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.

Original article source:

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Friday, August 1, 2014

Use MRUs

What are motivation reaction units (MRUs?


In writing fiction, for every action, there must be an equal reaction.


If we write, “He caught the ball,” we must have before that, someone throwing or batting a ball.



            Action or motivation for reaction
The batter held steady then swung with ease, but the ball sailed over the head of the second baseman and curved to the middle ground uncovered by the defense.

From center field, the player ran, did a cartwheel, and scooped up the ball. The play was a feast for the baseball-lover’s eyes.



The second paragraph (reaction) would be incomplete without motivation (the first paragraph).


In like manner, the first paragraph (motivation) must have the second paragraph (the reaction).




If someone pushes the button of the point of view character, make sure that character reacts.


If someone swings a hammer and hits your hand, I’ll guarantee, you’re going to at least say, “ouch.”


Try this exercise:


Across my path stood the biggest brown grizzly I’d ever seen.


     Write the next paragraph.


     I was given this exercise. Here’s mine.

     Tiny hairs stood out on the back of my neck. My legs froze at the same time I stopped breathing. I swooshed in some air and yelled. “Help.”



How did you do?




The order of the motivation and reaction.

The motivation and reaction must be in the right order. The center fielder wouldn’t catch that ball before it was batted his way. Neither would you yell “ouch” before the hammer struck your hand.


The order of the reaction.

Back to the button-pushing



     Motivation or button being pushed –

 The character sits on a tack.


That character reacts in this order:

1.                            Feeling – The character has no control. It just happens.

2.                            Action – The character has some control.

3.                            Speech – The character can control this.



Go back to my exercise above.

     Tiny hairs stood out on the back of my neck. My legs froze. “Help.”

Feeling – Tiny hairs stood out on the back of my neck.


This happens without my control. I can't stop it. The same can be said of any visceral feeling. I break out in a sweat. My breathing becomes labored.


     Action – I froze.


     Perhaps, I have some control over this action but not much. The same can be said if I write, “I ran for camp,” or "I pulled out my knife."


     Speech – “Help.”


     This, I control. Dialogue doesn’t come without me consciously doing it.

Not only must the reaction come after the motivation, but the reaction must come in the proper order.

You may not have all three.


No feeling


She sat on a tack. (motivation)

She jumped to her feet. (action)

She screamed. (speech) 


Notice here there is no feeling. However, the action must still come before the speech.


 No action


The bear appeared on the path. (motivation)

Tiny hairs stood out on the back of his neck. (feeling)

“Help.” (speech)


No speech

He threw the ball to right field. (motivation)

Perspiration poured from his brow. (feeling)

He slid and caught the ball. (action)


Notice that even with only 2 parts, the reaction still comes in the proper order; feeling, action, and speech.



Of course, if your reaction is only one part, there is no order.


Example of that:


He threw the ball to right field. (motivation)

He slid and caught the ball. (The reaction is only action, no feeling, no speech.)



For advanced study on this topic, go to Randy Ingermanson (the snowflake guy) He's the expert on MRUs.
Here's the link:


 Two more that write effectively about MRUs are Camy Tang and Dwight Swain.
Have you checked your fiction for MRUs? What if it strengthens your novel?