Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Reading to Improve Writing

by Vivian Zabel 

    Anyone who has attended classes about writing or who has been in sessions at conferences or who has read books or magazines about writing came across the adage at least once: "To be a good writer, read, read, read, read."

   I know what at least one reader thinks, "How can I learn anything if what I'm reading isn't worth reading?" Good question. However, reading bad writing can help a person become a better writer IF he realizes the writing isn't good. He can learn what or how not to write.

       Now, back to reading helping people become better writers.   When I took composition classes in college, I often became frustrated with all the reading I had to do, story after story after story, many times thousands of pages per assignment. Yet, as we discussed the stories and what made them interesting, or what didn’t, I was learning how to write. Even today, as I read and review on Writing.Com and for NovelSpot, I learn more about what makes a good story and what doesn’t. In fact every time I read someone else's work, I learn and share.

         I used the reading, discussion, and then writing idea when I taught, too. I tried to highlight one or two concepts per story, then had the students write something using those concepts and any others we had already covered. First, however, came reading and reading and reading.

        As I read the September, 2005, issue of The Writer, I discovered an article by Erika Dreifus titled “Learning short-story writing by example." She agrees with my university professors and me: “We learn by reading closely and reading as writers – attending to the ways others employ the elements of fiction: setting, plot, character, theme, and so on.”

        So where can a person find short stories to study, ones that will help him or her learn correct story writing? Of course books of short stories are found in all book stores. In fact, Holly Jahangiri and I have a collection of short stories for sale on the 4RV Bookstore, Amazon, and through brick 'n mortar stores, Hidden Lies and Other Stories. Plus many bookstores connected to colleges have anthologies for sale. If someone couldn’t afford to buy a new anthology or collection, used bookstores or libraries carry them. Using the library's copy is free.
      The best help found in reading to learn to write is to read well-written stories, and read, read, read. Reading well-written novels helps one to learn to write, too, for developing longer plots and sub-plots, for building consistency for longer works. As I stated above, reading even bad material gives ideas of how not to write. 

        Any writer who doesn't find time to read is hurting his writing craft and short-changing his readers.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Marketing Tips - Using GoodReads to your advantage

by: Stephanie Burkhart

Some of you may be asking what is "GoodReads?" Simply put, it's a social cataloging site primarily to read and rate books. It's a great place to connect with other authors and readers. There's over 12 million members and over 20,000 groups – and you can download a GoodReads for your phone.

As an author, how does GoodReads benefit me?

First, it's a marketing tool. It helps you get your name out there in front of readers. Just don't expect it to happen overnight. Social networking takes time to build up a presence.  If you determine you want to use GoodReads, be sure to budget at least 5-10 minutes to hang out daily and build your "brand."

What are the benefits?

Exposure to readers. Remember there's over 12 million readers on the site. You get your own personal profile when you sign up. You can arrange to have your blog's RSS feed highlight your blog on the site. You can upload video trailers of your novels as well.

The Book Shelf

In your profile is your book shelf. You can add books to your shelf. I organize mine: books I wrote, books I want to read, book I read, and currently reading. As an author, I read, rate, and review on GoodReads, too.

Creating Buzz

Do you have a new book coming out? GoodReads is a great place to create buzz.

#1 – Create your book's page in advance so people can start putting it in their "want to read" shelf.

#2 – Find a group that fits your book's genre and put out a call for readers with your ARC. Give out your ARC.

#3 – Post a notice in the appropriate groups about your book's upcoming release.

#4 – Post a first chapter so readers can get a feel for the book.

#5 – Post a "general update" with your upcoming release.

Be Interactive

If you're interactive on GoodReads, others will interact with you.

Join some groups
Use your blog
Make friends
Post positive reviews (and remember a "3" is a good rating)
Post a giveaway on your books. You'll get lots of people to sign up – and that's exposure.

I'd love to hear your thoughts, comments, questions, and feedback on GoodReads. Do you use the site? Why or why not? What do you like about it? Any tips to share?

If you'd like, I have a PDF I can share. Let me know if you're interested.

Author Bio: Stephanie Burkhart is a 911 dispatcher for LAPD. Her book, First Flag of New Hampshire placed 8th in the 2013 Predators and Editors poll in Print/Ebooks: Children category.  She loves Starbucks, coffee and Andes Mints.








Friday, January 25, 2013

How can authors help editors and designers?

      The best way for a writer to help his/her editor and/or designer is to be consistent. I hope everyone understands what consistency means. According to the dictionary, consistency means agreement, harmony, or compatibility, especially correspondence or uniformity among the parts of a complex thing. Synonyms found in The Random House Thesaurus include harmony, unity, uniformity, agreement. Antonyms are inconsistency, disharmony, disagreement. Therefore, how are some ways to create consistency in writing? Let's examine a few, even if not all, ways.
  1. Use correct verb tenses and subject/verb agreements. Don't use the wrong form of a verb with a subject. Don't switch from present tense to past or past to present.
  2. Use correct point of view. If an author uses first person, then only what is seen, heard, or felt by the narrator can be revealed unless another person gives the narrator the information. If third person limited is used, then only the sounds, words, actions, feelings experienced by the character whose POV is used can be expressed: again, unless told to that character by another. If third person omniscient is chosen, then changes between different characters' perspectives shouldn't be quick back and forth. That action could cause whiplash in a reader's mind. Changes in perspective should occur with scene or chapter changes.
  3. Indent paragraphs with the tab key, not the space bar. Indent anything with the tab key, not the space bar.
  4. Number chapters the same: Chapter 1, Chapter 2, etc.; Chapter One, Chapter Two, etc.; CHAPTER 2, CHAPTER 3, etc. For example, we don't use Chapter 1, Chapter Two, CHAPTER THREE.
  5. Avoid double spacing one place and single spacing others, unless necessary for a particular reason, such as single spacing a block quote.
  6. If asterisks or some such symbol are not used to show time or scene changes, leave extra spaces between the last paragraph of the first time period or scene and the next time period or scene. Use the same procedure for each and every change.
  7. Avoid fancy fonts. It is better to use a common font, such as Times New Roman, and size, usually 12, for the majority of the manuscript. If something should need to appear "different" from the rest of the manuscript, still don't use a font not commonly found in Word.
  8. Use files in the program requested by the publisher. Usually MS Word is needed. Different programs result in someone not able to open a file or strange symbols appearing. 
  9. Follow directions and guidelines.
  10. Be sure your writing is concise, clear, coherent, and has correct grammar. In other words, write well. 
     Those tips above are just a few of the common problems editors and designers find when they try to work with manuscripts. Yes, more exist, but let's begin with these.

4RV Publishing 
4RV Bookstore     

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A Fresh Attitude Helps

As of this writing, it's Monday again, and time to start the week with a fresh attitude, and boy have I needed one! I've decided to look at my "failures" of not keeping up with emails, not posting other writer's interviews, not working on any of my WIPs, not as failures but as impetus to start new and fresh.

It can be hard not to think of oneself as a failure, especially when you've allowed yourself to moan, groan, and bitch about your writing life.

I freely participated in a downhill spiral of missed communications and depression about my books sales (or lack thereof).

But I've bolstered my flagging spirits with the good news that has surrounded me if I were only but to look: all my library visits were a great success! All six copies of my book at the local library system have been steadily checked. Yippee! Another librarian in another state is ordering six copies for her library. Another yippee! My native American tribe posted a full-page ad in the newsletter about my book.

Apart from annoying spammers that I can't seem to get rid of, my blog is going well, and I have plenty of guest bloggers to share.

Sure, I haven't worked on my books, but I have allowed myself to do some brainstorming and free association on a couple of them, so I've lots of fresh ideas and I'm anxious to get to work.

See, you can pull yourselves up by looking at the positive rather than the negative. It's working for me. What about for you?

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

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Five SEO Blog Tips to Help Increase Traffic to Your Site

If you’re new to the writing game, you may not be aware of some of the essential steps needed to actually get in the game - steps that will make your name and brand visible. And, visibility is a ‘biggie’ if you want to increase traffic to your site and move forward in your writing career.

One very interesting fact about having content online is you never know who will end up finding it. It could be an agent, a publisher, someone who wants to hire you for your writing style. You get the idea.

Why is it important to become familiar with SEO blog tips?

Simply put, the answer is to generate visibility.

Writing is no longer a solitary career. Now, if you want to create and build visibility, along with readers to your site (traffic), you need to build an online platform and promote it.

So, what are some tips to help you get started in the right direction?

Well, the very first and most obvious tip is to have a website or blogsite. Once you have one set up, it’s your job to post content to it on a regular basis, no less than once a week, two or three times a week is better though.

It’s that content that will establish you as an expert in your genre or area. This will help you down the road, after you’ve traditionally published or self-published one, five, ten, or more books and/or e-books, and you want to expand your writing career.

But, before we go over five of the basic SEO blog tips for new writers, let’s first go over what SEO actually stands for: Search Engine Optimization. This marketing strategy allows the search engines, such as Google, to find your site and content.

Being aware of SEO strategies is essential to having the search engines not only find your site, but to also index your content, and make it available to online searchers.

Five SEO Blog Tips:

1. Use a keyword in your article title. Try one of the free keyword search tools to find an effective keyword. I use

A keyword, according to, is “any word or phrase a searcher might use to describe or identify a desired resource on the Internet.”

2. Use that keyword in your article’s subheadings, and be sure to bold or italicize your subheadings.

3. Use that keyword within the content – just don’t overdo it. You don’t want to stuff your article with as many ‘visibility generating’ keywords you can fit in, search engines frown upon this practice. Your article needs to be an informative, engaging, and understandable.

You primary focus should be to write for your reader. Today, for effective marketing your content needs to be shareable. This means your readers need to feel motivated to ‘share’ the post.

4. When searching for effective keywords, look for long-tail keywords. Long-tail keywords are words that will move you away from highly competitive keywords.

As an example, if you write business articles, a generic and highly competitive keyword might be ‘incentives.’ I did a Google keyword search and the keyword ‘incentives’ came in at: 1,500,000 global monthly searches, and 823,000 local monthly searches. Obviously, you wouldn’t want to use a keyword with that much competition.

That’s where the long-tail keyword comes in.

If you used the keyword ‘business incentive,’ you’d reduce your competition to 22,200 global monthly searches and 14,800 local monthly searches. That’s quite a difference, and it narrows your target. Remember, you want to hit as close to your target market bulls-eye as possible.

5. The final bit of advice is to let the social networking sites know you have new content. Post the content link to Twitter, Facebook, GooglePlus, Digg, StumbleUpon, etc. You should also inform your groups. Get the word out. And, be sure to have a SHARE button so visitors can share the post also.

Boost your writing and marketing efforts with Karen Cioffi. Visit and sign up for her FREE newsletter, The Writing World (top right sidebar).

Friday, January 18, 2013

4RV Preditors & Editors results

     Critters Workshop sponsors the  Preditors & Editors Readers Poll each year. This year several nominations were from 4RV Publishing: Children's books, Young Adult books, Artwork from books, Book Covers, Publisher, Author, Artist, and Bookstore. Of those, we had seven (7) that placed in the top 10, the only places that actually count.
        The first on the list, Children's books with two nominations from 4RV, had one place. First Flag of New Hampshire by Stephanie Burkhart, illustrated by Ginger Nielson took 8th place.

       Nominated in Young Adult books were two from 4RV, but only one placed - A Shadow in the Past 3rd. The novel, written by Melanie Robertson-King, also helped Aidana WillowRaven, who designed the cover art, earn 9th place in the Artist category and tie for 6th place in Artwork.

    Ginger Nielson, tying with Aidana WillowRaven for 6th place in the Artwork category, wrote and illustrated Willow, an Elephant's Tale.  

     In the Author category, Vivian Zabel placed 6th.

    4RV Bookstore took 3rd in the bookstore category.  

    Congratulations to everyone who placed.           


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Have Fun with Words

"Have Fun with Words" by Joan Y. Edwards

After listening to John Claude Bemis at a Carolina's SCBWI conference in September 2011, I ordered a book that has exercises similar to the ones he mentioned. It is called Writing Open the Mind by Andy Couturier

In this book, Couturier has exercises to experiment with your writing by using different words, settings, plots, and other writing topics. It was fun for me to use words from unusual, random places. It gave me many new words and ideas for my project for National Novel Writing Month. Perhaps it’ll help you with your writing, too.

Keep a section in your writing notebook for the words that intrigue you. Put them on note cards or sticky notes. Here are ten words I chose because of their sound, emotion, or meaning:

  1. dude
  2. spry
  3. slowly
  4. tantalize
  5. persecute
  6. amaze
  7. abandoned
  8. fabulous
  9. comforting
  10. scintillating
Write down:

  • ten of your favorite settings, places you’d like to be;
  • ten settings where you’d most hate being.
  • ten names you like; ten names you hate.
  • ten towns you like. ten towns you’d hate to be from (perhaps your antagonist can be from there)
  • ten tragic things that could happen to the main character in your work in progress; ten ways your character can make them worse.
  • ten jobs you’d love to have; ten jobs you’d hate to have
  • ten most proud things that could happen to you or to your main character; ten most embarrassing things that could happen to you or to your main character
  • ten of your favorite foods; ten of your most hated foods
  • ten of your favorite sayings; ten of your most hated sayings

Choose words from newspapers, magazines, books, signs, websites, dictionaries, maps, television, movies, etc. Use words your family and friends say.  Write down words that pop out at you or magnetize you. I even used a crossword puzzle book and wrote down all the words that called out to me.

I chose ten words and put them at the bottom of the manuscript I was working on at the time. I did free writing or writing that came to mind that was in tune with the story. When I used the word, I deleted it from the list. You can also put your list of words next to the computer and cross them off when you use them. Choose a way that suits you.

Set a timer and write 3 minutes using one of the words. Spend the next three minutes disagreeing with everything you wrote the first three minutes. That’ll add tension to your story. You can save this as a draft. Use what you like and save the unused part for another time and/or another story.

Have fun using words you like in your writing. Thanks for reading this blog. Please leave one or more of your favorite words in the comment area.

Good luck with your writing.
Celebrate each word.
Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards

Friday, January 11, 2013

4RV named 2012 Best of Edmond Book Publisher

          4RV Publishing was selected for the 2012 Best of Edmond Award in the Book Publishers category by the Edmond Award Program committee. The selection is a reflection of the hard work by all staff, authors, illustrators, and editors and of many people who supported the company and contributed to its subsequent success.

          According to the press release from the award program:
EDMOND October 21, 2012 -- 4RV Publishing LLC has been selected for the 2012 Best of Edmond Award in the Book Publishers category by the Edmond Award Program.

Each year, the Edmond Award Program identifies companies we believe have achieved exceptional marketing success in their local community and business category. These are local companies that enhance the positive image of small business through service to their customers and our community. These exceptional companies help make the Edmond area a great place to live, work and play.

Various sources of information were gathered and analyzed to choos the winners in each category. The 2012 Edmond Award Program focuses on quality, not quantity. Winners are determined based on the information gathered both internally by the Edmond Award Program and data provided by third parties. 

            Although awards were decided in October, 4RV discovered it had been honored over two months later. We are indeed honored to be the recipient of this award.


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Slippery Slope of New Year's Resolutions

By Suzanne Y. Cordatos

January is a slippery slope for those who set the new resolution bar too high. Writers are great dreamers who like to think, "My book will spawn the next super franchise" or "When my website gets off the ground, my Amazon ranking will zoom to the top." Pressuring yourself to accomplish the near-impossible within one calendar year is setting yourself up to fail. (The dreamer in me had to add "near," Never impossible.)

When my first pair of skis arrived under the tree in fourth grade I raced to the local ski center, which boasted a bunny slope, a lumpy black diamond and some intermediate runs. The chair lift whisked me thirty feet off the ground in seconds. On the way to the summit, I tapped my skis together to shake off snow when the boots sprang out of the brand new but poorly adjusted bindings. As this happened in the 1970's, both skis remained attached to the boots by "safety" straps. I struggled to shove the boots back onto the skis, but I couldn't fix them in mid-air. I waved wildly to the operator in the hut at the top as I approached with both skis dangling, but to no avail. I rolled off the high-speed chair praying my legs wouldn't break in the tangle and that the people coming off the next chair wouldn't ski over my face.

Big goals start with successful baby steps. Before tackling the black diamond in new skis, a test run on the bunny hill—with its two-feet-on-the-ground rope-tow—would have set me on a better course that day. Set achievable goals, and the summit will be in sight. 

What are your goals for 2013?

I plan to end sloppy habits and get my novel to a publisher. Baby steps will carry me closer to big goals. Here's how:

Big Goal: Be a prolific writer. 
BABY STEPS: Produce more, procrastinate less.

I CAN and PROMISE to use those ten minute gaps in my schedule to write more often.
A sentence at a time. A paragraph at a time. A page at a time.
I CAN and PROMISE to complete my works in progress, one at a time.
I CAN and PROMISE to power through the muddles in the middle. Set deadlines, or use contests as a goal. 

Big Goal: Get my writing off slush piles, onto bestseller lists.
BABY STEPS: Improve my chances by improving my craft. 

I CAN and PROMISE to seek out appropriate beta readers and critique partners.
I CAN and PROMISE to trust my instincts more. And READ more.
I CAN and PROMISE to devote one workshop to my own development per year.

I CAN and PROMISE to develop a business and marketing strategy.
I CAN and PROMISE to write tighter. Find and delete repeated words—here's a link for a great list of overused words:

Big Goal: Get my work known by a great editor or agent.
BABY STEPS: Improve my chances by improving my network. 

I CAN and PROMISE to comment on other people's websites and blogs.
I CAN and PROMISE to keep in touch with new writing friends.
I CAN and PROMISE to submit work to editors who attend those conferences.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Striving to Be a Better Writer by Writing More

Striving to Be a Better Writer by Writing More

By Karen Cioffi

Do you write everyday? Do you make sure you get some writing time in each week, if not daily?

If you answered yes to these questions, you should have noticed an improvement in your writing, and possibly an improvement in the speed at which you are able to write. But, that’s not all. You will also find it easier to think of topics to write about.

This is especially true if you do article marketing or ghostwrite articles for other writers, blogs, or businesses. The more articles you write, the better you’ll get at it. The more writing of any type you do, the better you’ll get, just like the adage, ‘practice makes perfect.’

But, what does it mean to get better at writing?


One aspect of writing improvement is the ability to create a well structured article or story. It should begin with an interesting or hooking introduction. The beginning lets the reader know what the piece will be about. And, it should move smoothly into the middle. You might think of the beginning as the appetizer to a meal.

The middle is the content substance. You let the reader know what the story will be about in the beginning, the middle follows through and embellishes on the topic. The middle is the meat and potatoes of the story or article, and it should move smoothly into the ending, or conclusion.

The ending wraps things up. It should wrap up any loose ends and tie the piece up into a nice package. It needs to leave the reader satisfied. You can think of the ending as the dessert. 

The more you write, the easier it becomes to create content that is well structured and smooth.


Another aspect writers strive for in their writing is clarity. Along with a well structure piece, you need it to be clear, easily understood. It needs to have focus.

Think of your story as having a road map. You need to get from point A to point C (beginning, middle, and end) with as little deviation as possible. Your reader is following you down the road and you don’t want to lose him.

If you give your reader any reason to pause or divert his attention from the main point of your story, you’ll lose him. People have a short attention span today; they want the information as quickly as possible and with as little effort as possible.

If you write non-fiction and your topic is about health, don’t go off on a tangent about today’s political climate, unless it’s in regard to the stress it adds to your everyday life, and thus the harmful effects it has on your health.

The more you write, the easier it becomes to create content that is focused and lean.

The Writing Time Issue
There are a number of writers who give themselves daily writing quotas. Some may choose thirty minutes a day, others 500 to 1000 words per day. There are also those writers who feel too pressured having to fulfill a daily writing quota, so they choose to create weekly quotas, or just set time aside for writing.

One problem just about every writer faces is time. Even if you work from home, by the time you read and respond to your emails, keep up with your blogs, do your social networking, and keep up your family and household duties, the day can just slip away. That’s why it’s so important to have some kind of weekly writing plan or schedule in place and do your best to stick to it.

Bottom line, if you’re a writer it’s important to write regularly, if not every day, as often as you can. As with any craft, the more you practice or work at it, the better you’ll get.

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

Friday, January 4, 2013

Preditors & Editors Poll -- promotion

          The image above is the award given to one of the 4RV novels which placed first in the 2009 Preditors & Editors Poll. The Poll is open once again, for 2012, and 4RV publishing has several nominations (more may be added).

        So far the following are nominated, with links to their different categories:

Children's Books :     First Flag of New Hampshire by Stephanie
                                         Burkhart (illustrated by Ginger Nielson)

                                                   Willow, an Elephant's Tale written and illustrated by
                                         Ginger Nielson

 Young Adult Books :   A Shadow in the Past by Melanie Robertson-King
                                                       Victoria and the Ghost by Janet K. Brown

All other Novels :         Journey of the Cheyenne Warrior by Kathleen Gibbs

Artwork page :             Aidana WillowRaven
                                        Willow, an Elephant's Tale by Ginger Nielson 

Book/e-book Cover Artwork page  :  
                                     A Shadow in the Past  cover art Aidana WillowRaven
                                         Journey of the Cheyenne Warrior   cover by Aidana

Authors page :               Vivian Zabel

Artists page  :               Aidana WillowRaven

Print/Electronic Book Publishers page :    4RV Publishing   

Bookstore page :           4RV Publishing   

          We would appreciate any and all votes for any and all of the above. Yes, this poll is a popularity contest, but winning or placing still feels good.

           IF you do vote, be sure and check the email used and click to affirm your vote. Your last vote or nomination in each category is the only one that counts.  Than you.


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Do You Use Social Media

Do you use social media as part of your marketing and promotion?

First, what is social media?

Social Media is any online form of communicating which individuals employ; including blogs and microblogs like Twitter.  Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ are social networking sites, of which there are many, and are a demarcation to  "industrial media," referring to radio, television, and film produced by professionals in these areas of media.

Since we now have a basic definition of what social and network media, do you employ these on a regular basis to let readers know about you, your writing, available books, and your work in progress? If you don’t, why not?

If you are writing for yourself, social and network media may not be as important to you; but if you want to get your writing into the hands of others, social and network media should be as important to you as writing the book itself.

As an author, you need to contact reviewers to write and post reviews on blogs,as well as mention the book rating on micro-blogs and networking sites. Give reviewers a picture of the book cover for their book review blog. 

These activities should be part of your promotion and marketing. You need to begin actively working on all forms of social and network media at the same time you begin writing your first draft.

Unless you have a secondary income other than your writing or are on a limited budget, it’s up to you to handle promotion on your own, rather than paying to have it done for you.

Social and network media is the new era of publishing for authors.

Robert Medak
Freelance Writer/Blogger/Editor/Proofreader/Reviewer/Marketer

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A New Year - A New Beginning

by Vivian Zabel

          For many, 2012 brought pain, agony, and misery. For others, last year was a good year. For most of us, we had a mixture of good and bad. Now we begin a new year with new challenges, other chances, and a time to see what we can accomplish.
       We at 4RV Publishing hope you have a great 2013 and that you watch for our new releases.  Authors, illustrators, and the company will be appearing in different parts of the country, including the  OWFI 45! Revive! Strive! Thrive! conference May 2-4, in Norman, Oklahoma.
        Listed below are the dates I know about. Hopefully 4RV folks will add comments with their dates and activities.
January 26:     Edmond Author Festival, Historical Museum, Edmond, Oklahoma
February 16:    Launch Party for Journey of the Cheyenne Warrior (written by
                        Kathleen Gibbs), 2-4 PM, Fairfield Inn, Oklahoma City
May 2-4:          OWFI conference, exhibitor table with several 4RV people and
         Have a truly wonderful and blessed 2013.