Sunday, November 24, 2013

Marketing Tools: Composing an Author Bio

By: Stephanie Burkhart 

Happy Thanksgiving! I know this week will be a busy one. There's grocery shopping, hunting down turkeys, baking pies, and decorating. It's a time to enjoy family and friends. From the 4RV family and me, enjoy the holiday! Don't forget to take a moment and give thanks for those special people and moments in your life.

As you go about marketing your latest release, one request that always comes up is your author bio. It's needed for the back of your book, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, (the booksellers), your author's web page, blog entries, and query letters to name a few. Each request needs to be "tailored" to fit. Some author bios are expected to be shorter than others.

What should be in an author bio? I'd recommend making bullet points first. Include everything.

Where you were born
Highest degree obtained
Outside activities

Now that you've got your bullet points, it's time to write. My tip: infuse humor when you can. A little humor goes a long way to attracting potential readers. Also try to go in chronological order of what's happened in your life.

A "full" biography might take 150 words. Try not to go over that. Consider using that bio for query letters and the back of your book.

A "medium" sized bio might not be so comprehensive. I'd say it should consist of roughly 50-75 words. Include where you're born, highest degree obtained, accomplishments, and 1-2 personal items. A medium bio is also good for query letters, your web pages, and depending, blog spots.

A "short" bio is one-to-three sentences that should tell a snippet about you. Focus this bio on what you're doing now.

Here's mine roughly:  Stephanie Burkhart is a 911 dispatcher for LAPD. She enjoys writing romance and children's novels. A cub scout mom, she also own a very sweet golden retriever who loves to counter surf. Her 4RV books include "The Giving Meadow" and "First Flag of New Hampshire." You can find her at:

Another tip: If you can, leave a link for your website or blog.

I use my short bio mostly for visiting blogs, but I always have it handy when I meet people, for the back of business cards, postcards, bookmarks, and other promotional opportunities.

I'd love to hear your thoughts, comments, and feedback for composing author bios. It's a great marketing tool to have!

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Way of All Grammar

When my father was a kid, English grammar, parts of speech, verb tenses and the like were an important part of the school curriculum. By the time I got to school, now a good many years ago, things were much laxer, to the point where my first real introduction to verb tenses was through my French classes.

I still remember coming home and telling my father, who spoke fluent French, that French had a subjunctive but English didn't. He set me straight.

Even so, we learned far more about grammar than today's kids, who apparently can't even figure out which form of a pronoun it's appropriate to use after a preposition. If you don't believe me, take a copy of your local paper and go through the Op Ed page looking for grammatical errors. I'm pretty confident you'll be shocked. That is, assuming you are old enough to have learned
grammar in school.

I say it's past time to bring back rigorous instruction in the fundamentals of our language.

Prepositions were a particular peeve of my dad's. Here's a typical conversation:

Me; It's me.

Dad: it's not 'it's me', it's 'it's I.

Me: I know, but no one says that.

Dad: You don't know, or you wouldn't be saying 'it's me."

Me: grinds teeth.

Dad: repeats rule and explanation of subject and object pronouns, etc.

Once I made the mistake of pointing out that "C'est moi" is perfectly correct in French. Dad then repeated the rules for pronouns in French -- in French.

I can still repeat both sets of rules. And it's been a *long* time.

Dad always repeated the entire rule and it's full explanation each and every time we made a grammatical error. Major teeth grinding, but now I can still recall my grammar, and as a result was a whiz at helping out with fifth grade English homework -- also math, but that's another story --

Dad also would never give us the meaning of a word we didn't know -- he made us look it up in the dictionary. This was most annoying at the dinner table, when we, for what I hope were obvious reasons, weren't eager to jump right up and look up the word.

I didn't relentlessly correct my own kids, and as a result they lack the firm grasp of adjective, adverb, and the like that my sister and I had. I don't know -- maybe it was a mistake. However annoying it was at the time, I did really learn a lot as a result.

Here are a few resources. For more check

Flags adverbs, weak words, passive voice, said, cliches, and more :

Sentence length, pacing, dialog tags, homonyms, vague and abstract words, and more:

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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Before You Write, You Need a Plot

Image Copyright © 2013 Joan Y. Edwards
Image Copyright © 2013 Joan Y. Edwards
"Before You Write, You Need a Plot." by Joan Y. Edwards

In 2007 I discovered that it is important to have the plot for your story before you write it. The expression on my face was similar to the girl with the wide eyes in the picture above. "What? I need a plot? 

I knew beginning, middle, and end.   
I had problems. 
However, I didn't have all the other pieces neatly laid out in a plan for my story in a plot before I wrote it.

A plot is a chain of events in a story that goes from the beginning to the end to prove or show a particular universal theme that shows emotional and physical actions and reactions of a main character and how he reorganizes his ideas after several setbacks in order to win and survive happily.

You must have a problem to have a plot. No problem - no plot - no story.
A good plot puts complications in motion that stop the main character from solving his problem and reaching his goal.
A good plot uses the best logical order for events that makes a story easy to understand.
  1. cause and effect relationship in chronological order
  2. cause and effect relationship in flashback and foreshadowing - not chronological order (can start in the middle of things and go forward, backward, or into the future
  3. events that happen in chronological order, but are coincidence, not cause and effect


Ordinary Day Exposition (Beginning)

  1. Start your story with a day that starts out ordinary. Start it out on a day and time when your character is happy. It describes the way it is. It explains the existing setting, order of things; present customs, practices, and power relations with other characters.
  2. Don’t put all of the backstory on one page. Backstory includes the events that happened before your story began. It's the background information about your characters. Spread your backstory out in your novel. Give the readers only what they need to know to understand a particular action or reaction.If the reader doesn't need to know your character failed a math test in third grade at the beginning of the story, take it out and put it in right before he takes a math test. This will show the motive of why he’s scared to take the test.

Rising Action (Problems)

  1. Call to Action. The inciting incident. What happened to cause the character to want to reach this new goal. What conflicts/obstacles face the main character if he is to reach his goal?
  2. Dream Stage, Event happens that your main character can't ignore. It affects his life in more ways than he ever imagined it could.
  3. Frustration Stage, Each try gets him deeper in despair.
  4. Nightmare Stage It's his worst nightmare. This is the bottom of the barrel for the character.

Climax (Middle) (The Fight, Face to Face Encounter with Problem)

  1. Main Character changes for the better. The main character has an inner realization of the true meaning of all the events in the story leading up to this moment. This spiritual “aha” moment promotes a significant change in his ways of thinking and his behavior.
  2. Climax is the major conflict. This is the big scene that decides whether the main character gets what he wants or needs.
  3. Main character must face the problem. He can’t ignore it any more. This is the battle scene.
  4. It is the peak of suspense. 
  5. The main character experiences the height of anxiety, nervousness, and tension both mentally and physically.
  6. For the readers, this is the most exciting part of the story because of the uncertainty of how everything is going to turn out. There is a mixture of fear, danger, and hope. There is an air of “It can’t work out for him. It’s going to be bad." Followed by the amazement and surprise: “Oh my gosh, he’s doing it. Everything will be better.”

Falling Action (Result of Climax Encounter)

  1. The protagonist wins or loses. I was always confused by this. I thought this was still in the climax. However, the fight, the face to face confrontation is the climax.  The result of the fight or face to face, head-on confrontation is the falling action.
  2. Falling Action shows the changes to the characters who are affected by the solution to the main problem.
  3. Shows what happens to the main character after overcoming all obstacles
  4. Shows what happens to the main character if he fails to get his wishes.
  5. Shows what happens to both the good dudes and the bad dudes after the protagonist wins or loses.
  6. Things begin to be normal again.

Resolution (End)

  1. It shows the effects of his winning or losing with the other characters and shows what happens to untie the subplots, too.
  2. It shows that the main character has solved all problems and mysteries.
  3. It brings satisfying closure to the situation.
  4. The outcome turns the protagonist’s life into all new and better ordinary day. He's happy once again.
  5. If it’s a tragedy, it ends with a catastrophe where the main character dies.

Enjoy writing good stories. Build a strong plot for your next story. A good story shows the emotional highs and lows of the character(s). A good story has tension on every page. Make it the best plot you've ever designed for a picture book, young adult, or adult novel. Go ahead. Write the next Best-Selling Book. You can do it.

Joan's Elder Care Guide, 4RV Publishing, June 2014.
Joan's website: 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Websites That Work - 7 Key Factors (Part 2)

Last week, in Part 1 of this article, we discussed the first three key factors to an effective website: (1) the name of your site, (2) the subheading, and (3) the opt-in box. In this part, we’re on to key factors numbers four through seven.

While the first three elements are the most important, the following elements help to make your website visitor friendly.

An Effective Website - Key Factors Four through Seven

4. The ‘About Me’ or ‘About Us’ Page

Let the visitors know who you are with an About Me Page. This is especially important on sites that do not use the site owner’s name as the title. There are so many sites where a visitor needs to search to see who the site belongs to – it can be a bit frustrating, as well as a waste of the visitor’s time. There are even some sites that do not offer this information.

Along with the names of the site’s contributors, you should let the visitors know what the site is about, what they can expect from the site, what information will provided.

The About Me Page should include a bio along with any pertinent schooling and/or training. Most visitors want to know who is posting the content and what qualifies them to offer that particular information.

Providing this information allows the reader to develop a relationship with you.

5. The Media Page

You do need to create a Media Page. This page will tell visitors what you’ve written and other qualifications that make you an expert in your field. You should also include your books, reviews of your work, brief synopses and possibly excerpts, links to the sales pages, testimonials and awards, links to interviews others have written on you, events/workshops you’ve presented, your appearances, and links to all your other sites.

6. The Contact Page
Your contact information needs to be available. This means having a Contact Page that offers a contact form, or your email address. A visitor may have a question, comment, or request for your services; you want that visitor to be able to know how to reach you.

7. The Resource Page

Probably the second most important factor that will make visitors find your site valuable is providing a Resource Page. This page should provide links to pertinent books, sites, and tools related to your niche. Visitor will appreciate the effort and information, thereby making your site of value to them. It will also prompt them to link to your site, and recommend it to others.

And remember, when creating a website, simple is usually best.

Want to create or optimize your author platform? Need to boost visibility and traffic to your site? Check out WOW! Women on Writing’s 6 week e-class: Create and Build Your Author Online Platform.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Destination Imagination

By Suzanne Y. Cordatos

Ever have one of those days when your characters run out of breath and fall flat on the page no matter long you keep at it? When my fingers sludge instead of dance on the keyboard, and my rear is shape-shifting to the desk chair, it is time to go on a road trip. Destination? Imagination.

Art Imitates Life – so LIVE!  It is the best way to breathe life into your writing. Do something creative besides writing. Find a creative project at home or try one from the list below. Include family members who might feel second fiddle to your characters!
  Try these and use your senses as guide: Sights, smells, sounds, textures, tastes.
Soak in any collection. People watch. Are kids curious, bored, dragged behind Mom? Is anyone sketching? Are they good? Observe paintings from a distance and close up. The woman’s hat with a ribbon? It’s a smudge of color with a curling swipe of black. Simple, isn’t it? Stop at a craft store on the way home for inexpensive supplies—and try it. How does it feel to put a paintbrush to canvas? Frustrating? Exhilarating? Do the paints smell funny? Pretend to be Monet—or one of your characters. How would each react?
      Hotel Lobby
Take a seat in a fine hotel lobby. Note details in elegant carpets, gorgeous flower arrangements, uniforms of desk clerks. If they serve tea, go for it. Select the best dressed guest and imagine you or your character has an appointment, or is swept off your feet. What happens next?
     Historical Site
Where I live in New England, you can climb aboard a whaling ship at Mystic Seaport, listen to sea chanteys and pull on ropes pretending to be a sailor. The blacksmith’s ring on the anvil and mob caps of Sturbridge Village churn up historical adventures. Warm your fingers to wood fires and smell the goose stew cooking at Plimouth Plantation, or card wool in Old Wethersfield. Your hands feel soft from the lanolin in the wool.
      City Park or Hiking Trail
A walk and fresh air is all you need. Listen to leaves rustle. Look for insects lugging a load. What creature might be living in that hollow tree? What if it needs a friend? What if it wants to go to outer space?
Even without a passport in hand, a Departure Board at an international airport is a great Destination Imagination. Rome? Tokyo? Toledo, Ohio? Who is going where? Business travelers with a purpose? What’s in the briefcase? Make it up. Any tearful good-byes? Joyful hellos? A family in matching T-shirts? Make up their emotional reasons. Imagine taking your characters on a trip. Where and why? Anyone afraid to fly?
      Memory Lane
If you are housebound or seriously time-crunched, close your eyes and take yourself there.

What places take your imagination to greater heights? Let us know!

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Midwest Book Review - A Wandering Warrior

   Katherine Boyer reviewed Harry E. Gilleland, Jr.'s latest novel A Wandering Warrior for The Midwest Book Review in October.

   According to Reviewer's Bookwatch, Katherine's Bookshelf:

A Wandering Warrior
Harry E. Gilleland, Jr
4RV Publishing LLC
PO Box 6482, Edmond, OK 73083
9780985266196, $18.99,

Harry E. Gilleland, Jr. is a master at writing about the Middle Ages. He conveys the lifestyle without being gory and sensational. In A Wandering Warrior, he tells a story of knights, barons, princes and the ladies they love. He tells of battles, trials on the field of honor and saving ladies in distress.

Thomas Beaumont is saved and brought back to health by a band of Travelers when he has been badly wounded in a battle. He then begins a quest to find and exact revenge on the killer of his brother. "Eagerness and nervous energy filled him as he thought about his chance to avenge his brother's death at the hands of Mowbray."

In his travels, he comes across two noble ladies whom he rescues and delivers to their home in Yorkshire. This eventually leads him to other exciting, dangerous adventures and to his love, Emalda.

Due to dire circumstances, Thomas' life changes - some good and some bad changes. When he returns to Yorkshire from a battle, he finds that his love, Emalda has disappeared with her family, due to her being accused of theft. Thomas begins another adventure to find her. His travels lead him to more battles and eventually to finding Emalda; they marry and have a short time together. OK, no more spoilers. Read the book to find out what happens. You will be surprised.

Harry E. Gilleland was born and raised in Macon, Georgia and now lives in Shreveport, Louisiana with wife, Linda. Retired from a career as a Professor of Microbiology at LSU Health Sciences Center in Shreveport, he now devotes himself full-time to his writing. He writes poetry and prose as well as novels and novellas.

    A Wandering Warrior can be found on the 4RV Bookstore, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. It is also available as an eBook on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and iTunes books by Apple.

4RV Publishing 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Websites That Work - 7 Key Factors (Part 1)

By Karen Cioffi

Whether you’re an author or a freelance writer, marketing is going to be an essential part of your process. And, marketing in an over-saturated market can be a very difficult journey. Whether you’re promoting a book, services, or other product, you will have tons of competition. And, if you don’t have a website, you won’t be able to get in the marketing game.

No matter what product or service you’re offering, having a website is an absolutely must.

While it’s not that difficult to create a website or blogsite using services, such as WordPress ( or Blogger (, there are essential steps you will need to take in order to create an EFFECTIVE site.

Here is a list of 7 of the most essential and bare-bottom basics that are needed for an effective website (the first three are in this post):

1. The Name of Your Site

Create a site with your name as the domain name. Even if you already have one or more sites with different names, take the time to create one with your name. This can be your central site that leads to your other specific platforms. Think of it as the Sun to your other orbiting web planets.

If you have multiple sites, include them on your Media Page and on your About You page.

2. The Subheading

When including a site subheading, think of your platform. In your subheading add keywords you want associated with your site. These are words that should quickly inform the search engines what your site is about and allow them to use your site’s URL to meet a searcher’s query.

The subheading elaborates on your website title and further emphases your site’s focus.

3. The Opt-in Box

Provide a readily visible opt-in box. This is one of the only ways you will be able to create a mailing list. A useful way to entice visitors to sign up for your info emails or newsletter is to offer a free gift, also called and ‘ethical bribe.’ Usually an ebook related to your site’s focus is a practical gift.

The opt-in box should be placed in the top portion of your sidebar, and must be immediately visible upon landing on the page – this means it needs to be above the fold line.

Think copywriting when creating the text for your opt-in. Marketing studies have shown that words like “sign-up” and “join” may make the reader feel there is a commitment involved. The current, more appealing opt-in words include “access” and “find out more.” I’m thinking of testing “give it a try.”

Stop by November 17th for Part 2 of Online Marketing – 7 Key Factors to an Effective Website. It explains key factors numbers four through seven.

For more on writing and marketing, join Karen Cioffi and The Writing World for free weekly tips and guidance, plus updates on free instructional webinars. Get access today and you’ll receive “How to Create an Optimized Website – 3 Essential Author Website Elements and 9 Must-Have Pages:”

Friday, November 1, 2013

Book Promotion for Dummies

I read Writing Romance Novels for Dummies and Internet for Dummies, so I figure I’ll start a new one, Book Promotion for Dummies.

Book promotion challenges all my brain cells. Last year was an exciting one for me with the release of both my debut novel and my first non-fiction book. This thrust me into the world of salesmanship. I hit the road with all the knowledge I could muster. I soon learned my second job stretched me out of my comfort zone far faster than the first job of writing.

Through the year, I learned a lot, adjusted according to what I learned, and dashed in a new direction. Here are my tips for other dummies.

****Ask for help. Don’t assume someone is too busy, or too successful, or too well-known. Many nice authors, agents, and editors steer me in right directions, or give me important advice. The point is that I would’ve never known if I hadn’t asked.

****Get others to talk about your books. This can be done through seeking reviews, contests and giveaways, guest blogs or blog tours. One suggestion is help promote the books of other authors. They could reciprocate, but even if they don’t, they will think and speak kindly about you.

****Form relationships in person. Be a joiner of clubs, friends of the library, church groups, anywhere to increase your in-person friend base.

****Form relationships online. Here, again, be a joiner. Find people with which you relate. Start conversations on twitter, Facebook, or by e-mail. When those same ones post about a blog, check it out, and leave a comment. This way, you enlarge your online friend base.

****Combine the two points above. Choose two to three writers at a workshop or conference with which you find common ground, get their e-mail addresses, or find them on Facebook and transform a personal contact into an online one.

****Be consistent in your promotion. I received all kinds of warnings to blog at least 3 times a week, to set up an author page on Facebook, to review books weekly on Goodreads, send newsletters monthly, hire a website master. All of these are good suggestions, but my feeble non-techy brain went into spastic twitches trying to keep up. What I discovered was that consistency in what I do is more important than frequency or the utilization of new sites.

****Libraries and school teachers are your friends, especially if you write children’s books or YA. Again, call, or e-mail. You’ll never know unless you do.


****Be patient. If your name is Bill O’Reilly, all you need to do is write a good book, tell about it on your show, and it’s an instant success. For those of us who aren’t even known by the people across the street, we must keep on doing the right things and wait.

    In fourteen months of being a published author, I reach far more people with my books now than I did in the beginning. I do nothing different, but I kept on doing the same things I did in the beginning. I have never stopped promoting “Victoria and the Ghost” that released all those months ago.


****Write another book that’s greater than the one that’s out now. Who knows? Maybe the next one is your break-out novel, and then the first one will sell like soup on a cold day.


What I’ve done that works well for this dummie.


1.     Do guest blogs and interviews.

2.     Blog a new post on my website every week.

3.     Contact schools and libraries and keep in touch.

4.     Volunteer at my local library.

5.     Post on Twitter and Facebook 3-4 times a week. I do keep a separate author page, but I'm not for sure it's that helpful.

6.     When I read a blog that’s helpful to me, I repost on my social media sites.

7.     Send bi-annual letter by e-mail to contacts to keep in their thoughts. (Also for any big changes or releases).

8.     Ask for reviews of my books. Some haven’t answered me. Some have answered no, but some reviewed my book.

9.     Wrote a sequel to “Victoria and the Ghost,” and sent it to 4RV Publishing. I’m now in contract for the release of this book in May or June, 2014.

10.   Kept studying the craft of writing, read more about social media, and explore new avenues for promotion. Never quit learning.

This dummie could use some extra tips. Please share with your comments.