Beyond The Book – Shaping Up Valentine’s Day

Shaping Up Valentine’s Day

On BTB (Beyond The Book), I would like to look at SHAPING UP THE YEAR. Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. I don’t know about you, but I use to make my own Valentine cards when I was little. I loved creating each card, making each one extra personal. It’s a great way to use your imagination. Not to mention you can create all different kinds of cards.

How does this tie into the book? Well, your card is a rectangle. You can cut out hearts and stars for different looks. Or you can combine shapes to create other things. A square with a triangle on top could be a happy home. The possibilities are endless.

To help you out, I have an activity page on my website that you can download, print out, and color to give you a head start. You can also find it here: Valentine Card Print Out.

I hope you enjoy making some wonderful cards and memories. Post your cards online and tag me in them. I would love to see what you create! Use the hashtag: #TMCcreates

Until next time…

Happy reading & creating!


Tuesday Tip: 91 Weedy Weak Words to YANK from Your Story

weedyweakwords (1)

91 Weedy Weak Words to
YANK from Your Story

We’ve all heard the advice to SHOW not TELL with our writing.  BUT… How can you do it? What do you look for? Why does it really matter?

I like to use the example of  SHOWING to that of GARDENING.


Have you ever started gardening. You stake out a space and prepare the earth. You make sure everything is just so. We do this with our writing too. We have our laptops/notepads handy. We have read books, taken classes, attended conferences, joined critique groups… everything to get our space ready to write.

Then we plant. But do you stop there? NO. You water. You fertilize. You talk to your budding little sprouts. Same for our writing. We continue to learn and write and grow. And yes, I talk to my characters too. :p

Do you stop there though? I hope not. The grass will grow up. Weeds will also pop through the soil. If you’re not careful, it will begin to choke out the plants you have so tenderly grown. With our writing we can become lazy too. We can fall on words that say what mean, but don’t convey what we want to our readers. These are our weedy, weak words. They will choke out our story line, making our reader’s minds wander and potentially leave the story.

We do all this to have a beautiful flower bed. Or delicious fruits and veggies. OR to have a great story that one day will be published.

weed.02WHAT DO YOU LOOK FOR?weed.02

Weeds can be tricky. Vines will creep and wind around a plant. Stickers will blend in with a plant’s leaf shape. SHOOT! Some weeds are actually pretty. You have to keep a sharp eye out, move some leaves around, and look in between spaces. With our writing those weedy words can be tricky too. They can hide behind well thought out sentences and characters. They can act like they are helping a verb, but they are really dragging down the text, giving your readers a vague description of what is really happening.

HINT:   A lot of weedy words end in “-ly”. You know… quickly, softly, hardly.   😉

weed.04HOW CAN YOU DO IT?weed.04

So what to do? What to do? If you have a garden, mow the grass. Get on your hands and knees and pull those dang weeds. Yes, get down in the dirt. Get dirty. Get sweaty. Yank and pull those over-grown nuisances out! Same with our writing. Really dissect your story, every paragraph, each sentence. Once again, we have to get down and dirty. Really dig into our writing and wrestle those buggers out!

But never fear. You CAN do this! Think of really wanting your reader to see how your character is acting. Here’s a great example:

He slowly walked to the door.
He trudged to the door.
He crept to the door.

He quickly ran to the door.
He zipped to the door.
He flew to the door.

See? The bottom two sentences give clear, crisp details of what your character is doing. Whereas the first sentences… well, who knows? To help you out, I’m attaching a word doc you can download that has 91 weedy words/phrases that you can almost always eliminate from your story and make it more vibrant for your readers minds.


Here’s to no more weedy words!

What do you do to help improve your writing?
Do you know of any more weedy words to add to the list?

Until next time…

Happy Writing!

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8 Things to be SCHOOL VISIT Ready

authorvisit38 Tips to be School Visit Ready!

Today I’m continuing my posts on…


Before you contact a school, as a presenter you need to have several things in order.

Just as in trying to be published, you want to put your best foot forward. I have composed a list of several things I think you need to have to be SCHOOL VISIT ready…

  1. Presentation(s)
    Have several – Just as when you write, you will need presentations to meet the age groups you are speaking to. I have several: a reading level, which works great for the youngest, the writing mechanics, which works really well for the mid range, the business side, which works well with the older range. I also have a writing workshop. You can also develope presentations that will coinside with one particular book or series.Note Cards – Yes. Write down your key points. Keep them handy during your presentation. It helps to have this, even if you have done the presentation a million times.

    Rehearse – Get in front of a mirror and pretend you are talking to the crowd. Notice your facial features and how you move. Time it too. Most people will want to know how long your presentation takes. Take your time and go through all the motions until it feels natural.

    Flash Drive – Back your presentations up on a flash drive. I usually try to send my material a head of time, but sometimes things fail or won’t come up when you need it too. Have your flash drive handy to save the day.

    Have a Back-Up Plan – Even when you plan, things do always go as planned. Computers going down is only one senario. Always have a back up plan.

  2. Forms, Flyers, & Business Cards
    Information is the key. Try to lay everything out for your contacts. I have several flyers that are pdf files.

    • Author Is Coming – This flyer is for them to post on their walls. I have a spot where they can include the date of the visit, as well as a picture of me and my books available.
    • Bio – This flyer should be sent home to the parents. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t like it when I didn’t receive information about the person who was visiting my children’s school.
    • Book Form – This form will be sent home to the parent too. Hopefully, increasing your sales.
    • Agreement / Contract – Yes, you should have one. This puts in words what both parties expect.

    Then I also bring these along:

    • Business Cards – I usually have a few (media specialist, principals, teachers, parents) who will ask if I have one on hand.
    • Mini-Flyer – This is something I added. It tells a story on how and why I became an author and how they can find out more about me (website). I use these to autograph for the children who forgot their money or were not able to purchase a book.
  3. Mic & Speaker
    I request the school to provide one for me, but I have one as a back up. Mics are relatively cheap (under $50). Speakers…. well I’m ‘barrowing’ my oldest son’s electric guitar amp. It works though and he doesn’t mind.
  4. Pens & Cash
    PENS – You need those for signing. And yes, they WILL walk off when you are not looking.Cash – I bring a change bag, because you will usually have someone who forgot the correct change or they may have the wrong amount on the check.
  5. BOOKS!
    Yes, bring extra books. Even when the school does order (which I ask them too, but not all schools will), you will have late orders or the wrong book(s) may have gotten shipped.
  6. Emergency Box
    This is another thing I’ve incorporated, an emergency box. You can your a recipe box or whatever. Some of the things I have inside are:Tissues – teary eyes or runny nose
    Cough drops – dry throat or stubborn cough
    Peppermint – same purpose as the cough drops, but smells better
    Eye drops – dry eyes or allergies.
    Band aids – I’m a clutz and have had to have one at the worse of times
    Eye glass wipes – the better to see you my dearsNote Card of Presentations
    Flash Drive
  7. Carrying-Tub or Bag
    So I will put all my items together, because being organized is hard and I have to do this a head of time.In my carrying-tub I have:

    • mic w/ cord
    • book stands
    • flyers
    • books
    • cash bag

    One day I want to incorporate an easier way to lug all my items. 🙂

    In my bag:

    • Pens
    • Emergency box

    Then I have my speaker too, if and when needed.

    Yes, I have to make more than one trip. Working on that.

  8. Tablet & Projector
    (this is on my want list)
    Tablet – there are so many wonderful tablet out there now that can take the place of your computer. My heart is set on one that have a usb post to hook my flash drive into.Projector – have you seen them lately!?! They are small and compact. By having one of these I’ll be able to showcase my presentation almost anywhere!


Here’s a printable list for your convenience too. 🙂

8 Things to be SCHOOL VISIT Ready


Let me know what you include for your school visits!
Have a question? Ask in the comments and I will answer it as best as I can.

Hope you found this useful. Til next time…

Happy writing!

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www.Wednesday… Website Ready for AUTHOR VISITS

Welcome to my:


block of blog posts. Today I’m covering the author side.

WHY should you have a website???

ComputerI know you’ve heard it time and again…


Here is a very good reason to have one, even if it is just one page. A (principal, media specialist,  pta member, etc) will definitely search for you on the internet.

By having a website, you ensure the information out there on you is accurate. You can also control what they see and what you promote.


Honestly, any and all information you  need to encourage people to buy your books, invite you to their school, use your services, etc.

While you might not have all those categories, and might have others, be straight forward with your information. Be honest and up front. People like to have their information where they can processes it easily. They also like to feel as if they know you. Make it easy and simple.

Here is my website link:

Tracey M. Cox, author

When you click over you will go directly to my landing page. On my landing page I’ve included several things:

  1. Welcome Video – This allows people to see and hear you. Body language is wonderful. You don’t have to guess if I’m joking or being sarcastic. You can see it. It also lets your personality begin to shine through. That builds on people getting to know you.
  2. Latest Book Release – Let you newest baby have the spotlight for a while.
  3. What I’m Available for – Here I already begin marketing and promoting my author visits, books signings, and guest speaker invites.
  4. Social Media Links – Contact is key! I include links to my Social Media on EVERY PAGE. The more they see you, the more they get to know you, the more they trust you as an expert in the field.

Pages I included and why are:

  • about me – Here I let people get to know me a little more. I share a some background information, as well as how I began to write professionally.
  • books – I have the cover art for each book that has been authored and/or illustrated by me. When they click on the cover art, it will take them to a paged dedicated to that book.
  • for teachers/parents – I have pdf downloads here. Everyone loves freebies. I have included coloring pages and activities that coincide with my books. I’ll be adding Teacher Guides (ever so important with Common Core) and word searches too.
  • author visits – On this page I have a few pdfs and information about what author visits I offers. I also include my fees here. Not everyone does, but I don’t mind people knowing what I charge. I live in a rural community and charge accordingly. I also have links that include fund-raising opportunities (Title I Monies can go towards AUTHOR VISITS, did you know that?) and my CALENDAR OF EVENTS so they can see my schedule.
  • contact –  I include how to get in touch with me. Which is AWESOME when you get fan mail. 🙂  I also have links for my newsletter and book launch teams here too.
  • services – On this page I’m advertising for myself. I offer platform building consultant services as well as a pb critique service.
  • blog –  Well, you are here.   😉  I have a link on my website too.
  • reviews – I also have a pb review blog, which is under a major renovation right now. The link up there will take you to the older one, for now.

Your website may or may not have all those elements, but that is why you are unique and what you offer is a one-of-a-kind deal!

The key is getting your name out there where you can be found and have your information correct. Build that trust and help promote literacy.



Let me know what you think about my website. What do you include in yours? What information do you think is most important to include on a website?

Til next time…

Happy Writing!


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#summersparks Day 3: Cause and Effect by Alayne Kay Christian


Summer Sparks


by Alayne Kay Christian

*** Win a free picture book critique. Details at the end of this post. ***


Cause and effect is the thread that holds a story together. If that thread is weaved straight through the story with some tension, the reader will be engaged from the beginning of the story all the way to the end. If done right, it will leave the reader feeling like the reading journey was well worth his or her time.

A series of events that are linked by an unbroken chain of cause and effect is often called “plot.” I liken it to weaving a thread through a piece of fabric and then pulling the thread, causing enough tension to create a ruffle. Pulling that fabric toward the end of the thread is the perfection of the finished product. If the thread breaks, the ruffle will go flat. The same thing can happen if the thread of your story doesn’t stay on track with a continuous ramp of increasing intensity via cause and effect.

If you’ve never made a ruffle or seen one made, here is a link to a short video.

To get a perfectly aligned ruffle, gather B must follow gather A and gather C must follow gather B, and on and on it goes. In a cause and effect story, event B must be caused by a character’s reaction to event A, and event C must be caused a character’s reaction to event B, and on and on it goes. If event B has absolutely nothing to do with event A, then you are not plotting a story; you are creating a patchwork of unrelated or standalone episodes. This is sometimes called an episodic story.


  • Cause is the event that “causes” things to happen
  • Effect is the result of the cause/event.

The most important thing to remember is this type of story has a continual chain of cause and effect where the previous effect becomes the cause. An event causes an action, reaction, or result that leads to another event that causes another action, reaction or result, which in itself is the cause for the next cause and event cycle.



Cause and Effect Cycle


^click image above for better view^


Mother’s flowers break when Ella kicks her ball into the garden. (Ella kicks her ball into the garden “causing” Mother’s flowers to break.)

Ella kicks her ball into the garden is the “cause.” The flowers breaking is the “effect.”

What might that effect cause to happen next? Mother’s flowers break when Ella kicks her ball, so Mother scolds Ella, “I’ve told you ten times, not to play ball near the flowers.”

She takes the ball away and goes in the house, leaving Ella alone. I take the story further below.

A: Cause/First Event: Ella kicks ball

B: Effect/Result of A – Mother’s flowers break

C: New event caused by B – Mother scolds Ella and takes ball

D: Effect/Reaction to C – Ella is upset with Mother and breaks the rules by going to play in the dangerous creek

E: New event caused by Ella’s choice to break the rules in D – Ella jumps in water to play, but water is rushing due to recent rains. It washes her away

F: Effect/Result of E – Mother can’t find Ella

And on and on it goes until a satisfying ending.


Following is a cause and effect cycle diagram of the beginning of the familiar classic JACK AND THE BEANSTALK.




 ^click image above for better view^


1. Normally, conflict (or an obstacle, problem or desire) is the motivation/CAUSE that puts a series of events in motion. NOTE: SMALL PROBLEMS NEED TO SOMEHOW RELATE TO BIG PROBLEM

2. The EFFECT that the conflict has on the main character occurs when the character reacts (actions driven by the CAUSE) to those events.

3. Each time the character responds to conflict (an obstacle or problem) his response becomes the CAUSE of the next action and then EFFECT follows.


Unfortunately, I don’t have space to go into the topic of story arc in great detail, but I want to touch on it briefly. Although story arc is a different subject, it is loosely related to cause and effect, and it is important to a story. Each new event should be more powerful than the last. This is what some people call “tension.” A protagonist who wants something enough to take action against all obstacles creates “the story” – especially when the reader feels emotion related to the character’s failures or successes in overcoming those obstacles. There is usually a darkest moment before the main character takes his most important action (he has a turning point). That tension, those successes, the emotion, and the turning point can all be built into the cause and effect pattern.


Cause and Effect Big Picture  v2


 ^click image above for better view^


  • If you struggle with cause and effect, try analyzing your story backwards. Look for the final “effect” (the final result, reaction, or action). And ask, what “caused” it. Look for the next effect and ask yourself, what caused it? Continue until you get to the beginning of the story. Is your thread running through nice and straight with a tension?
  • Test out “cause” by putting the word “because” or “since” in front of it.
    • (cause) “Since” Mother was angry and went inside with Ella’s ball, (effect) Ella was angry and went to the creek to play.
    • (cause) “Because” Ella broke Mother’s flowers, (effect) Mother scolded her and took her ball away.
    • (effect) Ella broke the rules and went to the creek, (cause) “because” she was angry at Mother for taking her ball.
  • Test out “effect” by placing the word “so” in front of it.
  • (cause) Mother left Ella outside alone with nothing to do, (effect) “so” Ella broke the rules and went down to the creek to play.
  • (cause) Jack was too tired and hungry to keep going, (effect) “so” even though he might be eaten by the giant, he begged Cook to let him in.


The following PDF gives a cause and effect analysis of JACK AND THE BEANSTALK. This is an example for the writing exercise below. Please note that in this example, I went into the small details of JACK’S story. I did this to show how everything in a story is related/linked from sentence to sentence, paragraph to paragraph, scene to scene. In the writing exercise, you may choose to look at the story from a broad perspective (scenes, or three acts) or you may choose to look at it in detail. It is all up to you and what you want to get out of it.





Tracey asked me to provide a writing prompt. But I have decided to provide an exercise instead because I believe it can lead to writing in the form of edits. It can also be helpful in developing new stories.

  1. Use the following worksheet to analyze cause and effect in your favorite books. Not all books are written using cause and effect, but many successful ones are, so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding some to analyze.
  2. Use the following worksheet to analyze cause and effect in your own stories.
  3. If struggling with cause and effect, use the following worksheet to try analyzing your work backwards, starting with effect and working into the cause for each effect.



©Alayne Kay Christian 2014



Alayne Christian

Represented by Erzsi Deak, Hen&ink Literary Studio, Alayne Kay Christian is an award-winning children’s book author, a certified life coach, and a blogger. Her independently published picture book

butterfly kisses coverButterfly Kisses for Grandma and Grandpa
(Blue Whale Press, LLC)

received the Mom’s Choice Awards gold medal and an IPPY Awards silver medal. The anthology Jingle Bells: Tales of Holiday Spirit from Around the World (Melusine Muse Press) includes two short stories by Alayne, Christmas Spirit and Christmas in June.

Alayne is a graduate of the Institute of Children’s Literature and numerous children’s book writing courses. Her full resume may be found on her website . Alayne is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She is the founder and administrator of Sub Six, a Facebook group intended for supporting and motivating picture book writers with their submission goals. In 2014, she launched the blog series ALL ABOUT SUBMISSIONS  for which a team of experienced writers answers other writers’ questions regarding submissions. She is a contributor to, which is a fantastic website designed for making kid lit writers’ and illustrators’ lives easier by taking the best information about writing and illustrating from the Internet and putting it all in one handy spot. She is also a member of Marcie Flinchum Atkins’ WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER blogging team who answers monthly questions about writing.

Alayne has been highly praised for her in-depth picture book critiques. Click here to learn more about her critique service.

After twelve years of helping women move toward their desired lives, Alayne recently hung up her life coaching hat to focus 100% on her writing career. Alayne often combines her coaching skills with her writing knowledge when giving critiques and writing blog posts.

To learn more about Alayne visit her website  and her blog. You can also find Alayne Kay Christian on Facebook, LinkedInTwitter, and Google+.


PRIZE! For those of you who PRE-REGISTERED, COMMENT on this post, and COMPLETE the challenge. Alayne is offering a chance to win a highly detailed, prose-only picture book critique

click HERE to be entered into the prize raffle for Alayne’s post.







Missed a SUMMER SPARK? Don’t worry, you can find them here:

Day 1: In Celebration of Summer Magic  by Kelly Milner Halls
Day 2:  The Power of Doodling  by Alison K. Hertz
Day 3: Cause & Effect  by Alayne Kay Christian
Day 4: How to be a Marketing Ninja  by Corey Rosen Schwartz
Day 5: A Visual Writing Prompt: Begin at the End  by Julie Gribble
Day 6: The Final Word  by Jodi Moore
Day 7: Inspiration Station  by Susanna Hill
Day 8: Voice and Word Choice in Picture Books by Tara Lazar
Day 9: Platform Building Can You Build It? Yes, You Can!  by Tracey M. Cox
Day 10: 5 Ways to Hook Your Reader with Your Very First Line  by Kirsti Call
Day 11: Burning Down the House aka Revision by Donna Earnhardt
Day 12: Persistence  by Donna M. McDine
Day 13: Writing Your Way to a Spark  by Kris Dinnison
Day 14: Hope In Your Heart  by Carol Gordon Ekster
BONUS: What Songs Rock Your World?  by Claire Rudolf Murphy
Follow-up #1: TIPS
Follow-up #2: 9 Ways to Tighten Your Story
Prize Announcement: Winner! Winner! Chicken Dinner!

www.Wednesday… KidLit TV


KidLit TV, which will launch in the fall, will be the online video resource for the greater KidLit Community.

So why am I telling you about this web site now? There has been a FB group created for KidLit TV. This group will be your place to post videos or links to videos! Share your book trailers, news videos, interview videos, school visits, book signings, how-to advice on everything from creating awesome picture books to making animated presentations. You can also share others that you have found helpful, even if you have not created them. This is your video group in the KidLit world. 

I spoke with Julie Gribble, the creative brains behind KidLit TV and here’s what she had to say about it:


Our exciting new venture, KidLit TV, will leverage our experience with other forms of media to help parents, teachers, and librarians learn more about the world of children’s literature. It will feature interviews with children’s book authors and illustrators and will be an online visual resource for the greater KidLit Community.
The KidLit TV website and YouTube channel will be launching in fall 2014!

Remember the FB Group Page I mentioned earlier. There is a ‘soft’ launch going on TONIGHT! Julie and I will be online at 8 pm est to answer your questions and take suggestions.
If you haven’t received an invite to the virtual launch, let me know you would like to be invited. We’ll have to be friends on fb. You can friend me on my page. Also here is the page for the KIDLIT TV FB GROUP PAGE.

Hope to see you all there. Now, get those videos going!




Only three more days to sign-up for


There’s a line up full of great advice, story sparks, and some prizes scattered throughout.

So go to this JUNE 1st POST to SIGN-UP!

***Sign-up is June 1st through June 14th.  You MUST comment on the June 1st post, complete the challenge, and comment on the last post to be eligible for prizes.***

Tuesday Tips: YouTube hints and tricks

I’ll admit it…

The whole YouTube – Video was intimidating to me. I mean come on! You want me to get in front of a camera and talk. UGH! And what to talk about???? What if I mess up? What if I freeze? What if…? WHAT IF…!!!!!!!!!!!!!


So, let’s all feel a little froggy and get to hoppin’.    😉

I went on YouTube and looked at all sorts of videos. Trying to see what worked and what didn’t. Trust me, there are plenty of examples of both.

What should you video?

Sometimes I look up topics and can’t find exactly what I’m looking for.  BINGO… video idea

I started doing my book reviews via video. I thought it would be a great way to let people see a few illustrations and also the size of the books. Also, who doesn’t like talking about books.

Interviews. I did my first with Katie Davis and had such fun! Can’t wait to do another one.

Silly videos, promotional videos, and then you can go more personal. YES, I have puppy videos. hahaha. Why  not videos for  the newlyweds or family reunions? The possibilities are unlimited.

So here’s a tips and hint sheet I worked on to help you on your way of mastering YouTube:

5 YouTube Tricks and Hints

Hope you have found this post helpful!

Let me know what you think.
Do you have a YouTube channel?
What videos do you find beneficial?
What videos would you like to see more of?

Happy Videoing!

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SUMMER SPARKS Writing Challenge sign-up is still on going.

Click HERE to be qualified for the prize swag at the end of the challenge!

Tuesday Tips: 7 Google+ Tips and Hints

Hi everyone.

Sorry for the month long hiatus.
I want to pick up where I left off with Google+. I had stated that Google, being the giant that it is, makes it almost a necessity to have a Google+ account. That being said, it is a great asset for your smo and to get your brand out there to the public.

Here are a few tips I created to help tackle the Google Giant:


7 Google+ Tips and Hints

Again I want to say… Give it a try. There are so many avenues out there. See what works for you and you just might surprise yourself in the process.

Let me know how you use Google+
What have you found the most helpful?
Any tips you know about communities? Finding friends? Creating fantastic lists? How about those videos?

Have fun Googling!
~ t

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Tuesday Tips: 4 Insta Tips on Starting to Market on Instagram

Last week I discussed the marketing possibilities on Instagram.

Seriously consider it! Like I said, a picture is worth a thousand words. Let people see your product. Let your product stand for itself! Here is a downloadable tip sheet to get you going on Instagram and before you know it you’ll be Instagraming it all over the place. 🙂



4 Insta Tips to Start Marketing on Instagram

While you are out and about, check out my profile on INSTAGRAM:

I would love to hear how you use INSTAGRAM to market you and your products!

Happy writing and picture taking!


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