How I Chose My Author Brand

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Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

When a writer starts attending conferences because, dear Lord you think you want to be published she hears “you need a brand.” What the heck does that mean? I couldn’t figure it out for years. How could I sell myself as something, especially if I wasn’t published yet.

The experts say, what makes you unique? I’m not an expert in anything. I don’t have a fancy degree in rocket science. In fact, I hated science in school and in college took classes like Writing A Review (we went to the movies!) and Film Form and Analysis, Theater Appreciation, Public Speaking (easy A for me) and stuff like that. I don’t have a strange hobby that I partake in like sword fighting or shark diving. Being the rocket scientist shark diver author was out of the question. Now what?

The first books I published were geared for the middle grade crowd about magical places with talking animals, and three teens running for their lives. Okay, my log line became “Where Fantasy and Adventure Collide.” Until a guy at a bar in New York City pointed out that line sounded like porn. Thanks, dude.

Let me back up a little. When I decided to take my writing seriously for the first time in my life, the book I wrote was a women’s fiction novel about a woman with a secret. I couldn’t get any traction with that one so I wrote another women’s fiction about a family whose child has a serious heart condition. (I think I had read one too many Jodi Picoult books at that point.) After that I wrote a romantic suspense with dead bodies, and ghosts. My heart was in the adult market.

Instead, I published those middle grade books for reasons we’ll discuss another time. I didn’t know what my brand was. Then I wrote A Second Chance House. And my brand hit me between the eyes. (Pardon the cliche. My writer’s slip is showing.)

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At a school visit in 2015. Mrs. R is one awesome teacher. That’s book one in the middle grade series. The cover came out cool. 

The thing all my characters have in common across every one of those books is a dysfunctional family.  In the middle grade books, Gabriel our hero, has two very messed up parents. In A Second Chance House, Grace has a father she never knew. They both are searching for a family to belong to because we can’t pick our parents. As I wrote the second book in the women’s fiction series (the Heritage River series), A Bridge Home, my heroine Harley, was dumped on the doorstep of her aunt and uncle because her mother didn’t want her.

I knew what my brand was without doubt. Family. Home. Second Chances. My log line changed to Family are the people who love you when you need them. You don’t have to be born to that family. Sometimes we pick them up along the way. (Please tell me that doesn’t sound like porn!)

I’m an expert in weird families. I’d rather be a concert pianist playing at Lincoln Center, and maybe some day I will be, but for now, it’s weird families. Lucky me.

I’m still not completely comfortable branding myself. (Makes me think of cattle and a hot branding iron.) Publishers used to need to know what shelf to stick a book on, so it made sense to know where you fit in, but now the shelves are disappearing, and with the aid of technology I can add keywords to my books that are specific to that book. This way, when someone searches, women’s fiction, home, family, second chances, sexy washed up rock star drummer, my books will come up. Do I really need to tattoo myself with a hot branding iron that will leave a scar? That sounds painful, no?

How would you describe yourself if you needed a brand? Maybe you have a brand already. Tell us how you decided to label yourself?

A Second Chance House is available for pre-order in digital format. The print version will become available March 7th from all major online retailers, and here on the website.

I’m hosting a Facebook party on March 7th from 7 – 9 pm in honor of the release. There will be games and prizes.

And since music is so important to me and my hero, Blaise Savage, I’m having a book launch concert at Patrick’s Pub, Neptune, NJ, March 28th 7 pm. I’ll be signing books and doing a reading. And right along side me will be fantastic bands playing awesome music. (I won’t be singing. Don’t worry.)

 

 

 

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Choose Your Time Wisely & The Hat Trick

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Photo courtesy of Ankakay at Flikr Creative Commons

 

Everyone I know never has enough time to get to everything they want and usually the things that get ignored are exercising, health, and passions. I hear this a lot. “I’ll write that book when the kids go to college or when I turn 50.” “I don’t have time to exercise after a full day at work and running the kids around.” It’s hard to find the time.

We all get twenty-four hours in a day. No one gets extra time. (And if you’ve figured out how to get more than 24 hours let us know.) It’s how you choose to spend that time that matters. Yes, it’s a choice. You can choose to sit on the couch and watch your favorite television show or you can choose during the commercials to drop on the floor and do twenty push-ups. You can choose to go for a walk around the neighborhood or you can choose to eat the ice cream. You can choose to start writing that book or you can do the laundry. I can’t tell you how many people tell me they don’t have time to read. But I bet you money, if they got off that computer, stop playing Candy Crush, scrolling through Facebook, or staying away from Amazon there would be more time to read.

I know how hard it is to “find the time.” When I decided I was going to take my writing seriously, learn my craft and write a novel, my children were toddlers who didn’t nap and I was the primary care giver. The Coffee King had recently started his own business. He worked all day making sure he was successful enough to support all four of us. He used the only computer we had. That meant, if I was going to write I had to get up before the kids did at 6 a.m. I woke at 5 and wrote by hand.

I thought when the kids were old enough to understand, “Mommy, is going to do some work now” they’d know they couldn’t come looking for me for a while. How wrong I was. So, I employed the red baseball hat trick. I told them, when I was wearing the red baseball hat they weren’t allowed to talk to me unless there was blood or vomit involved. I promised to warn them before I put the hat on so they could ask all the questions they had (and they always had questions) but no talking to me until I took the hat off. It worked. But it was a choice to carve out the time.

Even now that they are teens I choose to say, “I’m working now.” Or I stop what I’m doing and pay attention to them. I choose to work out instead of taking a nap because exercise keeps me nice. Sometimes I choose the cookie and not the fruit. Or I choose to return a call to Person A instead of Person B.

But at the end of the day I’ve chosen how to spend my time. And you can too.

I like lists and calendars. I mark out my whole week on a calendar. I pencil in the things I can’t get out of. Like going to the bus stop or doctor’s appointments or making dinner. Then I see how much white space is left and then I pencil in the other stuff. Sometimes I have to choose exercise over writing. I don’t like that choice because I want to be able to do both in a day, but I choose. Or I choose not to meet a friend for lunch so I can write and exercise. That’s how I carve out my time.

I’m always looking for ways to improve. But I’ve published three books in three years, I exercise pretty regularly, I keep a somewhat neat house, and I’ve been known to volunteer. In no way am I perfect, far from it, but you can trust me when I say you have a choice on how you spend your time.

So, tell me. How do you spend your time? How would you do it differently? What’s the one big dream you want to go after if you only had the time? Namaste

 

#Sale

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It’s the last day to get Welcome To Bibliotheca for $.99 for Kindle.

A little about the book:

Thirteen year-old Gabriel Hunter survived Kata-Tartaroo and wants to go home, which is surprising for a Lesser like him, but instead he and his friends, Owen and Corinna, are forced into another terrifying world – Bibliotheca – where the sun never shines, the temperatures are freezing and the snow pummels you. To make matters worse, Gabriel and his friends have been taken captive by Yugs.

The Yugs will send these three back home, but only if they agree to help with their mission: Enter the Building of Books, a magical labyrinth filled with dangerous puzzles, locate the Command Center, and outsmart the Wolf before he outwits them.

In this fast-paced follow-up to Welcome to Kata-Tartaroo, Gabriel, Owen, and Corinna must rely on each other to save themselves and save the Yugs. Along the way, secrets will be revealed, friendships will be renewed, and Gabriel will learn leaders come in all shapes and sizes. It’s a race against time to see if Gabriel and his friends will solve the puzzles and destroy the Wolf or be left in Bibliotheca forever.

$.99 Sale For A Limited Time

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Book Two in the Gabriel Hunter Series

Don’t you get a huge charge when you find something on sale? Buying on sale is like getting away with something. Or is that just me who feels that way?

In honor of the release of my third book, Welcome To Skull MountainI’ve put the Kindle version of book two in the series, Welcome To Bibliothecaon sale for $.99 January 9 – 10th. If you haven’t read the second book yet, now’s a great time. It’s too cold to go outside, but the perfect time to make a cup of tea and curl up with a good book.

A little about the book:

Thirteen year-old Gabriel Hunter survived Kata-Tartaroo and wants to go home, which is surprising for a Lesser like him, but instead he and his friends, Owen and Corinna, are forced into another terrifying world – Bibliotheca – where the sun never shines, the temperatures are freezing and the snow pummels you. To make matters worse, Gabriel and his friends have been taken captive by Yugs.

The Yugs will send these three back home, but only if they agree to help with their mission: Enter the Building of Books, a magical labyrinth filled with dangerous puzzles, locate the Command Center, and outsmart the Wolf before he outwits them.

In this fast-paced follow-up to Welcome to Kata-Tartaroo, Gabriel, Owen, and Corinna must rely on each other to save themselves and save the Yugs. Along the way, secrets will be revealed, friendships will be renewed, and Gabriel will learn leaders come in all shapes and sizes. It’s a race against time to see if Gabriel and his friends will solve the puzzles and destroy the Wolf or be left in Bibliotheca forever.

You can get Welcome To Bibliotheca here. Why not get away with something?

 

 

Happy New Year and Happy New Book

WelcometoSkullMntHRcover - CopyHappy New Year! January is a clean slate. A chance to do everything over, if you want to. I’m always sad to see the holidays go, but I like the chance to start fresh. It’s a time when anything is possible.

This year I plan on having more fun. I allow the responsibilities of life to drag the joy out of everything, including my writing, so this year I vow to make some changes. I’m going to experience more, laugh more, enjoy more.

I am happy to share the new year brings my third book. Book three in the Gabriel Hunter Series, Welcome To Skull Mountain is finally available for purchase and you can do that right here. And to my newsletter readers, don’t forget the special gift if you act fast.

So, what are you goals and hopes and wishes for 2016? I’d love to hear them and we can walk this amazing journey together.

 

The Town Crier

photo courtesy of morguefile.com
photo courtesy of morguefile.com

I think I’ve become a town crier. Here’s what wikipedia says a town crier is:

The town crier can also be used to make public announcements in the streets. Criers often dress elaborately, by a tradition dating to the 18th century, in a red and gold coat, white breeches, black boots and a tricorne hat. They carry a handbell to attract people’s attention, as they shout the words “here ye, here ye.” 

I’m not making public announcements in the streets, though I could be persuaded, but I do announce the time every morning. I bang on Noodge 1’s bathroom door and shout the time so he will get out of the shower and make it to the bus on time. I don’t understand why he spends so much time in the shower, and honestly, I don’t want to know, but I do want him to make the bus so I march up the steps, bang on the door, and cry out the time.

Part of me finds this whole escapade every morning frustrating because in addition to crying out the time for the shower I must announce the time to wake him up. (The only things missing each morning are the gold coat, white breeches and the handbell. Wait a second, I actually have a handbell! Hmm….I might be going about this all wrong.)

I don’t want to be the town crier, though I might want to wear the clothes. I want Noodge 1 to wake up by himself, take a shower without a reminder to get out and oh, I don’t know, wear his retainer without being told. “Is that too much to ask?” I ask.

But part of me, the mommy part who misses her little bald baby sometimes, takes a deep breath and says “enjoy being the crier. You look good in the hat.” You see, in two very short years, Noodge 1 will be in college and I won’t be able to walk into his room and shake him awake or bang on his bathroom door. I’ll miss him terribly and wake each morning wondering if he got off to class all right. I won’t know how he’s spending his time or if he’s getting his homework done.

Noodge 2 doesn’t need me to wake her up, gets ready on time, and has one foot out the door into adulthood already. She won’t step into her brother’s place for me.

After Noodge 1 goes, how will I spend my mornings?

Folding up the breeches, hanging up the coat, tucking away the tricorne hat.

You can bet I’ll never stop ringing that bell!

By the way, Welcome To Skull Mountain, book three in the Gabriel Hunter series, is due out the end of November. More details coming soon.

Can I Ask A Favor? There’s A Prize Involved

FOF007_Wilkes_KataTartaroo_F_LRBut first let me tell you a little story, with the upcoming release of my third book, I’m going to submit Welcome To Kata-Tartaroo (Book One) to BookBub for selection. BookBub is an on-line ebookstore that allows readers to purchase really good books for a small amount. Not every book submitted is selected, but from my research it appears those books that are selected end up with lots of downloads which means more readers than before. I’d like to be one of those authors. I’d really like to grow my readership, but here’s where I need help. I need more reviews on Amazon and GoodReads in order to be chosen. I don’t have enough now, so if you’ve already read Kata-Tartaroo, and haven’t yet written a review, would you mind writing a short review for me? One sentence will do. It doesn’t have to be 5 stars either.

And if you haven’t read Kata-Tartaroo yet, but would like to here’s the link to my Amazon Author’s Page.

Please write the review by Sept. 30th then comment back here so I know the review is up and I will put your name in a drawing for one random winner to receive a $25 Amazon Gift Card.

Thank you for your continued support of my writing and my blog!! I couldn’t do this without you. 

Stacey