What Did You See?

Outtakes 285

What Did You See?

By Cait Collins



How good are your powers of observation? If you were surrounded by group of people at the mall or at a concert, would you be able to describe the person in front of you, behind you, and on either side? How would you describe a child that broke free of his mother and is now terrorizing the zoo?

Observing the people around us is essential for a writer. If we don’t hone our skills, we could miss vital elements for our work. Let’s say you are standing in line at the bank. The teller is calm and helpful. Transaction completed, the man walks away without looking the folks in the line in the eye. The police and FBI agents question you. Would you be able to tell them the color of the suspect’s hair? His race? Height and weight? What he was wearing?

It should be easy to identify the person standing in line in front of you, but you are drawing a blank. Even with the detective feeding you hints you are unable to pick the robber out of a picture array or a line up. You know you saw something important but you just can’t remember it. You’re not alone.

Trust me, you are not alone. Several years ago, I was the person in line behind a bank robber. He was so cool I didn’t suspect anything. As soon as he walked away, I stepped up and set my deposit bag on the counter. The teller excused herself and rushed to the back. A few minutes later, one of the bank officers came out and shut down her station. He directed me to the next line. Then he announced the doors were being locked and we must wait until the police spoke to us and released us. All I could tell the law enforcement officer was the robber was short, had dark hair and was wearing some type of work uniform. Not really good on my part. I was too busy making a shopping list in my head to notice there was a problem.

My suggestion is to go to the mall, find a comfortable spot and indulge in some serious people watching. What you observe may make for a great character or plot twist for your current project.

Jump Start Your Writing Challenge – A vice

Jump Start Your Writing Challenge – A vice

Rory C. Keel

It’s funny the things you observe at an intersection. I recently sat at a stop sign watching the flow of traffic come to a halt behind an old pickup. The old man driving the truck waited patiently for the oncoming traffic. His flasher blinking in a universal electrical rhythm indicating his desire to turn left.

Within a minute or two, the woman behind the pickup began to honk and the tension of the moment increased with the speed of the Morse code she was sending with her car horn. As the gentleman finally turned, the woman waved goodbye with middle finger of her right hand.

THE END! Now what?

THE END! Now what?

Natalie Bright

We had a great discussion at WordsmithSix meeting about the next step, after you’ve edited and polished your manuscript. You are ready to publish: now what? Several of our members have finished, or are in the home stretch with their manuscripts, and have a very big decision: a) shop their book with agents and editors and pursue a traditional publishing deal, or b) become an Indie Author. We try to keep it real here at Wordsmith Six, so here’s your reality check:

Today’s publishing environment is exhilarating and exhausting. It basically boils down to the following issues, assuming you have a polished and edited book ready for publication.

A. Traditional Publishing

1. Author receives 10% royalty from sales (+/- depending on deal).

2. Author pays 15% from their share to a literary agent, who negotiates the deal.

3. Publication date: years (some smaller presses move faster)

$. Advance: possible, but not guaranteed

6. Sign on the dotted line and give up ALL rights to your novel, characters, cover design, content. You are out of the process, which is a huge relief and appealing to some authors. Go write the next book.

7. Big name publisher assists with promotion (minimal for first-time authors, but invaluable if you are at best seller status). Authors maintain website and social media.

8. Publication Date: Years from now.

9. Validation from a traditional publishing house and the writing community (this is exciting because we all have big dreams).

B. Indie Author

1. Author receives 70% cut of sales (+/- depending on venue)

2. Author learns how, or pays out-of-pocket for professional editor, formatting, cover design, promotion. Most indie authors agree, the work is 50% writing and 50% business owner. You maintain complete control.

3. Go wide as in world wide eBooks and/or Print. You identify the target markets and you design promotion that best connects with your readers.

3.Publication Date: within weeks from this very minute. You decide launch date.

4. Validation from family and local community. Your cousin doesn’t care if the publisher is Me Writer, LLC or Random House, they just want to buy a copy of your book. The local book club is excited to hear your talk.

Have I left anything off of the list that might be significant to newbie authors based on your experience?

This past Saturday, I went to the Texas High Plains Writers workshop by Indie Author Bethany Claire[bethanyclaire.com who has propelled herself and her Scottish time-travel series to best-selling status. She has become successful on her own terms, to the point that she was able to hire her mother as her assistant. They are developing an online class to help other indie authors who are serious about elevating their writing to the next level and who want to build a successful business.

After Saturday’s workshop, I feel better about a recent decision regarding my own work. At the end of last year, I turned down an offer from a small press. For the standard 10% royalty and no advance, I would have signed away an entire page and one-half listing of rights for my inspirational book. Sure, this deal might have propelled it in the market place, but I had to submit a marketing plan as well. Why do publishers want rights they never intend to exploit? That’s not to say traditional publishing deals are something I’d never consider. It depends on the book. For this one, I said no thanks.

Remove your author big-dreams cap for a moment and look at things through clear, sensible eyes. This is business. YOUR business. What process will be optimal for the book in hand, and for your continued success? You have three choices: traditionally published; an Indie AuthorPrenuer all the way; or a ‘hybrid’, which is an author who has published books through both options. It’s all good.

Keep writing, be excellent, and more importantly, get your work out there so I can read it!

The Saturday Morning Blogger – Burrowing Owl Books on the Square in Canyon

The Saturday Morning Blogger – Burrowing Owl Books on the Square in Canyon

James Barrington

For anyone who has not yet discovered the Burrowing Owl Bookstore on the east side of the square in Canyon, it is a shop worth visiting. Dallas and Todd Bell own the store, but Todd’s duties as a medical doctor ensure than most of the office hours at Burrowing Owl are kept by Dallas – and her mother and daughters.

They have an eclectic variety of new and used books. For the kids, the doors of a wardrobe open to provide entrance to the kids’ books section. My 12-year-old granddaughter and I have already explored it a few times and made purchases there.

The shelves are arranged to make browsing easy, but if you know exactly what you want, odds are good that Dallas can take you right to it. They even take trade-in on your used books with credit toward purchases of other used books.

It reminds me in many ways of the “Shop around the corner” from “You’ve Got Mail.”

With a new snap of cooler weather, it’s a great place to pick up a book for reading in front of your fireplace!

Keep reading! It gives you great ideas for your own great American novel.

A Thousand Words Worth


A Thousand Words Worth

By Nandy Ekle

Here area few photos from my camera to rouse your muse. If you find something you can use, write a comment and let me know how it’s helped you.

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



by Adam Huddleston


I picked the literary term this week because my kids know what it is…and I like the way it sounds: onomatopoeia. It is defined as the usage of a word that sounds like the sound it is representing. For example, the word “buzz” sounds like what bees do. The word “drip” sounds like what water drops do. Using onomatopoeia breathes life into your work and grounds the reader in the story.

Happy writing!

Old Man Weather

Outtakes 284

Old Man Weather

By Cait Collins



“If you don’t like the weather, stick around for five minutes and it’ll change.” I used to think that statement applied only to the Texas Panhandle. Now I know the statement is pretty typical of the entire country. We all have issues with the weather. But as writer’s we can make the local weather a supporting character in our works.

Let’s start in the Texas Panhandle. After one really good year of rain, the clouds have been all show and no blow. Let’s correct that. There’s always blow. Gusts up to 70 miles per hour can do a real number on the landscape. But when there’s been little or no rain, those winds can whip up a small spark into a raging wild fire. In this case, Mr. Wind Storm traps a young mother and her small child in the midst of a fire storm. Seeing no way to escape, she finds a dugout and shelters in praying for a miracle. And then…

Our next scene is a tropical island in the western Atlantic. Honeymooners are enjoying the white sand beach, snorkeling, and wandering the streets of quaint villages. Toward the end of their week-long stay, the clouds begin to turn dark. Winds increase and the tide rises. Hurricane Odin approaches the island. Our newlyweds follow the evacuation order, but as their ship heads toward the mainland, ash begins to fall from the sky as a long dormant volcano awakens. And so…

One more scene. A fishing vessel heads to the Grand Banks in search of schools of fish to fill the empty cargo holds. Not one storm but two storms and a hurricane converge to create an unprecedented monster storm. The ship’s captain attempts to turn back but he and the crew are trapped between rains, winds, and the waves. The ship goes down with all hands. Sound familiar? You got it..The Perfect Storm. The movie was based on the fate of the Andrea Gail and her crew as they attempt to return to port. The cast was magnificent, the screenplay top notch, but the main character was a storm and not a man.


Avoid the Cliché

Avoid the Cliché

Rory C. Keel

Teachers of the writing craft are unanimous about avoiding the cliché. Have you heard that one before?

A cliché is the use of phrases or expressions that are overused to the point of losing the desired effect of the intended meaning.

One example might be “Are you a man or a mouse?”

While you may want to express the level of strength or fear in your character to that of a small animal, to use this phrase would show lack of originality in your writing. Try to find other words that will demonstrate the meaning and will bring originality to your writing.

Formatting Your eBook for Publication

Formatting Your eBook for Publication

Natalie Bright

I tried.

With open mind, I tried to learn everything about book formatting, because smart business owners should have an understanding about every component of their operation. Because I kept reading about issues with Microsoft Word conversions, I decided it might be best to make sure my book looks perfect in the format each distributor prefers.

The Scrivener online class was great [learnscrivenerfast.com] and I LOVE how organized my writing projects are, but the power of Scrivener is in the compile feature. I don’t like those 15 space paragraph indentions when my book comes up in the Kindle previewer and I cannot make them go away. Uhggg.

Another online class on Adobe InDesign for my picture books, researching conversion software with reviews out the whazoo (use this one vs. never use it, only use this one…), more instructional videos. And yes, I know there is exceptional software for MACs only. Don’t own one.

Appeals to our 20-something office manager who is supposed to be keeping our other stuff going while I do book stuff. Even she couldn’t help me, and she’s brilliant, so moving on. 1 month, 2 months, 3 months. What did I write during that time, you might wonder? A few blogs and the draft for an easy reader, and we did finish parent taught driver’s education which is HUGE and has nothing to do with my writing career.

Here is a rundown on the different formats to take our book “wide”. In a nutshell, set up an account and submit your properly formatted manuscript:

Amazon Kindle: MOBI

Kobo: refer to their conversion guidelines, but everything is converted to EPUB.

Smashwords: prefers DOC, DOCX which goes through a MeatGrinder, which turns it into an EPUB.

CreateSpace: PDF for print; fonts and pics must be embedded.

Ingram/Lightning Source: refer to the 37 page “File Creation Guide” (yikes! This made my stomach hurt.)

Draft2Digital: Their process creates an EPUB. Good news: you can skip the distributors above, as D2D will do the conversions for free and put it everywhere you want for 10% of your sales.

The Question

So, it boils down to this very important question: would you hire me to do your book formatting?

Absolutely NOT. Are you crazy? You are a savvy Indie Author and a smart business owner to boot. I wouldn’t hire me either, so I fired myself. There is this guy I know who is an absolute whiz and saved me another three months of learning software that I have no desire to understand.

Thank you, Phillip! www.GessertBooks.com

The Next Question

Accounts are set-up, submitted books are approved, tiny prayer for no typos, and then I am moving on to the next question. Who are my readers and where can I find them?


The Saturday Morning Blogger – Show, don’t tell

The Saturday Morning Blogger – Show, don’t tell

James Barrington

I generally consider myself a pretty good writer, but that doesn’t mean I know all the rules to be a pretty good writer of fictional novels. That’s a whole different animal.

Four of our Wordsmithsix group got together this week to review our latest efforts at literary brilliance. I am constantly grateful for the input of my partners. I can see my work improving, but I recognize I still have a long way to go.

One (of many) writer rules I’m still struggling to learn and internalize is the “show, don’t tell” rule. I need to want to narrate a story instead of planting visual images in the minds of my readers. While that may be OK in a blog, it’s not acceptable in literary fiction. I have the rule pretty well fixed in my mind. My problem I haven’t fully grasped the application of how to follow that rule. I’m working on it, but it’s too easy for me to fall back into the narrator role. My wordsmithsix friends are very expert in pointing those issues out as I read my developing work. It seems like I make a few steps forward and then I have a tendency to slip on the narrative slope. Each time I’m caught doing that, I get another lesson. Hopefully I’m learning.

The concept I’m working on internalizing is letting the characters in the story reveal facts through their dialogue rather than simply spelling it out. Telling is much simpler, but not nearly as interesting.

“So on I worked, and waited for the light,

And went without the meat, and cursed the bread…” (with a tip of the hat to Edward Arlington Robinson).

And hopefully “show not tell” will take roots in my creative system and become a natural thing.