Friday, December 26, 2014

Where to start your story

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Online Marketing with Grassroots Visibility (three fundamental elements)

By Karen Cioffi

This is Part 1 of a 2 part post.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Begin to create that visibility.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Get weekly must-know writing and marketing information and more, right to your inbox. Join Karen Cioffi in The Writing World. (It’s all free!)

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Introducing new 4RV illustrator and children's book

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

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

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

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Giving Thanks, Even in Times of Sorrow

     Today, most Americans from the United States celebrate Thanksgiving Day. Some are living or visiting out of the country, some live here, but wherever we are, we have much for which to give thanks.

     For many, this season has shadows of sorrow because loved ones have passed on to, hopefully, a better place. For us who have suffered the grief of loss, we had to learn how to be thankful even in times of sorrow. Easy? No, but we can still smile and feel a peace even if left in grief.

     Our world and nation suffer from trouble and tribulations, but if we try, we can still be thankful for what we do have: loved ones, freedom, hope, friends, a roof over a heads (hopefully), and life. We may have to struggle to find anything for which to be thankful in our nation's time of sorrow. We may have to "dig deep" to be thankful. However, when suffering or in pain, we need to thank God for what good we do have and what we will have. We can be thankful, if for no other reason, for memories of what was and for hope for what can be.

     Today, I hope everyone can give thanks with a grateful heart.

Happy Thanksgiving from 4RV Publishing

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Book Marketing - To Niche or Not to Niche

By Karen Cioffi

Book marketing and marketing in general is all about focus. Knowing who you’re writing for or who your service or product is for is a key element to success. As an author/writer online platform instructor, I was recently asked about having a marketing niche. The writer wanted to know what a niche was and if it was important.

This question may seem basic and matter of fact to many, but there are just as many who don’t know the answer and need help. So, along with my reply to the writer, I created an article to address the topic.

A marketing niche is simply a specific topic you’re focusing on. One writer may write for children, another may write business content. Then there are also more specific niches: writing children’s picture books or writing specifically on business incentives in the business arena.

And, there are niches within niches. In the writing arena, you can be a children’s author, a romance author, a nonfiction writer, a biographer, a ghostwriter, or copywriter, among a number of other niches. So, to say you’re a writer, while it may be true, it’s not specific enough. It doesn’t give the reader or viewer enough information about you and what you have to offer.

Having a specific niche is important so you can create the element of expertise in it. This doesn’t mean you can’t have more than one niche, but if they are different, you do need to keep them separate and promote each separately.

For an example, I’m a children’s writer of picture books and middle grade books. I’m also a nonfiction health, business, and marketing writer.

If I had one website for all these niches, I wouldn’t be focused. And, when marketing, who would I market to? I wouldn’t want to bring people looking for health information to a children’s book site or vice versa.

You can’t market to everyone; you need to decide exactly who you will focus your marketing efforts on. And, that audience needs to be brought to a site that focuses on that niche.

The adage, ‘jack of all trades, master of none,’ comes into play. You don’t want to be known as someone who knows a little on a lot of things. You want to be known as a master, or expert, in one or two specific fields or niches.

Karen Cioffi is an author and online platform and website optimization instructor. Check out her blog at:

Sunday, October 26, 2014

What does an Editor do?

by: Stephanie Burkhart

As a writer, I can honestly say there's no reason not to treat an editor with kindness and respect. There's several different types of editors, but everyone of them have the same goal: to make the author's novel or story shine.

Publishing a novel of any genre is a team effort and the editors involved are vital members of the publishing team.

When it comes to publishing a story, there are several (or should be) types of editors involved:

The Acquisitions Editor

Writers and agents submit their work to this editor. This editor finds new authors and promotes writers that will be profitable for the publishing company. This is the editor that tells the writer that the publishing company will offer them a contract.  Ideally, this editor will have read the entire manuscript.

The Developmental Editor or Substantive Editor

This editor reads the manuscript and focuses on helping the writer improve the book. They look at plot, characterization, dialogue, order of scenes, word choice, setting, point of view, character voice, syntax, pacing, and sentence construction. Generally, a structural editor and author will go through several drafts/edits before producing a polished manuscript.

The Copyeditor

This editor reads the polished manuscript specifically looking for grammar, spelling, punctuation, checking facets, word choice, repetition, and consistency. An author may only have one or two drafts/edits with an author.

The Proofreader

This is the last person to check the manuscript. Their job is to make sure the work is completely free of errors.

Love words.
Have a good eye for detail.

Biggest Myth:

Many authors think that editing involves only correcting spelling and grammar. There's much more to it.

Authors Behaving Badly:

Don't reply to an editor with irate comments about how they are "butchering" your baby. Be professional.

Don't reply to an editor with cuss words. That just shows you have no respect for the teamwork required and the hard work an editor does.

Question for you: As an author, what have your interactions with editors been like?  Do you have any comments or feedback to share?

Author Bio: Stephanie Burkhart is a 911 dispatcher for LAPD. She loves chocolate, adores coffee, and likes to walk. She's also the den leader for her son's cub scout den. Her 4RV releases include "The Giving Meadow," and "First Flag of New Hampshire."

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Another 4RV Book Wins Award

    For the third time in its history, 4RV Publishing has a book receive a Silver Seal Award from Children's Literary Classics: I Like Pink by Vivian Zabel and illustrated by Ginger Nielson. Below is an excerpt from the press release from CLC Awards:

October 15, 2014
Literary Classics

Literary Classics Announces Youth Media Top Book Award Recipients

SOUTH DAKOTA – 2014 was a record year for entries in the Literary Classics International Book Awards. With entrants from the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and many more places around the globe, competition was tremendous. The extraordinary selection of books for young readers gave our reviewers and judges quite a lot to consider as they worked their way through impressive piles of books (and eBooks) for deliberation in this year’s awards. Included was award winning children’s book I Like Pink by Vivian Zabel of Edmond, Oklahoma, published by 4RV Publishing, also of Edmond.
Literary Classics announced its 2014 selection of top books for children and young adults today. Award recipients were selected from entries received from around the globe. The Literary Classics selection committee is proud to recognize the following titles in children’s and young adult literature which exemplify the criteria set forth by the Literary Classics Awards committee.

A list of the 2014 recipients follows (edited for this post):

General Infant / Preschooler GOLD - Benjamin Jay was a Bully, Emma Glover - Guardian Angel Publishing
General Infant / Preschooler SILVER - I Like Pink, by Vivian Zabel - 4RV Publishing
Picture Book / Preschooler GOLD - Even Poop Has a Purpose, Uncle Paul - PerBook Publishing L.L.C.
Picture Book / Preschooler SILVER - Without Me?, Kayleen West - Wombat Books
General Early Reader GOLD - Deputy Dorkface, How Trutherton Got its Honesty Back, Kevin D Janison - Stephens Press
General Early Reader SILVER - A Creepy Nothingness Came Crawling, Gideon Maxim - Dot and Odd Press
Picture Book Early Reader GOLD - Odie the Stray Kitten, Kristen Mott - Author House
Picture Book Early Reader SILVER - CougaMongaMingaMan, Nancy Scalabroni - Mascot Books

Literary Classics, an organization dedicated to furthering excellence in literature, takes great pride in its role to help promote classic literature which appeals to youth, while educating and encouraging positive values in the impressionable young minds of future generations.  Judging is based upon the criteria set forth by Literary Classics’ highly selective awards committee which honors books promoting character, vision, creativity and learning, through content which possesses key elements found in well-crafted literature.

The Literary Classics judging committee consists of experts with backgrounds in publishing, writing, editing, design, illustration, and book reviewing.   To learn more about Literary Classics, visit their website at 

     Other CLC winners from 4RV Publishing include Walking Through Walls by Karen Coiffi  and Life on Hold by Beverly Stowe McClure.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Don’t be Taken to the 'Website Design' Cleaners - 5 Tips to Creating an Author Website as the First Step in Your Online Marketing Strategy

By Karen Cioffi

There is an abundance of website design and hosting services on the internet. You can get services that handle both the design and the hosting, or services that provide one or the other. Whatever your needs, there is a service out there for you. But . . . consumer beware.

Some design/ hosting website services prey on unsuspecting and naïve authors or individuals and charge to not only create a site, but they keep control of managing the site. The customer is only allowed to add or edit content on the site.

This means the author can’t add links, change images, or tweak the site for SEO optimization, such as page title optimization.

I get upset when I hear of occurrences like this. There is no reason why a design and hosting service needs to control website functions and features to the point that an author or individual needs to pay the service to add or delete a simple link. And, some services charge a monthly fee. They’ll set up your website for free, but you have to pay monthly to keep it going.

Authors need to be aware. There is so much information online advising the basic dos and don’ts of creating a website, but you do need to do a bit of research to find it. There are plenty of legitimate and reasonable services out there also. If you’re confused or uncertain, ask around.

Here are 5 starting tips to create an author website:

1. Choose an effective domain name. Think about it carefully. You want a name that will be search engine effective (keyword optimized), reflect what the site is about, and is able to grow with you (unless you are creating the site for a specific book). You can also use the subheading to elaborate on the domain name.

2. Decide if you have the skills, or want to learn them, to create a website of your own. If you have the time and patience you can do it!

3. If you decide you need help with creating a website, look for someone who wants to establish himself as a website builder, or someone who does it in her spare time, or a writing/marketing service that does it as more of a courtesy to clients. You will pay much less. And, try to make arrangements that will include the designer teach you how to manage your own site. This will make updates, changes, and posting much easier, and cost free.

4. If you feel you can create your own, you can choose a free hosting site, such as WordPress, Weebly, or Blogger. On the flip side, if the thought of having to create a website feels daunting, go for; it’s very user friendly and good for beginners. And with its updates, it has a number of features much like other websites.

5. Keep in mind that down the road you may want to have a website that can be effectively optimized and that’s more SEO versatile, so you may want to have a paid WordPress site from the beginning. The prices range from around $3 and up per month – depending on how long you sign up for and the service.

While these five tips are the starting point for your author website, they will hopefully help you from being taken to the website hosting/design cleaners.

Want to know if your website is performing optimally? Karen Cioffi is an online platform and website optimization instructor and offers website audits. Visit to learn more.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

4RV Receives 2014 Best of Edmond Award

EDMOND September 11, 2014 -- 4RV Publishing LLC has been selected for the 2014 Best of Edmond Award in the Book Publishers category by the Edmond Award Program.
Each year, the Edmond Award Program identifies companies that we believe have achieved exceptional marketing success in their local community and business category. These are local companies that enhance the positive image of small business through service to their customers and our community. These exceptional companies help make the Edmond area a great place to live, work and play.

Various sources of information were gathered and analyzed to choose the winners in each category. The 2014 Edmond Award Program focuses on quality, not quantity. Winners are determined based on the information gathered both internally by the Edmond Award Program and data provided by third parties.

About Edmond Award Program:

The Edmond Award Program is an annual awards program honoring the achievements and accomplishments of local businesses throughout the Edmond area. Recognition is given to those companies that have shown the ability to use their best practices and implemented programs to generate competitive advantages and long-term value.

The Edmond Award Program was established to recognize the best of local businesses in our community. Our organization works exclusively with local business owners, trade groups, professional associations and other business advertising and marketing groups. Our mission is to recognize the small business community's contributions to the U.S. economy.
SOURCE: Edmond Award Program

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Danging the Hook

By: Stephanie Burkhart 

You often hear: "A writer has to hook a reader quickly." I agree, yet creating a hook is not an easy thing to develop, especially for newer writers.

Consider the following: In today's world, there's an expectation of instant gratification. The average length of a commercial is 30 seconds. That's all a product has to "hook" you – 30 seconds.

So what's a hook in regards to a writer? A short, pithy sentence intended to make readers interested in your story.

Keep this in mind: When a reader is in a bookstore (or even browsing online) they consider the following when buying a book: #1 They notice the cover. #2 They read the book blurb. #3 They read the first sentence. If they like the experience, they're hooked. Total time? Between 30-60 seconds. Instant gratification.

Is your first sentence in your novel a hook?

Remember, a hook is a short, pithy sentence intended to make readers interested in your story, so it might very well be the first sentence. It could be the "pitch" sentence you tell others when they ask about your writing.

Remember: Hooks should be short, witty, and catchy.

What can you/should consider?

Make the reader scared or excited. (Blood soaked my shirt.)

Use a contradiction. (The world is going to hell around me, but I feel fine.)

Use an interesting description. (The obsidian forest bustled with life.)

Hooks should:

Grab a reader's attention.
Make readers hungry for more.
Make a great first impression.
Use strong, active verbs.
Imply or allude to the main conflict.
Consider the audience.


Can Sofia's faith give Darrin his heart back?

Travel with Caterpillar through the meadow learning to share and care about others.

Jocelyn Dunkirk plopped down in a chair and fussed with the ring on her finger.

Zoltan jerked the steering wheel too late.

Question: How do you hook readers? Do you have any tips you'd like to share? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Author Bio: Stephanie Burkhart is a 911 dispatcher for LAPD. Raised in New Hampshire, she spent 11 years in the US. Army before settling in California. She loves coffee, adores chocolate, and is a den leader for her son's Cub Scout's den. "The Giving Meadow" and "First Flag of New Hampshire" are published with 4RV Publishing.







Thursday, September 11, 2014

Speed Up Your Writing

Do not Pass Go, Do not Collect $100

by Suzanne Cordatos

What is the fastest way from Point A to Point C? Generally speaking, a straight line through Point B does the job. Like pawns in a board game, characters move from one point to another around the story—but their writers should be warned. Mobilizing a main character from the breakfast table to school to a post-game pep rally should not, literally, take all day.

I’m a wordy writer. My first drafts are complicated affairs with blow-by-blow action determining what each limb is up to (“with one hand, the protagonist did x but with the other, he did y!) and so on. Boring! It is not necessary (or desirable) to report every turn of the doorknob between Point A and Point C (unless, of course, the knob-turning is a vital part of the suspense you are creating). 

Is it part of the game? If not, skip it. A bored reader is not a page-turning reader. A bored reader is not a book-buying reader. The writer holds the cards. In the game of Monopoly, for example, Chance cards direct players to skip entire sections. Go to Jail. Go directly to jail. Do not pass GO. Do not collect $100. Translation for writers? Imply action.

Scene Breaks
A few extra lines of white space separate one scene from a new one, marking the passage of time, a change of location, mood, end of thought, and a new beginning of some sort. Anyone who has been to school knows that a locker scene or cafeteria scene implies a school day. No need to talk about Period 3. It gives readers a rest for the eyes, permission granted to put the book down for a snack—or better, a chance to anticipate what might happen next.

Section breaks
Three asterisks (or other simple art) centered above the break indicates a stronger change than time, mood or location. A section break is more definite and is often used to mark a different character’s point of view. It keeps the momentum of a chapter going but lets the reader see it from another angle. Next time you read a book that moves along at a good clip, notice scene and section breaks. Chances are excellent the writer is using them to great effect.

Practice “Writing down the page” 
Brainstorm your protagonist’s next move in a quick list is another technique to speed things up. Without bothering to write out complete sentences or scenes, you'll see where the ideas take you. Quickly list the steps of a scene down a page. Bogged down with details? Determine which are necessary to the plot, which can be implied. Skip some, imply some, move it along. Now, you're ready to write out your game-changing sentences.

Breakfast table to School to Pep Rally  Writing down the page lists prove that my character's day has too many details that prevent the reader from getting to the exciting pep rally. Forget Mom’s complete breakfast of scrambled eggs, toast with butter and jam and a tall glass of milk if it not key to the story. Instead, the character throws on his backpack, grabs a muffin and Mom’s hug and uses the bus ride to munch the muffin while mulling over his hopes—and fears—for the pep rally. Next?
<<Scene Break>> Something happens at his locker during the school day that foreshadows his hopes getting brighter—or fears getting stronger.
<<Section Break>> From another friend or foe’s point of view, we get another glimpse of the plans.

The reader is anticipating what will happen at the pep rally in the next chapter!

Have you found it easy to imply action and move it along with scene/section breaks? How long are your chapters? Are you consistently using a few scene breaks per chapter or is it more random? I'd love to hear how you use these techniques in your writing.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Book Marketing - Yesterday and Today (online marketing strategies to use in 2014)

By Karen Cioffi

“The Times They Are A-Changin.’”

Bob Dylan’s title to his 1964 album is still right on the mark in regard to today’s book marketing arena. In fact, we might say the times are still a-changin,’ since we’ve seen lots of changes already and there are many more to come.

The major change that's unfolded has been a turn toward online marketing as being an absolute essential part of any marketing strategy. Offline strategies that worked yesterday don’t quite cut it today or we might say they’re not as effective. Let’s take a look at a few.

Five old book marketing strategies that don’t pull the weight they once did:

•    Book signings
•    Offline book tours
•    Traditional paid book review sources, such as Kirkus and Publisher’s Weekly
•    Print advertising
•    Broadly targeted and impersonal press releases
•    Impersonal media kits

This is not to say these strategies can’t bring some visibility and value, but they are certainly not as powerful as they once were. Taking the marketing lead are savvier, reader friendly, personalized, and search engine optimized strategies. Let’s look at a few of those.

Eight newer and more effective book marketing strategies:

•    Optimized author websites and blogs
•    Content marketing
•    Social media and networking
•    Virtual book tours (online)
•    Online reviews from high ranking review sites
•    Free excerpts, other useful freebies, e-galleys
•    Personalized media kits
•    Email marketing (e-newsletters)

If you look closely, what do you notice? What are some of the main elements of the newer more effective strategies?

Four prevalent elements of the newer book marketing strategies:

The very first element is the cost – there really isn’t any. While you may incur some expenses, they are usually reasonable and affordable. And, much of what needs to be done can be done for free.

You can also improve your skills free of charge. Take free courses in your niche. Attend free online conferences. Watch free webinars or videos. Do what it takes to help you hone your craft or build your marketing skills.

Having low or no-cost strategies within reach is great for indie authors and those with small publishers.

The second element is having an online presence or author online platform and generating ongoing visibility. The foundation of that platform and visibility is a website. You CANNOT have an effective online presence without a website.

Other elements of a platform include content marketing, social networking, and email marketing.

The third element is giving people what they want, whether it’s information, excerpts of your book, special offers, or other, it’s about ‘giving.’

The fourth element is connecting, being sociable, and personalization. Moving forward, having a relationship with people, especially your readers, will probably be the most important element in effective book marketing.

There is of course more involved in creating and maintaining a successful book marketing strategy, but these four elements are in the forefront of what you should be doing.

What strategies are you using in 2014?

Karen Cioffi is an Online Platform and Website Optimization Instrutor. Find out more at: Build an Online Platform That Works.

P.S. Get more visibility-generating writing and marketing tips sent right to your inbox - at The Writing World.


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Building Your Platform – Finding Markets

By: Stephanie Burkhart 

An author always needs to be receptive to expanding their platform. It's not easy to develop ways to find more exposure. One way is to write essays, poems, short stories, and other works for print journals or magazines.

The Benefits: It gives you exposure to the market you want to target, and oftentimes the journal/magazine pays for your content. This technique helps you develop a fan base, and a fan base will want to seek you out.

Some print journals/magazines that are always looking for new material which target the "Children/YA" audience include:

6-12 age range. Circulation: 1.5 million. Publishes: monthly. Seeking: humor, folktales, holiday, stories, sports, historical, adventure, mystery, science, crafts, puzzles, games, etc. Payment: $100. Min for fiction, $150. Min. for nonfiction. $25.00 for activities. Find submission info at:

7-12 age range. Circulation: 200,000. Publishes: bimonthly. Seeking: adventure, contemporary, folktales, history, nature, sports, science, animals, comics, poetry. Payment: .30 cent per word for fiction and nonfiction, $25-50. For poems, and $25-40 for activities. Submission info at:

Other print media magazine/journals to consider: Ladybug, Spider, Cricket, Calliope, Faces, Boy's Quest.


Put your hobbies (nature, gardening, history, sports) to good use and expand your platform by exploring journals and magazines and submitting articles.

If you're looking for more options you can always do an Internet search for Children's / YA journal/magazine websites.


Buy a few magazines 2-3 before you start to submit and read them so you get the feel for the content they are looking for.

Reference for this blog: Writer's Digest, MAR/APR 2014, "34 Markets for Genre Short Stories," Complied by Tiffany Luckey, pgs. 28-30.

Author Bio: Stephanie Burkhart is a 911 Dispatcher for LAPD. She loves chocolate, adores coffee and likes to take walks. She'll be doing the Santa Clarita, CA "Walk to End Alzheimers" on 20 SEP 2014. Her stories, "The Giving Meadow," and "First Flag of New Hampshire" are published with 4RV Publishing. 

Find her on the web at: 







Friday, August 22, 2014

Using Pinterest for character development

Using Pinterest for Character Development

When I write, I see the scenes unrolling as a movie in my head, with the characters moving and talking. If I can't picture something, I can't write it, to the point where I have to lay out the rooms, where the furniture is, the color of the rugs. Never mind that only a tiny fraction of this ends up in the novel. If I can't see my characters getting up from the dining table and marching the dirty dishes into the kitchen, I can't write it.

I started using Pinterest when working on a sci fi novel. I'd finally decided on the point-of-view characters, and, in an attempt to wrap my mind around them, went in search of visuals. This was my first multi-pov novel, and I was about to start the third major rewrite. I needed to get the four characters in the romance clear enough to hear their voices, see them move, and be able to work out the revision.

I started several Pinterest boards. The first was for clothing for the one female in the four-way romance. The previous versions of the novel had paid little attention to this character, and I needed to flesh her out. I found a website and searched for the tunics and pants to clothe her.  She ended up with elegant, flowing, fabrics in soft, glowing colors, and her voice came clear.

I still craved more images, so I started another board for actors I could cast to play my characters. After some searching, I settled on the actors I wanted.

I also started a board for images of the planet, many of them generated by me using GIMP, a freeware program something like photoshop.
Some people fill out character sheets. Me, I give my characters personality tests, find photos and clothing to bring them to life.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Writing a realistic BFF

What were you afraid of as a kid?
Hot tears bubbled into my child’s eyes when the minivan pulled into the preschool parking lot. Like a caged animal, Erica usually strained against the straps of her car seat to be released. Erica LOVED preschool, from the dress-up corner to snack time to the hamster named Peanut to chasing boys around the playground. On this bright morning, however, my three year old was kicking and holding onto the straps for dear life.

A lioness could not have been more proud of her cub’s attack; but where was the danger? I braved a few bruises to lean in and heard Erica mutter about a leopard at school. Today. What?!? Dashing to the entrance, I grabbed Mrs. “B”, the head teacher. “Erica won’t get out of the car. She thinks a leopard is at school?!?”

Dawning comprehension lit Mrs. B’s face as she kept pace with me, running back to the car. “Not leopard, a leprechaun!” she panted out. “Today . . . St. Patrick’s Day . . . promised the kids . . . leprechaun visit . . . puppet show . . . Oh my, I forgot.”

Puppets. That explained it. The only other bad day for Erica at preschool had been when a firefighter used puppets to explain fire safety. To say puppets freaked out my child would be an understatement. As only good teachers can do, Mrs. B quickly transformed Erica back into my happy child who skipped into school holding her hand with a promise she could sit next to her backstage to see how the show worked. She came home raving about being brave to stick her hand in a puppet.        

Does it matter now?
It isn’t St. Patrick’s Day and Erica isn’t three anymore, but sixteen—to this day a fan of the stage and NOT puppets. When writing for older kids, it is time consuming but worthwhile to create a back story for each character including a made-up childhood. Each tidbit might not make it into the book, but you will draw from the well to write a richer story.  School stories abound—easily put down, easily forgotten—with stereotypical bullies, team defeats, unbending teachers and catty friendships. To help you write a book worth re-reading, develop characterizations that include fears, secrets, and giddy joys left over from childhood. In the classic book The Secret Garden, the invalid Colin irrationally believed from a young age he was doomed to suffer a crooked back, coloring the household’s treatment of him for years.

Create a realistic BFF!

When I write middle grade fiction, I worry about creating realistic friendships. Imagine the emotional, weighty moment between teen friends when they discover something uniquely shared between them from childhood: a favorite song, amusement park ride, unusual color, a worst nightmare, a special toy. My father-in-law and stepmother share a birthday on Valentine’s Day, a fun discovery bonding two people from different countries. Once, while visiting a friend’s home, tears filled my eyes when I noticed a teddy bear identical to one I had loved and lost decades ago.
·       Do you have a childhood fear or passion that lingers to teen/adulthood?

·       Have you worked it into your writing via characterization, symbolism, flashback?

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Commenting on Blogs Still Works

You may be an author or writer who takes the time to comment on other websites. This is an effective online marketing strategy. It builds bridges to other blogging neighborhoods, it forms connections, and it helps increase your visibility. These are three important factors in online content marketing.

But, after using this strategy for a short while, what if you don’t seem to see any difference in the traffic to your site or the comments on your posts?

Should you continue commenting on blogs?

YES, absolutely. Commenting on blogs is still an effective marketing strategy, in fact, even more so than before. Getting a ‘post conversation’ going and sharing content is high on Google’s list of what bloggers and marketers should be doing. Today, it’s all about creating optimized content that readers find valuable enough to share to their social networks.

Knowing the effectiveness of this marketing tool, I try to use it as often as I can.

Recently I left a blog post comment on a high-traffic, high-quality site. When I comment on a site, time allowing, I usually browse the other comments. Since the site I was on uses the CommentLuv plugin, all those who comment have their latest post titles visible and clickable.

One comment in particular seemed to be informative, so I clicked on the author’s latest post link. It brought me to a site with great content. This is the power of commenting, especially on sites that use the CommentLuv plugin.

Commenting on sites that offer the commenter’s last post link is an excellent way to broaden your reach and easily bring visitors back to your site. Just like I clicked on that commenter’s link, based on an effective post title, the same can happen to you.

CommentLuv is a commenting system plugin for WordPress. Simply click on ‘Plugins’ in your WordPress dashboard, go to ‘Add New,’ search for the plugin, install it, and activate it. That’s it.

Aside from sites that use CommentLuv, most sites allow you to put your name and website URL, which are clickable. While they may not afford your latest blog post link, if you make your comment informative enough a reader may very well click on your website link.

To make your comment effective, try to use a relevant keyword and add to the conversation. Doing this will ‘catch the search engine’s eye’ and may also motivate the reader to click on your link. In addition to this, make note of some aspect of the blog post within your comment. This lets the blog owner or content manager know you actually read the article.

Tip: Comment on blogs that are relevant to your niche, to your website’s subject matter.

In addition to the obvious benefits of commenting, such as broadening your marketing reach, making connections, further establishing your authority, bringing traffic to your website, and increasing your visibility, the activity you create online is picked up by search engines. This includes comments. These are all good things.

Make commenting on blogs an important element of your online marketing strategy.

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