Saturday, December 31, 2011

Marketing Thoughts - by Stephanie Burkhart

Happy New Year!

I was working on my blog post for 4RV when I saw Katie Raines had a great post on social networking and marketing strategies, so I decided to revamp mine and talk a little about everything today.


When you're first starting out, it can be uncomfortable reaching out to others – especially readers. One place where you have to be careful is the Amazon forums.

I've discovered the Amazon forums are where readers hang out, but if you don't carefully follow the rules you may sabotage your attempts to successfully market your product.

THE RULES: If you're an author, Amazon has created "Meet Our Authors" just for you. Keep your promotion about your book in this forum.

However, to be effective, you have to be social and branch out – explore other threads. They have threads for Kindles, children's writing, romance – find threads that interest you. Engage in conversations. TIP: Lurk before your post and get the "feel" for the thread and don't self-promote your book outside of the "Meet our Authors" forum or the Amazon "mean" peeps will call you out.

ANOTHER TIP: Marketing and networking can be time consuming. Be mindful of how much time you have to spend on this. I try to allot about 30-45 minutes for this.

If you stick to the above guidance, you'll gradually earn readers and before you know it, you'll see an increase in sales. Amazon readers want to read and are always looking for a good recommendation. If you can build up a solid reputation, the readers will come, but it requires patience, time, and respect for Amazon's rules.

Patience may be the crux of the marketing stragedy. In today's world, we expect results instantly and when we don't get instant results we get disappointed. If you venture out on the Amazon forums remember patience is the key to becoming successful.


I love Crystalee Calderwood's "Angeline Jellybean." Why? Because it’s a story that easily relates to young children. The 3-year-olds in my Little Church preschool class light up and love to say "Blah" right along with Angeline. When I read the book to my son's kindergarten class, they got the giggles watching the jellybeans dance in Angeline's tummy. Both classes want encores.

I love sharing books from the 4RV catalog with children and other adults I meet. The books always get a warm reception. As an author, for me, it's important to support my fellow authors. Publishing and marketing takes a team. 

Who's on the team? You, the author, your editor, your illustrator, and other authors who will help cross market your book. Build the bonds of teamwork by reaching out to other authors. "Like" their Amazon pages, Facebook pages, follow them on Twitter, buy one of their books, read it, and support. You'll find most are receptive and will do the same for you.


It's that time of the year when we look back at 2011, evaluate our ups and downs, and look forward to 2012. Some of us make resolutions, some of us prefer goals. My big resolution/goal for the upcoming year is weight loss. My #2 is to grow as a writer and a marketer. My #3 is to conquer the Amazon forums. Wish me luck.

Do you have any tips about how to be successful on Amazon? Do you want to make a comment or have a question about social networking? Do you want to share your resolutions or goals your have for 2012?

Bio: Stephanie Burkhart was born and raised in Manchester, New Hampshire. She spent 11 years in the military and now calls Castaic, CA her home. She works for LAPD as a 911 Dispatcher. Her book, "The Giving Meadow" was published with 4RV Publishing.

"Inspiration flows from the exchange of ideas."
Happy New Year to All!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Book Review -- Conscience: Breaching Social Amnesia by vehoae

          William Young gave me permission to re-post the following review of Conscience: Breaching Social Amnesia, which was posted on OKNews.

Okie Bookshelf:   Conscience: Breaching Social Amnesia

The great astrophysicist Stephen Hawking warns us that contact with alien life may not be in our best interest. After all, human history shows all too well how indigenous peoples suffer at the hands of a more technologically-advanced society.
The laws of space and time suggest that such visitations are probably not in our future. Still, if we were to awake one morning to find mother ships overhead, I suspect that a nervous Earth might hear our visitors say something like the following. (Note: just replace “Indians” with “Earthlings”):

“The utmost good faith shall always be observed towards the Indians; their lands and property shall never be taken from them without their consent; and, in their property, rights, and liberty, they shall never be invaded or disturbed.”
—[Secton 14, Article 3, Northwest Ordinance of U.S. Congress, July 13, 1787
This quote introduces Chapter 5—“What’s mine is mine. What’s yours is mine!”—of  Conscience: Breaching Social Amnesia by vehoae. In the author’s first book, she illustrates, through exhaustive research, how the perspectives and motivations of the European invaders and their progeny influenced the rhetoric, politics, and decision-making of the day regarding the continent’s Indian Nations.

Beyond the dishonest diplomacy practiced with the tribes, we are treated to the views and arguments of political and religious leaders as they sought a solution to the Indian problem. Such quotes and primary document details trace the discussions of extermination, assimilation and segregation of the tribes from early European settlement to the days of the Indian Boarding Schools.

It’s an uncomfortable history, of course. Reading about the worse angels of our nature (if I may twist the resurrected Lincoln quote) should make us feel uncomfortable. Seeing an unflattering side of American statesmen like Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson strikes at our patriotic heart.

We know this truth about our past, but some Americans would just like us to forget about it. But vehoae says, “No, look. This is what we did. Here is the proof.” Her appendix, exhibits, bibliography and end note citations take up a third of the book. (I wasn’t kidding about exhaustive research.)
While at the University of Oklahoma in the late 70s, I was lucky enough to have a class with Dr. Jerry Steffen, who warned us about condemning past generations. The future will laugh at us, and condemn us, too, he said. He reminded us to always consider past history in light of the times. This did not mean we should not pass judgements on cruelties of the past. It meant that by understanding the period of history, we could understand why such cruelties happened.

There is no advantage to ignoring our history, but there is much to gain by confronting painful truths. For what better way will we truly find the better angels of our nature?
Visit vehoae’s website to find out more about the author, her interests and her work.
Read an interview with the author, where she discusses her book and the writers that inspired her. Plus, she provides a host of research tips for non-fiction writers!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Social Networking by Katie Hines

I'm still adjusting to the idea that social networking sites, such as Twitter and Facebook, are important to me and my book, and thus, worthy of my time. Why are they, and how many should you establish a presence on?

I think exposure is the key: the more our name is in the great "out there" the more people are going to be interested in what you're doing, in what I'm doing. I'm tweeting on Twitter, and it feels so strange, because I'm not engaged in personal conversations with people. I do, however, realize that the more people that I follow (within reason), the more people will see about me and my work. The concept of tweeting 3 times a day or so takes some getting used to.

Facebook is fun, but it takes time. I have to admit this is the most fun social networking site that I'm on. I've met people I thought long gone from my life, and I'm trying to follow conversations and comment on people's walls that I think fall within the demographics of those I am wanting to reach with both my name and the name of my book.

I also belong to JacketFlap, and haven't really gotten the hang of that, either. I guess I need to make a more concerted effort to get there and "do something." Not sure what that is, yet.

In case you've never heard of JacketFlap (I hadn't heard of it until a couple of weeks ago, either), it is simply one in a list of sites I haven't heard of before. If you're into social networking--and we as authors should be--then you may want to consider some further social networking sites: Nothing Binding, Shoutlife, Live Journal, Authors Den, LinkedIn, Scribd and Axis Avenue. I have only made brief visits to these sites, so be sure and follow up on your own. Ning groups are also a great way to garner some exposure. These sites are not all social networking sites in the way Facebook or Twitter is, but are sites to be aware of where you can gain exposure and network.

Why are these sites important? Because, the more social networking groups we are a part of, the more varied of an audience we will have for our name/book. Do what I'm doing. Take the time to learn and participate. I am, and I firmly believe you will be glad you did.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Sparkle Your Words

by Wayne Harris-Wyrick  - guest contributor  

Sometime you may find yourself plodding along on that novel or article and realize that it lacks sparkle.  What can you do to add zing to your words?  Try switching genres.

Prose writing, particularly certain types of articles, is often dry and pedantic by nature.  Or so it often seems.  Even the most detailed account of how to tune up your car need not overflow with boring descriptions.  Yet readers have an expectation when they open the book or particular magazine and start to read your words.   

Try this exercise: write the first chapter of the book or major premise of your article as a poem.  Breathe new vibrancy into your work.  As Richard Pettinger wrote “A good poem should be able to lift the reader out of the ordinary and give glimpses of a more illumining reality, engage the heart of the reader, or offer hope from seemingly painful experience.”  Engage your reader’s heart, regardless of what you write.  Try it as a rhymed poem or an ancient Greek epic poem.  Or perhaps an Elizabeth Barrett Browning love poem.  “How can I fly faster than light?  Let me count the ways.”

Is your exposition flat?  Are you telling instead of showing?  Try writing the entire piece as a screenplay, allowing only dialogue and limited descriptions of the characters’ actions.  Describe your character’s physical appearance as if he or she shared a first-time intimacy with a blind person.  How would the blind lover later describe your character to their best friend the next morning?  She never saw him, so the description would have to include only what she could glean: the sound of his voice, the feel of his skin, or the taste of his lips.  She might relay how he smelled or the texture of his clothes.  Remember: this blind person isn’t giving a fashion report; she is describing a budding love relationship.

Write your science fiction or horror novel as a children’s picture book.  I know, it’s totally inappropriate for young kids, but that’s not the point.  How few words can you use to create your scene?  And imagine the illustrations that would go with it.  Better still, draw them!  Anything you can do to increase your immersion in your own story will make your words more enjoyable to your readers.

Write your YA urban fantasy as a newspaper report.  A newspaper article must have who, what, when and where in the first two paragraphs.  And newspaper editors cut from the bottom up when the article is too long to fit around the ads.  That’s why it sometimes seems as if a newspaper story was cut off in the middle.  Write it out, then remove a paragraph or two and see if it still makes sense.  You certainly don’t want your novel to read like it’s right out of the newspaper, but by going to the extreme of dry writing you may be able to drain it all out of your manuscript.

Whatever you write, use to all the instruments of in the writer’s toolbox.  If you aren’t familiar with all the tools, learn them.  Your readers will thank you for your hard work.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Add Emotions to Your Story

"Add Emotions to Your Story" by Joan Y. Edwards

Add emotions to your story. There has to be an emotional pull to get your reader to stay for the whole book. The reader has to relate to the characters in your story. If the reader doesn't feel a reason to be curious about what happens to your main character he closes your book. He has to care about what happens to him so much that he can't put the book down. He has to feel this burning desire to find out what happens to him. If the manuscript you've written isn't the best seller you had in mind, perhaps emotion is missing from it. Revamp your manuscript and let the emotions come to the surface.

Think about how you would feel if you were actually the main character in your story. What would you be afraid of? What would make you sad? What would make you so angry you'd lose your temper? What would disappoint you? What would make you so happy that you'd dance around your house seven times? Put these emotions into your story. It'll come alive. The emotions give your reader a reason to like the character and care what happens. It pulls your reader into your story at the beginning and he'll stay with you to find out what happens along the way. He'll turn the pages and anxiously anticipate what happens at the very end.

Writers know in their heads what the characters are feeling. The problem comes in describing it in the story so that readers know without a doubt what's going on and can relate to them. You want them to have compassion for them. Be angry with them. Cheer them on through their next problem until they reach their goal. The reader wants to hear more and more about that character in the story, as if he was a real person.

Donald Maass in a workshop at the Pike's Peak Writer's Conference in 2010 said you must have tension in your story. The dialogue and the descriptions have to show both sides of the picture. Your story must show how the character is pulled in two directions. First, believe they can get the job or goal. Second, believe there is no way they can get the job or reach the goal. The main character mayt have doubts because of the way he fouled it up last time.

Inside our heads every day, we have at least 50,000 thoughts. We have these opposite points of view that creates tension in our lives. So do the characters in your story. Show they're human. Share their thoughts. Their thoughts depict their emotions. Give your character one big strength and one big weakness, or give them one small strength and show its growth through your story. Each of us has strengths and weaknesses. Our humanity is what we have in common with other people.  Readers are hungry to interact with the characters in your story. So fill your story with tension and emotion.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Writing as an Editor or Proof Reader

by Vivian Zabel 

          When editors or proof readers write an evaluation or suggestions for revisions in paragraph form, they are putting their writing "out there" to be observed and critiqued by others.

           What do I mean, you ask? Let me give an example. Let's say I've acted as an acquisition editor and have prepared an evaluation. If I write something like the next paragraph, what kind of impression am I going to leave on my supervisor, the author, or anyone else who reads what I wrote:

           I did like Running Backward trhough the Streets, but I found lots of misunderstood parts.  When characters talk, each one should have its own para. The time line should be consistent and plot should make sense.

          How could I make that a better paragraph? Let's see.
         I enjoyed reading Running Backward through the Streets, but some sections confused me. The wording and sentence structure caused misunderstanding. (give example of a confusing section and suggestion for revision) When different characters speak, paragraphs change. For example when John talks and perhaps a bit of action, one paragraph is required. Then when Mary speaks, a new paragraph begins. The time line and plot are not consistent, understandable, or in cohesive order.
          The acquisition editor who writes a sloppy evaluation causes the author to wonder if he or she wants to do business with a publisher who has staff members who cannot write coherently.

          A lead editor or proof reader who writes suggestions in paragraph format should also be as careful about his/her writing, making sure it is clear with extremely few, preferably no mechanical or grammatical problems. 

          Remember, we're putting our own writing on display when we write as an editor or proof reader. We don't want readers making snide remarks such as, "This person calls himself an editor? Ha! I can write as good as he can."

4RV Publishing website
4RV Bookstore

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Promotion: Tumbleweed Christmas

posted by Vivian Zabel  

          One of the Christmas releases from 4RV Publishing is Tumbleweed Christmas by Beverly Stowe McClure and illustrated by Bridget McKenna.  The following is a trailer of the book:

The book can be purchased from the 4RV Bookstore.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Join in the Conversation!

a guest post by Holly Jahangiri

Join in the Conversation!

You’ve spent time building your blog. You’ve written killer content, found or created an attractive template to show it off, baked cookies, sent out engraved invitations, and…what? Now you wait?

If only that were enough! Here are a few tips for bringing readers to your blog:

Research other blogs – not only blogs in your niche, but blogs run by your readers.

Every time you visit a blog, do as many of the following as you can spare the time for:
  • Leave a meaningful comment. Never just say “great post” or “interesting” unless you want to be mistaken for a spammer. Refer to the blogger by name. Mention something specific you liked or didn’t like about the post. Share a story of your own.  This is a great way to leave “breadcrumbs” back to your own blog, especially if you’re lucky enough to be commenting on a blog with CommentLuv+ or CommentLuv Premium. (If you buy CommentLuv Premium, you will always get a choice of 10 posts from your own blog to choose from when leaving comments on others’ blogs.)
  • Share the posts you find interesting. If there are share buttons, use them – Facebook “Like” or share; Twitter; Google +1; LinkedIN, and StumbleUpon.
  • On Twitter, be sure to share useful information. Try a tweet that starts out, “Did you know… “ and follow it with a grammar tip or publishing statistic. Every fifth tweet or so, plug your book or your latest post. Use Tweetdeck (it’s free!) to manage multiple Twitter accounts (perhaps your characters, like @Trockle, have their own?) and schedule Tweets to space them out throughout the day.

Part Calling Card, Part Writing Sample

Remember that every comment and link you leave on others’ posts is your “calling card.” As a writer or other book publishing professional, you want to make a good impression – and comments are forever. So before you Submit, be sure to proofread your comment. It doesn’t have to be perfect every time, but you ought to make an effort. Try not to criticize others’ spelling, grammar, or punctuation though. About 80% of the time, the more critical the blogger the better the odds of his own comments containing grievous errors!

Backlinks Beget Backlinks

When crafting your posts, reward great content and interesting or helpful bloggers by adding links to their posts. Make sure your “anchor text” (the text that a reader clicks to get to the other blog) is meaningful and also something people are likely to be searching for online, and make sure that it opens in a new tab or window so that readers of your blog won’t get whisked away, never to return. A good backlink might look something like this:

For a great bedtime story to help kids get over their fear of monsters under the bed…

To code that, you’d type the following:

For a great <a alt="Trockle is a great bedtime story to help kids get over their fear of monsters under the bed." href="" target="new">bedtime story</a> to help kids get over their fear of monsters under the bed…

The alt tag is used to help visually impair readers understand more about the link. A good screen reader program will read that to them. Search engines look for that information, too. Just make sure that when you put keywords in alt tags, they’re helpful to both people and search engines!

The target tag ensures that the reader won't be yanked off your page to go read the other blogs you've recommended in your post. They'll be able to refer to both - side by side, if they want to!

Just remember - it's not enough to build it and hope for readers to come. You have to show them the way and make them feel welcome.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Even Seasoned Authors need to do this

As an avid read and reviewer of numerous books, it pains me as both when I see inconsistencies and incongruity in stories.

For newer authors, all facts, timelines, as well as double-checking any real places should be for accuracy. Nothing will turn off a reader faster than reading about a character in the 1960s watching a program that wasn’t on-air until the 1970s.

If your story takes place in a town somewhere such as San Diego, CA as a television show did and someone that knows the town where they live, like San Pedro, CA close to three-hundred miles apart, and recognize buildings in San Pedro, you have a problem with reality and believability for your setting.

As Mark Twain said, “The difference between the almost right word & the right word is really a large matter–it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”

Never trust spellcheckers and grammar checkers, spellcheckers only tell whether or not a word is spelled correctly, not if it’s the correct word in your manuscript. The same goes for grammar checkers, they do not deal well with creativity in writing.

“You don’t write because you want to say something; you write because you have something to say.” — F. Scott Fitzgerald. Be sure that you have what you want to say organized.

Real writing is rewriting and editing. Always have a second pair of eyes read your work, someone who will tell you the truth, not what they think you want to hear.

A critique, especially for the newer writer is less than no critique if there is no constructive feedback.

Robert Medak

Freelance Writer/Editor/Reviewer/Marketer

Robert J Medak Writing & More

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Five Ways to Avoid Boring Writing

 by Vivian Zabel 

          At times, readers feel as if writers are using a completely different language, or at least a completely boring one. I tried to read three different books last week, two of which were mysteries or sub-mystery genre. I couldn't force myself to plow through the words between the covers.

          I'm a avid reader. When I can't find anything else, I may read the back of cereal boxes. But these books defied my attempts to force myself to read them. So, I decided to analyze the problem or problems as to why the reading was labored and uninteresting.

          Using three books (but not identifying them to protect the poor authors) as examples, I can give several reasons that books can be unreadable, things that an author needs to avoid. However, this time I'll discuss five.

1.Too many subplots can become confusing. Confusing, and thus losing, readers isn't a good thing. That doesn't mean that having subplots is a bad thing, just that too many spoil the book. Too many subplots makes the overall plot too complex.

2. Making "make-believe" world unbelievable. Readers can suspend belief IF authors develop a world in writing that a reader can accept, can suspend belief enough to accept. However, a reader must be able to say, "Oh, yes, I can see how that might happen if such a world or circumstances did exist." Therefore, as Laura Whitcomb states (Writer's Digest, March/April 2009), "Readers need to buy into the reality put forward by what they're reading." An author cannot go too far with a plot point or not far enough as the reading audience is being prepared. The plot cannot become too far fetched, or readers will not be able to suspend belief enough to accept it.

3. Dialogue can't be just talking heads. Action needs to be involved as well as conversation, and conversation with action should move the plot along and reveal character.

4. An unsatisfactory conclusion should be avoided. A twist or surprising ending that has a good foundation laid in the story can be creative. An ending that does not "fit" is bad.

5. Forced emotion can destroy believability. Most people do not sit mulling over their inner most thoughts and emotions in the midst of action. Yet, I'm discovering many novels that have a character do just that. Not only does such needless and in depth thinking tell and not show, but it becomes monotonous.

          There, five ways that cause books to become targets for the waste basket, when avoided, can improve a story. Of course more ways exist, but those can be covered another time.

4RV Publishing website  
4RV Bookstore 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Writing Books for Children: Submissions

The foundation of writing for children, or any genre for that matter, is to learn the craft of writing. In regard to being a children’s author you will need to learn the specific rules and tricks to create appropriate stories with age-appropriate words and storylines.

Once you have taken the time to hone your craft and have critiqued, revised, and edited your manuscript to a polished state, it’s on to the next phases of the traditional writing books for children path: submissions, promotion, and a writing career. This article discusses submissions.

Writing Books for Children: Submissions

Before you think about submitting your work anywhere, be sure you’ve completed the necessary steps to learn the craft of writing. You’re manuscript needs to be as polished as you can possibly get it.

Submissions can fall into two categories: those to publishers and those to agents. In regard to submitting to agents, in a webinar presented by Writer’s Digest, agent Mary Kole advised to “research agents.” This means to find out what type of agent they are in regard to the genre they work with and the agent platform they provide: do they coddle their authors, do they crack the whip, are they aggressive, passive, involved, or complacent. Know what you’re getting into before querying an agent, and especially before signing a contract.

Here are two sites you can visit to learn about agents:

The same advice works for submitting to publishers also; research publishers before submitting to them. Know which genres of children’s books they handle and the type of storylines they’re looking for.

Whether submitting to a publisher or an agent, always follow the guidelines and always personalize the query. There may be times the guidelines do not provide the name of the editor to send the query to, but if you can find that information, use it.

According to Mary Kole, it’s also important to know how to pitch your story. This entails finding the story’s hook. Agents and publishers also want to know what the book’s selling points will be and what successful books it’s similar to. In addition, they will expect to be told what your marketing strategy will be. It’s a good idea to create an online presence and platform before you begin submissions; let the agents and publishers know you will actively market your book.

Along with the story’s hook, you need to convey: who your main character is and what he/she is about; the action that drives the story; the main character’s obstacle, and if the main character doesn’t overcome the obstacle, what’s at stake.

Ms. Kole recommends reading “the back of published books” to see how they briefly and effectively convey the essence of the story. This will give you an idea of how to create your own synopsis.

When querying, keep your pitch short and professional, and keep your bio brief and relevant. You will need to grab the editor or agent and make them want to read your manuscript.

Here are four tools you can use to help find a publisher or agent:

•    Writers Market: Where and How to Sell What You Write
•    Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market: Over 700 listings for book publisher’s, magazines, agents, art reps, and more
•    Guide to Literary Agents: Where and How to Find the Right Agents to Represent Your Work
• Online resource to help you sell what you write

Karen Cioffi is an author, ghostwriter, freelance writer, and editor. To learn more about writing and marketing visit While there, sign up for A Writer's World newsletter; you'll get two free site-related e-books in the process.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Remembering the late Tony Hillerman

by Vivian Zabel  

          Tony Hillerman, one of my favorite authors, and I met about five years before he laid his typewriter/ computer aside for a heavenly one. Anthony Grove Hillerman, born and raised in Oklahoma, was born May 27, 1925 and died October 26, 2008. He has been gone for over three years, but his words live on.  I'm going to share an tribute I wrote about Tony, who said he was prude and signed one of his books to me, "From one prude to another."  

          I've been fortune enough to meet several of my mystery/suspense/thriller writing heroes --

          I heard that. So you don't think we old fogies should have or do have heroes, huh? Well, young whipper snapper let me tell you a thing or three: Just because we have lived long enough to be considered experts or leaders or even folks who have outlived everyone else, we still have people we admire and dream of being when we grow up.

          I attended the Red Dirt Book Festival in 2003, the first one held. The featured speaker was Tony Hillerman. I not only attended all of his sessions, I was able to visit with him outside of the structured events. What a delightful man. His mysteries fascinated me because he wove the suspense into his knowledge of the Navajo culture. He autographed two of his books, but the autograph in his autobiography was personal and touching. I'll miss Tony Hillerman; Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee can be found again in the books that Tony left behind.

         One thing he shared with us that weekend years ago, some people around him in the publishing business considered him a prude because he didn’t include sexual scenes. One person told him the closest he came to sexual tension was to have a man and woman shake hands.

          Many people have written about Tony over the years, and since his death, but one article that best explains his books is an article by the author himself: “Behind the Books” by Tony Hillerman.  I advise anyone and everyone to read that essay.

          Yes, years have passed since Tony Hillerman left us, but a part of him will always remain.

4RV Publishing website  
4RV Bookstore  

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Promotion: Review of A Distant Summer -- The Midwest Book Review

posted by Vivian Zabel 

          A Distant Summer by Mike McNair is reviewed in the October issue of The Midwest Book Review.

A Distant Summer
Mike McNair
4RV Publishing LLC
PO Box 6482, Edmond OK 73083
9780982588680, $17.99

Mike McNair introduces this coming of age story, A Distant Summer, with the memories of Mike Long, a physics professor, who has returned to his home town to attend The Commander's funeral.

"He looked about. At least some things in the little southern Indiana town that straddled the Gibson-Vanderburgh county line had stayed the same. Oak was narrow, like most Potter streets, in sharp contrast to the familiar Madison, Wisconsin multilane thoroughfares."

Players in this memory included Jim, the owner of Squall Baby, a barn pigeon, Mike's grandfather, Heidi, Mike's secret love interest (as far back as first grade) and various other relatives and townspeople, both good and bad.

As the story unfolds, Mike visits some of his old haunts that bring back memories of his fifth grade year and the following summer. During this time frame, Jim and Mike accept a new member of the secret agents, come up with a few new types of "secret missions" involving Squall Baby, save a mother and son from an abusive husband and the boys are kidnapped. The story of these and other escapades are the core of the adventures the three boys and the pigeon go through.

You must read this book to fill in the missing pieces and find out what happens. It will surprise, sadden and delight you.

The author is a retired English teacher and counselor who now spends his time writing. He writes a biweekly humor column for the Midwest News, an online newspaper that serves southwest Wisconsin and northwest Iowa. He also writes an e-publication called the Hooticat Newsletter that he sends out to annoy relatives. He has two grown children and lives in Richland Center, Wisconsin with his wife, Nancy.

Katherine Boyer

          A Distant Summer is available during the holiday sale on the 4RV Bookstore.

4RV Publishing website  

Monday, December 5, 2011

Writing Books for Children: The Traditional Publishing Path

Children’s books usually fall into one of three categories: picture books, middle grade, and young adult. To become published in any of these genres, you need to take the necessary steps to achieve success whether aiming at traditional publishing or self-publishing.

In regard to traditional publishing, there are four steps needed to become a traditionally published author; the first step is writing.

Actually writing, and all that it entails, is the basis of becoming a published author or writer, whether writing books, articles, becoming a ghostwriter, or copywriter. Within this first writing step, there are four subcategories.

Writing for Children: Four Traditional Publishing Steps

1. Writing and Reading

The first step for a successful writing career is to write. But, simply writing isn’t enough, the new writer will need to learn the craft of writing, along with the particular tricks of writing for children. Writing for children is more complicated than other forms of writing. The reason is because you’re dealing with children.

Rules, such as age-appropriate words, age-appropriate topics, age-appropriate comprehension, storylines and formatting are all features that need to be tackled when writing for children.

Within the first step rung, aside from reading books and magazines on the craft of writing, you will need to read, read, and read in the genre you want to write. Pay special attention to recently published books and their publishers. What works in these books? What type of style is the author using? What topics/storylines are publisher’s publishing?

Dissect these books, and you might even write or type them word-for-word to get a feel for writing that works. This is a trick that writers new to copywriting use – you can trick your brain into knowing the right way to write for a particular genre or field. Well, not so much trick your brain as teach it by copying effective writing. Just remember, this is for the learning process only – you cannot use someone else’s work, that’s plagiarism. 

2. Writing for Children and Critiques

The next step, number two, is to become part of a critique group and have your work critiqued.

Critiquing is a two-way street; you will critique the work of other members of the critique group and they will critique yours. But, there are advantages to critiquing other writers’ works – you begin to see errors quickly and notice what’s being done right. This all helps you hone your craft.

3. Writing for Children: Revisions and Edits

Step three on the writing rung is to revise your manuscript based on your own input and that of your critique group. This process should go on until the manuscript is as good as you can get it. It’s recommended to put the story away for a couple of weeks and then revisit it. You’ll see a number of areas that may need tweaking and revising that you hadn’t noticed before.

Then it's on to self-editing and proofreading. The article links below have a number of self-editing steps you can use to help in the process:

Ten Tips Checklist for Self-Editing Part 1

Final stages of Self-Editing Part 1

4. Writing for Children: Take it to a Professional

It would also be advisable to budget for a professional editing of your manuscript before you begin submissions. No matter how careful you and your critique partners are, a working editor will pick up things you missed. If your budget just doesn’t have enough for a professional edit, read everything you can on self-editing; the article links above have some helpful tips. Then, apply what you learn to your manuscript.

Once you have a polished manuscript, the next three steps in a writing career are: submissions, a contract and sales, and a writing career.

It’s important to mention that the above four steps should be taken whether you are going the traditional publishing route or you’re going to self-publish. Just because you may be by-passing the publisher’s gatekeepers, who protect the integrity and quality of the work they accept, your manuscript should be the best possible, a quality product.

Self-publishing is not an excuse to cut corners, rush a book, or create a substandard product. Remember that your book is a reflection of you and your writing ability.

Karen Cioffi is an author, ghostwriter, freelance writer, and editor. To learn more about writing and marketing visit While there, sign up for A Writer's World newsletter; you'll get two free site-related e-books in the process.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Promotion - Author Jim Laughter's TV interview

posted by Vivian Zabel  

         Jim Laughter appeared on Channel 8 in Tulsa, Oklahoma Thursday morning, December 1. Below is the interview.

          He did a very good job, and the books discussed include Strangers in the Stable from 4RV and another of his books recently released from another source. However, Jim had a problem with Aidana WillowRaven's name, which gives me the opportunity to help everyone understand how to pronounce her name: Uh donna and WillowRaven all one word. Hope that helps.

          Now, let's watch Jim's interview (which comes after the advertisement):

4RV Publishing website
4RV Bookstore - sale still in effect. Orders made after December 5 aren't guaranteed for delivery before Christmas.

Never Trust Your Spell-Checker

by Laurie Boris

It’s all Maria Mariana’s fault. She was one in a group of six linguists from Georgetown University who, back in the 70s, first developed an automated way to check spelling and grammar on word processing programs for IBM. Perhaps she meant well. Thought it would be a good thing to create this seductive monster that can batch-attack the often time-consuming and ponderous human task of checking one’s work for errors.

Backfire, Maria. Semi-total epic FAIL! Spell-check has made us lazy. It has lulled us into a false sense of security with its offers to change your grammar or correct that questionable word. We all have stories of spell-checking failure, some with embarrassing and humorous results. Here are a few more reasons you should never trust that pathetic plug-in with your important work.

1. Spell-checkers are notoriously obtuse.

Consider the following passage: “My physical therapist worked out a weight-bearing routine for me that stimulates my osteoblasts, which are the cells that build new bone.” The spelling and grammar checker in my version of Microsoft Word wants to replace “stimulate” for “stimulates.” It believes that the subject that is being stimulated is plural…actually, I have no idea what it believes. It’s just wrong.

2. Spell-checkers can’t parse your intentions.

Example dialogue: “Pete’s working again.” Spell-check suggestions for this alleged error in “subject-verb agreement” include “Pete’s is working” or “Pete’s was working.” The writer’s intention was to state that Pete is once again gainfully employed. But good old SC doesn’t know this, and assumes that something of Pete’s is now or formerly was functional.

3. Spell-checkers can’t find missing words.

“Ted raced the sink” has a rather different meaning than “Ted raced to the sink.” In a long document like a novel manuscript, particularly one you’ve been poring over draft after draft, your brain will supply the missing word. So, you may miss it in the proofreading and lead your readers to believe Ted has been imbibing and sincerely believes he and the sink are in competition.

4. Spell-checkers can auto-correct you into situations in which you do not want to be auto-corrected.

A former colleague, who normally relied upon his assistant to correct and send out his correspondence, decided to give her a break and take care of some of his own. In an e-mail that went out to the entire sales staff, he intended to ask for their opinions on a new sales program. He ended with, “I look forward to seeing your evaluation.” Only, because of his less-than-stellar keyboarding skills, his spell-check program decided he meant to type “ejaculation.” Yeah. It went out that way.

4. Spell-checkers won’t tell you if your formatting is inconsistent.

This is one reason why you should never abandon something as format-dependent as your press kit, resume, or book proposal solely to the eye-chips of your computer program. It won’t tell you that you’ve ended some bullet-text items with periods and left them off others. It won’t tell you a heading is in the wrong font or tabbed in too far. It’s CRUCIAL to swing these details by human eyeballs.

5. Spell-checkers don’t measure up to humans…at least not yet.

Flawed as we are, we’re still better than a machine at certain tasks, like knowing what we meant to say. Don’t have time to proofread or can’t tell if your participles are dangling or your infinitives are split? Hire a human.

Laurie Boris is the author of The Joke's on Me, from 4RV Publishing. She also blogs about writing, books, and the language of popular culture at