How to Make a Video Using Canva

Running a day late, but Harmony Kent’s Story Empire post yesterday was way too good not to pass along! Been thinking about making a video to promote a book or two? Harmony has shared a step by step set of instructions for doing so using Canva. Take a look to see what I mean. (And how about that wonderful example she made with her book The Glade? Fantastic stuff! I’m going to give this a try myself, for sure. After you’ve seen how cool it is, I think some of you will want to do so as well. Hope you’ll remember to pass the post along far and wide, too, so others can see how to do this. Thanks, and thanks to Harmony for a superb lesson! 🙂

Story Empire

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Hi SErs! Harmony here 😁 Today, I have another Canva tutorial for you. This one is all about using Canva to make a free and easy video, which you can use for all sorts of promotional purposes … including a book promo trailer.

For this tutorial, I’m using Canva online rather than my App on my iPad. So some of the screenshots will look different, depending upon which version and App you’re using. However, the instructions are essentially the same.

**You can make videos in both the free and paid options on Canva**

Open Canva and choose a template:

Usually, I start with a blank template. Some of the done-for-you content requires a paid subscription. However, you can start with a done-for-you and swap out the paid images for free graphics–either from within Canva or from an image you upload.

You will need to choose your…

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#FirstLineFriday#2 Submissions Are Now Closed! Here’s the Answer to Our Quiz, and the Names of Our Winners!

Submissions for #FirstLineFriday are officially closed now. My thanks to all who emailed me with their guesses. This is one of my favorite opening lines, and well deserving of being included in this list, in my own opinion. Sadly, wonderful as it is, many of us who’ve read the book seem to have forgotten it. Happily, two folks remembered. Congratulations to our winners:

Bob Nailor 
Harmony Kent

Hope you two will enjoy the books you selected! 

And now, here’s the answer to today’s quiz:

When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold.”  is the opening line from The Hunger Games, a series of young adult dystopian novels written by the American author Suzanne Collins. The series is set in the Hunger Games universe, the first three novels being a trilogy following teenage protagonist, Katniss Everdeen.

The novels in the trilogy are titled The Hunger Games (2008), Catching Fire (2009), and Mockingjay (2010). These novels were all turned into films starring Jennifer Lawrence, with the film adaptation of Mockingjay split into two parts. The first two books in the series were both New York Times best sellers, and Mockingjay topped all US bestseller lists upon its release. By the time the film adaptation of The Hunger Games was released in 2012, the publisher had reported over 26 million Hunger Games trilogy books in print, including movie tie-in books.

The Hunger Games universe is a dystopia set in Panem, a North American country consisting of the wealthy Capitol and 13 districts in varying states of poverty. Every year, children from the first 12 districts are selected via lottery to participate in a compulsory televised battle royale death match called The Hunger Games.

The novels were all well received. In August 2012, the series ranked second, exceeded only by the Harry Potter series in NPR’s poll of the top 100 teen novels, which asked voters to choose their favorite young adult books. On August 17, 2012, Amazon announced the Hunger Games trilogy as its top seller, surpassing the record previously held by the Harry Potter series. As of 2014, the trilogy has sold more than 65 million copies in the U.S. alone (more than 28 million copies of The Hunger Games, more than 19 million copies of Catching Fire, and more than 18 million copies of Mockingjay). The Hunger Games trilogy has been sold in 56 territories in 51 languages to date.


In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. Long ago the districts waged war on the Capitol and were defeated. As part of the surrender terms, each district agreed to send one boy and one girl to appear in an annual televised event called, “The Hunger Games,” a fight to the death on live TV. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the Games. The terrain, rules, and level of audience participation may change but one thing is constant: kill or be killed.


And that wraps up this week’s #FirstLineFriday quiz. Thanks for playing everyone! Hope to see more winners next time, but for now, congratulations again to Bob and Harmony! Happy Reading, you two!

#FirstLineFriday #GiveawayContest #FreeDownloads

Time for another #FirstLineFriday folks, and just to keep you on your toes, I’ve chosen something I suspect will be tricky, even though it isn’t a classic from decades gone by. Let’s see if you prove me wrong today.

PLEASE READ these simple rules, just to refresh yourself on how this should be done. Thanks.

  1. Be one of the first five people to email me before the game ends at 4:00pm, with the title and author of the correct book. 
  2. Do not reply here on the blog. Email only:
  3. Honor System applies. No Googling, please.
  4. Submissions end at 4:00 P.M. EST, or when I receive 5 correct answers, whichever comes first.
  5. Winners who live in the U.S. may request a free download of any one of my books for themselves, or for someone of their choice. OR, if they’ve read all of the offered books, they may request a free download of my next publication.
  6. Winners who live elsewhere may request a mobi or PDF file of the same books, since, sadly, Amazon won’t let me gift you from the site.

And now, the moment you’ve been waiting for! Put on your thinking caps, because here is today’s opening line:

“When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold.” 

Remember, email answers only, please. Thanks! And now off I go to await your guesses.

January Book Reviews

D. Wallace Peach has posted her January Reviews today, and I’m very happy to say that her lovely review of my fourth Wake-Robin Ridge book, The Light, is one of the featured books. I hope you’ll stop by to check out what she has to say about Rabbit’s latest adventure, as well as taking a look at the three other books she’s reviewing. Hope you’ll consider sharing her post, so others can read all four of her excellent reviews, too. Thanks, and thanks to Diana for sharing her thoughts with us. 🙂

Myths of the Mirror

Now that I’m writing again, my reading has dropped off. *Sigh*

January book reviews include my4 and 5 star reads of paranormal fiction, a vampire anthology, Gothic anthology, and YA fantasy! I hope you enjoy the browse.

Click on the covers for Amazon global links.


The Light by Marcia Meara

Icould read a book about 11-year-old Rabbit navel-gazing and be entertained. I’m in love with this character and as long as he’s in the story, I’m satisfied. Once again, Rabbit is using his gift of “sight” to solve murders and heal old wounds. In this book, one of the Brown Mountain lights is different from the rest. It’s full of sadness, and Rabbit wants to find out why.

This story has less violence and minimal danger compare to the previous books in the series, and though Rabbit solves the mystery, the more dire consequences unfold on their own. In…

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Co-authorship Part IV: Conclusion

Authors John W. Howell and Gwen Plano have been writing a series of Story Empire posts dealing with Co-authorship. Today, Gwen wraps up the series with some wonderful tips on how to make partnerships work. Hope you’ll stop by to check it out and will spread the word on all your favorite social media sites. It’s that good! Thanks, and thanks Gwen for a fabulous wrap-up to a very interesting and informative series. 🙂

Story Empire

Hello SEers! Gwen with you today to wrap-up the discussion on co-authorship. John Howell began with an overview, and you can find his first post here. I continued the following week by focusing on shared vision. You can check it out here. Then last week, John zeroed in on writing coherency. That post is linked here.

When talking about co-authorship, I’d like to underscore a comment made by most co-authors: it’s great fun and the story comes together in unexpected and potentially stronger ways than if it had been conceived and written by one person.

At the heart of a good writing partnership is communication. Isn’t that true for any relationship? The difference is that with a writing partner we’re usually limited to media such as phone or email or zoom. In-person exchanges are rare.

Writers must find a way to create a shared vision…

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#MondayMeme #mondayblogs

Some of you may have seen a few of these, but they are too good not to pass along. Hope they make you laugh as hard as I did!
😀 😀 😀 

Funny Similes & Metaphors

  1. Her face was a perfect oval, like a circle that had its two sides gently compressed by a Thigh Master.
  2. His thoughts tumbled in his head, making and breaking alliances like underpants in a dryer without Cling Free.
  3. He spoke with the wisdom that can only come from experience, like a guy who went blind because he looked at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it and now goes around the country speaking at high schools about the dangers of looking at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it.
  4. She grew on him like she was a colony of E. coli and he was room-temperature Canadian beef.
  5. She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes just before it throws up.
  6. Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.
  7. He was as tall as a six-foot-three-inch tree.
  8. The revelation that his marriage of 30 years had disintegrated because of his wife’s infidelity came as a rude shock, like a surcharge at a formerly surcharge-free ATM.
  9. The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn’t.
  10. McBride fell 12 stories, hitting the pavement like a Hefty bag filled with vegetable soup.
  11. From the attic came an unearthly howl. The whole scene had an eerie, surreal quality, like when you’re on vacation in another city and Jeopardy comes on at 7:00 p.m. instead of 7:30.
  12. Her hair glistened in the rain like a nose hair after a sneeze.
  13. Long separated by cruel fate, the star-crossed lovers raced across the grassy field toward each other like two freight trains, one having left Cleveland at 6:36 p.m. traveling at 55 mph, the other from Topeka at 4:19 p.m. at a speed of 35 mph.
  14. They lived in a typical suburban neighborhood with picket fences that resembled Nancy Kerrigan’s teeth.
  15. John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met.
  16. He fell for her like his heart was a mob informant and she was the East River.
  17. Even in his last years, Grandpappy had a mind like a steel trap, only one that had been left out so long, it had rusted shut.
  18. Shots rang out, as shots are wont to do.
  19. The plan was simple, like my brother-in-law Phil. But unlike Phil, this plan just might work.
  20. The young fighter had a hungry look, the kind you get from not eating for a while.
  21. He was as lame as a duck. Not the metaphorical lame duck, either, but a real duck that was actually lame, maybe from stepping on a land mine or something.
  22. The ballerina rose gracefully en pointe and extended one slender leg behind her, like a dog at a fire hydrant.
  23. It was an American tradition, like fathers chasing kids around with power tools.
  24. He was deeply in love. When she spoke, he thought he heard bells, as if she were a garbage truck backing up.
  25. Her eyes were like limpid pools, only they had forgotten to put in any pH cleanser.
  26. She walked into my office like a centipede with 98 missing legs.

Blogging Breaks: The Good, Bad, and Ugly

Taken any blogging breaks lately? Mae Clair’s post on Story Empire today deals with the pros and cons of doing just that. This topic is especially interesting to me since I did have to take one this year, and am still not totally back yet. Check it out and you’ll see what I mean. And then please remember to share it far and wide so others can consider some of these well-made points regarding blogging breaks. Thanks, and thanks to Mae Clair for a super post! 🙂

Story Empire

Hi, SEers! You’re with Mae today for one of my Good/ Bad / Ugly posts.

At the end of 2020, I took a two-month break from blogging. I’d only planned one—November, to participate in NaNoWriMo—but ended up with little time to spare in December. As lead coordinator on a physical move for the business that employs me, I put in a lot of overtime, which became exhausting. Throw in holiday prep, and I couldn’t summon the energy to be online. I did, however, make use of my weekends, setting aside Sundays to write.

In the event you’re thinking of a blogging break, I offer the following:

Silhouetted image of person sitting on a bench at sunset, bike beside bench

I added 35K to an existing WIP (of 30,000 words) in November. In December, writing on Sundays, I added another 16K and finished the novel. This is a book that has been languishing an embarrassingly long time. I can’t tell you how…

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Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Weekly Round Up – 24th – 30th January 2021 – 1960s music, America, Book Reviews, pH balance, Anti-Aging and funnies

Another absolutely amazing week over at Sally Cronin’s Smorgasbord. Do yourself a favor and check it all out! Food, music, laughs, cats, parrots, and guest bloggers. Holy Moly! After you’ve enjoyed all the good info and fun videos, hope you’ll remember to share far and wide. Thanks, and thanks again, Sally, for another wonderful week! You are STILL rockin’ it! 🙂

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

Welcome to the round up of posts you might have missed on Smorgasbord this week.

A quick intro today as I have very little to report on the home front.. the weather is the same, lockdown extended to March 5th and more travel restrictions in place. On the bright side, we did binge watch the last four James Bond’s to get ourselves ready to watch the new one when it eventually gets released.

We are also enjoying our foreign language series,particularly the Scandinavian shows, and amazing how quickly you forget the subtitles. They are also very well made and thankfully missing so much of the unnecessary chit chat that the English speaking series seem to contain.. in one show we watched last week 20 minutes of a murder mystery was spent with two of the detectives bickering in a car on their way from one scene to another.. I must…

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Pesky Words

Joan Hall has an excellent post today on Story Empire about how to avoid using crutch words and phrases, and other pesky things when we write. Check it out. Her examples are clear, concise, and easy to understand. After you finish reading, I hope you’ll remember to share far and wide, thanks! And thanks to Joan for such a super post! 🙂

Story Empire

Hey SE Readers. Joan with you today. I’m going to preface this post by saying I’ve probably made every mistake I mention and then some.

I tend to read with a more critical eye these days. It isn’t intentional, but as a learn more about the craft of writing, I pick up on things in other author’s works. Too bad I’m not good at finding these pesky things in my own writing, but I’m thankful for my critique partners who do.

As writers, we want to draw our readers into the story. Useless words, passive phrases, and what I call crutch words or phrases can distract them.

Before we send anything to beta readers, editors, or critique partners, there are a few simple steps we can take to tighten our writing and eliminate unnecessary words.

Look for “crutch” words or phrases

Crutch words or phrases will differ with every writer…

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Writing Coherency – Co-Authorship Part Three

I know I’m running behind folks, but John Howell’s post on co-authorship is too interesting not to share with you this morning. Hope you’ll stop by to check it out and consider whether this is something you’d like to try at some point. Also hope you’ll remember to pass it along on all your favorite social media spots. Thanks, and thanks to John for laying out these steps so clearly! 🙂

Story Empire

Unsplash Image KOBU Agency

Hi SE ers, The Last two posts on co-authorship covered the informal and formal elements needed for a successful co-authorship relationship and how to create a shared vision. If you missed them, you can go HERE and HERE. Today I am covering the subject of writing coherency.

Creating writing coherency (in other words making the story appear to have been written by one author) with two writers is critical. Without writing coherency, the book authored by two separate individuals will appear disjointed and confusing. Gwen and I were elated when a couple of our beta readers commented about the coherency of our story, saying that it was “seamless.” This was most encouraging. We worked towards writing coherency through three means.

1  Follow one character through the story: Our story is centered on a male character and a female character. Each of us wrote from…

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