Summer Reading

Outtakes 246

Summer Reading

By Cait Collins


Summer is upon us and it’s time to think about vacations and hours by the pool. Question is, what do you plan to read during the down time? Here are some suggestions.

Good For The Money                                                            Bob Benmosche

The Obsession                                                            Nora Roberts

The Highway Man                                                     Craig Johnson

What We Find                                                             Robyn Carr

The Trials of Apollo The Hidden Oracle                   Rick Riordan

Dark Hearts                                                                Sharon Sala

Lone Heart Pass                                                          Jodi Thomas

God’s Eye View                                                         Barry Eisler

Legends & Lies: The Patriots                                    Bill O’Reilly

15TH Affair (Women’s Murder Club)                         James Patterson

Coming Soon

Bay of Sighs Book Two of the Guardian’s Trilogy   Nora Roberts              June 14, 2016

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child                             J. K. Rowling             July 31, 2016

DragonMark                                                               Sherrilyn Kenyon       August 2, 2016 (Original Pub. Date)

Grab a book and enjoy your summer.


Writing Muscles

Outtakes 216

Writing Muscles

By Cait Collins


I learned a number of things during my vacation. I think the most telling was I don’t exercise enough. I did a lot of walking on less than level streets and climbed up and down ladders and stairs. By the end of the trip I was hurting. So I resolve to exercise more so that I don’t punish my body when I travel or have an adventure.

Just like our bodies deteriorate from a lack of exercise, our writing skills can suffer from a lack of use. Too often we use the same formula when we begin a new project? What if we changed the routine? Could the story be more exciting or could the different turn propel us to new avenues for our careers? Is the risk worth the potential results? Maybe the better question would be what if we never take a risk? Will the failure to explore possibilities actually be detrimental to success?

Work your voice. Not the one that verbally articulates your thoughts, but the voice that is uniquely you. Craig Johnson, author of the Longmire series has a style that advertises the author. You only have to read a few paragraphs to recognize the style and hand-picked word choices. That’s what we all need and want – – a voice that promotes our individual style and personality.

We must also exercise our basic skills of grammar, vocabulary, characterization, plot and description. We can not become lazy and complacent in these areas. When the primary elements become weak, the whole work suffers. For this reason, I play with lists, colors, unusual situations, and new characters. I recommend 642 Things to Write About and 712 More Things to Write About by the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto. The books provide fabulous exercises to stretch, mold, strengthen and sculpt our skills.

Just as flabby and weak muscles are not good for the body, underdeveloped skills do not make for good writing. Resolve now to work the skills that lead to better and more fulfilling work.



Outtakes 208


by Cait Collins


Do you ever wonder why certain books, plays and poetry are still taught in school? I have a theory. The classics were written by men and women who perfected their craft. They didn’t rest on laurels; instead they invested time in making the next work better.

Students groan when they open Julius Caesar but the story is still worth telling. The characters have the same concerns as men and women today. We have issues with government and power grabbing.

Mark Twain revealed a dark time in American history. TOM SAWYER AND HUCKLEBERRY FINN did not necessarily defend slavery. The stories revealed a truth that can bring about change. Tom and Huck are so right as boys in the late 1800’s. I’ve met a few shysters who could pull off the whitewashing of the fence with a wink and a smile.

JANE EYRE depicts the times when men ruled and women held a second class status. But it also shows the growth of a young woman beyond the customary role to become a strong and faithful lady of means.

Then there are new classics. I truly believe the Harry Potters series will stand the test of time. After all daring deeds and heroic action will always be popular. And like the previously noted volumes, the Potter books will be part of my library. As will Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series, Craig Johnson’s LONGMIRE stories, and Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark Hunters.

These authors and others like them found the formula for success. They developed memorable characters, had good stories and plots. They employed the basis of grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Above all, they wrote for the reader and not just for themselves.

What books are in your library? Is there a mixture of old and new? Are the covers pristine or worn? Are there some volumes that are dog-eared and faded from handling? I do hope your library is just like mine. I hope you have a mixture of everything and you read and reread your old favorites and acquire new favorites. After all, good writing never goes out of style.


Thank you, Craig Johnson

Outtakes 192

Thank you, Craig Johnson

By Cait Collins


I met Craig Johnson, author of the Longmire mysteries, when he spoke in Amarillo a couple of years ago. I truly enjoyed listening to his journey as a writer. I’ve known writers who would speak for little money, but he was the first to say he’d meet with a group for a case of Rainier beer. Of course he was kidding, but he got a good laugh at the offer.

After reading my first Longmire novel, The Cold Dish, I was hooked. I’ve read a number of the books and keep looking for the ones I’ve missed. This brings me to a find when I was roaming the bookstore shelves recently. Mr. Johnson has written a wonderful novella.

The Spirit of Steamboat has me captivated. I allow myself 30 minutes each morning to read before going to work. I have come close to clocking in late the last two mornings because I hate to put the book down. Think A Christmas Carol, a Christmas storm, a decrepit B-25 World War II airplane, a Doolittle’s Raiders vet, a helicopter crash survivor, Walt Longmire, and a Christmas guest, and you have the makings of a what-will-happen-next holiday story.

The novella presents a different side of the writer’s talent. I am enjoying this read as much as I have loved his mysteries. I’m looking forward to reading Wait For Signs, a collection of Longmire short stories.

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

Outtakes 173

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

By Cait Collins


Most folks in the United States joke about the local weather. In the Texas Panhandle we make comments like, “You don’t like the weather? Well, just wait five minutes and it’ll change.” Last night was a perfect example of Panhandle weather. It was a balmy 72 degrees when I walked into the grocery store. I walked out forty-five minutes later only to be confronted with 40–50 mile an hour winds an air temperature of 47 degrees. It went downhill from there. Hello winter.

The great thing about the cold weather is I have the perfect excuse to sit by the fire and read. It maybe my imagination, but the world seems quieter when it’s cold. It’s as if a sleep has descended, the imagination opens, and I can really get into the story. And there are some fantastic stories out there.

If you’re look for a good read, here are some suggestions.

Killing Patton, Killing Lincoln, Killing Kennedy                    Bill O’Riley

The Heroes of Olympus series (great for adults and kids)     Rick Riordan

Virtue Falls                                                                             Christina Dodd

The Cousins O’Dwyer Trilogy                                              Nora Roberts

Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn                                       Mark Twain

The Longmire Series                                                               Craig Johnson

Son of No One                                                                        Sherrilyn Kenyon

Revival                                                                                    Stephen King


And if you feel guilty about taking a break from your writing, just remember reading is part of a writer’s job. How can we be good writers if we’re not good readers?

Happy reading.


Outtakes 57


It’s that time of year when there’s little new on television. Reruns, reality shows, and repeats of repeats of the same old movies fill the schedules. When I saw the promotions for Longmire on A&E, I thought it sounded interesting. At the very least, it would be new. I caught the last couple of episodes and was intrigued with the characters and setting. There was a beautiful starkness to the cinematography and an intriguing perfection in the characters and dialogue. I hoped the series would be picked up for a second season.

I was surprised to learn the author of the Walt Longmire mysteries, Craig Johnson, would be speaking in Amarillo as part of the Amarillo Public Library’s summer Amarillo Reads program. Since I was impressed with the series, I looked forward to hearing from the author. As I took notes from Craig’s presentation, I started thinking, “If the guy writes the way he speaks, his books will be great.” I have just finished the first book, THE COLD DISH, and can state I am not disappointed.  Craig Johnson is a master story teller. His novel combines the best of distinct, interesting characters; spot-on dialogue minus tag lines; Indian lore; the harsh beauty of Wyoming and Montana; and a big anti-hero. I am hooked. Thank goodness there are seven more Walt Longmire mysteries to read.

I’m a speed reader. I can read a four-hundred page novel in a matter of hours if there are no interruptions. However, I found my reading slowed because I was savoring the description. Johnson has found the perfect balance between too much and not enough description. I hiked the trails around the lakes and through the mountains with Sheriff Walt Longmire as he and Henry Standing Bear searched for a witness. I felt the bone-chilling, mind-numbing cold as he carried an injured man to safety. I felt his pain and uncertainty as the decision was made to leave his badly wounded friend on the mountain during a blizzard. I hurt at the unexpected end.

After finishing THE COLD DISH, I realized the author had skillfully woven three of the great story themes, man against man, man against nature, and man against himself, without confusing or blurring the plot’s twist and turns. Normally, I detect the perp by the middle of the book. This plot was so well hatched, I never suspected the killer’s identity. I consider that the essence of great writing. I look forward to reading the next book DEATH WITHOUT COMPANY. I can’t wait for season two of the A&E series Longmire.  In the words of Lonnie Little Bird, “Yes, it is so.”

Cait Collins