Friday, December 26, 2014

Where to start your story

In the first long work of fiction I wrote, I made the classic beginner's mistake of starting the story too soon., with two chapters of backstory.

I wrote the first version of the book, "The Angry Little Boy," which will be published by 4RV sometime next year, in a weekend. Then I spent the next couple of years learning enough about fiction writing to make it publishable, including signing up for an online course on revising and editing. The first assignment was to post a chapter and revise it.

Taking a look at the first two chapters, I decided they would be poor material for the assignment, so I chose chapter three. It was one of those moments of clarity or perhaps sheer blind luck. Ultimately, with the help of the instructor, I cut out the first two chapters entirely. The necessary information, quite a bit less than I originally had, ended up as a flashback.

Determined not to stumble into the same pit twice, I searched for a method to determine where to start a story. Simply put, where to start is where the story begins, and where it begins depends on what the story is about, which means writing down the key concept.

In my story, a  little boy loses his mother in a fire, but the adults around him are too immersed in their own grief to pay attention to him and help him with his.  Formulated this way, it was clear that the action started when my main character arrives at his grandmother's house. His mother is dead and father in the hospital. The first two chapters, for which I had done quite a lot of research, were about the fire and her death, not about what happens after, and so I cut them.

While stating the core concept of a story may not be quick or easy -- it took me a couple of weeks of staring at my first few chapters to figure out the core concept for my current work-in-progress -- it serves as a guide to both where to start, and how to focus the story. Begin at the beginning, not before.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Online Marketing with Grassroots Visibility (three fundamental elements)

By Karen Cioffi

This is Part 1 of a 2 part post.

I make it a habit to attend as many marketing webinars and teleseminars that I can. The last few I attended were about blogging. Listening to the other attendees I realized there are many people out there who need the basics in regard to internet marketing. These attendees were confused and overwhelmed.

Marketing is all around us - on a constant basis. While there are different strategies and tools, the purpose of marketing is to attract potential customers to your services or product. Then through purposeful and persuasive dialogue convince them that purchasing what you are offering is a wise decision.

At the root of any marketing strategy is visibility. Let's look at three ways to obtain that visibility:

1. LEARN! I consider this the foundation of any marketing strategy.

Imagine you're a kid in a toy store where everything is free. Every aisle, every shelf jammed packed with toys and all you have to do is take what you want.

Well, consider the internet your marketing toy store, just walk down the aisles and search the shelves for what you want or need.

We live in an unbelievably opportune time to learn about anything and everything without leaving our homes, and usually for free or at a nominal cost. There are so many resources online, such as: articles, blogs, webinars, videos, teleseminars, teleclasses, videos, eclasses, and ebooks. There are even FREE online conferences available.

Take advantage of as many of these resources that you can. Learn the skills and strategies you'll need to become a pro-marketer.

A fantastic free writers' conference is The Muse Online Writers Conference which is held in October. You should definitely take advantage of this valuable opportunity to learn and network. (

2. Begin to create that visibility.

A: Create a website or at the very least a blog

Okay, this is where you will need to roll up your sleeves and get a little dirty. If you are completely new to all this I recommend starting with a blog. One of the easiest to create and maintain is at If you get stuck on something it may take a bit of reading and searching their help forum, but there hasn't been a question I had that I couldn't find the answer to. And, it's free!

Tip: Choose a domain name that will still be appropriate as you grow and/or branch out.

If you have the time and don't mind the effort, go for the website; it can grow with you. There are a number of hosting sites that are reasonably priced such as Blue Host (great customer service support – I highly recommend it) and Go Daddy. is a free hosting site. It’s a ‘ready to play, out of the box’ system. Like Blogger, there are no downloads necessary and no hosting services required.

There are many other sites and building tools available, such as Just do a Google search.

If you are completely at a loss here, there are services that can help. These services will create a website for you. Please remember though, you don't need flash to have an effective site, you need valuable content and an easy to navigate landing page.

When looking for a service to help, do a little research and watch prices. I have seen services that charge between $500 and $5000 for websites. They can be much more money also.

NOTE: While a free site may sound tempting, you won’t have control over it. Some limitations are:

•    You cannot change the code
•    You are limited to their themes – you cannot upload your own
•    Plugins are limiited
•    You may be limited to the number of pages you can create, depending on the service
•    You do not have the same support system as with a paid hosting service

There are other limitations – these are five of the basics.

Stay tuned next month for more on creating visibility and eight additional tips on bringing traffic to your websites.


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Thursday, December 4, 2014

Introducing new 4RV illustrator and children's book

     Matthew Hughes joined 4RV as a new-to-us illustrator, and his first project is a book written by Wayne Harris-Wyrick, If You Swallow That Seed ...  The book will be released early in 2015, and the rough sketches Matthew has revealed are as eye-catching as the art work for the cover.

     I'm sure authors of children's books will be asking for Matthew to do their books. We're excited that he joined our staff. We now have three excellent illustrators other than Aidana WillowRaven. When I promote another book being formatted, I'll introduce that illustrator.

     Posts about other books recently released and some soon-to-be will be appearing in the near future. We're trying to get everything back on track with editor-in-chief changes from Harry Gilleland to Paulette Henderson to Vickey Kennedy, all in less than four months. We've also added another designer who does some of our covers, too. Hopefully we'll be close to catching up on the schedule and have several new books out.