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.

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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.

Editing


Outtakes 342

 

Editing

By Cait Collins

 

I don’t know about other writers, but editing is my least favorite part of my writing career. I don’t mean thing like checking my spelling and grammar, it’s the big things like switching tenses or failing to develop a character or storyline correctly. I am concerned that as I make a change for one issue I will create another problem. I’ve tried making the edits as I received suggestions from my critique partners and that has helped. But as I tie up the loose ends, I worry I will compromise my story. But the edits are part of the job and they will be done and done on time. So please forgive this short note. I’m only on chapter three.

 

Finishing Touches


Outtakes 341

Finishing Touches

By Cait Collins

 

The story is written. My characters are people I would be proud to call friends. I love the twists. And I like the surprises. But it’s not done yet. I still have to review every chapter for spelling and grammar errors, tense shifts, and discrepancies. (My hero can’t have blue eyes in chapter one and brown eyes when he finally gets the girl.) And I have to make sure every sentence moves the plot and that every word counts.

Once I’m sure the mechanics are good, I will reread with an eye to the story. Is there a true beginning, middle, and a satisfying ending? Will the readers be able to visualize the characters and settings? Have I tied up all the plot twists? Can I put “The End” on the last page or do I need to edit or complete storylines?

When I have made the needed edits, I will email pdf copies to my critique group and beta readers. Before submitting the final version to the publisher, I will review the changes suggested by the critique group and beta readers and make appropriate changes, proof read the story, and send it to the publisher. Now that the product is completed, I can focus on marketing and the next story.

Eyewitness


Outtakes 340

Eyewitness

By Cait Collins

 

 

Have you ever watched a cop show when the detectives are questioning witnesses? Do the descriptions vary widely from one witness to another? One witness sees a short, round man around 50 or 60 years old while another remembers young man who is not short, but not really tall. Neither fat nor skinny. Nothing really distinguishing. He’s just average.

Chances are the officers could ask fifty people about the suspect and there would be thirty or forty different descriptions. We all have a viewpoint. So here’s the challenge.

Describe a sunrise from the following viewpoints:

A drunk following an all nighter.

A child waking up at his regular time, but it’s a school holiday.

A person who does not have many weeks left to live.

A man who has been blind from birth.

 

Happy writing.

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.

The Mom Gene


Outtakes 338

The Mom Gene

By Cait Collins

 

Our minister and his wife have three lively toddlers. They can be really sweet and then get busy. I have wondered how his wife will manage three kids and a baby. I volunteered to let one of the boys sit with me during services, but both boys wanted to sit with me. I thought, “Why not? I can handle this.”

I was so wrong. You see, I don’t have the Mom gene. I tried explaining to a four year old why he could not play with my antique matched jade bead necklace. My sister shook her head and handed him her necklace. My sister could hand one a crayon while preventing the other one from dumping a bible on the floor. One ate two bags of snacks and the other handed his bag back to me stating “I don’t like these.” I thought every kid liked Goldfish. You see, I don’t have that Mom instinct. I never had kids, so if I ever had that gene I did not develop it. And while I might be able to deal with one toddler at a time, I’m woefully inadequate in handling two.

Sometime I feel inadequate as a writer. I can put the words together, but it’s not always the ones I should be using. I find it difficult to write the emotions. And sometimes I just can’t get the setting right. This is very difficult for a perfectionist. I’d like to believe everything I put on paper is perfect and will not need editing. But as fellow writers you know the perfect sentence is as rare as a perfect gem stone.

Writers don’t edit because the sentence or paragraph is lousy. We edit to make the story better. To flesh out characters. To include another perspective. Or to evoke an emotion from the reader. Like being a good Mom, learning to honestly review your work and make the corrections takes time and patience. It requires determination and hard work. But are we willing to invest the same effort into being a great writer as we do being a good parent? It is a choice.

What’s In a Name?


Outtakes 337

What’s In a Name?

By Cait Collins

 

 

I disagree with the Bard of Avon. A rose by any other name would still smell as sweet may not smell as sweet. What if we called the rose a daisy? Would it smell like a rose or like a daisy? Can a Magnolia smell as sweet as a rose? If I handed you a lilac would you envision a rose?

Names mean something. If I introduced two men in a story as Butch and Allen but did not describe them, could you picture each man in your mind? I see Butch as a big, burly man with a loud voice, and less than perfect manners. He’s not a bad man. He lacks polish. Allen is mild-mannered. He tends to fade into the background. He’s neither handsome nor ugly. He’s just average.

Monique is exotic and beautiful. Delilah would be desirable and devious. Would you name your daughter Jezebel? Or would you choose a name like Elizabeth or Mary. Let’s be honest, a name has positive or negative reactions. We have prejudices against certain names based on experiences, history, literature, and movies.

When we are writing a story, how careful are we in naming our characters? Do you ever get half way through the work and suddenly decide the hero’s name is wrong? Do you make the change or keep the name that doesn’t seem right? If I can’t be comfortable with the name or can’t warm up to it, I’ll change the name. If I am not happy with the character’s name but hold on to it, I risk creating a negative response from the reader.

Names are important. That’s why we spend time researching character names and names of the location. We want our characters to enhance the story; not detract from it.

Could This Be Love?


Outtakes 335

Could This Be Love?

By Cait Collins

 

Ah, romance. The book shelves are full of romance novels. Poets extol the virtues of love and commitment. Cynics decry the emotion, calling it a crutch and an opiate for fools. I like to view love as something very special. But despite varying opinions of what love is and the part it plays in our lives, love stories are popular. And there are so many variations in the genre. Straight romance…boy meets girl, boy woos girl, boy gets girl. Then there’s romantic suspense…girl is in trouble, boy rescues girl, boy marries girl. Add paranormal romance, magic, war stories, western romance, “adult” romance, and you have almost unlimited story lines.

Poetry, song lyrics all extol the virtues of love. And then you have the broken romances, stories of love gone bad, and broken hearts that are mended by a new love. Face it, love sells. So write that romance. You just might find a whole new outlet for your talent.

Happy Valentines Day.