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.

Advertisements

PLEASE STOP, MR. MUSE


PLEASE STOP, MR. MUSE

By Natalie Bright

 

Sparks on sticky notes, piles of articles, spirals full of handwritten chapters, lists of historical topics to research – all potential stories. I’ve got to get this mess organized.

My mind is in overload mode, because I love writing so much that I am now attuned to every idea that pops into my head, and ideas are coming from everywhere. I used to worry that I’d never have enough ideas to stay busy. I gave up television, scrapbooking, and cross-stitch for this?

I’m not sure when the voices inside my head got so loud, but it happened. I can’t shut them up, and I don’t want to. My problem now; no self-discipline. I like every minute of the process from first draft, research, to final edits, and then planning book events. It’s all fun. I even like co-writing, with four projects in the works. Two more rescue animal stories coming in November, plus two more new projects next year.

Wait a minute. Let’s take a more professional view of my process. Let’s take the heart out of the creativity. The truth is I would have fired me years ago.

My middle grade historical, HANGIN’ DAY, was six years in the making through the traditional route. It was agented but never sold. Six. Years. No other industry has that kind of turnaround time. I’m taking serious disciplinary action against myself, and the key to success is to Stay. On. Task.

Here’s My New Plan:

  1. New ideas get a page in the idea journal. Nothing more. Jot a few notes, but always return to the WIP.
  2. Working titles and self-imposed deadlines are posted on a whiteboard. Stick with the schedule.
  3. Which idea burns the brightest fire in my gut, and does it have potential? List those sparks on the whiteboard, with a designated start date and possible pub date.  What needs my attention NOW? And then, what’s next?
  4. Apply myself to learning more tools of the trade. Scrivener has really made a difference for me this past year. Next up: formatting.

How do you stay on task?

In the meantime, our group project is progressing. You’re going to really enjoy these Route 66 stories.

Finish your book! The world needs your story.

 

The King


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

The King

By Nandy Ekle

 

Anyone who knows me knows I love to read. And I’ve realized the older I get, the more analytical I get. I read everything. I’ve even read things—completely to the end—all the way to the end. One reason is that I’m not a quitter. I hate the thought of an unfinished book sitting around. I may take a break from a book, but I will always come back and finish it.

The other less neurotic reason is that I’m a firm believer there’s something to learn from every single book. Simply the fact that a publisher found a nugget worth latching on to means there’s something there. You may have to work harder to find it in some stories, and you may decide the whole lesson is more of what not to do, but there is something.Another thing people know about me is that I love a story with psychological layers. The more layers, the better. The more psychological the better. And throwing a few ghosts in is the superlative of a good story.

Another thing people know about me is that I love a story with psychological layers. The more layers, the better. The more psychological the better. And throwing a few ghosts in is the superlative of a good story.

And people who know me know that’s why I like Stephen King. And my favorite Stephen King story is, hands down, no questions asked, The Shining. Legend says Mr. King was still teaching high school when they waited out a freakish snow storm at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado. According to the tour guides at the Hotel, they were closing up for the season when the Kings walked in while the blizzard was blowing through the mountains. They were handed the keys to the hotel and told to make themselves at home and lock up on their way out. They were not told about the reputation the Stanley Hotel has as one of the most haunted hotels in the nation. After waiting out the storm with the spirits, Mr. King feverishly wrote The Shining in one setting.

Of course, this is legend, relayed to tourists in a place that plays the movie over and over and over 24 hours a day on their very own Shining channel on every television in every room in the hotel. I know because I’ve been there, and I’ve been on their history and haunted tour and heard the story directly from the tour guide.

Whatever part of that story is true, Mr. King says the book was a turning point in his writing career. And I know just enough about psychology, ghost stories, and writing to understand exactly why he says that. In the Introduction which he added with the date February 8, 2001, Mr. King states he reached a point where he knew he had to make the decision to reach higher than he had done before. And he did. And the result is a story with so many layers, so many issues, such strong characters, that this novel is easily his masterpiece.

I am re-reading the book for the umpteenth time because this is my Halloween tradition. Read my blog next week for a specific review of this amazing masterpiece of writing.

Congratulations. You have just received a postcard from the muse.

 

Favorite Horror Movies


Favorite Horror Movies

by Adam Huddleston

 

Since this will be my last blog before Halloween is upon us, I thought I’d share some of my favorite horror films. In no particular order:

Night of the Creeps

Night of the Living Dead

The Thing

Silence of the Lambs

Jaws

Coraline

Poltergeist

The Shining

Psycho

Alien

Creepshow 1 and 2

If you are a fan of the genre, I highly recommend giving any of these movies a watch. They are entertaining as well as wonderfully written, shot, and acted.

Happy viewing!

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.

 

Historical Fiction


Historical Fiction
Natalie Bright
 
Historical details haunt me. Am I getting this right? Accuracy in the stories I’m writing cause me much concern and angst; I never feel I’ve done enough homework or that I have a full grasp of the time period. Take for example a letter to the editor of the Western Writers of America’s magazine. He wrote to complain about the use of the word “sheriff” in western novels. City councils hired a “marshall”, not a sheriff. For my middle-grade series set in the Wild West, I did research Marshall, who was appointed by the U.S. President at the time. I got that right. The thought to question and research the term ‘Sheriff’ never once crossed my mind. Will the incorrect information aggravate some readers, and since it’s a children’s book, should writers have an even bigger obligation to make certain the historical information is accurate?
 
I’m experiencing the same doubts when working on the WordsmithSix’s Route 66 anthology. The history is fascinating, and it’s difficult to stop the research and just write. My story is set in the 1930s, and when I read first-hand accounts of the time period, I want to include all of the details that I find enthralling, but the readers may find cumbersome. I guess the best thing to do, is just let the characters decide.
 

Here’s the blurb for our upcoming anthology, which will be a collection of stories from different time periods but with one common Route 66 location. I think readers will love this collection of stories, and the research has been fun. My story is actually based on the true circumstances of my husband’s great-grandmother and is set in 1930’s Texas.

It started as a dirt path connecting neighbors, communities, states and finally a nation. Route 66 was an overland route traveled by pioneers, migrant farmers, and anyone going west looking for the American dream. From wagon ruts to an asphalt highway, it has connected generations of people.

Join us as we travel through time from the early days and well into the future on the Mother Road.

OUR TIME ON ROUTE 66 is a collection of stories that tell of good times and bad, love and heartache, from the past to beyond tomorrow, and all of them are connected by one stop, the Tower Station, and U-Drop Inn. 

 

The Great Reward


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

The Great Reward

By Nandy Ekle

Your favorite author has a new book on the shelf. You read all the books he/she ever wrote. You’ve waited for a long time for this new book and you spend the whole evening at the bookstore waiting for the midnight release. You grab the book, run to the check out counter and the clerk has to pry it from your fingers to ring it up and take your money.

You immediately begin turning pages and devouring words, but suddenly realize this will not be your favorite of his/her books. The story starts slow, the drama is over the top, and the inner dialogue makes you want to simply curl up and dream of something else. But you’re so committed to this author that you can’t just quit the book. You have faith that they will eventually pull out all the stops and become the same wonderful writer you’ve always loved.

Pressing on. You’re now half way through the book and a little interest has been sparked. If nothing else, you have an idea of the path the story is taking, or even a couple of different paths. And you’ve begun to wonder which way it will go in the end.

But the main reason you keep reading that book is your belief that this author can do no wrong. True, this has not been the best beginning he/she ever wrote, but you’re a die hard constant reader fan, and you will die before you quit reading the book.

Three-fourths of the way through the book, you can tell the crescendo to the climax has begun. While it’s still a little predictable, and you feel a big flat anti-climax coming up, you are committed. At the point you reason with yourself that you have invested too much time and too much faith in the author to stop now. By this point, you have to finish it on principal alone.

And there it is. The great reward. The twist at the end. It may not have been a complete total surprise, but it was satisfying enough that you’re glad you finished the book. After all, you are no quitter. And one dud book does not make a normally amazing author into a dud.

And that is the lesson you learn from reading this book, because there’s a lesson in every book you ever read.

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

“The Nanny” Film Review


“The Nanny” Film Review

by Adam Huddleston

 

The next film up for review is “The Nanny”. Released in 1965 and starring Bette Davis in the titular roll, “The Nanny” is a class in suspense. Unlike many movies that try to create a “slow burn”, this picture begins raising questions very early and spends its 91-minute run time answering them.

The dialogue is perfect and many of the screen shots are very well done. One in particular is an extreme close-up of a character as she crawls along the floor. The effect really draws the viewer into the scene. The acting is superb, not just by Ms. Davis (which is suspected), but also by the two main child actors (William Dix and Pamela Franklin).

“The Nanny” is a perfect example of “hag-horror” and I highly recommend it to any horror or suspense fan.

Happy watching!

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.