Saturday, January 16, 2021

Critters Readers' Poll results for 4RV

 


 

    Several people and publications from 4RV Publishing were nominated in Critters Readers' Poll, and voting finished January 14. The final results gave our nominees some room to brag a bit.

    First place book editor went to Cheryl Malandrios, an editor much in demand at 4RV and other places. She shares her time with being a top realtor and helping authors make their books the best possible.


 

    The other first place went to 4RV for having the best online bookstore, thanks to webmaster Aidana WillowRaven and her assistant Elizabeth Morgan.

      Cheryl Malandrios also took a second place in Children's Books with her book A Christmas Kindness, illustrated by Caroline Mabey.

  



    The hosts didn't change the year on the digital seals for those that placed in the top 10 without taking first place, but we will share them anyway. Jeanne Conway placed 2nd in the Best Artist category. She has illustrated several children's books for 4RV including Merry Tilda, Wild, Wild Wind, and the Louie the Duck books.

    


     Borrowed Time by Rita Durrett placed 2nd in Young Adult Book. Rita's book is one of the newer releases from 4RV.

                                                   

     For Best Other Novel, novels not covered by genre, Dust of Lies by G. K. Davenport took 2nd. The book also took 2nd place in Best Book Cover Artwork. Steve Daniels created the art for the cover.


 

     Another second place, Vivian Zabel came in 2nd in the Best Author division. Her books can be found on 4rvpublishing.com, as can books by other authors.

    Shawn Simon, a step-mother herself, received 2nd place in Best Nonfiction Book with her book Stepping into a New Role: Stories from Step Moms. For those already step-parents or who are about to become one, this book provides a handy guide.

    Finally, the lowest rank any 4RV received was in the Book Publisher category. The company received a 6th place, but still finished in the top 10. 



    For more information about 4RV, about submissions, about books and authors, about writing style, visit the 4RV website.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Vison Boards for Authors

 



Have you heard of vision boards? They are visual displays meant to motivate and inspire you to achieve the goals you set. They are fun and easy to put together. 

All you need to create a vision board is poster board or corkboard, scissors, glue, and a bunch of magazines; though I often print free images I find online or pay for stock photos. The creative process of finding the right photos and displaying them in an attractive collage provides a healthy dose of inspiration and helps cement the goals in your mind. 

Authors can use vision boards for focus and motivation, but they can also use them to inspire their next novel. Find photos that reflect the setting, the characters, historical details, current events, or even weapon of choice (for mystery novels). One author I found online used Canva to design a mock front cover for her book's vision board. How cool is that? 

Once you've created your vision board, you need to find the perfect spot to hang or lean it so you see it daily. You don't hide a lamp in your closet. You put it on a nightstand or table to illuminate the room. 

For those who want to save space or want to have a vision board they can carry with them, you'll find several vision board apps available. I used the Gratitude app this year, which is a combination vision board and gratitude journal with affirmations and daily positive thoughts to keep my thoughts and self-talk productive instead of destructive. 

Have you created vision boards in the past? Will you create one for this year or for one of your novels? Share your thoughts in the comments below. 



Cheryl C. Malandrinos is a freelance writer and editor. She is the author of four children’s books including, A Christmas Kindness, released by 4RV Publishing. A member of SCBWI, she is blogger and book reviewer. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two daughters. She also has a son who is married. Visit Cheryl online at http://ccmalandrinos.com and her children’s book blog at https://childrensandteensbookconnection.wordpress.com

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Writing a Fiction Story – Walking Through Walls Backstory


 It’s always interesting how writers find ideas when writing a fiction story.

Some may simply come up with an idea, others may see something that triggers a story, and sometimes a story is handed to a writer.

I had never thought of rewriting a folktale until being given a rough outline of an ancient Chinese tale, Taoist Master of the Lao Mountain. This was the inception of middle-grade, fantasy adventure Walking Through Walls.

It was June of 2008 and I belonged to a writing critique group along with a nonfiction writer who had a basic outline of an ancient Chinese tale that he wanted to pass along to a fiction writer. Since writing a fiction story wasn't his cup of tea, he gave me the outline.

After reading the outline, I loved the lessons it could bring to children.

Folktales come from all over the world and usually provide morale messages geared toward doing right, rather than wrong. These tales are a wonderful way to teach children through an engaging and entertaining story.

Since the tale, as with many ancient tales, involved an adult as the protagonist the first step needed was to rewrite it for today’s children’s market. This meant it needed a child protagonist.

As I wanted to stay as close to the original tale as I could, I used some of its flavor, descriptions, and names. That’s how the main character’s name, Wang, was chosen.

Along with keeping the story's flavor, I wanted it to be engaging for today’s child, so I came up with new characters, the dragon, enhanced storyline and plot, and so on.

Having an outline to guide me was a great help; it offered a general direction, like an arrow pointing North. So, as I began to rewrite the tale it was able to take on a life of its own, while still heading North. And, to ensure the story kept its flavor, I made sure to include bits of the original story to keep it as close to the tale’s outline as possible.

Working on the story, I knew it needed to take place in ancient China, so decided to use the 16th century as the backdrop for the story.

To add an element of realism to the story, I researched ancient China, including foods, flowers, dwellings, and clothing. I also contacted the writer who gave me the outline for some additional cultural information.

I worked on the story for well over a year, revising it, having it critiqued numerous times, and revising it some more. I even had it professionally edited before beginning to send it out for submissions.

Fortunately for me, the timing coincided with the 2009 Muse Online Writers Conference and I signed up to have a pitch with 4RV Publishing. As nervous as I was, the pitch went well and the manuscript was accepted.

For the next year, it was more revisions, tweaking, additional elements to the story, and editing to make the middle-grade, fantasy adventure, Walking Through Walls, better than before.

Then, the story was ready for a cover illustration.

Aidana WillowRaven was assigned to my book and although the dragon in the story was described as “a shimmering golden dragon,” Aidana ‘felt’ the flavor of the story pointed to a more tradition Chinese type dragon. We went back and forth a bit about the dragon’s size and shape, but Aidana’s vision of what the dragon should look like was perfect.

Now, the description of the 'golden dragon' in the story needed to be corrected. So, I changed the text to read, “Suddenly a magnificent dragon with shimmering red and silver scales appeared.”

Done. The description of the dragon and the cover matched; we were ready to move forward.

Next came the interior design formatting, which includes the text. After blocking the text it was determined another six pages was needed to make the spine wide enough. So, I had to come up with more content.

As the story was complete, to fill the page count I came up with an Author’s Note page, four pages of Reading Comprehension, an Activities Page, and after more research eight pages of information on the Ming Dynasty time period and the Chinese dragon.

Finally, Walking Through Walls, a middle-grade fantasy adventure, won The Children's Literary Classics 2012 Silver Award.

Writing a fiction story from its inception to publication can take many paths; this is the path Walking Through Walls took.

 

Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author and a working children’s ghostwriter/rewriter as well as a writing coach. She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of Writers on the Move as well as an author online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing.

You can follow Karen at:

LinkedIn  http://www.linkedin.com/in/karencioffiventrice
Twitter  http://twitter.com/KarenCV





Tuesday, December 22, 2020

4RV Seasonal Favorites

 


After the war, factories began to make toys again, and Ellouise discovers a marvelous surprise when her parents take her to the city to see Santa Claus, a baby doll that opens and closes its eyes.

She tells everyone that she wants that baby doll from Santy Claus.

Then, she worries about Santa Claus being able to find her at her grandparents'. Will Ellouise get her baby doll from Santy Claus?




Joseph and his wife, Mary, expect a baby. With all that is happening, including the government requiring a census, Joseph feels a little overwhelmed and a bit left out of the preparations for the baby. Is there something he can do?



Christmas, a time of magic and gifts, comes to a halt when stolen presents and electrical problems hit the North Pole. ​ What can Santa or his elves do? What can two girls do? Joy and Mary are the only ones who can save Christmas.



What can Santa and Martha Claus do when their elves are playing too much to make all the Christmas toys? The toys must be made by December 24th, so Mr. and Mrs. Claus find a perfect solution.





Christmas is the time for miracles, but sometimes, a child must make her own miracle, and one for her siblings.

Find these and more at www.4rvpublishing.com

Wishing you a joyous and peaceful Christmas season!

Friday, December 18, 2020

Editing Tips

 

 

Some Editing Tips



         Becoming a good editor of your own work takes time and practice, but it’s worth it. You will learn how to improve the structure and style of your writing, communicate more clearly, and eliminate grammatical errors.Plus, if you can edit your own writing, you will be able to better edit the writing of others.

         Isaac Justesen gives the following tips for editing in Freelance Writers

1. Read Your Writing in a New Format
         If you typed it, print it out. Alternatively, convert your Word document to PDF format, or change your text to a different font, color, and size. These techniques will help you see your content from an “outsider’s” perspective and give you a more critical eye.

2. Take a Break
         Let your writing rest for a few hours or overnight. Putting a literal distance between you and your work also creates an emotional distance. When you return to it, you’re more likely to spot awkward phrases and obvious mistakes.

3. Read it Out Loud
         To discover the rhythm of your writing, read it out loud. The best writing sounds smooth, so if you find yourself stammering through poorly worded sentences, you know it needs improving.

4. Remove Uncertain Language
         Good communication sounds authoritative, so avoid wishy-washy sentences. If you use phrases like “seems to be” or “could be a reason for,” you sound indecisive and it weakens your message.

5. Avoid Repetitive Phrases
         Try not to rely on certain words or phrases to make your point; readers will notice when you repeat yourself. Aim for variety. Use a word frequency counter to find repetitive words and scan a thesaurus to find alternatives.

6. Eliminate Filler Words
         Use your word processor’s find functionality to search for “there,” “here,” and “it” to find redundant words and phrases.

7. Remove Weak “To Be” Verbs
         Using versions of the verb “to be” can weaken the words that follow. Replace “am,” “is,” “are,” “was,” “were,” “been,” and “being” with stronger alternatives. For example:
         Weak sentence: They were not enjoying the editing process.
         Strong sentence: They hated the editing process.
         Stronger sentence: The editing process repulsed them.

8. Remove Weak Adjectives
         Weak adjectives also spoil your writing. When describing nouns and pronouns, use more powerful adjectives and avoid the words “really” or “very.”
         Weak sentence: He was really scared of snakes.
         Strong sentence: He was terrified of snakes. (note the use of "to be" verb, passive voice)
         Stronger sentence: Snakes terrified him.

9. Use Grammarly to Find Mistakes
         The Grammarly proofreading tool looks at spelling and grammar mistakes and checks more than 250 advanced rules to find mistakes such as double negatives, run-on sentences, and dangling modifiers. After you’ve used Grammarly a few times, you’ll start to see common weaknesses in your writing. (Note: Grammarly is not always correct and does not find all problems, but it does help.)

10. Separate Your Editing Tasks
         If the thought of editing your own work terrifies you, break down the tasks into a series of manageable steps. In the first read-through, check your ideas flow logically. In the next read-through, look at sentence structure, and so on.

         Editing tips from Jerry B. Jenkins:

• Editors can tell within a page or two how much editing would be required to make a manuscript publishable; if it would take a lot of work in every sentence, the labor cost alone would disqualify it.
• An editor can tell immediately whether a writer understands what it means to grab a reader by the throat and not let go.
• Have too many characters been introduced too quickly?
• Does the writer understand point of view?
• Is the setting and tone interesting?
• Do we have a sense of where the story is headed, or is there too much throat clearing? (See below for an explanation.)
• Is the story subtle and evocative, or is it on-the-nose?
         Yes, a professional editor can determine all this with a quick read of the first two to three pages. Therefore, what can you do to make your writing better and/or make yourself a better receiver of editing advice?

1. Develop a thick skin or at least to pretend to. It’s not easy. But, we writers need to listen to our editors—even if that means listening to ourselves!

2. Avoid throat-clearing. This is a literary term for a story or chapter that finally begins after a page or two of scene setting and background. Get on with it.

3. Choose the normal word over the obtuse. When you’re tempted to show off your vocabulary or a fancy turn of phrase, think reader-first and keep your content king. Don’t intrude. Get out of the way of your message.

4. Omit needless words. A rule that follows its own advice. This should be the hallmark of every writer.

5. Avoid subtle redundancies.“She nodded her head in agreement.” Those last four words could be deleted. What else would she nod but her head? And, when she nods, we need not be told she’s in agreement.
“He clapped his hands.” What else would he clap?
“She shrugged her shoulders.” What else?
“He blinked his eyes.” Same question.
“They heard the sound of a train whistle.” The sound of could be deleted.

6. Avoid the words up and down …unless they’re really needed. He rigged [up] the device. She sat [down] on the couch.

7. Usually delete the word that. Use it only for clarity.

8. Give the reader credit.Once you’ve established something, you don’t need to repeat it.
Example: “They walked through the open door and sat down across from each other in chairs.”
         If they walked in and sat, we can assume the door was open, the direction was down, and—unless told otherwise—there were chairs. So you can write: “They walked in and sat across from each other.”
         Avoid quotation marks around words used in another context, as if the reader wouldn’t “get it” otherwise. (Notice how subtly insulting that is.)

9. Avoid telling what’s not happening.
“He didn’t respond.”
“She didn’t say anything.”
“The crowded room never got quiet.”
         If you don’t say these things happened, we’ll assume they didn’t.

10. Avoid being an adjectival maniac. Good writing is a thing of strong nouns and verbs, not adjectives. Use them sparingly.
         Novelist and editor Sol Stein says one plus one equals one-half (1+1=1/2), meaning the power of your words is diminished by not picking just the better one. “He proved a scrappy, active fighter,” is more powerful if you settle on the stronger of those two adjectives. Less is more. Which would you choose?

11. Avoid hedging verbs, like smiled slightly, almost laughed, frowned a bit, etc.

12. Avoid the term literally—when you mean figuratively.
“I literally died when I heard that.” R.I.P.
“My eyes literally fell out of my head.” There’s a story I’d like to read.
“I was literally climbing the walls.” You have a future in horror films.

13. Avoid too much stage direction. You don’t need to tell every action of every character in each scene, what they’re doing with each hand, etc.

14. Maintain a single Point of View (POV) or perspective (if using third person POV) for every scene.
         Failing to do so is one of the most common errors beginning writers make. Amateurs often defend themselves against this criticism by citing classics by famous authors who violated this. Times change. Readers’ tastes change. This is the rule for today, and it’s true of what sells.

15. Avoid clichés and not just words and phrases. There are also clichéd situations, like starting your story with the main character waking to an alarm clock; having a character describe herself while looking in a full-length mirror; having future love interests literally bump into each other upon first meeting, etc.

16. Resist the urge to explain (RUE).
         Marian was mad. She pounded the table. “George, you’re going to drive me crazy,” she said, angrily.
         “You can do it!” George encouraged said.

17. Show, don’t tell.
         If Marian pounds the table and chooses those words, we don’t need to be told she’s mad. If George says she can do it, we know he was encouraging.

18. Avoid mannerisms of attribution. People say things; they don’t wheeze, gasp, sigh, laugh, grunt, snort, reply, retort, exclaim, or declare them. John dropped onto the couch. “I’m beat.” Not: John was exhausted. He dropped onto the couch and exclaimed tiredly, “I’m beat.”
“I hate you,” Jill said, narrowing her eyes.
Not: “I hate you,” Jill blurted ferociously.
         Sometimes people whisper or shout or mumble, but let your choice of words imply whether they are grumbling, etc. If it’s important that they sigh or laugh, separate the action from the dialogue:
Jim sighed. “I just can’t take any more,” he said. [Usually you can even drop the attribution he said if you have described his action first. We know who’s speaking.]

19. Specifics add the ring of truth. Yes, even to fiction.

20. Avoid similar character names.
In fact, avoid even the same first initials.

21. Avoid mannerisms of punctuation, type styles, and sizes.
“He…was…DEAD!” doesn’t make a character any more dramatically expired than “He was dead.”

          Hopefully, the preceding tips will help you be a better editor and a better writer who is edited.

 

       May you have a Merry Christmas and a Happy (and much better ) New Year.

 


 

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

The Power of Hidden Messages




A Christmas Kindness tells the story of eight-year-old Robert, who visits the mall Santa on Christmas Eve with his long wish list. While in line, he strikes up a conversation with the boy behind him, Glenn. This boy with dirty sneakers, holey jeans, and coat sleeves that don’t quite cover his wrists, only wants one meaningful gift from Santa. When it’s Robert’s turn to talk to Santa, he’s in a quandary. His wish list doesn’t seem so important after hearing Glenn’s one and only wish.

Though this book is not Christian fiction, it has what some might call “Christian values.” I tend to call them “human values.” Thinking of others and helping those in need aren’t only concepts taught in the Bible; though Jesus preached and showed by example the importance of thinking of and serving others.

This reminds me of a wonderful book I read that told the story of an injured Barred owl who must ask other animals for help and how he repays their kindness year after year. This book encourages young people to be thankful and have a servant’s heart.

Another story tells the tale of young Ricky (a bunny) who is eager to decorate for Christmas, but his parents are too busy. Dad begrudgingly takes Ricky on his tree quest, as long as they make it quick. While Ricky takes in all the winter beauty and fun around him, his father pushes him to find the tree so they can get back home. Then the tree falls off the sled. It could be a horrible moment, but Ricky’s enthusiasm draws Dad and Mom into experiencing the joys of the season. What a fun and wonderful reminder of the importance of cherishing every moment with our children. 

What these two stories, and hopefully mine, have in common is they tuck the message inside of what the characters are experiencing. They don’t come out and tell you, “be nice and think of others,” or “cherish time with your kids.” The characters show you by their actions. The goal should be to empower readers. In order to do that, your message needs to be nearly invisible.



Cheryl C. Malandrinos is a freelance writer and editor. She is the author of four children’s books including, A Christmas Kindness, released by 4RV Publishing. A blogger and book reviewer, she lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two daughters. She also has a son who is married. Visit Cheryl online at http://ccmalandrinos.com and her children’s book blog at https://childrensandteensbookconnection.wordpress.com

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Children, the Environment, and Story Telling

 


Contributed by Karen Cioffi

Children, the environment, and storytelling: a few simple words yet when combined can become a powerhouse for teaching children the importance of taking care of our planet.

I belong to a number of writing groups, and was moderator of a children’s writing critique group. What I began to notice is how we as authors are missing the mark. I began to wonder why more authors aren’t incorporating conservation tidbits into their story telling.

The Perfect Format

Writers have the perfect format for teaching and molding children, and the perfect opportunity. From picture books to young adult novels, conservation and the environment are topics that authors should be thinking of writing about, or at least weave into their stories.

The saying goes, “you are what you eat,” well children become what they learn whether through their environment, including schooling, or reading.

If young children are afforded reading material that paints a picture of the benefits and consequences of conservation in simple and entertaining stories, what better way to instill a sense that they can be part of the solution and help protect our environment.

If those same children, while growing up, continue to read fiction and non-fiction stories that make mention of conservation and our environment, how much more will it have an impact on them and become a part of their lives.

While most authors may not want to devote their time to writing books about the environment, just a sentence or scene woven into a story will certainly have an effect. 

It can be a subtle mention. For example, if it’s a scene with a couple of friends hanging out or on their way somewhere, one or two sentences in the scene might be:

Lucas held the soda bottle in his hand, aimed carefully, and tossed it right into the trash can.

“Nice shot, Lucas, but that goes in the recycling pail,” said Thomas.

This would be the extent of the comment or mention of conservation in the story. It’s short, almost unseen, and yet it becomes a part of the reader’s experience.

Isn’t this what writers want to do, leave an imprint in the minds and hearts of their readers? And, it’s all the more gratifying if it’s a child’s mind and heart that you're helping to develop and mold.

Why not make our potentially thought provoking and lasting words take root.

In addition to entertaining through our books and stories, we can make a difference in our future, our children’s future and the planet’s future.

I took advantage of using storytelling to engage children and bring awareness about our environment with a three-book picture book series: The Adventures of Planetman.

The first book is available for sale: The Case of the Plastic Rings.

It's a great book for any children's home library and school library.

This article was originally published at:
Children, the Environment, and Story Telling 


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

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

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

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