Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Are You Lost?

by Katie Hines
Are you lost? Do you know where your work-in-progress is heading, what the end point is? If you don't have a good idea of where you want your story to end, how can you tell if you're headed in the right direction? It is conceivable that you could write oh, 40 or 50 pages, then have to scrap it because you have no further vision for your story.

Now, I know there are writers that are out there that sit down and write, and the story unfolds easily. My writing is not that way. I knew, vaguely, where I wanted my WIP to go, and had an even more vague end in sight. But how to get there from the beginning?

Help was on the way.

Yesterday, my husband and I sat down and talked about the story. We tossed out ideas, possible plot points, a more focused ending. I came away from our brainstorming session revitalized, and knowing more about my story and my characters. What a relief, because, I tell you, I was stuck. This brainstorming means I have to go back and change a few plot points that I've already written.

I know that some people say to brazen your way through your story, and make changes later. That doesn't work for me. This is the reason: if my plot points changes the direction of my story, and plot points pop up, then I need to make the changes in the middle for my story to head in the right direction. Think of your story as the vanishing point. In geometry (I know, you thought you'd never use it, didn't you?), if you have two points that begin at the same point, then take the first a line straight out from there, with a slight angle, then add the second point, but veer off a miniscule amount from the other line. When you follow the lines out, even though they are close at the beginning, the further out you get, the more those lines deviate.

This works the same way as your story. If you don't get the first plot points right, then your story is going to veer off, down the road, in a direction you don't want it to go. Thus, I change those first plot points to keep my story on track.

So, check yourself. Are you lost, or do your plot points take you down a road in a direction that will ultimately be far from your end goal? Don't be lost! Make those changes today.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Tapping into Emotion - by Stephanie Burkhart

Happy Holidays from the Burkharts

First, I'd like to wish everyone a Happy Holiday Season! December has just flown by. I'm pooped. Thankfully, the only thing I have left to do now is bake cookies for Santa with my boys.

My boys are a hoot. Joe is 6, Andrew is 10, and they're my best resources when it comes to observing emotion, especially in kids. It's said that watching people is one of the best ways to understand human emotion. When writing for children, the best way to understand their emotions is to not only watch them, but interact with them.

Kids are so open and honest. I teach the 3's at my Sunday preschool and it's very rewarding. I've learned through my writing to keep the following in mind: physical signals, mental responses, and internal sensations.

Andrew is easy. When he's happy, he smiles like a Cheshire cat. When he's excited, he waves his hands. When he's disappointed or frustrated, he pouts and scowls. All these physical signals are what we writers can use to convey emotion and connect with readers.

Joe has sensory processing issues. When he's excited he talks a mile a minute and hand flaps. When he's frustrated, he wails and cries big and loud. All his physical signals are "amped up" compared to Andrew's.

It's easy to observe physical signals – a smile, a laugh, a tear, but as a writer, only you can add the depth required to a character to make them come alive.

Last week we had a Christmas party for the preschool children. Each got one cookie and a cup of milk. All the kids smiled. Who doesn't love a cookie? Cookies taste sweet and sweet makes children smile. (I suppose if it was salty we'd get a frown.)

See how internal sensation, mental responses and physical signals play into emotion? Put them all together and you'll round out your characterization.

Question: Do you "people" watch? Do you take notes? How has people watching helped you a writer?
Joe reading one of his favorite books, Spider in Our Mailbox 

Author Bio: Stephanie Burkhart is a 911 Dispatcher for LAPD. She loves burning bayberry candles for Christmas. She puts a star on the tree and bakes cookies for Santa with her boys. Her 4RV books include: The Giving Meadow and First Flag of New Hampshire.

Reference for this blog: The Emotion Thesaurus, Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi, ISBN: 978-147-5004953, 2012

Find me on the web at:



Wednesday, December 19, 2012

An Amazon Book Review Is a Wonderful Gift for Writers

"An Amazon Book Review Is a Wonderful Gift for Writers" by Joan Y. Edwards

This is December - a month noted for giving and receiving.  What are gifts that writers like?
 Pile of gorgeous gifts

10 Gifts Writers Can Give Themselves
  1. Confidence
  2. Faith and belief that their stories will be self-published or published by traditional publishers
  3. Investment of  time, talent, and/or money to educate, write, critique, and revise
  4. Materials to write: pencil/pen and paper, computer and backup protection, writing software
  5. Life Experiences to notice emotional impact in themselves and and others
  6. Read best-selling books in their genre(s)
  7. Study books and/or expert blog posts on the craft of writing; take workshops online or in person
  8. Study the pitches of best-selling books and movies
  9. Study possible markets
  10. Submit work often (Pubsub)
7 Gifts Writers Like to Give and Receive
  1. Encouragement
  2. Support
  3. Education
  4. Critique
  5. Hope
  6. Publication
  7. Book Review on Amazon
I read that an author needs 25 book reviews on Amazon to influence buyers.
Doing a book review for a writer is an awesome gift.  Receiving a book review is even more reason to celebrate. If you let an author know you're willing to do a book review, many times he'll send you a paperback or digital copy.

What is your favorite gift as a writer?

Celebrate you today.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Writing, Accounting, and Synergy

Writing, Accounting, and Synergy

By Karen Cioffi

In accounting – if you (the accountant or bookkeeper) are off even one penny, you have to search and work until that penny is found – all the income, expenses, assets, liabilities of a business must all sync at the end of every month, quarter, and year. Your balance sheet, which reflects every penny in and out, must be perfect. All this, along with reconciling the monthly bank statements.

The various data from different departments, such as research and development, accounts payable, accounts receivable, and payroll, must all be included.

Writing, in some aspects is similar to accounting; each element of a story - theme, setting, plot, conflict, characters - must all work together to create an error free balance sheet at the end. In other words, they must meld together to create a coherent, engaging, and interesting article or book. The end piece must have proper grammar, and the correct formatting. And, if something is amiss, the author needs to find the troublesome spot/s and correct it.

In both arenas, details are important, as is balance.

Suppose in accounting your accounts payable far exceeded your accounts receivable, or your liabilities far exceeded your assets. This would make for a dire situation, and one that would need correction.

Well, in writing, suppose you have wonderful characters, but they have no where to go; your story lacks an engaging plot and conflict. Or, maybe you have a great storyline, but your characters are flat, they have no dimension; these situations are also cause for alarm and need to be addressed.

In writing, it’s the combination of all the elements of writing that moves a story forward and creates a page-turning adventure. You may have a character driven story, or a plot driven story, but in both, you need all elements of the story to weave together, to create synergy.

Synergy is a great word. It means the combination, joined forces, or combined effects of individual elements which will create an end result that is greater than the sum of their individual effects or capabilities.

I actually like Wikipedia’s definition: “Synergy, in general, may be defined as two or more agents working together to produce a result not obtainable by any of the agents independently.”

This is what the elements of writing, joined together in just the right way, produces. Theme, setting, plot, conflict, and characters combine forces to go beyond their individual capabilities. The writing synergy process creates an end result that is not attainable by any of the elements independently.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Gifting a Writer

 By Suzanne Cordatos

Like an unfriendly ghost, a past embarrassing moment drifts to the present with the power to make us cringe years later. Afraid you've stumbled on a lost Halloween blog post? No, worse, a 1970’s Secret Santa Gift Exchange. It haunted me the other day like the Ghost of Christmas Past. The scene? Giggling Girl Scouts. Holiday packages filled with pink lip gloss and Love’s Baby Soft drug store perfume. Candy wrapped in crinkly cellophane dotted with Rudolphs and red noses. I couldn't wait to open my box.

Like Scrooge, I had to learn the hard way about gifting. My lesson? The beauty of the polite cover-up. I felt eyes, a Girl Scout friend, watching me open the box. Inside? A pen. A lovely pen, probably, but it wasn't pink or sparkly, and at ten who notices quality? What on earth had I done to earn the most boring gift in the room? Then I heard the friend mumble, “You said you want to be a writer.”

She was right, I did. I hide my Scrooge face better these days, but I still don't want a pen under the tree!

SO . . . What gifts might warm the heart of a writer in your life?

* Books. Obviously! 4RV books! Link right here!  
 Goofy writer gifts abound on internet shopping sites, like legal-pad designed napkins for when hunger—and the next great bestseller idea—strike at the same time. 
      * Keep inspired with a desk knickknack that represents the main character in a work in progress, or frame a motivating quotation from a favorite writer.

The best gift?  Time… to listen, to work, to brainstorm.

* Offer to read a manuscript and give an honest critique.
            * Create homemade coupons, each good for an hour of uninterrupted time to write or listen or read.
            *  Invite the writer to a coffee shop for an expenses-paid session to chat up their latest work.

Santa’s hint . . . Print the list. Let it mysteriously land on the family computer keyboard, or maybe accidentally-on-purpose stuffed in the cookie jar.

Have a wonderful holiday! And share—if you dare, what shadow haunts from your Christmas past? (Careful, story ideas lie buried there!)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Another honor for a 4RV book - Carla's Cloud Catastrophe

       Children's Literary Classics announced that Carla's Cloud Catastrophe, written by Beth Bence Reinke and illustrated by Ginger Nielson, has been selected to receive the Children's Literary Classics Seal of Approval. The CLC Seal of Approval is reserved for those books which uphold the rigorous criteria set forth by the Children's Literary Classics review committee.

     Carla's Cloud Catastrophe is a fresh and imaginative book about a day in the life of a young girl when all the clouds fall from the sky. All sorts of unexpected things happen when large billowy clouds are found in the most unlikely places, causing quite a catastrophe. When the town-folks try to find a solution for cleaning up the cloud mess, Carla comes up with a plan that saves the day.

     Children will love the illustrations which help this story come to life as young Carla puts her mind to helping resolve a mess which threatens to keep her from making it to her own birthday party.

     This honor is one of several awarded 4RV Publishing books this year. Congratulations, Beth and Ginger.

4RV Bookstore  
4RV Website  


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Author beware: 'Custom Cover Design' does not mean 'Original Cover Art'.

by Aidana WillowRaven

So, you've decided you want an unique book cover for your book. You don't want it to look like every other book on the shelf or web browser.

You hop on Twitter or Facebook and put some feelers out, searching for a cover artist or designer. You get dozens and dozens of responses, from both amateurs and professionals. How do you know you are going to get what you want and that it's unique?

 First you must learn a few key terms.

1- cover designer

A designer is typically trained in typesetting and photo-manipulation. Rarely are they traditional artists. Technically, it is an accepted concept that once an image is altered it is a new work, and by law, that is true. All it takes are three distinct changes to make it a new work. If you are looking for something more original than manipulated parts of stock photos that could potentially be used on another book cover, be sure to tell the cover designer you are not interested in using stock imagery. A cover designer may or may not be trained for what you are looking for.

2- cover artist

In years past, publishers hired a cover artist to do the visual art work and a cover designer to do the typesetting and layout. In today's tough job market, more and more designers are doing both the cover art (again, most likely photo-manipulation) and the design under one job. On that same note, more and more illustrators or cover artists are tackling the job of design as well. It is prudent to verify, before trusting your book to anyone, that the people putting your book together are trained and skilled to do what needs done to give you a quality cover. After all, your cover is the first impression.

3- custom vs original

Many designers and websites that boast cheap 'custom' cover designs or art can really be misleading. Again, let's look at the laws regarding art. By law, if an image, including a design, is altered in three ways, it is a new work. If an artists manipulates just two images by combining a figure from one and changing the color of something from another, then all you have to do is add text, then by law that is a custom cover. If that is acceptable to you, by all means save money and use a cover like this. However, some authors want a more detailed, more story-relevant cover, that does not include mixing existing stock imagery. If you are in that group, be sure to hire someone who insures the art is original, not simply custom. You'll pay a lot more, but like the old saying goes, you get what you pay for.

If anybody has questions as to what is considered original vs custom, or the difference between cover design & cover art, please leave comment or contact me at my signature links.

Art Director & VP of Operations

Viji Chary interviewed in media

posted by Vivian Zabel 

     Porcupine's Seeds by Viji K Chary has received one honor, Mom's Choice Award, and is entered for others. The story is entertaining and educational at the same time. Bridget McKenna did a delightful job of illustrating the story.

     Now, Viji has been interviewed and her story printed in her local paper. The clipping doesn't show the paper name, but the website is given.

       Congratulations, Viji. We are proud of you.

Remember, Porcupine's Seeds can be found through any brick 'n mortar store, any online bookstore, and 4RV Bookstore.


Friday, December 7, 2012

Promotion - Life on Hold

posted by Vivian Zabel 

          The following review will be found in the November 2012 issue of The Midwest Book Review's online book review magazine "Reviewer's Book Watch." Life on Hold is written by Beverly Stowe McClure, which is entered for several book awards.

          The review, written by Katherine Boyer, will be archived on the Midwest Book Review website for the next five years.


          Beverly Stowe McClure writes excellent stories for the youth of today. She has done it again with Life on Hold. He comprehension of a teenager's feelings, as they mature and become more aware of life around them, is very astute and empathetic.

           Myra Gibson has to put her life on hold when she happens to come across a very disturbing piece of paper while cleaning out the family guesthouse. It is such a shock to her that she cannot even think about it, much less ask her parents about it.  As an introverted teen, she has no one she can confide in.

          "On June eleventh, ten days after my sixteenth birthday life as I knew it came to an end."

          The startling discover will change Myra's life, both with her family and friends. She has to work it out by herself at first, but eventually starts to open up with her mother, then her father. Later she brings her friends into her secret and finds that she has a lot of support from all sides. Teens will love following Myra and hter friends and family to the conclusion of her dilemma.

          Beverly Stowe McClure lives in Texas with her husband, Jack. She is the moter to three sons, grandmother to four granddaughters and two gransons, and great grandmother to one great-grandson. Her official bio says she married very young.


Find Life on Hold through most book 'n mortar stores, online book stores, and at the 4RV Bookstore.



Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Future of Books

Is a PDF a book?

One definition of a book is Physical objects consisting of a number of pages bound together.

Another definition of a book is A written work or composition that has been published (printed on pages bound together)

Although there are almost as many E-Book readers as there are formats available for reading E-Books, can you call them books by the definitions above?

When reading for review, I prefer PDF format only because of simplicity, and I can delete it after I finish the review. I don’t call it a book; it is just a written story by some author.

There are many companies where authors can publish their book, even the venerable Simon & Schuster created Archway Self Publishing, where anyone can write and publish.

Companies like Lulu, Xlibris, Book Locker, Outskirts Press, Create Space, and many more will publish manuscripts; an author can pay to have a manuscript printed into book format, either hardbound or paperback creating a publishing house.

Is this to be the future of books?

As an avid reader for over six decades, the future of books and the written word are something special in my thoughts, I wrote a blog post titled The Demise of the written word. In that post I mention the use of software, I see in commercials extolling the virtue of diction software to write. Is this manuscript creation of the future, this type of manuscript will likely end up requiring more editors and proofreaders, because no software is 100 percent effective and correct.

Publishing houses no longer have editors and proofreaders for every manuscript and proof copy of the books they print. Although, publishing houses are adding to the burden authors face in today’s publishing environment, which begs the question, Are books better or worse than years past?

I leave it up to you to answer.

Robert Medak
Freelance Writer, Blogger, Editor, Proofreader
Published Author, Reviewer, Marketer

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Creating and Beefing Up the Conflict

Creating and Beefing Up the Conflict

By Karen Cioffi

Your story has a great beginning—a great hook that will capture the reader instantly. You have an interesting, funny, or mischievous protagonist who will keep the reader engaged. But will it be enough to keep the reader turning the pages to end? Is there something missing?

Children’s stories aren’t what they use to be. Granted many stories of years ago did have conflict, they would not cut it in today’s children’s market.

In today’s children’s writing world, writing must be tight and focused. And, you need conflict. The conflict is like a detour or obstacle in the road from point A to point B. The protagonist must figure out a way over, around, or under it.


Tommy wants more than anything to play baseball, but he’s not very good. The other boys never willingly choose him for their team. How will Tommy overcome this problem?

What if Tommy gets the best bat and glove on the market—will this make him a better ball player?

Kristen’s friends all have new bikes, but she has her older sister’s hand-me-down. Kristen needs to figure out a way to get a new bike.

What if Kristen finally gets a new bike and leaves it unattended at the park. It gets stolen. She’s afraid to tell her parents, so keeps this little bit of information to herself. But, how long can she keep this up.

What if Billy has a run in with the school bully and ever since he’s harassed everyday. How can Billy get out of this mess?

So, the way to create and build conflict is to use “how” and “what if” to generate conflict and get your story off the ground and flying.

In the article “What to Aim For When Writing,” Margot Finke advises, “A slow build up of tension gives good pace. Dropping hints and clues builds tension, which in turn moves your story along. Short, punchy sentences give better pace than longwinded lines.”

For chapter books, middle grade, and young adult, Finke advises to keep the reader engaged by ending each paragraph with a kind of cliff-hanger. This doesn’t mean you need a life and death scenario, just something that entices the reader to move onto the next chapter to find out what happens. In addition, to increase your story’s pace in certain sections, use shorter chapters. Chapters with 5-7 pages creates the sense of a quicker pace.

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