Wednesday, October 14, 2020

The Power of A Good Morning Routine

 



Jack Canfield, originator of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, calls the first 60 minutes of his day his "Hour of Power." His Hour of Power includes 20 minutes of exercise, 20 minutes of meditation, and 20 minutes of uplifting reading. 

Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert comic strip, believed in written affirmations. He writes his goals down 10 to 15 times a day. 

Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer for Facebook, rises at 5:30am and focuses on getting her children ready for school, dropping them off, and answering emails before arriving at Facebook's office at 7:00am.

Arianna Huffington, co-founder of The Huffington Post, spends her first 30-60 minutes setting her intentions for the day

These successful people--and many others like them--firmly believe a good morning routine is crucial to their effectiveness and ability to achieve their goals. Your morning routine will set the tone for your entire day. It does not need to be complicated. Consistency is the key. 

What is your current morning routine? Does it energize you or zap your energy? What would you change if you could?





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 http://ccmalandrinos.com and her children’s book blog at https://childrensandteensbookconnection.wordpress.com



Sunday, October 11, 2020

Before Submitting Your Manuscript - 8 Hot Tips


By Karen Cioffi

Writing is a personal experience. Each writer faces his or her own obstacles and processes. But, one common aspect of writing is it always starts with an idea.

You may take that idea and turn it into an outline. You then take your outline and sprinkle it with letters and words and watch it grow. Words turn into sentences, sentences into paragraphs, and paragraphs into chapters.

The journey can take months and even years.

It's the love of writing, the love of your story, and the hope of publication keep you dedicated.

Then the day finally arrives. Your manuscript is complete. The query letter is ready. All you have to do is submit, submit, and submit again.

But, hold on a minute.

Have you gone over all the necessary steps to ensure your manuscript is actually ready to be submitted to a publisher or agent?

There are eight steps that every writer, especially those new to the business of writing, should follow before submitting a manuscript:

1.    Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. Then self-edit your story until it’s the best it can be.

2.    Make sure you belong to a critique group in your genre and submit your manuscript to them.  

3.    Revise your story again taking into account the critiques you received.

Here you want to use common sense in regard to which critiques you listen to. If all your critique group members tell you a particular section of your children’s story isn't age appropriate, listen.

If one member tells you he/she doesn’t like the protagonist’s name, use your own discretion.

4.    Resubmit the manuscript to the critique group again. See if you’ve revised or removed all the problem areas.

5.    Proofread and self-edit the manuscript until you think it’s perfect.

6.    Print the manuscript and check it again. You’ll be surprised at the different types of errors that will be found in this format. You should use a colored pen or pencil for these corrections so they’ll be easy to spot later on.

7.    Now, it’s time for the final corrections. Give it another go over.

8.    Have your manuscript professionally edited.

If you’re questioning why you need to have your manuscript professionally edited after going to the trouble of having it critiqued and worked on it meticulously and endlessly, the answer is simple: An author and a critique group are not a match for the expert eyes of a professional editor.

Did you and your critique group catch all the punctuation errors?

How about knowing when or if it is permissible to use quotation marks outside of dialogue?

Do you know about the Find function on your word program to check for over used words, such as 'was' and 'very.'
 
What about ellipsis dots, or the over use of adjectives and adverbs? 

This is just the tip of the iceberg.
 
Isn’t it understandable why it’s important to take that extra step, and yes, expense, to have your manuscript edited?

If you’re undecided, ask the professional writers you know if they recommend it. You can also ask if they could recommend a qualified and affordable editor.

The powers that be, editors, agents, reviewers, and publishers, all know the difference between a professionally edited manuscript and one that is not.

Every house needs a solid foundation, right? Getting your manuscript professional edited is the same thing - it will provide a solid foundation.

The number of authors seeking publishers and/or agents is staggering. 

Yet, the number of publishers and agents is limited. If your budget allows, give your manuscript every advantage possible. 

One of those advantages is having it professionally edited. It can be the deciding factor in whether your manuscript makes it to the editor’s ‘to read’ pile or the trash pile. 



Karen Cioffi
is an award-winning children’s author, successful children’s ghostwriter, and author/writer online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing. She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of Writers on the Move.

For more on writing, stop by Writing for Children with Karen Cioffi.

And, if you’re looking for an easy-read, middle-grade fantasy adventure, check out WALKING THROUGH WALLS.

Or, you might be interested in a fantasy picture book geared to bring awareness of our environment to children: The Case of the Plastic Rings – The Adventures of Planetman




Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Are You Ready for the 2020 Holiday Book Buying Season?

 


Fall bookselling season is here. Known as the best time of the year for book sales, everything in 2020 looks a little different because of the pandemic's impact on book clubs, local author events, and school book fairs. 

The silver lining is an August report from NPD that states the U.S. print book market is up 5.5% over the same time period in 2019. The same report predicts the book market is on track to have one of its best years since NPD Bookscan began tracking data in 2004. 

Are you ready?

Go Virtual

Some organizers of cancelled events are opting for virtual events. Debut authors are experiencing varied levels of success with virtual events when combined with more traditional methods. Consider getting together with a few author friends and holding a live virtual event.

Get Social

Social media helps you reach people via your ability to engage others on sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Using holidays, big and small, as a way to promote your books can be helpful. World Kindness Day takes place on November 13 each year. The purpose of that holiday is “to highlight good deeds in the community focusing on the positive power and the common thread of kindness which binds us.” If your book involves an act of kindness, you could highlight it on November 13 or on Random Acts of Kindness Day, which is February 17. 

Social media ads are also a way to promote your book. The social media site you choose will depend upon who is your target market and where they socialize. This article from BigCommerce discusses social media advertising.

Don't Forget the Locals

Despite the pandemic, local newspapers still need human interest stories, independent book stores still hold author events (even if they are virtual), and local schools may need workshop ideas that tie into their curriculum. Reach out to your local contacts and let them know you are there to help.

Order Early

Printers may experience production delays, so be sure to order your books early. 

Using these tips, you can prepare yourself to sell during the holiday book buying season.




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 http://ccmalandrinos.com and her children’s book blog at https://childrensandteensbookconnection.wordpress.com



Monday, September 21, 2020

Meet author Brian J. Heinz

 




    I arrived at Brian Heinz's house to find him boxing books for a book event, boxes piled everywhere.

    "Sorry," he said. "I have to work every minute possible, but ask away. I can answer and do this, too." He pointed at the books and boxes. He removed a stack of books from am arm chair. "Have a seat."

    "All right." After I sat, I brought out my well-used list of questions and turned on my recorder. "First, how did/does your history and home background affect your writing?" 

    Brian's voice, a bit muffled, came from inside a cabinet as he grabbed more books. "As a boy, my friends and I often rode bikes to lakes and ponds on eastern Long Island. We found pleasure in risk-taking and formed lifelong bonds of friendship, similar to the characters in Peabody Pond." He plunked books on a table beside an empty box. 

    As he placed books in the box, he continued, "From childhood to adulthood, I harbored a fascination with the natural world and the uncanny behaviors and adaptations of animal life. Growing up in a moderately rural area on an island where saltwater environs were also nearby. My mother, born in Ireland, taught me to read before I entered Kindergarten and by third grade I was engrossed in treading outdoor adventure novels like White Fang and Call of the Wild by the great American writer Jack London. These books shaped my love of the genre."

    Referring to my list, I responded, "Thanks. Tell us something about your educational background that made you a better, or more caring, writer."

    "After high school I attended Stony Brook University and received my undergraduate and graduate degrees in education with an emphasis on Science and Language Arts. When I entered the teaching profession, I ran staff development programs in outdoor education and integrated teaching strategies." He stacked the filled box on top of another on the floor. "My young classroom students enjoyed five all-day canoe trips on the navigable rivers of Long Island, which instilled in them a deep appreciation of all things wild and developed them a sense of good stewardship for the ecological health of our planet."

    He grabbed another empty box and plopped it on the table. "I spent 28 years as a classroom teacher. As a published author of award-winning books, I was an adjunct professor at Hofstra University teaching the Summer Writers Program."   

    I watched him pack more books before asking the next question. "Please share your hobbies, interests, or activities with us, you know the ones for during your leisure time (I laughed)m if you have any." 

    He grinned and sat in his office chair before answering. "I have traveled extensively to natural parks, hiking and photographing, throughout the United States. Much of my travel provided research for my true-to-life picture books on the natural world. This includes two weeks in the Cheyenne River Canyon to study a herd of wild mustangs for one of my books, and an overland dogsled trip at -20 degrees for research on my polar bear adventure. I have camped across Canada and visited several European countries, including Ireland, to visit my mothers birthplace and home.

     "I’m a naval history buff and have built many museum-quality plank-on-frame ship models of famous sailing vessels throughout history.

     "I also enjoy woodworking and have built furniture pieces from native wood in my workshop at our vacation home in New York’s Adirondack Mountains."

    Surprised he found time for anything other than writing or attending book events, I paused a moment before introducing the next topic.

    "Authors are often asked when they started writing or what triggered their interest in writing. I’d like to know that, too, but I would especially like to know what keeps you writing." 

    Brian tilted his head to one side to look out the window. "My interest in writing began in elementary school and was a direct result of my mother creating in me a lifelong love of language and literature. I recall composing stories in fourth grade and was in honors English classes through high school. Writing can be a lonely effort, but when a piece is complete and well-accepted by my writers’ group, the satisfaction is intense. But, most importantly, the piece must move me emotionally, or I cast it aside. If I have lost interest, so will my reader. 

    "I visit many dozens of schools each year presenting programs, and the joy I see in the eyes of young children who have purchased and read my books makes the effort worthwhile. I receive many letters from teachers and their students attesting to their love of my books and use of language. All of this fuels my fire to write, tied to my own curiosity about the world and life in general. In my travels to bookstores, schools, and libraries far from my home, I am always gratified to see my books on display."

    I nodded. "I understand that thrill seeing one's book in stores, but how do you manage to write and care for your family,too?"

    "My wife, Judy, is a valued partner. She travels with me on research trips, and I trust her as my first reader. She is intelligent, deeply read, and widely read. And, she is honest in her comments and appraisals. When I am deeply involved in creating a new work, she respects my space and the time I require. What writer could ask for more?" Brian stood and walked to another cabinet. "When a bookstore has me sign books, they order them, but other times, I take copies, and I need to finish. Now, next question?"

    "All right, I will ask and you answer. What inspired you to write your most recent book?" 

    "Incidents and relationships from my own childhood for sure, and my inherent interest in the natural world. These attributes joined forces with my love of classic sci-fi and monster movies and the slow percolating began. During my school visits while teaching writing workshops, I often created a verbal scenario to demonstrate how quickly an author can create character, setting, and tension while incorporating vivid sensory details to allow the reader the vicarious sense of being ‘in the moment.’ I set the character, Connor, out on a pond in an old boat when something strikes the floor of the boat from beneath the water. At the second strike, the bottom splits and water rushes in. Then I tell them that the character can’t swim and the boat is going down with no idea as to what lies beneath.

    Brian paused a moment. "I would leave it there for students to ponder, but every student begged to know what was in the water. I realized if young readers could be so deeply taken in from just a couple of paragraphs, the idea deserved to be fully realized. Peabody Pond was born as a result of writing workshops in elementary and middle schools."

    "Next question: How did you decide the title for your book? Would you share something about your book?" 

    "Since the novel is a blend of sci-fi, mystery, suspense, and horror,(with considerable humorous elements to balance the more intense emotional scenes), I wanted a simple title of a seeming bucolic and serene place that belied the frightening world about to be unleashed. My great joy was in creating the eclectic cast of antagonistic characters and creating situations that brought them together as allies with a common goal. Their internal growth had to be addressed as well. What do they learn from each other and about each other that changes their view of people and the world. It couldn’t simply be a ‘thriller’ novel."

    "Interesting. Do you have a particular writing process or technique, and if so, what?" 

    Brian set another box of books on the top of a pile. "I have no set schedule. I react when an idea pokes at me and won’t quit. It demands to be heard. It could be something interesting I saw or heard or read that had me cogitating. Once I have the germ of an idea, I have to find a physical structure upon which to hang my words, then a contextual framework for the language. My books employ a variety of structures."

    "How do you feel when you complete a book?"

    "Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones often sang, 'I can’t get no satisfaction.' Not so for me. The satisfaction is deep and is tied to excitement in sharing the work with my writing colleagues before sending the piece out for publication."

    "Brian, what are your writing achievement and goals?"

    "Simply, to grow. I’ve written and published picture books in fiction and nonfiction, in verse and in prose, from the humorous to the serious. I’ve been published in multiple genres: historical, fantasy, coming-of-age, how-to, professional classroom texts,humor, adventure, and nature. I have published with nine publishing houses, and my books have garnered many starred reviews and awards. I always try to spread my wings and try something new. I make it a point to write close to my subject and with a sense of immediacy to the reader."

    "Well, thanks for submitting Peabody Pond to 4RV Publishing. Now, how do any writing groups benefit you and your writing? If you’re not in a writing group, why not?"

    Brian sat in his chair. "I am a founding member of a writing group on Long Island, The Long Island Children’s Writers and Illustratorsor (LICWI). We began more than twenty-five years ago with twelve members and now boast a roster of 105, made up of both published and unpublished writers. We meet monthly for several hours and read and critique members’ works in progress. The feedback is frank and honest, but never abrasive or condescending. Every one of my published works has been read to the group. 

    "Writing groups are important in keeping you in the fold and sharing ideas with like-minded people who love literature and the writing process. I am also a member of the national organization SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. I also belong to the Author’s Guild. It is always gratifying when a new and previously unpublished member signs their first book contract to the applause of the group."

    "Does writing help better you as a person? How?"

    "It seems the more I write, the more I learn about myself. I sometimes find in creating a character and placing them in an emotional incident, I see myself and recall past misdoings of my own which reshapes my thoughts on my behavior for the future. It’s a bit of a catharsis and can be a healing moment, too."

    "What advice do you have for a new writer, Brian?"

    "Read, read, read, but with the eye and ear of a writer. Be analytical. How did this author open the story and why this way? How quickly were the character, setting, and tension revealed? Is there evidence of emotional tone? Sensory detail? You want to enjoy the story, but pay attention to the elements of the crtaft and how they are employed by the author.

     "Attend writers’ conferences and listen to the speakers. The experience and knowledge provided by senior editors and writers at the workshop offerings can’t be measured.

     "Subscribe to well-respected writing magazines like The Writer and digest the information. Put it to work.

     "Be persistent, patient, and professional. Every fine writer collected a sackful of rejections. They didn’t quit. If you were meant to write, you will write. Read Stephen King’s memoir On Writing for some startling revelations about learning the craft and dealing with rejection.

    I nodded. "What is your favorite genre to read? Your favorite author or authors?"

    "Favorite genre is still outdoor adventure / survival stories, but I read historical books, biographies, thrillers, and others.

     "My favorite authors include Jack London, Stephen King, and Bill Bryson."

    "Thank you, Brian. Do you have any other comment?" 

    "This is a field of struggle and reward. You may spend an inordinate amount of time and effort to create a literary piece with no idea as to whether it will see the light of day in a magazine or as a book, but the rewards offered by publication is like the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. The satisfaction is and sense of accomplishment can often overshadow the remunerative rewards … which can also be considerable."

 

To find how to order a copy of Peabody Pond by Brian J. Heinz, go to  4RV Publishing, Brian J. Heinz. His book can also be found through bookstores and from other online sources. 

Sunday, September 6, 2020

5 Must-Use Tips on Writing a Powerful Thriller (and most other fiction stories)


In Brian Klems' Writer’s Digest Column on Writing, I read a great article titled, "The 5 C’s of Writing a Great Thriller Novel.”

While I’m not a thriller writer, the information in this article is applicable to just about all fiction writing.

There are fundamentals elements needed in all fiction to make it reader engaging and friendly. In other words, to make it ‘page turning good.’

The five C’s of writing a great thriller the article mentioned are:

1. Make Your Characters Three- Dimensional

 The characters in your story need to be carefully chosen and they need to be three-dimensional. Your hero can’t be ALL good and your antagonist can’t be ALL bad.

Klem’s explains to create “complex characterization” and  to “brainstorm a list of at least 10 inner demons your hero has to fight.”

2. The Name of the 'Fiction Writing' Game is Conflict

Every story needs conflict. Klems calls it ‘confrontation.' The hero needs to overcome obstacles to finally reach his goals.

Having the antagonist battling his own demons or righting some wrong that makes his act unethical or even murderous is additional conflict you can season your story with.

You need to create ups and downs and interesting multi-faceted characters.

3. Twists and Turns

'Careening,' as Klems puts it, is about creating twists and turns that keep the story from being predictable.

This element of the story keeps the reader on her toes.  Klems says, “Part of the fun for readers is thinking a story is going one way, and getting taken completely by surprise.”

4. Make Your Reader Feel

This story element is essential for all fiction, but especially in a thrill. You want your reader to feel what the character is feeling and you want it to read authentic, believable.

You need the reader to be scared or hold their breath with anticipation.

To do this, Klems suggests “recalling an emotional moment in your life, and recreate each of the senses in your memory (sight, smell, touch, sound, etc.) until you begin to feel the emotion again.” He calls this story element, ‘coronary.’

Once you start remembering, you will begin to feel what you did at the time. Then write it down. Write what you felt.

5. The Take-Away (intended or not)

Most writers want their stories to have some take-away value. It could be some kind of moral enlightenment, food for thought, or other tidbit.

The same holds true for thriller writers.

Klems explains that “you ought to spend some time asking yourself what your thriller is really about. Does it offer hope for justice? Does it end with justice denied?”

Another very interesting point Klems brings out is that some writers, especially “aspiring thriller writers,” don’t see the value in thinking about a take-away value for the story. “There’s nothing wrong with this approach, as long as you realize that you will be saying something. Why not be intentional about it?”

This is such a great point. Don’t assume the reader will be content with ending their reading with the thrill and action. Inevitably, they will take something else from the story, possibly something you didn’t intend. At least lead them in the right direction.

There you have it, five tips on writing a great thriller and on writing other fiction that will have the reader turning the pages and coming back for more.

Reference:
http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/the-5-cs-of-writing-a-great-thriller-novel




Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author, successful children’s ghostwriter, and online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing.

Check out her middle-grade book, Walking Through Walls, and her new picture book series, The Adventures of Planetman.





Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Novel Writing Software


I am a proud panster. Outlines are for high school projects and plotters, but not for me. For years this happy panster has allowed the words to just flow and for the characters to find their way to the end of the story all on their own. 

Then I met Dabble. This online-only novel writing software is available through monthly subscription. Unlike downloadable novel writing software for which you pay a flat fee, your monthly subscription fee allows for constant updates so you don't need to pay to buy updated software in the future. I can't say that I've used Scrivener, Storyist, Squibler or other novel writing software in the past, so I can't compare features.

What made me decide to move forward with a free trial of Dabble?

A) I am re-writing a novel from the beginning, so I know how many plot points, characters, and scenes that need tracking.

B) I want to finish this novel.

We all have to find a way to motivate ourselves to keep writing despite all the distractions in our daily lives. If you've found a way to do that, congratulations! I am still one of those seekers--looking for a way to tune out all the noise around me to get from first page to last. 

Dabble allows me to stay organized and keep all my story notes in one place. You can create scenes, add plot points, create a plot grid, build your world, and keep miscellaneous notes, and then you can write your story. I find managing the writing process this way to be more effective, and I get way more excited about it as I see it come together on the screen.

Does a writer need novel writing software? No. It is a tool just like any other tool in our writer's toolbox. If you're at a point where you're struggle to keep up with all your plot points, characters, and scenes, it might be worth taking a look at one of the many novel writing software programs out there. Just like shoes, one size doesn't fit all. 



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 http://ccmalandrinos.com and her children’s book blog at https://childrensandteensbookconnection.wordpress.com



Sunday, August 2, 2020

The 3 Levels of Picture Books



Picture books have 3 levels or purposes in regard to the reader and purchaser. Think of it as the structure of a house: there’s a basement, a first floor, and often an upper floor.

Level 1: The basement, or Surface Level, is geared toward the youngest reader (or listener if too young to read). This child is able to understand what’s going on. He is engaged by the story.

Using a wonderful children’s picture book, Caps For Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina, the child will think it’s funny that monkeys take the peddler’s caps, put them on their heads and won’t take them off.

Level 2: The first floor, or the Underlying Meaning Level, is for the older children who can understand on a deeper level. At this age, they can realize danger, anger, and a cause and effect scenario.

Again, using Caps for Sale, the children should be able to understand that the monkeys are mimicking everything the peddler does, but the peddler doesn’t realize what they’re doing. With this age child, he/she may yell out, “They’re doing what you do!” in an effort to help the peddler.

Level 3: The upper floor, or the Take Away Level, is the value the book holds for the purchaser, usually the parent, grandparent, or teacher. The adult reading the book to the child understands the meaning of the story, what value can be taken away by children.

In the case of Caps for Sale, the young child is engaged and understands the monkeys took the peddler’s caps and wouldn’t give them back. The older child is engaged and understands that the peddler is causing the monkeys to act as they are. The value that might be taken away is that our actions create reactions.

I just want to point out that Caps for Sale was first copyrighted in 1940 and renewed in 1967, so there is a great deal of telling in the story.

Back then, writing for children used a different structure. The stories were not geared toward today’s short attention span and need for action. But, some stories, such as this one, hold up even through change.

Keep in mind though, in today’s children’s market a writer must take into account that a child is bombarded with media and entertainment. Children’s publishers want showing rather than telling. They also want action right from the beginning of the story. In today’s market it’s the writer’s job to grab the reader quickly.



Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author, successful children’s ghostwriter, and online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing. Check out her middle-grade book, Walking Through Walls, and her new picture book series, The Adventures of Planetman.