Saturday, January 16, 2021

Critters Readers' Poll results for 4RV



    Several people and publications from 4RV Publishing were nominated in Critters Readers' Poll, and voting finished January 14. The final results gave our nominees some room to brag a bit.

    First place book editor went to Cheryl Malandrios, an editor much in demand at 4RV and other places. She shares her time with being a top realtor and helping authors make their books the best possible.


    The other first place went to 4RV for having the best online bookstore, thanks to webmaster Aidana WillowRaven and her assistant Elizabeth Morgan.

      Cheryl Malandrios also took a second place in Children's Books with her book A Christmas Kindness, illustrated by Caroline Mabey.


    The hosts didn't change the year on the digital seals for those that placed in the top 10 without taking first place, but we will share them anyway. Jeanne Conway placed 2nd in the Best Artist category. She has illustrated several children's books for 4RV including Merry Tilda, Wild, Wild Wind, and the Louie the Duck books.


     Borrowed Time by Rita Durrett placed 2nd in Young Adult Book. Rita's book is one of the newer releases from 4RV.


     For Best Other Novel, novels not covered by genre, Dust of Lies by G. K. Davenport took 2nd. The book also took 2nd place in Best Book Cover Artwork. Steve Daniels created the art for the cover.


     Another second place, Vivian Zabel came in 2nd in the Best Author division. Her books can be found on, as can books by other authors.

    Shawn Simon, a step-mother herself, received 2nd place in Best Nonfiction Book with her book Stepping into a New Role: Stories from Step Moms. For those already step-parents or who are about to become one, this book provides a handy guide.

    Finally, the lowest rank any 4RV received was in the Book Publisher category. The company received a 6th place, but still finished in the top 10. 

    For more information about 4RV, about submissions, about books and authors, about writing style, visit the 4RV website.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Vison Boards for Authors


Have you heard of vision boards? They are visual displays meant to motivate and inspire you to achieve the goals you set. They are fun and easy to put together. 

All you need to create a vision board is poster board or corkboard, scissors, glue, and a bunch of magazines; though I often print free images I find online or pay for stock photos. The creative process of finding the right photos and displaying them in an attractive collage provides a healthy dose of inspiration and helps cement the goals in your mind. 

Authors can use vision boards for focus and motivation, but they can also use them to inspire their next novel. Find photos that reflect the setting, the characters, historical details, current events, or even weapon of choice (for mystery novels). One author I found online used Canva to design a mock front cover for her book's vision board. How cool is that? 

Once you've created your vision board, you need to find the perfect spot to hang or lean it so you see it daily. You don't hide a lamp in your closet. You put it on a nightstand or table to illuminate the room. 

For those who want to save space or want to have a vision board they can carry with them, you'll find several vision board apps available. I used the Gratitude app this year, which is a combination vision board and gratitude journal with affirmations and daily positive thoughts to keep my thoughts and self-talk productive instead of destructive. 

Have you created vision boards in the past? Will you create one for this year or for one of your novels? Share your thoughts in the comments below. 

Cheryl C. Malandrinos is a freelance writer and editor. She is the author of four children’s books including, A Christmas Kindness, released by 4RV Publishing. A member of SCBWI, she is blogger and book reviewer. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two daughters. She also has a son who is married. Visit Cheryl online at and her children’s book blog at

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Writing a Fiction Story – Walking Through Walls Backstory

 It’s always interesting how writers find ideas when writing a fiction story.

Some may simply come up with an idea, others may see something that triggers a story, and sometimes a story is handed to a writer.

I had never thought of rewriting a folktale until being given a rough outline of an ancient Chinese tale, Taoist Master of the Lao Mountain. This was the inception of middle-grade, fantasy adventure Walking Through Walls.

It was June of 2008 and I belonged to a writing critique group along with a nonfiction writer who had a basic outline of an ancient Chinese tale that he wanted to pass along to a fiction writer. Since writing a fiction story wasn't his cup of tea, he gave me the outline.

After reading the outline, I loved the lessons it could bring to children.

Folktales come from all over the world and usually provide morale messages geared toward doing right, rather than wrong. These tales are a wonderful way to teach children through an engaging and entertaining story.

Since the tale, as with many ancient tales, involved an adult as the protagonist the first step needed was to rewrite it for today’s children’s market. This meant it needed a child protagonist.

As I wanted to stay as close to the original tale as I could, I used some of its flavor, descriptions, and names. That’s how the main character’s name, Wang, was chosen.

Along with keeping the story's flavor, I wanted it to be engaging for today’s child, so I came up with new characters, the dragon, enhanced storyline and plot, and so on.

Having an outline to guide me was a great help; it offered a general direction, like an arrow pointing North. So, as I began to rewrite the tale it was able to take on a life of its own, while still heading North. And, to ensure the story kept its flavor, I made sure to include bits of the original story to keep it as close to the tale’s outline as possible.

Working on the story, I knew it needed to take place in ancient China, so decided to use the 16th century as the backdrop for the story.

To add an element of realism to the story, I researched ancient China, including foods, flowers, dwellings, and clothing. I also contacted the writer who gave me the outline for some additional cultural information.

I worked on the story for well over a year, revising it, having it critiqued numerous times, and revising it some more. I even had it professionally edited before beginning to send it out for submissions.

Fortunately for me, the timing coincided with the 2009 Muse Online Writers Conference and I signed up to have a pitch with 4RV Publishing. As nervous as I was, the pitch went well and the manuscript was accepted.

For the next year, it was more revisions, tweaking, additional elements to the story, and editing to make the middle-grade, fantasy adventure, Walking Through Walls, better than before.

Then, the story was ready for a cover illustration.

Aidana WillowRaven was assigned to my book and although the dragon in the story was described as “a shimmering golden dragon,” Aidana ‘felt’ the flavor of the story pointed to a more tradition Chinese type dragon. We went back and forth a bit about the dragon’s size and shape, but Aidana’s vision of what the dragon should look like was perfect.

Now, the description of the 'golden dragon' in the story needed to be corrected. So, I changed the text to read, “Suddenly a magnificent dragon with shimmering red and silver scales appeared.”

Done. The description of the dragon and the cover matched; we were ready to move forward.

Next came the interior design formatting, which includes the text. After blocking the text it was determined another six pages was needed to make the spine wide enough. So, I had to come up with more content.

As the story was complete, to fill the page count I came up with an Author’s Note page, four pages of Reading Comprehension, an Activities Page, and after more research eight pages of information on the Ming Dynasty time period and the Chinese dragon.

Finally, Walking Through Walls, a middle-grade fantasy adventure, won The Children's Literary Classics 2012 Silver Award.

Writing a fiction story from its inception to publication can take many paths; this is the path Walking Through Walls took.


Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author and a working children’s ghostwriter/rewriter as well as a writing coach. She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of Writers on the Move as well as an author online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing.

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