The New Kid


The New Kid

By Nandy Ekle



I can’t take it anymore. You just run around all over the place, never say anything meaningful to me, then ignore me when you are around. I’ve gotten some deeply cryptic messages from you that make absolutely no sense, and when I try to make sense out of it, you stir it up like mud at the bottom of a lake. I’m tired of your torture and abuse, then you disappear for a long break, as if you’ve worked tirelessly for a long time.

And because of all this, I’m firing you. That’s it, muse. You’re fired. Don’t bother coming back and collecting the meager ideas and words you’ve left laying around. I don’t want to see you or hear from you ever again. You can find another writer to taunt and ridicule.

The fact of the matter is I have a new muse. He’s always around whispering to me. He has some excellent ideas and he wants me to get busy writing them. He wants me to succeed. I’m sure this new guy will be more than happy to take me straight to the top.

When I look to him for ideas, he does not look at me as if I’m ridiculous for even trying. He doesn’t give me impossible riddles that make no sense. In fact, he sits on the corner of my desk with a sweet rose, and bids me to write the stories I’ve carried in my head forever. And he tells me I will never lack the words to put on paper.

So, meet my new muse, Horatio.


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


Author. Speaker. Girl About Town.

Author. Speaker. Girl About Town.

Natalie Bright

The Amarillo Club is located on the 30th and 31st floors of the tallest building in downtown Amarillo. I was invited to join a study club for lunch and to present a program on the history of energy in the Texas Panhandle. It’s a very interesting group of ladies, mostly retired educators, several local, long-time business owners, ranchers and professional women. This group is fun. They had lots of comments and questions, which makes for lively conversation and an enjoyable experience. This is my second time to present a program for them.

The view is breathtaking from this lofty vantage point. I posted a picture on Instagram and Facebook of the downtown skyline and the flat Texas Panhandle.

When I got back to my car, I checked the mirror to apply lip gloss and noticed a speck of food. In my teeth. For the entire talk? Gross! I held on to the hope that perhaps the people at the back of the room couldn’t have seen it. I half cried as I checked Facebook comments on the picture I had posted. My Uncle commented: “Eating at high altitude produced gas (Boyle’s Law). You can control it by eating slowly.” So much for hanging on to any credibility for my #authortalk.

Embarrassment and horror turned to giggles as I drove back to my office. No matter how sophisticated and worldly I might be in my own mind, I’ll never escape these redneck roots. I’ll always be a small-town Texas girl, even in pearls and high heels while dining at the top of the world.

The same holds true for my writing.

No matter how hard I wish it, the stories in my brain are not mainstream. Honestly, I had big plans of being a romance novelist. I’d love to write the next zombie mega hit. Or even better, why can’t my muse ignite me with an earthshattering future world adventure that breaks all records as a New York Times Bestseller? Yes please, I want to write that.

Reality check. More than likely, it’s not going to be my book with, “Now a Major Motion Picture” printed on the cover.

The stories in my head are set in the past. My characters are thundering across the wide open prairie on a paint pony, or storming through a clump of Redcoats. In my mind’s eye, I see wagons and horses and Comanche braves. I have no idea why.

The why is a mystery.

The where and who are moving picture shows in my head.

The doing is the hardest work I’ve ever done.

Follow your characters, no matter where they may take you….




A Thousand Words

In the back of one of my closets is a green plastic tub full of the images of memories. There are pictures of my wedding, the births of my children and grandchildren. There are family photos, Christmas photos and birthday photos. I look in the tub and see reminders of children sleeping, playing, fighting, performing and posing. I also find reminders of places where we took those children, and when they left my house. And sometimes I find a face I don’t remember in my green tub.

One really fascinating place to find inspiration for writing is pictures, paintings, photos and mementos. Each little scrap of paper, ticket stub, greeting card or lock of hair brings up the memory of an incident.

Have you ever seen an old photo that brings memories and feelings to your mind and the story behind them begs to be told?  Did you ever come across a scrap of paper with what appears to be a coded message that you know you wrote but will never remember why or what it means? And who is the nameless person smiling at you in the photo begging for your attention?

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

Nandy Ekle

Things to Write About

Outtakes 194

Things to Write About

By Cait Collins


The San Francisco Writers’ Grotto has done it again. I’ve enjoyed their first release 642 Things to Write About. The pages are full of ideas to spark a writer’s creative juices. The ideas are unique. For example, “Write two prayers for your character: one to be said in private, one to be said in public”. Or, “study a stranger. Go home and write a tragedy about his or her mother”. Or maybe write about “a tree from the point of view of one of its leaves”. Sounds interesting doesn’t it? I can assure you there are plenty of ideas in this journal to jump start the imagination. They also released 642 Things to Write About Young Writer’s Edition designed to inspire our younger aspiring authors.

If you think 642 ideas is impressive, the Grotto has another volume; 712 More Things to Write About. Yes, 712 more ideas. Try this. “What were you thinking the first time you made out with someone?” Then there is “Write about a time in your life when you narrowly escaped some terrible fate –but change the ending, and write as if the terrible thing actually happened.” And now “Write five messages from the Ouija board”. And if you are still not convinced everything is fair game, I challenge you to “Write for 10 minutes without stopping about everything that stops you from writing”.

Sometimes we may believe the muse has left us. Our minds are so clouded with what went wrong at work, your child needs braces and your dental insurance will pay less than half the cost, and the social function you’d rather skip. We allow our concerns to block our creativity. But these journals give so much inspiration. They are treasures for our tired, stressed minds. I do recommend them. Just think one short exercise may be the start of a short story, an article, or a novel.

An Empty Hole


An Empty Hole

By Nandy Ekle


There’s a hole in my life. It’s bigger and emptier than the Grand Canyon ad it’s frozen all the way to my soul.

A very important presence left, and not only is my soul in havoc, but it also left everything around me in shambles. I look around the room and wonder what happened between us.

There’s a hole in the roof of this room and the rain continues to fall. The blowing wind keeps my world stirred up with just enough wreckage to keep things from settling back in order. And the wind is icy cold. I reach for a piece of paper as it passes me and my hand burns in this arctic cyclone

My soul and this dark empty room are not the only things feeling the cold rain. A parade of people are paralyzed in mid action. In one corner I see two young girls, the best of friends, on their way to the mountains for a weekend of adventure and healing. I see a lonely young woman whose entire life exists on the computer. I see an insecure girl waiting for her lover to come to her as he does every Friday—an artist trying to work through a broken heart and looking for just one friend—a confused woman waking up in an unknown place with no memory of how she got there—a frustrated and bored mother looking for adventure in the monotony of her life—the conflicted bridesmaid who’s lover is the groom—and probably the saddest face I see is the teenage girl who desperately wants independence from her twisted family.

But they are all as frozen as the air around me.

The source of all this icy chaos is my missing muse. She comes now and then, dropping a small seed in my head without providing the water or sunlight needed to make it germinate and grow. Sometimes the seeds pop up and then die, sometimes they never even take a breath.

I picture these characters she had me create, how they are stuck in turmoil and pain, and I want to help them. I want to fulfill their dreams and give them everything they want. But my hands are as worthless as the rain that continues to fall.

Oh, I’ve tried everything to get her back. I’ve begged and pleaded, cried and coaxed. I’ve spent money for lectures, books, pictures, and music hoping she hides there. I’ve re-read the words leading up to her departure thinking she may be in a corner just waiting for me to find her and pick the stories back up. I’ve talked with others whose muses are steady and helpful. I’ve even pretended she was still whispering to me, but the words are as empty as my heart feels.

So, what to do. The masters say to keep putting the words on the paper and she will eventually come back. They say exercise keeps the muscles strong. And they say to take matters into my own hand and give up the muse.

All I know for sure is the hole in this roof needs to be patched and the furnace needs to be turned on.

Desperately waiting for a post card from my muse.





A Perfect Writing Space

A Perfect Writing Space 

By Natalie Bright

We have a lovely home office. Oak bookcases span one entire wall from floor to ceiling and a leafy plant engulfs a huge picture window, with two comfy chairs – one for typing at the desk and one for reading. It is the perfect place to dream, imagine, explore words, and create. When it came to the work in progress, I couldn’t write a darn thing in that room.

Instead, the kitchen table called out to me. Smack in the middle of an open floor plan, I watched television, the kids, the dogs in the backyard, and the pot bubbling on the stove. Kitty watches the world from the window sill, and even though my mother has been gone eight years now, I have her aloe vera just behind me and the lively family of chickens she painted. I feel like I can create in this spot.

The topic of my story was a difficult one. For fifteen years the story of our first son has been on my heart and mind. Finally, in the middle of today’s chaos notes on loose papers, partial outlines, and journal entries came together. GONE NEVER FORGOTTEN is an eBook about hope and healing for families who have suffered the loss of a baby.

What surprised me was that my productive home office had abandoned me. So beware, fellow writers, the perfect writing space may relocate without giving notice.

What about you – have you found your perfect writing space?

Natalie Bright

Chasing the Creative Impossible

Chasing the Creative Impossible

by Natalie Bright


The elusive part of our lives that all creatives tend to never have enough of, whether you’re firing ceramics, designing jewelry, painting with oils, gluing scrapbook pages or crafting stories with words. There comes a time when chasing your passion is like taking a slow, tortuous swim in a deep, murky pool of self-guilt. The reality is that most of us won’t realize world notoriety.

People Who Inspire You

I just returned from a writing conference where, of course, the topic of making time to write was discussed. Everyone struggles to follow their passion. Spending time with imaginative people helps me bring my ambition into focus. It makes my goals list seem more realistic and achievable, because I meet others who have accomplished what I dream about. Feeling exhausted, rejuvenated, and itching to apply what I’d learned to my waiting manuscript, the drive home took forever. I couldn’t wait to get my fingers on the keyboard again.

What Creative People Do

This weekend at the Enid Writers Group in Oklahoma, Spur Award winning author, Dusty Richards said, “Things will be tough in your life, but when you get to the other side, you still gotta write that book, or do whatever it is that drives you. Just do it.”

Something from Nothing

I think this applies to anyone who chases that elusive need to bring into being what they alone can visualize. People who are driven by an unseen creative muse can’t explain the why. At some point, it’s time to stop providing the excuses, the clarification, or the justification to others. At some point, all that’s left is the doing.

Dig deeper, keep going, just keep writing.

Note: Dusty Richards is author of over 100 books and countless short stories, and currently serves as President of the Western Writers of America. His Brynes Family Ranch Western series is a fan favorite, published by Pinnacle Books.

The Puzzle


The Puzzle

 By Nandy Ekle

I took a walk through my hall of unfinished stories. My hand brushed along the half filled pages, fingertips touching each and every one. As I passed by a lonely little three-page rag, I noticed a sparkle from its eye. So I picked it up and read its words.

Three pages, around 1000 words. My character spoke so loudly I was mesmerized. I felt her loneliness and her growing neurosis. I could see her problem clearly. Goosebumps the size of watermelons grew on my arms and my scalp tingled. Then, at the bottom of page three, the whole thing came to an abrupt stop in the middle of a paragraph.

It’s been about a year since I wrote those three pages and several other stories have channeled themselves through me. I looked at the blank space at the bottom of the page and felt lost. Where was this going? What was my aim? The girl had shown me her problem, but the reason for the problem was gone, along with the ultimate outcome.

But I can’t scrap it. And so I will put on Doctor Freud’s hat and figure out the rest of the story. Number one – she definitely has a problem brewing. And I think I can see exactly what it is. Number two – why is this a problem? Well, because there’s something she wants. I need to remember what her greatest wish is. Number three – what will this desire cost her? Hhhmmm. A little trickier. I need to know her a little better to remember the things most important to her. Reading what I have a few more times will help me with that. Number four – can she achieve what she wants, and if she does, is it really what’s best for her?

As you can see, my work is cut out for me. My muse stands in the corner of my writing space staring at me like a stern math teacher waiting for me to work the equation and get the right answer. However I think I have enough to go on with my three pages, and maybe a few hints from my silent muse.

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

An Inspirational Book


An Inspirational Book

It might as well be midnight for me. I get up very early in the morning, work an eight-hour job, cook dinner when I get home (and other domestic activities), work a couple of craft projects for friends , and then settle with the computer in my lap. And then it hits me. I have not written my blog and my brain has already counted down, said its prayers and gone to bed.

I reach for the little green book that stays near my writing space: The Pocket Muse, by Monica Wood.

This book is a life saver. I cannot tell you how many times I have gone to Ms. Wood for help, and been sent on my way with a pocket full of inspirational ideas from the pages of her book. Just one tiny little nugget catches my attention tonight: “Write a piece – fiction or nonfiction, poetry, or script – in which three objects exist at the beginning and only one at the end.” I read it several times and begin to feel something inside my head split and unwind like an orange peel.

First, I’ll find three random homemade objects with absolutely no connection, then I’ll make up a connection for them. A couple of characters line up and their dialogue escalates the story into, um, a misunderstanding which leads to a couple of the children disliking each other. Two objects disappear and the kids must find them before the bell rings at 3:00 sending them home.

Now it’s your turn to write something from one of Monica’s amazing jam-packed idea book. Ready? Here it is:  “Write about a person whose reputation rests on the appearance of an inanimate object.”

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

Nandy Ekle


When the Muse Strikes

Outtakes 53

When the Muse Strikes

Don’t you just love those days when you power up the computer, open your current document, and start typing? They are few and far between, but when they come along, the pages fill as if by magic. There have been days I started work at eight in the morning and looked up ten hours later with more than one completed chapter. There are rules for such days. At least these are my rules.

  1. Send an email to family and friends to let them you are in the zone, and please do not call unless it’s an emergency. Those that love you will respect your need to work.
  2. Do not answer the door or the phone. It does no good to ask for writing time and then give in to a ringing phone. Turn down the ringer volume, and work.
  3. Do not read email, Facebook, Twitter, blogs (unless it’s mine), or play games. Once you start one of these activities, it’s hard to get back to your writing.
  4. Do not research. If you come to a point where you need additional facts, mark the spot with a brief note as to what is needed, highlight it and go on. Research may kill the Muse, so hold off on the mundane.
  5. Stop only when you need a quick break to run to the bathroom, grab a cup of coffee, and get a snack. Keep the break short so that you don’t get distracted by the laundry that needs to be done, or the living room that needs dusting. This is one time when you are allowed to procrastinate.
  6. Turn off your internal editor. Forget about the red and green squiggly lines on the page. You can edit tomorrow. Keep the writing flow going until the inspiration runs out. Believe me, the Muse will depart, but what a day you’ve had.
  7. When you have exhausted the Muse, be sure you save and back up your work. I often neglect the last step, but one computer crash will convince you the necessity of the back-up. Save the pages on a flash drive, on Carbonite, or on an external hard drive. I also print a copy of the new pages. If the house floods and all the electronics are in the water’s path, a print out stored in a water-tight box on high closet shelf will preserve your efforts.

Enjoy those rare days when everything just seems to work. The visits from the Muse or infusions of inspiration make up for the days you struggle.

Cait Collins