A plea and a solution for food sellers by da-AL

My dear blog reader, if you or anyone you know agrees with the letter below, won’t you please share it, hashtag it, copy/paste it, add your name to it, and do whatever you like to get the basic sentiment out there? (And read on for an additional message to you that follows it.)

Dear Trader Joe’s, as well as other grocery stores and processed food manufacturers,

Food, glorious food! I love your stuff, and I adore it all the better when you sell it in containers that are healthy and easy to re-use.

Rather than cans and near-impossible-to-recycle (let alone repurpose) plastic vacuum-sealed boxes, sell us stuff in containers like these!…

Something delish…
Tastes better when it’s in something useful…
Like how this keeps a snack fresh!

Here’s the kind of jars I love best — think healthy, easy-to-clean, and uniform in which to store my beans, grains, flour, pasta, and such:

  • Straight-sided and where I can easily reach in wash clear down to the bottom.
  • Labels that require just a quick soak to remove.
  • Better yet, no labels at all, as in the case of the adorable drinking glasses illustrated after this letter — how sublime that the Welch’s name appears only in fine print!
  • Interchangeable sizes and lids would be extra classy!

The mustard sauce in the photo is great — and is all the better for the jar!

Yours truly,

da-AL — a customer who I doubt is alone

P.S. Don’t think you can get away with overpricing products with super-cute holiday gift-type containers and expect us to think you’ve done anyone a favor.

Back to you my dear cyberland friend,

As you can guess from above, I’m asking businesses to go beyond using less plastic. It’s lovely when grocers sell us food in glass jars. Let’s encourage them to take it up a gazillion notches by doing something that’ll benefit us while making us more loyal to them!

I hope you’ll share this with anyone who’s as upset as I am with how impossible it is to get away from plastic. Share this with individuals as well as with businesses. Even small gestures can go a long way when they’re multiplied. As consumers, our wallets wield immense power.

Every time I turn around, I read more scary stuff about how corrosive plastics are to our bodies, and downright catastrophic to the environment. There may have been a time when we deluded ourselves that plastic was better than glass, but these days, we know better.

When I was small, my family ate Welch’s jam. Why? Sure, it was tasty, and we needed something not too expensive for our toast — but with all the jams out there, Welch’s outsmarted the others! Theirs was in glass jars meant to be repurposed into drinking glasses! Customers wanted to collect the cute freebies while getting decent jams at the same time.

In the stone-age, harhar, jam came in these. They were great to drink out of and made shoppers want to go buy more to collect them!

Win-win joy here, there, everywhere!! Pardon me while I do a little jig at the keyboard! Why the heck don’t all stores and all brands continue to do something like what I described?

For crafty readers and those of us who enjoy looking at stuff we’ll never do — here and here and here and here and here and here and here are some links. Key search words: repurpose and up-cycle.

Are you concerned about plastics?…

Guest Blog Post: Self-Publishing by Mark Bierman

Human trafficking occurs in every country, including Canada and the U.S. In light of this, Ontario novelist/blogger Mark Bierman dedicates 50% of profits from his book, “Vanished,” to organizations that help victims of this terrible crime. He first guest posted on Happiness Between Tails here. Read on for what he’s learned about self-publishing…

Novelist/blogger Mark Bierman.

“Self-Publishing” by Mark Bierman

It’s 5a.m. as I climb out of bed and begin to brew the cognition ignition potion, or coffee if you wish to go by its scientific classification. The percolation underway, I pad off to my writer’s den, or the “spare bedroom,” as some in this house call it. The computer is poked awake and generates particles of light that spread across the mahogany desk until they reach the ‘bills to pay’ file box. A tiny shadow figure climbs into the box, and peers malevolently up at me.

“Karl Jackson, if you wish to pay my bills, that’s fine, just be sure to hop back into the story when you’re done.”

If anyone can afford to liberate us from debt, it’s the villainous King of the Klondike. I keep my voice calm to hide my concern. Oh, he goes on these forays almost daily but has never before managed to enter our world until the file marked, ‘trimmedprodigalson,’ has been opened. Hmmm . . . I must look into upgrading the firewall. The filename is not the title for the new book but rather denotes the concept. The ‘trimmed’ portion is the result of my cantankerous nitpicking of the original manuscript. I can’t speak for every author, but for me, a book is never really finished. I’ve yet to reread my first novel, Vanished, for sanity’s sake.

It’s a Wednesday, and I’m off from my survival job as a Correctional Officer. That means I have a full two hours of novel writing before the rest of the house is awake and the nineteenth-century morphs back into the twenty-first. When the clock chimes seven, my role as an author ceases, and I put my parenting hat on. There are kids to feed and drive to school, after that, chores, a workout, and whatever else the day brings. I try to squeeze in marketing between it all and combine it with other tasks. Instagram is often dealt with while riding the stationary bike, what else am I going to do, count the tiles in the basement ceiling? Twitter, best posted on between the hours of nine am to three pm, can be done at lunch, Facebook too. I’m careful not to crow about myself, too often. The rule of thumb is to focus 80% on others and 20% on yourself. So far, that formula has worked well for me.

Photo by Sasin Tipchai for Pixabay. (Side note: see this for how even this great photog was robbed.)
Blogs are the hardest and most time-consuming. I commit the sin of failing to post regularly, I know better. To truly grow your audience, you need to be consistent. Many bloggers post daily and have themed days. It’s something I’m working on, but time is not my ally here.

So, how did this all begin? How did someone in my profession decide to become an Indie Author? To tell you the truth, my job is precisely the reason. The pay is great, and with twenty years in, I have plenty of vacation days and a pension at the end of it all. Sounds great, right? Well, those perks come at a cost. The toll on your mental health can be overwhelming. Five years ago, I decided to find a positive outlet for my creative side, a place to share and bond with people who are focused on a dream and appreciate the work you do. The one positive thing I will say about my years in law enforcement is my vast collection of story and character fodder. Oh yes, there’s plenty of that in the good old Big House.

So why Indie? Are you not good enough to find a publisher? The truth is, I tried, but only twice. I waited six months to be rejected by both. I’m too impatient for that. Plus, I’ve heard stories of publishers changing parts of storylines or characters, nope, I wanted to control my own material. Of course, this may not apply to all publishers. Please don’t get me wrong, if you wish to pursue the traditional route, go for it! It’s a personal choice.

Photo by S. Hermann & F. Richter for Pixabay.

Whichever path you choose, I highly recommend using Beta-Readers and professional proofreaders. No one wants to get those Amazon Reviews that call in to question the author’s level of grammar comprehension. Some of the best reads I’ve come across are Indie, others, not so much. However, I can say the same about traditionally published works. Remember, tastes vary, and some will cry for more chocolate while others prefer vanilla. Don’t expect a romance junkie to read your thriller through the same lens. You can’t write for everyone, find your niche, and build your fan base.

One last thing, before I go, find your ‘people.’ By that, I mean your support crew. Be it fellow authors, bloggers, reviewers, those in the industry, and in the know. They will help you become a better writer, offer constructive criticism, encourage and open doors for you.

I love this gig but writing and marketing a novel is a herculean task. This may sound silly, but I liken it to pushing a giant boulder that resembles a half-moon. The flat side remains motionless until heaved onto the rounded side. There may be a brief reprieve as you watch it roll for a short distance, but then it lands on the flat side again. If you leave the stone too long, moss grows on it. Yes, you can keep hoisting that stone in solo fashion, hoping that the flatness wears into a curve, but you’ll probably end up overworked and discouraged. Wouldn’t it be nice to have loyal and encouraging people to help keep that sucker moving? You will, of course, do likewise for them. I’ve been fortunate to find such a community. This includes da-AL and the members of Rave Reviews Book Club. Rave Reviews, founded by author Nonnie Jules, is an online community of both Indie and Traditionally Published writers, of all genres, all walks of life, and from around the world. I’ve been part of this family, because that’s what it feels like to me, for several years.

I found them by accident one day, as I was searching for more book clubs to join. I had been a member of several at this point, but something drew me to Rave Reviews, they are genuine and committed to helping. Currently, it is the only book club I’m involved with. They have helped me grow as a writer. Yes, there is an expectation of paying it forward. While that does take you away from your own project for a brief time, just remember, others are doing the same for you.

The cost to join is only thirty-five dollars (U.S) per year. There is a catalogue that includes books written by members. Everyone is encouraged to pitch in and do their best to support their fellow members by answering questions about writing, providing feedback about works in progress (Beta Reading), as well as advice and support on social media platforms. They have great programs such as, ‘Books of the Month,’ which feature member’s and their works, podcasts that allow a member to discuss their work, and even emotional support. I’ve personally been a ‘Book of the Month’ author and have also been featured on several podcasts. I once had a question about a book I was working on, whether or not to publish it as a series or as a single book. The problem was I had too much story for a single book, but not enough for a third. I was unsure and posed the concern to the group. Within a half-hour, I received advice that two-book series are acceptable. What a relief!

I highly recommend joining. You can find out more about Rave Reviews here.

Thank you, da-AL, for having me as a guest on your wonderful blog! I also want to thank you, the reader, for taking the time to visit this post. I wish you all the best in your writing career, or whatever you choose to do in life. Follow your passions, and take heart that setbacks are usually temporary and often the greatest teachers. Now if you’ll please excuse me, Karl Jackson is drinking my coffee and using my tablet to play Minecraft. It’s time to write him home.

Find out more about Mark and his writing at his website here and his blog here.

What’s your publishing game-plan?

Guest Blog Post: Best novel writing secret ever! by Bryan J. Fagan

Have you written — or tried to — write a novel? Take if from my experience as a soon-to-be self-published author, epic internal persistence is needed to take on the adventure that has no guarantee of success.

A native of Washington, Bryan J. Fagan blogs from Oregon. He just released a romantic comedy, “Dempsey’s Grill,” and is hard at work on a second book. Here’s his time-tested advice for completing a novel…

“The Secret to Writing a Novel” by Bryan J. Fagan

I was trying to think of a subject to write about for Happiness Between Tails. I always have something brewing in this head of mine. Believe me, there’s a lot of stuff up there. But there was one thing that kept rising to the surface that just wouldn’t go away, and it had to do with quitting.

Or I should say – not (yes — n-o-t) quitting!

For those of us who set out to write a novel, we always have a handful of ideas. Sometimes we pick one and quickly discard it. Other times we pick two and combine them. Unfortunately for many of us, the novel fizzles.

It usually comes around the halfway mark of draft one. We’ve created far too many characters, or the plot is weak, or we’re bored. So we put the story away, we forgot about it, and we promised ourselves that someday we’ll try again. But for some of us, that day will never come.

Would you like to know the secret to writing a novel? Resist the urge to quit!

When I wrote “Dempsey’s Grill,” I can’t tell you the number of times I wanted to walk away. There were plot holes, plot changes, and subplots that were ridiculous. But I knew I had something. I also knew I owed it to the people I created to tell their story.

Writing a novel is hard, really hard. But walking away is easy and who wants easy when doing something hard is much more fun.

All of us who have published our work has had to fight the urge to quit. But we knew better. We knew that in time the story would open up, the characters would come alive, and that in time, these people that we created would be telling the story instead of us.

Writing “Dempsey’s Grill” was one of the hardest things I ever did. It is also one of the most rewarding. So fight off the urge to quit and write your book. You owe it to those amazing people you created.

What do you do when you feel like giving up on your dream?…

Guest Blog Post: Self-Publishing and Guinea Pigs with Ashley L. Peterson

Happiness…my experience (a little about it here and here) is that sometimes it comes easily — and sometimes it takes commitment.

Mental health nurse/blogger/author Ashley L. Peterson of Vancouver, Canada, writes personally as well as medically about mental health. She is adamant that mental health issues needn’t be stimagized. She’s self-published two books: “Psych Meds Made Simple” and “Making Sense of Psychiatric Diagnosis.” As a soon-to-be self-published author myself, she generously discussed what works for her. For Amazon, she stays flexible and experiments daily with keywords, particularly how they work with setting bids per clicks on ads at the amounts suggested by Amazon.

In her own words, she’s “a proud crazy guinea pig lady”! Here she explains why…

Ashley’s favorite photo of herself with one of her adorable little ones!

“Thank Goodness For My Thera-Piggies,” by Ashley L. Peterson

I am a crazy guinea pig lady. Crazy in more ways than one.

The most obvious, perhaps, is that I have 5 guinea pigs (3 girls and 2 boys), and I treat them like my children.

What may be less obvious is that I’m crazy in a mentally ill sense. I have depression that only partially responds to treatment, so I deal with effects of the illness every single day.

“Cute” doesn’t begin to describe Ashley’s little dear!

I take medication and do various other things to manage my illness, but my guinea pigs are an important part of my overall wellness.

I live alone, and my illness has made it difficult to be around other people, so I’m on my own a lot of the time – at least in terms of human contact. But I’m never actually alone when I’m at home because I have 5 very active, very vocal munchkins to keep me company.

Routine helps me manage each day, and the piggies thrive on routine. I have a rather odd sleep schedule, which they’ve adapted to quite happily. They know that when I wake up, they get fed, so as soon as they hear me start rustling around in bed, they start wheeking (an onomatopoeic word for their “feed me” noise). It’s a pretty good motivator to get my butt out of bed.

These two guys of Ashley could be a dictionary illustration for “beguiling.”

I prefer to practice mindfulness focused outwardly rather than inwardly, and my piggies are a perfect target for that. I can just gaze at them in fascination as my mind just shuts off.

More than anything, though, they need me. They’re very good at making their needs known, and they know that I can be counted on to meet them, no matter how lousy I’m feeling. Because of that, I mean the world to them. It’s definitely mutual.

How do you relieve your stress?

Guest Blog Post: the multiple lives of author Valeska Réon

How many lives have you lived? Valeska Réon, a German writer who often models with her adorable furry friends, takes creativity to so many levels! Read on for a hint at her fascinating multiple professional and personal personas…

Valeska Réon with a friend.

* * The Multiple Lives of Author Valeska Réon * *

When I started writing back in 1997, the world of literature was not like it is today. Self-publishing wasn’t yet invented, so you first had to find a publisher before the book could see the light of day. The Internet was still in its infancy in Germany, so you had to resort to traditional marketing strategies.

Valeska Réon and her dogs are great models!

In 2012, after three non-fiction books on health and beauty, I took all my courage and wrote my autobiography, “Flowers for a Chameleon.” What happened next — I hadn’t expected that! Perhaps I should tell you that I was not born a woman, but had already worked as a model in Paris before the sex reassignment surgery. Always I was careful that nobody learned of my secret. 1985 was another time, and models like Andrej(a) Pejic and Lea T. did not exist. The reactions to my book were overwhelming, it sold very well, and a filmmaker contacted me to film it (shooting starts in 2020).

But above all, I became aware of one thing – as an author, you market yourself best when you are authentic. Due to my life story, I was suddenly in the focus of the German LBGT community, which I first had to deal with. Countless letters from my readers all had the same core message: “Thank you for giving us such courage with your book!”

Today #beyoubetrue is my favorite hashtag, and I use it not only on Instagram but also on my author portraits.

Valeska Réon wears her favorite hashtag.

After that, I changed my genre to now writing thrillers – and that’s when I had a new marketing idea. In my book, “Double Sacrifice,” the song, “J’aime tellement,” plays such an essential role that once I wrote the lyrics, I then found a singer/composer to set them to music. Finally, it was remixed and is now available for download –- a great compliment to the book.

CD cover for Valeska Réon’s music.

 

My new thriller, “Walking on Sand,” is currently being rewritten into a stage play that will premiere in Düsseldorf, December 2019. Another autobiographical story, this one is about the transsexual children’s book author Lea. After many years, she returns to her hometown to avenge the terrible things her classmates did to her. The children’s book mentioned within it, “Charlotte Inside,” is taken out of the crime plot and made into a book of its own. It is the first children‘s book ever to tell young readers about therapy with the inner child.

What new creative adventure is Valeska Réon conjuring?

My greatest wish is for “Charlotte Inside” to appear internationally so it can bring joy and courage to children everywhere.

Guest Blog Post: The Reinvention of Lee Gale Gruen

Think it’s too late to write a memoir or to take on a new career? Actress/author/blogger/lecturer Lee Gale Gruen describes how, since she retired, she’s reinvented herself many times over…

Self-reinventor Lee Gale Gruen

When I retired from my 37-year career as a probation officer, and I found myself with nothing meaningful in my life and decades looming. I mistakenly enrolled in an acting class at a senior citizens’ program, thinking it was a play discussion group. When I was forced to perform in a scene in front of the class, my lifelong stage fright kicked in. However, my shaky voice strengthened as I became completely immersed in my character, unaware of the sea of eyes watching and judging me. What a high! I became hooked on acting.

After my mother died, my outgoing, charismatic father, Marvin, became depressed and withdrawn. “Come with me to my acting class, Daddy” I blurted out to cheer him up. After some convincing, he agreed.

Midway through the class, the teacher called on Marvin to perform an improv with another class member. He really hammed it up and later asked me, “So, when are you picking me up for our next class?”

That started us on a magical journey attending the class together for three years, bonding more than ever. I wrote the humorous Dad/Daughter scenes we performed in the class showcase every six months.  The audience members loved us; Marvin loved the attention; and I loved acting and making him happy. All six scenes are included in the book.

I transitioned into the world of professional acting.  As my fledgling second career started going uphill, my father’s health started going downhill.  I shared all my new acting experiences with him at the nursing home where he resided in his final years.

My book (available on Amazon.com) is an inspirational father/daughter bonding story with a twist: both of us were seniors at the time.

For more about Lee Gale Gruen and her book…

Email:  gowergulch@yahoo.com

Acting website:  LeeGaleGruen.com

Book website:  AdventuresWithDadTheBook.com

Public speaking video:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_cen-dN6SUU&feature=youtu.be

Author interview video:  youtube.com/watch?v=FIUm9e7NRKc

Blog: Reinventing Myself in My Retirement:  LeeGaleGruen.Wordpress.com

Video: Dark Waters

Before I was a soon-to-be self-published novelist, I was a radio, print, and cable TV journalist…

da-AL in Dark Waters documentary.
Pre-novelist days, here I am in a documentary I hosted and co-produced, “Dark Waters.”

Here’s a video that by my business partner at the time, David Hunt (who describes the event in additional detail here), and I won a Los Angeles Area Emmy Award for. Adam Yurman composed the haunting music for it. Earth Alert! funded it.

What a find — I thought it was lost!

Interviewees include Heal the Bay founding president/environmentalist Dorothy Green and marine biologist/environmentalist Rim Fay, Jr., along with former California senator Tom Hayden representative Cliff Gladstein and former California supervisor Dean Dana.

Back when it was made, we produced a documentary series, a talk show, and more for the cable TV station located in Hermosa Beach, CA, in addition to videos and commercials for small businesses. Once a show was produced, we’d ‘bicycle’ it, meaning we’d distribute copies of it to outlying cities to air on their channels.

In this episode, off-camera is an audience of passersby. Already nervous, the presence of onlookers made me borrow my partner’s jacket to calm my shivers despite the warm day.

Have you had your 5 minutes of fame yet?…