How I Chose My Author Brand

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.)

me and angel
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.)





What Does Music Mean To You?

In 1982, I discovered Van Halen. As far as music was concerned, I never looked back. I knew the words to every song on every album. I could drum solo right along with Alex. I studied everything I could get my hands on about them. (Oh, how the helpful the internet would’ve been.) I stayed up until all hours of the night listening to radio interviews. In my high school year book senior year, we had to list what we would be in ten years. I wrote married to Alex Van Halen. I was obsessed.  (The video above is “Respect the Wind” by Eddie and Alex Van Halen. Enjoy!)

As the years passed, and logic and reasoning formed in my brain (thankfully) some of the obsession died down. (I have seen every American tour since 1984.) I still enjoy their music, but mostly the stuff with David Lee Roth singing lead. Sorry, Sammy Hagar. He seems like a cool person to hang out with. I prefer the harder sound with Dave.

Growing up music made me believe anything was possible. Music sat right beside me while I wrote my first novel at twelve, and every novel since. (I have play lists for all my women’s fiction books.) Music soothed my heart the first time someone broke it. No one understands the broken heart better than a musician. Except maybe a romance novelist. Music makes me dance any place any time. Music transports me. Every time I hear AC/DC’s Hells Bells I’m at the start of a high school football game. High school was a long time ago.

I don’t play any instruments, but 2018 is the year I change that. I can’t sing, but I dream of being on stage in front of thousands singing my heart out. (Possibly in leather pants. And I’d love to do a duet with Jennifer Nettles. I love the quality of her voice.) If I had to go back and do it all again, I’d study how to play music. I love writing, and I wouldn’t change being an author for anything. (Though I’d like to make more than a cup of coffee for doing it.) But I also love the sound of an orchestra. And much to my son’s dismay, I love soundtrack music. The music in a soundtrack evokes emotion often times because the dialogue and the actor’s facial expressions can’t. Being in an orchestra is my kind of team sport.

An artist puts his or her mark on the world. The way rockers played guitar changed because Eddie Van Halen hit the scene. He revolutionized the way guitars were made too. I often hope with my books that I can leave my mark. I had a beta reader say to me recently, “I’m sobbing.” My words moved her. What an honor and a thrill to be able to touch someone deeply. Now I have to find more readers like her otherwise my mark is just one. That’s no easy job.

If I could go back to 1982, I think I’d sit myself down and say, “don’t give up. Don’t listen to what other people say. Deep inside you is a talent and a passion. Sing. Dance. Play. Write. I’ll be waiting for you.”

What does music mean to you?

What passion burns inside you to come out?

Who influenced you the most?

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.)


Release Day – Two Weeks Away

The Second Chance House will be released in print and digital formats on March 7, 2018. That’s only two weeks away! It will be available from all major online retailers, and on my website.

me in panera Feb21_18
Sorry about the picture of me sitting in Panera. I’m trying to mess with the Facebook algorithms.

There are so many moving parts in getting a book out into the world. I could write a blog post every day for a month and still not hit on all the things an author has to do to get a book into the hands of her readers.

A friend of mine recently suggested I talk about my process for writing the book. So you can blame Sean for this one. Wink! And then when you’re done here today, jump over to Sean’s blog and read about writing (he has a great book coming out if he’ll ever stop editing it. Joking.), movies, and his nostalgia for New York City. You won’t be sorry. I promise.

Come sit beside me as we talk about writing. I have my tea. You? Great. paneracup

In 2015, in the midst of finishing the third book in my middle grade series, Welcome To Skull Mountain, two characters began talking to each other in my head. Non-stop. No matter what I was doing, they’d show up. They drove me crazy. That’s good stuff for an author. I started putting their story down on paper.

Problem was I had to finish that third book first, and then my daughter became sick. It took a little while before I could really figure out who these two people were. Thankfully, they kept talking to me.

I believe all stories are character driven. In my world, people talk about plot driven stories and character driven stories. In my humble opinion, you could have the best story in the world, but if your characters don’t actually make choices on every page then who cares about your plot? Characters are what stay with us long after the book ends. Characters make me laugh and make me cry. Plot is just an accessory. The most important, like a pace maker, but plot can’t do diddly without character. I’m sure someone else will have a different opinion.

The first thing I have to do when I write a book is get to know my characters. I don’t do character interviews, though that’s a popular technique. I start asking myself questions about what their wounds are. The ugly stuff we hide from Facebook. I need to know what happened to them in their past that makes them the way they are when my reader meets them. I come up with stuff you’ll probably never see, but that’s okay. The better I know my characters the more real they’ll be to you.

We’ll pick on Grace for a minute. Grace Starr is the heroine in A Second Chance House. I like Grace. I can relate to her. She’s middle-aged, has a teenage daughter she can’t communicate with, and a husband who left her for a younger woman. (I can’t relate to the husband part. Good thing for the Coffee King. Otherwise he’d be coffee grounds. Ba-da-bump.) She’s a control freak, and she’s been following the rules her whole life. When you meet Grace, she wants a new life.

First question for Grace is what happened to you that made you this way? I start to build her backstory. Her father left her when she was too little to remember him. Her childhood was filled with chaos. For some people, in order for them to handle chaos in their lives they like to control things. That’s Grace.

So, who would be the worst kind of match for her? Well, a rock star might be a good place to start. We’ve all heard wild stories about rock ‘n roll. I have a vivid imagination. Enter, Blaise Savage. Just his name alone should have Grace shaking in her boots. In more ways than one. Ha! Sorry, Grace.

I’ve sat through countless workshops and seminars on the craft of writing. I learned pretty early on if you want a romance to sizzle on the page you need to pair opposites. The analogy often used is if your hero is a fire fighter then your heroine better be an arsonist. Follow?

Once I know who my characters are I need to know what they want. They must want something they can touch, and they must want something internally. Love, family, a second chance. Those things Grace wants have to be connected in some way to the things Blaise wants. And as often as I can work it in each scene, Grace has to stop Blaise from getting what he wants and Blaise has to stop Grace from getting what she wants. So, if Blaise wants to kiss Grace, it can’t happen. If I can’t get Grace to control herself, (because let’s face it, Blaise is a damn good kisser) then I bring in another character to break up the moment. I know, that’s so mean! Trust me, makes for a page turner.

Now I can build the plot. I won’t go into the details about inciting incident, plot points, black moments, point of view, show don’t tell, etc. Unless you’re a new writer and need to learn it, all that stuff will just pull the curtain back too far. Readers need to be mesmerized by the smoke and mirrors. If you are a new writer, and have questions email me. I’ll get you going in the right direction.

I write the first draft. A Second Chance House is 99,000 words. That’s about 380 pages. I edit that draft with the help of my critique partners. I ask questions, they give me suggestions. I let them read the first fifty or so pages because they understand all the technical stuff and they can tell me if I’m hitting my stride in the right places.

After the third or fourth time through the book can go to my editor. ASCH is published traditionally so the publisher has its own process I will follow at this point. Indie or self-pubbed books follow a slightly different path. But either way, a lot more editing happens over the next several months. Right, Sean?

By the time you read the book it’s been polished to a high shine and in it’s best Sunday clothes.

I am eternally grateful for all the people who help me along the way. My critique partners: M. Kate Quinn, Shari Nichols, and K.M. Fawcett. My editor on this book, Roseann A., is the master editor. I owe her big time. Also have beta readers who I bring in at different stages for help. They read the book all the way through as readers. Readers read like readers. Writers read like writers. My betas give me invaluable feedback so I can fix whatever else might need fixing. Thank you, Robin and Betsy. Love you tons.

I’m hosting a Facebook party on March 7, 2018 from 7 – 9 pm to celebrate the release. We’ll be playing games, there will be prizes, and we’ll be chatting about writing, publishing, and whatever else you want. Hope to see you there.

I’ll be having a Book Launch Concert on March 28, 2018 in Neptune, NJ at Patrick’s Pub. 7 pm. Patrick’s hosts an open-mic night every Wednesday with wonderful bands playing some great music. They were kind enough to allow me to tag along because my hero is a drummer in a rock band. I’ll have books to sign, and I’ll be doing a reading. If you live in the area, please stop by and say hi. We’ll have a good time.

Release Date – A Second Chance House


I’m very excited to announce the release date of my first contemporary women’s fiction novel – A Second Chance House published with The Wild Rose Press. Drum role please…

March 7, 2018

The book will be available in print and digital formats from Amazon and all major online retailers. I’ll provide links from my books page when the links are live. In the mean time, mark your calendars.

For those of you who reside near me, I will be hosting two launch parties at the end of March at local pubs with live bands. More details on that to follow.

I want to thank all of you for being a part of this writing journey with me. Thank you for your support, and for your visits to the blog. I love interacting with my readers. You are all amazing.

Here’s an excerpt from the book for your reading pleasure:

A pickup truck glided off the road and stopped behind her car. The sun’s glare bounced off the windshield, making it impossible to see the driver. She shielded her eyes with one hand and gripped her keys with the other.

A tall male hopped out of the driver’s side. “Do you northerners make it a habit of running out of gas?”

Grace loosened her grip on the keys, but she looked around for a way to escape. Maybe a tornado would appear and suck her up in its funnel. She’d hoped Blaise would never find out about her stupidity.

“Did Beau make you come?” Her voice wobbled.

Blaise swaggered up to her. “Nah. After he was done yelling about women and cars, I offered. Figured I’d save Pete the drive and Beau the call to bark at him.”

“Beau was yelling?”

“Whole neighborhood could hear him. Where were you coming back from anyway?”

She turned and looked toward the woods. That might be a good place to run and hide. “I’m sorry I inconvenienced you. I’m not the kind of person who runs out of gas.”

“Lighten up, Grace. Ain’t no big deal.” He pumped up his southern accent. “Pop open your gas tank. You know where that button is?” He laughed. “You weren’t trying to get out of dinner, were you?”

He poured the gas into the car, and she held her nose. “It would’ve been easier to call and cancel, don’t you think?” she said.








Sweating With the Oldies


Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

I’m one of those weird people who like to exercise. For someone who is Type A, exercise has been a constant companion to me. She cures many of my ailments; such as big mouth syndrome, come down off the ledge illness, and a current favorite; mid-life hormonal combustion.

When my friend, Ella, asked me to join her at a Zumba class, I jumped at the chance. I used to take Zumba all the time, and loved it. I mean, who doesn’t love to dance, destress, and burn a gazillion calories?

The class was filled with everyone from seven to ninety-seven. Okay, maybe not that old, but close. Trust me. I think it’s fantastic to find older people getting up and shaking their groove thing. I plan on being in my nineties, wearing my yoga pants, and doing the hustle across the dance floor. (I also plan on completely turning off my filter, and saying every single non-politically correct thing that comes to my mind! People will think what I say is cute because I’ll be old. That’s what everyone says about my grandmother and her miniskirts.)

There’s a down side to Zumba, though. I can’t work out with my nose pinched closed. I do need to breathe, but with breathing comes inhaling the smell of a skunk in the summer sun. I discreetly checked to see if the skunk was coming off of me, but thank everything that is holy, I remembered to wear deodorant and I had showered earlier that day. I was sweating pretty good, and by the end I was a tad ripe, but the skunk stink was on someone else. And not Ella! Maybe I could do what the ladies did back before showers existed. I can spray a handkerchief with perfume and keep it over my face.

If you’re a single male, and into women, a Zumba class might be a great hook-up place. There had to be forty people in that class and only one of them was a man. Those are some pretty good odds. I thought our guy had to be smart swinging his hips around for the ladies until I found out he stalks women from one gym to another. Then he was just plain creepy. Maybe the skunk was him?

I can’t begin to describe how ridiculous I must look in a Zumba class trying to follow the fancy footwork, but I can tell you this: My lack of skill doesn’t stop me. And when I go to Zumba class I’m Jennifer Lopez. At least in my delusional mind.

About an hour in I felt ten years younger. I thought, look at me, keeping up, recapturing the exercise high I miss because I don’t run anymore, and not an ache or a pain anywhere. Ninety minutes in, I thought, when the hell is this class going to end? The muscles in my back twisted into a tightly woven braid, and my knees ached like a bad tooth. I went from feeling ten years younger to feeling ancient. The ninety year-olds were holding up better than I was.

The class had several instructors. They were all lovely, warm, and friendly. These kooky women wanted to take a picture of everyone together after class. Stinky, sweaty people standing in a huddle was a bad idea. Let’s not forget the skunk! Not to mention, my hair wasn’t exactly picture ready after ninety minutes of sweating with the oldies. I found a clever way to hide, and not touch or get too close to anyone. You know how I sceeve people. Again, not Ella!

All in all, it was a great time. Maybe I’ll get asked to go again. Hopefully, there won’t be anymore pictures. And my handkerchief is ready.



What Do You Dream For?

Photo Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

We dream. The Universe provides us with those dreams, but they don’t always look the way we imagined them. That’s okay. Often times, the dream turns out better.

Somewhere along the way of leaving the Charlie’s Angel’s Hideaway House behind for makeup, I decided I wanted to be an author. Not any author. A famous one. With tons of readers. I wanted a huge publishing deal (not that I totally knew what that was back then) with a publishing house in New York City, the publishing capital of the world. I did know who McMillan was if only because they had a hand in publishing text books.

My dream to be a famous author isn’t looking exactly like I thought when I was 12 then 15 then… never mind the numbers. Publishing is a very different animal than when Stephen King signed his first contract for Carrie. That’s okay.

I indie published my middle-grade fantasy adventure series and coming to that decision wasn’t an easy or quick one. That looks nothing like my first dream.

Recently, I announced on my Facebook page, another new adventure in my publishing dream. (If you’re kind enough to follow me in both places, pardon my redundancy. If you don’t follow me on Facebook and want to, I love seeing friendly faces over there.) I signed a three-book deal with a traditional publisher for my women’s fiction series. Now I’m a hybrid author. No one even knew what that was ten years ago. Times change.

I’m very excited about this opportunity. Every author desires for their work to be wanted and liked. (We know we’re not supposed to read the reviews, but still get bummed when there’s a less than favorable one. It’s like picking on our kids.) I’m glad my new publisher believed in my work the way I do.

Even though I have and will have books in two different genres all my books have a united theme: Family are those who love you when you need them whether you’re born to that family or find them along the way. All my main characters seek to belong, to be loved, want a chance to fit in somewhere.

The first book in the new series, A Second Chance House, about a woman who is given the anonymous gift of dilapidated house in a new town, is in edits. I’ll announce a release date when I have one.

I don’t have the fame of my beloved Stephen King. (yet) The dream to be an author has most certainly come true and for that I’m grateful, humbled, and thrilled. I didn’t have any idea how hard it would be to find my readers, but I am, one at a time. The process might take longer than I thought, but it’s very rewarding when I get an email from a reader who saw me speak four years before, finally read my book and loved it enough to drop a line. Or when an eighth grader draws me a picture of one of my characters and has his teacher mail it to me. Or when a book club turns the woods behind one of their houses into Kata-Tartaroo and goes on a scavenger hunt. (That’s one of my favorite stories.)

I couldn’t make my dream come true without my readers. Thank you for being a part of my journey. I appreciate you reading my books, your continued visits to the blog and the comments you leave behind.

What was your dream back when playgrounds and sidewalk chalk were a daily existence? What does that dream look like now?

Shopping For Girls’ Clothes

Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons. This is not my child. 


Ever since I became a mother, I’ve been shocked at how hard it is to find suitable clothes for girls. When Noodge 2 was still in diapers, the rise of all the pants and shorts weren’t high enough to cover the diaper no matter how hard I pulled the pants up. I often wondered why anyone would manufacture bottoms that couldn’t cover a diaper? What 1 year-old needs a low-rise jean?

I didn’t have these problems for Noodge 1 – the boy. Shorts and pants always came up around the diaper.

As time marched on and I could completely control what they wore, finding appropriate fitting and looking clothing for a child wasn’t terribly difficult. I could guarantee certain stores wouldn’t let me down. One of my favorites back then was The Children’s Place. The shorts for girls came down mid-thigh, the price point was fantastic since every season I was replacing a wardrobe, and the clothing held up well wash after wash.

The length of shorts for the boy was never a problem. Every pair, regardless of where I purchased them, came to his knee. Not the case for the girl.

The funny thing about kids is they grow up and if they haven’t developed a mind of their own before puberty, be certain they will have one immediately following. They want a say in what they wear. And they should have a say. But the battle for age appropriate, and school appropriate and plain old appropriate is a big one.

When your daughter enters middle school, fitting in there becomes survival.  That means she wants to look like everyone else. Individuality isn’t in the forefront just yet. Even though as parents we preach: march to your own drummer, don’t jump off the Brooklyn Bridge just cause Taylor did, and stop worrying about what other people think of you. Problem with that age is you think everyone is thinking about you when in fact everyone is thinking about themselves.

Your daughter wants to wear what she sees everyone else wearing and when that includes shorts that barely cover her panties the battle just got harder. Let me digress for a minute if you will. Consider this a public service announcement. Mothers, don’t buy your seventh grade daughter bras from Victoria’s Secret. Cause guess what? When someone else’s daughter sees your daughter’s bra while changing for physical education she goes home and asks her mother to buy her one too. That makes mothers with enough sense to buy plain white bras for their twelve-year-old daughters have to work harder in battle. Don’t make them work that hard. Buy your daughter’s bra in plain, white cotton, without lace and leopard print too please.

Most girls want to shop in the places where her peers are shopping. That practice has been going on since someone decided wearing clothing instead of fig leaves would be beneficial in cold weather. I was that girl too. Wearing the right clothes on the prairie was very important a thousand years ago.

Now I have a teenage daughter and she wants to wear the cute clothes she sees on line. I don’t blame her. I would too. In fact, I do too. Just because I’m older doesn’t mean I don’t want to be fashionable. But I think teenagers, girls, have it harder.

Everything that’s out there for girls, young woman, with real curves and real bone structure and not the body of a mannequin, is too short, cut too low, too fitted, and comes complete with holes in it all strategically placed to show off her underwear.

Why must tops be made to stop mid-belly? And please, spare me the mind set, well, if she has the body for it she should wear it. Which I have actually heard more than one mother say. Why do you want your daughter, at any age, going around with her belly hanging out unless she’s at the beach? I’m pretty sure if I showed up at my mother’s house with a crop-top on she’d be asking me what the heck I was thinking. It would be for different reasons than the mother of a teenager, since at my age my belly is the equivalent of watching a car wreck, but she’s still my mother and still offers her opinions when she thinks I’ve lost my mind. way.

As I go from store to store with my daughter all I see around me are shorts that won’t make the finger-tip length rule at school. And let me add for my mothers whose daughters wear uniforms to school, your kid has to put clothes on every weekend too. So, it doesn’t matter that your child won’t be wearing shorts to school. On Saturdays, those same shorts aren’t Daddy appropriate either. The Coffee King has very specific rules about clothing. It might feel like a double standard, but again, girls’ clothing are too short, too low cut, too clingy. Boys’ clothing? Not at all. Noodge 1 is always in appropriate clothing. I couldn’t find shorts too short for him unless he wanted to start wearing the girls’ clothing. Then he’d be getting the too short lecture as well.

I hate that I have to say no to most of the things she likes. “Too short.” “Too low.” “Too much skin.” I just want to walk into the “it” stores and come out with bags of clothing that my kid likes, feels good in, and won’t get her “dress coded” at school. Why has the fashion industry decided that what’s “in” means show off your tits and ass? (Yes, I said bad words. It’s my blog.) I’ll tell you what adds to the fashion industry’s decision, twelve-year-olds wearing Victoria’s Secret!

I have no easy answer to this dilemma. I could start sending off letters to clothing stores asking them to stop carrying that kind of clothing for girls. Or write to the manufacturers asking for some help. Go ahead and offer the shorty shorts and half-tops, but please also offer full-length clothing that doesn’t cling to her every curve. I basically boycott the stores because we walk out empty handed, but my kid still needs things to wear and wants to tell her friends she went shopping in the cool stores. She certainly doesn’t want to shop in the stores I do. (Where things are more appropriately proportioned because you’re not getting a woman my age into some of those shorts. Nor should we be.)

In the meantime, it’s back to the battle field. Credit card at the ready.