Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Burnt Offering Given 5 Stars by Readers' Favorite

  Burnt Offering 
reviewed by Trudi LoPreto for Readers' Favorite

     Hadara is the daughter of a rich Egyptian and married to Tzabar, a cruel and conniving man. King Ahaz of Judah believed in idols and not the one true God. He and Tzabar, together in their evil ways, killed children by placing them in bronze idols and burning them alive. This caused many to flee and hide to protect their children and their religious beliefs. Hadara left the home of Tzabar in the middle of the night, taking her son and others of the household and she did her best to protect all of them. 
     Burnt Offering has much romance as each person finds love and marries but there is much danger as well. There are those worshipers of the idols and those who believe there is only one God and are ready to fight to prove that their beliefs are the right ones. When Hezekiah, who has been in hiding for many years, becomes the new king, many changes take place, but the fighting and killing still continue.
     Burnt Offering by Vivian Zabel takes place in the eighth century,
beginning in 720 BC. The story brings the Old Testament alive and depicts  a way of life so very different than anything we can imagine. There are many characters in this book and each plays an important role in telling the story. Burnt Offering has enough suspense and romance to keep you reading long into the night.
     Vivian Zabel is a master of words and turns them into vivid pictures as she takes us very far back in time. Burnt Offering fits  into so many genres that I can only say I do not think there is anyone who will not enjoy reading this book. It is a page-turner.

      After receiving the review shared above, I wanted to tell everyone. The novel is also entered in Readers' Favorite book competition, but I won't know the results until September 2020 -- Wow! What a long time to wait.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Vacation Inspiration

For some of us, writing is as much a visual experience as it is a physical task of putting pen to paper or typing on a keyboard. Thankfully, modern technology has enabled us to capture moments that can inspire our writing.

Here are a few photos from our recent vacation and ideas they inspired.

1. A whirlwind romance culminates with a proposal near this elegant fountain.
2. A summer romance comes to a surprising end when one half of a couple invites the other on a walk through this beautiful garden only to find out that he is breaking it off to return home to another person.


1. A young elf lives in this enchanted cottage with her family where she struggles to find her place in the world.
2. A brother and sister step inside this abandoned cottage and find themselves transported back to 18th century America. 

1. A newly hired ecologist finds herself in danger when she discovers her employer is performing illegal experiments on endangered species.
2. Three friends are separated from their families during a hiking trip. 

What are some ideas these photos inspire for you? 

Cheryl C. Malandrinos is a freelance writer and editor. She is the author of Little Shepherd, A Christmas Kindness, Macaroni and Cheese for Thanksgiving, and Amos Faces His Bully. 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 and her children’s book blog at

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Read as a Writer

Every writer has been told to read, read, read. Read as much as you can to improve your own writing skills.

Well, I read an interesting article at Writer Unboxed that explained why simply reading to improve your writing won’t cut it.

According to the author, Julianna Baggott Faculty Director of Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA in Writing and Publishing, “I’ve found that some of my most thoroughly read students – the ones who devour and love every book they come across – are some of my hardest to teach. I believe that how one reads is essential. And if you don’t master reading as a writer, sheer quantity will be of little use.”

Baggott broke down reading as a writer into five categories: blueprint reading, territory reading, language reading, portal reading, singular lens reading.

Breaking them down:

1. Blueprint reading.

This goes back to read, read, read. While she kind of said this doesn’t work, she does agree that reading in volume does give you an idea of how a book is written to get published. (assuming you’re reading traditionally published books.)

For my writing, I like this type of reading. Seeing how the author puts the story together, how he builds his characters, how she keeps the conflict rising, how he ties up all loose ends . . .

It is a great tool to learn ‘good’ writing.

2. Territory reading.

This is reading to take ideas away with you. It could be from the topic, a chapter, a scene. At least this is what I think the author is saying.

I’ve done this. I’ll be reading a children’s book and an idea pops up. It may just be something I’m reading that takes me in a new direction. But, it can get the creativity flowing.

3. Language reading.

Reading with language in mind is to see the words that are used.

I do this often. While Baggott uses it for ideas and transitions into topics, I use it for the actual words. I love to see what words authors use to convey an emotion, a sensation, a description, and so on.

I also keep a database of words I find that I might be able to use down the road. So, just like the author of the article, I’ll have words circled or underlined in the books I read.

4. Portal reading.

I’ll be honest, I’m not quite sure what the author is saying for this reading experience. As far as I can tell, it’s reading and through the scene be transported into your own story. The book somehow acts as a muse to give you insights into your story.

This hasn’t happened to me.

5. Singular lens reading.

This one is more about seeing everything through the story you’re writing. You look at book covers, titles, contents and how it relates to your story.

As Baggott puts it, “This reading is how you look at the world around you when you're so deeply involved in a project that everything you encounter gets filtered through that one lens.”

As a ghostwriter, I’m usually working on more than one story at a time plus my own stories. Because of this I don’t really get ‘singular lens’ anything.

But, it’s easy to see how this can happen.

Summing it up.

Being a writer, I notice how I read different than someone who doesn’t write. I see grammar. I see sentence structure, chapter structure, story structure, character building and sometimes all this is at the sake of the story itself. I’ll have to stop myself to actually just read the story.

But, this is what writers do consciously or subconsciously. We can’t help it.

And, now you have five reading styles to help you write your stories. Have you found yourself using any of these?


5 Ways to Read as a Writer

This article was originally published at:

Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author, successful children’s ghostwriter, and online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing. Check out her middle-grade book, WALKING THROUGH WALLS.

You can connect with Karen at:

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Jodi Heaton Hurst - New Children's Book Released

      That wild prairie wind! It might blow Grandma Rose’s letters out of her hand. It might even pick up Grandma Rose and Grandpa Frank and Mollie Dog and blow them down the road! “Wa-shooh,” the wind chuckles as it plays its prairie-wind game.

      During her years of growing up in west Kansas, the author's parents often said, “This wild wind will blow you away,” which she adapted for this story. Jodi Heaton Hurt's story, illustrated by Jeanne Conway, will delight readers young and old.


          Jodi states on her blog ( "Wild, Wild Wind blows you, the reader, from page to page with Grandma Rose, Grandpa Frank, and that crazy, wild wind. LOOK! It's blowing Grandma Rose down the road. Grandpa can't help Grandma. Neither can Mollie Dog or Gorby Goat. Will somebody, please, help Grandma?"

     Copies of Wild, Wild Wind can be purchased from the author contacting her on, by asking for the book at a local bookstore, or by ordering it from the online bookstore:

Friday, July 26, 2019

Group Book Signing: Wayne Harris-Wyrick and vehoae included

     The July 24, 2019 Edmond Sun carried an article about a group book signing to be held at Best of Books July 27. Two 4RV authors are included: vehoae and Wayne Harris-Wyrick. Hopefully, anyone in the area will attend the book signing and support Wayne and vehoae. A scanned copy of the article follows:

     Congratulations, vehoae and Wayne for being included in a well-written news article. May the book signing be successful.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Two of the Most Powerful Words for Writers

For a character driven writer, a story idea begins with a character. Think about this character. Figure out where he or she lives, how the character dresses, what his or her daily life is like, what motivates this person, and consider his or her physical description.

None of that, however, gives you a story. A storyline involves plot, climax, and resolution. It involves conflict: something the character needs or wants and the obstacles that stand in the way of him getting it.

This is where two of the most powerful words come into play. What? You’ve never heard of these words? I think you have.

Those two words are, “What if ...”

Consider Amelia. She is an impulsive girl born into a wealthy family. Her curly hair is blonde and her eyes blue. At the age of 13, she lives in Pennsylvania where her father is an important businessman. Tea parties and private schooling fill her days. Since she lives in the mid-1800’s, she wears fine dresses made of silk and fashionable boots with buttons. She has a collection of porcelain dolls, but there is one that is very special to her.

She could be any well-bred girl living in the 1800’s—but she’s not. Amelia has a story all her own.

What if …

Amelia experiences a tragedy unlike she’s ever known?

What if …

Her parents die of the influenza and Amelia is sent to live with her spinster aunt at the family estate in Massachusetts?

What if …

Amelia’s impulsive nature is at odds with her Aunt Martha’s desire to bring her up properly?

What if …

A lonely Amelia befriends Ralph, the Negro stable hand working at the estate? And …

What if …

Aunt Martha disapproves?

What if …

Amelia’s father told her stories of what Aunt Martha was like as a girl and they are very different from the stern, bitter aunt who is now her guardian?

What if …

Amelia decides she must uncover the secret that caused the change in Aunt Martha? And ...

What if …

She is willing to risk her aunt’s wrath to find out?

Two little words, yet they open up a world of possibilities. Use them wisely. Use them often.

Cheryl C. Malandrinos is a freelance writer and editor. She is the author of Little Shepherd, A Christmas Kindness, Macaroni and Cheese for Thanksgiving, and Amos Faces His Bully. 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 and her children’s book blog at

Sunday, July 7, 2019

4 Realities Writers Need to Face

Contributed by Karen Cioffi

Writing can be a tough field to be in. Some authors seem to make it overnight, while others struggle on for years with not much success.

There are at least four must-know tips that every writer should be aware of to help get over the bumps in the road.

1. It’s going to take time to write your story.

It’s important for new writers to know writing a story can take a while – if you want to get it as ‘right’ as possible.

One reason for this is you should occasionally take a break from your story to look at it again with fresh eyes. Maybe in a week or so.

Another reason is as you’re going along then reread your story, you’ll no doubt find things here and there that you want to change or that doesn’t read right. 

And, often, writers don’t know when enough is enough. You keep trying to tweak the story until it’s ready to go,’ at least in your eyes.

While there are events like ‘Novel in a Month,” most of those who participate create a draft in 30 days, not a ready to submit manuscript.

So, expect it to take a while to write a story you will be proud of. And, don’t try to rush the process. If you get done sooner than expected, it’s icing on the cake.

2. Don’t expect your first story to make it.
Your very first attempt at writing a book may not be the one that actually gets published. In fact, chances are it won’t be.

It may be that the story just sits in your computer, in a file somewhere. Or, you may occasionally work on it, never being quite satisfied with it. Or, you may keep submitting it, but it never finds a home.

What do you do in the meantime? Keep writing. Get another story started and keep honing your craft. Don’t be discouraged.

3. You need a critique group or a critique partner.

New and seasoned writers can benefit from critique groups or having a critique partner. It’s almost impossible for a writer to see her own work with fresh eyes. You know what you intended to say, so even if it’s not really there, you will see it. You won’t know if you’re missing clarity or possibly a blatant grammatical error.

And, there are all the other writing pitfalls, like character development, plot, story arc, and so on, that you may glaze over.

Another writer, particularly one who writes in your genre, will be able to spot what you may be missing. Or, at the very least, give you some insights.

4. Don’t compare yourself to other writers (at least try not to).

Writers can feel insecure in their abilities, their progress, and their successes. This one goes for authors and freelance writers.

You may feel other writers you know are getting publishing contracts while you’re not. Maybe you’re a freelance writer and don’t feel you have enough credits. You may feel you’re not as good a writer as others.

It may be hard to do, but DON’T go there.

If you think you need to hone your writing skills, take classes and hire a writing coach. Instead of feeling unworthy or discouraged, take steps to move forward.

Keep honing your craft and persevere your way to success.

5. If you don’t go for it, it’ll never happen.

Okay, this is a bonus reality, but super-important. If you don’t submit your manuscript, it’ll never find a home.

If you don’t query magazines to get a foot in the article writing arena, you’ll never get an article in a magazine.

Don’t procrastinate and don’t think you’re not good enough. Just go for it. Do the work and SUBMIT. Remember, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

6 Hard Truths Every Writer Should Accept

This article was originally published at:


Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author. She runs a successful children’s ghostwriting and rewriting business and welcomes working with new clients.

For tips on writing for children OR if you need help with your project, contact her at Writing for Children with Karen Cioffi.

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And, you can follow Karen at: