What’s the Problem


POSTCARDS FROM THE MUSE

 

What’s the Problem

By Nandy Ekle

You have people and these people speak. But what do they do? 

I used to feel rebellious when someone said, “What do they want. They all must want something.” I always believed that a story was simply about what the characters were doing. But then I realized there was no depth to a story where characters just walk around doing things and talking to each other. There has to be a reason for that they do and say.

This reason is your plot. 

This thing the character wants is what drives the story. And it doesn’t even have to be a conscious thing. It can be a goal they don’t realize they have, like surviving a bad storm. But there is a goal. 

One of the best examples of goal-driven plot, in my opinion, is the Harry Potter series. At first, Harry has a goal he doesn’t realize he has, but this goal continues with him all through the series. The goal becomes more apparent to him through the story, and by the end, he is so committed to this goal that he’s willing to pay the ultimate price.

Your homework is to analyze your favorite story for the deepest goals. Tell me what you discover in the comments below.

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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.

 

What if I Fail as a Writer?


What if I Fail as a Writer?

Rory C. Keel

 

So you want to be a writer but you’re afraid of failure. Perhaps your dream is to write a novel, publish an article in a magazine, or write a famous screenplay but the idea of failing keeps you from ever starting. Putting the “cart before the horse,” as they say, can skew a person’s thinking.

Here are five steps to help realign your thinking so you can achieve your dream of success.

  1. Realize success comes in steps.

Achieving any goal is like walking up a staircase, it has to be one step at a time. Honestly assess where you are in your writing skills. Do you understand grammar and sentence structure? Perhaps you’re farther along and need to work on story telling or plotting?

By knowing where you are on the staircase of writing, you can know what your next step is. That next step is success.

   2. Reaching the next step can be difficult.

Famous authors such as Stephen King, Charles Frazier, Larry McMurtry, J.K. Rowling didn’t reach fame in one day. It takes hours of putting one word next to another, days of sitting in a chair, months of research and rewriting, and sometimes years of waiting for a project to be noticed. Take one step today and another tomorrow and you will be successful.

   3. You will run into obstacles.

Have you ever walked through the house in the dark to get a drink from the kitchen and stubbed your toe on the coffee table? Immediately you scream OBSTACLES!

Understand there will be hindrances to your writing such as finding time to write, family members that need attention, or even the need to make a living and pay the bills.

That’s life. These things still exist for famous authors, they have just learned to prioritize and deal with them.

   4. Surround yourself with other writers.

By surrounding yourself with other writers, you set yourself up to succeed. Learn from others who have what you want. Success is a level small or great not a final ending. So when you associate with those who desire to write and have a mindset to accomplish goals, you become motivated to move along with them.  Famous authors haven’t reached the pinnacle, they only have a greater level of what you can achieve in a small step tomorrow – SUCCESS!

   5. Never, ever, give up on your dream.

“Lots of people limit their possibilities by giving up easily. Never tell yourself this is too much for me. It’s no use. I can’t go on. If you do, you’re licked, and by your own thinking, too. Keep believing and keep on keeping on.” — Norman Vincent Peale

roryckeel.com

What if I Fail as a Writer?


What if I Fail as a Writer?

Rory C. Keel

 

So you want to be a writer but you’re afraid of failure. Perhaps your dream is to write a novel, publish an article in a magazine, or write a famous screenplay but the idea of failing keeps you from ever starting. Putting the “cart before the horse,” as they say, can skew a person’s thinking.

Here are five steps to help realign your thinking so you can achieve your dream of success.

  1. Realize success comes in steps.

Achieving any goal is like walking up a staircase, it has to be one step at a time. Honestly assess where you are in your writing skills. Do you understand grammar and sentence structure? Perhaps you’re farther along and need to work on story telling or plotting?

By knowing where you are on the staircase of writing, you can know what your next step is. That next step is success.

   2. Reaching the next step can be difficult.

Famous authors such as Stephen King, Charles Frazier, Larry McMurtry, J.K. Rowling didn’t reach fame in one day. It takes hours of putting one word next to another, days of sitting in a chair, months of research and rewriting, and sometimes years of waiting for a project to be noticed. Take one step today and another tomorrow and you will be successful.

   3. You will run into obstacles.

Have you ever walked through the house in the dark to get a drink from the kitchen and stubbed your toe on the coffee table? Immediately you scream OBSTACLES!

Understand there will be hindrances to your writing such as finding time to write, family members that need attention, or even the need to make a living and pay the bills.

That’s life. These things still exist for famous authors, they have just learned to prioritize and deal with them.

   4. Surround yourself with other writers.

By surrounding yourself with other writers, you set yourself up to succeed. Learn from others who have what you want. Success is a level small or great not a final ending. So when you associate with those who desire to write and have a mindset to accomplish goals, you become motivated to move along with them.  Famous authors haven’t reached the pinnacle, they only have a greater level of what you can achieve in a small step tomorrow – SUCCESS!

   5. Never, ever, give up on your dream.

“Lots of people limit their possibilities by giving up easily. Never tell yourself this is too much for me. It’s no use. I can’t go on. If you do, you’re licked, and by your own thinking, too. Keep believing and keep on keeping on.” — Norman Vincent Peale

roryckeel.com

The Wizard


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

The Wizard

A recent series of young adult books has reminded me how fun it is to believe in magic. Can you remember the first time you watched the movie The Wizard of Oz? How about Cinderella or Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory? Remember sitting in front of the television and not even being able to blink your eyes as magical things happened to make scarecrow talk and pumpkins turn into carriages and little orange people mix chocolate by waterfall? And how did you feel when the words “The End” scrolled up on the screen?

Writing is that way. You know the story because you’ve listened to the characters tell it in their own words. Your job is to take the story they told you and find the magic words that will weave a spell around your reader and keep them glued to your words.

Stephen King uses the term “telepathy,” and that’s a very good description. But J. K. Rowling goes a little further and alludes to “a book that casts a spell that won’t let the reader put it down.”

The magic comes from words spun like a spell, winding around the reader’s eyes and pulling their imagination to the page. They can’t put the book down until the story ends, and then they turn back to the beginning and start over.

Look for magic all around you and the words will appear.

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

Nandy Ekle

The Gift Of An Author


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

 

The Gift Of An Author

By Nandy Ekle

 

Imagine walking down a hallway of closed doors. Each door has a plaque above it with the title of a story, and a few doors have plaques with no words on them as if waiting for a name. You hear voices behind every one and knocking comes from the other side of two or three at the same time. You’re standing in front of a door listening to loud, insistent pounding and a voice calling your name over and over. You reach out to turn the knob and realize it’s locked and you don’t have a key.

Where is the key? That door was just opened a few days ago and you visited with the voices behind it like gossiping neighbors. Why is it locked so tightly now?

This is how I imagine writer’s block. It’s frustrating and scary and can even be debilitating. It’s like losing eyesight or a hand. And I’ve been there lately.

These are the times I turn to my good friends Stephen King, J.K. Rowling and a myriad of other flourishing writers. I open a successful book written by one of these masters and beg them to instruct me once again about writing again. I get lost in their stories and feel them tug at the door with me.

Then the miracle happens. As I turn the page, enrapt in the worlds they created, I find the key to the door. I slip it into the keyhole and feel the lock turn, allowing the door to open. My characters run out and embrace me as my hands fly across the keyboard of my computer once more.

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

The Challenge


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

The Challenge

By Nandy Ekle

 

Lately Facebook has been full of various and sundry challenges from The Ice Bucket Challenge, benefitting ALS, to your favorite bible verse. There are challenges to count your blessings, challenges to count positive events from the day, and challenges to count ways you were inspired. These are all worthwhile, thought provoking, self-examining challenges.

For those of us who love books, the hardest challenge I’ve seen out there has been to list your top ten favorite books, books that have stayed with you the longest. While I try to learn something from every single book I read–even the books I didn’t really enjoy–I must say there are a few that my mind refuses to let go of.

Of course, I must start by mentioning The Holy Bible. This is actually 66 books. And really and truly, it’s a lot a more than just fun reading. This is where I go for answers to life questions, inspiration, comfort, peace, correction, lessons, literature, adventure, romance, and magic.

The rest of the books on my list are not nearly as noble as The Bible, but I enjoyed reading them, and I still reread some them over and over. Of course, I tend to lean to the dark side of story telling. But when you think about it, every story has elements of the dark side because, it wouldn’t be a real story without a conflict. And conflict is usually connected to something dark in some way.

So, for hundreds of different reasons, here are the ten books that I will go out on a limb and add the label “favorite.”

  1. The Shining by Stephen King. This was his third book and I was in high school. I had read his first two books and liked them, so when The Shining came out, I bought it, hard back. I’ve reread it more times than I can count. Besides all that, I love a good ghost story.
  1. The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling. Even though this is seven books, it’s really all one story. Ms. Rowling is an expert at capturing her readers immediately and making them love the characters. The world is seamless and the details are astounding. And how she keeps up with those details simply blows me away.
  1. The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snider. This is a middle reader and I was in Jr. High when I read it. Great story of children with big imaginations — one of my favorite themes.
  1. Bag of Bones by Stephen King. Another ghost story, and by The King of ghost stories. How could it not be on my list. One other thing I will mention about this book is I never knew he could write romance.
  1. Lisey’s Story by Stephen King. In my mind, the flip side of Bag of Bones. Loved it!
  1. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. Now this is a very different book. A story within a story as an older writer tells a younger writer the story of her life. Excellent read.
  1. On Writing, A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King. I love the mini biography in the first half of the book, and the second is valuable writing instruction and advice. I keep it on my nightstand.
  1. Dracula by Bram Stoker. I voluntarily read this in high school. Now THAT’S a vampire story. And the format is amazing too.
  1. Go Ask Alice. This was actually the scariest book I ever read. I was in high school and read the whole thing in one night. Just. Wow.
  2. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. I have read this book to all three of my kids numerous times and to all of my grandchildren even more numerous times. I enjoy getting into the drama of it, and the kids always ask me to read it again. Imagination is the best toy we have.

So, everyone who reads this, consider yourself challenged. In the comments below, list your ten “favorite” books and we can have a fabulous discussion.

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

The Gift Of An Author


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

The Gift Of An Author

By Nandy Ekle

 

Imagine walking down a hallway of closed doors. Each door has a plaque above it with the title of a story, and a few doors have plaques with no words on them as if waiting for a name. You hear voices behind every one and knocking comes from the other side of two or three at the same time. You’re standing in front of a door listening to loud, insistent pounding and a voice calling your name over and over. You reach out to turn the knob and realize it’s locked and you don’t have a key.

Where is the key? That door was just opened a few days ago and you visited with the voices behind it like gossiping neighbors. Why is it locked so tightly now?

This is how I imagine writer’s block. It’s frustrating and scary and can even be debilitating. It’s like losing eyesight or a hand. And I’ve been there lately.

These are the times I turn to my good friends Stephen King, J.K. Rowling and a myriad of other flourishing writers. I open a successful book written by one of these masters and beg them to instruct me once again about writing again. I get lost in their stories and feel them tug at the door with me.

Then the miracle happens. As I turn the page, enrapt in the worlds they created, I find the key to the door. I slip it into the keyhole and feel the lock turn, allowing the door to open. My characters run out and embrace me as my hands fly across the keyboard of my computer once more.

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

BANNED


BANNED

by Sharon Stevens

While going through some boxes at the bookstore I came across an old Uncle Remus book published in 1903. Never in my life for whatever reason have I read any of these stories and I found such treasures within. Books have never been banned in our house. My parents, especially my mom let us read whatever we chose within reason. They never discriminated or guided us in our reading habits, so it is foreign to me to think that there could be a culture that would destroy any kind of creative thinking.

Getting into the book I didn’t think I would be able to muddle through only because the writing was so fragmented with the talk of the times and diction of the south. But I found once I got into the rhythm of the words, like Shakespeare, the life of the story came together. Brer’ Rabbitt, Mr. Cricket, Wiley Wolf, and Brother Fox shared through the pages parables that are centuries old.

There is a chapter in the first part where Uncle Remus is sitting at the dinner table encouraging the young master to eat per the grandmother’s order. The grandmother was concerned that the mother was only serving the child simple fair, and that he needed ham, potatoes, biscuits and gravy to grow big and strong. Uncle Remus said the grandmother had written a message of love on the dishes and the little boy exclaimed that he couldn’t see any words there. Remus replied.

….“But I weren’t callin’ out no letters; I wuz callin’ out de words what yo’ granmammy writ wid de dishes.’

Uncle Remus wanted to share that the grandmother held her grandchild close to her heart and showed so much love that she would risk the displeasure and outright anger of her son and daughter-in-law and be brave enough to enlist the help of the wise, and elderly, old plantation slave to do it.

Uncle Remus, the story, and therefore the character have been banned for years along with such tales as “Huckleberry Finn”, and “Treasure Island”. But on this the 30th anniversary of banned books includes, “Harry Potter” by J.K. Rowling, the “Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins”, “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry” by Mildred D. Taylor, “The Outsiders” by S.E. Hinton, “A Light In the Attic” by Shel Silverstein and “Bridge To Terabithia” by Katherine Paterson.

Most are challenged or censored because of demonstrating racism, insensitivity, offensive language, violence, occult and satanic themes, but these are also pulled off the library shelves because families don’t feel comfortable with the message they are sending their children. And don’t forget this also affects the school and public libraries as well as the bookstores such as Hastings or Barnes and Nobles and the publishing houses as well.

One of the books banned this year and in years past is “To Kill A Mockingbird” by Harper Lee for racism and offensive language. This year the Social Justice department at WTAMU will be hosting the woman who played, “Scout” in the movie. The professors and students will be discussing discrimination and how it pertains to our area and the here and now. They are working with the Varsity Theatre here in Canyon about showing the film.

I will never second guess a parent and their wisdom in raising their own children. I am just proud that I was given the chance to read anything and everything at an early age. Hopefully my husband and I have passed that on to our children and they will pass this on as well.

As writers we never know when someone will find our words offensive, insensitive, or political. At any given moment our thoughts might be seen as anti-ethnic and anti-family no matter how color blind or family oriented it may seem. On the other hand we can’t censor our own story or characters frightened that we may offend across the board. This causes us to lose the spirit, heart and passion ingrained deep in the soul of the letters formed together to make words. Jodi Thomas and DeWanna Pace taught me in writing class to be always true to what we believe and to trust the story we are writing. And just think, even though it was written for adult market, “Fifty Shades of Grey” by E.L. James would have never seen the light of day if censors had challenged the book in the very beginning.

So on this anniversary of the week of Banned Books look through the list and cherish the Freedom we have to celebrate the joy of reading, and the Freedom to choose on our own.

I leave you with this beautiful passage from the book of Uncle Remus:

TOLD BY UNCLE REMUS

New stories of the Old Plantation

by Joel Chandler Harris 1903

“The little boy was sitting on Uncle Remus’s knee, and he turned suddenly and looked into the weather-beaten face that had harbored so many smiles. The child seemed to be searching for something in that venerable countenance, and he must have found it, for he allowed his head to fall against the old shoulder and held it there. The movement was as familiar to Uncle Remus as the walls of his cabin, for among all the children he had known well, not one had failed to lay his head where that of the little boy now rested.”

Sharon Stevens

The Wizard


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

The Wizard

A recent series of young adult books has reminded me how fun it is to believe in magic. Can you remember the first time you watched the movie The Wizard of Oz? How about Cinderella or Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory? Remember sitting in front of the television and not even being able to blink your eyes as magical things happened to make scarecrow talk and pumpkins turn into carriages and little orange people mix chocolate by waterfall? And how did you feel when the words “The End” scrolled up on the screen?

Writing is that way. You know the story because you’ve listened to the characters tell it in their own words. Your job is to take the story they told you and find the magic words that will weave a spell around your reader and keep them glued to your words.

Stephen King uses the term “telepathy,” and that’s a very good description. But J. K. Rowling goes a little further and alludes to “a book that casts a spell that won’t let the reader put it down.”

The magic comes from words spun like a spell, winding around the reader’s eyes and pulling their imagination to the page. They can’t put the book down until the story ends, and then they turn back to the beginning and start over.

Look for magic all around you and the words will appear.

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

Nandy Ekle