Adobe spark collage. brass slipper collage

Creating Adobe Spark images and videos

Do you create images for your social media? I’ve used Canva in the past, (read my review here) adding a writing quote to an image (with my web address at the bottom) and posting to Instagram/Twitter/Facebook/Pinterest each morning.  I’ve now switched over to Adobe Spark, a FREE program that integrates the professionalism of the Adobe look with an easy-to-use interface.

Sign up at for free using your Facebook or Google ID, email, or create an Adobe account. A free account includes:

  • Create stunning graphics, web pages, and video stories
  • Available on desktop, iPhone and iPad
  • Sync projects across devices

The $9.99 USD per month plan adds:

  • Replace the Adobe Spark logo with your own
  • Add your brand to Spark graphics, web pages, and video stories
  • Select colors and fonts that reflect your brand
  • Leverage personalized branded templates
  • Manage your brand in one place
  • Update branding across templates in one click
  • Live phone and chat support

And the $19.99 USD plan adds:

  • Company ownership of user licenses
  • Consolidated billing for all licenses on the account
  • Web-based license management tool with ability to reassign licenses
  • Dedicated 24/7 technical phone support, email, chat and forums

I’m all for free, and my business isn’t big enough (nor is my budget) to need the perks of the other features.

The 3 things you can make with Adobe Spark


I’ve used this numerous times to make my “morning images”. Adobe Spark offers so many sizes—Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Etsy, Pinterest, blog post, YouTube, and poster sizes. They also offer different categories—food, school, lifestyle, seasonal, collages, and travel, all with nifty graphics.

Of course, you’re treated to the Adobe pallet, with professional color matching. In addition, they’ve thrown in features like contrast, darken, lighten, greyscale, matte, colorize and multiply, and scaling and rotating sliders.

Adobe Spark imageAdobe Spark ImageAdobe Spark imageAdobe spark


I especially like the collage layout. Here’s what I did for my upcoming Cinderella re-telling, The Brass Slipper:

Adobe spark collage. brass slipper collage


2. Page

I have not used Adobe Spark to create a page. From what I’ve read, it creates a static page only, not a web page. The article I found says it’s great for creating a magazine type page.

3. Video

I used this to promote my AtoZChallenge book, Twilight, Arizona. It was fairly easy. The only problem I ran across is the template didn’t give me enough time on each frame for the average viewer to read the caption. I solved that by holding down the record button but didn’t say anything. Here’s the result:

(Twilight, Arizona is a fictional retirement village, the setting of twenty-six supernatural short stories. I wrote them as part of 2018’s AtoZChallenge.)
Purchase the collection for 99¢ at Amazon:

Now that I know what I’m doing, I could probably, and will, make a new video in a few minutes.

There you go! Alternate, professional looking images and videos courtesy of Adobe Spark.

This is my blog post for May’s AuthorToolBoxBlogHop.

Blogging every day #Authortoolboxbloghop

The #AuthorToolboxBlogHop is a monthly event on the topic of resources and learning for authors. Feel free to hop around to the various blogs and see what you learn! To join, visit Raimey Gallant’s website or follow the #AuthorToolboxBlogHop hashtag on Twitter.

Be a Sterling Reader! Join my mailing list to receive free books, updates, book release details and other valuable information.

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Learn how to get others to link to your website and increase SEO at link building

#ThrowbackThursday, a look back at link building

For today’s #ThrowbackThursday, we’re in the wayback machine to April, 2017, revisiting a post about link building.

Lots and lots of linky, linky, links.

Learn how to get others to link to your website and increase SEO at link building

How to get others to link to your website.

We all love links from other’s websites. Feel the love! Links to our website are gold SEO.

I’m not an expert in SEO (Search Engine Optimization), though I give a good impression of it on my SEO Pinterest board. What I have learned is about on-page optimization and off-page or off-site optimization.


“In search engine optimization, on-page optimization refers to factors that have an effect on your Web site or Web page listing in natural search results. These factors are controlled by you or by coding on your page. Examples of on-page optimization include actual HTML code, meta tags, keyword placement and keyword density.”

“In search engine optimization, off-page optimization refers to factors that have an effect on your Web site or Web page listing in natural search results. These factors are off-site in that they are not controlled by you or the coding on your page. Examples of off-page optimization include things such as link popularity and page rank.”

On-page optimization can wait for another day. You should be aware by now of the importance of keywords. I’ve mentioned in my blog on images, the use of meta tags (ALT text) with images. Today I’d like to talk about off-page optimization, specifically links.

How can you get someone to link to your website? (also known as a backlink)

In no particular order:

Guest blogging on a credible site is a great way to earn back links and increase your SEO.

Is this guy wearing pants?

  • Write a guest post on a credible site. Why credible? The higher the host’s ranking, the more weight they carry with search engines. Link your website in the post content rather than at the footer. Or both.
  • Get influencers in your niche to promote your content.
  • Develop a strong social media presence. But don’t flood Twitter, etc., with posts containing your URL. Most social media platforms have turned off the “follow” feature. Otherwise, Twitter, etc., would be one big URL universe. More than it is.
  • Ask people in your industry to link to you. Scary, I know, but most industries are willing to share a little of the link juice.
  • Offer freebies, run sweepstakes. If you see a link to a free Whizbang thingy, don’t you want to click on it and enter? Bam! You’ve just given the website owner a free backlink. The freebie does not have to be expensive, or even physical. Offer bonus knowledge, a .pdf, a book excerpt. You know your industry best. What information is your customer always demanding? Put together a quick FAQ booklet to download and offer it to them for free.
  • Link to some of your older, related posts within your current post. See how I linked to my post on images above? Oops, I did it again.
  • Comment on other’s blogs. People do read and click on them.
  • Answer question in your niche on Quora. Answer a question that pops up a lot. Make yourself the Quora Master for your niche.

What do most of these steps involve?

Engagement. The number one method of getting people to link to you is for them to want to. You have to connect with people, and not just by wailing, “Buy my stuff, buy my stuff.” Connect, engage, ask questions, answer questions, communicate. Be a real person. It’s easy to hide behind the anonymity of the internet, but marketing is a big part of your business. As much as I’d love to write all day, I recognize the importance of reaching out, which is why I’m part of the AtoZChallenge. Not only to share what I know about writing (which I love doing), but I get to read other’s posts and step into their world for a few minutes.

Bonus section! One day only!

Another link related, easily-solved problem is the messed up permalinks I see on so many blogs. It’s as if the blog owner is trying to turn away Google’s eyes. (I’m talking to you, Jenny Trout) <–that, my friends, is called a backlink!

What’s a permalink? It’s the URL search engines use to find your site. It’s what you type in your internet browser’s search bar. For example, if you’re looking for my site’s specific page on Images, you’d type:

That’s a permalink. And you have control over it. As I’m typing this blog, its permalink is:

How is 1064 going to get me on Google’s front page if you’re searching for information on links? So, excuse me a moment while I go up to the permalink box, click on Edit, and change my permalink to:

Whew! All done. Why did I add links, backlinks and permalinks? Links because my SEO plug-in, Yoast (more about Yoast on the 29th), demands the focus keyword in the title should also be in the permalink (and in the first paragraph, and at least one header. Yoast is a nag.) Backlinks and permalinks were included for anyone doing a Google search. See, it’s all connected.

Any other tips on links and SEO, Cheryl?

You are a curious bunch. Let’s see what I have:

If you want to check who’s backlinking to your site, go to and enter your URL. It may take a few minutes, but backlinkwatch will generate a list of websites in which you were mentioned, or where you commented, as well as the number of backlinks from the site. I was surprised that a comment I made in January of this year resulted in 189 backlinks to my site. (I hope it also resulted in a few book sales).

For a free, downloadable, WordPress SEO checklist (which I will use henceforth), go to

That’s it for now.

Thank you for joining me on this #ThrowbackThursday trip back to the land of link building.



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Twilight, Arizona supernatural short stories

Lessons learned in the 2018 #AtoZChallenge

This year, I participated in the #AtoZChallenge for the second time. Last year, I jumped on the bandwagon days before it started and scrambled to post all twenty-six articles. In 2018 I approached #AtoZ as a project. Here are some lessons learned:

1. Lesson learned: Have a plan

Lessons learned in 2018 AtoZChallenge.

In 2017, in a panic, I wrote about what I knew—writing and book marketing. This time, I took an idea, the unexpected, unexplained antics of a bunch of retirees, and fleshed them into twenty-six stories. Characters crossed over into each other’s stories or reappeared from earlier stories. I strove to attain stories that could be read separately or as a collection.

2. Lesson learned: Start early

Part of my plan included a timeline. Lessons learned in 2017 taught me to allow plenty of time to write the stories. Starting in January, I wrote five stories every two weeks and shot them to my alpha reader for feedback. The last two weekends in March, I edited the stories, formatted them, added images, checked SEO, introductory matter, and ending matter, including links to previous posts. By April 2nd, the date of the first post, the posts were scheduled and ready to go live on their prospective dates.

3.Lesson learned:  Read, comment, share

Part of the fun (and challenge) of #AtoZ is to read as many other posts as possible by other participants. For the most part, I stuck with the #BlogchatterA2Z list. I didn’t visit every blog by every member (more than 60 listed per day) but I tried to spread out my reading time.

Comment. Commenting on each blog I visited validates the blogger’s time and effort. Be kind. Leave a comment.

How to use Facebook Groups to connect with customers

Sharing. Sharing other’s posts on social media is an objective and a perk to participating in the challenge. You might only have X followers, but someone sharing it on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest, and other venues might have XX followers. My Twitter followers increased by 50 in April.

4.Lesson learned:  Respond to comments on your blog

It’s common courtesy to thank your visitors for their comments. Even if they don’t check the box to see any further comments, others will see your answers and know you’re paying attention. Be human. Be nice. Thank your visitors. Make the answers personal.

5. Lesson learned: Promote your blogs

Remember the images I created in Step 1? I threw them into a file along with the one sentence teaser introducing each story. Every morning, I posted both onto my social media as well as page dedicated to the day’s posts. I also used scheduling tools like Hootsuite and Buffer to ensure the posts showed up later in the day.

I learned how to make an Adobe Spark video and posted it several times. Pretty proud of myself!

6. Lesson learned: Take advantage of the opportunity

At the conclusion of the challenge, #Blogchatter offers anyone a chance to turn their blogs into an ebook. (It doesn’t have to be the #AtoZ blogs, either. It can be any ebook). In exchange, #Blogchatter will answer questions, offer mentors, and guide writers through the process. They will host a free download of the book on their site for two months (the book cannot be offered through any other distributor) and they will promote it for you.

I took advantage of their offer in 2017. This year, because I did so much work upfront, I collected and published the collection on Amazon for 99¢

Twilight, Arizona supernatural short stories

See the bold phrase up above? Offer mentors? #Blogchatter asked if I would like to mentor this year’s ebook authors, guiding them through the process of publishing their works. Of course, I said yes!

On April 15th, I took part in #AMACarnival, a live Twitter chat, and answered questions from new writers.

On April 27th, I took part in a live Facebook chat.

I don’t know what the next few weeks will bring, but I’m excited about sharing what I know about writing and publishing with others. If only someone had been around back in 19XX when I started!

7. Lesson learned: Look to the future

Don’t be like millions of Americans who are surprised when Christmas rolls around each year and they don’t have any money saved. Look to the future. Toss around some ideas about what to write about in #AtoZChallenge2019.

I had a great time, read a bunch of amazing posts, and plan on being part of #AtoZChallenge2019. Thank you #BlogchatterA2Z and all your writers!

Blessings until my next post,


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