Where is Your Tribe?

 

By Tammy Trail

For the purpose of this article, I chose to research Facebook as a marketing tool. One source called Facebook obsolete, an unreliable venue to reach readers. Unless you have a fan base that likes and shares your post to garner interest, the news feeds in Facebook algorithms will not promote your posts unless you pay for it. Therefore, you must continuously engage your community to be noticed.

I have seen many author friends use Facebook to have virtual parties to promote new releases of their just-published work. Some parties are hosted by one author; other parties are hosted by several authors coming together to promote their work and to reach a new community of followers.

I polled a few of my author friends and asked the following questions.

  1. Were your expectations met by the number of participants who attended your Facebook party?
  2. Did it help with the sale of your book?
  3. Were you able to gather names for an email list or obtain more followers interested in your work?

Most authors felt that it was well worth the time to host a Facebook party. The authors who choose to join a group effort had more people attend their parties. Therefore, they had more folks to participate in the fun. These authors were able to reach new prospects by introducing themselves to an audience that may not have sought out their work simply because the author was unknown to the individual.

I was surprised to learn from my author poll that the purpose of having the Facebook party was not to sell books. Say what? I thought your main focus once you are published is to sell books. I realized that most of these well-loved authors care about their readers and choose to create a community or a tribe if you will. They enjoy the connection with those who love to read their books. Facebook parties can include raffles, giveaways, or teasers for the next book in a series. Some authors ask for input from their readers. For example, naming a character in their new work in progress. Others like giving a spoiler and letting the reader provide the rest of the plot for a scene in a new story.

The authors I polled didn’t gather names during their Facebook parties, they told me they have an author website for that purpose. Most felt they did garner more followers either on Facebook or their websites from participating in Facebook parties. The primary mission for the Facebook parties is for an author to introduce themselves to a possible readership, and to have fun! One author told me that after a book is published, it’s all about the reader. As an author, your job is to build a relationship with your reader, not to focus on yourself.

I also learned that I have my work cut out for me. I don’t have an author website or an author page on Facebook. I love to have fun. I love meeting people who are as passionate about history as I am and reading the same kind of books that I do. I guess without those folks, we would be the only one to read our beloved works of art. So, the next time you get an invite to a Facebook party, join in, have fun, meet new people. You already have something in common: the love of reading.

Click to Tweet: You already have something in common: the love of reading. @InspiredPrompt #marketing #writetip

Writing Prompt: Which famous author would you love to have stop by your Facebook party to launch your new book?

What Is So Historical About Research?

By Tammy Trail

When I began to write my first novel, I knew it would be a historical. I love history. I love the idea of our nation being shaped by hardworking men and women who sacrificed to live in an untamed country. I chose Frontier/American Revolution because that’s what I like to read.

I began of course with WHO, WHAT, WHERE, and WHEN. I was given advice from a writer friend to research everything for accuracy and keep notes on where I found that information. I may need it later to educate or confirm my research.

If you just google Historical Research, you will find a plethora of options. Historical research involves examining past events to draw conclusions about the future. That is one definition I found. Instead of drawing conclusions about the future, we who write historical fiction pour our definition of past events and how they might have affected our characters onto the page.

Some material that may help in your research are newspapers, diaries, letters, speeches, or interview a person with firsthand knowledge. Museums, historical societies, and old pictures are helpful too. I would really love to take a “research” trip one of these days. Williamsburg Virginia has been calling my name for years.

Other information you may need to research.

  • Food
  • Clothing
  • Trades
  • Politics
  • Travel
  • Weapons

In my American Revolutionary story, politics plays a huge role because it set the social and economic climate for that period. I read about some of the lesser known places and heroes that played a part in our winning independence from Great Britain.  I also asked myself what roles would a woman have played during the American Revolution? How does life go on when your men are away from home?

I have even read novels from other authors who write in my chosen time to get a feel for that era. I stay away from books that have a plot like my own. Some authors write blogs about their extensive research to share with others. Something as simple as shoes were totally different over 200 years ago. Beware of doing so much research that your story becomes bogged down with just facts, and not enough story. You can do too much research and never introduce your character to the world.

I have used Pinterest to keep pictures of my character’s lives. I can look at them and imagine what the interior of a home would look like, how my heroine may have dressed for chores, or how she may have dressed for a party.

I also dabbled in writing a western set in Wyoming territory in the early 1800s.  My heroine is a Chinese national who arrives in San Francisco on a ship. During my research for that story, I found a ship that sailed from China to that port in 1854. Now some of the other facts in my story had to be changed to fit that timeline. And that’s OK. It adds authenticity. I also needed to learn about the US Calvary, Indian tribes who were indigenous to that part of the country, and what obstacles my heroine might encounter because she was not born in the United States.

When you have all your questions answered and you begin to write, chances are you will find you have more questions. Keep researching or seek out an experienced author. I find that someone is always happy to help.

Writing Prompt: In what year did the following events take place?

  • Senator Daniel Webster endorses a bill as a measure to avert a possible civil war.
  • Millard Fillmore is sworn into office as President of the United States.
  • California is admitted as the 31st state.
  • P.T. Barnum introduces Swedish Nightingale, Jenny Lind to an American audience.

Click to Tweet: What Is So Historical About Research @InspiredPrompts #writetip #amwriting

 

Let Me Call You Sweetheart

By Tammy Trail

Valentine’s Day is just days away. Have you gotten your sweetheart a gift yet? I have done a bit of research on the history of Valentine’s Day. It is rooted in a pagan holiday that ensured fertility.

Roman Emperor, Claudius II ruled that young men in the Army were to remain unmarried. He felt that this would make single men more aggressive in the field of battle. The Emperor put a young cleric by the name of Valentine to death for secretly marrying young couples.  Valentine was later made a Saint by Pope Gelasius and given the date of February 14th to celebrate Saint Valentine.

In the 13th Century, it was synonymous with love and romance because it was believed that this was the beginning of mating season for birds.

In the 15th Century, written valentines were given to sweethearts.

In the 17th Century, valentines were exchanged between those who were smitten with one another.

In 1840, the first mass-produced valentines appeared in the United States. Valentine’s Day is the second most popular card giving occasion. It is celebrated in Canada, Mexico, United Kingdom, France, Australia, Denmark, Italy, and Japan.

As a child, I remember my mother scouring the house for shoe boxes to be made into valentine mail boxes to decorate for my desk at school. There would be a party, of course, with lots of good treats. After school, you would open your box and read the paper gifts of admiration your classmates gave to you.

I have tried in years past to make my own valentines to give to family members and friends. Last year I made these for my grandsons.

I filled the little sack with treats. They really enjoyed getting a valentine from their Mimi!

I am already diligently looking for options for this year. You may find it just as rewarding to make your own as well. I find a great source of inspiration with Pinterest. What a treasure trove of ideas!

Whether you make your own, or buy a card for that special someone, I believe it’s a good holiday to celebrate. Who doesn’t like candy? And you will make mate, child, or friend feel important with a valentine that you especially picked out for them. You can never go wrong by making people feel loved and important.

For the writer, especially the romance writer, Valentine’s Day is a reminder of why we put words to paper. That boy meets girl stuff is what makes the story, especially when they lived happily ever after.

So, in keeping with that thought! Here is my valentine for all of you.

  1. Writing Prompt: Jessica expected a great big box of heart-shaped candy.  What she found was……..?

Click to tweet: Romance is #alive https://ctt.ec/53mP6

Back to Basics for Writers – Plotter or Pantser?

by Tammy Trail

You might be a PLOTTER if you have ever wondered if you should be more organized with your writing. Plotting is a systematic way of putting your story thoughts together. You might decide to do it by scene or chapter. You will need to know what each character’s goal, motivation and conflict are for each scene. This system may require you to write an outline of your story idea.

A writer friend showed me one method when I first started working on my story. You simply take 3 X 5 index cards and write each chapter idea on a card until you have each chapter worked out for the whole book. If you’re writing romance, a suggestion with this method is using different colored index cards for your hero and heroine. For instance, pink index cards for the heroine and blue for the hero. Using index cards gives you an opportunity to change the cards around to rearrange your chapters, or change the time frame of your inciting incident.

There are many different plotting systems you can find with the help of the internet. I have read the “Plot Skeleton”, by Angela Hunt. Randy Ingermason has a Snowflake system that you can purchase from his website. Scrivener is a downloadable system that helps organize your story and allows you to keep your notes, pictures, outline, and your manuscript all in one place. This is also a great tool if you decide to self-publish your novel.

Some writers may consider themselves ‘free spirits”, and refuse to use any kind of plotting system because it stifles the creative flow. This is the PANTSER method – you fly by the seat of your pants. I started out with an idea for a story with no formal plotting method I imagined my heroine’s appearance, her personality and motivation. Then I created a life for her in the 18th century that I incorporated into a story.

My initial first chapter is now my third chapter, and I finished the book just shy of 70,000 words. When I began to edit my story, I found plot holes; places where my story lost connection and became a dead end. Now that I’ve had time to think about my story, I’ve written a whole different first chapter. Sounds a little crazy, huh?

Well, admittedly I am flustered with the complete process. Do I feel that I’ve wasted my time? Not a bit. I have learned a lot from this first draft. I went back to my index cards and began to look at them in a whole different light. I began to fix plot holes, and really think about deep point of view for my main characters. It’s still a work in progress.

Whichever method you choose, neither is wrong as long as you write the story. I haven’t given myself a label. I guess I’m just a bit of a rogue. I love my characters and the journey I envision for them. One day soon I hope to call myself a published author. I’m still learning through my own journey. How about you?

Writing Prompt:  Tracy pushed the off button on the remote just as the first clap of thunder shook her little house. She went to the kitchen to retrieve her flashlight; storms and electricity didn’t get along in her small town. The flashlight was forgotten when she heard a  rattle at her back door. She watched in awe as the doorknob shook violently from left to right. Then the lights went out.

Click to Tweet: So you want to #write. Back to Basics – Plotter or Pantser?

It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas – The Reason for the Season

Our first snowfall this year was on Halloween. My grandson was so excited he danced around the small front yard yelling at the top of his lungs in unashamed joy, “Santa Claus is coming soon.” We then explained that we needed to celebrate Thanksgiving first, before we celebrate Christmas.

I learned from a veteran Walmart employee that the holiday shopping season has been dubbed “the season of rudeness”, and it gets worse the closer it gets to Christmas. Makes you wonder what in the world is wrong with people?

Then I hear stories about a secret Santa who pays the balance on a layaway for a hard working single mom. A police officer who pulls over an unsuspecting motorist who is wondering what traffic infraction caused the red lights in the rear view mirror, only to be given a gift card, or wrapped package instead of  a ticket.

I see barrels everywhere for toy donations, and they are filled with dolls, trucks, and board games. Let us not forget those brave souls who stand out in the cold to ring a bell next to a shiny red kettle. All to make spirits bright for someone in need.

Christmas begins in the heart. Love is the reason for the season. Our greatest gift chose to come down from heaven, to be born in a barn, and raised in a humble home. Sometimes I forget that Jesus is the reason for the season, and I remind myself that all that commercial stuff makes people crazy. Sure, we all want to watch the kids open presents and see that look of surprise and joy. This is what makes gift giving so much fun!

Take away all the pretty lights, ugly sweaters and Aunt Margie’s fruitcake, and what you have left is still worth celebrating.

God gave us a wonderful gift we can celebrate everyday, all year round. I choose to focus on the real reason for Christmas. How about you? [Click to Tweet]