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.

Old Friends


Outtakes 282

Old Friends

By Cait Collins

 

 

I’m in the process of cleaning out my study. You see, by book shelves are overflowing with books from history and science to children’s picture books. My niece claims I hoard books. Of course I do. Books have their own personalities. Each one has a voice. A spirit. And a life. They hold a place in my heart.

You see, as a teenager, I was a bit awkward and shy. I was Twiggy in a Lana Turner world. Books were my friends. They accepted me, made me feel important when I absorbed the knowledge they provided. They comforted me when my sister was out with friends and I was left behind. I’m not angry or sorry for those days. I found the joy in knowledge. I became a trivia queen.

At a young age I was familiar with Shakespeare and Tennessee William and Eugene O’Neil. I attempted to read Mein Kempf, Hitler’s autobiography. I loved geology. I could recognize rocks and minerals. Spy novels fascinated me. James Bond was a favorite character. Grimm’s Fairy Tales were nothing like Disney tales.

And I started writing. I’m still writing. And I’m still reading.

And I’m still sorting books in my book shelves. Some will go to the public library for their fund raiser. The children’s books can be donated to Ronald McDonald House. And some I will keep. They are the special books. The ones that still have me reaching for them to read again and again. Of course I’ll add new books to the shelves. But I’ll always have dear friends resting in my library.

How long has it been since you reread a favorite book? That long, huh? Why not revisit that old friend? After all, true friendship lasts a lifetime.

What A Day


Outtakes 281

What A Day

By Cait Collins

 

 

I started my day by reading a book. Then I spent eleven hours editing other people’s work. I spent a few minutes trying to flesh out a scene in my new novel. Now I’m writing my blog. Sounds like a productive day to me.

Not all days go well, but if all you can accomplish in a day is one well written paragraph, I’d considered it worth the effort.

Speech. Speech.


Outtakes 280

Speech. Speech.

By Cait Collins

 

Tonight I listened to the President’s first speech before a joint session of Congress. Don’t worry; I’m not going to discuss politics. Truth is, I kept thinking about the person who wrote the speech. It’s not easy to match another person’s thoughts and emotions and dreams into words that will create a response in the listener. Word choice, examples, cites; and quotes used will incite a reaction in those in the audience. Some will be inspired. Others will be thoughtful. And others could be moved to hate and violence.

Think of the great speeches across the ages. Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty or give me death” oration inspired rebels to demand their freedom from England. Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address…”Fourscore and seven years ago our father’s brought forth on this continent a new nation” sought to bring healing to a war weary nation. What about Hitler’s rantings that incited a nation to hate and murder.

Ministers are wonderful examples of speech writers. Every Sunday they present a message designed to encourage the congregation to seek a better life. Some preach love and forgiveness, and others spew hell fire and damnation. The audience responds to each speaker. Many with joyful acceptance, while others shrink in fear. And some with sit is self-righteous piety thinking they are better than the sinners.

Like writing a story or a novel, a speech has three parts…a beginning, a middle, and an end. The beginning is a call to inspire, inflame, or inform. The middle fleshes out the details. And the end is a call to action. It requires mastery of language arts skills, a deep understanding of human nature, and strong insights into the one who will be delivering the address. Above all it demands impeccable research in appropriate statistics, facts, and examples. Truly a speech writer is a master at his craft. And while some would not consider the speech writer as a professional writer, this craftsman does have a place in alongside novelists, tech writers, copy writers, and text book writers. After all, he earns his living by writing.

Inspire Me


Outtakes 279

Inspire Me

By Cait Collins

 

 

Where do you find inspiration? There are times my mind is blank. I try looking at scenic photographs, or maybe old photos. Then there’s searching the internet under historic sites, heroes, kings and queens. I even pull out my journal jar or a topic assignment book and still can’t come up with an idea. It can be very frustrating.

So what are some alternatives? Go to the mall and people watch? It could work. You might find that perfect character. But what makes one person stand out over another? Is it hair color or the chiseled jaw? Maybe it’s the way he’s dressed or even the pace at which he walks. Whatever the attraction, can it be used to craft a character?

I like listening to music. I prefer the easy listening kind. Josh Grobin is one of my favorites and then I find inspiration in movie scores and musicals. The other night I was half listening to a TV show and heard pan flutes in the score. There’s something beautifully haunting about pan flute music. Two lovers face each other knowing the relationship is not working. They love but it’s not enough. The music fades. She leans her head to his chest. He kisses the top of her head   They separate, take a few steps and turn for one final look. So it’s kind of overly sentimental, but I can work with it. How did they meet? When did they know there were problems? What were the insurmountable issues? And there’s the beginning of a short story, a novel, or even a memoir.

Dreams are great inspiration. Just make sure you have a note pad handy to jot down the dream so you don’t forget the idea. Antique stores, museums, gardens can all be sources of inspiration when you’re stuck or even when you’re not looking for something to write. Some little something sparks the mind and the idea grows. Whatever triggers your thoughts and creativity should be explored.

Inspiration comes to each of us in its own special way. It may be as brash as a dream character beating you over the head and demanding “Write about me”. Or it appears as subtle as a spring breeze. However you find it, never reject it or ignore it. That spark or fleeting image may be a hint of something really big.

 

Write the Story


Outtakes 278

Write the Story

Cait Collins

 

You are leaving a restaurant one Sunday morning and spot an elderly lady sitting in a booth alone. She smiles and wishes you a good day as you pass. What would you do? Would you acknowledge her greeting and walk on by? Or maybe you ask for her ticket and pay it without the lady knowing of your kindness. Or do you walk by without acknowledging her greeting.

Who is the lady and how does she respond to your actions?

She is just as she appears to be. Our lady comes to the restaurant once a week and sits alone. Why? Maybe she doesn’t have friends or a family. She’s sitting in the booth just hoping someone will speak to her.

Maybe she’s like Hamilton Bedford Tipton, the wealthy philanthropist from the old The Millionaire television show who is looking for the worthy man. She’s hunts for a good man or woman to bring into her company. She wants to provide excellent employment to a good Samaritan.

Or perhaps Granny is a serial killer looking for her next victim. Snub her and she’ll make sure you’ve just enjoyed your last meal.

So do you greet her, treat her, or snub her? She’s Granny enjoying her Sunday breakfast, or a head hunter, or a killer. Which is it?

Now write the story. One more thing, her accomplice is out in the parking lot standing by an old pickup truck. The hood is up and the elderly gentleman is holding a set of jumper cables.

Same Song, Different Verse


Outtakes 277

Same Song, Different Verse

By Cait Collins

 

I love to read, and the more I read the more I see how many ways there are to tell a story. Several years ago, I took a creative writing class taught by New York Times Best Selling Author, Jodi Thomas. I really enjoyed some of her writing assignments. For example, we were told to write a story about a shoe on the side of a highway. When the stories were read, we became aware of all the different themes and genres. One young man wrote about a guy trying to escape his girlfriend’s house before her husband got home. In his haste, he drops his cowboy boot. His story was so funny.

My serial killer mystery focused on the maniac’s calling card…the right shoe placed beside the open driver’s side door. Each car was parked along cliff road. The story was the basis for my first screenplay, Rhymes.

We are taught in writing classes and in writing manuals that there are a limited number of stories: man against nature, man against himself, man against man, and coming of age are among the themes. And yet book stores and libraries are full of books. So how do we manage to fill the shelves when there are so few stories? It is because we have unlimited imaginations and viewpoints. All it takes is applying our own twist or spin to the theme and we have a story. While I may see a mystery, my classmate saw comedy. Another found a memoir. And another wrote a romance. One story line…a shoe on the side of a road resulted in twenty different stories in different genres.

 

Amazing, isn’t it?

Dog’s Life


Outtakes 276

Dog’s Life

By Cait Collins

 

A co-worker of mine returned from her vacation to find her beloved cat is distress. I was sorry to hear that he did not survive. As she was telling me about her pet, I realized that I had never really bonded with an animal. When you’re in the military pets are not always convenient. Some military housing did not provide fenced and gated yards. And as housing was almost white-glove inspected before transfer, we could not risk a pet that would damage or destroy the property. It wasn’t until I married that I felt a bond with an animal. My husband’s German shepherd would lay his head in my lap and beg me to stop the brothers’ wrestling match. I remember how devastated we were when we lost Barron.

I also realized I’ve seldom featured animals in my novels. Ginger is the exception. Ginger, the Irish setter in my current work, recognized Creed immediately, but her master is suffering from amnesia and doesn’t know the dog. Yet when he’s sitting on the floor watching over Ginger’s mistress who fainted when she saw her long lost son, he absently scratches the dog’s ears and talks to her like they’re old pals.

Ginger is collects people, especially people who are hurting. When ten-year old Sara learns the man she’s called uncle is really her father, she is hurt and angry because he lied to her. Creed’s dog becomes her confidant. She provides whines of understanding and licks of sympathy.

Ginger also plays a role in Creed’s recovery. She is the calm, the constant in the trials and pain of reclaiming his life. While others are stressing and venting, she remains a steadying influence for everyone she considers family.

I don’t have a pet. Mostly because I’m not home enough to devote the time and energy an animal deserves. That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the companionship and love a furry friend provides. Animal friends are as multi-faceted as humans. They are not color in a story, often they are the story. Old Yeller comes to mind.

Pinocchio had Jiminy Cricket. Cinderella befriended her mice. Beauty had her Beast. Nana cared for the Darling children. What about White Fang, Fury, and Flicka? And there’s Lassie, Spot, and Rin Tin Tin. As you can see, sometimes an animal…dog, cat, wolf, horse, or a cricket just might be the missing or the lead character in a story.

Snow Day


Outtakes 275

Snow Day

By Cait Collins

 

The weekend weather was really something. We had rain, freezing drizzle, and snow. I don’t mind the rain as the Texas Panhandle is experiencing a drought. Again. We desperately needed the moisture to reduce the fire hazards. However, I’m not fond of freezing rain and ice. But the snow was magnificent.

I woke up about one in the morning and looked out the window. Over an inch of pristine white was on the ground, coating trees, and cars. I watched the falling snow for a while knowing that by early afternoon it would be gone. I returned to bed and slept peacefully for the rest of the night.

On Monday I woke refreshed and ready to write. I had an idea that it was time for Tyler to tell Sara he was her father. The story took another twist, and I really like it. I wrote ten pages in three hours. Now it’s time to edit draft.

Sometime writing is frustrating. The words don’t come or the story seems stale. But then there are those wonderful days when it all goes right. It’s those days that thrill me and make me glad I’m a writer.

No Resolutions No Problem


Outtakes 274

No Resolutions No Problem

By Cait Collins

 

I’m not ready for 2017. It seems like I didn’t have much of a chance to really enjoy 2016 and now the year’s gone and a new one is here ready to be explored. I really didn’t make New Year’s resolutions for 2017. Of course there’s the standard “I’m going to lose weight”. Already broke that one. There’s a carton of Braum’s peppermint ice cream in my freezer and it’s calling my name. So far so good on the saving money resolution. I haven’t been to the mall, the craft store or Barnes and Noble since Christmas Eve. And I’m not looking at new LL Bean catalogues. Me and LL Bean is a dangerous combination.

About my writing, well that’s coming along. I’m still far from having the new book finished, but I’m making progress. I’ve done some editing on my memoir and made a few changes on HOW DO YOU LIKE ME NOW. The truth is I hate editing. But I refuse to make a resolution to finish the new novel, the memoir. and the previous work. As long as I don’t resolve to do something, I can continue the work on the new novel and the work on the editing projects. But the minute I utter the words “I am resolved…”, the whole plan falls apart. So I’m just going work at it.

Working at it frees me. Without the goals and resolutions hanging around my neck I can breathe. And when I can breathe I can free my thoughts and write. You see, I working at it.