Hug an Author — Write a Review!

The great thing about independent publishing is that there’s an opportunity for anyone to publish a book. But with so many new books getting published all the time, it’s hard for indie authors to get our books to stand out. The first step is to make sure that our books are as good as we can possibly make them, spending months or even years polishing every sentence. But once that wonderful book is out in the world, how do we get anyone to notice it?

The best way is old-fashioned word-of-mouth. Someone reads our book and they enjoy it, so they tell a friend, who gets interested and decides to read the book, too. With the Internet, this can happen even faster, because you can recommend a book and have a lot of people all around the world see that recommendation. Book distributors like Amazon and social sites like Goodreads have made this process even easier by offering simple tools for anyone to rate and review books. Now, it’s not just critics who have a platform for voicing their opinions about the latest novels. You can read reviews written by readers just like you to help find books that you could enjoy. But it’s been estimated that only 1-5% of all readers write any reviews.

When you write a review, you help the author by drawing attention to their book. You also help other readers find the book and figure out if it’s for them. If you say, for example, “I loved how the cat helped solved the mystery!”, then cat-lovers will know to pick the the book up–and people who don’t like cats may realize that it’s not for them. Reviews are subjective, but they still help describe the book and inform potential readers.

There are guides out there about how to write a good review, but you don’t need to be an expert on anything to write a good review. Just describe what you liked or didn’t like in the story that you read. Often the most helpful reviews are a mix of both positive and negative comments. Remember to add details. Don’t just say “I loved it!” or “I hated it!”, describe why you had that reaction.

Sometimes, you may not love the book you just read. It’s okay to say so. (It’s not okay to attack the author personally, but you’re allowed to be honest about the book itself.) Some people don’t feel comfortable posting negative reviews, and that’s okay, too. But as authors, it’s our job to accept some criticism, and if we listen to all our feedback (good or bad), that can help us to grow in our storytelling abilities. And don’t be scared off by horror stories of authors who lashed out at a negative review–it has happened, but it’s rare (and you should report any author who harasses you).

In the end, our books succeed because of the readers who love them. Writing a review is a nice way to thank the author for the hard work they did so you would enjoy the story. Reviews have been compared to giving a hug to an author, and that’s how I feel about them, too. I love to write for myself, but I publish my stories because I know people are entertained by them. And every review I get reminds me that somewhere out there, I made someone smile.

November Means NaNo

…and I don’t mean tiny technology!

November means NaNoWriMo for many writers. If you’re participating, congratulations and good luck! If you’ve never heard of it, check it out here. You might find you want to play along this year and join the fun for real next year!

I’m not a registered participant this year, but I’ve won the challenge several times in the past. My Deb Logan novel, Faery Unexpected, came out of a NaNo experience, as did my Sorcha’s Children novel Dragons’ Choice. It’s a great program and a fabulous way to kick-start a daily writing habit.

If you’re doing the challenge, you’re firmly into your second week, and you may find yourself flailing a bit. “I don’t want to write today” or “I don’t know know what happens next” are frequent complaints as you move toward the middle of the month. In fact, you may be reading this post in silent protest, a rationalization (“I’m finding tips about NaNo”) as a form of procrastination.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad you’re here, but here are a few thoughts that may help you disconnect from the Internet and return to your work-in-progress.

First, don’t wait for inspiration. Just start typing and have faith that your muse will show up for work. Much as I love the rush of adrenaline and words that come from an inspired writing session, I’ve discovered that when I read back through my finished draft, I can’t tell which passages were inspired and which were harder than slogging uphill in thigh-deep snow. Get the words on the page. You can revise later, but you can’t edit what you haven’t written.

Not sure where your story should go from here? Try some of these tips:

  • Whatever is happening, escalate the challenges your characters are facing. Do that by:
    • Deepening the conflict — make it more personal to the character. If your detective is searching for a rapist, let him discover that the victim lives in the same dorm, on the same floor, as the detective’s daughter. Is his little girl on the rapist’s radar?
    • Broadening the conflict — give the conflict a wider scope. Maybe your detective is searching for a missing girl and discovers the MO repeated across the city, perhaps across the state. How many girls are missing? Are they still alive? Is this a serial killer or perhaps a white slaver ring? How wide do the ripples of this crime extend?
  • You’ve got conflict (Yay!), now be sure you’re varying it! Don’t have your character fight the same battle over and over again, just against different foes. He was in a death-defying battle against a goblin, then he fought an orc and narrowly escaped death, next he was attacked by troll — yawn. Been there. Done that. Here’s a list of types of conflict. See how many you can pack into that middle you ‘re trying not to let sag!
    • Man vs Nature — Mother Earth can present some pretty extreme challenges!
    • Man vs Man — yep, we all understand that one!
    • Man vs Society — Hunger Games, anyone?
    • Man vs Self — Is your hero a tortured soul?
    • Man vs God — Talk about a powerful adversary…
    • Romance — lots of potential conflict there–enough for its own genre, but that doesn’t mean you can’t incorporate a little romantic conflict into your police procedural.
  • Avoid quick rescues — this is one I struggle with. I like my characters, but I know I need to toss them into conflict. So I do it. I throw them to the lions … and then immediately pull them out of harm’s way! *whew* Conflict generated, but danger avoided. Bad writer, Debbie! Don’t rescue that character, make the lions hungrier!

Whatever happens, you’ve embarked on a challenging, but rewarding, journey! Go for the win and keep those words flowing. At the very least, you’ll arrive in December with lots of ideas and a habit of writing every day. No matter what :D

More Fantasy Classics

Fantasy.  It’s what I gobbled up as a child and young adult.  I still love to read fantasy.  Much of the current fantasy trends dark to very dark and I prefer something with a more upbeat ending.  I like the good guys and gals to win and the bad ones to get their just deserves.  Hardships may abound, but not excessive blood and gore.  The classic Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper is just my cup of tea.   This features the age old struggle between Light and Dark with children as the main characters fighting the battles for the sake of the entire world. These classic stories are deeply rooted in the rich heritage of Arthurian legend and Celtic mythology. Susan Cooper depicts a world in which the forces of evil, however terrifying, are ultimately seen as hollow and valueless in comparison to the forces of good. This is a five book series, written in the 1980s, set in Wales and England, but each book can stand alone.  If one happens to pick up a book out of order, they still make an excellent story.  I recommend that you read them in order:

1.  Over Sea, Under Stone

2. The Dark is Rising

3. Greenwitch

4. The Gray King

5. Silver on the Tree

There are six children as the main characters in these books, but the last book is the only one with all six in it.

The Dark is Rising was a Newbery Medal Honor winner.  The Gray King was a Newbery Medal Winner.  They are easily found in print.  In fact, in addition to the usual book outlets, the Folio Society has a set bound in buckram and The Easton Press has a matched set for sale.  If you have never read them, do yourself a favor and buy a set.  I recommend them for fifth grade through adult.

How to Create Original Fantasy Creatures & Beings

Guest post by Vanessa Finaughty, author of the Wizard’s End Series available below!

ryokinThere are as many ways to create original fantasy creatures as there are creatures to be created. I still love my dragons and elves, and other familiar fantasy creatures, but it’s always good to add an original flair to your fantasy stories, something that has the potential to make readers sit back and think, wow, that’s cool!

There are no hard and fast rules to restrict your imagination, but here are some tips if you aren’t sure where to start:

Use existing creatures – fantasy or real life – and add fresh attributes. How much you alter the existing creature/being is entirely up to you. You could take the attributes of a lion or dragon, for example, and create a new physical appearance that looks nothing like the original creature/being. In my Legends of Origin sci-fi fantasy series, the magical ryokin’s physical appearance comes largely from the extinct sabre-tooth tiger – except the ryokin has golden fur with no stripes, and massive wings that enable it to fly. It’s also an intelligent, telepathic being despite its animal appearance. In the short story, Ereolon’s Day of Demons (part of the Sorcery & Subterfuge anthology), the main character is a winged elf – with ogre genes and the ability to bend others’ minds to his will.

Create something solely from your imagination. This can be difficult, but it’s definitely worth it if you do it right. You don’t need to add too many details either, if what you’re creating is a common animal that’s minor to your story. For example, I created a few animals for Wizard of Ends. There are gabbertok, which are dangerous night creatures with slanted yellow eyes that usually live in the woods. The females are protective over their young, but the males will eat their own offspring if the mother is not around. I also created ferocious hound monkeys, which have the bodies of hounds and torsos of monkeys, with sharp, curved teeth and deadly claws. They stand man height on all fours and travel in packs of ten. Each of these has a few more attributes, but nothing too detailed, because they are only there to add flavour to the story.

Visualise the creature or being you’re describing. It might sound okay as you write, but that doesn’t mean it won’t look ridiculous. Unless your story is humorous, you probably don’t want the visuals you give readers to make them laugh.

Eye abstract background

Consider how common fantasy creatures might evolve over a few million years and create the evolved version. You can use any creature/being from dragons and elves to ogres and unicorns, and everything in between.

Other Tips:

When creating your fantasy creature or being, consider some of the following:

* Is it weak or strong? If it’s weak, how does its species survive? If it’s strong, does it dominate the region and, if not, why?
* What temperament does it have?
* Does it have any special abilities?
* What colour are its eyes and skin?
* What texture is its skin?
* Does it have hair? If it has hair, what colour is it, and is it soft or coarse?
* Is its kind social or solitary?
* How does it reproduce? Eggs? Live birth? Other?
* Where does it usually make its home?
* What does it eat?
* What do its teeth look like?

Also, when naming your creature or being, try to keep the name simple and easy to say. There’s nothing worse than reading a fantasy story only to be constantly interrupted as you battle to ‘say’ the name in your mind each time you read it in the book.

I hope this post helps some fellow fantasy authors. Happy writing!

Thanks Vanessa, good advice to get started! Vanessa Finaughty’s new series, “The Wizard of Ends” is out this month and you can get them through the links provided here.

Wizard of Ends Book  I

WoE 1A powerful sorceress wants the Queen of Ends dead, hoping her demise will render the king unable to defend his crown. Only the wizard Lashlor Leaflin is in a position to protect Queen Narraki Dragonsbane, but he avoids using magic – at almost any cost. With creatures of darkness hunting the queen, however, he may be left with little choice but to call on the power he holds within.

Wizard of Ends Book II: Dark Creature

The Queen of Ends has been cursed into a rabid creature of darkness. Only Lashlor’s old flame, Rune Arcana, might be able to remove the curse. Lashlor believes he can find Rune in the WoE 2Mountains of Eclador. The only trouble is – Rune now despises him, and, in all of recorded history, no one has ever returned from these mountains. Fearing the Wizard of Ends will not be able to bring help, the king goes against Lashlor’s advice by enlisting the aid of other magic users.

 

Author biography

Vanessa Finaughty is an author of many genres who now focuses on fantasy and science fiction. She’s published 15 books, of which 6 are fantasy. Vanessa grew up in Cape Town, South Africa, and still lives there with her husband of fifteen years, her baby daughter and plenty of furry, four-legged ‘children’.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES         {This is Vanessa…}       

Vanessa Finaughty2{…and this is Vanessa on Fantasy}

{ANY QUESTIONS??}

Vanessa has always been passionate about books, and knew from a young age that she wanted to write them one day. She loves animals, coffee and the smell of wet grass, and hates liars, sweltering weather and long queues. Her interests include reading, photography, the supernatural, mythology, aliens and outer space, ancient history, life’s mysteries and martial arts, of which she has five years’ experience.

Links

Author blog
Goodreads
Twitter
Facebook
Smashwords
iBooks
Barnes & Noble

Publication dates

Wizard of Ends, Book 1: 9 October 2014
Wizard of Ends, Book 2: Dark Creature: 23 October 2014

 

New Release: GHOSTS AND GHOULIES

I’m proud to announce that WDM Publishing has released my alter-ego’s first SPUN YARNS collection: GHOSTS AND GHOULIES! Just in time for Halloween, too :D

GHOSTS AND GHOULIESG&G Cover-2x3
by Deb Logan
Audience: Juvenile  | Short Story Collection

Spooky, supernatural stories for younger readers. This collection of five short stories includes a ghost story (“Lilah’s Ghost”), two urban fantasy tales (“Demon Daze” and “School Daze”), and two stories of dragons and faeries (“Deirdre’s Dragon” and “Lexie’s Choice”).

Ghosts and Ghoulies and Dragons, Oh My!

Electronic Edition Publication Date: October 2014
Buy Now:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Smashwords

Maintaining the Illusion

I am reading a sample of Medieval-themed Fantasy novel that looked interesting. It is intriguing, and I finish the first two thats coolchapters. The author has already drawn me into the world they have created. They did a good job of writing the end of the chapter so that I don’t have any choice but to run my finger across my Kindle to bring up the beginning of the next chapter. And it goes something like this:

Lionel, we thought we had found the missing orb, but it is not as you described. It is not the correct color.” The elderly knight holds out a shining white sphere.

It’s okay. It is missing the most important ingredient.” Lionel reaches out and when he takes the orb, it turns a dark blue, like the middle of a lake. “Me.”

That’s cool.” Boyden standing slightly to Lionel’s left steps closer, his eyes wide.

I go back to my Kindle library and delete the sample, then search for another book.

The author made a critical, but an all too common, mistake. They destroyed the illusion that they had so painstakingly created at the beginning of the book. Because of what I had read to this point, I was settling into the Medieval-themed world the author had built. Then suddenly I came to a screeching halt as I was snatched out of the well-formed fantasy world. I am okay with stretching the lines of the time-period with words like “orb”, since it is a fantasy, but unless Lionel and Boyden were somehow transported from the Twentieth century (which they weren’t), the contract the author had made with me, was broken, and I could never trust the author again.

The author had made a promise, a contract, with me that this was going to be a Medieval-themed novel. From the description, and what I had read in the first couple of chapters, I was prepared to read a book set in a Medieval-like world. I wanted to be taken away to a fantasy world that, while different from Earth’s Middle Ages, stayed true to the same basic principals of that time period. I would not expect someone to show up with a machine gun or for a plane to fly over head, or for someone to say “Okay” and definitely not “Cool” (unless they referred to the weather).

I have heard many people say that because it is fantasy, you can do whatever you want. This is the furthest from the truth. Mark Twain said,

marktwain

Why is this? The basic tenet of fantasy is that the world, that the author creates, is an alternate reality of what we already know. An illusion that something could be real if you only let yourself go along with the author for a while. Illusion is the key word here. A common definition of illusion is ‘Something that deceives by producing a false or misleading impression of reality’. The key is that it gives the impression of reality. It is not a surprise that the word reality continues to come up as we try to define fantasy. When I read “Okay” and “Cool” the impression of reality was ended as cleanly as if the Knight had used his longsword to sever the connection between myself and the author’s world. Strange things happen in the real world that people cannot deny. However, in fantasy, the world must appear to be true. To do otherwise would be to breach the contract between the reader and author.

I realize that it is not always easy to use period-specific words. I am a little anal in my own writing and try not to use any word, in my Dragon-Called series, that did not originate prior to the mid-1500s. I am not this strict when reading other authors, but there is a limit. Simply putting just a little effort, on the part of this author, would have kept me comfortably in their world, and I would have bought the book.

Words are not the only way to destroy the illusion, but possibly the most common.

Another example occurred when I read a sample of a different book and immediately bought it. The story line was good, and the author kept me engaged. There were a few times, at the beginning, that stretched my believability, but I excused it because the story line was well done. That was until I came across a scene where the protagonist was invited by the king to attend a banquet. When the protag shows up at the banquet, the author starts off describing a palace banquet room. They initially did a reasonable job, but with crystal chandeliers, it would have been more relevant for something out of the Renaissance period or maybe even later than that. Regardless, I kept reading and then the author required me to stretch my believability beyond reason. He had the protag describe the opposite end of the room like this:

At the other end of the hall was a bar stocked with every possible type of wine, ale, and distilled spirits. Directly before the bar was an open dance floor with a small stage off to the side for the minstrels.

A couple of pages later the author writes these lines:

One of the young bartenders saw them coming… <deleted for brevity>

chocolate swirl martiniSomeone with the Protag says, “Hi Aeron, we’d like two chocolate swirls.”

The author proceeds to describe something that sounds like a martini to me. I was so engrossed that I tried to put this scene aside, though failed. Especially as the author continued with more of the same in the rest of the scene. And yes, you guessed correctly; I deleted the book. I survived the description of a 1920′s speakeasy, but bartender and a martini, really!

These are not the only methods that can rip the reader out of the author’s world. Basically, anything that stretches the reader’s ability to believe in the setting the author has created. It is important to keep in mind that the reader is already suspending their belief to even invest time to try and accept the author’s world. The reader has entrusted the author to not only create a world that will whisk the reader away for ten minutes or hours on end, but to keep the promise that the author will maintain the illusion.

When an author delves into the fantasy genre, they are signing on to create a world, whether it be an alternative physical world to Earth, or our own world (hopefully that is Earth for all of you) based upon alternative principals, the metaphysical. In doing this, they are making a promise, to their readers, that they will do everything in their power to maintain the illusion of reality. If the author fails to do this, then they have given up any claim to the reader’s time and their loyalty.

My objective is not to criticize other authors. Most keep the promise and view their reader’s trust with due reverence. Everyone has their own style and a voice that is unique to them. My goal is to help those that venture into this, and similar, genres with something that is nearly as important as the plot, characterization, and all the aspects of writing that is drilled into most of us as we learned our profession. When an author introduces a character and tells us what they look like, a little about their background, and give them dialog – we, the readers, expect the character to do something later. The author has made a promise that there is something important, or at least relevant, about this character. Maintaining the illusion of the world is as, or maybe more, important.

Imagine if the first example had gone like this:

Lionel, we thought we found the missing orb, but it is not as you described. It is not the correct color.” The elderly knight holds out a shining white sphere.

You are not mistaken. It is missing the most important ingredient.” Lionel reaches out and when he takes the orb, it turns a dark blue, like the middle of a lake. “Me.”

Incredible.” Boyden, standing slightly to Lionel’s left, steps closer, his eyes wide. (Yes, IncrediblBooks onlinee originated in the late 14th century).

Would it have changed the content of the story if the author had changed the words above? I think not, it required little effort. The only difference is that I would have bought the book.

When you read fiction, how important is the illusion?

Ending a Series: The Fae of Calaveras

stw-photo-cover-md

Small Town Witch

Sometimes a series is open-ended, with many books continuing on over the years as it follows a variety of stories of the same character or world. But other series have a finite ending after a certain number of books, such a trilogy, that tells just one story.

When I first started writing Small Town Witch, the first book in the teen fantasy Fae of Calaveras trilogy, I didn’t know what kind of novel or series I was setting out to write. I had ideas about a whole town of magical people, each with their own powers and secrets, interacting with each other through a tangle of stories. I would write about Rosa’s story for a while, then jump to another teen girl who was jealous over her ex-boyfriend or a boy getting injured in an explosion at the high school. The result was a chaotic mess.

My first reader, my husband, asked me a very good question then. “What’s the thing you want to focus on? Do you want this to have a broad scope with a lot of people, or is it a more personal story about one girl and her family?” That made me think about my writing in a whole new light.

In the end, I decided it was a personal story about Rosa and her relationship with her mother. From that choice, the logical conclusion of the series followed: Rosa’s story would be finished when her problems with her mother were resolved. When I thought about what steps it would take to reach a resolution, I realized that the story was too complex for just one novel. That’s when I knew that it would become a trilogy.

Witch Hunt

Witch Hunt

Those plans have finally come to fruition. Last May, one year after the publication of Small Town Witch, I released Witch Hunt, which describes what happens after Rosa breaks her mother’s spell. Tomorrow, October 10, the final part of the trilogy, Witch Gate, will feature the final showdown between Rosa and her mother. I’m so excited to have everyone read the latest installment, but at the same time, I’m a little sad that the series is coming to an end. I’ve been writing about Rosa for three years now, and as my first heroine, I’ve grown very attached to her.

Writing these books have been a lot of fun and also an emotional roller coaster for me as I learned so much about writing, revising, and publishing my own books. I had to overcome a lot of hurdles, not the least of which was my fear that no one would want to read my books. That fear has been proven wrong because I continue to get nice comments from readers in both reviews and personal letters who tell me how much they’ve enjoyed Rosa’s story and look forward to the next book. I’m so happy that I can share the last part of the story with them.

I may write further stories in Rosa’s small town, featuring some of those other characters that I also grew attached to, but that will begin a new series. The Fae of Calaveras series is complete. For now, I’m focusing on my other series, the epic fantasy Wyld Magic books. Rest assured that I will not stop writing and I still have a lot of exciting stories to share in the future!

Witch Gate is available for preorder on Amazon, iTunes, and Smashwords for immediate release tomorrow, and will be in other stores soon.

Witch Gate

Witch Gate

New Release! Strength of Conviction Now Available

LoHI_JT_SoC_cover_webStrength of Conviction, the second volume in the Judgement’s Tale saga, is available now on Amazon. The tale of Solemn Judgement, Treaman, Anteris, Gareth and the other heroes you first met in Games of Chance now continues.

As an added bonus, starting September 29th through October 1st, Part One Games of Chance will be  completely free. If you haven’t started on the saga, here’s a great opportunity to get all caught up for less than three bucks. I hope you’ll take a moment to pass along this news to someone you know, but I don’t, who likes epic and heroic fantasy.

In the first volume you got acquainted with the good and bad guys; most crucially, a gentle Sage named Cedrith was thrown into Solemn Judgement’s path, probably saving him and the city of Conar from ruin. Now in the second book, you will see the Woodsman Treaman and his encounter with a deadly dragon; Anteris the scribe’s apprentice finds out more about the stiff-necked preacher named Alaetar; and Solemn Judgement seems unable to avoid deeper and deeper trouble even though he’s living in a library! Meet the four-year old Riddy who comes to fear and love The Ash Man. Puzzle through the secrets Conar’s nobles keep, where one knight prays in place at the cathedral while another rides away never to return.

Strength of Conviction

As the central kingdom of the Lands of Hope languishes without rule or reason under a worsening pall of chaos, most Children of Hope stand by and do nothing. The few who would dare are outcasts and strangers, either too high up, or too far inside, or still too young to help. Worse, all their scattered mysteries seem unconnected.

Treaman the Woodsman struggles to guide his companions through ensorcelled wildlands to safety. The poorest knight in the city prays by Conar’s statue for weeks without ceasing, as though his life LoH_kg_2_map A5depends on it. The young scribe Anteris copies histories for his master by day, dreams of adventure till sunset, and searches the stars by night for the riddle of his future. A noble Conarian heir seeks to join a lost legendary Order, putting his duty before his life. A gentle Elvish sage confronts the greatest of puzzles, the closed door barring the way to friendship with his greatest, and most dangerous pupil.

For Solemn Judgement, the Man in Grey, is learning that names are indeed important when he shows… Strength of Conviction.

Upcoming SPUN YARNS Collections

I thought I’d do a bit of blatant self-promotion this week :D

Each of my writing personae has a collection of short stories scheduled for release within the next month! Here’s what you should be watching for:

Tales of Tomorrow

Tales of Tomorrow by Debbie Mumford will feature four science fiction stories. From first contact to interstellar travel, these tales will carry you into the great beyond!

Ghosts and Ghoulies

Scheduled for an early October release, Deb Logan’s Ghosts and Ghoulies, a collection of five haunting tales for younger readers, will be available just in time for Halloween! And a second collection is already in the works for Halloween 2015!

Fantasy Classics, Part Three

So have you read the Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander? Written back in the 1960s, this is a five book series that features Taran as the main character. Taran starts out as an Assistant Pig-Keeper to the wizard Dallben, and becomes one of the greatest heroes the land of Prydain has ever known. The Book of Three starts this excellent series, then continues with The Black Cauldron, The Castle of Llyr, Taran Wanderer, and ends with The High King.

In the first book Taran starts searching for a special run away pig and meets up with four characters which become his companions-in-arms in the adventures of their battle against the forces of evil. Each book has its own climax, but in the final book, The High King, the outcome will decide the fate of Prydain forever. Taran begins in The Book of Three as a naive boy and ends as a strong young man in The High King.

It is unusual for books in a series to become stronger as the series continues, but that is just what happens in the Prydain Chronicles.   The Black Cauldron was a Newbery Honor Book, and the final volume in the chronicles, The High King, crowned the series by winning the Newbery Medal which is for the most distinguished contribution (of the year) to American literature for children.

This series was written for children, but is absorbing reading for adults, also. All is not sweetness and light in these books.  Danger and evil  are abroad in the world, but love, compassion and friendship exist also. So have you read the Prydain Chronicles? If you like fantasy, you should!

Fantasy Classics Part One

Fantasy Classics Part Two

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