Try living with your character

Try living with your character

When creating a character try this exercise.

As you build a character, or characters, you should be able to see them and answer questions about them. As you take action and make choices during the day, do the same with your character.

What do you eat for breakfast? Does your character eat breakfast? What foods do they like or dislike?

Do you wear a particular style of clothes? What does your character WEAR? Why do they like to wear them?

Do you go to the store? Where does your character shop and what do they buy?

What do you do for fun, sports or hobbies? What about your character?

What’s important is NOT what the character did, but what you learned about what you know about the character.

Rory C. Keel



Rare But Special is a horse you would call, “Race bred.” His sire comes from linage of the great Easy Jet, owned and raised by Oklahoma breeder Walter Merrick. The dam (mother) goes back to another super horse named Dash For Cash. The point being, these are winning racehorses, not only successful on the track themselves, but also at producing winners in their offspring. The same selection process to breed cutting horses, reining, jumping, endurance, whatever equine discipline there is, these horse are specifically bred to be the best at what they do.

In Chapter two of my novel TRAILS END, Donnie Williams learns of his new boss’s attempt to breed the perfect cow horse. Robert Jarrett uses a method that involves mating animals that are already related to each other. If it works, it’s referred to as line breeding. If it fails, people call it inbreeding. The result of this project is the ranch horse named Trails End.

Rare But Special came in fourth in his last race. Not too bad, but he has to win first to continue his race career. He has one more chance on August 28. I hope you’ll be rooting for him, he’s a kind sweet horse that didn’t have much of a chance early in life. A lot like my character Donnie Williams.

Joe Nichols

Time Out

Outtakes 31

Time Out

It’s tax season in my business. We’re working long days plus Saturdays and never seem to make much of a dent in the work load. By the time I get home from the office I’m so tired I don’t want to read my personal email or work on my novel. I’m sure many writers who have full time jobs face the same issue. We realize there are times when life interferes with our creative endeavors.  It’s at this time, we must “knuckle-down, buckle-down and do it, do it, do it”.  Quitting or taking a break isn’t in the vocabulary. Then again there are times my characters won’t let me stop.

Just yesterday morning, my antagonist, King Phillips, visited me while I applied my make-up. “They won’t get away with it, you know. Does that stuffed-shirt of a bank manager think he’ll foreclose on my property? I keep saying I have leverage, and I do. I can’t wait to see the look on the man’s face when I walk in, hand him the certified check, and pay off the loans. Then, I’ll close my accounts. What do you think of that, writer lady?”

“Hmm, good question. But, Phillips you haven’t found out about the federal investigation into the loans. Nor do you know what Kate read in the journal and the documents Chad found. So when you demand to close your accounts, you’ll get hit with a major curve. Your assets are frozen. What do you think of that, King?”

“No way! Who planned that little zinger? My money is my property, and no one can have it.”

“Oh, guess again, Phillips. I have plans for your money and property. You may hold four queens, but someone else has four aces and a joker. Joker’s wild. You lose.”

“Wait a minute, writer lady. You can’t…”

“Sorry, King, I have to run or I’ll be late for work.”

Darn, reality. I was on a roll.

Cait Collins

Grocery Shopping


Grocery Shopping

It’s that stress-me-out time of the year. My calendar begins to fill with all the obligations of the season. There’s the family Thanksgiving dinner, black Friday planning, black Friday shopping, my brother-in-laws’s annual merry unbirthday party, the sisters dinner, the company holiday luncheons, ornament exchange at church, and the list goes on. Each of these events requires food, so I will sit down with my calendar, my coupons, my holiday shopping-and-planning-notebook and begin to make my grocery list.

Start with the basics. For example, I’m making the dressing for Thanksgiving. So here’s what I’ll need: corn bread mix, onions, eggs, chicken broth, seasonings, celery, a roasting pan, and foil.

Once I have the basic list, I sort through my coupons to see what matches and begin to revise the list to correspond with my coupons. I have 25 cents off on 3 packages of corn bread mix, 75 cents off one container of seasonings, 50 cents off eggs, two coupons for discounts on broth, 25 cents off on foil, and one for the disposable storage bowls I left off my basic list.

The list is further edited by brand, size, quantity, expiration date, and limitations. The final list looks something like this.

6 15 oz cans Swanson’s low sodium chicken broth 50 cents off on 3 can purchase

6 packages Martha White’s yellow corn bread mix on sale 3 packages for $1.25; one 25 cents off on 3 packages.

1 dozen large grade A Eggland’s Best eggs 50 cents off coupon

1 McCormick poultry seasoning ,65 oz bottle. 75 cents off

1 rolls Reynolds aluminum foil 50 foot roll or larger 25 cents off

2 packages of 2 cup Ziplock storage bowls 3 to a package $1.00 off

1 container diced onions in the refrigerator case

1 container diced celery

Now I have a detailed list I could give to my nephews along with the cash, and they could battle the crowd at the store. So what does this mean for a writer?

I make a basic list regarding the characters and storyline for a novel. On a first draft of my novel, I have basic ideas of my characters, setting, time of year and so on. As the story develops, the details emerge and the characters become more alive and the settings are more vivid. I update the list as I go. By the time I’m on the final edit, all the details are filled in and an agent or editor will have the necessary details to present and promote my project.

Getting the details right takes time and effort. It also requires being open to change as the story develops. Making notes of the progress helps prevent errors like the hero has blue eyes in chapter two and brown eyes in chapter ten.

I also use lists to spark creativity. There are some days when the muse is not with me, so I make my grocery list. Instead of green beans, I refine the item to Green Giant French cut green beans. Olives become large, jalapeño-stuffed Spanish olives. Ground beef is lean ground sirloin 90/10. After a few minutes working this exercise, I find my inspiration and get back to writing my novel.

Cait Collins

Thank you


Thank you

It’s almost done. Sixty pages, three chapters and the second draft of my fourth novel HOW DO YOU LIKE ME NOW will be ready for final editing. I don’t have a publisher, agent or editor. Yet. The point is that I will have finished the book.

I have so many folks to thank. Without their support, guidance and encouragement, I might have been tempted to drop the project and try something else. So here goes. I’ll start with my good friend Cynthia Hunt who read the novella, liked it but wanted more story. The agent who listened to my pitch and told me it would not sell as a novella. However, I had enough plot twists and ideas to develop a novel, so write it. I have a wonderful family who allows me bounce ideas off them. They support my dream of selling my novel and will celebrate with me when that happens. I have great friends who follow the progress of the story and can’t wait for me to complete the book. I support myself with my writing as I work toward the sale of my novel. I have a great manager and team who support my creative writing.

Last, but definitely not least, I owe so much to Natalie, Sharon, Nancy, Craig, and Joe. Meeting after meeting they critique the pages I read. They offer sound advice, point out the errors without demoralizing, and they give me tons of smiley faces. I treasure their input and friendship. And I wish every writer had such a support group.

Writing is a solitary profession. A writer spends so much time alone in an office, or on the couch, staring at the computer screen or legal pad, and painstakingly give life to a story, poem, song, non-fiction book, memoir, or article. Sometimes you can feel so alone in the process. I compare the writer’s journey to the road a woman travels when pregnant. Can you imagine going through morning sickness, weight gain, runs to the bathroom every ten minutes, hours of labor without family and friends behind you cheering you on? How sad would that be? The truth is we need each other to share the good and the bad. I’m blessed and freely acknowledge it. I wish every writer, every person, would be as fortunate.

So to all of you who have been with me in this journey, I say thanks from the bottom of my heart. I could not have done it without you.

Cait Collins

Fighting Human Nature

            TRAILS END- The Novel

                                                           Fighting Human Nature

Taking responsibility for the path of your life is hard work. It’s more convenient to make excuses, blame circumstances and other people, or concede to “It’s just my bad luck.” Seeing only the negative side comes easy. It takes real effort to guide yourself in a positive manner, accepting what comes your way, and dealing with it.

In chapter nine of TRAILS END, Donnie finds proof that he is a failure because of the Palomino horse bucking him off. Robert Jarrett’s wife, Allie, delays the home school lesson to present a different point of view to the young cowboy. It’s a turning point in his life and a foundation he turns to forever.

Have you ever had to face the truth to yourself? I think realizing there is always someone worse off than we are, goes along way in accepting our bad situations and motivating ourselves to dig our own way out. I hope that you, like Donnie, can find solutions to your problems, and be happy everyday.

Check in next Wednesday,


National Novel Writing Month

National Novel Writing Month

November is National Novel Writing Month, NANOWRIMO for short. For thirty days writers from all over the world will be cranking out words on computers and word processors trying to reach 50,000 thousand words.

The goal is to encourage writers to put out a novel size piece of work in a very short period of time. With that many words completed, the work can then go through rewrites and editing for clean up to produce a polished and completed novel.

This year, I’m going to attempt this challenge as a way of motivating myself to write. It will certainly be a challenge at an average of 1667 words a day. My plan of attack will be to put the outline of my story down, then fill in the spaces. Maybe I should have participated when I had a chatty six year old at home who couldn’t stop talking. I could have taken dictation and made the word count!

If you are interested in participating, go to and sign up. It’s free, fun and who knows, you even might get a novel out of it.

Rory C. Keel

The Value of Monetary Objects

TRAILS END – The Novel

The Value of Monetary Objects

Our society puts a lot of emphasis on status demonstrated by our possessions. Although our priorities in life should really focus elsewhere, some items can have a profound meaning and importance to us. Having family heirlooms being one example.

I believe the most significant gift a person can give you, is something that means a lot to them. An item that you know how important it is to that individual, yet they want you to have it. This shows to me their true feelings about you.

In chapter ten, Robert Jarrett gives Donnie his old bronc saddle. A Gold Seal Hamley saddle that is rare and valuable, and also the only saddle Robert rode in his rodeo career. Although he doesn’t allow it to be seen, Robert takes great satisfaction in passing down this possession to the eager young boy.

What do you have ownership of that means the world to you because of who gave it to you?

I have my grandpa’s hammer. He was a carpenter and I think of him every time I pick it up.

I have quilts from both my grandmothers. I see them working on them when I look at their detail and beauty.

My Dad carved a bull’s head out of a block of wood when he was twelve years old. The spurs provided by an old rooster makes the horns. No amount of money could make me part with it.

A man that I looked up to as a kid and still do to this day, has the most fascinating collection of rodeo pictures of him competing in the 1950’s. When I asked to make copies of a couple of them, he gave me the originals.

Can you imagine the emotion Donnie Williams experienced when given that saddle? It’s just part of the story of a lost boy’s journey.


Joe Nichols

Dealing with Pressure

Dealing with Pressure

Do you get things done better under pressure, or fall apart when you’re not prepared ahead of time? When we put obligations off to the last minute, we create the pressure ourselves, and I know people that intentionally function this way. Others have everything organized in advance and avoid all tense situations they can. But what about the circumstances that come to you unexpected and out of your control?

Donnie Williams has a huge responsibility to train Trails End to be a gentle horse for his boss. After the colt starts bucking him off, the fear of failing puts the pressure on Donnie for over a year, and it overwhelms him. How he deals with it, is an important part of the story that reveals his past struggles, and effects his future.

How would you handle it?

Until next Wednesday,

Joe Nichols


Hiding the Truth

Last week I talked about “Fixing the Truth”. This involves telling a lie until you can get the changes made to make your false statement factual. Such as Donnie Williams lying about his boss’s favorite colt “Doing fine,” when he actually had bucked him off.

Hiding the truth is a physical action to hide evidence. Have you ever done that as a child, or even as an adult?

An injury from doing something you shouldn’t have been doing, can’t be revealed. Besides all the mischief I found as a young boy, my deception continued as a young adult. My parents were not in favor of my rodeo career and several times I hid injuries from them. When I was a kid living at home, I did it so they wouldn’t put a complete stop to my sport. Later, when they accepted my career and even supported it, I did it to save their worry and grief.

The horse, Trails End, puts Donnie in this very situation. Maybe there’s a similar event in your past. If not, I believe the story will still capture your interest. After all, cowboys are real people too. Well, okay, maybe not.

Hope you’ll check in next Wednesday,

Joe Nichols