Friday, June 28, 2013


Some of my digital art work
This past April and during November last year I write a poem a day without difficulty. I wrote in esponse to prompts, Last September, some friends and I committed to posting a poem a day on Facebook, and again, I wrote a poem a day. I had made a commitment, and I followed through.

I wrote without expectations. Without expecting that all the poems would be great, or even good, though some of them were. Without expecting the subjects would be serious. Without expecting that they would rhyme or that they wouldn't. I simply wrote.

I don't usually write either horror, about devils and ghouls and the like. Yet I'm writing a long, epic perhaps, narrative poem about a warrior who goes down to hell to avenge his slain fellows. I'm writing this for an online class in mythic structure, and I started the first part simply placing my fingers on the keyboard and starting.

One day several weeks ago I was driving along Route 495 when I spotted a carcass of some kind on the median. A little further on I spotted a mattress on the right side of the road. "These would make for a great writing prompt," I thought to myself. "Write a story with the mattress and the carcass." By the time I arrived at my destination, a story had sprung to mind, one involving a dead body and a blanket. I wrote it as a flash piece, but it feels as if it could be the start of a novel.

I don't usually write long poems, horror, or fantasies like the one about the dead bodies.  They're outside my comfort zone. But I'm limiting myself by not pushing my boundaries.

For years, I avoided writing fiction, telling myself I couldn't, wasn't interested, or whatever. Then one day I stumbled into a writing forum where I had to write both fiction and poetry. I really liked the writing forum, so I wrote my first fiction, a short story.

I'm still writing. I can do it. And I can do it because I've stopped telling myself I can't.

What limitations are you imposing on yourself? Try tossing them out the window and reaching for the sky.
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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Electronic Books on the Move

by Vivian Zabel

   One thing about eBooks, unless a person carries multiple e-readers, the weight won't break his/her back. Personally, I prefer "real" books: paper, ink, covers. However, I do have a Kindle Fire and have "books" on it -- yes, I do read from the Kindle some times. Many people read only from their tablets, Nooks, Kindles, etc., and they need quality material. 4RV, with its goal to deliver quality books, also wants the same for its eBooks. Since we use books already out in print, we don't need to worry about the content except to copy edit and find any errors missed before. Many eBooks available lack professional formatting, even when the authors and/or publishing houses believe the formatting meets the professional standard, and of course, as humans, we often still make mistakes. 

     With that in mind, and knowing my own limitations and the limitations of our staff, I spent hours and hours and hours researching how to and who to do the best digital books. I read and listened and tried to format digital documents, with poor results due to confusion and unclear directions. Some eBook preparation companies produced inconsistent products with paragraphs crushed together or odd symbols that popped up in strange places. Some didn't provide customer service to help repair problems. After all the actual months of research and many hours of questioning two companies, I found one that not only produced the quality end product I wanted, but also provided help when needed. I highly recommend draft2Digital.

     Of course, we (or I, as the case may be) must work and tweak and revise until the Word doc is perfect. After loading the document on the company's website, I can preview the file in any of the formats provided: mobi (Kindle), epub (Nook, Kobo, and Apple), or cs.pdf. If something doesn't look "right," I can adjust the Word doc and reload as many times as necessary to have a final product that looks professional without strange quirks appearing. Easy, no, but doable and easier than with many so called services.

     The end result: Eight books now availabe in digital form on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Apple in less than a month and more to come. The books out through the company we use appear more professional than the ones we had others format for us and that we uploaded on Amazon and Barnes & Noble ourselves.

     The books 4RV has in eBook format include the following: The Art of Science by Ransom Noble, A Distant Summer by Mike McNair, A Shadow in the Past by Melanie Robertson-King, A Wandering Warrior by Harry E. Gilleland, Jr., Journey of the Cheyenne Warrior by Kathleen Gibbs, Life on Hold by Beverly Stowe McClure, Sparrow Along on the Housetop by Jean James and Mary James,  Walking Through Walls, by Karen Cioffi, and Victoria and the Ghost by Janet K. Brown. More will be added as I can format them.

     Interested? Contact me with questions (

4RV Publishing  
4RV Bookstore  

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Crafting Characters

by: Stephanie Burkhart

Characters are the heart and soul of your story, but what makes them cross the line from two-dimensional to three-dimensional? What makes them compelling?

Author David Corbett offers four elements that you can add to your characterization and I think they're spot on.

To cross the line, keep your character's internal compass consistent, yet ensure they can still surprise you.

First, a character has to have a driving need, desire, or goal. What makes a character interesting is what that character wants, and the stronger the desire, the more compelling the drama. Desire helps to create conflict, and how your character manages conflict makes the story interesting.

Second, secrets make interesting characters. If there's a trait or an incident the character wants hidden, but is revealed, it might make that character lose standing with family and friends. What makes secrets delicious is that they tell readers what characters have to lose and why.

Third, contradictions bring to light what readers can't predict and thus shows surprise. For example: a character can be desperate, yet proud, and decide to take a job that might not be up their alley, just so they can earn a living.

Lastly, nothing draws a reader to a character than vulnerability. When people need help or are wounded, we're drawn to help or feel sympathetic to that character. Secrets play into this trait. If the character is afraid of the secret getting out, it gives the character a vulnerability they might not have had.

What can you do to help deepen characterization? Flesh your characters out. Cast the character. Write character bios. What do they like? Dislike? Write a flash fiction or short story to get to know them. Draw on real life inspiration such as friends, family members, and co-workers. You can also make a list of your emotional triggers. For example: What's your greatest fear? When did you show true courage? By drawing on your triggers, you can bring added dimension to your character's desires, wants, needs, secrets, contradictions, and vulnerabilities.

If you're new to writing, I suggest using a character bio sheet to help you fill in the basics about them. For me, it also helps to "cast" the character. For "Aly" in First Flag of New Hampshire I think of a young Claire Danes. A simple character bio can look like:

Born Where?
Lives Where?
Languages spoken:
Greatest Fear?
Wants to be what when they grow up?

You can modify the character bio to fit your writing/story. I usually spend about 2-3 weeks "prep" time before I even write researching the story, the setting, the time period, and compiling my character bios.  The time I take to prep and prepare character bios really helps when it's time to put paper to pen.

Question for you: What do you do to help you understand your characters?

Author Bio: Stephanie Burkhart is a 911 Dispatcher for LAPD. She's also an assistant den leader for his son's Cub Scout Wolf Den. She was born and raised in Manchester, New Hampshire, but went to live in California when she got out of the Army. She loves coffee and adores chocolate. You can find her at:

Reference: "Hooked on a Feeling," by David Corbett, page 32-36, Writer's Digest, Jan 2011. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

How to Make Your Characters Memorable

"How to Make Your Characters Memorable" by Joan Y. Edwards

Will Readers Remember Your Character Tomorrow? Why? What is it about them that is so memorable? Why do you remember certain people you've met in your lifetime? I think these are the same reasons people remember characters. You remember people because of something they did for you or the way you felt when you were with them. You remember people because of their ability to do things you would like to do. You remember them because of the risk and sacrifice they took to reach a goal. You remember people you would like to know better.

As a writer, you want readers, editors, and agents to want to know your characters better. As a matter of fact, you want them obsessed with the desire to know your characters better. Make your readers yearn with every part of their being to have.a copy of your book to find out more about this character.  Put your characters in a situations and give them traits that make readers addicted to them.. Entice readers into your books with your memorable characters. How do you do that? 

1. Give him one really big flaw:

A big nose like Jimmy Durante
Very short like the seven little dwarfs
No tact like Mr. Hart, the Boss in 9 to 5

2. Make him do something surprising, perhaps the opposite of what you'd expect:

Run for President when he is disorganized and panics under stress
Save someone from drowning when he cannot swim 
Apply for a job to clean houses when his house is a dump.

3. Make his clothing or apparel stand out:

Like the old raincoat that Columbo wore
Like the books, Fancy Nancy or Pinkilicious.
The Hulk, Superman, Spiderman, Star Wars Storm Troopers

4. Make his mode of transportation stand out:

Old car

        5. Give reasons for readers to care about him:

               "Uh oh! Now he's in really big trouble."
               "Will he make it?"
               "I know just how he feels."

If you add these dimensions to your main character, readers will remember him in their hearts forever. He will be unforgettable to your readers. You can count on it.

Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Creating Images – Simple and Quick

By Karen Cioffi

Creating images on your own is easier than you might think.

Normally, for any of my image needs I would go to, choose the image I wanted. This could take quite a bit of time, since for most topics there are lots and lots of images to go over. But, hey, the saying goes, "a picture is worth a thousand words," so spending the time to find the 'right' one was necessary.

While this is a good strategy, again, it takes time.

Suppose you just wrote an excellent blog post and want an 'on target' image to go with it. If you're like me, you'd have to search through the images you already bought, or you'd have to go into your image resource site to find and buy the image you want.

You could also check out MS Office ClipArt, which has some pretty good images. But, if you're looking for something 'on target' and you just can't find, you settle.

This goes with the blog posting territory.

Well, a few weeks ago I wrote an article, and just couldn't find an image that 'hit home.' And, I didn't want to waste too much time finding one, so I decided to throw something together myself. And, I did it with Microsoft Office 2010. It took around five to 10 minutes.

My article title was, "Using Video for Marketing," and I wanted an image that would quickly reflect the topic. So, this is what I did:

1. Opened a Word doc and typed "Play Video."
2. Used Text Effects in Home: Font.
3. Highlighted the text and chose an orange color from Home: Paragraph: Shading - there's actually I reason I chose that color, but that's another post. :)
4. I highlighted, copied, and pasted the pre-image into MS Paint, cropped it, and saved it as a jpg.
5. I inserted that jpg into the Word doc I had open.
6. I click on the jpg and went into Picture Tools Format.
7. I choose Picture Effects - Preset #11.
8. Then, I highlighted the image and chose the orange 'shading' again.
9. For this step I couldn't simply highlight and copy/paste into Paint because of the special effects, so I clicked on Print Screen (Prt Sc). Be careful when you use Prt Sc, because any thing on on your screen or in the image will appear.
10. I copied the newly revised image into Paint, cropped it, and saved it as a jpg.

That's it. I had a quick and easy 'on target' image for my post.

And, if I want, I can upload that image to image sites and sell it.

You can also, use an image you already have (one you bought) and tweak it. Just remember you can't sell that revised image, or claim it as your own design. Here's one I simply tweaked:

 I had the SUCCESS IMAGE and just added the text "GUEST BLOGGING" to it, using MS Word 2010. Then used the same process as above to create a new jpg.

Again, quick and easy. Why not give it a try.

Need writing and online marketing help? Join The Writing World newsletter with Karen Cioffi and Writers on the Move. You’ll get advice, tips, and even free bi-monthly instructional webinars. CLICK HERE to learn more.


Friday, June 14, 2013

Supporting other authors

by Vivian Zabel

     Posts pop up all over the place asking authors to support other authors. Authors beg for reviews and for people to purchase their books. Pages on Facebook and different Yahoo! groups lists are clogged with authors promoting themselves, and occasionally others, to the point that important posts are lost in the babble.

     I believe in supporting other authors. In fact I'll review and purchase and promote other authors' book before I will my own. However, I am tired of asking for reviews for my book or books and being told by other authors (including one whom I've supported over the years), "Oh, I don't review other people's books." Yet, those same people expects us, including me, to review their books. 

     I have supported other authors by buying their books, until I discovered that even those I thought were friends never bought even one of my books. Now, I'm much more stingy with my limited income when I choose books to buy. 

     Have you noticed among all the self-promotions on social media that some people promote others, while others promote only themselves? Yes, it becomes quite noticeable after a time. I will share and retweet and give notice for other authors if they in turn do the same for other authors and, possibly, for me.

     I love reading, but now I read books I want to read or ones sent me to review. However, I have stopped reading some authors whose work I enjoyed in the past (and whom I know personally) because of their "buy my books but don't expect me to buy yours" behavior.

     Supporting other authors, or illustrators, is good, but that support should never be a one-way street.

4RV Publishing  
4RV Bookstore  

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Submit S'more!

Wanna Get Published?
Submit—then Submit S’more!

You've heard how the novels of famous authors were turned down dozens of times before becoming household names? Have you submitted that article or manuscript dozens of times? How often do you submit? Every week? Fantastic! You are leaps ahead of the pack. This article is for the rest of us. The ones who let submission and contest deadlines slide. The ones for whom each rejection paralyzes our pens. The ones to whom our jealous muses whisper our writing is just as good. 

Put your writing in the way of success. The more I submit, the more I refine my craft. Query letters, first pages and synopsis get refined with each submission.View submitting like a game (or competitive sport, even!) and you will develop writing muscles and thicker skin--so each rejection won't feel so much like a personal setback. When you bite into that gooey s'more around the campfire this summer, remember to send out more submissions!

What do other writers do better?  
Submit S'more!
  1. Research a wide variety of places and formats to submit work. 
  2. Do it.
  3. Go in-depth. What are specific interests of editors and agents? What do they want more of—or no more of? Find out by reading blogs, publisher websites, agents and editor interviews online, in magazines, on panels at conferences, etc.
  4. Re-work the same idea to submit to different niche publications. For example, while writing historical fiction, can you write non-fiction articles on some of the lesser-known characters or fascinating facts you've unearthed while doing research? This doubles as building buzz for your book release!
  5. Enter contests that give you a return on investment for your entry dollars. (i.e. actual writing feedback and getting your work in front of editors seeking what you write.) Pacific Northwest Writers Association annual contest is one that gives you two professional critiques for a reasonable entry fee.
  6. Consider writing a business, not a hobby.
  7. Keep track of submissions = it becomes more like a game = thicker skin = more submissions = improved chances of publication!
Submission Chart
Find a system that is quick and easy for you to create and use to keep better track of submissions. Make a simple chart, spreadsheet, or use a poster board and markers. A box of color-coded index cards is another way to keep track. Keep it simple and you will use it!

Put columns across the top of your chart such as:
Editor or Agent    
Pub/Agency House   
Source of Contact     
Date Sent
Date Reply Expected
Date Actual Reply
Comments/Follow-up Requested

Nobody said this was easy or fair, but thicken your skin and submit s'more. Add extra columns to the chart above for Income and #Sales. I printed several blank charts and three-hole punched them into a binder. I scribble with whatever pencil or pen is handy to jot down the details on the chart as I send them out and receive replies. You will see more rejections—but a golden ticket might be hiding in the Wonka bar, too!

How many times did you submit the same writing before it was accepted for publication? 
Have you found exceptional contests or other methods of getting your work out there?

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Giving back to Oklahoma - Official Launch Date! Help the Oklahoma Tornado victims

I've always been a firm believer in giving back to others and Oklahoma holds a special place in my heart as my publisher, 4RV is located in Edmond. I'm very grateful to Vivian Zabel at 4RV for publishing my stories.

My heart goes out to all the citizens of Oklahoma affected by the recent tornados so I've come up with a way to give back.

Starting 8 JUN and lasting through 22 JUN, if you buy a copy of one of my books, "The Giving Meadow," or "First Flag of New Hampshire," I'll be donating my royalties to the Salvation Army in support of the Oklahoma Tornado victims. Joining me is fellow 4RV author, Karen Cioffi, along with her book, "Walking Through Walls."  We recommend that you consider using the Publisher's Website to buy the books in support of the effort.

I have another favor to ask.  Help us share the message.  If you could use word of mouth or send out a Tweet, Facebook, Google +, Linked In, etc. that would be so helpful in getting the word out on this great opportunity to give to Oklahoma and America.

Our donations will be given to the Salvation Army in Oklahoma City to help with Tornado Relief. You can find their website at:

This is for a good cause and it's something we all believe in.
Thank you so much
Steph, Karen, and Vivian.

BUY LINKS: Walking through Walls

Publisher's Website:


Barnes & Noble:

BUY LINKS: The Giving Meadow

Publisher's Website:


Barnes & Noble:

BUY LINK for: First Flag of New Hampshire

Publisher's Website:


Barnes & Noble:

About Karen Cioffi:
Karen Cioffi is an award-winning author, ghostwriter/freelance writer, and author-writer online platform instructor.  Join The Writing World ( today for free and get "How to Create an Optimized Website" plus weekly writing and marketing tips and updates on free webinars.

About Stephanie Burkhart:
Stephanie Burkhart is a 911 Dispatcher for LAPD. She's loves chocolate and coffee. When she's not "Mom's Taxi Service" she writes romance and childrens books. 

Friday, June 7, 2013

Synopsis: What it is and Isn't

You’ve pitched to an agent or editor at a conference, or you’ve queried an editor or agent about your book, and they request a full submission.

That can mean many things, but most often for fiction books, a submission requires some of your actually-written-edited-best-it-can-be chapters. Their request can also ask for the dreaded synopsis.

“Yikes,” you say, “what’s a synopsis?”

When I began writing, I wrote a synopsis as the final task and worried myself silly over it. I admit I still don't like them.

Multi-published author, Karen Kelley,
set me straight. “Write your synopsis first when you have the idea in your head. This avoids deciding what’s important and what’s not. In the beginning, we only know the important part. 

Her words of wisdom proved correct. When the book was completed with all the problems I threw at my protagonist, my synopsis was too long. Every plot twist seemed important. I couldn’t delete anything. When I wrote the synopsis first, I hit only the main plot themes.
Now, let's look at what a synopsis really is and what's it's not.

What a synopsis is not:

    It’s not a summary.

    It’s not a chapter by chapter outline.

    It’s not a query.

    It’s not a back-cover blurb.

What a synopsis does:

     It gives the reader the essence of the story.

     It tells who and what with a light touch on when, where, and

     It answers the questions:

         What’s so different about this story?
         Why should I care about this person or their problems?
         What does the protagonist want? Why? Why can’t he get it?

     Instead of saying what happened next, it should tell the reader
           what impact it has on the characters.

 Important reminders when we write a synopsis:

     Those who read it judge our writing.

     Find out what the agent or editor that’s the target of your submission wants in a synopsis. Requirements run from one page to ten pages, and formatting desires may differ.

     A synopsis is IMPORTANT.

Good websites on writing synopsis:

Good examples of synopsis: 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Writing Dialogue

 by Vivian Zabel 

     Writing realistic dialogue doesn’t come easily to everyone. In fact, most people have to work to refine dialogue to advance the story, to flesh out characters, and provide a break from narration — realistically and believably.

     Believable dialogue is a powerful component of writing that helps draw the reader into the story or presentation. However, bad dialogue can lose the readers faster than almost any other problem with the writing.
     So how can a writer make believable dialogue? First of all, observe and note the world around us (watch and listen and take notes). Choose right details – believable/real. Dialogue in writing needs to help develop characters and/or move the plot forward. 

     Then use some of the following tips to help make dialogue "real" in writing:


     Use different speech patterns or varieties – only a sample or taste rather than make the reader struggle through too much of a good thing. The dialogue needs to be understandable.
                                                Other patterns

     The manner of speech – reveals personality and emotions, don’t have to use as a dialogue tag, but as a comment about the manner of the character's speech.

     Write distinctive dialogue with each character different.

     Have actions tied closely to dialogue. As speaker talks, add action:
1.  Action before dialogue: The detective studied the crowd. “The killer is out there.”
2.  Action after dialogue: “How can you tell?” His partner searched the faces
around them.
3.  Action during dialogue: “Where else would he hide,” the detective pointed at the circling helicopters, “with all escape routes covered?”

     Have dialogue show what is happening “Why did you tear off the cover?”

     Don’t have to use “said” as the only tag for dialogue.Use a variety but appropriate tags

     Don’t have to use tags at all. Use action not tied directly to dialogue to identify speaker: Karen glared at him. “I hate that picture of you.”
      “You never told me.” Richard picked the torn cover off the floor.

     How does a person practice dialogue? One way to write a story in dialogue only, internal and oral dialogue. Below is a copy of a story I wrote for a contest, dialogue only, something about a debt repaid, and in 500 or fewer words:

“Mom, please, I don’t want to go.”
“For goodness sakes, Tina, you always liked parties, and this reunion is going to be the biggest party since you graduated. Why, you haven’t seen but maybe two of your classmates since that night ten years ago.”
            “There’s a reason. I … I need to look forward, not back. I want to make new memories, good ones. All I have of graduation are … are bad ones.”
            “You surely have outgrown all that.”
            “Don’t shake your head at me, Mom. That night is sheared into my brain. Don’t you care what happened?”
            “Of course, I care, and I hurt for you. I also know you need to face those kids. Yes, face the kids when you face the adults they’ve become. Everyone knows the truth now, in fact did within weeks.”
            “You aren’t going to let me not go, are you? You’ll nag me until I’ll wish I had.”
            “If that’s what it takes. Please, honey, it’s for your sake, for your good. They all know the ‘you’ seen in public. They know you’re a success. Now face them down.”
            “What choice do I have?”

            At least the reunion is at the community center, not the gym. I can do this. Just one step in front of the other, just like doing down the runway, ignore the stares, go into my own world, be glamorous Trina.
            “Trina Albright! Is it really you?”
            “Uh, yes, I believe it’s really me.” Wish the names on the badges weren’t so small. “And you’re?”
            “Carrie Austin. Come on, you remember me.”
            No, no, no, not her, not the first person I see.
            “Remember you? Yes, I guess I do, vaguely. How are you doing?” Tried to destroy anyone else lately?
            “I’m doing all right. Of course everyone knows how well you’re doing, big name model and all. Are you sure you just ‘vaguely’ remember me?”
            “Why? Why does it matter if I remember you or not?” Oh, my, she thinks she remained an important part of my life. Mom’s right. “I’m afraid I left high school behind me, and I’ve only kept up with a few close friends.”
            “Trina, umm, I owe you an apology. I started that rumor. I, well, I hated you.”
            “Hated me? Strange, you were the most popular girl in school. Why try to hurt me?”
            “Yes, you were smart, gorgeous, and would leave here and become something. I was the one pregnant and stuck here forever. I … I wanted to see you again, to pay my debt to you. I mean I’ve told other people what I did, but I needed to apologize to you. Please, forgive me.”
            “Of course, Carrie, I was hurt, deeply hurt, but time soon revealed the truth. And, the people who mattered always believed in me.”  And I was too dense to realize the truth myself. Thanks, Mom. “Consider your debt paid.”

      Try your hand at writing in dialogue only. See if you discover more about dialogue than you realized.