Author Archives: Webmistress

New Year’s Resolution: GET PUBLISHED!

January 3, 2013

New Year’s Resolution: GET PUBLISHED.

Some ways to get started.

Have a NaNoWriMo story started that you don’t know what to do with? Rie Sheridan Rose can show you how to make it work.

Rie Sheridan Rose

Rie Sheridan Rose has been writing professionally for the last twelve years — though she has just added the “Rose” on the end. Rie says, “After putting up with me for the last ten years, I figured my husband deserved the recognition.”

During that period, she has published 5 novels, 1 short story collection, 2 chapbooks of collected stories, and 5 poetry collections as well as contributing to several anthologies and writing the lyrics to more than a dozen

She currently serves as Submissions Editor for Zumaya Publications.

For more information about this month’s speaker, visit

Homer the Racehorse

The Book Spot at 1205 Round Rock Avenue #110, Round Rock, is hosting a book launch for Homer the Racehorse on October 6 from 11:00 – 1:00. The book is co-authored by SGWL member Linda Baten Johnson and her friend Katherine Loughmiller, a woman who raised racehorses for twenty years. The launch will feature audience participation with children performing a readers theater script about the book and a Homer Rap.

New Member!

Tracy Simpson was born and raised in Austin, Texas. She received an Associate of Arts Degree in Radio-TV-Film from Austin Community College and completed two one-year writing programs at the Long Ridge Writers’ Group and the Institute of Children’s Literature in West Redding, Connecticut. She worked as an actress in Texas for ten years. Tracy also worked as a production assistant, stand-in, voice-over artist, and dancer in film, television, commercials, public service announcements, and music videos. She was also a print and runway model. In addition, she made several vocal performances in and around the Austin area. Tracy writes children’s stories, poetry, screenplays, and songs.

Check out Tracy Simpson’s member page and learn about her new book, Fusion.

Lemonade Anyone?

Ah yes, we love nothing better than a cool drink on a hot day and many kids love nothing better than setting up a lemonade stand to sell us that cool drink. From a child’s point of view, it is a way to make money and fun doing it. From a parent’s point of view, it may be fun, but it takes time to ensure all the right stuff is there for the child to be a success.

Writing for children can be a little like that lemonade stand … for both the child and the parent. It takes a lot of ingredients to make the story a success. Understanding how to reach your target audience, how to sell to them once you know who they are, and how to beat your competition on product and price. Try having a little fun while trying to decide how to make a profit.

Join children’s author, Linda Lipscomb, a.k.a. Granny Red Shoes, and share a glass of her ‘lemonade’ experience. August 2 at 6:30 pm.

Spring forward


By DJ Heinrich

Of what we generally think of as the four seasons, I’ve always liked spring the most. Spring is a phase of growth, regeneration, expectation, and the birth of new life for both plants and animals. Spring promises comfortable weather, life-generating showers, and freshness provided by every variety of new growth and accompanying blossoms. Barren trees and grey lawns finally display their assorted new wardrobes of bright green. For me, spring has always been an exciting time to re-focus and to settle back into a comfortable, yet purposeful routine, with the hectic holidays and Super Bowl finally receding into memory.

Still, having been a pilot by trade, it’s difficult not to remember that spring in one location means autumn somewhere else. For that matter, even the definitions of spring vary somewhat throughout the world. I’ve left on trips and seen temperature changes of more than one-hundred degrees following just a few hours of flying. In some places, spring or summer seems perpetual. Once, having left on a trip in “winter” from Dallas via Tokyo to Singapore, the other pilot and I were scolded none too gently by our flight attendant who had not packed clothes for the temperate climate in Southeast Asia. Singapore-a mere eighty-five miles north of the equator-has a temperature that varies on average from 74-89 degrees year-around, a little warm for the array of sweaters and winter coats she had skillfully crammed into her suitcase. Needless to say, we were immediately commissioned to accompany her on a shopping outing to acquire some cooler clothes!

Spring is an excellent time to take inventory and to move forward. Perhaps those hastily-adopted New Year resolutions have already fallen and ultimately tossed out with the used Christmas boxes and wrapping paper. But it’s not too late to examine our suitcases and realize that perhaps we have packed too heavily or been unrealistic in our goal-selection. It might be an ideal time to shed some baggage and assess what’s really important for the year. Spring is indeed the perfect opportunity to shed some layers, roll up our sleeves, step “outside” in the sunshine, and finish that project that has been set aside for the winter. It’s spring here, right now! Let’s take advantage!

SGWL President, Durwood “DJ” Heinrich, Ph.D.
Motivational Speaker • Business/Aviation Consultant • Author • Pilot

how to craft a professional query letter

The Query Letter

by David Ciambrone

Ah, the query letter. The very words send shivers of dread through many a freelancer, and for good reason. They know the importance of this letter. Granted, in a perfect world you could dress in your best suit, hop a plane and have a face to face meeting with the editor of your choice to pitch your idea. In such a meeting you could pour on your charm and show your enthusiasm for the subject you wish to write about, and probably walk away with an assignment.

However, such a scenario is not only unrealistic but very expensive. Editors don’t have the time or the inclination to meet with every writer who has an idea for their magazine. They’re not trying to be rude. It’s just a fact of life. Instead, you send your query letter as your representative to the editor and it should be of high quality mechanically and contain particular elements.

The Mechanics

I know I shouldn’t have to mention it, but this letter should be crisp, and neat, and clean, and free from all typographical errors, just as you would appear in person with a freshly laundered and pressed outfit, free of dust and stains. Use good quality 25% cotton paper. You may use white or any other attractive light color such as light gray, blue or ivory. Avoid bright fluorescent colors or hand written notes. I remember an editor showing a room full of conference participants a query letter that got noticed, but also got no reply. Its silver letters glittered on the bright pink paper!

You may also use any attractive, easy-to-read font. Before the days of word processors, writers could only use their typewriter font, the ever-popular Courier 12. These days, however, you may use Times New Roman, Helvetica or other such fonts in a 12 point size. Avoid fancy Old English or other hard-to-read fonts. They may look lovely on Christmas cards, but they do little to endear you to an editor’s heart.

The format, as you will see from sample queries in upcoming pages is the simple block format that you’d use with any business letter. Always, use single spaces within a paragraph and double spaces between paragraphs. Also, you may justify your margins as this is only a single page and won’t tax an editor’s eyesight. Remember, your mission as a freelancer is to make your editor’s life easier.


Having addressed mechanics, let’s talk about content. Each one page query letter, (and you should limit it to one page) should have five elements: hook, idea, development, benefits, and credentials. The hook needs to be the first thing the editors sees. After that, you can place the information in any order you feel most effective. However, I have found the following order to work best for me. It also seems the most logical, so let’s begin with the hook.

The Hook

The first sentence of your query letter must read like a headline, containing enough punch and excitement to make the editor want to read more. Bear in mind, editors have so many manuscripts to read, they don’t have the time to dawdle on unpromising material. You have maybe three to five seconds to hook the editor into wanting to read more. The editor must find your first words concise and exciting. If it’s rambling and dull, your letter will summarily be thrown into the dreaded “File 13” or put into your return envelope with or without a polite “Thank you but no thank you.”

The Idea

The second necessary ingredient of your query letter, is a brief statement of your idea, the focus of your article. You should state that idea in one complete and concise sentence. If you can’t, then you don’t have a firm grasp of it yourself. Work on it, and once you can present your idea in a succinct manner, do it as eloquently as possible. If you’ve captured the editor’s attention with the hook thus far, you want to keep it when you present the idea.

The Development

The third element of a good query letter is to give a brief explanation or description of the points you would like to develop in the piece. Obviously, the longer the article, the more points you’ll be able to write about. In an article of about 1,000 words, you’ll probably want to develop three or four key points. A longer article will allow you to develop more. Be sure to delineate to the editor the slant the article will have. Somewhere in this section, mention the word count of the article and be sure to use the phrase “as per your guidelines.” (Example: “Nothing About Elephants, an article of about 1,000 words as per your guidelines, will discuss. . . .”) Such a phrase indicates to the editor that you have done your research-marking you as a professional.

The Benefits

Every editor wants to know that the material they publish will attract their target audience. One of the ways to attract readers is to provide them with articles that will benefit them in some way. In this section of your query letter, point out the benefits their readers may gain. The best writing educates, motivates and entertains all at the same time. Emphasize how your article will accomplish that for their readers.

The Credentials

Editors also want to know that they are dealing with a professional. End your letter by stating your credentials for writing this particular piece. If you’ve never been published before, don’t say that. Instead, focus on why you are qualified to write this. If it’s about taking sick children to the doctor, you don’t have to be a nurse or health care professional. Perhaps you’re the mother of three children and you have based this article on your experiences with your children and facts you learned from your pediatrician.

Also, don’t ask the editor for an opinion of your work. That marks you as a rank amateur and editors don’t want to deal with amateurs. If you have a limited number of credits, list them all. If you’ve been extensively published, then list those credits that pertain. In any case, always be positive, polished and professional.

When you close your letter, be sure to keep it short and professional. “Thank you for your time and consideration. I hope to hear from you soon,” is sufficient. Sign it “Sincerely” or with some other business-like closing. Avoid such things as “Love” or “Hugs and Kisses.”

Always, always, always include an SASE with any correspondence to any editor, publisher or agent. Otherwise, you may never see your manuscript again, or worse yet, the editor will refuse to work with such an “amateur.”

Now that you have your query in the mail, go back to your idea list and pick another topic. Start over, because as a freelancer, you can’t afford to sit idly by as you wait for a reply.

Dr. Dave Ciambrone is a retired scientist, Oceanographer, archaeologist, professor, magician and author living in Georgetown, Texas with his wife, Kathy.

For more about Dave visit his website:

A word on shorts from this month’s speaker

Man in shorts and sandals


By Earl Staggs

I’ve been fortunate to have a number of short stories published in magazines and anthologies. Some were reprinted two and three times. Each one filled me with warm fuzzies when it went out into the world and came back with an acceptance. I’m as proud of my short stories as I am of my mystery novel, MEMORY OF A MURDER. After they were published and had their time in the limelight, I retired my shorts with loving care in my hard drive.

Not long ago, I thought about them. Each one represented a ton of time and hard work and bore my sweat stains. It bothered me to think of them gathering dust in a cold, dark storage sector, languishing as nothing more than anonymous kilobytes of data. They served me well in their time and still had a lot to offer. After all, writing doesn’t have an expiration date. If it had, we’d never have heard of Poe, Doyle, Chandler, Hammett, Hemingway and the rest

That’s when I decided to publish a collection of my short stories.

I couldn’t include all of them, so I had to make hard choices. I felt like a father forced to decide which of his children would go to the party and which ones would stay home.

Even before I began choosing stories for the collection, I had another decision to make. My stories tend to cover the gamut of sub-genres from hardboiled to softboiled to humorous. After a lot of thought, I decided to include some of each. I like variety when I read and I know other people do, too. When I open a short fiction magazine, I find an assortment of sub-genres inside. Why shouldn’t my collection be the same?

With that decision made, I began selecting stories to include. One was a relatively easy choice. That’s the one that brought home a Derringer Award from the Short Mystery Fiction Society

After that, it got tougher. Mollie Goodall is one of my favorite characters and has appeared in half a dozen stories. As sheriff of a small county in Texas, she mixes humor and a warm heart in administering her duties. I selected three Sheriff Mollie stories for the collection, including the one in which she has to deal with a naked man on a rooftop.

On the hardboiled side, I chose the one about a street-weary cop who steps outside the box – and the law — to deal with a murdering drug dealer who beat the system and walked free. Another hard and gritty story selected concerned a woman forced at gunpoint to recall a horrible event she thought she’d flushed from her life twenty years ago.

And so it went until the grueling selection process was finished. I ended up with sixteen stories, totaling a little more than 53,000 words, the size of a small novel. But that only brought me to another challenge.

Now I had to do the formatting required to publish it. Being a technical dummy didn’t stop me from diving into a sea of unfamiliar terms and procedures. What’s HTML? What’s a pixel? These and other mysteries kept me thrashing around in muddled waters for weeks.

Halfway through the project, my wife stuck her head in the door to ask, “How’s it going?”

“Horrible!” I wailed. “I can’t take any more. I’m going to jump off the roof and kill myself.”

She sighed. “Again? Well, make it snappy. Dinner’s almost ready.”

Somehow, to my own amazement, I made it through the formatting process, and my collection, SHORT STORIES OF EARL STAGGS was ready to go live as an ebook for Kindle, Nook, Sony, and all other electronic readers.

But having no better sense, I jumped back into unknown waters and published it as a print book through CreateSpace.

I don’t mind saying I’m proud of the way it turned out, but I’m also proud of myself for getting it done without losing my last few ounces of sanity. You’ll find all the information about it over on my website:

While you’re there, you can read Chapter One of MEMORY OF A MURDER, my first mystery novel, which earned thirteen Five Star reviews.

You’ll also find two of my short stories there. One is “The Day I Almost Became a Great Writer,” which some say is the funniest story I’ve ever written. There’s another one called “White Hats and Happy Trails,” about the day I spent with Roy Rogers.

Thanks for allowing me to visit here and talk about my favorite subject – writing.

Best regards to all.

Earl Staggs

Derringer Award winning author Earl Staggs has seen many of his short stories published in magazines and anthologies. He served as Managing Editor of Futures Mystery Magazine and as President of the Short Mystery Fiction Society. His novel MEMORY OF A MURDER earned thirteen Five Star reviews online at Amazon and B&N. His column “Write Tight” appears in the online magazine Apollo’s Lyre. He is also a contributing blog member of Murderous Musings and Make Mine Mystery. He hosts workshops for the Muse Online Writers Conference and the Catholic Writers Conference Online and is a frequent speaker at conferences and writers groups. Email: Website:

Post number 2

You Thought Writing the Book was Bad

by David Ciambrone

Okay, you wrote a book. You painfully put your baby through a critique group who obviously doesn’t get it but you survived and made some of their suggested changes. You did a self edit and spent months or years either looking for an agent or publisher or both. You finally, after using rejection letters for wallpaper, signed up with a publisher. Wow, you are now an author! You have gone from a writer or aspiring author to a real live author.


You sit back and watch the money roll in? You get asked to do book signings with long lines of eager book buyers who can’t wait to meet you? You’ll be on TV and radio, right?

Well, guess what? You have just completed the first two steps of the process. You are an author who no one knows (except your mother and maybe a few friends).

The publisher will send you on book tours? NO! You are now your own marketing director! You are the one who sets up book signings and sends out information about them (some bookstores help out using their e-mail list or may put up your posters). You must meet and greet and convince a potential customer to purchase your book and he/she may not have come into the store looking for you or your book. YOU get to try and get coverage in newspapers and other media. YOU get to try and get whatever speaking engagements you can. YOU get to try and get on panels at writers conventions. YOU are the guy or gal who must make the difference.

Writing is a solitary affair. Critique groups are meetings with fellow writers, BUT marketing is YOU. It is stressful, and not much fun if you are not a people person.

BUT when it works-it is great. It is wonderful seeing someone with your book and hearing nice reviews and seeing your first royalty check. So hang in there, doing this part has a long learning curve but you do learn what works and what doesn’t. Going to book fairs with just your books and sitting at a booth trying to market doesn’t work as well as when you are a speaker.

So get gigs speaking and as much publicity as possible and Good Luck! In the mean time, start that next book.

Dr. Dave Ciambrone is a retired scientist, Oceanographer, archaeologist, professor, magician and author living in Georgetown, Texas with his wife, Kathy.

For more about Dave visit his website: