Wednesday, November 27, 2019

A Time for Thanksgiving

So many days pass where I forget how truly blessed I am. That's why it's important to take a step back this week and consider the daily blessings that can easily be taken for granted.

  1. My faith grounds me during those days of struggle. I can't say I smile through the storm, but knowing God's grace and love carry me through even the worst of days comforts me.
  2. My family offers me love, acceptance, and strength when I have convinced myself I can't continue on the path I've chosen.
  3. My career as a real estate professional allows me to help dozens of people. Most have become great friends.
  4. My career as a writer creates the opportunity to reach young people across the globe. 
  5. The support of friends and colleagues helps to quell doubt. 

No matter where tomorrow finds you, I hope Thanksgiving is filled with a multitude of blessings. Please share something you are grateful for this year. We would love to hear about it.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Tips to Bust through Holiday Stress and Keep Writing

Look around you. The holiday season is already in full swing. There are gifts to buy, a house to decorate, guests to entertain, and a family to make memories with. Oh, and you still have to find time to dedicate to your writing career. Impossible? Not if you plan it right. Here are tips from time management experts.

Plan Ahead

Dr. Donald Wetmore, President of the Productivity Institute, says we know the holidays add more to our plate than just the regular routines. Plan ahead and schedule tasks and events with greater care. Then things get accomplished sooner, rather than later, and at a pace you can handle.


With the holidays, it’s easy to try and do too much yourself. Wetmore suggests you decide which is more important to you, “do it” or “it gets done.” Even without a writing career to nurture, there isn’t enough time do everything. Admit you need help and seek out a few of Santa’s elves — also known as your spouse and/or children — to help with the cleaning, shopping, and decorating.

Get Enough Sleep

It’s tempting to wake up before the kids each morning and then put in a few hours after they’ve gone to bed each night, but when you burn the candles at both ends you are less productive and become more irritable. It's important to get the sleep you need. Just think of how much more creative you’ll be with a full night’s rest.

Keep it Simple

This isn’t the last holiday season you and your family will experience, so don’t feel like you have to do it all. Here are a few tips that Susie Michelle Cortright, Founder and Publisher of Momscape, and freelance writer Marlene Biondo had to offer their readers:

  • Narrow down your Christmas card list
  • Take advantage of free gift wrapping services
  • Choose one gift theme for everyone on your list
  • Limit parties or consider having a pre-holiday or post-holiday get together

What is one of my favorite tips? Make suppertime less complicated around the holidays by preparing casseroles or slow cooker meals. Leftovers help to make the next day's lunch easier, too. Less time in the kitchen can also mean more writing time.

The holidays should be a joyful and fun-filled time spent with family and friends. With careful planning, you can experience all the peace of the season and keep writing, too.

Cheryl C. Malandrinos is a freelance writer and editor. She is the author of four children’s books including, A Christmas Kindness, released by 4RV Publishing. A blogger and book reviewer, she lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two daughters. She also has a son who is married. Visit Cheryl online at and her children’s book blog at

Monday, November 11, 2019

Preparing to Write

Preparing to Write


         Both Jodi Thomas and Jerry Jenkins, best selling authors in different genres, say the first step in writing is to have a special place to write. Jodi called it a writing nest. Jerry stated, "establish your writing space." We may use a couch and coffee table in one corner of our living room or a small building in the back yard. We use what we have at the time, but we need to have a spot where we can write.

         Of course, the more comfortable and private the nest or space, the better. But, real writers can write almost anywhere, especially once they have trained themselves to write.

         As with any career or hobby, a writer needs writing tools. So, we need to collect our tools. Some of us handwrite our first draft and need piles of tablets and multiple pens and/or pencils. Not having supplies where we can find them is a disaster. Everyone then types the manuscript on a computer. For some of us, we use the computer from the first draft onward. A few pay someone else to do the typing.

         Jerry Jenkins states the publishing world runs on Microsoft Word, and it does. Therefore, writers need to have a MS Word program on their computers, whether a Mac or a PC. Some other processing programs claim to have interchangeable ability between its program and MS Word, which isn't always true. I know I have run into difficulties editing documents created in a different program, strange formatting and symbols rather than letters appear when changed to Word.

          One point to remember, even if someone else does the typing after the manuscript is handwritten, an author still needs a computer for research and for communicating with potential agents, editors, and publishers. A writer needs the best computer he/she can afford, with the most capacity and speed.

         Writers need to have everything that might be needed in addition to a desk or table: a stapler, paper clips, a ruler, a pencil holder, a sharpener, notepads, printing paper, paperweights, a tape dispenser, cork or bulletin board, clock, bookends, reference works, a space heater, a fan, a lamp, a beverage mug, napkins, tissues -- anything and everything that might interrupt working on the manuscript.

         One piece of advice Jerry gives and with which I totally agree is not to try to finish a whole book in one sitting. He says, "Break the project into small pieces." Although we know our project will be at least 80,000 words, for example, we shouldn't think we must write all 80,000 words in one day.

         Jodi advises setting a time limit each day for writing. She suggests beginning with twenty minutes, using a timer, each day, even if most writers will probably pass that time limit often. However, setting that limit gives writers an opportunity to take a small bite out of the large project every day.

         Prepare and organize the main points and ideas for your book. I could write a whole book about this part of writing, but authors need to research, organize, and use some form of compiling information.

         Finally, authors should set a goal, perhaps a deadline or number of words per day or number of pages in a week. I am using NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) as my goal to finish at least 50,000 words on my current book. I will write at least 2,000 - 5,,000 words each day to meet my goal. I used that to motivate myself to finish Burnt Offering, and the idea worked.

         Jerry B. Jenkins
          Jodi Thomas, keynote speech, Ozark Creative Writers Conference, (October 12, 2019) 

Monday, November 4, 2019

Dust of Lies by G.K. Davenport Weaves Together Family Secrets and Lost Treasure

From the moment I first read this manuscript, I fell in love. While the lost Confederate gold has played a role in several novels, Dust of Lies by G.K. Davenport weaves this myth into a family story that will captivate the reader from the first page to the last.

On a hot, sultry day in the little town of Barber, Kay witnesses the demolition of the old jail. A reporter for the local newspaper, even the blistering heat of an Arkansas day won’t stop her from grabbing a story for the Gazette.

In the rubble, Kay discovers a haunting poem etched into a block of plaster. Written by a young man who died in his cell, his cry from the grave leads her on a quest that will take her from Arkansas to Texas and back through history to uncover the truth about his family and rumored Confederate treasure. With the truth covered by a dust of lies, Kay must determine who is friend and foe to survive.

The manuscript for Dust of Lies won second place in a fiction category at the OWFI (Oklahoma Writer’s Federation, Inc.) Conference. It has been my sincere pleasure to help G.K. fine-tune a fascinating story that lovers of southern fiction, family secrets, and history will enjoy. I won’t be surprised if many more awards follow the first.

Dust of Lies by G.K. Davenport is available for pre-order if you click here.

Debut author G.K Davenport is a member of the Oklahoma Writer’s Federation, Inc. (OWFI). Her manuscript won second place in her category at the OWFI Conference. She holds a degree in Chemistry from Oklahoma State University as well as a degree in Accounting from Northwestern Oklahoma State University. She is currently employed as a Chief Financial Officer of an automotive dealership and resides with her family in northwest Oklahoma.

You can visit G.K. online at and on Facebook at

Cheryl C. Malandrinos is an author and editor for 4RV Publishing. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two daughters. She also has a son who is married.  

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Take Your Time and Do it Right

As head coach of UCLA's basketball team, John Wooden won ten NCAA national championships in a twelve-year period. Well known for the short inspirational messages he used to encourage his players, some consider the above quote to be one of his finest pieces of advice.

How can we apply Wooden's advice to our writing?

Focused on completing a project and submitting it to a publisher, writers can forget the importance of taking the time to do it right — yours truly stands guilty as charged. Expect cruddy first drafts. We frequently hear, just get it out. While that is true, don't rush editing.

Not all writers are fans of editing. You're forced to kill your darlings, tighten your prose, remove passive voice, switch out weak adverbs for strong verbs, and a litany of other instructions that threaten to make your head ache. Self-editing is a learned art form. I'm still in class. It's way more rewarding to edit someone else's manuscript.

Speaking of working with editors, this might shock you: if your editor asks you to go over a chapter for the third time, it's because she believes so much in your story she wants it to be even better than you think it can be. The word choice, the sentence structure, and the way a chapter ends can be the difference between a reader turning the page and putting a book down unfinished. An editor is part of a team dedicated to preparing your manuscript for publication.

So, what can an author do to help?

Don't rush self-editing

My technique is:
  • Take the cruddy first draft and pretend it doesn't exist for a month.
  • First round of edits: read it aloud to pick up inconsistencies and typos.
  • Second round of edits: improve word choice, correct grammar, and reduce repetition.
  • Third round of edits: focus on punctuation to make sure it's right.
  • Ignore the final draft for a day or two and then read it aloud again to make sure you didn't miss any glaring errors.
Write a great query letter

The dreaded query letter. Can you imagine my eyes rolling into my head? Writer's Digest has a great list of dos and don'ts for this. You can find it here. Two hundred fifty to three hundred fifty words doesn't leave a lot of room for error. Practice makes perfect.

Once your manuscript is accepted, be open-minded

Publishers understand this is your baby. When a publisher accepts your manuscript, they see its potential. Be open to your editor's suggestions. Step back and be objective. Embrace the process, even when it seems to take a long time. That time will be well worth it!

Cheryl C. Malandrinos is a freelance writer and editor. She is the author of four children’s books including, A Christmas Kindness, released by 4RV Publishing. A blogger and book reviewer, she lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two daughters. She also has a son who is married. Visit Cheryl online at and her children’s book blog at

Friday, September 27, 2019

Artist Spotlight: Jeanne Conway

     Jeanne Conway joined 4RV Publishing on September 27, 2016. She has created the images for several books since then, several of which have won awards. Her books for 4RV include Louie Finds a Friend - A Louie the Duck Story (2nd in the series) and Wave Excitement - A Louie the Duck Story (1st in the series) by Vivian Zabel; This Isn't My Bed! by Mike McNair;  Storm Sentinel by Tony LoPresti; Merry Tilda: A Winter Fairy Tale and Wild, Wild Wind by Jodi Heaton Hearst; and, her first for the company, Kindertransport: a child's journey Kena Sosa.

     Jeanne, an artist, illustrator, children’s book writer, and art educator lives in St. Louis, Missouri.
She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. The following is a portion of an interview from the Kansas/Missouri SCBWI since she was the featured illustrator, where she talks about two books illustrated for 4RV:

Question: What would be your dream project? Or what was your favorite project?

Reply: Recently I illustrated a children’s book about the wind called The Wild, Wild Wind by Jodi Heaton Hurst.  The main characters are swept up by the wind and this was terrific for me as I could play around with the various figures (human and animal) as they move through the air. The locale was in the country so I could use a palette of daylight colors.  It was so much fun to do that book.

Question: What’s next for you? Any upcoming book releases we should be on the lookout for?

Reply: Louie Finds A Friend (A Louie The Duck Story) by Vivian Zabel is another children’s book featuring the ongoing adventures of Louie the duck and how he finally makes a friend who understands him.

For so many years I’ve loved art in all kinds of medium. I’ve painted in oil and acrylic but found that watercolor was the one I loved the most. As a child in St. Louis, Missouri, my mother would often take all of us to the Art Museum. And I have to thank both of my parents for the endless paper, pencils, and paints which they provided for those of us who loved to draw and paint.

I got a degree in Art Education from Webster University in St. Louis and went on to teach art for 35 years in St. Louis and London, England.  In 2013 I started illustrating children’s books part-time and when I retired from art teaching in 2016 I started full time illustrating.  I’m a member of SCBWI and would highly recommend this organization to anyone who is interested in writing and/or illustrating children’s books.

My husband Tom and I have been blessed with three children: Adam, Julie, and Suzanne. I am so grateful to them for their constant encouragement for my art.

You can view my art on my website, or on my portfolio page on the SCBWI website.

     Thank you, Jeanne, for bringing 4RV books to life with your art.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Editing Resources for Writers

Whether I am editing my own work or someone else's, there are resources and tools I've come to rely on. Here is a list of some that are kept close by.

Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi, co-founders of the Writers Helping Writers site, have released a series of thesauruses to help writers find the right words or phrases to make their writing come alive and to make their characters real and memorable to readers. Now in its second edition, The Emotion Thesaurus discusses different types of emotions and the body language someone might use when experiencing a certain emotion or trying to suppress it.

Tired of people saying you need to "show, don't tell?" Looking for new ways to describe characters and their actions? Then Master Lists for Writers can help. It will also assist you with plot and setting ideas, dialogue, character names, and more.

I've owned a copy of Roget's Thesaurus since high school. (I won't tell you how long ago that was.) This third edition of Roget's Super Thesaurus from 2003 added new entries and expanded on some existing ones. It also contains sample sentences.

These three little books still get pulled from the bookshelf when I need them. Stephen King once recommended all aspiring writers take the time to read The Elements of Style. As I sat down to write this article, I realized updated versions of the first two had been released since I purchased my copies. Guess who is running out to grab them? 

ProWritingAid is an online editing tool I use regularly to easily find overused words and readability issues. 

I hope you find this list helpful. Now, it's time for you to share. What are editing resources and tools you use?

Cheryl C. Malandrinos is a freelance writer and editor. She is the author of four children’s books including, A Christmas Kindness, released by 4RV Publishing. A blogger and book reviewer, she lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two daughters. She also has a son who is married. Visit Cheryl online at and her children’s book blog at