Friday, November 30, 2012

Copyrighting Your Work by Stephanie Burkhart

The Pros, The Cons, The Ugly

What is a copyright? In a nutshell, it's where you register your written work with the Library of Congress (Washington DC). You can also register any film, vocal work, and music with them.

Many authors ask "Do I have to register a copyright?" "Aren't I protected without having to register?"

Technically, you have the copyright as soon as you write down the word. It's your intellectual property. You can still publish a short story, novella, and novel without having to register a copyright.

So what's the benefit of registering a copyright?

It's absolute proof you own the copyright in a court of law. And that's the best protection you could have.

Just recently I heard about the following scenario: An author used the KDP Select Program on Amazon to promote their book. A pirate site came along, pirated the work and attempted to pass it off as their own. They approached Amazon and asked them to take down the work. Amazon contacted the original author and told them they had to prove they had the true copyright. What's an author to do? If you can prove you have registered your copyright, you've just foiled the pirates and kept your work in good standing.

The Pros:

By registering your written work with the Library of Congress you have absolute legal proof of the copyright that will hold up in a court of law.

The Cons:
It's time consuming, costs money, and is a pain the butt. Why put up the hassle?

Let me stress: it is up to you as the author to decide if you want to register your copyright with the Library of Congress. Do your homework. You know your own situation. Remember your work is copyrighted the minute you put it on paper. You're just registering it – offering legal proof to others that the work is yours.

Recently, I decided to register some work with the Library of Congress. There are 3 options:

1. Paper
2. CO form
3. Electronically

Being kind of Internet savvy, I decided to register electronically. The benefits? It costs only $35.00, easily paid with a credit card, and it will take 3 months to receive a paper copy of proof in the mail. I went for it. Guess what? The electronic filing system is picky. It's best supported by using Internet Explorer. I have Safari. One day it worked, the other, it didn't. If you're a Safari user, be aware it's not the most compatible system and it might work one day and not the next.

You have to register for an account which is free. There are 3 steps: the form, the payment, and then uploading your work.

Take your time filling out the form. Don't rush. If its your first time, give yourself about 20 minutes. Once you're done, then you're directed to pay. This part is easy and goes quickly. You should be redirected back to the copyright area where you are prompted to upload a copy of your work. If you have a "doc" or a "pdf" it's an easy upload. If you only have a print copy of your work, then they give you the option to mail it in. Once they receive the print copy, they move forward with processing the paperwork you submitted online.

The Ugly

Using the CO form is similar. You fill out the form on your computer (downloaded from the copyright site), sign it, send it off with your payment of $50.00 and copies of your work to the Library of Congress. Turn around time is 6 months.

The TX form is nasty. Download it from the website, fill it out, enclose hardcopies of your work (1 if unpublished, 2 if published) and $65.00. Turn around time is 10 months.

See the benefits of filing electronically? I received my paper copy proofs in 3 months time. It was really easy.

Does anyone want to share their copyright experiences? Pros? Cons? Ugly? Why do you do it? Or why not? I'd love to hear your thoughts, comments, & feedback.

Author Bio: Stephanie Burkhart is a 911 Dispatcher with LAPD. Her books with 4RV Publishing include The Giving Meadow and First Flag of New Hampshire. She's married and lives in Castaic, California.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Happy Birthday 4RV Publishing

          Five years ago this month, we filed the papers to become 4RV Publishing LLC. During these five years, we have released over 100 books, have had seventy-five authors under contract. Illustrators came and went, and we had excellent ones. Thankfully, some of the best have stayed with us.

        According to what I read and what has been told to me and to others, we have a good reputation for publishing great books, quality books. Our authors and illustrators have been praised by many outside the company. Our editors have helped our books improve from the first manuscripts submitted to ready-to-print. We have an expert heading our art department, and a top of the line head of the editorial department.

         Some of our books have won awards: Confessions of a Former Rock Queen by Kirk Bjornsgaard took the Oklahoma Book Award in Fiction; Trockle by Holly Jahangiri took first in the Heartland Children's Book Award; Midnight Hours by Vivian Zabel placed first in the Heartland Fiction category, and her Prairie Dog Cowboy took first in the Young Adult category; Porcupine's Seeds by Viji Chary received the Mom's Choice Award; My Cat by Tony LoPresti received Certificate of Excellence in the category of Books for Children from CWA; Time Pullers by Horton Deakins was a finalist in the Science Fiction category in US Best Books; Walking Through Walls by Karen Cioffi was named a silver medal winner by Children's Literary Classics. I may have missed some of our awards, and if I have, I hope someone reminds me.

          4RV has done well for the first five years of its existence, thanks to a talented and hard-working staff, good writers and illustrators, and the readers who spread the word. 

4RV Publishing 
4RV Book Store  


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Dynamic Dialogue - Bring Conversation and Life to Your Writing

by Holly Jahangiri  

The Gift of Gab
      Dialogue is an important tool that every writer should strive to master. Good dialogue does the following:

  • It yanks the reader into the story, rather than keeping him at arm's length, as a casual observer.
  • It gives valuable insight into each character - his socioeconomic and educational background, his mannerisms, his thought processes, his reactions to others, his attitude.
  • It provides clues about the time period and setting.
  • It helps keep you from getting bogged down in lengthy narration, provided you don't let your speaker get bogged down in lengthy narration.
     Good dialogue is dialogue that is essential to the story or to the readers' understanding of the character. It always serves a purpose - either it moves the story forward towards its conclusion, or it illustrates an important facet of the speaker's character. Good dialogue is not idle chit-chat.

Writing Believable Dialogue
      Believable or natural dialogue is not the same as "real speech." Listen to a group of people talking in a restaurant (yes, of course - eavesdrop!). Record them, or attempt to faithfully jot down what's said. Real, everyday speech is not very interesting to the casual observer, for the most part. It won't be interesting to your readers, either. How many real conversations have you heard that are devoid of annoying little lack-of-forethought time fillers, like "well," "you know," "uh," "um," "like," and so on? A well-placed "uh" or "um" can render dialogue more believable, but use them very sparingly to avoid turning your dialogue into a sleep aid.

      Good dialogue should sound natural. One of the best ways to gauge this is to read it aloud, or ask a friend to read it aloud to you. Subvocalize, if you're very shy. If your tripping over the words, or getting your tongue wrapped around your eyeteeth and can't see what you're saying, then it's not natural.

      Try to make dialogue match character. Consider the character's socioeconomic status and background. A guttersnipe speaks differently than a college professor. Consider "My Fair Lady." It would be easy to distinguish Henry Higgins from Eliza Doolittle, even if the same person read their lines. As Eliza learns, she is more careful and precise in her speech, even, than Higgins - because she is conscious of and cares about the perceptions of others. To her, it is not a game. He can afford to be casual in his speech, even though it is not truly in his nature to be; she cannot.

      Use dropped terminal consonants (doin', goin', seein', wanna, gimme, etc.), contractions (don't, wouldn't, didn't, etc.), profanity and slang if the character would naturally use them. Pretend your mother and your Fifth Grade English teacher will never read your work. You can't be a real writer and live in fear that someone will be shocked to learn that you know "those words." Consider using profanity when it's out of character to give dialogue "shock value." For example, if the preacher's wife runs across a dead body in her geranium bed, she's not likely to say, "Oh, dear, it's a corpse." She might actually scream and yell a bad word. It'll get the reader's attention if you suddenly have a well-established character act out of character. That said, remember that profanity is the last resort of little minds, and use it sparingly - for deliberate effect.

      Show - don't tell! Make sure your characters understand this rule. Using dialogue to relate past events may tempt you to tell the story in between quotation marks. Don't let one character simply narrate the whole story. Dialogue should give us insight into each character's unique traits - it's your opportunity, regardless of the point of view from which you've chosen to write, to give the reader a glimpse of the character's thoughts and emotions. Use dialogue to show how characters respond to situations and react to one another.

A Few Quick Tips

  • Consider the character's socioeconomic and educational background.
  • Give the character a distinctive "pet phrase" or set of commonly-used expressions (e.g., "Valley Girl" speech). Be careful not to exaggerate speech mannerisms to the point of annoying the reader; a little seasoning in the pot works better than dumping in a whole jar of spice.
  • Show, don't tell! Avoid academic or wordy statements, unless they reflect a character trait.
  • Use contractions, dropped letters (goin', doin', etc.) slang, profanity, accents, etc. with deliberate intent.
  • Recognize when characters are likely to relate past events in present tense.


  • Unnecessary repetition of a phrase or idea.
  • Small talk that doesn't illustrate character OR move the story forward.
  • Having one character address another by name (they know to whom they are talking; it should be clear enough to your reader in context and by other means)
  • Wordy, academic, stiff, stilted phrases rolling off your characters' tongues, unless it's a character trait.

Notes on Formatting Dialogue

  • Dialogue starts and ends with quotation marks: " and "
  • If one speaker's lines extend beyond one paragraph, each paragraph of dialogue opens with opening quotation marks ("); the last paragraph ends with closing quotation marks (").
  • Punctuation goes inside the quotation marks: "And so," explained Liz, "that's why I killed him."
  • When one speaker is quoting another, the quotation is enclosed in single quotation marks: ' and ' For example: "I told him Liz said 'Eat more oatmeal.'"

Challenge Yourself!
      Try writing a story using nothing but dialogue between two or more characters. Don't include any dialogue tags ("he said," "she cried," etc.). See if you can convey all the elements of a good story, including distinct and interesting characters, through dialogue alone.

For more of Holly's writing, be sure to visit her blog, "It's All a Matter of Perspective" at Holly Jahangiri is a professional writer who claims, tongue-in-cheek, to channel the spirits of Edgar Allan Poe, Erma Bombeck, and O. Henry. Her books are available through 4RV Publishing  and

Thursday, November 22, 2012

My Blog's Worst Enemy

Yep, that says it in a nutshell. You see, yesterday I accidentally submitted to Blogger that my blog was spam. What I thought I was doing was listing my blog as one that was receiving spam. Oy!

I was then frantic to undo what I had done. But, apparently I'm okay, because my blog is still here, and I am able to post. Of course, then I wonder--has it just not come through yet?--or perhaps it went through but because there were no more reports, my blog is fine.

Wow, what a way to sabotage myself. But, we do that with our writing, too. We think we're being clever, but in actuality we are shooting ourselves in the foot. You know, that extra bit of description that leaves your reader's yawning, too much dialog (yes, that can happen) that leaves your reader wondering what is in the head of your protagonist, and so forth.

When I was in Chautauqua a few summers ago, my mentor wanted me to write a bit more on my story, starting it at a different page/time. So, I did. Then I reread what I had written, and decided I needed to add a couple of things. I should have left it with my original instincts. Everything I had added, he pointed out and said it didn't ring true, or didn't need to be there.

That wasn't the only time that sort of thing happened. When submitting my most recent writings to my critique group, the sections that I read and said to myself, "Oh, that it is a little off, but oh, well, it won't matter"--those are the areas that others pointed out to me that did, after all, need work. If I'd listened to myself and those "writerly" instincts if you will, I would have already straightened those sections out.

So I'm learning to trust my instincts, and not be my own worst enemy. What about you?

Katie Hines is the author of "Guardian," a middle grade urban fantasy, published by 4RV Publishing, LLC.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Spirit of Thankfulness Is Powerful

 The Spirit of Thankfulness Is Powerful by Joan Y. Edwards

Today is a great day to be thankful. Thankfulness brings you more of the good things you appreciate. A simple thank you lightens the heart and remains for a lifetime.  Thank you gives people reasons to do great things for you again.

It is a good idea to celebrate each day of your life. I believe that celebrating is a way to say thank you.

Celebrate when you get up each morning.
Be thankful when you eat every meal.
Celebrate when you learn new skills.
Be thankful for those who help you do things you can't do for yourself.
Celebrate the time you have with your family.
Be thankful for the leaders who truly care about the citizens they serve.
Celebrate the children and adults who brighten your day with a different way of looking at life.
Be thankful for the money you have.
Celebrate that you are willing to share a little of what you have with others.
Be thankful for the clothes you wear.
Celebrate that you teach others to be good stewards of every thing they own.
Be thankful that you have transportation to get where you need to go.
Celebrate the inventions of transportation that are friendly to our environment.
Be thankful for the words you write.
Celebrate the joy of hearing and reading a good story.
Be thankful that you are a part of a good story.
Celebrate the ability of a picture to be worth a thousand words.
Be thankful that you can teach others what you learned the hard way.
Celebrate the ability to laugh at your own mistakes.
Be thankful for life.
Celebrate the young, the middle-aged, and the elderly.
Be thankful for the life of your family and friends.
Celebrate you and the one who created you.
Be thankful.

Thank you to 4RV Publishing for believing in me and Joan's Elder Care Guide's with release date of June 2015.

Thankfulness doubles your power. What you give away in thoughts, words, and actions to celebrate thankfulness is returned to you. Then you will have twice as much as you had in the first place.

Thank you for reading this blog post. Celebrate you today. You are one of a kind. Why are you thankful? Count the ways and rejoice. Share them in the comment area. I'd love to read them.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Time Pullers by Horton Deakins receives honor

posted by 4RV Publishing  

      Horton Deakins' science fiction novel Time Pullers was named one of the USA Book Awards five finalists in its category. To be so honored with all the many entries is an accomplishment.

        Congratulations, Horton. 4RV is proud to see your novel added to the award winning books this year.

      Time Pullers can be found through various online and brick and mortar bookstores as well as the 4RV Bookstore.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Keep Your Website Focused

Keep Your Website Focused

By Karen Cioffi

When I first started out in the writing business, my first book was a self-published children’s picture book. And, it was co-authored.

Being a newbie and marketing illiterate, I created a website with both our names in the title . . . and in the URL.

This was my first mistake.

It’s important to create a central website or blog using your own name.

As I mentioned, I created my first site before learning the ropes. Jumping in feet first, without any thought of future endeavors, without focus.

So, you may be asking, what’s the problem with this move?

Well, nothing, if I were absolutely sure that all my future books, articles, and other writing endeavors would include that co-author.

But, as any writer can tell you, this is usually not the case. Co-authoring with a particular author, even if it’s an ongoing thing with books in a certain genre, doesn’t mean everything you write will include that author. So, having your own unique website is a must.

While I could have redirected my first site to another, it’s not the same. You end up possibly confusing readers or new visitors. And, if you don’t redirect to your new site, you’ll dilute your traffic.

The simplest fix to this problem is to avoid it.

The purpose of having your name as the site’s domain name is to create a specific brand/platform that is YOU. And, having your name as the site name will also make it easier for people searching with your name as a keyword to find you.

This is not to say that you can’t have separate sites specifically for each of your books, but it’s important to also have a site with your name as the core or hub to your operations. Remember, you are branding you as an author/writer and your branding efforts must be focused.

My second newbie mistake also had to do with branding.

If you are branding yourself as a children's writer, keep your site specific to writing for children and/or children’s books. This holds true for whatever your platform is – keep it focused.

While I really should have known better, it seems as we get caught up in our writing careers it becomes easy to forget to remain focused. And, it becomes more difficult to keep up with everything.

Remember, it's important to present a focused brand and that is especially true for your website.

So, what exactly was this branding mistake?

A lack of focus.

As I progressed in my writing, I ventured into a number of writing arenas including ghostwriting, freelance writing, and even copywriting. Instead of keeping those areas separate, I brought them into my children's writing site.

The reason this is a mistake is ‘dilution of expertise.’

In the subheading of my children’s writing site, I mentioned ghostwriting and freelance writing. Now, this may not be too far-fetched, because I do ghostwrite children's books, but my freelance business, which includes business and health writing, shouldn't detract from the focus of the children’s writing site. Business and health writing has nothing to do with children’s writing and my children’s books.

If you are branding yourself as a children's writer, the focus of your site should be children's writing and your children’s books, along with possible book marketing strategies. If you promote yourself as doing this, that, and the other thing, you'll become known as a jack of all trades and master of none, thus creating dilution of expertise.

This goes for any specific genre you’re writing in. If you intend to establish yourself as an expert in that field you need to keep your site focused. Establish your brand and promote it.

If you are involved in different writing arenas, such as business freelance writing and children's writing, create a separate site for promoting yourself as an expert in each of those areas. Each website should be focused, so you become known as a ‘master’ in that genre or field.

Boost your writing and marketing efforts with Karen Cioffi. Visit and find out why you should sign up for her FREE newsletter, The Writing World.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

How to Choose a Writing Conference

How to Choose a Writing Conference

By Suzanne Cordatos

Wee Willie Writer runs to a workshop
Uptown and Downtown never does she stop,
Tapping on an editor, crying through her tears,
“Won’t you look at mine, please?
I’ve worked on this for years!”

As my teenage daughter puts it, writing workshops exist for people like me to meet other “crazy obsessed writers.” Okay, I’ll admit I am in the danger zone of listening to the voices in my head and trapping them on paper. But a writing conference is valuable beyond the friendly camaraderie. It can be a key to vaulting your writing from habit to career. I have attended conferences of several different styles; each has benefits and drawbacks.

Questions to consider before signing up:

1.     Do you dream of one-on-one attention from a top editor or agent?

Consider the face-time you actually get. Is it a pricey extra? You might get a thoughtful critique on pre-submitted work—or a quick minute to pitch an idea. Is there mingling time or meals with editors/agents included? Research to avoid disappointment or unnecessary cost.

2.     Want to make friends with new fellow writers? Want to learn from published authors?  

If you crave being around people who “get” you as a writer, tap into the energy of a large networking conference. If you want to learn from experienced folks, consider a small, selective program requiring a writing sample for admission.

3.     Do you have a specific genre or interest group? Do you have specific needs (such as writing better dialogue or how to plot a novel?)

Christian writers, mystery and crime, children’s, romance and historical, to name a few, offer conferences/monthly meetings. Check online for session titles and faculty. Will your specific goals be addressed?

4.     Want alone time to actually write?

If a quiet house is your impossible dream, consider a writing retreat center or vacation destination in the company of other writers. 

5.     How much time can you commit? How far from home can you travel?

One-day workshops, weekend conferences, a week-long immersion or exotic retreat . . . there is a writing conference that fits you and your time/budget constraints.

“The agent will make me a star!”

Ahem. Reality check. Writers do break into publishing from conference connections, but most writers get constructive criticism. Armed with thick skin and your best work, you will hone your skills.

Let me know in the comments: Which writing conferences have you enjoyed?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Active Voice vs Passive Voice

by Vivian Zabel  

          The beat goes on: the discussion between using active and passive voice continues. First, let me say that passive voice is sometimes needed, but seldom. The use of passive voice creates weak writing, and we want strong, tight, interesting writing -- at least most readers do.

          Now, let's begin with active voice. In an active sentence, the subject does the action. A straightforward example follows: "Steve loves Amy." Steve is the subject, and he does the action: He loves Amy, the object of the sentence. Also active voice means a writer uses action verbs, not state of being verbs even as helping verbs, and active voice means an author doesn't use perfect tense (had, have, or has used as helping verbs). 

          Yes, some people believe using state of being verbs as helping verbs is still active voice, and in a way, that may be true. However, the writing is weaker. For example, the sentence "He is shooting baskets every day" is weaker than "He shoots baskets every day."

           So, what is passive voice? In passive voice, the subject of the sentence does not do anything. The action, if any, is done to it. Example, The ball was hit by the boy. How to make that sentence active voice? The boy hit the ball. 

          Of course I've simplified the difference between active and passive voice, hoping I could help writers get a handle on what each is. Writing in passive voice is easier and faster, perhaps lazy writing. If we want to be "good" writers, we need to work to make our writing the best it can be, not just the fastest and easiest it can be.

          As I stated above, passive voice is sometimes -- sometimes meaning not often at all -- needed and appropriate to use. However, if we want strong interesting writing, we will avoid it most of the time. Active voice creates more interesting writing, interesting to the reader.

          If you are a writer or editor or both, read and study until you recognize the difference between active voice and passive voice. The first step for correcting anything is to recognizing the problem or situation. The next step is to know how to correct passive voice to active voice. Usually, the revision requires rewriting the sentence or sentences so that strong action verbs are used and the subject does the acting.

Remember the 4RV Christmas special: 4RV Bookstore
Please visit the 4RV Publishing website

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Do you help other writers?

The question is when aspiring or seasoned writers have a question, need a critique, or something else, are you there to help.

Writers should be available to help other writers of any level with question about the writing and publishing process. Writers are a special group of creative people that need to support other writers whenever they can.

As an author, do you give other writers your time on social media sites, groups, or forums? This is helpful to other writers, to build a reputation, and become wider known online. We all want recognition for our work. Online networking and social media sites are what people other than other authors search.

By connecting with other authors on sites like Facebook, Google +, Stumbleupon, Pinterest, and others where you can share links about your blog(s), books, author website(s), advice for aspiring writers, how to contact you, or just to read about your latest project.
Do you cross-refer?

This is a simple way to help other authors. Place a hyperlink on your website to another author's and a reciprocal link from his or her website to yours. This is a way for each of you to help with traffic and better positioning on search engines for both of you.

There are many ways for authors to help authors establishing a web presence. Authors need a web presence if they plan to build an audience for books or an event like a book signing, radio spot, anywhere an author will be out in public. You can’t sell books if readers don’t know about it.

Do your part and help other writers.

Robert Medak
Freelance Writer/Blogger/Editor/Reviewer/

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Writing with Focus

Writing with Focus

By Karen Cioffi

You have a wonderful idea for a story. Maybe it’s a mystery novel, a children’s middle grade story, or a picture book. You know what you want to say, or convey, and you start typing away. This is the beginning of every story.

But, we should backtrack a moment and go back to the idea. The idea: your protagonist has a problem or conflict, and you can see how each chapter or section will be worked out. You are sure you can bring your idea to full fruition, without the use of an outline. Okay, that’s fine. Many writers use the by-the-seat-of-your-pants writing method.

So, off your mind and fingers fly . . . creating something from nothing . . . well, not exactly from nothing, from an idea.

This, again, is the beginning. You type a draft of your story. How long this process will take depends on how long your manuscript will be, whether a novel, short story, children’s story, or other. Take note, though, even if your story is as short as a children’s picture book, you still need focus in your writing.

According to Merriam-Webster, focus is a “point of concentration” or “directed attention,” and this is what we need to have in our writing.

Writing with Focus

Focus is the path you're on that will take you from point A to point B. It’s the path from beginning to end that keeps the story together, with directed attention, and wraps it neatly up. An example might be an ice skater whose goal is to become good enough to get into the Olympics. His focus will be to train vigorously to accomplish his goal. Another example might be that of a school bus on its route to pick up children and bring them to school. The shop is where the bus begins, point A. It will end up at the school, point B. But, between point A and point B, the bus must deviate from the direct path in order to pick up each child. 

The same holds true for your story. There is a path or focus the story needs to follow to accomplish its goal. If you deviate too much from this path your story becomes diluted or weak. This is not to say you cannot have subplots, it means everything needs to be tied together moving forward on the same path toward the same end. It needs to be focused

Using an outline can often help with maintaining focus, even with a short story. An outline is kind of a writing GPS that guides you along the way, to a focused ending. It allows you to stray here and there with the comfort of knowing that you need to be at certain points throughout the manuscript. It’s a reminder to keep you focused. 

Boost your writing and marketing efforts with Karen Cioffi. Visit and find out why you should sign up for her FREE newsletter, The Writing World.