Start The Year Out Right

By Tammy Trail

January is the month of new beginnings. We celebrate a new year and make resolutions that most of us will follow for a few weeks, and then our resolve disappears like melting snow. For some of us, those promises made to ourselves don’t come with consequences. But for others who need to make major health choices, the consequences may be detrimental.

About four years ago I found out that I am a diabetic. At first, this didn’t mean much to me because I had no symptoms. My overall health was not affected. There were no outward appearances that made a person think, “Hey there goes that diabetic.”

I didn’t fully understand diabetes until I took a class a few months ago. This class taught me the causes of diabetes and why my lifestyle choices can make my diabetes manageable or suffer some pretty awful health issues if I don’t pay attention and make good choices.

I have Type 2 diabetes. That means my pancreas produces too much insulin and dumps it into my bloodstream. When I have too much insulin (sugar) in my system my body can’t use it all for energy. I need to help my body out by not eating foods that cause even MORE insulin because my pancreas is working too hard. That insulin will be delivered to other organs that can’t use it and may cause damage.  Your nervous system, kidneys, eyes, and eventually your heart can be damaged from not managing your diabetes correctly.

I’m not up for more doctor visits, medication, or medical tests because I can’t control what I’m putting in my mouth. Now for some folks, no matter what they do, diabetes controls them instead of the other way around. It’s hard. But I’m willing to try and make a difference for myself.

Another fact that this class taught me is the kinds of foods I can eat, and the ones to stay away from. That is so hard.  Who doesn’t like mashed potatoes and gravy, or bread? Those are two of my favorite carbs. But carbohydrates are just as bad as sugar for a diabetic. There are carbs and sugar in almost everything we eat. The trick is to find foods that are very low in sugar and carbs.

What I am trying to do is to stay away from processed foods. Eat more vegetables that are lower in carbohydrates, like cauliflower, squash, broccoli and green beans. More lean meats, like turkey, chicken, and fish. I do eat brown rice, and sprouted grain bread, but I try and eat those only occasionally. I cut soda pop from an everyday beverage to once in a great while, maybe twice a month.

It’s hard to say no. But I keep telling myself that one day I may be able to stop taking my diabetic medicine altogether if I work hard. And if I don’t stay the course? Well, I don’t like to think of the consequences. I would like to be around to see my grandsons graduate from school and have families of their own someday. I won’t be able to do that if I don’t take care of myself.

So, I’m here to encourage you too.  If you have health issues, stop and think about the consequences. We have more power over our health than we may think.  It’s all in how we look at it.

Better health this year #2020 @trail_j https://ctt.ac/MehL0

Writers, It’s Party Time!

By Tammy Trail

If you plan to publish a new book in 2020, why not consider a Facebook Launch party?

Of course, you will need to create a Facebook author page. This page is specifically for the public to learn about your new book, and about you as the author. It’s your place to shine.

A great header on your page can help to advertise your book. Include the title, and a little bit about your book. Perhaps tease your audience with a bit of backstory or the world you have created for your characters. For instance, the setting for my new story is New Mexico. I plan to use hot air balloons as a backdrop for my setting. So, I could possibly use hot air balloons in my header to entice my reader into finding out more. Just remember to make it stand out to catch the eye. It’s also a good idea to create and post a book trailer on your page to engage your guests.

As your potential reader, I will need to know where I can find your book, and when will it be available? Maybe do a cover reveal during your launch party, and get your readers involved by guessing from the cover where your story takes place. You could garner some enthusiasm with a giveaway. A copy of your book, a gift card, or an item that may go along with the theme of your story.

Next, you will want to create an event for your Facebook Launch party. Go to Facebook options for full instructions on setup. Make sure you invite all of your friends. Encourage your friends to tell their friends about your new book that will be available soon. Allow your page to be public so that it may be shared in the Facebook world.

Guests will want to get to know you better. Share yourself with them, provide a bio, your social media links, and an opportunity to sign up for your newsletter, follow your new author page on Facebook, share your blog information and how they can follow you there. Ask them to follow you on Goodreads and encourage them to post comments about your book.

  • Post writing prompts for your guest to finish in order to win a prize.
  • Have your guests pick who wrote the best prompt to determine the winner.
  • Keep your attendees engaged by using games of trivia, or sharing what they like best about a movie character, story settings, or favorite heroes or heroines from books they have read.
  • Food is also a great topic to share.

The possibilities are only as endless as your imagination. Just remember to have fun!

Writing is hard work, but that is just the beginning of your journey. You are set to make wonderful new friends who are writers like yourself and want to encourage you, or readers who will fall in love with your story. Promoting yourself and the product you have worked so hard on should be fun and engaging. So, get creative.

Writing Prompt: Helen has a  novel coming out, and needs ideas for a cover. What do some of your favorite book covers include? Help Helen out be giving her some great advice.

Click to Tweet:  Let the good times roll #Facebook launch party.

Wipe Your Face Girl, and Act Right.

By Tammy Trail

This past summer I went back to the state of my birth to visit family and friends. I attended a reunion with my mother and a group of her grade school friends. I recalled that they had grown up in a time where rules, like etiquette, still mattered. Unlike today, where you see people grocery shopping in their pajamas. A personal pet peeve of mine.

Is there any part of our society that still follows rules of etiquette, you may ask?  Why yes, there is. Allow me to point out that as writers we have standards we should follow, at least until you are established enough to break them.

First let’s determine what etiquette is: A code of polite conduct. Should you practice proper etiquette you are less likely to offend or annoy people – you may even charm them.

For writers, it is no different. I remember when I first attended a writer’s meeting for my local chapter group. A multi-published author was a member of our group. Being new to the whole scene I gushed to my two writer friends about this author. They both looked at me like I had a cat on my head. “You’re not going to go all weird on us, are you? They might frown on that.”  I assure them both that I did know how to act right! Yes, it’s a funny story, and I did wait to be introduced before telling said author that I enjoyed her books.

In the publishing world there are a few “rules” to follow while submitting your work to an editor, or for an agent’s consideration for representation:

  1. DO YOUR RESEARCH. Please take the time to look for an agent that wants to represent your genre. For example, you wouldn’t send a Young Adult Fantasy proposal to an agent who only wants to represent Historical Romance. If you do your homework, you can find an agent’s bio and what kind of manuscripts they are looking for, simply by googling their name.
  1. FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES. Once you have settled on the agent or editor you would like to work with, do look for their query guidelines to submit your proposal to them for consideration. You can find these on most websites under a submissions. There you may also find what they are looking for in the genre, and how they would like the email to be sent along with the email address. 

  1. SELF EDIT. Look over your proposal very carefully. Punctuation and grammar, as well as spelling errors  are telling. If your proposal is not up to standard, chances are a professional will assume your manuscript is written in the same manner. Don’t get a strikeout at first base, get a home run by taking just a few more minutes to read your proposal with more care. Then get to work on editing that manuscript too. 
  1. DON’T RESPOND TO REJECTION. There are often many reasons why an agent may send a rejection. Perhaps they have enough historical fiction manuscripts. Maybe your story is too closely written like another writer they represent. Or perhaps you need to become more seasoned in your writing. If you should get a bit of a response from your query that gives positive feedback, consider yourself on your way. Take those grains of wisdom and look at your manuscript with new eyes. We can always do better. 
  1. TAKE THE TIME TO LEARN THE CRAFT. Writing is hard and not for the faint of heart. I often remind myself to stay focused on writing the best story of my ability. Getting published is a wonderful goal. But to get there, we all need to stay in the trench and dig out the story before we can go to higher ground and have that book in our hands with an author credit. In all things, seek God’s wisdom and direction. In doing so, you can never fail.

Click-to-Tweet: Etiquette for Writers – In the publishing world there are a few rules to follow while submitting your work to an editor or for an agent’s consideration for representation. #publishing #etiquette

Writing Prompt: Compose a short email message, thanking an editor for your latest rejection.

A Little Planning Goes A Long Way

by: Tammy Trail

We all like keeping life simple. Cooking shouldn’t be complicated with strange ingredients that might be questionable for picky eaters. A couple of years ago when Tim and I were still fostering teen boys, my crockpot was a lifesaver. Especially one summer when I decided to spend two weeks away from home visiting my mom in New Mexico.

Tim was a bit nervous about my leaving for that long a period of time. How was he going to feed the boys? Going out to eat every night for two weeks was not an affordable option, and he didn’t feel confident in his cooking skills to attempt to feed them on his own. Lucky for him, I had already planned a bit before I bought my train ticket.

I began to scour the internet, Pinterest, and my cookbooks for a solution. I came up with enough meals to sustain them while I was away. Some meals were made ahead and put into tin pans, and covered with foil. Other meals were uncooked and stored in plastic gallon storage bags. All of the meals were intended for the freezer and could be pulled out the night before and either placed in a crockpot, or in the oven after thawing to cook. I even took a permanent marker and labeled all the meals, oven temperatures, and how long they needed to cook on the outside of each meal.

A week before my trip, I made my menu and shopping list. After shopping, I started meal prep. This consisted of chopping all my vegetables into separate containers. Then I cooked all the meat that would be put into the frozen casserole tins.  I did casserole meals one day, and crockpot meals the next in an assembly line fashion.

Now, I covered my pans with heavy-duty foil, but there are some storage options that have lids already provided. There are also newer type storage containers that can be used in the microwave and can be used once again as they are also dishwasher safe.

The only item I did not include when making my casseroles, was shredded cheese. Most of the casseroles can be cooked without being covered, so in my instructions, the cheese was to be added before cooking or cook for 20  minutes and then cover in cheese.  I found that you can basically cook ahead and freeze anything.

Here is a family favorite that is so simple and filling. I call it Goulash. I know I didn’t make it the traditional way, but here it is:

1 lb. ground beef, cooked

1 15. oz can of tomato soup

1 15 oz. can of cream of mushroom soup

1 cup of elbow macaroni, cooked

Mix it all together well, add Italian seasoning, salt, pepper to taste. Put it in a casserole dish.

Add shredded cheese on top.

Cook until bubbly.

Enjoy!!

 

Writing Prompt: Tell a story using your Grandmother’s recipe that you loved as a child.

Click to Tweet – Writers need to eat too. #Freezer meals: A lifesaver

Our Children Need Good Writers

By Tammy Trail

My contribution to the blog this month is writing for children and teens. Now, I have never considered writing for this genre. I’m a historical fiction gal. I purposely pick a subject matter that I know nothing about in order to learn something new. Well, this topic did not fail in that regard. As I do my research, I am finding that my assumption that writing for children must be easier than writing for adults is proven wrong.

Depending on the age group of the children, you may develop a strong idea for a board book for infants. Picture books with a simplistic story are great as easy readers targeted at ages from 3-6 years old. Chapter books for the grade school years. Then young teens for ages 12-16.  From there on it’s considered a young adult market.

Books are not the only venue for writing for children, there are magazines, comics, curriculum, and devotionals. I think retired educators would be perfect at writing for children’s magazines like Highlights, and Ladybug. These are directed towards getting children excited about learning at an early age.

morgue file

With a full novel the story premise is still the same. Strong, likable characters who are flawed and must overcome an obstacle. A plot driven story can be just as important for children and teens as it is for adult fiction writing. The difference is that with children, you can have a mouse be the main character. Our favorite was “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.” His objective was of course to get a cookie, and in the process one event leads to another in this funny, engaging story.

With teens, it becomes a little more involved. A story starts out with the character following their ordinary day, and the teen is put into a new situation, or meets someone who is very different from themselves. Most of the antagonists are adults, who will stand in the way of teenage goals. The teen is faced with an overwhelming obstacle that he/she must overcome on their own or with the help of friends.

Think of “Harry Potter.” Although his life was not ordinary at all, he was mistreated by the people he lived with for years. Once he became a certain age, his life took a turn, with a new school, friends, enemies, and a huge obstacle with multiple quests he had to accomplish until the final showdown. This is the formula for most teen series publications.

When researching this topic, I used “Writing Children’s Books for Dummies.” It has an exhaustive amount of information on how to begin your journey. The other was, “Getting Started in Writing for Children.”

There are many magazines that publish for the Christian Children’s market as well.  Focus on the Family has several. And there are writer’s guides and directories available to help a novice writer.  For online guides and directories, there are:

  • Children’s Book Council (www.cbcbooks.org).
  • Literary Market Place (www.literarymarketplace,com)
  • Publishers Marketplace (www.publishersmarketplace.com)
  • Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (www.abwi.org)

I shared just a few of the resources available. I hope you will learn as much as I did on this topic when you delve into the research. It’s a hard market, but publishers are always looking for fresh ideas, and you just might have one.

Click to tweet: A Child’s Tale: Writing for Children. #amwriting #children’sbooks

Writing prompt: Research one children’s magazine. Write for them and submit.