Lynnette Jalufka

One day, two of my coworkers were pushing carts down a walkway, heading toward each other.

One shouted, “Whoa!”

The other kept going, until the carts collided, spilling their contents on the floor. “Why didn’t you say ‘stop?'” he asked. “What’s ‘whoa’ mean?”

Obviously, one coworker has had experience with horses, and the other has not. I can relate. Because of my equine background, I say, “whoa” instead of “stop” all the time. I also respond faster to “whoa.” It’s part of who I am. It’s part of how I connect to the world around me.

The same goes for your characters. Their background and experiences should color how they see the people, places, and objects in your story. In my upcoming novel, I show that my protagonist is a horsewoman by how she constantly does comparisons to the equine world. She evaluates people by their horses first.

Drawing from your character’s own experiences will give them depth and personality. In short, making them alive to your readers.


Best Quotes from WWA


Best Quotes from WWA

Natalie Bright

The Western Writers of America meeting was held in Billings this year, and I had the chance to attend, as you might have noted from previous blog posts. Here are the best quotes from that four-day meeting.


“Write about your passion. Consider it lucky to follow that passion your whole life. Research is the key to everything.” Rob Word, TV writer, producer, host of the YouTube celebrity talk shows A WORD ON ENTERTAINMENT and A WORD ON WESTERNS

“You have to get out from behind your desk.” Toby Thompson, author & creative writing instructor at Penn State University.

“Thank you for coming to Crow country. The land you are standing on is mixed with Crow blood.”Alden BigMan Jr.

“Western writers have a strong sense that place is special.” Linda Jacobs, geologist & award-wining author.

“Just because you know beef, you don’t know buffalo.” M. Michael Gear, archeologist & award-winning author.

“Bison are not worked physically. It’s more like a chess game.” Kathleen O’Neal Gear, archeologist, historian, and author.

“So many different ways to connect with readers. Be findable.” Kirsta Rolfzen Soukup, owner Blue Cottage Agency.

“Be prepared to get on social media and promote the hell out of yourself.” Cherry Weiner, Cherry Weiner Literary Agency.

“Take a moment to consider the breadth of subject matter our organization represents. We have a great group of finalists and winners.” Kirk Ellis, WWA President & television producer.

“I had to remind myself this is not a documentary. It’s art.” Marcus Red Thunder, technical adviser on Longmire.

When your book becomes a television show…”It’s like ranching. You get the very best people you can to work with and leave them alone.” Craig Johnson, WWA board member & best-selling author of the Walt Longmire mystery series.

“I tell kids, get into the books. They are a hell of a lot better than that TV show.” Marcus Red Thunder referring to the Walt Longmire mystery series by Craig Johnson.

“Write good books; the one thing writers have control over. Never underestimate those characters.”Craig Johnson


Spending time with other writers reminds me of why I can’t ignore the stories and characters in my head, and why I don’t want to stop no matter what life throws in my path. Listening to someone else tell you about their work and hanging around others who are passionate about stories is very inspiring.

If you are a fan of history, the western genre, or stories set in the American West, you might be interested in these organizations for writers.

Women Writing the West is a group of writers and professionals who promote the contributions made by women to the history, culture, and growth of the American West. For more information, visit The 2018 meeting will be held October 25-28 in Walla Walla, Washington, or join us in 2019 in San Antonio, Texas.

Western Writers of America boasts historians, nonfiction authors, young adult, romance writers, songwriters, poets, and screenwriters for film and television within its 650 members. We all have one thing in common—our work in every medium is set in the ever-changing American West. For more information go here Join us in Tucson, Arizona in June 19-22, 2019.

Natalie Bright is an author, blogger and speaker. The two newest books in her RESCUE ANIMAL SERIES features a Tennessee Walker named Flash and a registered Hackney named Taz. Click on the books tab above for more information, and check the events calendar. For a funny, Wild West adventure, the TROUBLE IN TEXAS series is perfect for middle grades and family read-a-longs. Coming soon for young adults, WOLF’S WAR is a dark adventure set in the Texas frontier about a muleskinner and Comanche brave who reluctantly join forces to fight a ruthless gang of outlaws. Also in the works from NKB Books LLC, tales from an Arkansas Vet and a book for novice cow punchers about the unwritten rules of the cowboy code.


The Reluctant Hero


The Reluctant Hero

By Nandy Ekle



“A reluctant hero is a tarnished or ordinary man with several faults or a troubled past, and he is pulled reluctantly into the story, or into heroic acts. During the story, he rises to the occasion, sometimes even vanquishing a mighty foe, sometimes avenging a wrong. But he questions whether he’s cut out for the hero business. His doubts, misgivings, and mistakes add a satisfying layer of tension to a story”. (From Wikipedia)

As a reader, the reluctant hero has always fascinated me. This is the person who wants a normal life, hearth and home, living in his own world fulfilling his own desires. But due to circumstances he has no control over, he is forced to think about the good of others.

In my opinion, the epitome of this type of character is William Wallace in the movie “Braveheart.” I’m not sure about the historical accuracy of the story. I’ve heard a lot of talk about how there’s not a shred of truth to it. And, to be fair, it does give a pretty dark light on a certain group of people. But, let’s face it. Most, especially those of us with an overdeveloped sense of imagination, don’t really care how accurate of a biography it is.

Braveheart is a masterfully told epic with a true reluctant, unwilling hero at the very center.

Scotland in the 1300s has been taken captive by England, and the king of England is a cruel man who rules his people (including his family) with an iron fist. At the first of the movie, William Wallace is a boy and his father and older brother leave him in to look after the cottage and the farm while they go to peace talks between their clan and a the English rulers over their homestead. William watches as a wagon brings the bodies of his father and brother back home. At their funeral, a little girl offers him a thistle, her gesture of comfort for the new orphan. His uncle rides into the village and takes young William off on a journey where he is educated to read, write, other languages, and calculate numbers.

When he’s grown, he comes back to his home to live as part of the clan, raising animals and vegetables, and to marry the now grown thistle girl who has been on his mind for all the years he was gone. His only wish is to marry her, run his farmstead, and raise children. The circle of life, as it were.

But then, his wife (they did marry, but only is secret to protect her from the attention of the lusting English soldiers.) This ended his wife’s death. And this is the moment the hero reluctantly emerges. William kills the English soldiers, and the rest of the clan help him out and was able to pinpoint the exact moment when he became the successful leader that lead a country to freedom.

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




By Nandy Ekle


Feelings. Emotions. Moods. Heart. These are some of the heaviest words in the English language. They are also very important to a story. The reason they’re so critical is because our stories are about people. And people have feelings and emotions oozing from every pore.

Our feelings are what make the difference between a newscast and a gut wrenching story that stays with a person for days, begging to be read again. The stronger the emotion, the deeper the tie to your reader.

Now, as a woman, I realized something a long time ago. Emotions are scary. The more emotion I feel, the less control I feel. What this means as a writer is that I tend to shy away from emotional writing. Cramming so much feeling into my words touches my own emotions and I feel the longing, the desperation, and the pain of my characters. But the thing to remember is it will also touch my readers’ feelings and make them love the character.

Some of the emotions we need to use copious amounts of are anger, sadness, betrayal, fear, happiness, love, depression, confusion, hunger, and longing, just to name a few.

One of the main things I find myself saying to people when they ask me to edit their stories is “more emotion.” Make me feel her desperation for love. Make me feel his helplessness. Make me want to cry my eyes out. And make me want to curl up in a ball in the corner and cover my eyes as I tremble with terror.

I think the way to do this is to truly connect with my own character. And this will be the subject of my next blog.

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

Writing in “The Visit”

Writing in “The Visit”

by Adam Huddleston


This past Friday my wife, her father, and I went to the matinee showing of “The Visit”. We are all fans of horror and this film looked to be pretty scary. Afterward, the main topic of conversation amongst us, other than the twist ending which the film’s writer/director M. Night Shyamalan is known for, was the writing in the movie.

As horror movies go, the plot was average to a bit above average, but in my opinion the dialogue was one of the film’s highlights. It had the perfect mix of humor and terror. The young boy in the movie, played by Ed Oxenbould, steals the show with his lines; especially when he substitutes profanity with the names of female pop singers. The grandparents in the film deliver equally strong performances with their portrayals of loving caretakers that get creepier as the movie progresses.

Kudos to Mr. Shyamalan for a wonderful job with the writing. If you are a fan of horror, I recommend seeing this film when you get a chance.

A Very Boring Life


A Very Boring Life

By Nandy Ekle

There was a time when, as a younger woman with three brilliant and combative children, I was convinced my life was boring. I was a stay-at-home mom who literally stayed at home, except when I was driving kids to school, driving to the grocery store, picking up kids from school, and driving kids to appointments.

It seemed like nothing exciting ever happened. To and from the schools, groceries, doctors, library, vacuuming the floor, scrubbing the floor, washing clothes, cooking dinner, bathing kids, and then putting them to bed. Then I would get up late at night/early morning, fight zombies, spiders, and various other monsters that bothered my children at night. The same old day started at 6:00 the next morning.

Yes, I really thought I had a boring life.

Then I watched a movie about my life. The main character was a secret agent for the government and his wife, a plain, average woman just like me, had no idea what he actually did. He had her convinced he sold insurance. She felt like she had a very boring life. Then she had lunch with another man and her husband sees her. So he sets up a little adventure for her.

Anyway, watching this movie taught me some things about myself. In all my cleaning and driving and nurturing, it turns out I am one of the most adventurous women in the world. I realized that not only was I a chef and chauffeur, I was also a referee, a doctor/nurse, “office” manager, banker, bookkeeper, and so on. But that’s old news. Every stay-at-home mom realizes these titles eventually.

The other thing I discovered was that our family was prone to experiences that are, um, unique. Like the time a lizard tail fell out of the dryer. Or the time my dog started barking hysterically at 3:00 in the morning. And how could I ever forget the cars that stopped working while driving down the highway or stopped at a red light. Or the plumbing that backed up. The creative scheduling and emergency shopping for school.

Now, as a mature woman whose children have grown up and flown away, I remember those boring days and think about the tons of stories I lived through.

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






We’re Back

Outtakes 206

We’re Back

by Cait Collins

It’s been a while since our critique group has been together. Work, family obligations, vacations and floods (yes, flooding in the Texas Panhandle) have kept us apart. But as summer comes to a close, it’s time to get back to the business of writing. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been working on some ideas; it means I haven’t been focused.

There’s something about having deadlines and meetings that tend to help me keep on track. Knowing I need to have about ten pages ready to read on Thursday night forces me to put a book away, turn down the TV, and open the lap top. I often do my best work under pressure or time lines.

I’ve been considering how to complete the set-up of my new story. I have names, cities, settings, and now I know how to describe that office. It’s simply a matter of getting the edits on paper. I can’t wait to read the results to the group.

The other thing I have missed is the friendship. Not only do we critique each other’s writing, we’ve developed a camaraderie that helps us work together for the benefit of each member. No one is more important than another. And if one is struggling, we make the time to give the extra support and guidance needed to help him or her over the slump. That’s what makes a good, productive group.

I’m so blessed to be a part of Wordsmith Six. I wish every writer had such dedicated friends and writing partners.




I gaze into the eyes of the beast searching to find its soul. I am caught in the childhood game of “the first one who blinks looses,” yet he shows no emotion, no rising of brow, no blinking or shedding of tears, just a long menacing stare.

The creature’s leering eye grows brighter with every passing moment, seemingly intent on seeing the space of my existence. My vision is full of his sight, yet I see nothing.

I study his unrelenting look, my mind searching the far corners and deep recesses, constantly swirling, struggling to find some strategy, or weapon or even one simple word that might defeat my enemy and win this mind-numbing battle.

The desire to close my eyes tugs at the lids. The moisture surrounding my orbs in their sockets has become dry and I struggle against the urge to rub them. The creature shows no signs of weakening and continues to counter every glance.

Without my consent, sudden darkness is all I see. I blink. I am immediately torn between two emotions. First, relief. Moist droplets flood my eyes like waters of the sea crashing onto the shore. The fetters that once restrained the rubbing of my eyelids have now been unfastened.

And second, In the darkness of my blink, dread fills my mind as I wait for the wrath of my opponent to be unleashed. Or perhaps he has already struck with such a swift penalty that I didn’t feel the pain. In the deafening silence I dare to open my eyes. To my surprise I find that it was not I who blinked first, but the computer screen upon which I placed these words.

Rory C. Keel

The Click


The Click

By Nandy Ekle


In my day job, I read a lot of contracts, and I read some court documents. I analyze these papers and put together letters to answer any question our customers feel like asking. Even though I am writing, it’s a very different kind of writing from that of story telling. And I would never use any facts from any contract or customer in my story, and I work very hard to keep the right side of my brain completely separate from the left side.

While these two types of writing are entire worlds apart, occasionally they do bump into one another. It just goes to show how pieces of stories are just laying around like grains of sand on the beach.

I’ve had this story in the back of my head for a while. I have my characters, setting, and the main points of the plot. I think I even started it a while back, but allowed it to rest long enough that I forgot to finish it.

So I was reading a court document concerning a lawsuit between two entities and found something very interesting that caused a clicking noise in my head. In fact, it was so interesting I immediately saw some things that could happen, and they were a little bit scary. The next thing that happened was the four characters from partially written story began to scream and jump up and down.

Immediately I saw how this new piece of information could be used to create the last few pieces I needed to finally put this story together.

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






Coffee Break



Coffee Break

By Nandy Ekle


I’m a coffee drinker. I used to be avid about it, drinking coffee all day long. But a few years ago I cut back considerably. Now I have one medium sized cup in the morning and that’s all. Still, that one cup is very important.

We don’t use the new-fangled single cup coffee makers because my husband has never cut back on his coffee consumption and the little singles are just not practical in our house. So when we make coffee, we make it by the 12-cup pot full. This means putting a filter in the basket, measuring out the grounds, pouring water in the tank, pushing the button, and watching the brown goodness drip, a couple drops at a time, sometimes a small brown stream down into the carafe until it’s full and ready to be poured out.

So, what does making a pot of coffee have to do with writing? Well, I’m a writer. Sometimes I’m a more avid writer than others, cranking out stories all day long. But sometimes just one story a day is enough. Still that one story is very important.

I have to assemble my ingredients: the computer on my lap (make sure the mouse is on), scratch paper and pen next to me (because I always have scratch paper and pen next to me), the internet pulled up and handy (research and polling friends), and my cup of coffee. Then I push the buttons and let the page fill up. Sometimes it only drips one word at a time. But then, sometimes it flows as a stream onto the page in front of me. And when it’s done, I feel the same sense of satisfaction I get from drinking my hot coffee first thing in the morning.

And now, I believe I will have a cup.

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