Sunday, October 30, 2011

Promotion: Review of The Giving Meadow -- The Midwest Book Review

posted by Vivian Zabel  

          Katherine Boyer reviewed The Giving Meadow, by Stephanie Burkhart and illustrated by Stephen Macquignon, for The Midwest Book Review. The review appeared in the September issue of "Katherine's Bookshelf."

Review by Katherine Boyer:

The Giving Meadow
Stephanie Burkhart
4RV Publishing LLC
PO Box 6482, Edmond OK 73083
9780982588697 $17.99

The life cycle of any aspect of nature written for children can be and usually is a great learning experience for them. Stephanie Burkhart's book, The Giving Meadow is no exception.

When an egg lands in a meadow, the creature that emerges goes through the life cycle of a caterpillar until he wraps himself in a cocoon.

When he was a growing caterpillar, he met and was helped by several very diverse residents of the meadow, a frog, a ladybug, a bee, and a snake.

The lessons depicted in this lovely, brightly illustrated book include, but are not limited to, sharing, friendship, acceptance, understanding and generosity. The friends that the caterpillar makes on his journey to adulthood generously share their bounty with him that he accepts graciously because he knows they understand that he needs their help as he travels on his journey to complete his life cycle.

"The snake told the bee.

The bee told the ladybug.

The ladybug told the frog.

All the caterpillar's friends waited."

The wait was not in vain. The sight that greeted them was a beautiful creature. You must read this book to learn about this amazing metamorphosis.

Children from 4-8, and even some a little younger and a little older, will want to read this book over and over. Younger non-readers will soon begin to anticipate the story and help tell it. You will enjoy reading it to them and watch in excitement as they discover something new in the story or in the illustrations. Older readers will want to re-read and pour over the pictures as they discover more exciting things.

Stephanie Burkhart, originally from New Hampshire, now lives in California with her husband, Brent and her two sons, Andrew and Joseph. She began writing homemade comic books at five years old and hasn't looked back, as she now writes short stories and novels. This is her first children's book.

Katherine Boyer

          The Giving Meadow is now on sale for the holidays at the 4RV Bookstore.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Marketing Tips: Have fun with Twitter by Stephanie Burkhart

Social networking can be a challenge for many who are just starting out in the writing world. Social networking is a necessary tool that the author can use to promote their book. I thought I'd take a look at how you can maximize your time on Twitter. Twitter is a forum that allows for a "tweet" of approx 120 characters so you have to keep your "tweet" short.

The Pros of Twitter:
It's cheap (i.e. free)
It's fun (once you get the hang of it)

The Cons of Twitter:
It is intimidating
It is confusing

At some point, you have to get your feet wet and join. Whatever your role in the writing world – author, illustrator, marketing, etc., these tips can prove very helpful.

For me, the main goal of Twitter is to increase my followers. The more followers you have, the more people you reach out to.

Goal stated, let's get into the tips:

Tip #1 – You don't want to spend more than 10-15 mins on Twitter at any given time. Trust me. You have other things to do and social networking should not consume your day. Make it a point to check your Tweets 10-15 mins a day. The "optimum" goal should be once in the morning, and once at night, but if you can't do twice a day, strive to be on Twitter at least once a day.

#2 – Friend 5 people a day
I use the recommendations on the side, but I also follow my favorites which include Anne Rice, The New England Patriots, other 911 dispatchers, and even Chum Lee from Pawn Stars.

#3 – Retweet 5 posts a day
(this shows others you are supportive by retweeting their posts. In turn, fellow tweeters are generally inclined to retweet your posts)

#4 – Tweet 5 posts a day
These can be anything. For example:
Quotes from your favorite writers or authors. I like to quote HG Wells, Emily Dickinson and Eleanor Roosevelt.
Share YouTube links – this can be your book trailers or some of your favorite videos on you tube.
Amazon links to your books. If your book is on sale, mention it.
Places were you want fans to follow you like Good Reads, LinkedIn,, etc.
Links to reviews for your books.
Links to book reviews you've done.
Announcements for what's on your blog.
Announcement if you're visiting someone else's blog.
Announcements on any contests or giveaway you're doing.
Gush and give shout outs to your favorites: movies, authors, books, music, etc. I usually give a shout out to coffee and chocolate during the week. It's okay to be a little cheeky and show off your personality. Readers like to see a little bit of your fun side.

You may not feel an immediate effect, but you'll see difference by the end of the week and even a bigger difference by the end of the month. Remember, it's all about growing your followers.

Tip #5 - #hashtags
These are "quick" tags that highlight popular posts. If you post "Check out my book on Kindle" (with the link) use #kindle at the end of the post. If other people are on twitter and check out the popular posts highlighted on the side, they should pull up a majority of post with the hashtags. If you have your post marked with a hashtag, it should, in theory, pull up.

Tip #6 - @ sign

If you talk about someone, let them know. They'll appreciate it and usually reciprocate. For example. Me: Just finished reading @StephBurkhart's book. Two thumbs up.

If anyone has any other tips, please feel free to share.
Go out there and tweet. And have fun with it.

PS: Follow me on Twitter at:

Short Bio: Stephanie Burkhart is a 911 Dispatcher for LAPD. Her children's book, "The Giving Meadow" was published with 4RV Publishing. She's a native of New Hampshire but now lives in California with her husband, 9 year old son, Andrew, and 5 year old son, Joe. Joe likes the following 4RV Books: Colors and Spider in Our Mailbox.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The "head count"

As an illustrator one may be asked to create a number of figures for any book assigned.  In my case I needed some accurate heights for an entire range of people from infants to adults.  Using the basic scientific ratios for number of heads high an individual is, I created my own "head count" chart.

For me it was easier to use the heads on characters I had created to make sure the sizes matched correctly.  The chart above is for a realistic view of the figure.  For other more cartoony styles the head count here will not match. I do find it helpful enough to keep it on my bulletin board next to my desk *:)

The chart above is very helpful when I have a question about height and have no model to use as a reference.  Of course these characters are all standing but you can apply some of the rules to sitting or active figures with a bit of adjusting.

If you are an illustrator with a need for such a chart, please feel free to download and keep this on as a reference.  You could make your own by using your character style and just the numbers posted above each character on this chart.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Promotion: Two Festivals with the James Writers

by Vivian Zabel  

          Mother and daughter authors Jean and Mary James took their new release Sparrow Alone on the Housetop, copies of Mary's music projects, and copies of other 4RV books on the road. 

          The first book festival they manned (uh, womanned?) a booth was the Baltimore festival. There they met -- gallons of rain, rain, and more rain. Note the river flowing through the tent in the photo below:
Booth without showing river

          Then the James duo packed up books and headed for Nashville and the Southern Festival of Books.

One display with other books out of view

             Next, Jean and Mary will be packing books and heading for the Miami International Book Fair. Now these writers have gone above and beyond the call of duty. If you visit the website, vendors and exhibitors, 4RV Publishing is listed under the General category.

            We hope you sell many books, James Writers, at this last of the trio of festivals. Thank you for your hard work and efforts.

4RV Bookstore   - Remember the Holiday sale until December 5
4RV Website 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Do It and the Energy Will Come

"Do It and the Energy Will Come" by Joan Y. Edwards

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Do the Thing and You’ll Get the Energy to Do the Thing.” To me his words translated into, “Do It and the Energy Will Come.” It was one of those “Wow” moments for me. I asked myself, “Is that true?” You might ask yourself the same question.

Remember the times your baby woke you up in the middle of the night. Somehow getting up and seeing to it that they were all right, gave you energy to complete that task before you went back to sleep.

What about the time you didn’t want to do the dishes, but you started on them. Pretty soon, the dishes were done, and your energy level had sparked.

What about working on your term papers the last few hours before they were due, you all of a sudden had the energy to do it. Why? At the time you may not have known. But you knew you had to get it done now or it wasn’t going to be done at all. Plus, each step you took gave you energy to do the next step, until you had the whole paper finished.

What about when you want to read a book on the craft of writing or a book on how to draw action figures, but you’re not in the mood. Start reading it and you’ll get in the mood. The energy will flow.

As a writer or illustrator, have you been saying, "I don't have the energy to do that." Try knocking down that excuse. Work on the article. Sketch that picture. Watch the energy flow to your mind and body.

Action is a mood buster. Test this theory for yourself. Accomplishment gives a great feeling of satisfaction. It makes the next step easier. Finishing three small things will give you energy to start a bigger project.

Empower yourself. Do it and the energy will come.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Promotion: Eastern Oklahoma Author Fest 2011

by Vivian Zabel 

         October 8, 2011 found 4RV Publishing and three members with 43 titles at the Eastern Oklahoma Author Fest in Tahlequah, Oklahoma.

        Due to the massive weight and hard work involved (as well as limited display area and racks), only 43 of the 60+ released books were able to make the trip.

         As people entered the Cherokee Community Building, the sign to the left is the first thing they saw. The display tables formed an L, one table to the right of the sign, one to the left, and one running at a right angle down the left side. Photos show the display racks and display areas.

        Vivian Zabel held a workshop on "Make Your Writing Snap" to help attendees have a better idea of what manuscripts need to be appealing to editors, agents, and/or publishers.  At least some people attended, even though the workshop was early in the day, soon after the doors opened to the public.

      Jacque Graham had the workshop immediately after, "How to Write Your Family Story." Again, some attended even though early in the day.

          Jim Laughter's first children's book, and first book with 4RV, made its debut at the festival. Strangers in the Stable also sold more copies than any other book available. 

          The attendance was lighter this year than at this same festival in 2010, but 4RV did much better than most of the participants.

Table running down left side

Front tables with Jacque in background

          These photos give an idea of how the 4RV Publishing tables and displays greeted the public as they toured the festival. 

          Even though many other activities competed for people Saturday, some found their way to the Eastern Oklahoma Author Festival.

4RV Bookstore 
    Note: Christmas sale (over 10% discount on all prices, which includes shipping, handling, & taxes)
               Sale ends Dec. 5
4RV Website

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The illustrator's obligation to the author.

by Ginger Nielson

A Picture Book is the world in your lap.  It can be an art gallery within 32 pages.  But it is more than that. It is the love and labor of an author. The words may be few or many but the combination of words and pictures must fit the story.

For example: This page from Caelaach McKinna's book, Little Charley Thornpaws, contains few words.  The illustration has been given the job of defining the action. With only one line of text, the illustrator was given an entire two page spread to show the action.  Ample space above the running cat was left for that one line.

Some chapter books require much more space for text and very little room for illustrations.
Here the illustrator is challenged to create a meaningful image in a much smaller space and often in black and white.

The many words in a chapter book are important to the author and they need their space along with any illustrations that accompany them. Some illustrations may run along the side of a page or be located only in the top third of the page. Those are normally in black and white but could be color.

In some cases there may be so much text per page that the illustrator needs to use space creatively and sparingly.  In the case in a chapter book where only a small portion of a page can be used for an illustration the image need not be more than one single item of importance.

Suspense, mystery, humor, delight, beauty, power, danger, glee and even plain foolishness find their way into an artist's interpretation of the story. But all those emotions are the property of the author first.

An illustrator needs to show respect for the author, the author's vision and the need the author has to create their own world of characters, places, things, adventures.

Painting a two page spread with little regard for the importance of the author's words can lead to a page so filled with images there is little room for text.  It may seem like the most basic of rules; the illustrator must leave room for the text.

In addition to the importance of space for the author's words, the illustrator also needs to think of the reader. Leaving room for the text that accompanies an illustration is important.  Leaving some "resting space for the reader" is equally important.  Not every inch of the page needs paint.  White space creates a place for text as well as a rest for the eye of the beholder.
This "resting" space need not be white, but it should be a clam area with not much going on to be defined as true "resting" space.

A well balanced picture book will have illustrations that compliment the author's vision and enough areas of white space or "resting" areas to allow the reader the most enjoyable experience.

The job of the illustrator is to interpret the author's vision, show respect for the words that have been so carefully chosen, and contribute to the journey a reader is about to begin.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Storytelling – Keep Your Reader Engaged

As an author it’s your job to create an engaging, compelling, suspenseful, intriguing, romantic, or other type of story content that will lure readers in and keep them turning the pages. But the key word for a successful story is ‘engaging.’

Engagement, according to, means to have an emotional involvement or commitment. Based on this, no matter what genre you write in the story must hold or engage the reader.

In an article in the Writer’s Digest January 2011 issue, Steven James takes a look at aspects of great storytelling.

The first rule to a successful story, according to James, is “cause and effect.” In children’s writing this is the same as an obstacle and its solution - there must be a circumstance that leads the protagonist to an action in an effort to find a solution. I do like the “cause and effect” wording James uses though, because it’s more in line with multiple writing genres.

In its simplest form, something happens (the cause) that creates or motivates an action or reaction (the effect).

James goes on to explain that along with cause and effect, the order in which an event unfolds or how it’s written will also make a difference between keeping a reader engaged and allowing for disengagement.

“As a fiction writer, you want your reader to always be emotionally present in the story,” explains James. If the sequence of an event causes the reader to stop and wonder why something is happening, even if just for a moment, disengagement grabs the reader.

As an example, suppose you write:

She fell to her knees, dropped her head, and wept uncontrollably. Her husband was dead.

While after just eleven words, the reader learns why the woman is crying, it may be enough time for that reader to pause and wonder why the character ‘fell to her knees, dropped her head, and wept uncontrollably.’ Creating the ‘effect’ before the ‘cause’ can lead to disengagement.

To create a cause and effect scenario that keeps the reader in the loop, you might write:

“Your husband is dead.” The words echoed through the room. She fell to her knees, dropped her head, and wept uncontrollably.
A second aspect of writing James touches upon is creating and maintaining a believable story. Even if writing a fantasy or science fiction, consistency is needed, along with believable actions, reactions, observations, conclusions, and so on, within the boundaries of the story.

A basic example of this might be if you write about a character with brown eyes, then somewhere within the story you accidently mention the eyes are green. This little slip creates a believability gap.

Any gap in the believability of the story or its characters has the potential to cause the reader to pause, question, and very possibly become disengaged.

For writing and marketing information visit and sign up for her free newsletter, A Writer’s World. You’ll get 2 free e-books on writing and marketing in the process, and two more just for stopping by.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Promotion: How Do You Present Your Book?

by Vivian Zabel  

          When you submit a press release, are interviewed, or blog about your book or books, do you present yourself as self-published, as published through an independent publisher (one who charges authors), or as published through a traditional publisher? Wording can make a difference in how readers or listeners perceive the source of your publication.

           Often newspapers change the way the author (agent or publisher) present material and omit the publisher if there is one. Therefore, we need to be sure that information is given in different places and ways so that readers know a publisher is involved. If one is self-published or not, even if not stated, the lack of the name of a publisher makes it appear that the book being promoted is self-published.

          If the article, blog post, or interview states "Mercy Jones published Shame, Shame," the inference is Mercy Jones self-published the book. If the only link is to the author's website or the only places listed for the book to be purchased is the author's website and/or Amazon, the reader will assume the book is self-published.

          Yes, more and more people are self-publishing, which is the topic of a completely different article. However, if a person used a publisher, and the publisher has taken a risk of preparing and printing the book, then it's only good manners and another promotional tool to give credit to the publisher.

          How do you present your book? Do you present it as a professionally published book? Do you present it as self-published when it's not? Do you present it as a product that you and only you produced? Do you present it in a way to show that it and you are professional? Do you promote it, and yourself, with credit to those who helped make the book possible? Do you share that the book can be purchased through bookstores (if it can be), as well as through your website and Amazon?

          Give you and your book every opportunity to attract readers by allowing them to know more about your book. Present it well.

4RV Website 
4RV Bookstore 


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

3 Important Tips to Increase Your Chances of Getting Published

If you’ve been sending out your manuscript for months or even years, you may feel like you’re beating your head against a wall. And it may comfort you to know that you’re not alone. It’s no easy feat to get published these days, but rest assured that hard work does pay off.
You can also use these top three tips to increase your odds of getting published:
  1. Spend the majority of your time reading and writing. As a rule of thumb, make it a priority to read more often than you write. How can you expect to become an expert author in your genre if you haven’t read hundreds and thousands of related books? The more that you read and absorb, the better that your manuscript will be. It’s also important to stay informed in your industry so that your work remains relevant and fresh.
  2. Write what you know. This may seem like a complete no-brainer, but your work will not be authentic and relatable if you are not writing about what you know. Even though you do need to stay aware of trends in your industry, you can’t follow trends exclusively; a trend will probably be over by the time that you complete your manuscript. If you write what you know and stay true to yourself, you can be a trend starter inside of a trend follower.
  3. Submit your manuscript strategically. If you want to see your manuscript in print, be smart about who you submit to. You will probably find that some publishing companies and agents will be interested right off the bat, with strings attached… Don’t waste your time submitted to companies that want to sell you a publishing package or push you into self-publishing if that is not what you are interested in. A good agent or publishing company will be selective and may take time to get back to you. Make sure that you research a publishing company or agent before submitting to ensure that they represent your genre. There is no bigger waste of time than submitting your romance novel to an exclusive publisher of children’s books. All you have to do is do your homework beforehand and submit to agents and publishers that will be legitimately interested in your work. Problem solved!

Bethany Ramos is an author and full-time freelance writer with experience in Internet marketing, social media marketing, and SEO. She is passionate about writing captivating children's books and witty chick lit. For more information, you can visit her blog at

Monday, October 3, 2011

Imagery and Your Story

Probably, one of the most difficult aspects of writing is providing content that your reader can turn into pictures or imagery. You may know exactly what you’re trying to convey, the image you want your reader to see, but does your content translate into effective imagery for your reader?

Stephen King discusses this topic in an informative article in the August 2010 Writer magazine. Obviously, any advice from this author is valuable, but I especially like his views on imagery. A key tip that struck me is, “Imagery does not occur on the writer’s page; it occurs in the reader’s mind."

The question that follows is how does a writer transfer what’s in her mind into the mind of the reader?

The answer is through description. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as it sounds. What many writers may tend to do is offer too many details that aren’t necessary and may weigh the story down. According to Mr. King, you need to pick and choose the most important details and descriptions that will allow the reader to understand what you’re conveying, but also provide enough room for the reader to create his own unique image.

To accomplish this task Mr. King says, “Leave in details that impress you the most strongly; leave in the details you see the most clearly; leave everything else out.”

The strategy in this is to look carefully at what you want to convey. Picture an image in your mind and focus on the key aspects, the aspects that give you a clear picture of what it is. Then, write what you see. Again, this may not be easy to do, but Mr. King suggests that there is another vision tool to use, which he calls “a third eye” of imagination and memory.

What we see is translated to our brain. Once there we need to interpret that image and transcribe it into content that will provide the reader with a strong gist of what it is, but also allow the reader to fill in her own details. And, those details should convey what you’re targeting.

For example: The house stood dark and dreary.

While this simple sentence provides imagery that should enable the reader to create a picture, there are probably not enough details for the basic image you might want. What color is the house? Is it in disrepair? Is it a new or old house, big or small?

A possible alternative to the above example that adds a little more detail, but not too much is

Cracked shingles hung on the dingy grey house; chipped paint and missing caulking on the windows further emphasized its disrepair.  

Another example of imagery is from my children’s middle grade fantasy book, Walking Through Walls:

Wang bound the last bunch of wheat stalks as the sun beat down on the field. Sweat poured from the back of his neck drenching the cotton shirt he wore.

The two sentences provide sufficient imagery for the reader to understand the situation, while not giving too many details. If you notice, the content doesn’t mention the color of his shirt, or if Wang kneeled on the ground or hunched over the bundle. It’s also missing a number of other details that aren’t necessary and would weigh the story down.

Interestingly, along with concise details, your characters’ names might also add imagery to your story. When you read my character’s name, Wang, what image comes to mind?

You might think of your story’s imagery as an outline or sketch, rather than a colored and finely detailed painting. The basic idea is there for your reader to enhance with her own imagination and memory.

Karen Cioffi is an author, ghostwriter, and freelance writer. For writing and marketing information visit and sign up for her free newsletter, A Writer’s World. You’ll get 2 free e-books on writing and marketing in the process, and two more just for stopping by.