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.

A Little Sparkle In My Life

Before I tried my hand at writing, I belonged to a women’s bible study group. In this group were women of different ages, backgrounds, denominations, and faith levels. I learned a lot about God, the Bible, and jewelry.  Yes, you read that right.  One of the lovely ladies in the group is a wonderful designer and maker of beaded jewelry. I always admired the pieces she made. Then my new friend Valerie invited me to her home to learn to make some jewelry of my own, and I was hooked.

So when I’m not writing, working, or spending time with my grandsons, I’m making jewelry pieces for myself, or as gifts for friends and family.

I’m going to attempt to show you through pictures how it is done. Here are some of the supplies needed. There are wire cutters, needle nose pliers, and regular pliers.  Some coiled wire, beads, charms, and a head pin.

 

 

 

 

 

Here is a picture of the beads and charms close up. First I cut a length of wire off the coil that went two and half times around my wrist. Then with my straight nose pliers, I bend one end.

Take the round ended pliers and made a curl in it. This is the hardest part, because this wire does not manipulate well at all.

At the open end of the wire you can string your beads.

I used a total of 17 beads, cut the wire again, made another loop, and attached it to the other end. The bracelet is expandable. The charms add a bit of interest that I like. If you are interested in learning more about making your own jewelry, there are tons of YouTube videos you can watch, and your favorite craft store sells most supplies.

I hope you liked seeing a bit of my hobby. It can be very rewarding after a piece is finished. I like the creative part of making jewelry. You can match it to your own taste and wardrobe.

Happy Summer! 🙂

Writing Prompt:

Valerie danced about the room, pour lemonade in tall glasses for her guest. She suddenly remembered that she had forgotten the napkins, and set the pitcher down at the sideboard to retrieve the them from the kitchen counter. As she swept the napkins off the counter she noticed that her favorite piece of jewelry was missing. She spied the ladies enjoying their refreshment and wondered…………( please fill in the blank)……

Click-to-Tweet: #A Little Sparkle In My Life. #What I do when I’m not Writing.

E-book Publishing: It’s Easier Than You Think.

This time last year, I was sweating and pounding a keyboard to get my manuscript for my American Revolutionary story, “Patriot Hearts” done. I submitted my story to another author who was putting together a collection of stories with a patriotic theme in order to publish it on Amazon. I sent her the first three chapters to see if my story would be a good fit, and the rest is history. Pun intended.

This was my first experience with the e-book world. I wish I could report that the book did well, and I am plagued by requests for more of my storytelling. But that is not the case, I found that while some of my Beta readers claimed they couldn’t put the book down. I had one writer friend tell me that the story is good, but my characters are flat and would benefit from a deeper point of view.

I’m telling you this story about my experience with e-book publishing to say that the journey is worth the risk if you learn something from it. Which I did. Would I do it again? Yes.

Publishing an e-book is now easier than ever. The stigma of self-publishing has diminished too. With major publishing houses limiting their publishing abilities to protect themselves economically, e-book publishing has become a necessity for some authors. Many of these venues will help with step-by-step instructions, marketing, book covers, and promotions.

The most popular venue for publishing an e-book is with KDP, or Kindle Direct Publishing. You can make up to 70 % of royalties from you book. You set the price and can make changes anytime. There is no cost to the author to publish and it takes less than five minutes. Your book is available for sale 24 to 48 hours after you upload in Kindle, worldwide.

The downside to publishing with Kindle Direct Publishing is the Select option. If you choose to use this option, you cannot distribute your work to other venues. They will have exclusive rights to your work as far as sales and distribution.

Smashwords is another publishing option. It has the convenience of Amazon, but the difference is your book will be distributed by Smashwords to many venues. Some of these are well known, like Nook for Barnes and Noble, Apple Books, Kobo and Overdrive.

You can also publish with KDP and Smashwords for more exposure, just don’t opt for the Kindle Unlimited plan if you also want to publish on Smashwords.  You can promote your book with free marketing tools, such as; a coupon generator, special pricing deals, and giveaways to use in conjunction with your website for promotions. Smashwords will also generate sales by having special promotions where they will pick a genre, like “romance” and everything in that genre is a percentage off in order to help drive those sales.

A new buzzword in book sales is Audio books. When I think of this publishing option my mind conjures up images of people who love stories, but don’t necessarily have time to read a book in print. Audio books are perfect for those folks on the go. I can see the endless possibilities of learning non-fiction information with this concept.

I have researched Audio books, and it’s not very easy to do this yourself. There are options available, but from what I have read the quality of doing this yourself is just not right yet. Of course they said this about publishing e-books years ago. So, technology will catch up. But in the meantime, if this is an option you would like to try, professional equipment is best.

Writing prompt: Your new neighbor has moved in and you have not met. You decide to bake your blue ribbon coffee cake as a “Welcome Wagon” gift. After ringing the door bell, the door opens to your old high school flame who dumped you for the Prom Queen.

Click to Tweet: Publishing an e-book is now easier than ever. #IndiePublish #amwriting