Friday, March 28, 2014

Writing a novel

I'm involved in an online course based on the hero's journey and the group of us in the class are working on novels based on the hero's journey model.  I'm having a fine old time outlining a new fantasy based on an incident that happened as I was driving to work one day.

I was driving to work up route 495 in Massachusetts, and I passed the body of some kind of animal. It was on the wooded median, had tan and white hide.  A glimpse was all I had time for as I drove past. Shortly thereafter, I saw an old mattress on the right side of the road. By the time I arrived at work, I'd scoped out a short piece, which I quickly wrote down and posted to my critique group.

I ended up with my main character taking the blanket-wrapped body of his father and leaving it beside the road for the Dogs to eat.

"Love the piece," one friend wrote, "but this feels like the beginning of a novel."

Ah, yes, a novel. It's turning into a fantasy, my first, as up to now I've written regular old novels or science fiction. I've written about 6000 words and have a plot outline that I'm working on filling in.

I've encountered a number of structures for outlining novels, but the hero's journey feels very natural to me, more so than some of the others. I read tons of Robin Hood, King Arthur, Greek and Roman myths and the like growing up, and I believe this is why this sort of story wormed its way into my consciousness.

In any case, I'm having a fine old time with my main character, who is living in a cave in a future ice-age.

If you're a reader, do you enjoy reading heroic fantasy? If you're a writer, have you written any? Why or why not? 
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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Interview of Marvin Mayer, reprinted by permission

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Children’s Author – Marvin Mayer – Interviewed by LAWonder10
condensed from interview as appeared on Rockin’ Book Reviews , used with permission by interviewer and webmaster

   Marvin Is A Wonderful, New Children’s Author Who I Am Elated To Have As A Guest On my Site Today! His Books Are So Well-Written and Delightful. Each has a very profound teaching element to it.

 1.  Marvin, where were you raised? Is that where you feel is your “Home Town”?

I was born, reared and educated in Louisville, KY.  Although I’ve been gone from Louisville for more than 50 years, that’s still my “home town.”

Well that is certainly a beautiful place to call home!

2. In your brief Bio on your website, you have stated, you never enjoyed books as a child? Why is that? Do your children/grandchildren enjoy them?

Unfortunately, although my mother tried to interest me in books, I didn’t enjoy reading. I was a slow learner throughout my school years, and never learned the joy of reading. To this day, I’m still a rather “lazy” reader, but I definitely read more today than I did as a youngster.  Through my writing, I’m trying to influence children to take advantage of the world of books.

My daughter was an avid reader, but my son was more like me, reading only what he had to read. My granddaughters are readers, and one of them is a teacher, so her children are discovering books.

In my personal observations, throughout my life,  on an average, I find girls tend to be more interested in books than boys, yet we have many great male authors such as you are.  I have this situation in my own family, as well.

3. You volunteer for many children’s groups. What are they in what ways have you benefited from doing so?

 As an extension of the library, I read to children at a day care nursery. The program is called Book Buddies, and my benefit is in seeing how the children enjoy hearing the stories I read to them.  I also used to volunteer at a children’s advocacy center. There, the benefit was in knowing I may have brought a bit of fun and happiness into the lives of children who had to endure physical, emotional, and/or sexual abuse. Both of these volunteer activities allowed me to be more “in touch” with young children since I have no little ones at home any more. The same could be said for when I taught first grade Sunday school at my church.

I think that is marvelous! If more adults would dedicate their time volunteering to aid others this world would be a far better place.

Thank you for that example.

4.  Do you relate in any way to the children coming from troubled homes whom you serve?  If so,  in what ways? If not, do you feel this service makes a big difference in their well-being?

That’s a tough one! Coming from a “normal” middle class household, I was blessed to have a caring mother and father, both of whom were there for me, teaching me right from wrong, assuring me of their love for me, and instilling in me their set of moral values. So, no. I can’t say I related to those children who suffered abuse or who came from abusing relationships.

Still, because I had it so good, I feel if I can just show children they are loved and that each of them is a valuable human being, I’ll make a small difference in their well-being. I was told by another volunteer that my being there, reading to a child who had to testify in court, made a big difference to him, so in at least one instance, the answer was yes.

I was fortunate to have kind,loving, moral parents, as well. I have often grieved for those who do not. I cannot imagine life without the love and support of my parents, especially during those formative years.

I do feel you do make a impact for good on more lives that you are aware of.

5.  Your book, Ferdinand Frog’s Flight, is written beautifully in rhyme. Why, do you feel, most authors no longer use rhyming in their writing? Why do you?

Most publishers discourage writers, particularly new writers from attempting to write in rhyming verse, saying they lack the ability to do it properly. More often than not, those publishers are correct. It’s difficult to tell a story in rhyming verse where the meter remains constant and the rhymes are not “forced.” Even the training seminars and courses I’ve taken discourage writing in rhyme, saying the story can be told as well, if not better, in ordinary prose. So, in order to have their work published, many emerging authors dutifully avoid writing in rhyming verse. I happen to enjoy writing (and reading) stories with rhymes. Many of the books I read to the day nursery children use rhymes. Dr. Seuss wrote in rhyme, and even though many of the words were his own creation, they were accepted (as rhymes) throughout the world. Rhymes tend to make the story flow and children seem to enjoy them more, but it is definitely not for everyone or for every book.

I agree. Most authors who write in rhyme do not do it successfully. However, you do!  I was totally impressed how easily it flowed together from verse to verse, page to page.

Personally, rhyming stories were always a joy to me to read and memorize .

6.  Interestingly, in this book, Ferdinand decides his dream wasn’t all he thought it to be. What are your feelings on this? In what ways are dreams important and worth striving for?

While my unspoken message here is “the grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the fence,” at book signing events I always sign my books with words encouraging children to aim high and dream big. I strive to present a positive self image of/for my young readers, so Ferdinand, after experiencing what he thought he wanted to do, realized he was better off where God originally placed him – in his pond and on land – rather than in the air. He was thrilled to be back in his natural, familiar environment.

LOL!  That is a lesson well-learned

 7.   On one of your websites are pages individuals can download to color. Did you create those pages by yourself? If so, when did you begin drawing?  If not, who assisted you with this and in what ways?

I wish I could take credit for the drawings, but I can’t even draw good “stick” figures!

The same marketing company individual who helped me create my logo, designed and ordered book markers for me (for Sammy Squirrel,) and has done a host of other things to help me, created the coloring pages and fixed them so I could put them on my website for a free download. She’s been a huge help to me ever since I started my writing career. Her name is Deann Wells and the company is Exclusively Yours.

Well, she is to be congratulated! She has done a wonderful job in creating them.  Yu have done a wonderful thin by coming up with the added idea for allowing this for children.

Amen to that!  I like how well you brought that final point out. Often individuals feel because they have less they are not worth as much.

I think readers can emphasize those points with voice inflection as they read how unhappy and scared Ferdinand was while flying. I think readers also can ask the child questions about what Ferdinand learned from his experience, and ask if the child can relate to Ferdinand’s situation.

Hopefully, they will do just that.

8.  What is your next endeavor and when will it be published?

4RV Publishing, the same publisher responsible for production of Ferdinand Frog’s Flight, is in the final stages of structuring my next book. They haven’t given me a target release date, but I’m hopeful it will be by early summer. That book, titled Case of the Stolen Stash, is a “detective” story. What makes it different is that all of the characters are birds! Thus, instead of Sherlock Holmes, my detective is Sherlock Hawk. This book will be for the same reading age group as those who read and enjoyed Sammy Squirrel. In fact, some of the events in Sammy Squirrel are introduced into the story line of this book.

I want this book to be both entertaining and educational, so I have included a glossary (to help young readers identify new words and their meanings) and an appendix. The appendix features photographs of the various types of birds mentioned throughout the story, and factual data about the species; size, nesting habits, diet, etc.

In addition to “Stash,” I have a few other manuscripts to present to my publisher, but 4RV has its hands full at the moment. In the meantime, I’m trying to get my thoughts together to create my next book.

This all sounds exciting! It is appreciated by many readers of all ages when an author adds explanatory glossaries and helpful pictures.

9. Do you feel it is a good possibility you will write books for older children such as middle school age? If so when and what would it be about? If not, why?

I doubt that I will attempt to write for teenagers or older children, but I learned a long time ago, never say never. I’m not sure I have a message or any subjects of interest for today’s teens. I prefer to write for younger children. They are so innocent, a lot less “worldly” than today’s kids who have their own iPhones, iPads, etc. Younger children seem more interested in being entertained with wholesome stories, stories not tied to sex, drugs, and violence. Perhaps my thinking is outdated, but that’s who I am, so that’s where I will continue to focus with my writing.

You are correct in feeling you can have a great impact on younger children. Psychologists have stated a child’s main values have been set by ages 5 through 8. ?The young are much more teachable.

10.  You are not only a dad and grandfather but a great-grandfather as well.  How many children/grandchildren in all? From what age?

Obviously, my surviving son is an adult. His daughters are in their mid-twenties, and I have a great grandson age 5 and his younger sister, my great granddaughter, who is 2.

Amazing! I cannot picture you as a great grandfather…I cannot picture me as a great grandmother but that possibility is becoming close each year!

11.  What caused you to become a children’s book writer?

We already discussed my prior lack of interest in reading, so it is strange that in spite of that, I like to write. Throughout my entire working career, I have been praised for my ability to write effective business letters, memos, and other business related articles. For family events and for special occasions for friends, I often concocted a poem about the honoree or honorees, and recipients seemed pleased to get them. So, when I retired, my wife encouraged me to pursue writing “professionally.” Since she know how much I enjoyed being around children, she handed me something she had carried with her as we moved around the country; an application for enrollment at Connecticut’s Institute for Children’s Literature.

I completed the application, was accepted into a course called Writing For Children and Teenagers, and completed the correspondence course in about 15 month.

Reading and writing always seem to go together. It boggles my mind why someone talented in writing would not want to read as well! You are definitely a talented writer!

I admire the Acknowledgements you give your wonderful wife. It is very gratifying to many of the female population, when a man gives such recognition to his wife.

12. What goal do you hope to obtain in future years that you haven’t obtained yet?

My goal when I started writing children's books was to entertain children and get them interested in reading at an early age.  Thus far, my “reach” has been rather limited to my immediate community, with a bit of a stretch to places where family and friends dwell, and to festivals and events not more than several hours’ drive from home. Certainly, I would like to have my work recognized by being award winners, but even more than that, I would like to achieve a more worldly distribution for my books. To accomplish that, I’m sure I’ll have to “master” social media, so my goal is to do just that: learn how to put the internet to work in ways I haven’t even imagined yet.

Social Media is the way of the future. I am learning the true values of utilizing it. There is so much to lean about it.  I will do all I can to promote these wonderful books. Be sure to “Follow” Marvin on his Website Link below.

Thank you again, Marvin, for being my guest and allowing us to become better acquainted with you.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Writing Reviews

By: Stephanie Burkhart 

Writing reviews isn't easy. As authors, we all like to get good reviews, but it's important to give reviews, too. I thought I'd talk a little bit about how I try to write reviews for children's books. Next month I'll focus on writing reviews for mainstream novels.

Children's picture books aren't that long, but you have to capture the essence of the story in a dynamic paragraph or two.

My first sentence or two I try to capture the plot of the book without giving it away and I usually end asking if the main character can solve the problem? (That's the hook to get you to read the book – to find out if he/she does.)

Then I talk about the illustrations. Are they eye-catching? Unique? Fit the story?

Other things to mention in the review: Is the title appropriate? Is the author's writing style engaging? Did you understand the main character's challenge? Was the ending satisfactory? Would you recommend this book? What's the age range for the book?

Question: Do you have any tips for writing reviews for children's books?
My son, Joe, reading
Here's my review for "The Marshmallow Man:"

"The Marshmallow Man" is an entertaining story that will have children flipping the pages to find out what happens next.

An old lady who is lonely creates a marshmallow man to help keep her company. The marshmallow man however, is an adventurous soul and sets out with the refrain, "You can't catch me, I'm the Marshmallow Man."

The story will appeal to preschoolers' and young elementary students' sense of adventure. The Marshmallow Man stimulates a child's imagination. Macquignon's illustrations are sharp, bringing the story's creativity to life. "The Marshmallow Man" is a fine book for any 3-7 year-old's library.

Author Bio: Stephanie Burkhart is a 911 dispatcher for LAPD. When she's not working at her day job, she's writing and being a Cub Scout mom. She loves chocolate, adores coffee, and enjoys taking walks around Castaic Lake.  Her story, "The Giving Meadow" is published with 4RV Publishing. Caterpillar makes his way through the meadow with the help of some friends.

Find me on the web:







Sunday, March 16, 2014

Online Membership Sites - Different Types You Can Create and the Benefits

By Karen Cioffi

In my March 2nd post, it discussed reasons you might want to join a membership site as a learning tool. This post delves into the different types of membership sites.

If you’re an expert, with lots of information and experience others can learn from . . . and want to learn about, a membership site is an online marketing tool you might be interested in.

A membership site is a site in which members pay for the benefit of learning from the owner of the site (the expert). The site owner on the other hand provides ongoing and valuable information based on his expertise.

This is usually a win-win situation. The members have ‘open’ access to the expert and his knowledge, and the expert has an in- place and often ready-to-act audience.

Membership sites come in a variety of sizes, formats, and prices. Pricing is usually based on the reputation of the expert and the problem being addressed.

Some experts offer the, what I call, ‘full service’ membership – its information packed and interactive.

The Full Service Membership Site

The full service site will take ongoing work and time. And, there is the other aspect of members who may want you to go above and beyond . . . of members who think you're their private coach.

While this type of membership site may seem like a bleak proposition, if it's well planned and well structured, and you have limits set in place, the venture can be a successful one.

The NO Interaction Membership Sites

There are also membership sites that have no interaction. The site has a number of tutorials or lessons that members simply have access to. As the site owner, you occasionally provide new content, maybe once a month. The members are usually kept happy through the new content and that’s about it.

The Bare-Bottom (Simple) Membership Sites

While this isn’t a proper name for it, this type of site offers a set number of tutorials or lessons. It’s kind of like an ecourse, but through a site where members can come back to read the material. The site doesn’t however provide any new content. Sites like this warrant a yearly membership fee.

Why a yearly membership fee?

If you have all your content on a membership site for members to partake of, what's to stop a new member from paying for one month (if it's a monthly fee site), downloading all the content, and leaving?

Unfortunately, if you're contemplating creating a membership site, you need to think of these things.

Benefits of Membership Sites

As with your mailing list, the focus of marketing is to make connections and bring visibility to your products and services. Membership sites are a vehicle to do just this.

The site creates an ongoing 'almost' one-on-one' atmosphere, which creates a closer and stronger member/expert relationship. It’s this ongoing contact and close relationship that affords you the opportunity to sell other products or services, while earning an income from the site.

Your members have already taken the plunge with their first YES to the offer of becoming a member. The first YES is usually the most difficult to get. This therefore, puts them in a 'more' YES mindset.

Keep in mind that there are many variations of membership sites and finding the format that works best for you will be a key element to its success.


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Friday, March 7, 2014

Dribbling Backstory

Backstory trips up new authors and still troubles seasoned ones.

Question: What is backstory?

Answer: Anything that has happened to your characters before the first page of the book.

Question: What makes it hard?

Answer: Deciding what a reader must know to understand what he’s reading and what can be left to the imagination to build tension and hold interest.

Here’s 3 truths.

1.     Backstory dumps near the beginning kills novels.

2.     Stories must be understood to be interesting.

3.     So, the author must tell as little as possible and wait as long as possibe.

Here’s a couple of guidelines given by multi-published, multi-awarded authors. They help me.

In a fiction mentoring clinic, DiAnn Mills taught us to strive for no backstory in the first fifty pages.

At Blue Ridge Christian Writer’s Conference, Angela Hunt told us to wait until about the 75-80% finished spot in your book to give lots of backstory. By then, the reader is invested in the character and wants to know what happened to him/her in the past.

Here’s some examples. Think about which you like the best and why.

Appearing on page 12 of Texas Blue by Jodi Thomas

     Since the War Between the States, bandits from across the border had been raiding cattle off ranches in Texas. At least a hundred fifty thousand head had vanished, not counting the hundreds stolen by small-time outlaws hiding out in canyons within the state.

      By this time, the reader is well acquainted with the protagonist and his goal, motivation, and conflict.

Appearing on page 4 of Life on Hold by Beverly Stowe McClure

     My father, with Uncle Gary’s help, had built it for Rachel and me when we were younger. In addition to being firefighters, the Gibson brothers owned a construction business.

     McClure gives this piece of insight into the treehouse which figures greatly into the story, but then she goes right back into the action.

Appearing on page 4 of Second Chance by Galand Nuchols

     Leroy looked toward the wizened garden he and his mother had tried to save. Buckets of water had been carried to peas, corn, and tomatoes.

     We get this tiny bit of backstory giving a view of the setting before Nuchols goes back to action.

On page 1 of Victoria and the Ghost by Janet K. Brown

     The expression of pain on Dad’s face was familiar since the divorce.

On the same page several paragraphs down.

     Dad gave Mom’s fancy French Provincial to the Salvation Army.

On page 13 of Scorned Justice by Margaret Daley

     He had come back to his hometown of San Antonio to fill a ranger’s position in Company D because his father’s health had taken a turn for the worse six months ago Then, he’d had a heart attack, and his dad had required a lot more care than Brody checking with him every day could give him. When his dad was released from the hospital, he came to live with Brody.

     This was a full paragraph after the reader has been introduced to the heroine and then the hero with dialogue and action included.

Another solution to the problem is shown by including a prologue as in Shadow in the Past by Melanie Roberson-King.

     Nine-year-old Sarah Shand struggled to keep up with her grandmother on their way to the stone circle. (This prologue continues on for 2 ½ pages.)

     Then in chapter 2, page 8, the first touch of backstory comes with this.

     Blair had been Sarah’s first serious boyfriend. They started dating the year she turned sixteen. She was certain he would ask her to marry him when they finished school and had even picked out her wedding gown and planned her big day.

     Then, the author goes back to dialogue.

Compare the above examples that were published with this example that needs work before it can be published.

This is the beginning of a novel I wrote before editing.

     Hannah Hastings was in a mess. If only James had stayed home with his family, but he hadn’t. He had deserted them to write his book, to make his mark. Then, a drunk driver cut his life short, and left Hannah with three kids to raise, no job, and little money.

     Notice this action all happened before the story began. It’s all backstory. How would you solve this?
Which example do you like the best and why.

I found these links helpful.

My best solution is dribbling only a few words at a time through the novel. What’s you best idea?

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

I Like Pink Earns the Literary Classics Seal of Approval

I Like Pink, by Vivian Zabel, is the story of a little girl who is on a quest for the perfect pink dress.  While shopping with her mother, she considers countless dresses that are all made from fabric in varying shades of pink.  At first she is bemused, and a little frustrated, with all the different colors.  But as the sales-clerk and her mother help her to understand that pink can come in many varying shades, she comes to realize and accept that she likes all kinds of pink. 

I Like Pink is a book with which many little girls will relate.  Expressive illustrations are a wonderful complement to this book, which will educate and entertain little girls who are fans of the color pink.

I Like Pink earns the Literary Classics Seal of Approval  

LITERARY CLASSICS Book Reviews & Awards

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Online Membership Sites to Improve Your Marketing Skills – Should You Join One?

By Karen Cioffi

For those of you who aren't sure what a membership site is, it's a website where members pay a monthly or yearly fee to join. And, if you’re looking to increase your knowledge in online marketing, it’s something you may want to consider.

What’s the Cost?

Depending on the depth of the topic (how specific and severe a problem the site is focusing on) the prices vary drastically. Some memberships are at $5 annually, some at $5 per month. Others are at $397 annually and some are thousands per month. As you can see, prices vary drastically.

Another factor in the pricing is the reputation and authority of the owner (expert). Then there is also the amount of information and the services offered.  This all plays a part in membership pricing.

A while ago, I subscribed to a site that offered WordPress training (just to see if I could pick up couple of tips), it was $10 a month or $24 per year. Being a former accountant, I did the cost efficient thing and opted for the $24.

The site consisted of around 20 videos, approximately 10 minutes each. They were on the very basics of WordPress – that was it.

Two Lessons Learned:

1. It might be a good idea to opt for the monthly fee, even if it's just for a month, so you can determine if the site has what you need. If it does, opt for the long-term, cheaper rate. If it doesn't, unsubscribe.

2. Don't underestimate your skills. There are a number of worthwhile programs, sites, and courses online that warrant the investment, but, before you jump in know exactly what you'll be getting. There will be those membership sites, programs, etc., that teach less than what you already know (sometimes much less).

Finding a ‘Good’ One

There are loads of experts out there vying for your ‘dollar.’ So, how do you pick a membership site that will provide you with what you need?

First thing is to determine if you need a membership site.

Can you get by with the information in an ebook, or maybe an ecourse? This is something you’ll need to figure out.

A lot of people like the connection and access to the expert/s, and want the ongoing and updated information. They also like the community of members who are like-minded and struggling to the same end. This allows for a much wider ‘help pool.’ Members often end up helping each other. There are also big organizational membership sites like the National Association of Professional Women – women join for the networking aspects.

Once you’ve decided you want to be part of a membership site, the first action step is to ask around for one that’s worth the cost. Try to get input from ‘heavy hitter’ sites relevant to the area you’re interested in.

Authority sites deal with a lot of professionals and will probably be able offer a recommendation.

You can also do an online search.

What to Look For

Once you find a membership site you’re interested in, check out what’s being offered:

•    Is it member interactive – is there a member forum?
•    Is the information updated regularly with new helpful content to keep you moving forward?
•    Is the ‘expert’ active on the site – will she respond to hot topics and questions?
•    Will there be bonus content, like screen-sharing webinars or videos?
•    Is there a detailed outline of what to expect?
•    What’s the cost and payment method?

Do your homework if you’re interested in a membership site to improve your online marketing skills. This will help you find one that’s right for you.


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