Seasons


Outtakes 322

Seasons

By Cait Collins

 

I love the changing seasons. Spring gives the promise of birth and renewal. Blossoming flowers and budding trees give us hope for a brighter, warmer time. Summer’s brightness and warmth bring families and friends together to celebrate by the lake or the pool. Picnics and bike rides are popular activities. Crops planted in the spring grow to maturity.

Fall is my favorite season. The turning leaves paint the world with unspeakable beauty. The golden colors of the aspen and birch trees against white trunks reaching up to a cold blue sky take my breath away. Red, gold, and brown maple leaves fall gently to the ground. Every turn of the road reveals more beauty. The air is cooler and crisp fall scents of the harvest perfume the air.

Winter snows blanket the ground and we slip and slide on icy streets and sidewalks. Frigid air chases us indoors and we gather around the fire popping popcorn and telling stories while the world sleeps preparing for rebirth in the spring.

Writing a book or story follows the pattern of the seasons. Spring is the spark or beginning of the work. The author opens his mind to possibilities. He embraces this new-born idea and nurtures it.

As spring becomes summer, the work grows under the watchful eye of the creator. Characters mature and actions lead to reactions that are both good and bad. The climax is on the cooling horizon.

The work is completed and sold. The author settles in anticipating the harvest of sales. And then the resting time comes. It is a time to restore the mind and allow the body to recharge and while the seed of a new idea takes hold. A new flower blooms.

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Backlist


                   Outtakes 325 

  

                       Backlist

                     By Cait Collins 

​In past years, I’ve been afraid to read my favorite authors’ backlists. I was concerned that I would be disappointed. Recently I bought a Nora Robert’s release that I had been told was a new novel. Instead First Snow was a release of her books A Will and a Way (1986) and Local Hero (1987). While the stories are different from her more recent works, they are great reads. These older titles made me realize that an author must to grow with every release.

​I was first introduced to Nora Roberts as a romance writer, then later as a writer of romantic suspense. Later I discovered her witches, demons and ghosts. I’m still hooked. I have a feeling that Ms. Roberts grabbed at every opportunity. And that’s the point. We don’t grow unless we try.

​I prefer writing novels to writing short stories. But what’s wrong with writing a short story? It may be frustrating at times, yet it is worth the effort. Sadly we let the fear and frustration prevent us from achieving a new phase in our careers. And even though the first attempt might not be perfect, the next book or short story will be better. We will improve with each completed work. That’s the whole point of experimenting and rewriting. It makes our work better and more marketable. It gives us confidence in our talent and career path. If we only try we might one day have our own backlist.

Perfect Pet


Outtakes 324

Perfect Pet

By Cait Collins

 

 

I remember having pets as I was growing up, but I never really bonded with any of them. I didn’t take the time to go out and throw a ball with them and I didn’t chase them around the yard. You see I wasn’t much of an outdoor person and Mom didn’t allow pets in the house. So my relationship with our dogs was relegated to feeding and watering them. I’d also do the occasional hug. But I did not develop a friendship with one of the animals. When we lost them either by a transfer to another state or by death, I’d shed a tear, but I never really missed one of them

The heroine in my current story was critically injured in an earthquake. She was the lone survivor when a hut used for a schoolhouse collapses and traps her beneath the rubble. Her father finds a pure-bred German Sheppard to be her service dog. Muttley becomes more than her protector and soother of nerves and fears, he becomes her friend and confidant. She pours out her heart to him. She’s able to talk to him when humans seem to annoy and frustrate her. I envy that relationship. The trick for me will be developing the relationship between Muttley and Moira. Since I’ve not bonded with an animal, I’m going to have to figure out how to allow the relationship between woman and dog to gown until even the idea of a separation is unbearable.

One idea would be to get a dog. But I’m seldom home and that would be unfair to the dog. Besides, I would soon resent being awakened in the middle of the night to let my new pet go potty. I guess that makes me selfish, so I’ll really have to stretch to get the scenes right. I hope I’m up to the challenge.

Sound of Silence


Outtakes 323

Sound of Silence

By Cait Collins

Sometimes when I’m working on a scene I find myself asking “what does the character hear?” In The city it could be the sounds of traffic; horns honking, brakes squealing, the crunch of fenders meeting each other. Or it could be noise from a school playground or a football stadium. A farm carries the noises of the animals. But sometimes the most deafening sound is silence.

Moria, the heroine in my current story, desperately needs to silence the death rattles and moans from the victims of an 8.2 earthquake. Moria was trapped beneath the rubble of a small school building in a remote village in Afghanistan. She is the sole survivor. In the pitch black of her prison, silence reigns. And in the absence of sound, she is afraid no one is available to rescue her.

On her trip across Route 66 she stops at a section of the old road near Lexington, Illinois. As Moria and her service dog, Muttley, walk the trail, she hears not the agony of the other victims’ she hears the bird song, a gentle breeze whistling through the trees, and the whisper of the grass in the wind. Slowly, the healing noise replaces the agonizing sounds of the dying. The daylight fades and in the early shades of night she hears the silence. Not the terrifying nothing but the calm that follows the storm. And in the silence she reaches for the future. It is in the silence she hears her own voice and her thoughts. And in hearing she begins to mourn.

 

Seasons


Outtakes 322

Seasons

By Cait Collins

 

I love the changing seasons. Spring gives the promise of birth and renewal. Blossoming flowers and budding trees give us hope for a brighter, warmer time. Summer’s brightness and warmth bring families and friends together to celebrate by the lake or the pool. Picnics and bike rides are popular activities. Crops planted in the spring grow to maturity.

Fall is my favorite season. The turning leaves paint the world with unspeakable beauty. The golden colors of the aspen and birch trees against white trunks reaching up to a cold blue sky take my breath away. Red, gold, and brown maple leaves fall gently to the ground. Every turn of the road reveals more beauty. The air is cooler and crisp fall scents of the harvest perfume the air.

Winter snows blanket the ground and we slip and slide on icy streets and sidewalks. Frigid air chases us indoors and we gather around the fire popping popcorn and telling stories while the world sleeps preparing for rebirth in the spring.

Writing a book or story follows the pattern of the seasons. Spring is the spark or beginning of the work. The author opens his mind to possibilities. He embraces this new-born idea and nurtures it.

As spring becomes summer, the work grows under the watchful eye of the creator. Characters mature and actions lead to reactions that are both good and bad. The climax is on the cooling horizon.

The work is completed and sold. The author settles in anticipating the harvest of sales. And then the resting time comes. It is a time to restore the mind and allow the body to recharge and while the seed of a new idea takes hold. A new flower blooms.

Frightening


Outtakes 321

 

Frightening

By Cait Collins

 

Blood and gore. Slasher movies. Halloween One to whatever. Some find these movies frightening. But think back to the shower scene in PSYCHO. A black and white movie instead of Technicolor. The music. A knife stabbing down. The heroine cringing in the shower. The scene was so artfully filmed the mind took over and the viewer imagined he saw the knife strike a woman’s body.

The mind is far more powerful than blatant scenes. Alfred Hitchcock had the creative talent to scare the life out of me without the blood and gore. To this day, the movie THE BIRDS still terrifies me. The swarming birds hid the damage to the humans. The teacher died from being pecked to death, but we never saw the sightless eyes and ripped face.

The point is a well-crafted paragraph that builds a villain has more impact than the blow-by-blow vision of a killer’s actions. Give me a masterful book or a brilliant movie and I can imagine so much more than what I read or see.

Bump in the Night


Outtakes 320

Bump in the Night

By Cait Collins

 

 

It’s that time of the year when the ghosts and goblins are center stage. Witches, zombies, vampires, boogey men roam the streets. Television stations air scary movies and horror books are front and center in the books stores. I’m not a fan of the horror stuff. I don’t like being scared. And I don’t enjoy books and movies that keep me awake.

While I can take vampires and mummies, I have a real problem with living, breathing bad guys. I will never understand why I bought a copy of Helter Skelter by Curt Gentry and Vincent Bugliosi. Bugliosi was the prosecutor for the Manson trial and he knew the story of Manson’s family and crimes. That book terrified me. I couldn’t read it but I didn’t want to put it down. That doesn’t make much sense, but I’d read it until I was afraid to close my eyes. But the more Manson’s insanity was revealed, the more frightened I became. I finally shoved the book under the bed and never finished it.

This real killer was scarier than Frankenstein, Dracula, The Mummy, and a zombie apocalypse could ever be simply because he is real. True monsters are more horrifying than fictional characters just because they are real and breathing. They can be the stranger you pass on the sidewalk or in the grocery store. Maybe the monster could be a teacher, a doctor, or a cop. This kind of knowledge is enough to make me keep a baseball bat under my couch. I don’t like guns but I have no problems bashing skulls, breaking knees, or wrists. I just pray I never have to face my fear. I may talk big, but I don’t really know if I could take him or her out. It’s something I really don’t want to know.

A Little Trick


Outtake 319

A Little Trick

By Cait Collins

 

I don’t mind researching information for my stories, but I really dislike being in the middle of a productive writing session and need a fact and it’s not in my research notes. I have to save the work and switch to research mode. By the time I find the information I need for the scene, I’ve lost the muse. My writing doesn’t have the spark it did earlier.

I think I may have an answer for getting information without losing ground. I bought an Echo Dot. I’m still in the process for setting it up, but so far, I like saying, “Alexia, what is the distance between Chicago and Lexington Illinois on old Route 66?” While the Dot doesn’t replace in depth research, it can provide answers quickly with little interruption to the writing flow.

I do admit that technology often baffles me, but the Dot does help me by providing quick information. I just have to remember to ask the right question. For example, I asked “When did Al Capone go to prison?” The question wasn’t clear enough. I got a brief biography but no prison date. I should have asked “What year did Capone enter prison?”So not only do I have to train the Dot, I have to train myself.”

The great thing is I can start with a few basic apps and then add others as I need. If I had a smart home, the Dot would lock my doors and reset the thermostat. If I get stuck and a little frustrated, I can download an app that would allow Alexa to tell me a joke or play my favorite music. That’s not too bad for a device that’s only about an inch high and three inches in diameter. Best of all, it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. You can “test drive” it at your local Best Buy or electronics store. The Best Buy clerks introduced me to the larger Alexa device and stood back to let me play. I was sold on both Alexa and the Echo Dot in no time.

Again the Dot will not replace real research, but it is a tool to get quick answers. I think I’m going to enjoy making friends with my Echo Dot.

Short Stories


Outtakes 318

Short Stories

By Cait Collins

 

 

I love trying new genres and seeing if I can put a story together. Since I normally write novels, I’m finding short stories to be a bit intimidating. The short story limits my time to develop a character and tell the story. There’s no long way to define the hero or heroine in 30 or 40 pages. My protagonist still talks to me, but she’s a lot faster about telling me what’s going on in her head. I can’t be too subtle in revealing her issues; there’s just not enough word count.

Here’s what I’m learning.

One word can be more important than detailed description. Brilliant sunset says as much as the “bright orange glow of the sun setting in the western sky…” and it saves your word count.

Moria, my heroine, doesn’t have 250 pages to decide whether or not she’s attracted to Aiden. She either is or she’s not.

Aiden has to go a little slower in order to reach Moria, but then again, he can’t be too subtle. He has to make his move without scaring her off.

Forget men, a good dog can be a girls’ best friend.

One other thing I’ve found to be important is getting the details straight. Route 66 is a well known and well traveled road. People will know if your work is not accurate.

While I’m finding the short story a bit daunting, I am enjoying the challenge. Maybe I’ll consider writing a series of short stories and publishing them. And then again, maybe not.