Wednesday, May 30, 2012


By Ruby Johnson
Disclaimer: I was not paid to give a positive review of this book. I was, however, given a free book.
Fifteen years in the making, from research, to writing, to editing and finally publishing, RASPUTIN AND THE JEWS- A Reversal of History, is so filled with information, that each sentence is important in this compact tome.
One of the dangers of writing a book such as this is getting the balance right. Not only does the author have to make it readable, believable and not overly complex, she has to remain impartial throughout the work. She must lay out the facts and not thrust her opinions on the reader. In this regard, Ms. Colon succeeds by allowing readers to make their own decisions about the importance of Rasputin and this time in history.
Delin Colon is a great researcher who clearly put in a lot of legwork before she even started typing.
This book is about misconceptions, and their impact on future generations of an ethnic group. In order to understand Rasputin’s role in history, it’s important to understand his relationship with Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra. The way it is written gives both perspectives of a government in decay, complete with the political circumstances of the time.
From the days at the Alexander Palace, Colon brought us up close to not only the Tsaravich's struggle with hemophilia, but also the struggle of a mother, Alexandra, whom had to bare it all, beside her son. Into this came the, mystic and advisor known as Rasputin. He had the ear of both Nicholas and Alexandra who listened to his counsel in political, health, and religious matters. While Rasputin may have had influence on Tsar Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra, as well as the government, the collapse of Imperial Russia was thought to be the ineptitude of their leadership, not Rasputin’s advice.
What Colon makes clear is the persecution of the Russian Jews and the role Rasputin played in preaching against such persecution. The love-hate relationship and oppression by the government to the Jews is shown in almost every aspect of their life. While the government loved the fact that the Jews were great merchants, they punished them by trying to keep them out of cities.
The breathtaking account of Russia’s Imperial Rule and the Role of Rasputin gives the reader a detailed study of the life of the Russian Jews and their oppression. Colon manages to uncover a more sympathetic side to the much maligned Rasputin. This book is a great resource for one that has just become interested in this tragic episode of Russian History, or simply for one who wishes to learn more of what government with too much power can do to its people.
This book may be purchased at,, and other bookstores.

Delin Colón did her undergraduate work in French at the University of Maryland, College Park, and her graduate work in Clinical Psychology at California State University at Los Angeles.

Delin has lived in Roosevelt,NJ, Baltimore, D.C., Tallahassee, Montreal, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Eureka and Washington state.

She has worked as a technical writer for Sociological Abstracts and started a company which matched technical and creative writers with writing jobs. Intrigued by the memoirs of her great-great uncle, who was secretary to Rasputin, she's spent the last dozen years researching his claims that Rasputin was maligned primarily due to his support of the Russian Jewish community

Colón is retired and lives with her photographer husband in the Pacific Northwest, where she continues to write. 

Monday, May 28, 2012


Earl Staggs
GFWW member Earl Staggs  writes mysteries and many of his short stories are published in magazines and anthologies.His novel, MEMORY OF A MURDER, earned a long list of  five star reviews. He  has served as Managing Editor of 
 Futures Mystery Magazine and as President of the Short Mystery Fiction Society. He is a contributing blog member of Murderous Musings and Make Mine Mystery and is a frequent speaker at conferences and writers groups. He is a two time winner of the Derringer Award from the Short Mystery Fiction Society for Best Short Story of the year. This is his story of winning his second Derringer.

My story won the DERRINGER AWARD!

The Derringers are awarded by the Short Mystery Fiction Society each year to honor the best in published short stories. A team of judges selects five finalists in each category, then the members of the Society vote to select the winners.

I can’t tell you how excited I was when my story “Where Billy Died” won the Derringer Award for Best Novella of 2011.

I probably spent more time writing this story than any other. The idea came when my wife and I took a day trip to Hico, Texas. The people of Hico claim one of the most famous outlaws of the old west did not die at the wrong end of a gun at the age of twenty-one as the history books claim.

Nope, they insist, Billy the Kid lived out his final years in Hico and died there in 1950, a month after his ninetieth birthday. I visited the museum devoted to him and stood on the exact spot where they say he dropped dead of a heart attack.

We may never know for sure when and where Billy died, but I was fascinated by the legend and knew I had to use it in a story someday.

“But, Earl,” I said to myself, “you don’t write westerns.”

“I know that,” I responded. “but I’ll come up with a way to use it.”I came up with a contemporary story about a modern day bounty hunter named Jack who travels to Hico to bring back a young bail jumper named Billy Joe Raynor. Piece of cake, thinks Jack, until he discovers the chief enforcer for a New Jersey mobster has followed him to Hico. Is it because Jack beat up the mobster’s brother, or because of something Billy Joe did before he skipped town? Jack only knows he’s tangled with the hulking bruiser before and will have to again. Jack doesn’t know he’ll also get tangled up in Hico’s legend about another young outlaw named Billy and that the past and present will merge in a surprising conclusion.

I was very proud of this story when I finished it and ecstatic when Untreed Reads accepted it for publication as an ebook novella. Now, I’m doing cartwheels in the clouds because it brought home a Derringer Award.

“Where Billy Died,” is available  from for any e-reader. Vist Earl at and while you're there,  read “The Day I Almost Became a Great Writer,” which some say is the funniest story he's ever written or “White Hats and Happy Trails,” a true story about the day he spent with a boyhood idol, Roy Rogers.
 Do leave Earl a comment today and please come back friday for the story behind his novel and an excerpt of Memory of Murder.

Friday, May 25, 2012


Posted by Ruby Johnson

About Luke Reynolds...

Luke Reynolds is back to share an excerpt from his book Keep Calm and Query On. A former teacher of English in public schools in Connecticut and Massachusetts, he also taught Composition at Northern Arizona University. He currently makes his home in York, England with his wife Jennifer and son Tyler. Luke is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of Erin Murphy Literary Agency.He is co-editor of Dedicated to the People of Darfur: Writings on Fear, Risk, and Hope (Rutgers University Press, 2009) and of Burned In: Fueling the Fire to Teach (Teachers College Press, 2011). A Call to Creativity: Writing, Reading, and Inspiring Students in an Age of Standardization (Teachers College Press, 2012).

 Back Cover Blurb...

In Keep Calm and Query On, Luke Reynolds discusses his journey as a writer with all of its bludgeoning defeats and small triumphs. Against the backdrop of life abroad in York, England, these reflections on living and writing pulse with hope, wisdom, and conviction.
Luke’s journey as a writer is accompanied by 14 interviews he has conducted with powerful and prolific authors, including Jane Smiley, Daniel Handler (a.k.a. Lemony Snicket), George Saunders, Lindsey Collen, and David Wroblewski. They discuss their worst rejections, their first publications, what keeps them motivated, and why they believe in the power of words.

What people are saying about Keep Calm and Query On

“Reading Keep Calm and Query On is like sitting down one afternoon with a good friend, a fellow writer who knows first-hand about the daily struggles of the writing life. Only this friend is also wise and caring and generous with his support. And when the day is over and you have to leave, you will go with the quiet certainty that you are on the right path.”
—Francisco X. Stork, author of the novels "Marcelo in the Real World" and "Irises"
“‘Stubbornness saved me,’ says Charles Baxter, in Luke Reynolds’s brave new book, Keep Calm and Query On, a collection of deeply honest personal accounts that show how a group of wise and gifted authors have developed and sustained the stubbornness every writer needs to survive.”
—Sarah Stone, author of the Booksense 76 Pick Novel
"The True Sources of the Nile"“Keep Calm and Query On is a rallying cry to writers of all ages to find out what drives them to make art. A compassionate, challenging, and creative call to action for writers everywhere—both aspiring and veteran.”
—Betsy Lerner, author of "The Forest for the Trees: An Editor’s Advice to Writers"
“In this lucid, readable, warm and admirably honest book, Luke Reynolds offers up fine comfort for writers just starting out and those well established seeking to weather the inevitable struggles that at times attend a writing life.”
—E.J. Levy, author with work appearing in The New York Times,
Best American Essays, and The Paris Review

Pain and the Point of Writing

Even thirty seconds of silence felt sublime. But then the coughing would erupt again, sending my two-year old son, Tyler, into a fit of wheezing, almost-vomiting, and crying. Listening to him deal with the nasty flu was like putting my heart through a meat-grinder.

And yet.

As a writer, it becomes harder and harder to not see pain as a necessity for creating truth with words—even the kind of truth that deceives (known by its popular genre title as fiction). Perhaps John Gardner, revered author of Grendel and On Becoming a Novelist among other works of literary fiction and criticism, gives us the ultimate call to action when it comes to pain and creation.

Gardner once wrote that “Art begins with a wound.” He should know. When he was only a young teen, he accidentally ran over his younger brother with a tractor on their farm, killing the younger boy. Gardner’s battle with guilt and depression, some claim, lasted his entire life.

But the pain that Gardner so tragically endured also served as a candle from which to draw light for his words. In a sense, John Gardner the writer had to tell stories as a way of dealing with the deep and harrowing suffering of his accident.

Are we any different as writers?

I’ll be the first to admit that I would like to avoid that unwelcome guest, Pain. When he shows up at my front door, I have often tried to persuade him that he had the wrong address, or, that, if he’s sure the address is right, would he like a cup of joe and a chat rather than performing his duties? Pain always seems uninterested in my pleas.

But then again, I am a writer. The very best work I have crafted has come as a result of the pain I’ve felt in my own life, or from seeing the pain in the life of someone for whom I care deeply. Because it is pain that makes the heart break open, and an open heart is a necessity for writing. A writer must be able to then translate pain—his own or another’s—into compassion. As soon as compassion begins, so can creation.

Towards the end of my first year as a seventh-grade English teacher, I had gotten close to a handful of students who were facing huge foes: one had an abusive mother; one had a dad who walked out on the family earlier that year; another’s parents were embittered in an ugly divorce; and the last had been relentlessly bullied.

I offered every kind of support that I knew how to give. I connected my students with the proper counselors in the school, and I got on my knees and home and prayed. But another option presented itself to me: write.
I banged out the rough draft of a middle-grade novel originally entitled Atticus & Me. With my students’ faces in my mind, and their pain in my heart, I wrote almost in a state of obsession—producing twenty to thirty pages every evening after teaching during the day.

I cried through those pages, and I battled my students’ foes—and my own—in those pages.

After two weeks of constant work, I had a quite terrible novel in my hands. But since our school budget was short, and we had no class sets of novels left to read and still two months of the school year awaiting us, I photocopied the manuscript and we read it together. All 80 of my students and I.

Two years and nine drafts later, Atticus & Me helped me land an agent, Ammi-Joan Paquett of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency. I met Joan at the Rutgers University One-on-One Conference and we corresponded for four months before she offered to represent me and Atticus. The moment was beautiful for me, yes, but it was most profound to think of my four students, for whom Atticus was even created in the first place.

I now find myself oddly at ease about whether or not Atticus ever makes his way into the “real world” through Random House or Little, Brown or any other publishing house. Instead, I have found that my fingers—when they write with a compassion that can only be borne of pain—are capable of producing many more words, many more stories.

In using the pain of our own lives and that which we see in others to fuel our writing, we not only teach ourselves to feel compassion, but we also learn to craft stories that house that most authentic of all emotions and actions: love.

And I doubt any of us would daresay that a writer can craft without love. Because while Gardner is right that art begins with a wound, we might add that it ends with a way forward—a crack where hope seeps in.
If you're a writer, what keeps you motivated and inspired to write? 

 Luke has graciously agreed to evaluate a query for one person who comments today.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


This is the third in a 12-part series by Fort Worth based fiction novelist Jeff Bacot on challenging conventional literary rules in fiction writing. Jeff Bacot is a freelance writer of fiction and blogger of unconventional thought. He has written two novels and 17 short stories. He is an active member of The Greater Fort Worth Writers. He graduated from SMU with a BA, BBA and MA.

This may be the topic you have an opinion on, so enter your comments at the end of the post.

The Profound In the Profane


(What The %&#@ Are You Saying?)

I swear a lot. Maybe because, as a writer, I spend most of my time alone so my social sensitivities are gone, maybe because I never abandoned adolescent rebellion, maybe because all I wear when I write are boxers, a t-shirt and flip-flops and thus feel liberated from common convention, or maybe it’s just the voices inside my head again. Who knows?

I swear often. In my previous life as a banker, I was told by my admin, on my way out to lunch one morning, that I had “flown the ‘F’ drone”, seventeen times. She counted. Really, is that all? Nobody must have done anything bad that morning. Or maybe somebody must have done something really bad, really good. I can’t remember. Anyway, I did it; but I didn’t write the ‘F’ bomb seventeen times, I spoke it.

Writing is a means to communicate without being present. It is a method to convey thoughts and emotions to an audience. Profane words are taboo because they are visceral, pungent, and powerful. They question the most basic essences of our humanity that we are the most self-conscious about: religion, gender, profession, sexuality, race, and even base bodily functions.

Cursing in literature is often thought of as tough, cool and macho. I guess we all feel that when we first drop a foul line in our youth. But really, is it? I liken it to that cable TV commercial we’ve all seen, where the guy gets mad trying to call his cable company and ends up with an eye patch in a ditch. So, my description of that same situation, as it applies to cursing in writing, would go something like this: We use swear words to blow off steam. When we use swear words to blow off steam, people think we’re tough. When people think we’re tough, they want to know how tough. When people want to know how tough, we end up in a roadside ditch with our laptop and manuscript, muddy and crying to mama. Don’t end up in a roadside ditch, muddy and crying to mama. Be judicious with swearing.

So, to my point: there is a curse in cursing in verse. In my writing, I don’t swear much unless it’s necessary, it’s authentic and it enhances the character, scene or situation. I find it lazy, cheap and contrived. These words are designed for extremes, not norms. So, the overuse of them in the ordinary telling of a story, where you are just trying to push details forward, is just sloppy, tired and convenient. Save swearing for the extremes. They help grab attention and inject meaning where it is needed most.

The nuts and bolts of the subject are quite simple. People like me that curse too much, are perfectly fine with reading fiction without swearing. I actually prefer a little bit of swearing in what I read, but I rarely notice when there is none. I can’t remember ever making the observation in books I’ve read, “boy I really wish she had said to that jerk, ‘go find a nice bathroom stall to go fuck yourself in’. “ People who curse a little, are probably okay with some cursing, but not too much. But this segment of people are also okay with no cursing at all. People that never curse at all are almost always going to be turned off by it. So, the simple math is this: 100% of all three subsets of people are fine with no cursing. However, roughly only about 50% are going to keep reading if there is excessive profanity. So, you limit your number of readers by the inclusion of too much swearing, or even any. It’s really just a matter of math, probability and economics.

When, where and how is it okay to make use of profanity in writing? The best guidance for the use of profanity can be summed up with a set of questions:


My fiction genre is considered general fiction and is intended for a male audience; intelligent, educated, but not sophisticated. The fact is, as research has confirmed, many women are very interested in this genre. Much of my work is a surgical dissection into the male brain (It’s a remarkably simple place.). Intuition told me these demographics would tolerate occasional intense use of swearwords, but would shutter at their constant use. The fact is men swear. Women know that. Tolerance of bleep-ables is entirely genre specific.


I’m reminded of Jay, the scruffy, long-haired character from several of Kevin Clark’s films (Dogma): without profanity, he couldn’t work, he wouldn’t work. It’s what makes him Jay and is his defining characteristic. That said, if profanity offends a person, they probably won’t enjoy watching Jay on screen or in a book, or like the character much. So, while Kevin Clark uses Jay’s profanity to great effect in his films, he’s also reducing the audience for those films. Which is a good tradeoff, if you ask me: you can’t please everyone all the time, ever. If it offends no one, we are not doing our jobs. But debasing characters doesn’t require verbal raunch. Thomas Harris’ Hannibal Lecter doesn’t say, “I ate his liver with some f*****g beans.” If Lecter talked like that, we would see him as crude or inarticulate. Though Harris puts venom in the mouths of other characters, the f-word he gives Lecter is “fava.” We’re forced to accept Lecter as a man of refinement and sophistication, making his formality all the more unnerving and chilling.


Curse words can be very powerful tools of emotion and characterization, if used right. I’m sure we can all think of people who use the word f**king as a meaningless adjective. I hear them walking down the street, or passing a construction site. (“Dude, pass me the f**king hammer”). The word has lost its meaning, but don’t tell me that this line doesn’t conjure up a personality for you. Frankly, the characterization of the construction worker wouldn’t be the same without that meaningless adjective. It is a powerful tool for characterization.


In my novel, On The Hole, set to go to press in June 2012, I had to use a fair amount of swearing. The story is primarily set on a golf course, inhabited almost entirely by drunk men with their buddies having a good time on a sunny afternoon. If you have ever played golf in such a setting, you know exactly the proliferation of creative cursing that goes on. It’s an epidemic. In this particular scene there was no way around using this word, because it is authentic to this world, and no other word could be as meaningful.

“Jay shuddered and turned his head. If there is one universally understood sound on a golf course, it is the one made by almost every golfer after a bad shot. Jay always enjoyed the predictable frustrated cry that announced an improper swing, an unintended ball destination, or just maddening frustration with the game. “F***CK!” Nick screamed.”

‘S**t’ would suffice I suppose. But that s**t’ just ain’t right. Right? You get the point.


The beliefs and values of any writer will obviously affect the use of cursing. Sometimes the risk of losing one segment of an audience can be worth telling the story truthfully and with integrity. So, there is nothing wrong with using George Carlin’s notorious “seven words you can’t say”. I use them all the time, when they fit the character, scene or the situation.

Two Words Of Caution

As I advocate the freedom to use inappropriate, slang or swear words in your prose, I say it with one stern caution. Let’s just call it a “caveat swearer”. You already know these two words, so I will spare you the repetition. You should always leave them out of all writing unless you are prepared for the consequences. They are the two most offensive words in the Queen’s English, and always engender anger/resentment/spite. What are they? Well, let’s just say: you can’t hunt for a bigger trigger to failure, in the use of these two words. Catch my drift?

Alas, when measured against the five questions above, profanity does carry risks, uncertainties and questions. But if the writer is honest in answering them, profanity can be liberating, energizing, hell, it can be fun. It can enhance the story. End result, the line between a profound piece of fiction and a profane piece of crap, might best be determined by a Supreme Court ruling on how you judge whether something is “pornographic.” In the words of Justice Stewart: “I know it when I see it.”

 So, WTF, feel free to express yourself with some nastiness. Hell yeah! Damn straight! Just make it count.

Monday, May 21, 2012


Luke Reynolds

Posted by Ruby Johnson

It's our pleasure to welcome Luke Reynolds to our blog. A former teacher of English in public schools in Connecticut and Massachusetts, he also taught Composition at Northern Arizona University. He currently makes his home in York, England with his wife Jennifer and son Tyler. Luke is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of Erin Murphy Literary Agency.

 We are happy he could find the time to talk  about the writing life and on  Friday he is sharing an excerpt of his newest book.

Luke has offered a Query Critique for one lucky person who comments on his post today. 


Luke, thank you for joining us to talk about writing.

Thanks so much for having me on the blog, Ruby! Pumped to be here.

You’ve written four books all non-fiction but each has a different focus- children, teaching, foreign work in Darfur and, currently, an inspirational craft book for writers. Could you share a bit about your latest book KEEP CALM AND QUERY ON?

Essentially, KEEP CALM is a book that I wrote because I needed to tell myself these words. My wife, Jennifer, and I moved to York, England almost two years ago, along with our toddler, Tyler. I left a job teaching middle school, and Jen left her role as a stay-at-home-mother to pursue her PhD. Making a massive family switch and many lifestyle changes. Goodbye drying machine! Hello hanging clothes on the line in rainy England! It definitely proved challenging. Along with those changes, I was trying hard to make it as a writer. Like all of us, I’d received so many rejections that I sometimes found it hard to keep going—day after day—especially when financially we really needed a small boost to help pay the bills. And then Winston Churchill’s wartime slogan, Keep Calm and Carry On just transmogrified inside my heart, and became Keep Calm and QUERY On. I took the words to heart, and I began writing in a frenzied burst of hope and faith and passion. I needed to break open my own heart and tell myself why it was important to keep writing—to keep believing. What resulted from this freedom is KEEP CALM AND QUERY ON. I also decided to ask some of my favourite authors to do interviews with me for the book, as I wanted readers to receive wisdom and inspiration from writers at all different points of their journeys.

What can readers expect when they pick up one of your books?
My deepest hope is that when readers pick up a book on which I’ve worked, they’ll say, Luke tried to be as authentic and as honest as possible. He tried to tell it like it is, holding nothing back. I also hope that readers come away with a sense of possibility—what’s possible in our frail world—that hope finds a way to stay alive, and that when we work on anything with passion and persistence—whether that be parenting, crafting fiction, teaching—our lives are more fulfilling, more authentic.

When you sit down to write a book what is the first aspect you focus on?
When I sit down and begin a new book, the first question I find myself asking is, Do I have to tell this story? In other words, I try to check in with my heart and make sure that this story—whether fiction or non-fiction—has been acting the part of a toddler having a tantrum. Has the story defiantly refused to leave me alone? Has a character or a question or a problem knocked on my head and heart repeatedly and at all hours of the day and night? If so, then I start writing—and usually it’s quite awful to begin with. Treacherous. Bad. But I keep writing, and I try to gain a sense of why my heart and head so desperately wanted to tell the story. Usually, it’s because there’s a question inside me that I want to explore—and as writers, we can explore questions and problems in our work. Not that we necessarily always come to conclusions, but it’s the journey of asking honestly that nurtures both ourselves and our readers, I think.

How long does it take you to write a book from concept to submission?
Great question. The honest answer is that the time it takes me to complete a book and start sending it out is becoming slower and slower. And slower. And I think this is a great thing.. When I first started writing seriously about ten years ago, I would crank out a novel in two months. I’d sit at that desk and pound the keys and plan nothing and just write page after page. Not surprisingly, these early attempts weren’t very good. I wasn’t taking the time to linger over my drafts, consider every sentence at the level it needed to be considered. I also wasn’t thinking as honestly and thoughtfully about my characters and their problems as I needed to. In the beginning, I wrote only with my heart. I think this is a great way to START a project, but if the head never gets involved, the word only reaches a certain point. Now, I still write first drafts quickly, but then I try to take time away from them, go back and do full revisions, take time away, go back, over and over and over. Now, it’s taking me more along the lines of a year to get a book feeling ready. On this note, my admirable and awesome agent, Ammi-Joan Paquette has been such a source of inspiration and instruction. Joan has helped me learn to take time away from a manuscript, to let it “percolate,” and this has been the most helpful advice I’ve gotten since I started writing.

Is there one person in your life that cheers you on and inspires you to write?
I feel like I have been sustained by people who are thoughtful, kind, and warm with their encouragement. Most especially, my wife Jennifer Reynolds is a constant source of support. She’s such a perspicacious thinker when it comes to seeing my writing lows as just that—lows and not truth. She helps me see the bigger picture and encourages me to keep working on projects even if I’m befuddled as to where to go. My writing mentor, John Robinson, has also been an incredible source of inspiration and encouragement. John is an amazing writer, and he is so generous with his faith in me. When I hit a wall, I can send John an e-mail, and he comes back with so much passionate support that it tends to shock me out of discouragement and propels me forward again. My agent, Ammi-Joan Paquette, is remarkable. And I use that word in its full force and meaning. Joan is the hardest worker I know when it comes to writing and agenting—she’s crafted the beautiful novel Nowhere Girl as well as numerous picture books and more novels and other books to come! Joan is always ready with both insight and encouragement for any project, and she is just so dang kind. To find someone who is incredibly talented, intelligent, kind, and encouraging is, I think, not all that common. Finally, author Kathy Erskine has been such a support on this England journey. Through correspondence, her words haver often instructed and inspired me in so many ways.

What makes you want to sit down at your computer and write every day?
The possibilities. I think writing feels so much like living sometimes. Sitting down to write feels like waking up in the morning: what could happen? How could it happen? What if this massive obstacle is inserted into what was going to happen? It’s so much fun when things are kicking into gear and the writing feels organic to living—like the characters and the story are real, not imagined.

What challenge or struggle do you face when you do write? How do you then go about addressing the part with which you struggle?
My biggest challenge right now is the sense of feeling overwhelmed. I can sometimes write notes and notes and notes in my writing journal regarding a revision of a project. Then, when I gather up all these notes and revision ideas and sit down with the first or second draft of a novel, I kind of hit this massive wall and the feeling that I won’t EVER be able to finish the revisions and get to the next draft feels so hard to get past. Usually, I try to tell myself that it can happen as slow as it needs to. There’s no rush. That usually gets me started, and once I’m started and beyond the first few pages, I find that momentum kicks in and the wall shrinks each day that I keep going.

What is the most important thing you’ve learned about writing and publishing that you didn’t know when you started out?
This: everything happens slowly. (For the most part.) Everything takes a lot of time. I think of the publishing world now in terms of pregnancy. Consider how long it takes to conceive a baby for most couples—not just on the first try. Often many months (maybe even a year or more?). Then, after conception, it takes nine months to grow a baby! Then, even when the baby is born, that little ball of human flesh and joy still isn’t capable of much beyond pooping, eating, and crying. It takes another couple years before we start to hear words, running, etc. It takes long time to grow a child. I think it takes just as long to grow a book. And we can sometimes get frustrated—hurry up! We want to yell at a manuscript or the publishing world or anything else. But telling a child to get taller just because we want to get to the next stage does no one any good. Instead, I think the key thing is to enjoy every stage of the life of our children and the life of our books. Not rush them, but love them for where they’re at, then slowly grow them further.

If you could have dinner with any living author what would you ask him/her?
I would hands-down have dinner with Harper Lee. I would seriously just want to sit across from Ms. Lee, look into her face (Yes: stare! Yes: gaze!) and hang on every single word she uttered. For a while, I tried to write to Ms. Lee, and after a while, I finally got a return letter from her sister, Alice Lee, which was cordial and kind, but which disclosed what everyone already knows: Harper Lee doesn’t correspond or talk much with those outside her small circle in Monroeville, Alabama. Still, that letter from Alice Lee was so kind and a joy to receive. Harper Lee’s character Atticus Finch is among the role models of my life. Reading his words to his children, I admit: I just break down. Seriously, I mean I WEEP. His life and his actions and his ideas are just so dang beautiful.

Finally, where can we buy your books? Find you on the web? Your favorite social media sites?
I’m not too much of a social media guru, but I have been getting onto Facebook more lately. Mainly, I blog as often as possible about life in York and writing and social justice and faith at my blog INTERSECTIONS located at and my website is, where there are links directing viewers to all book options.
Thanks so much Ruby! And peace and courage to you and all your readers!

Luke will be back here on friday to share an excerpt from his book. In the meantime, Luke has a question for you: What creation have you been most proud of since you began writing--whether from your childhood or a few days ago.


Luke Reynolds is also the author of A CALL TO CREATIVITY and the co-editor of BURNED IN (Teacher College Press, 2011),with Audrey Friedman) and DEDICATED TO THE PEOPLE OF DARFUR (Rutgers University Press, 2009, with his wife Jennnifer Reynolds). His book A NEW MAN (Stonegarden 2007) explores a more authentic, honest possibility for masculinity in our contemporary culture. His writing has also appeared in The Believer, The Writer, The Sonora Review, The Hartford Courant, Arizona Daily Sun, Mutuality, Hunger Mountain, and Tucson Weekly.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday-Against Medical Advice

 Excerpt is from Against Medical Advice by Ruby Johnson~

Nearly in fianancial straits following a divorce, Marti Webb takes a job covering anesthesia in a small S.C. hospital  hoping for a fresh start. But then she discovers the administrator and pharmacist seem to be in collusion and she finds herself plunged right in the middle of a situation involving medicare fraud.

The trouble began when Don  said, " I need  tranquility and you need excitement."
 Life can be that way.  He moved in with Miss Tranquility, got excitement and most of my inheritance.  Now I, Marti Webb, needed peace. That’s part of the reason I was on Sullivan’s Island in a small beach house, the only real estate I still owned. But it’s a bit more complicated than that.

Like this excerpt? Want to play yourself? Check out Six Sentence Sunday and take a look at the contributions of other authors.

Friday, May 18, 2012


About Sara Flower...
Sara Flower is back to share an excerpt of her debut novel BY THE SWORD. Don't forget to answer her questions after the excerpt and leave your email address to be entered in her e-book giveaway.
Sara  started writing stories when she was five and always wanted to publish books, but as a teen she says she thought it would be more of a part time hobby.She believed adults who sometimes made anything to do with the arts sound like it couldn't be a feasible career. It was not until she graduated with a college diploma in Hotel Management that she finally decided to take the steps to write full time.

Back Cover Blurb
Seventeen year old Talya`s main goal is to bring down the Malinorian Empire. And Jalarn, the empire`s prodigy general, is at the top of her list of enemies to kill. Not only has Jalarn murdered Talya`s king, he`s almost killed her. Twice. 
But things don't go as Talya planned when a visiting prophet sends her on a mission to the highly feared Hunter Forest. It is there that she must gain the allegiance of the forest's inhabitants before Jalarn and his men do.

Then, memories of a haunting vision resurface when Talya comes face to face with Jalarn. She makes a rash decision that sends her down a path she never thought nor imagined she would follow.


By The Sword

Still dazed from being tossed around by that lion, Jalarn got up and ran after his men at a slower pace than he wanted to. He gritted his teeth and pushed himself to run faster, angry that a stupid beast had nearly finished him.

His men were standing over the girl. She was on the ground.

“Is she dead?” Jalarn asked.

“No, I didn’t club her good enough,” said one of his men.

He patted his weapon, and the others joined him in a loud chorus of laughter.

Jalarn removed the man’s mask and punched him in the face. That wiped off his incompetent grin pretty quick.

Everyone froze and stared at their general.

“There was no order to kill her. I want her alive. Have I made myself clear?”

The knights looked among themselves in confusion.


“Yes, Sir,” they said at last.


A piercing whinny broke the quiet.

Jalarn spun around. It was a horse. Two of his men were attempting to subdue her.

It must be the girl’s.

The animal reared up on her hind legs and knocked them both over.

“Incompetence will be rewarded with death next time,” Jalarn muttered.

One of them lassoed her with a vine.

Jalarn approached the beast and noticed her wings. She was a Malinorian-bred mare. A Pegasus. How in the world did a knight from Sanctus obtain such an animal?

That’s not the only question I would like an answer to.

He looked at the unconscious sword maiden. They would never catch up with the giants now, and it was all because of her. But she had spared his life. He needed to know why. Then he would kill her.

A scroll peeked out of her left-side pocket. Jalarn took the rolled paper, curious as to why she would have carried it with her.

“Carry the girl back to camp. The giants are long gone. We will return to Malinor tonight.”
Sara's question for readers...
What about you? Are Fantasy and Paranormals your first reading love, or is it a newly acquired taste? And do you have a favorite sub-genre?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


Lois Winston

May Critique

Bethany Spotts won the May critique from Lois Winston for the first five pages of Help! My Dad is Missing.

Lois Winston is an agent with the Ashley Grayson Literary Agency as well as an award-winning author and designer. She currently writes the critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries series.
Assault With A Deadly  Glue Gun, the first book in her series, received starred reviews from both Publishers Weekly and Booklist and has been nominated for a Book of the Year Award by ForeWords Reviews. Death By Killer Mop Doll, the second book in the series, was released this past January. Visit Lois at and Anastasia at

Want to add some addtional comments? Scroll to the bottom of the page and talk away!

 Chapter One

Somewhere I’d read you could stop your heart from pounding by taking slow, deep breaths. So I did that. It worked for maybe thirty seconds. Then I started thinking about finally meeting my dad. My heart pumped faster. Who’d want to kill him? Your first paragraph is very disjointed. You begin by “telling” your story instead of showing it through active narrative or dialogue. It’s always a good idea to begin with a killer sentence. You’ve got one, but you bury it at the end of the paragraph. Get rid of the everything else and open with, Who’d want to kill my dad?

“Ellis, the quiz was too easy?” Mr. Metcalf collected papers from the opposite side of the room.

“No.” I sat up straight. “I just studied hard.”

The kids in the room groaned. What else could I say? The quiz was easy. Telling the truth would just put a bull’s eye on my back. (DELETE HI-LIGHTED PORTIONS)

A weird thought hit me as I watched Mr. Metcalf collect [our math quiz] papers: I knew more about my math teacher than I did my own father. I’d had Mr. Metcalf last year, in tenth grade. My dad, I’d never met [my dad].

Notice how I’ve deleted all the extraneous filler. This tightens the work and draws the reader in quicker, without lots of info dumping. If it’s important the reader know the narrator is really good in math or that this is his second year of having the same math teacher, you can always drop that in later. The beginning of your book is for hooking the reader, making her want to keep reading.

Why’d you leave me? Didn’t you even want me? Ever since my Dad got his new job as City Manager of Kettering, Michigan I’d been practicing my opener. Sometimes I saw myself ripping into him for what he’d done. Other times I felt grateful that he’d see me. Now somebody wanted to kill him? Stand in line!

Uh, Mr. Sanborn?” Mr. Metcalf stood in front of my row. White papers fanned out from his large, dark hands. “The quiz, Mr. Sanborn. Are you turning it in?”

Some kids laughed. I glanced at my desk. My quiz was trapped under my elbow. I passed it up.

Mr. Metcalf took my test and moved to the next row. Again, none of this seems important at this point. My mind was on meeting Frank Johnson. Since grade school, I’d told myself my father was a P-O-W, a Vet missing in action. I didn’t even know if he’d gone to war. Probably not. But the thought helped me through a rough time.

Loud laughter erupted around me. Kevin Smooch, a guy sitting on the other side of the room, grinned at me. Smooch was tall and thin. He reminded me of the Planter’s Peanut guy. Instead of a top hat, he wore his hair in tiny dreadlocks that shot up like a miniature forest. From the way he was grinning at me, I knew I was the target of one of his jokes.

“You didn’t hear that did you, Ellis?” Smooch leaned across his desk eyeing me.

“Hear what?” My heart beat fast.

Mr. Metcalf said, “I asked if you had a big date this weekend? I was trying to find out why you were so preoccupied.”

Smooch cut in. “Then I said, if Ellis had a date, he’d be all-the-way-live, coming at you in Dolby sound. ‘Cause it ain’t everyday, Ellis gets some play. Am I right, man? You know I’m right.”

The class laughed. My stomach shot to my feet. Smooch had a way of getting you right where it hurts.

Smooch pointed a finger at me. “Bingo.”

Everybody was still laughing or grinning at me. “What about you, Smooch? I don’t see girls lining up for you. Or are you as scared of them as you are of haunted houses?”

Teeny, a girl sitting behind Smooch said, “Uh-oh, busted. Smooch, I know you wish everybody would forget about the haunted house.”

Smooch’s crooked grin stayed pasted on his face. “It’s okay, Teeny. Ellis and I are going to be real close. I’m going to be dating his sister.” He kept his gaze on me. “Yes, I am.”

I laughed and shook my head. “My sister? You’re dreaming man.”

If someone had told me Smooch was running for president, I wouldn’t have been as surprised. I couldn’t see my sister gazing in his direction

“Why not?” Smooch looked a little uncertain. “You think she’s too good for me?”

“I think she is.” Teeny stood and patted Smooch on the back. “You’re not even in her universe.”

The bell rang. Students scrambled out of the room.

Mr. Metcalf yelled, “Read chapters three and four people. We’re going to be factoring polynomials.

I smiled at Teeny and nodded to her. She shrugged like it was no big deal. All filler. I want to know about why this kid has never met his father yet thinks someone is going to kill him. That’s your story.

I was still smiling when I headed for the back steps. Kids raced around me, slowing only when a teacher yelled. Lockers clanged shut on either side of the hall. Behind me, a girl screamed into her phone, “You’ve got to be freakin’ kidding me.” Three guys from the marching band pushed their way through the crowd, using their instrument cases, two flutes and some kind of horn, as battering rams. John F. Kennedy High School had survived its first week of the year. More filler. Only describe what is important to the scene. Description for the sake of description doesn’t belong in a ms.

Halfway to the third floor, I stopped, one foot on the riser. I checked behind me for an escape. There was nothing: only the forward march of students, arms laden with books, iPods in their ears trying to squeeze past me. Besides, Pete and Jamal would be waiting. Suck it up, I thought.

She was standing at the top of the fourth floor landing and reminded me of a fashion model in one of those girls’ magazines. She was about five-feet seven, long and lean. She wore a long white tuxedo-styled vest over a navy and while striped skirt and navy patent heels.

Ayanna peered into a big black-hole of a purse, the kind that looks like a small duffel bag, except it was pink leather. Her long black hair rushed in and practically covered her face. Again, lots of unnecessary wordiness. Why do you need to mention Pete and Jamal here? You’re also in a guy’s POV. Guys don’t describe girls in this sort of way, and being that she’s his sister, he certainly wouldn’t be describing her as if he were coming upon someone he’d never met before. All you need to say is something like, My sister stood at the top of the fourth floor landing. I saw no way of avoiding her. When she stuck her hand in her bag, she looked up and saw me. At first her face registered surprise, then gave way to pure hatred. My sister was a beauty. And Smooch thought he was going to get some of that?

“You scathing pig.” Ayanna’s eyes hardened into cold, black marbles.

For a second I just stared at her. I tried to see if my half-sister looked like me. She was lighter in complexion: A golden tan now sizzling with red undertones. Two strands of curly bangs hung like mini-spirals in the middle of her forehead. I half expected the curls to stiffen and become horns. Is she his sister or half-sister? And wouldn’t he know by now whether or not they look alike? Maybe we had the same nose. Why does this matter?

Kids kept bumping past me. Shifting my gym bag to my right side I climbed the steps. When I reached the landing, I said, “So tell me, Ayanna? What is a ‘scathing pig’? The two words don’t go together.”

“Really.” She jabbed me with a pink fingernail. “You’re scathing and you’re a pig. But let me make it plain.” When she spoke, she did that neck thing so that her head moved with the rhythm of her words. “Ellis, you are a tack-head, money-grubbing, slimy slinking, po-boy walking, scum of the earth. Understand?”

She closed in on me. I took a deep breath and inhaled the smell of fresh lemons and vanilla. I rotated my wrist and checked my watch. It was one of those real cool ones that have a fake diamond where the twelve should be, and no other numbers or marks. To be honest, it’s hard to tell time on it. But since it was the end of the day, I knew it was around 3:32 and not 2:32. Another hour. The point of this?

There are only two reasons any scene should be in a book: either to advance the plot or tell the reader something she needs to know AT THAT GIVEN MOMENT about the character(s). You’re filling your scene with all sorts of information that does neither, and the most compelling part of your writing gets lost in all the stuff that doesn’t matter. Thank you for allowing me to read your work. I hope this critique helps.

Thank you, Lois, for participating in our Critique of the First Five Pages. Readers if  you have some addtional comments that might be helpful, now is the time.

If you'd like to purchase Lois Winston's books they are available at : MIDNIGHTINKBOOKS.COM


Monday, May 14, 2012


Posted by Kimberly Packard Walton
Recently I had the opportunity to chat with Sara Flower about writing her first novel.Sara started writing stories when she was five and always wanted to publish books, but as a teen she says she thought it would be more of a part time hobby.She believed adults who sometimes made anything to do with the arts sound like it wouldn't be a feasible career for her. It was not until she graduated with a college diploma in Hotel Management that she finally decided to take the steps to write full time.
Sara will be back Friday with an excerpt of her book. She has graciously offered to give one e-book copy of By The Sword to one lucky reader who comments today and Friday.
Firstly, I want to thank you for hosting me on your blog today!

You're quite welcome. So tell us a bit about your first novel, By the Sword, and its characters.
By the Sword is an epic fantasy surrounding two opposing nations – The Malinorian Empire and Sanctus. The main characters are Talya and Jalarn. Talya is a young bloodthirsty knight who gets herself into all kinds of trouble, especially when she crosses paths with Jalarn, Malinor’s new prodigy general.

What inspired you to write this book?
I have always enjoyed fantasy books and movies. I read a book by Wayne Thomas Batson and it really moved me to write a young adult fantasy story of my own – one that told of adventure and intrigue with complex characters. I listened to the band Red a lot while writing the first draft which helped fuel the inspiration.

Who is your favorite character and why?
It actually turns out to be Chrissa (As much as I love Talya), the Malinorian ruler’s daughter. She is emotionally broken, yet very brave. I admire her strength to do what is necessary to break free of those that want to suppress her.

What was your experience in creating Talya’s world?
It was a lot of fun thinking up the names of the countries and characters, and imagining the various settings of another world.

Tell us about your writing process. Do you outline or are you a “pantser”?
For By the Sword, I did have an outline. It was the first book that I ever completed so I wanted to ensure that I finished it within a certain time frame. With other books, I tend to use a very casual outline and allow the story to flow more.

You Indie published By the Sword, tell us about that experience.
It was an amazing learning experience. To be honest, it helped me grow up. All of the research and responsibility is on you as a self-publisher. I thrived on the challenge. Really, it is easier than it sounds. My favorite parts were thinking up a cover design and corresponding with my editor, Shelley Holloway. She even did the formatting for my Ebook which was a huge bonus. I published through Amazon, which is a very user-friendly service for indie writers and you can control the price and where your book can be distributed through.

Are you working on a follow up novel?
I have started a book that is not a direct sequel to By the Sword, but it will have many of the key characters along with some new ones. I plan to have it available next year.

Thank you for appearing on our blog and good luck with your book.
Sara's question for readers. 
If you read fantasy which elements do you most want to read, well developed characters, the well defined worlds they inhabit, or a combination of both?

Friday, May 11, 2012


Posted by Ruby Johnson

Hi, my name is Kathy Bennett and I write romantic suspense books, and suspense novels with romantic elements. Prior to retiring, I was a police officer for the Los Angeles Police Department for twenty-one years. 

I think most people naturally assume the conception of my books comes from experiences I had working as a cop. In part, that supposition is true – but not entirely. While I use my time with the LAPD to flavor my novels, oddly enough, that's not where I've gotten the initial impetus for my e-books. 

My first book, a romantic suspense called A Dozen Deadly Roses dealt with a female LAPD officer being stalked. That book actually originated from the fact that I myself was a victim of a stalker. My personal experience was not nearly as exciting or dangerous as what my lead character Jade Donovan experienced, but that was where the initial idea came from.

My second book, a suspense novel with romantic elements, called A Deadly Blessing was released earlier this month. The idea for this story came out of several news reports involving politicians who were behaving badly. But my story also reveals very real crime problems that, on a regular basis, affect the lives of every day people. In fact, I'm finding that one of my goals when I'm writing my stories is to not only entertain the reader, but to expose and educate (in an interesting way) just how devious the criminal element can be.

 A Deadly Blessing is the first in a series featuring LAPD Detective Maddie Divine.  Here's a brief rundown of the main characters:
 Maddie Divine: Her marriage hangs by a thread, her SWAT-officer husband has lost it, and almost as bad, she can’t trust her detective partner.
 Travis Divine: After the death of a SWAT teammate, he’s a shell of the man he used to be. He’s lost touch with his work, his wife and occasionally even reality. Can he regain the warrior mentality needed to support Maddie and do his job?
 Preston Truesdale: The California governor’s daughter has gone missing, and so has her only bone marrow donor. Is it coincidence or something more sinister?
 Pilar Luna: The mayor of Los Angeles is a media favorite, and she plays Preston like a Vegas pro would play a Midwestern farmboy…all in hopes of reaching the White House. Will she hit the jackpot?
 Tiffany Truesdale: The brainiac teenager evaded her security team to spend a night on the town with her girlfriends, but can she outwit the man who kidnapped her before time runs out?

 I hope you'll find A Deadly Blessing a lightning-paced story of suspense that keeps you on edge from beginning to end. Please note this book contains commonly used street language.
 My current work in progress is the second installment in the Maddie Divine series. The idea for this book actually came from a reality television show. I was watching TV one day and saw how crooks could manipulate the show's premise for a life of crime. Which television show was it? I'm not saying…I'm a suspense writer, remember? J

Excerpt: A Deadly Blessing


“Maddie, do not hang up the phone.”
“Travis, I’m working. I can’t talk right now.”
“You’re always working. What’s more important, our marriage or your job?”
My partner, Darius Cutter, plucked my cell phone from my hand. “Hey, dude, she’ll call you later. The chief and the mayor are waiting for us.” He snapped my cell shut and handed it back to me. “Let’s go.”
“You shouldn’t have done that.” Immediately, the phone vibrated in my hand. The display showed a smiling photo of my husband — a photo taken when Travis was okay and normal. A pang of sorrow stabbed my chest.
“Ignore it,” Darius said, referring to the quivering phone. “Call him back when we’re out of our meeting.” He led the way out of the noisy detective squad room to the foyer where we’d catch the elevator.
I knew Darius was right. When the chief of police calls and orders you to a meeting with the mayor, you hustle your ass to get there. But my husband was on edge, to say the least. Guilt weighed heavily on me for putting work ahead of him, but I rationalized that Travis was a cop and knew that sometimes it was necessary. Meanwhile, I followed my partner while we traversed the Police Administration Building and then over to City Hall.
It’s not every day a girl gets to meet both the chief of police and the mayor of Los Angeles. I wondered why today was my day.
We stood in the lobby where we’d been told to wait for Chief Fryer and his adjutant. I twisted my wedding ring on my finger; a sure sign I was nervous. Technically, the chief is my boss, but as one of hundreds of LAPD detectives working for him, our paths had never crossed – until now.
I noticed a sheen sprouting on Darius’s forehead. That sweat on his mocha skin was the only giveaway he was stressed, too. “I don’t like this,” said Darius. “I expected the ‘hurry up and wait’ but we don’t even know why we’re here. I don’t like going into any meeting unprepared, much less one where the chief and the mayor are running the show. Why all the mystery?”
 Read more here....
Many thanks to the Greater Fort Worth Writers for hosting me today. I love to hear from readers, so feel free to leave a comment here or visit me at
 I'm giving away a free copy of my latest e-book, A Deadly Blessing to one lucky person who leaves a comment. Please put your email address in your comment.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


   Matthew Bryant is  secretary of GFW Writers group and also is our in-house professor of the new Grammar Etiquette blog series, posted the second Wednesday of every month. He is an English teacher in Denton, TX. When he isn't teaching he is ghost writing and working on his novel. He says with small children he has learned to write fast.  
If you have a question or a comment, please leave it in the comment section at the end of this article.

So you've created a protagonist, an antagonist, a laundry list of conflict and crafted a killer setting. There's still one uber-important feature that you're missing. The HOOK, right? Right?

Well yes, there's that too... but before you can set a hook, you have to assign a narrator. This seems like a simple enough task... but look again.

Before you start hitting up your 60wpms on the word processor of your choice, take a moment to consider the differences and what they might mean to your story and audience.

To help my students remember the differences, always remember, “I come first, you come second, everybody else comes third.”

First Person – I've heard it told that this is the folly of new authors, kind of a comfort and safety net. My take on it is that it is the most restrictive way to tell a story. All thoughts and visuals are limited to the perspective of the protagonist/narrator.

I prefer to look at books written in the first person perspective as a means to heighten the experience. Being a science fiction and horror enthusiast, I want my readers to become immersed in the story to the extent that they can reach out and feel the steady hum of technology or cower under the humid breath of the unknown directly behind them.

These are the deepest experiences because the writer is forced to show a lot more of the inner workings, the personal feelings, thoughts, fears, hopes... everything the main character wishes to hide about him or herself is on display. All faults from in-opportune boners/menstruations to unhealthy feelings of lust, hate, self-depreciation and despair.

Done correctly, first person is the hardest to write because we spend our entire lives hoping nobody sees our faults for fear of rejection, only letting the closest to us get a glimpse.

Second Person – What do you mean nobody writes in second person? Haven't you ever read a Choose Your Own Adventure book?? If you haven't you're missing out. But alas, second person is probably best limited to direct address from a first-person narrator.

On the other hand, this form of writing is a LOT more frequent than you'd think. A vast majority of copywriters use these in advertising. It makes sense if you think about it. If you want to sell something, be it a product or an idea, make it personal. Let the reader believe, consciously or subconsciously, that your writing is speaking directly to them.

Third Person – The all-encompassing sandbox of writing. Ranging from very limited to omniscient and all places in between, third person lets you do what you will with your story.

While this perspective is more geared towards a fly on the wall atmosphere and feel, it gives a much broader view of what's going on. You can still share the views of the characters, and now are free to share on multiples. You can jump perspectives as well, following a number of protagonists instead of just one. With first person, following multiple just comes across as confusing and annoying (I'm looking at you, Myers)

But try not to get too carried away. The more groups you follow, the more likely people will get lost, especially if the characters haven't been properly established, are not memorable, or are flat out annoying. Inkspell comes to mind. As much as I absolutely loved the premise and a majority of the characters, too much time spent with characters that I really just wanted to hurry up and die so I could get back to somebody I cared more about made it almost unreadable and a flash-forward race to parts that actually interested me.

I still haven't cracked open my copy of Inkdeath...

But I digress.

First-Person – Extremely limited, but a more emotional experience
Second-Person – Probably selling you something.
Third Person – I was already playing God to begin with, lets go all out!

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