Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Active vs. Passive Voice by Katie Hines

What Makes A Sentence?

Basic, traditional sentence structure follows what is known as the SVO pattern. “S” refers to a subject, or something performing an action; “V” refers to a verb, which is the action; and, “O” refers to the object, or something receiving the action. Please note that not all sentences have an “object.”

What is the Passive Voice?

Passive voice is the opposite of active voice, and results from the overuse of the “be” verbs: am, is, was, were, be, being and been.

The passive voice is often found in sentences that begin with “there is,” “there are,” “it is” and “they are.”

Examples of passive voice:

  • There were a great number of dead birds on the ground.

  • There were many cows behind the fence.

  • There are four to eight members in each of our critique groups.

What is the Active Voice?

The active voice uses strong action verbs, such as toss, run, jump, fly, etc.

Using the active voice allows the reader to visualize what the writer is describing or saying.

The following are examples of the active voice. Note how the above sentences are changed from passive to active voice:

  • Dead birds littered the ground.

  • Cows stood behind the fence.

  • Our critique groups host four to eight members.

When to Use the Passive Voice

Although the use of the passive voice is often linked to weak sentences, there is a place where the use of it shines.

The passive voice is used very effectively in scientific or technical writing, where it emphasizes the process or principle being described, instead of the person performing the action.

For example, use of the passive voice is effective in the following sentence:

Open drawer two in the printer to add standard-sized paper.

However, in most fiction, the use of the passive voice slows down writing and makes it wordy.

Nancy Lamb, children’s author of The Writer’s Guide to Crafting Stories for Children, says on p. 205 of that same book:

“The difference between adequate prose and good prose is the difference between the passive and active voice. Make certain that active verbs drive your prose.”

Be especially careful not to mix active and passive voice in the same sentence!

When to Use the Active Voice

Use of the active voice brings an event into immediacy for the reader, into the present, and makes them connect more strongly with what’s being written.

For those who are grammatically challenged, think of “active” in connection with the active voice, for the active voice brings the action from the past (from having already happened) into the present.

The active voice “does it now.”

Using the active voice, with its attending action verbs, eliminates wordiness and makes what is written more interesting to read.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Promotion: Book Trailer for Wolf

posted by Vivian Zabel

     Another book coming out in March is Wolf, written by Harry (Brian) Porter and illustrated by Theresa Stites. Aidana WillowRaven created a book trailer for the short YA novella, which has beautiful black and while illustrations.

     Watch for book to be available on the 4RV Bookstore, as well as in bookstores and online stores.

     Now let's enjoy the trailer.

4RV Publishing

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Writing Tip - Dialogue can be fun

by Stephanie Burkhart  

 Writing dialogue can be fun, but a challenge. Dialogue must do several things well to be effective so I thought I'd share some tips and ideas on writing dialogue.

#1 – Dialogue should sound authentic, but not reflect real life too closely.

In real life people greet each other with:

"Hello, Bob."
"Hi, Sue. How are you doing?"
"I'm okay. You?"
"I have a little headache."

Dull and boring, huh? Try to strip as much of these exchanges that you can from your dialogue. Get to the heart of the matter by passing over pleasantries. Rule of thumb: Stay away from pointless chit chat.

#2 – Dialogue should move the plot forward, but not be an info dump.

When you use dialogue, reveal a little about your character, but don't go into a monologue that reads like an info dump.

"Lord Varga does not like garlic," said Lazlo.
Amelia arched an eyebrow. "I didn't know. Why?"
"It makes him sick."
"How interesting. Garlic is known for it's healing properties."
Lazlo pursed his lips.

#3 – Avoid dialect in dialogue.

Why? Quite honestly, most authors can't do it well and readers who don't "get it" might find it a bit stilted.

#6 – You are what you speak.

The words characters say reveal who they are so make them shine. Are they educated? Young? Friendly? What do they value?

"Old lady Jenning's pig ran away again."
"Did you find him?"
"Sure did – down by the river."
"Did you return the pig?"
"Sure did. She said she appreciated my honesty."

#7 – Dialogue shows suspense

The lack of dialogue or reluctance to talk may heighten the suspense.

"Do you know what she wanted?"
"What was what?"

All these are tools you can use to help develop your story. A note about dialogue tags:
You should only use "he said" or "she replied" when you need to identify the speaker. Other "tags" you can use, I refer to as action tags. For example:

Amelia arched an eyebrow. "I didn't know. Why?"
"I didn't know. Why?" she asked.

The action tag puts you more in the moment.

Have a great week all!
My upcoming book, "First Flag of New Hampshire" will be out with 4RV Publishing shortly. It's a young adult book. BLURB: Can Alyssa and Miguel find the First Flag of New Hampshire before time runs out on their project?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Promotion: PostCard Trailer for Life on Hold

posted by Vivian Zabel   

     Since Life on Hold is not an illustrated book, Aidana WillowRaven created a Post Card Trailer to promote the book. The young adult book is written by Beverly Stowe McClure. Life on Hold will be released about the middle of March. Watch for it, since it will be available through the 4RV Bookstore as well as any brick and mortar or online bookstore.

4RV Publishing

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Promotion: Book Trailer for Porcupine's Seeds

posted by Vivian Zabel 

     One of 4RV's new picture books, written by new author to 4RV Viji K. Chary and illustrated by Bridget McKenna, is Porcupine's Seeds. Aidana WillowRaven created a book trailer to go with the book.

     Porcupine's Seeds will be available in the 4RV Bookstore in two weeks, after it's released.

4RV Publishing

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Plan a Book Tour: Be a Gracious Guest and Effective Promoter

Plan a Book Tour: Be a Gracious Guest and Effective Promoter
By Karen Cioffi

You researched and planned a unique and engaging book tour. Your hosts are booked, the schedules are prepared, and you chose on-the-mark prizes to give to random winners who will take the time to comment on the tour stops.

But, whether you created and are managing your own book tour, or you’ve hired a publicist or book touring service, there are a few additional touring tips you should consider in order to be a gracious guest and effective promoter:

•    Have all your promotional material readily available, including pictures of you and your book cover, reviews, a synopsis, and excerpts. The same goes for any articles you’re providing. Make your guest spot as easy for the host as possible; this means emailing your host any content agreed upon in a timely manner. Give your host plenty of time to prepare his/her post for you. Many bloggers like to pre-post their posts; having the content early will be helpful.

•    Be sure to make note of each site you will be on and the date you’ll be featured. I have a daily calendar book that I enter all important information into. I also got a monthly desk calendar that I leaned against the wall next to my computer – the bigger the better. But, you can use any form of calendar or schedule, as long as it will work for you. 

•    Prepare and publish a press release that lists all the information for your tour. You will need to post your tour schedule on your sites, and ask your hosts if they would post it on their sites also. I took advantage of Donna McDine’s Author PR Services ( Donna did a great job; the release was professional and effective. I highly recommend her services.

•    Promote each tour stop on your social networks.

•    It’d also be a good idea to send a reminder to each host a couple of days before his/her day. It may happen that one or two hosts will forget and that reminder will be very helpful in keeping your tour on track.

•    The day of each guest spot, be sure to visit the site throughout the day to answer any questions from visitors who take the time to comment, and thank them for stopping by. It’s important to also thank each of your hosts in the comments area. You should also send each host a thank you email, after the spot.

•    In addition to thanking each host (during and after the tour), let them know that you would be happy to reciprocate.

•    Finally, go back to each tour stop daily to see if there are any additional comments. If there are, respond to them and add the visitors’ names to the list you should be using for the contest.

Note: Anticipate things coming up and the tour possibly going off track here and there. While each of your hosts has every intention of following through, sometimes things happen. Just go with the flow, shrug or laugh it off.

Winding it Up

After your tour, send an email to the prize winners to let them know they won and include which prize they won. You should also create a post naming the winners. Finally, be sure to follow through and send the winners their prizes.

For a week-by-week, step-by-step, comprehensive article about a book tour, you can check out Mayra Calvani’s article: “Demystifying Virtual Book Tours” (

Learn about writing and marketing with Karen Cioffi at Sign up for her free newsletter, A Writer’s World, and get TWO free site-related e-books for subscribing, and ONE more just for stopping by.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

What Is a First page?

 by Joan Y. Edwards

The first page is not to be mixed up with the Title Page, Copyright page, or Dedication page.
What is a first page?
red horeshoe magnet
  • A first page is the magnet that brings a reader in.
  • It's the hook that brings your reader into your story and keeps him there.
  • It's the grabber that yanks him with words and emotion so strong that he can't set himself free, until the problem is solved at the end of the book.
  • It's the trap that holds readers inside the pages of the book.
  • It's the enticement to stay a little longer in this make-believe world
  • It sells the rest of your manuscript
At the most, depending upon the genre, a first page double-spaced could be 250 words.
What does the First Page Do?
What makes a great first page? It tells who, what, when, where, and why should I care? Hmm. You say. That sounds like the same thing that should be in a pitch. Yes. You're right.  I venture to say that each page in a book should contain something about leading up to the solution of the problem or the making it worse.
A first page hints of the dilemma facing the main character.
Tells the inner and outer conflict of the main character.
Tells the setting.
Tells the time. When you read it, you know by the first page whether it is 100 years ago or sometime in the same century as you.
Why should the reader care? It pulls you in with emotions that a reader can identify with.
Just for comparison and enlightenment: Let's look at the first pages of three of your favorite top-selling books in the genre you have chosen to write in.
You get your books in front of you or go to the Amazon link to its first page.
What must a first page have? A main character, setting, time, goal, and obstacle/opposing force/villain.
Wait. That's not all. On this first page you must also give emotional pull on the reader that shows him why he should care.
Look at 3 first pages. Have the books open to the first page or click on Amazon where they show you the first page of this best-selling book.
Print out the first page of the manuscript you're ready to send off to a critique group, editor, or agent.
Look at the first page of the story  in Chapter One. Look for the things a first page has:
  • Main character
  • Setting
  • Time
  • Goal
  • Obstacle
  • Emotional pull (Why Should I Care? Universal Emotion)
Chances are they've given you hints of the major problem in the story. What's at stake for the main character? Life? Death? Success? Fame? Fortune?
Does your first page have Pizzazz? Raise curiosity in the reader?
Can your readers relate to the main character? Feel for him? Cheer for him? Be scared with him? Cry with him?
If your manuscript lacks this emotional tug at the heartstrings of your reader, add it. When an agent or editor can't get your character out of their heads is when you have them, hook, line, and sinker!
Good luck with your publishing dreams. Keep unwavering faith in you and your stories.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Break Out the Pearl -- guest article

by Suzanne Cordatos  
Somebody had to sort through Grandma’s boxes. She was still kicking—in fact, had played a rippling “Happy Birthday” to herself on the piano the evening before at her 100th celebration. Women born in Iowa at the turn of the century have as much spunk for life as the chickens she once chased in the yard for dinner. But Grandma’s nursing home room didn’t have much space, and boxes were taking over dad’s garage.
Any moment not writing (or thinking about writing) is a moment wasted. My twin sister shares this passion, and we balked at the task. Mounds of hand-crocheted doilies in the puke-orange color Grandma favored were no heirloom. These things had already been picked over; no muses here. Travel memorabilia filled the last box: A small velvet bag filled with fool’s gold. Puzzle books for boring hours. A jar labeled with Japanese characters. Hmm . . . inside, an odd-shaped thing floated in a dark liquid. An oyster shell. Could there be a pearl inside? It would probably stink, but we cracked it open. A pearl, perfect in every way nestled inside.
For several decades after its purchase, Grandma never enjoyed her pearl. Did she forget she had it? As writers, we sift through reams of ideas, mostly junk. What covers up the pearls in our writing? Brilliant brainstorms get layered with detritus of new projects and mundane chores. What nuggets can we glean from panning the stream, perhaps from a new spot? A different point of view or adding sensory details might be all that is needed to refresh a scene.
A hundred years at the computer might not do as much for your writing as visiting the setting of your story, joining your kids on a nature hike, or tasting ordinary food outdoors. Life experiences connect the dots sometimes more completely than Grandma’s puzzle book. In the thick of life—when the good, bad and ugly cram together—we could given the lens through which we find a shell and see a pearl. 
Suzanne Cordatos   

Sunday, February 12, 2012

What is a cover's sole purpose?

by Aidana WillowRaven

I've noticed a disturbing trend among thumbnails and cover shots of more and more book covers seen on sites like amazon, or author websites and blogs. Ambivalence.

Due to some very successful books bearing abstract cover designs and minimalistic visuals or symbols, some authors and publishers think they can stick almost any abstract visual on a cover and think it's going to attract an audience.

A book cover has one job and one job only. Yet, that job is worth 70% of a book's marketability and sales strength so it's a HUGE job. It must attract readers.

For a book cover of any genre, there has to be a hint as to what the genre is or people won't bother to even read what it's about. This seems somewhat basic, I know, but you have about a full second, maybe less, to catch a reader of your genre's attention. Your cover has to tell them your book is their genre almost instantly. See the cover I did for One More Mystery, by Vivian Zabel? It's very minimalistic, but you know right away, between the title and the cover art, that this would interest a crime/suspense/mystery reader. If your more into high fantasy, you know right away this book isn't it.

But you say you have a blog to build readership or a killer blurb that will  draw them in convince them to spend their money? Well, guess what, no one will bother to read your blurb or your blog if you don't first get their attention. That is the job of your cover.

Now you ask, "But what about those best selling crime and horror novels that have abstract covers?" Duh, those books/authors already have a following and fan base. Stephen King could spit on a napkin, sign it, slap on his next book, and it would sell ... because he's Stephen King. 90% of all authors are not, nor will they ever be.

Try to remember that your cover may not need to be what most would consider a full illustration, but if you want abstract, make sure it relates in a way that doesn't require reading the book before anybody knows even what the genre is.

All covers need to be simple enough to help a reader decide what the book is about and complex enough to gain that reader's attention. Too much (another topic I should address in a post) is as bad as a cover that doesn't relate to the book.

It's important for authors, designers, and publishers to know that a cover will attract or detract from a book, and a book is judged by its cover. Ambivalence will not attract that 70% of all book buyers.

Art Director & VP of Operation

Friday, February 10, 2012

Pony Strings & Critter Things book trailer

posted by Vivian Zabel 

     One of the newest 4RV releases, Pony Strings & Critter Things, will be out in two weeks. The author, Rena Jones, prepared a trailer, a fun and interesting one, using illustrations by Ginger Nielson.

     The book can be pre-ordered from the 4RV Bookstore, and will continue to be available there as well as from other book stores.

     Let's enjoy the trailer:

4RV Publishing  

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

How Fibromyalgia Helps My Writing

by Laurie Boris

About twenty years ago, with both forearms strapped into splints due to constant pain when I worked on the computer, I shuffled into a rheumatologist’s office. He diagnosed me with fibromyalgia. I was writing my first novel at the time, and I feared that the pain would make it my last.

Because doctors don’t know much about this disease—many won’t acknowledge it’s a disease and some don’t believe it exists at all—we “fibromites” have learned that the best treatment often lies in managing our own health and lifestyle. By taking a few simple steps, and a lot of trial and error, I’ve learned to minimize and even avoid flares altogether. However, I didn’t anticipate that these same steps could allow my writing not just to continue, but to flourish. Here’s what I’ve learned to do, for my health and for my writing. It even works if you don’t have fibromyalgia. (Note: As always, your actual experience and mileage may vary.)

• I get regular, appropriate exercise. I need to move and stretch my major muscle groups every day. Not only does this keep me healthy and reduce my pain, it allows me to spend more time at the keyboard, day after day, year after year, novel after novel. I also need regular writing exercise to keep my “chops” up. Not just sitting down when I feel inspired, but meeting inspiration halfway by being at the computer to receive it.

• I take advantage of stress. We all have stress. I can allow it to be my enemy, robbing me of energy and causing illness, or it can be my friend. I’ve learned to manage the “bad” stress. But the motivating, “good” stress of a (reasonable) deadline or a public event is a way I use stress to my advantage.

• I have learned to play to my strengths. To each day, we bring a set of bell curves: our natural biorhythms. By paying attention, I’ve learned that my mental acuity and creative energy start high in the morning, peak again just after lunch, and taper off at night. Physical flexibility starts low in the morning and increases by evening. Understanding this, I can choose when I’m best suited for particular activities. Eight a.m. yoga class? Uh, I don’t think so. Morning writing? I’m there, with my coffee and a smile. Knowing the flow of these rhythms, I don’t normally sit down at nine p.m. to start editing. I know I won’t be applying my best self to the work.

• I try to cultivate a flexible attitude. Sometimes despite doing everything right, flares happen. I may back off on other responsibilities, but very little keeps me from writing. I’ve just learned other ways to do it. Voice activated software programs are wonderful if it hurts you to type, and they can be trained to respond with decent accuracy. Setting up my writing space to fit my ergonomic needs initially cost a bit, but it was worth every penny to prevent injuries from poor posture and repetitive stress.

• I ask for help. Although I wear many hats and do a lot of things, I’m not Wonder Woman. It’s hard to admit that to myself at times. But I have learned that if I try to tackle it all, I’ll pay later with pain and fatigue. Learning to delegate tasks or ask for help around the house has made it easier to ask for that second set of eyes on my manuscript, a review, or a friend to help spread the word.

So…how are you turning your writing lemons into lemonade?

Laurie Boris is the author of
The Joke's on Me, from 4RV Publishing. She also blogs about writing, books, and the language of popular culture at

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Plan a Book Tour: Attract Followers

Plan a Book Tour: Attract Followers
By Karen Cioffi

Your book will be released soon and you decided to have a virtual booktour, and you decided to do it yourself. You did some research and took the necessary steps to garner hosts for the tour stops. And, each host knows what will be presented on his site: an interview, or a review, or an informational article.

You also created a Word doc or spreadsheet with the schedule and details.

Now you want to take it up a notch to ensure readers will be motivated to follow your booktour, actually comment, and hopefully buy your book.

Offer Book Tour Prizes

While there are some readers who are interested in learning about new books, for the majority of readers you will want to offer an ‘ethical bribe’ to follow along on your booktour.

An ‘ethical bribe’ is a freebie, gift, or prize that you will offer to entice readers to follow along, and just as important, to comment, and most important, to buy your book.

There are a number of prizes you can use: books (not the one you are promoting though, the chance of winning a book will discourage readers from buying the book), gift cards (to Amazon, Target, etc), informational e-books, or items related to your story. If your book is about a child wanting to learn how to fly, you might have a toy plane or puzzle as a prize.

For my middle-grade virtual booktour I choose two $10 Amazon gift cards – they can be purchased and emailed directly to the winners. I also offered three copies of a 100+ page ‘writing for children’ e-book, and four copies of another e-book. So, you can see the gift can be of value, but doesn’t necessarily have to be expensive.

It’s also advisable to make your prizes enticing to the market and reader you’re aiming at. If you’re promoting a children’s book, your marketing efforts should be aimed at parents, grandparents, teachers, school librarians, etc. So, offering gifts that kids will appreciate or are helpful to the potential purchaser in some way will be beneficial.

Just remember that for merchandise (physical gifts) you will need to mail them to the winners. This will be an added expense. Gift cards on the other hand can be purchased and emailed directly to the winners. So, take this into consideration when deciding on the prizes.

Spread the Word About Your Book Tour Prizes

Be sure to add information about the prizes in your promotional content, your tour schedule, and in your press release. Explain that the winners will be chosen randomly and will be emailed within a week or two after the tour ends.

Usually, the prizes are given randomly at the end of the tour to those who comment on the tour stops. Create a Word doc or spreadsheet to keep track of their names and the stop they commented on. This will help you later when you have to pick the winners and contact them.

You can also choose to have prizes awarded at certain intervals throughout the tour, or even on a daily basis. It’s your tour, your rules.

Make Your Book Tour Unique

Author Kathy Stemke planned an amazing booktour. She promoted her newly released children’s picture book, Sh Sh Sh Let the Baby Sleep in June of 2011 and added interesting and fun contests with ‘add your input’ questions that amused and engaged the visitor/reader.

This marketing strategy was successful in bringing traffic to the tour stops and having a good number of comments, not only on the tour stop sites, but on the social media and group sites she promoted them to.

So, check out other tours, read articles about virtual booktours . . . do your research. Be sure to think it through and plan it out carefully, so you too can have a unique and engaging tour.

Learn about writing and marketing with Karen Cioffi at Sign up for her free newsletter, A Writer’s World, and get TWO free site-related e-books for subscribing, and ONE more just for stopping by.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Book trailer for A New Friend for Dilly

posted by Vivian Zabel  

     When A New Friend for Dilly became an illustration orphan, Ginger Nielson stepped in and finished the project. Author Rena Jones took promotion illustrations and the cover and created a new book trailer.

     Let's watch the new book trailer. The picture book itself is available on the 4RV Bookstore at a reduced rate.

4RV Bookstore  remodeling finished and sale prices still in effect

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Three ways to promote your book for free

by Robert Medak  

1. Create a Web site for the book before you begin writing your book to build interest in both the book and the author.

There are many free sites where you can build the Web site for your book and to draw people in to learn about what you are writing and build their interest.

By having a Web site, you also have to keep the viewers of the Web site up to date on your progress which will force you to complete the book, because they will demand it.

2. Create a Blog for your book and how it is progressing.

Comment back on any posts to build a more personal relationship with the visitors to your Blog. When you interact with possible readers on a personal level they are more likely to read your book, and if they like what they read, they are more inclined to tell their friends and family about it.

3. Create a video trailer on YouTube for your book.

You can create an account on YouTube for free and upload your trailer there.

If you don’t know how, there are site where you can bid the job out on bidding sites like oDesk, Guru, and others for little money. You might even know someone that can create the trailer for you and even upload it for you.

These are only three ways to promote your book for free. Do you have accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, or other social sites? Use them to talk about your book there as well to mention your Blog or Web site.

Robert Medak
Freelance Writer/Editor