Outtakes 219


by Cait Collins

Halloween is a fun time for me. I don’t hand out treats from my apartment, but I do participate in kid centered activities. Sometime I dress up, but for the most part I’m happy to just hand out the candy.

I often wonder what makes a child decide what costume to wear. For example, does an Astrid (How to Train Your Dragon) outfit make a shy young lady feel more confident and bold?

What about the cute, quiet little girl in a devil’s costume? Is she truly a little horror or is she as sweet as she appears? The family of birds made an impression on me. I cannot imagine the time it took to stitch all those “feathers” together to make the costumes. But the real question is, why birds? Is there a sense of freedom in the idea of flying? So if we chose to go around in masks on October 31, do we also use masks the other days of the year?

A multi-faceted protagonist has numerous faces. Maybe he hides his loneliness behind a mask of indifference. His unrequited love of the school teacher is masked by an affair with the waitress in the diner. The only time he feels confident is when brokering the takeover of a struggling company. Although he is successful in business, he has no sense of fulfillment. But the most surprising mask is his need for high-risk adventure. The trick is crafting these different traits into a believable hero. The treat is when the writer makes it work.

Pick a character crafted by a favorite author. Make a list of the character’s traits and the methods the person uses to hide his flaws and the attributes he dislikes. How would you write the character?



Outtakes 218


by Cait Collins

I love the fun of Halloween. Kids and adults dressed up and pretending to be someone or something they aren’t is part of the holiday. I just don’t get the all the slasher, zombie, and thriller costumes. Whatever happened to doctors and nurses, cops and robbers, cute little witches and devils? It seems these days the more gruesome the costume, the more hefty the sales. What is the draw to being scared or grossed out?

Take books as an example. I’ve read good horror and I’ve read terrible horror. The bad novels are usually good for a laugh. In attempting to be frightening, the stories can become campy and silly. The good stuff I can’t read. Sorry, but I don’t like being frightened. I tried reading Stephen King’s IT. When I got to the description of the cellar, I had to close the book. King is so masterful with his description, he terrifies me. I could not only see the cellar, I could feel it, smell it, and taste it. That’s too real.

Think about it. What is more frightening; a zombie or a boy-next-door serial killer. I’m more frightened by reality, by something that could actually happen than fantasy characters. I couldn’t sleep after reading Helter Skelter. Charles Manson is far scarier than the Phantom of the Opera. Reality is makes good fiction because a writer has a plot and characters at hand.

I may not enjoy ghouls and goblins, but I appreciate the talent it takes to write good horror. The Stephen Kings, R. L. Steins, and Dean Koontz’s are rare and should be respected. That said; forgive me if I prefer my suspense and women’s fiction books.


Goblins, Ghosts, and Ghouls

Outtakes 172

Goblins, Ghosts, and Ghouls

By Cait Collins


I love kid holidays. Halloween is probably the best holiday for our young ones. Last Saturday night, our congregation held our annual Fall Festival. There were about 300 children participating in our Trunk-or-Treat event. I saw bumble bees, witches, scarecrows, Transformers, Captain America, Batman, Elsa and Anna, Olaf, a fairy princess, and a little zebra. I even met Velma from the Scooby Doo cartoon series. She reminded me a bit of Beezus from Beverly Cleary’s Beezus and Ramona series. Then there were the ghouls and zombies.

Seeing the array of costumes, I began to wonder what drew the child to their costumes .and to the characters. Did the glittery ice-blue dress make a little girl want to dress like Elsa from Frozen? Did the dress and crown make her stand taller, assume a regal air, and create an innocent beauty? Did the Batman costume make a young man feel like a hero? And did Velma finally become comfortable with her knowledge. Did the costume choice reflect a personality or a desire to be more like the alter-ego?

What if I could have sat down with just one child and asked questions in order to get my answers? What kind of story would I write about the child and his character? Would it be a happy tale or would my information reveal a frightened lonely child? If there were only time to visit and learn more about each child, I could have outlined and written 300 children’s stories.

Word Play

Outtakes 170


Word Play

By Cait Collins


Halloween is a big deal at our office. Every year there’s a costume contest and a food contest. Work teams spend time planning great costumes. One year the Harry Potter gang lost to a school of fish “swimming” in an aquarium. And if you think the costumes are wild, you should see the food entries. The entries must be edible, but a vomiting pumpkin?

But let’s get back to the costumes. My team is a correspondence team, so we are working on costumes based on plays on words. There are some clever ideas floating around: First Class Mail, Bag Lady, Pig in a Blanket, Identity Thief; Serial Killer; Fruit Loop, Book Fairy, and Formal Apology.

So here’s the challenge. Think of a play on words or a pun and write a description of the costume. This is my entry. She is beautiful. Her hair is professionally dyed and styled in an up-swept do. Wisps of blonde hair caress her face. Make-up is skillfully applied so that her complexion is flawless. A soft blush tints her cheeks. She struts down the aisle in a form-fitting evening gown of deepest black decorated with varying sizes and shapes of silver nines. She is Dressed to the Nines.




by Sharon Stevens

Our daughter called looking for the recipe for Cakies.

She needed to take something to work for Halloween, and thought this treasured family favorite would be the perfect addition for the office celebration. She knew the basic ingredients were devil’s food cake mix, oats, brown sugar and oil, but couldn’t remember the exact ingredients and neither could I.

The recipe for Cakies was given to me years ago by Maggie Henry, a Girl Scout leader.  Once I had perfected it with trial and error, I took it to every PTA, Girl Scout, choir and fundraiser event from the get go. I also made it for Easter, Christmas, and especially Halloween. We would buy cake mixes on sale and freeze them until the next event. And we always kept everything else on hand.  If the girls came home saying they needed to take something to share I knew I couldn’t go wrong with something simple I could fix at a moment’s notice.

That evening I pulled out everything I had collected over the years trying to find what I was looking for. What a trip down memory lane! This brought up the most precious thoughts of our children, and every function we had attended together as a family. I had so much fun going through the collected memories right at my fingertips. Most of the favored ones were spattered, and stained with various and sundry long forgotten splatters.

When I finally found it, I e-mailed the recipe to my daughter, and thought I had added every piece. That evening she called and told me I had neglected to include the amount of oats which could alter the final result. After the discussion, I admitted I had made it wrong all these years or at the very least, hadn’t followed it to the letter.

Isn’t that just like writers? We take a simple basic recipe and change the story to fit our needs. No matter what genre we enjoy, we can adjust, knowing that it won’t ruin the final product, but only enhance our tale.

Our daughter called today and told me that the Cakies went over big, and several had asked for the recipe.  I had forgotten over the years how much fun I had in making this, but also in trying new things. I was never very adventuresome, and knew no matter how hard I tried it would never look like the perfect photo shoot in the magazine. No matter, I always enjoyed a good recipe.

So on the way home I stopped at the United Grocery store and picked up a copy of the November “Accent West”. I knew I would find something I could cook. And there I found it in Becky McKinley’s article about heirloom and family recipes “Cookies, Candies and Pies!” With just a quick glance I realized I had all the ingredients at home to make the Buffalo Chip Cookies.

I wonder what simple changes I can try to make it my own.


Cream 1 egg, ¼- ½ cup water, 1 stick of butter or margarine, ½ cup oil, ½ cup brown sugar

Stir together one box of devil’s food cake mix and 2 cups of oats

NOTE-for years I thought it was old-fashioned oats, but the recipe I founds says quick cooking

Spread into sheet cake pan

Mixture will be very thick.

May add nuts, chocolate chips, or fruit

Can use any kind of cake mix and any frosting.

Spice cake with cream cheese frosting is yummy.

Preheat oven to 375

Bake for 20-25 minutes, cool and cut into bars



by Sharon Stevens

In memory of Ray and Pat Miller

Don’t get me wrong.

I know spiders have their rightful place in the overall balance of the universe. There’s Halloween for example, and the great outdoors, and in stories (think “Charlotte’s Web). And then there’s…well I can’t think of any other place they belong. They are one of God’s creatures, right? How did it come to pass again that they survived the rising waters to make it on board the Ark two by two? Who made that Executive decision? Or was it that they just snuck aboard under the cover of darkness to find a black place hiding in the shadows among the coveted animals.

As I said before, I know spiders have their place. But nowhere in MY book of life does it say they can inhabit my bathroom sink, especially when I have just risen sleepy eyed from a warm bed and peaceful dreams. Turning on the light and seeing thousands of legs and hundreds of pairs of eyes do not start my day off right. Okay, so there was only one, and it sported the requisite number of appendages and whatever else they sport, but in that instant it was hard to tell. I didn’t think this sight was necessarily evil, but in that split second I didn’t think sunflowers and rainbows either.

After the initial eyeball to eyeball, and the flailing that followed to get away from the monster in the bathroom, I returned with the biggest and closest weapon at hand, which happened to be my husband’s boot. But lo and behold when I returned I found she or he had disappeared in some dark recess I didn’t want to know existed. I am sure my shrieks had got their heart to pumping, and they probably ran as fast as their spindly legs could carry them away to what- ever hidey hole they could find.

As I said I know they have their place. Another example-We were spending the weekend out at Camp Kiwanis with the Girl Scout troop. Our daughter, Andrea Keller, was a member. We had the standard hobo supper cooked in the campfire followed by the requisite “S’mores”. Then we visited the latrines, and with the stars lighting our way we made our way back to our cabins. While we were gone a spider had formed an intricate web in the corner of the porch railing, and the light we had left on sparkled through the lines of its creation.

About that time Ray Miller, the camp ranger came by to check on us. Some of the girls were shrieking, and I’m sure he must have heard the commotion clear across the camp. He stood for a moment underneath and looked at our troop leader, Nancy Huntington and asked what he wanted her to do. He said he could either take the spider away to another campsite or leave her be. (How the heck do you know whether its a he or a she anyway?) The decision was up to our troop. By this time, the girls had calmed down somewhat. They knew a brave man was among their midst that would protect them against the marauders. No harm could befall them this night. Our leader said that to keep the peace he probably needed to remove the offending ugly, evil one. As he reached up to capture the arachnid, one of the girls who had screamed the loudest said to wait. The more she looked at the detail in the design of the web she could see how it shimmered in the light. Then she became intrigued, or maybe she just didn’t want to be the one responsible for having one of God’s creatures destroyed. She said that maybe it would be all right for this one spider to stay a little longer or at least until they went to bed, as long as she didn’t leave that corner. To this day I wonder, just how did she think a creature of this sort would observe boundaries?

Nonetheless, Ray went his merry way and the next morning the web was hanging in tatters and the spider was gone.

As writers, we have a true gift. We can weave a tale and follow whatever direction it leads. Halloween can be about evil and witches, or about sweet memories of trick or treating as a child. I am sure there are countless kids that remember my grandmother’s homemade popcorn balls back in the day when she could share these treats with neighborhood families.

Any time of the year, we can take a simple thought and connect it further. We can celebrate and elaborate. There are no boundaries that limit our creation or imagination. This is one of the reasons I love writing. Whatever hits your brain can become a story if you just take the time and make the effort to make it tangible from your thoughts to print or social media.

As I am completing this blog, the wind is howling outside. They predict a hard freeze and maybe even snow. But in remembering spiders my thoughts go back to a moment in summer and a memory of sunflowers.

I was photographing the brightness of these colorful summertime beauties when I witnessed a yellow spider camouflaged among the petals. I zoomed my camera, and it promptly scurried to the other side of the flower. When I moved to the other side to get a better view, it moved back around. We played this game together countless times before I tired and left this spider in peace. But I will never forget the contrast in colors, or how blue the sky, or the scent of the summer earth, or the sweet breeze causing the stalks to gently sway.

At that precise moment this spider was where he belonged and all was write with the world.

But in getting back to my original conclusion…I’m sorry. I draw the line at finding creatures in my bathroom sink. After all, a snake by any other name….


Don’t forget two very wonderful events this coming weekend. The Friends of the Amarillo Public Library are hosting the second annual “Open Book Festival and Breakfast with the Authors” on Saturday from 9:30 a.m.-12:20. The festival is a celebration of books and reading that raises funds for Friends support of Education Services such as Adult Reading Skills tutoring and ESL Classes offered by the Amarillo Public Library. Meet local and regional authors—with more than 30 participating authors along with stories, games and activities for kids!

$15.00 per person-children 10 and under free with paying adult and going to a good cause.

At 11 a.m. New York Times Bestselling Author JODI THOMAS will be speaking-“A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Book Signing. Breakfast catered by the Ambassador Inn. Call 378-4245 to reserve tickets.

Also Canyon High School Choir is presenting “Sound of Music” on stage at Canyon High School.

Neither of these events have any connection to spiders unless you count Nazi’s as evil, or to count your “favorite things” that don’t make you feel so bad.


Outtakes #13


By the time this Outtake is posted, I will have participated in my company’s annual Halloween costume contest. My team decided to change our theme from 80’s prom to Death. As I understand things, the Grim Reaper, a vampire-bitten 80’s prom queen, the vampire that bit her, a shotgun toting cowgirl, and the big, bad wolf will make appearances. Dr. Death (that’s me) will hand out lethal prescriptions. It’s all in good fun and gives us a break from the everyday stress of the job.

Saturday evening I’ll park my car on the church parking lot, open the trunk and distribute candy to the children from our congregation and the surrounding neighborhood. The holiday has always been enjoyable. I love seeing the kids in their costumes, and hearing the chant of “Trick or Treat”. I’ll remember my father’s ghost stories, groups of kids going from house to house accepting home-baked cookies and candy apples. We had such a great time. It’s a shame Halloween has taken on more sinister aspects over the years.

While I enjoy Halloween, I find I’m not the biggest fan of horror stories. I had nightmares after reading Edgar Allan Poe’s The Telltale Heart. Stephen King terrifies me. And we’ll not talk about Dean Koontz. I sat through NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD with my face hidden. I consider PSYCHO one of the top horror flicks of all times. It’s scary without being gory. While I try to avoid the genre, I appreciate the talent required to craft a true tale of terror. I marvel at the ability to write scenes that make me toss the book across the room or hide it in a box. I guess I rather have my heart race over a gorgeous guy than a ghoul.

While horror fans drool over the latest terrifying book or movie release, I will tune into tamer fare. Maybe I’ll reach for James Patterson’s Women’s Murder Club series, or watch the campy remake of  THE MUMMY. I can get a jolt but forego the nightmare. And now if you will excuse me, IT’S THE GREAT PUMPKIN, CHARLIE BROWN is about to start.

Cait Collins