainy Days and Mondays


Outtakes 360

 

Rainy Days and Mondays

By Cait Collins

Rain in the Texas Panhandle has two basic characteristics; too much or not enough. My sisters and I were driving home to Amarillo from Norman, Oklahoma a couple of weeks ago.  Rain followed us the entire way.  But when we finally made it to the south end of Amarillo that we encountered flooded streets.  My sister’s new Jeep did okay with the high water, but the real problem was the drivers who refused to take precautions when driving through the flood. They seemed to speed up when they approached a flooded section and threw muddy water on to the cars beside them. I breathed a sigh of relief when we pulled up in front of my apartment.

The deluge continued Monday morning.  I knew the areas that were often shut down when it rained so I planned to take an alternate route to work on Monday morning. Having been through heavy down-pours before, I packed extra shoes, a pair of slacks, and a towel. Juggling my dry clothes, my purse, and my briefcase, I braved the elements.

Rain continued, alternating between sprinkles and blinding down pours. I made it to the turn-off and turned right into a river fueled by the heavy rain and runoff. I was about half way to the office when I finally reached a wet but clear city street. The luck followed me to the

Office. Meandering my way from the car to the office door I escaped into the warm building My feet were soaked, my purse soaked, the wheels on my rolling briefcase made wet tracks in the carpet. Didn’t need my dry slacks, but the shoes and socks made the shivers go away. I had a good day at work. At the end of the day, I could look at my reports and see accomplishments. Not a bad day for a rainy day and a Monday.

This little story really has nothing to do with writing. It wasn’t a writing day. It was a vacation from the gloomy day. But maybe the real point is that we can find inspiration in the quiet of a rainy day and a Monday.

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

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

Patience


Outtakes 359

Patience

By Cait Collins

 

Our Director sent an email the other day that really made me think.  It went something like this.  “Patience is not the ability to wait.  It’s the ability to keep a good attitude while you wait.”

I’ll admit patience is not one of my stronger characteristics.  I’m better than I used to be, but I’m still not where I want to be.  As a writer, I’ve tried to develop my patience.  But this can be a frustrating business.  I’d submit a novel or a story and get these really nice rejections.

“We’re sorry, but your story, while interesting, does not meet our needs at this time.”

Or, “You have potential, but may I suggest…”

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the constructive ideas, but sometimes I just wanted to know what I was doing right.  And then a friend would get a first publication and I’d wonder why him or her and not me.

I finally found an answer that helps me.  It’s just not my time yet.  So what do I do to keep from shooting my computer?  I’ve thought about papering my walls with rejection letters and pages from rejected manuscripts.  Unfortunately, my apartment complex does not approve of my decorating idea.

I rewrote a novel and realized the second version was a vast improvement over the original.

I killed off a major distraction in a blog.

I edited a finished work.

I read.  Not just romance, but mysteries, and selected non-fiction.

I meet with my critique group.  They can pick me up when I’m down.

I tell myself that I’m a good writer and someday I’ll have that book contract. Someday.

I really try not to be discouraged.  I try not to let the disappointment make me impossible to be around.

 

Catch Up


Outtakes 357

Catch Up

By Cait Collins

Ten days of vacation really put me behind.  I’m behind at work and with my writing. While I was relaxing on the beach, I started my next Route 66 story.  I like the idea, and I’m bringing back Ian Thornton from Showdown at U Drop Inn.  I figured he deserved his own story, but will he get the girl in the end? I really don’t know as he hasn’t told me yet.

Yes, I’m one of those people who have conversations with my characters.  It’s really unnerving to feel “the Presence” looking over my shoulder and saying, “Cait, I wouldn’t do that.  And just so you know, I hate broccoli. “

Ian’s a pain when I’m at work.  I have a list of letters to review before mailing and suddenly this magnificent Irishman starts telling me I need to be researching vintage pottery and china. “And by the way, you need to visit a potter’s workroom.  Your’ description of the process is a little weak.”

I start arguing.  “Really, Ian? When do I have time?  I’m working overtime.  I have commitments.  Give me a break and let me catch-up.”

Good heavens.  I’m arguing with a figment of my imagination!  Maybe I should go back to the beach.

Favorite Authors


Outtakes 356

Favorite Authors

By Cait Collins

 

I have a stack of books waiting to be read.  Problem is I’m limited on reading time. It’s really a case of too many books and not enough time.  As I prepare for my vacation, I find myself checking the shelves in my “\unread books” bookcase and choosing titles I want to take with me.  I’ve narrowed the list to four.

Sherrilyn Kenyon       Styguin

Craig Johnson             Western Star

Craig Johnson             Death of Winter

Susan Wiggs                Between You and Me

There’s nothing like having new reads from favorite authors to take on vacation…

Other ideas include:

Nora Roberts              Shelter in Place  (I couldn’t put this one down.)

Sharon Sala                  In Shadows  (The FBI needs more heroes like Jack.)

Diana Palmer               Unbridled  (200thbook)

Carla Neggers              Imposter Lures  (I’m looking forward to this release)

Jodi Thomas               Mistletoe Miracles  (A new Ransom Canyon novel out 9/25/2018.)  Jodi has mentored many aspiring writers in the Texas Panhandle and the surrounding area.  Many of us have taken her creative writing classes.  She recently retired from her position as Writer in Residence at West Texas A&M University. She will be missed.

If you like stories from new authors, I would suggest Our Time on Route 66.  Five authors from Wordsmith Six have released this anthology about the Mother Road from different time periods (Depression Era up to a few years into the future), different genres, and different points of view. The only rule was each story had to touch the U Drop Inn in Shamrock, Texas.  My story is “Showdown at the U Drop Inn” follows photojournalist, Moira O’Hara as she travels Route 66 in an attempt to rebuild her life after a natural disaster.

If you’re into politics, there are new books almost every week from your favorite news personality or political analyst.

New titles from all genres are released weekly so there’s no shortage of really good reads.  Take a few moments and visit your local book store.  The staff will be happy to help you locate a truly good book.