Sunday, July 28, 2013

Prepping Your Story by: Stephanie Burkhart

When it comes to writing stories, ideas start like little seeds. There's a germ of an idea. Mine usually start with "what if." What if I write a fairytale in reverse? What if an historical object was lost? Who would find it? What would bugs say if they could talk?

Just like a seed, ideas must be watered, so they can grow. I call this "watering and nurturing" stage, prep time.  When I'm prepping to write a story, I usually spend 2-3 weeks to establish my new world. I'm usually focused on:


With setting it helps to visit the place you've established for your world. If you can't, the Internet is a good resource to look at pictures. You can always watch a movie where the setting is the same, read a book or magazine, or talk to someone who has been there.

I usually cast my characters, establish biographies, (they can be long or short depending on your story) and ensure your characters have a flaw or a weakness. Not all characters are perfect. What makes characters relatable to readers are their flaws. Maybe your hero has asthma. Or maybe the heroine is stubborn, or sensitive about her nose – worse, her pimples. These are examples of things readers can relate to.

Your story must have a beginning, middle, and an end. The beginning usually establishes what type of journey the main character is going to take and hint at what they're going to learn along the way.


A theme is not necessarily a moral or a message, but it establishes a "backbone" for the message. For example, say your theme is 'facing challenges.' You could have your character live through a natural disaster. Your main character might have lost everything, but your message/moral might be there's always hope. People always step up to help other people.  You can, too.

Once your prep work is done and you've complied your notes, you can work on a rough outline. I say rough because I find I must allow for some flexibility due to the characters wanting to do something I didn't plan for.

When I finally put pen to paper, I see my little seed popping out of the dirt and it is now a sprout. As the manuscript grows, so does my flower.

Questions:  How do you go about researching/prepping to write a story? What themes have you incorporated into your stories? How do you appeal to the young adult/children's audience?

Author Bio: Stephanie Burkhart is a 911 dispatcher for LAPD. She loves chocolate and is addicted to coffee.  She enjoys the outdoors and this year she went to Yosemite and camped out with her boys. Her books with 4RV Publishing include: The Giving Meadow and First Flag of New Hampshire.

First Flag of New Hampshire:
Can Aly and Miguel find the flag before the semester is over?







Friday, July 26, 2013

The evolution of a novel

Candlewood Lake
Candlewood Lake (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Many years ago, a friend lost his wife and all four of his children in a house fire. The fire started at night. My friend and one of his sons made it out alive, but the boy died a few days later. This tragic event haunted me for years. One weekend, I sat down and wrote a 5000 word story. In the story a nine-year-old boy loses his mother in a house fire.

I had never written a book before this, and knew little about writing fiction. After passing the book by my writing partner, I became convinced it needed a major rewrite. I put it aside while I thought about just what I wanted to do with the book.

In the year or so after I finished the story, I enrolled in and completed the Institute of Children's Literature course, signed up for an online writing group, and studied the craft of fiction.  Then I rewrote the novel. I completed the first draft and signed up for a course on editing.  After reading the first assignment, I decided to use chapter three rather than either of the first two. Why? Because it was more interesting.

Yup, the first two chapters were back story. After consulting with both my fellow students and the instructor, I removed them. They dealt with the fire itself and its immediate aftermath, and 'd done a fair amount of research for those chapters, to say nothing of the time I'd spent writing them. I saved them saved them in a folder on my computer before  I could bring myself to cut them out.

The story is set in a semi-rural community outside a small town in Connecticut where my main character's grandmother lives. The house, the community, and the town, are modeled on the house my father owned in Birch Groves. Birch Groves, on Candlewood  Lake, is a few miles outside New Milford.  The grandmother was inspired by my own sons' grandmother. My mental picture of the house that burned down is taken from her home in New Jersey.

I need to be able to picture something to write about it, so I needed to be able to see the layout of the homes, where the furniture was placed, what the trees around the house were, the roads, the lake. As I wrote the story, I pictured my characters moving around in my father's house, wandering up the same roads I had walked down so often as a child, and riding the bus to school.

My friend endured a tragic loss, one from which, in some ways, he never recovered. None of us can rewrite the past, but by writing my story, I was able to move on in my own life.

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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Review of 4RV novel A Wandering Warrior

by Vivian Zabel

   From time to time we share outstanding reviews of 4RV books in this newsletter, but only books from 4RV Publishing. This time we'll share what a few readers had to say about Harry E. Gilleland, Jr.'s historical novel A Wandering Warrior. The cover art and illustrations inside the book are creations from Aidana WillowRaven.

     We can't post all the reviews  that have appeared in print and online, but we will at least a few short ones and one long review.

         First, let's look at some short reviews:

You'll definitely be rooting for Thomas to succeed. -- Reviewed by Samantha Rivera for Readers' Favorite, A Wandering Warrior: 5 Stars
      Thomas is a warrior in medieval England. His story is filled with love and loss, hope and despair, and you'll definitely be rooting for Thomas to succeed. He has much to accomplish. This is what makes Thomas such an interesting character. He gets hurt, he falls in love, and then he gets hurt again, but he always keeps fighting. This story is also about Emalda and Juliana and how their lives tie into Thomas'.

      “The plot is interesting and the plot twists are unexpected and well handled.” Homer M. Scarborough, Jr.

    “There is so much more that happens in this story: romance, adventure, combat, damsels in distress, love found, and love lost.” Lori Lundberg

     “The story, locations, and characters were all well written and described and do a good job and transporting the reader into the story. ” Elizabeth McCrary 

      Finally we go to an excerpt from the review by Hannah Sheldon-Dean, Bookkaholic:
Highlights: Full of rich historical detail and snappy action sequences.
Synopsis: Thomas Beaumont is an itinerant soldier in twelfth-century England. When his only family members are killed, Thomas sets out to avenge their deaths and discovers a vast world of adventure and romance along the way.
Genre: Historical Fiction Rating: A
        In the latest book from Harry E. Gilleland, Jr. the prolific novelist and poet revisits the genre of historical fiction, this time with a tale set in twelfth-century England. It’s a tough world of ruffians, duels, and political machinations, and A Wandering Warrior leads readers through a rich tour of the period’s intrigues.
     The novel’s hero, Thomas Beaumont, begins the book as a humble commoner, having lost his parents at a young age and spent his teenage years fighting alongside his uncle and older brother as an itinerant soldier in any army that would have them. Despite his low birth, Thomas is an unbeatable swordsman and ferocious fighter—skills that suddenly become even more important when both his brother and uncle are killed, leaving him without any personal ties or sense of home.
        Badly injured himself in the series of frays that led to his family’s death, Thomas is taken in by a family of “Travelers” who roam the countryside in covered wagons, searching for adventure and the chance to earn a few pounds. As Thomas heals, he grows close to Emalda, a beautiful Traveler girl who hopes to marry him. But Thomas remains preoccupied with vengeance; although he wishes to remain with Emalda, he feels strongly that he must find and kill the sheriff who brutally murdered his brother. And so Thomas becomes entangled in his two central—and conflicting—quests: to avenge the deaths of those he loved, and to find new love with a worthy woman.
         It’s been said that all literature is really about sex and death, and to some extent, A Wandering Warrior reflects that principle: when Thomas isn’t fighting to the death with some bad guy or other, he’s searching relentlessly to find an elusive lover. Along the way, though, he also manages to pull off heroic rescues, make loyal friends, and explore the vast expanse of England. True to the book’s title, Thomas does indeed wander, focusing on one epic task after another in an effort to find a place for himself in an often-hostile world. Interestingly, the missions that initially seem central to the plot do not continue throughout the whole book; it’s an unusual decision, but given the nature of the protagonist, the plot’s discontinuity makes an odd sort of sense. Gilleland flips around the conventions of linear narration that often dictate such tales of chivalry, and instead allows Thomas to wander where he will, taking up new quests and acquaintances as he goes.
        It’s entertaining to watch and see where Thomas’s wanderings will lead him next, but what makes the A Wandering Warrior especially engaging is the level of detail with which the author draws its long-ago setting. Maps detailing each of Thomas’s journeys are inserted into the text, and information about how nobility functions, what it takes to be a knight errant, and how to survive while camping in a forest—to name just a few subjects—makes our hero’s world feel vivid and alive. The many fight scenes are especially intricate, and readers interested in the ins and outs of combat will find the book particularly fascinating.
        Ultimately, this book successfully immerses readers in twelfth-century England and all its nuance. Fast-paced and full of historical detail, A Wandering Warrior will satisfy readers looking for the daring and excitement of a classic adventure story.

     The reviews make me want to read A Wandering Warrior again. Harry's novel can be found through any bookstore, in paperback or eBook from Amazon and Barnes & Noble (and eBook on Kobo and Apple), as well as from the 4RV Bookstore. If you do read A Wandering Warrior, please let Harry know what you think of the book.


Sunday, July 21, 2013

6 Book Marketing Tips That Are Sure To Increase Your Online Platform Visibility

Having yearly, monthly, and weekly marketing goals are crucial to achieving success. With goals, you know where you’re heading and can work toward that end.

Marketing goals can be considered a marketing plan and it will have a number of steps or objectives that must be set in motion and accomplished.

Whether you’re book marketing or trying to sell another product or service, six of the bare basic online marketing strategies to increase you visibility are:

1. Create a presence and platform

Creating an online presence and platform is initiated by creating a website or blog. First though, you’ll need to be sure of your niche because the site name and content should reflect your area of expertise is.

Remember, plan first. Choose a site name that will grow with you. Using an author as an example, if you choose a site name, Picture Books with [Your Name], you’ve limited yourself. What if your next book is for young adults?

As part of your book marketing strategy, you need to create a ‘hub’ site that will act as the center to your offshoot sites, such as the individual sites for each of your books.

Leave room to grow; it’s always advisable to use your name as the site’s name or part of it.

In addition, with today’s gone-in-a-second attention span, it’s a good idea to keep your site simple. Marketing expert Mike Volpe of points out that it’s more important to spend time, and money if necessary, on content rather than a flashy website design; simple works.

Google verifies this ‘simple is better’ strategy and notes that milliseconds count in regard to your page load time. In fact, Google gives a ‘poorer’ score to pages that are slow to load.

Sites that take a few seconds or more to load may also cause you to lose potential subscribers and buyers.

2. Increase visibility
Writing content for your readers/visitors is the way to increase visibility – content is definitely still King. Provide interesting, informative, and/or entertaining content that will prompt the reader to come back and, just as important, to share your post or article.

Also, be sure your content is pertinent to your site, and keep your site and content focused on your platform.

3. Draw traffic to your site
To draw traffic to your site, promote your posts by using social media. You should also do article marketing which will increase your visibility reach.

Another strategy is to offer your readers free gifts, such as an ebook relevant to your niche. This will help to increase your usefulness to the reader and help establish your authority.

This is considered organic marketing; it funnels traffic back to your site with valuable content and free offers.

4. Have effective call-to-actions

Your site must have call-to-action keywords that will motivate readers to visit and click on your links. Keywords to use include:

  • Get your Free gift now for subscribing
  • Subscribe to our Newsletter
  • Free e-book to offer on your own site
  • Buy Now
  • Sign up or Join Now
  • Don’t hesitate, take advantage of our expert services
  • Be sure to Bookmark this site

You get the idea, motivate the reader to want what you’re offering and give him/her a CLEAR and VISIBLE call-to-action. Make it as simple as possible for the visitor to buy what you’re offering.

5. Develop a relationship with your readers
It’s been noted that only 1% of first time visitors will buy a product. Usually, only after developing a relationship through your newsletter, information, and offers will your potential customer or client click on the BUY NOW button or other call-to-action you have in place.

While it will take some time and effort to implement and maintain these strategies, it will be worth it in the long run. Think of it as a long-term investment.

6. Create an ebook for increased visibility and opt-in enticement

This is an effective marketing tool and ebooks can be offered for sale or given away as a gift or 'ethical bribe.' Whichever you will need it for, it's important to get on board the ebook band-wagon.

Boost your writing and marketing efforts with Karen Cioffi and The Writing World. Get weekly tips and guidance, plus updates on free webinars. Join today and get “How to Create an Optimized Website – 3 Essential Author Website Elements and 9 Must-Have Pages:”  

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Do You Need a Special Hat for Writing?

"Do You Need a Special Hat for Writing?" by Joan Y. Edwards

Copyright © 2013 Joan Y. Edwards
Do You Need a Special Hat for Writing?
I've always heard that a writer needs a special hat to wear when he/she is writing. Do you need a special hat for writing? What do you think? Perhaps you need a hard hat. Sometimes, you may feel like you need a bullet-proof vest and helmet to filter negative criticism. The trouble is when you wear such a bullet-proof helmet and vest, you stop the bad things from going through, but you also stop the good things from going through. Even when wearing a bullet-proof vest, the impact of the bullet may be enough to knock you down.

I suggest instead that writers need a transformer shield around you to filter the words of rejection and criticism and translate them into words to better yourself and get to your goal. You want the negative words transformed into words that inspire you to reach higher. You want words, beliefs, and actions that enable you to grow in your personal life and your writing skills, too.

Just like a character in one of your books, you may have inner and outer conflicts that try to stop the publication of your work. Keep a journal. Write down your feelings and body reactions to the comments of editors and agents. Then put these descriptions into your writing. If your own and other people's negative words and actions are put into the filter and stirred in with God's graces and blessings, they come out in words and actions that mold you into a stronger person and a better writer.

Realize that just because one person says something bad, that doesn't make it true. It is one person's opinion. It does not make the statement a fact for you...unless you believe it.

One publisher says, "This doesn't mean our needs." There is a publisher for your story. It might not meet one publisher's needs, but there is a publisher for your story. Search and you will find it. Look for a publisher of similar books and explain how your book has a clever twist to it.

One editor says, "The market for this book is too small. We won't make any money on it, therefore we won't print it." There is a small publisher or magazine editor who will take a chance on your small niche publication. Look for ways to show that even this small niche will have thousands of potential readers. It can make more money than anyone ever imagined from it. Search and you will find it.

If a special hat helps you believe more in yourself, choose a hat. Believe in you and your stories. Believe in your writing no matter what other people say. Believe in you and your stories, especially when no one else believes in them. Believe in them, no matter what your circumstances are. Treasure your stories. Clothing may make the man, but inner belief, writing skills, perseverance, and determination make the story. Hone your skills. Keep writing. Keep submitting. You will be published again and again.

Joan's Elder Care Guide release June 2015 by 4RV Publishing.
Check out my Never Give Up blog.
Joan Y. Edwards


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

How to Host a Book Launch Party

How to Host a Book Launch Party
 by Suzanne Cordatos

I had the recent pleasure of attending the book launch party of my writing friend—and fellow 4RV author—Kristine Carlson Asselin. In a suburb of Boston, Kris launched her first picture book, Worst Case of Pasketti-it is. It was a great time and a huge success. You can pull off a great book launch, too!
An easy jog off a major highway, Kris held her party in the welcoming community room of a local library. 80 people attended, including curious walk-in library patrons!

Who to Invite?
Invite people most likely to tell others about your book: family, friends, librarians, teachers, reporters. Invite a photo buff to send pics to author’s website, blog, Facebook fan page, local papers. Kids added zing to Kris’ author Q & A time.
Make it a Party!
Kris used an online invitation service called “evite” to get the word out. Balloons and a large poster of the book cover welcomed guests outside the front door. Inside, more balloons and entertaining activities were quick attention-grabbers.

"Be sure to include family and friends in the planning of your party,” advises Kris. “They are excited for you and will often push you to be more "out there" than you would on your own. I'm sometimes embarrassed to "sell" myself, but my family and good friends aren't shy about it at all!"

Kris put family members to work at various stations:

Welcome table
Greet people personally. A welcome poster and sign-in list near the door helps add walk-ins to your mailing list. Have a stack of business cards, bookmarks or postcards printed with book cover design and easy order information.

Activities for kids
Kris’ main character loves pasta, so she had a fun guessing contest: How many pieces of macaroni in the jar? Offer a prize because hey, who doesn’t like a goody bag? Have crayons handy and coloring pages made of your characters. Relate a craft to your book. Kris had colorful yarn and pasta shapes for necklaces.

Kris had a beautiful cake courtesy of her parents for the launch. At regular book events, you might want to offer simple candy, store-bought cookies or pretzels.

Book Buying
Assign a family member or friend to manage ongoing sales for you throughout the event. Make it easy for people to order books after the event by tucking a business card or bookmark with information in every copy sold. Extra cards on the table help guests purchase books later if they are not prepared at your event with cash.

Entertainment: YOU
This part can be intimidating, but authors who want to sell books have to put themselves out there. An ongoing slideshow of art from her book kept guests entertained until the presentation. Kris read the story along with a slide presentation of her adorable book. To prepare Kris says, “Be sure to practice reading your excerpt aloud a few times. Add inflection and pauses to make the read interesting. And be sure to project so that everyone in the room can hear you." Include time for Q&A for guests to ask about the story’s origins, getting published, etc.
Kris Asselin and Jessica Cordatos
Book Signing table
Kris invited everyone to stay for cake and crafts. And, of course, she signed books with a beaming smile for as long as people wanted her to!  More information about author Kris Carlson Asselin:
Director, SCBWI New England Regional Conference
May 2-4, 2014 in Springfield, Massachusetts
Web: ~ Twitter: @nescbwi ~ Email:
Find me on Twitter @KristineAsselin
Find me on Facebook:
Visit my website:

Sunday, July 7, 2013

How to Get Website Traffic Using Expert Information Content

You’ve got a book or two out, possibly more, and you’ve created an SEO friendly website to establish your author online platform. You have also taken the time to create a valuable ‘freebie’ to motivate visitors to subscribe to your mailing list.

Now, the question is:

How do You Get Website Traffic?

The answer: Create an information content funnel. This marketing practice helps establish you as an expert in your field and attracts traffic to your website.

As with the freebie, your content should be focused with your target market in mind and should be valuable. And, remember, any content you publish is a reflection of your writing ability, so it should always be quality writing.

Okay, now you know how to get website traffic: you have the site, the product or service to sell, the freebie, and the content, but where should you put your content to lure those potential customers back to your site?

Places to Publish Your Information Content

There are a number of places to post your content, including:

1. Your blog
2. Guest blogging on quality sites related to your niche and target market
3. Article directories
4. Newsletters
5. Joint ventures
6. Reprint strategy - allow others to reprint your content with your byline

Just keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities to share information content. Each new site that features your content has its own set of readers, kind of like another neighborhood or town; those readers may very well share your content, continuing to broaden your reach. And, in regard to reprint strategy, you have the capability of broadening your reach even more.

How to Get Website Traffic - Four Main Strategies
1. Use social networks.

Take advantage of sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, and the new-kid-on-the-block GooglePlus. Promote your articles and other content on these sites. Your offer and opt-in should be readily visible on the page you’re linking to. You don’t want the visitor to have to scroll down to find your freebie offer.

2. Get involved in article marketing.
Write and submit quality articles to article directories. The content should impress the reader enough to look at your bio/byline. Be sure the link you include goes to the site or page that has your freebie offer and opt-in box.

With a number of article directories, the allowed word count for your bio will be a percentage of your article content, so write tight and choose your words carefully.

While there are hundreds, probably thousands of online article directories, here are five to start you off:


The first four currently seem to have the largest reach, but remember, in the marketing world strategies, sites, and the top contenders can change overnight.

3. Take advantage of Joint Ventures.

According to Peggy McColl, bestselling author of Your Destiny Switch, this strategy is the single most effective way to get major traffic and sales in a short period of time, usually within a 24-48 hour window. Done properly, it has the potential to launch you into Amazon and/or Barnes & Noble bestseller status, and has even created NY Times bestsellers.

4. Use search engine optimization (SEO).
Making the search engines aware of your website and content is essential in online marketing. You also want to ensure the search engines categorize your content correctly through relevant keywords. This is accomplished through an SEO friendly website and using relevant keywords, especially your titles and subtitles.

There you have it - four basic tips to help you get started in the right direction.

Boost your writing and marketing efforts with Karen Cioffi and The Writing World. Get weekly tips and guidance, plus updates on free webinars. Join today and get “How to Create an Optimized Website – 3 Essential Author Website Elements and 9 Must-Have Pages.”  

Friday, July 5, 2013

5 Tips to Make Dialogue POP

Yesterday was the Fourth of July. Many celebrated by popping their own fireworks or watching experts pop them making beautiful displays of fire and light. Writing dialogue filled with a fiery pop challenges every fiction writer.

 A couple of weeks ago, I attended a 4-day Immersion with psychologist, writer, world-acclaimed teacher, Margie Lawson. I returned home with my mind popping with ideas. Today, I’d like to give you my key take-back-to use tips from that workshop.

A big percent of dialogue is silent.

  1. How does your character sound?  Is he loud? Does she speak with throaty, sultry undertones? When a person speaks, we listen to how they say something as much as we listen for the actual words.

“Charles” can become a question, an endearment, or a cry of fear. On the paper, how would I know, if I don’t explain how the dialogue is delivered? If I’m scared, I might write it like:

     “Charles.” The tone she used sounded like the squeal of a tornado alarm.
 If I’m telling of my love, you would see something like:

    “Charles.” The lilt of my words seemed to wash over him like a bubble bath.

  1. What’s your character’s body language?  He might shift with nervousness or cross his arms over his chest, but I doubt he stands still. Show us what he looks like while he speaks. For ideas, watch people in a waiting room. They thumb through magazines. They cross and swing their right leg. They shift positions several times. They clasp hands and roll their thumbs in a circular motion. Study body language at a mall, an airport, or a library.
     3. Is there action going on while they talk? People often work while they talk. They may continue
        to saddle a horse, or wash the dishes. They may move closer into their friend’s face. Do they
        skip, run, or do calisthenics while they answer, in which case, they are probably breathless?
      4. Do you want your character to smile? Good. What does the smile look like? Is it a brilliant,
         thousand-watt smile or one that’s bittersweet, disappointed, sad?
      5. Describe your character. The first time you “meet” the character, the reader needs to visualize
          the person.
With glasses perched on her tousled-blonde head, she twisted her mouth in a lost-
                        in-thought reflection. “That might work.”

            Or, you may know the character, but need to see the effects on their looks later in the book.
            This is a good place for similes or alliteration to heighten the description, such as:

                    “I wish I could do that.” Her face relaxed like a prune soaking in water.

I hope my take-home tips spur your imagination to add pizzazz or pop or potential to your prose. Don’t forget the non-verbal communication. I would love to read your examples.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

New releases from 4RV Publishing

by Vivian Zabel  

     The three newest titles from 4RV Publishing are I Like Pink by Vivian Zabel and illustrated by Ginger Nielson, Worst Case of Pasketti-itis by Kristine Asselin and illustrated by Luisa Gioffre-Suzuki, and A Wandering Warrior by Harry Gilleland and a few illustrations by Aidana WillowRaven. All three can be found on the 4RV Bookstore, as well as the major online stores and through brick 'n mortar stores.


  I Like Pink came into being when Vivian Zabel's great-granddaughter declared, "I like pink: dark pink, light pink, and almost-white pink." The first published picture book by Vivian was released the last of June, brought to life by Ginger's Nielson's art work. Children can learn colors and that colors have shades.

     Worst Case of Pasketti-itis helps children see, in an entertaining way, the need for a variety of food. Kristine Carlson Asselin's story will cause smiles and laughter, aided by Luisa Gioffre-Suzuki's illustrations. 

     Harry Gilleland packs much action and adventure into A Wandering Warrior. The novel includes knights, warriors, battles, and even a bit of romance. Aidana WillowRaven's drawings add interest to the tale of a daring young man's quest to avenge his brother's death.