This past year I’ve been writing with a co-author on an inspirational series. The project happened so fast, it’s hard to believe we actually wrote and published a 3-book series in about eighteen months time. Over the next few blogs I will be dissecting our process for you; what worked, what didn’t, what obstacles we faced.
My motto is, within reason, say YES to everything that comes along. I’m not getting any younger! Life happens, people and opportunities cross your path, and so many times things do not work out. But sometimes all the pieces fall into place and there you are—in the right place at the right time.
Long story short, my co-author Denise and I actually pitched the idea at a writers conference to an editor while waiting in line to board a bus. We all met later in an empty dining area at the hotel to talk more in-depth, and then went home and got busy. I’m not gonna lie; it took FOREVER to write book one because writing fiction with another creative brain is not for the faint of heart.
We wrote and passed the chapters back and forth. I started writing in Scrivener, but as a professional editor Denise liked track changes in Word better. That first book went through way too many revisions, but it had to be solid and stellar. The whole project weighed on the premise and the writing in that first book. I worried that it might read like two people wrote it, but our Beta readers assured us they couldn’t tell who wrote what. Finally we hit a rhythm and finished book one. The editor who never lost patience on us loved it, and we had a deal for a three-book series.
For books 2 and 3 we changed up the process again. I took the lead on book 2 and worked on a first draft. Denise took the lead on book 3 and wrote that first draft. We came together to work on edits, passing one chapter at a time back and forth using DropBox in between numerous texts, emails and phone calls.
Maybe it was how everything slowed down from the virus in 2020, maybe it was me spending less time on social media because of the election posts I didn’t want to see, but irregardless done and done! We actually wrote three books. The publisher uses a rapid release method and we were added to the publishing roster in the first available slots for January, February, and March pub dates. Our books are out there. At this point we are waiting and watching to see what readers think.
PROMO: Tell Them!
Our publisher handles the ads and the lion’s share of promotion. So what can we do? There’s plenty more. Now is the time to tell everyone about our books. We posted Amazon links in emails, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and others. We offered personalized print books to our friends through an email campaign. I signed and mailed a lot of books, and the goal here is to build a fan base. My favorite, the new Pinterest boards under the series name and each book title. I’m thinking a postcard mailer at some point?
We are currently working on a short story written in the POV of a secondary character who becomes a main character in book two. Remember when Stephanie Myer rewrote her bestselling Twilight series from Edward’s POV? (Midnight Sun) I thought that was brilliant idea.
This short piece will be offered free as a promotional tool. We have changed our process again, with a more rapid turn around time in mind. We are going to pass it back and forth with each revision. As soon as I had the rough draft done, I posted it to DropBox. Denise edited and sent it back. I’m going back through now adding more emotion, deeper dive into internal dialog and more imagery. I’ll send it back to Denise and she’ll do the same. I think the key is more. It can always be better. There is always a better word, a better structure for the sentence, a better hook. It’s an unending process and at some point, you both have to be happy with the outcome. Better is good.
The best thing about having a co-author is the ability to bounce ideas off of someone who knows the characters as well as I do. It’s been a great experience and I encourage you to work with someone if you ever have the chance.

Thanks for following Wordsmith Six. Check back every Monday where I’ll be blogging more about my new series, the Wild Cow Ranch published by Wolfpack Publishing under the imprint CKN Christian Publishing. Here’s a more in-depth interview with Denise and I about our process and more about the series:“Get the Know The Wild Cow Ranch Co-Authors”
What are you working on in 2021? Keep writing the stories of your heart! Never give up.

15 Years of Critiques

15 Years of Critiques

After 15 years and some change, our local writers critique group will cease to meet in 2021.  Several members have moved away, and with the pandemic restrictions it has become more and more difficult to come together. The good news is we hope to keep the WordsmithSix blog going. 

We also promised to make every effort to exchange work online. But it will never be as effective as a face-to-face meetings. I’m very sad.

It’s hard to believe the years that flew by and how much those people mean to me. Thursday evenings was the day and my day-job office was the place. As 2021 keeps moving onward, I’m thinking about these writers and how they influenced my writing and why. What are the best reasons to belong to a critique group?

  1. Accountability. There’s something to be said for sitting your butt in that chair and typing the words because you know there’s a group of people who will be reading it. The other option is you have to look them in the eye and say, “I didn’t bring anything to read this week, but here’s some chips and dip.”  

Everyone is just as busy as you are, even bestselling authors. But they have a strong work ethic and the self-discipline to make their writing a priority despite everything else in life. Writing is a job; the hardest work you’ll ever do. It’s important. Treat it as such. Say yes to every opportunity.

  1. Honesty. We did not go easy on each other. “I Like it. This is good,” is always pleasant for your ego but they are empty words. You can’t improve a story from words like that. Sure, we included positive comments and mentioned the good stuff, but we did not hold back on the bad. The more specific you can be with your critique partners, the better. “I don’t like that character.” “Why would that character say that?” “Does this move the plot?” “What is this character’s story arc?” “More imagery here.” “This is a rabbit trail and has nothing to do with your theme.” “What is your theme?” …and so on. Be specific.

Because of my critique partners, I now give tough critiques and I usually step on toes. But the people who I exchange work with knows that I will be brutally honest. And in the end, it’s not anybody else’s story anyway. It’s yours and you make the final decision. So take that chip off your shoulder and just listen. Consider the possibilities. 

  1. Like-minds. It has been so important for me to absorb the creative energy from like minds. Only other writers know our struggles. Only other writers understand the tug we feel from a universe that tries to distract us from the stories inside our heads. All we want is time; time to write. You can gain a lot of inspiration from like-minded people.

At our meetings we made every effort to begin on time, read and critique, and then those who had to leave, could. Those who needed to vent could stay and visit. 

Hats off to my WordsmithSix critique partners. Happy New Year to our WordsmithSix subscribers and thanks for following us! I hope you realize all your writerly dreams in 2021 and that you have many, many pages of words that find readers.





It’s amazing that so many people have a fear of flying. Several years ago, while on a plane from Saint Louis Missouri to Portland Oregon, I remember boarding and seeing a man who looked as pale as death. He took his seat across the aisle and immediately buckled the seat belt, grabbed the armrests and shook so violently I wondered if it was the engines or him shaking the plane. After sedating himself with a couple of adult beverages, he slept soundly to our destination.

While I have never been afraid to travel in an airplane, I have experienced a fear of flying. Realizing I would never pilot an F-16 fighter jet, I turned to the hobby of remote control airplanes.

After what my wife called “investing heavily” in a kit, I began to build my first R/C airplane. For days I trimmed every piece of wood with the skill of a surgeon to the exact specs. For weeks, I placed every drop of glue precisely in the correct spot, as to not change the balance of the plane. And after months of careful tune-ups on the engine and electronics, along with a few instructions from others to assure that my plane would soar with the eagles, fear took over.

What if it crashes? All that hard work and time will have been in vain.

On my first solo flight, I rolled the plane down the tarmac and lifted off. A feeling of accomplishment flooded over me as I made one pass, then another over the stands. Not wanting to run out of fuel and lose the plane, I made the approach to land. That day I witnessed the most horrific sight—in front of me laid splinters of wood, pieces of plastic and shards of metal. I crash-landed my plane.

In writing, there are moments when we are afraid to submit a piece of work, fearful of rejection. We work on a piece until it is perfect then, “WHAT IF” takes over. What if it’s rejected? What if it was a waste of time because no one likes it?

The good news is that my first plane did finally soar. I learned that my time wasn’t wasted at all. In all the hours of building I had learned how to repair the broken plane, and after adjusting the mistakes I made in the landing approach, confidence took control.

Yes, I have letters of rejection for my writing, however with repairs and a few adjustments, those same pieces have been published.

Don’t be afraid to fly!

Rory C. Keel



Garage Saling

Second hand stores, pawn shops, garage sales. These are great places to find a good bargain, if you’re willing to hunt and haggle. If you know what you’re looking for and how much money you want to spend, these kinds of places can pull you in and keep you busy searching for treasures all day.

But saving money is not the only treasure at a “Used” store. When you walk in the door, what’s the first thing you notice? If it’s a store front shop, you probably see racks and racks of clothing, shelves of old dishes, boxes and bins of toys and books, maybe furniture, bedding, and even electronics. If it’s a garage sale, there are card tables and home-made racks and shelves lining a driveway or yard.

But look closer. Gently handle the set of china plates and what do you see? Maybe you see the chip or crack on the edge. Or maybe it’s the fact that the set is not complete. But do you see the age? Can you sense the previous owner, the housewife who was widowed after sixty years of marriage?

How about those child size jeans? They look a little frayed in the knee and feel thin in the seat. Do they remind you of a little boy who learned to ride his bicycle while wearing them?

And the stuffed animal loved ragged by the little girl who took it to the hospital when she had her tonsils removed?

Congratulations.  You have just received a post card from the muse.

Nandy Ekle


Making Retail Connections

By Natalie Bright

If you’ve self-published a book, it’s up to you to establish retail connections.

An author once told me that he’d only intended to write the book, and never wanted to be a book salesman. Now he’s traveling around with a car full of books. Welcome to the reality of today’s publishing world.  How are people going to read your book, if they don’t know it exists?

As the CEO of YOU, guess who is in charge of book promotion?

Make the Connection

While the internet offers a multitude of book promotion opportunities, for this particular post, I want to talk specifically about working with retail outlets and how to approach owners or managers.

On cold calls, approach them in a friendly, cooperative manner, introduce yourself and ask if they’d like to see your book. Most bookstore owners are always interested in talking to authors. Ask them if it’s a subject their customers might like. Information flyers and postcards work as well. When I receive inquiries in regards to my middle grade book, OIL PEOPLE, I offer to leave the store manager a preview copy. If it’s an inquiry by phone or email, I always offer to mail a preview copy. Be sure to include promo copies in your budget.

Store Owners Rule

Retail stores have to realize at least a 50% to 60% markup in the items they sell. They have a store front to operate which includes payroll, building utilities, and inventory expense.

DO NOT tell the storeowner the retail price. It’s their store, they set the price. Business owners are independent and territorial. If you tell them how to run their business, you’ll be out the door in a flash. Quote them the price you need, and you can suggest a retail price but ultimately the cost to customers is the store owners decision.

Setting the Price

If you self-publish, you have to leave a little wiggle room when setting your price. I hear this complaint all of the time and it is confusing to self-published writers. Authors quote the price printed on their book or the over-inflated price they paid for printing, expecting that’s the price they are due. Shop around and find the best possible printing deal in order to keep your price per book as low as possible. Hopefully, you’ll have room to make a few bucks, and the store comes out ahead as well.

Retail owners are in business to make a profit. If business owners’ efforts aren’t going to generate dollars to pay for the cost of staying open, it’s not worth having your book take up valuable shelf space.

The key, I think, is being able to offer a low price to retail outlets and being able to negotiate a price without being too pushy.

Consider ALL Possibilities

Major chain bookstores may not be an option to self-published authors for many reasons which are beyond your control. Are there specialty shops in your area? What about possible connections through family and friends?

Think about cross-selling. If you have a book of poetry, why not approach a lingerie shop? If you have a children’s book about horses, drop by a saddle and tack store or the local feed store. Stop stressing over things you can’t control and consider all of the possibilities, and keep writing!

Natalie Bright


Making Sense of the Senses


How does the loss of sight affect your hearing?

What color does an orange smell like?

How loud is an inner voice?

Can you describe how the wind feels?

What does sour taste like?

When I am writing, it’s easy to visualize what I want my characters to see and feel or even smell. However putting it down on paper so that the reader can clearly see them is a difficult task. For example, if I write, “He walked into the room and gazed at the beautiful painting hanging on the wall.” What does the reader see? What object is displayed in the painting? What colors make the painting beautiful? How is it framed?

This dilemma came to life for me when the main character of my novel, UNLAWFUL WORDS, suddenly goes blind. Writing what he saw with his eyes came to an abrupt halt. How do I write his experiences now?

A blindfold

Using a blindfold I spent several hours experiencing the darkness. Immediately I began to depend on my hearing, turning my head from side to side trying to capture all the sounds around me. My hands automatically reached forward hoping to feel something familiar and my feet slowed their steps to prevent stumbling. The objects once identified by sight now had to be described by feeling the texture, or the smell. These are the details that help the reader understand what the character is experiencing.

In your writing, use the basic senses such as taste, touch, hear, see, smell. Be careful not to give the reader sensory overload by giving a long string of description using all five sense on every situation, when generally the use of two or more different senses can tie the picture together for the reader.

Rory C. Keel

BREAKING BAD: Lessons in Character Profiles

BREAKING BAD: Lessons in Character Profiles

Natalie Bright

Arriving late to the party, I’m just now into the second season of BREAKING BAD on Netflix. If you haven’t watched it yet, it’s the story of a desperate high school chemistry teacher who begins cooking meth to make money. His reasons are valid and Walter White (played by Bryan Cranston) is one of those villains who you love to hate and who you hope wins at something. I stray far away from drug-related and junkie stories. I have never liked that world, but I finally gave in during this pandemic isolation at the suggestion of my sons. I find myself cheering Walt on and hoping he can cook a batch of meth. The writers throw everything they have at these characters until there is no way they can possibly get out of the unbelievable mess they’re in. 

If you HAVE watched Breaking Bad already, I urge you to watch the first season again with a creative writer’s eye and take notes. Pay attention to character traits and how they are used in the plotting. 

Spoiler Alert: What makes Walter White so fascinating?

Walter White is a brilliant chemist whose college mates went on to make fortunes in successful corporate ventures. He teaches high school kids. His younger wife is pregnant,  unplanned. His brother-in-law is a DEA agent. Walter has just been diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer and the treatments cost $90,000. How much worse could his life get? Hang on, because it does.

One good example of traits and plotting is Jesse Pinkman, (played by actor Aaron Paul) an ex-student of Walt’s who becomes his reluctant partner in the drug trade. As a junkie, Jesse coordinates the deals and maneuvers through the underbelly of the city. In one episode, a couple rolls Jesse for the product and steals his cash. Walt tells him to fix the problem and get their money back. 

Jesse gets their name and address and goes to the house armed, prepared to do what he has to do. At this point in the story, what is the worst that can happen? There are numerous combinations of scenarios that could be played out.

  1. Jesse threatens the addicts, finds his money and builds a rep as someone you don’t want to double-cross.
  2. The man and woman overtake him in some way and injures or kills Jesse.
  3. Walt arrives to help.
  4. They have no money and no product. What can he do? Is he forced to kill them?

What is the absolute worst that can happen to Jesse? How can the outcome be so bad that it’s next to impossible for him to come out alive? We know Jesse is a junkie despite Walt telling him to not use the product. He makes horrible, stupid decisions but he’s a good guy at heart. He got thrown out of his parents’ home for the third time because he took heat for his little brothers joint that was found by the maid. So how can we show Jesse’s decent side but at the same time make his options seem unsurmountable?

SPOILER ALERT: The druggies aren’t home so Jesse waits on their living room sofa. An unkept, half-dressed child emerges and turns the television on. Jesse tries to talk to him, but he obviously lacks communication skills from his situation. Jesse tries to find him cartoons to watch, but the there is only one channel. And then the dirty little child turns to Jesse and says, “I’m hungry.”  Long story short, the kid gets food, the parents come home and promise to pay Jesse back if he’ll help them break open an ATM machine they had stolen. Jesse gets knocked out by the woman, she takes his gun but doesn’t kill him, instead gets high. Jesse comes to. The man is drilling holes into the bottom of the ATM. The couple argues, she tips the machine over and crushes her husband’s head, and the ATM door swings open! Jesses takes the cash and calls 911. He hurries to the back bedroom and carries the little boy outside, sits him on the front porch and wraps the blanket around him, “Have a nice life,” he says.


This would be a fun exercise with your writing critique group. Analyze the characters from Breaking Bad and identify their good traits and bad traits. Every hero has a bad trait. Every villain has a good trait. Then have a brainstorming session on plotting. What is the worst that can happen? What happens next? What’s worse than that? Next, make it so horrible your main character has everything at stake with impossible odds. Don’t you love stories like that?

Have fun!



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

Reasons to Write

Reasons to Write

Why do I write? Is it because throngs of fans demand it anticipating every word of my next masterpiece? Is it because I honestly expect to make millions of dollars on a bestseller, or desire to be famous? No.

Over the next few weeks I will share with you a few of the reasons I write.

Reason #1


I write to tell a story. Everyone loves a good story. Children drift off to sleep with their heads cradled gently in downy pillows, and their minds full of colorful images from fairytales. Young adults turn the pages of books filled with adventure, loyalty, and sometimes tragedy. They experience a spectrum of emotions as they learn the meaning of dedication, true love, and even loss. Adults feel alive with the thrill of a great suspense novel. As we grow older, we can gain a sense of who we are, and where we came from by reading of our youthful yesterdays.

For a few brief moments in time, a story affords the reader the opportunity to escape reality. Traveling through time into other dimensions, we can explore the far reaches of the future, or a place in history. A story allows the reader to become someone else, able to triumph over evil, or transform into the bad guy. The words of a story can inspire us to overcome the odds stacked against us, and we can experience the exhilaration of victory.

Everyone has a story–write yours.

Rory C. Keel

Reason # 2 next Tuesday!            

Researching the West

Researching the West

By Natalie Bright

Tucked away on a little side street in San Angelo, Texas, a quaint bookstore is filled with hard to find books, the majority of which are westerns.

The owner of Cactus Bookstore was a personal friend of the great western author, Elmer Kelton. The store features an extensive collection of Kelton from used trade paperbacks to pricey autographed first editions. I asked him if Kelton had ever written a how-to book on writing. He said, “No, but I have this.” He handed me a cassette tape, 90 minutes, featuring two of Kelton’s keynotes from 1989. Marked down half-price, I grabbed it, and what a treasure. While it’s short on specific technique, it’s long on wonderful stories and quotes from the people who crossed his path. Kelton also shares his personal favorite western novels, and includes insightful background on creating unique characters.

I already own one of his recommendations: the most realistic account he knows of for a cattle drive, THE LOG OF A COWBOY by Andy Adams. Published in 1903 by University of Nebraska Press, I found this well-worn book at a used book store in the Dallas area.

For an entertaining read, it’s a little dry, however historians and writers will love it. Written in first person narrative by a young man who moved from Georgia to Texas after the Civil War, the specific details are invaluable. For example, here’s an excerpt about a sale which took place between Mexican vaqueros on a March day at the Rio Grande.

Here he explains the important count after the herd was transferred across the water. The cows were strung out between four mounted counters; a Mexican corporal, a US Custom House gov’t man, the drive foreman, and a drive hand. “…the American used a tally string tied to the pommel of his saddle, on which were ten knots, keeping count by slipping a knot on each even hundred, while the Mexican used ten small pebbles, shifting a pebble from one hand to the other on hundreds.” The story continues with two men agreeing on the same number of 3105 head, one man came one under and another came one over. The deal was sealed that night over dinner in Brownsville.

I’ll be blogging more about my prized Elmer Kelton tape. Thanks for following Wordsmith Six blog!