How I Chose My Author Brand

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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.)





Editing Tip Tuesday

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There are many ways to do it. (That should have your attention.) Of course, I mean editing. You could read fifty books, attend conferences and you will hear a hundred different ways to edit. Basically, they’re all correct. You just have to find the way that works for you. Having said that, even with all your experience going through draft after draft you still need a professional editor to take a pass through. If you are traditionally published, your publishing house will provide said editor for you, but if you’re going the self-pub route then you need to hire one yourself. It’s worth the money. You want your novel to be as good as possible and we can’t do that by ourselves. Not even us control freaks.

So how should you go through your first draft and polish it up? I’m slightly anal retentive. (You should see my organized cabinets and I wrote tariffs for phone companies for several years, which spoke right to that side of me. It was a really boring job, but I learned a lot about grammar, how to write an outstanding letter and I got the color code to my heart’s content.) I like to apply those skills to my editing process.

photo (53)
Yup, this is an example of my cabinets. 

I have printed out the entire novel, three hole punched the pages and put it in a binder. Then I used color coordinated sticky notes to identify the POV characters and made notes on all my stickies. That allowed me to see each person’s story line individually. I liked the color coding, but it was time consuming and I was still a baby writer at the time so I don’t think I benefited enough because I didn’t know enough.

I also love my red pen. Ask my critique partners. I have printed out the novel and red penned myself through out. Like grading papers. That might be okay if you’re righting a very linear story. I made tons of notes in the margins of the pages and added pages then went back and fixed all that I had marked up.

For my last two novels, Welcome to Bibliotheca and Welcome to Skull Mountain I outlined each chapter on a note card. I did this by hand, but if you write in Scrivener (which I’m thinking about switching to. Thoughts?) the program will outline for you. All you have to do is print, cut and paste. I hung each card on my wall with tape so I could move them around. I used different colored pens to identify plot layers that needed to be fixed, holes that needed to be closed. The note cards helped me identify when I dropped a story line, repeated myself (a real disappointment when that happened) or when I needed to add to a story line. I tend to need to add in draft two.

For my current WIP, a women’s fiction novel about home and family, (like my middle grade fantasies, by the way) I’ve got the note cards ready, but this time I’m going to put them on a binder ring so I can take the cards with me. (I got this idea from a blog post about editing. I couldn’t find it to share. Sorry.) I’m also thinking about using small colored sticky notes to identify plot layers that I may have dropped or need expanding on or deleting all together. Never be afraid to delete. Just cut it out and place it in another document. You might be able to use the work later. Or not, but at least you have it. I haven’t used any of the work I’ve deleted so far, but it’s still available to me.

Some authors like to use white boards so they can visualize the entire story at once. Great idea. Some authors only use sticky notes because they like the idea of moving the notes around to rearrange chapters. I love an idea that allows me to “see” what I’m doing. I’m a visual person so colors and pictures are big helps. My story line in Welcome To Skull Mountain had a gigantic plot hole in it and I was having trouble fixing it. I grabbed brown paper bags, the kind we used to cover books with, cut them open and spread them out on my kitchen island. (I didn’t want to waste time running out to get big sheets of paper.) But I had to see what was happening, so in the form of a family tree graph I wrote out the plot line and what branched off from it. This allowed me to see the plot holes, which I also identified in different colored pens, but I knew where to take the story when I didn’t before. I hung that project on the wall too.

I am sure there are many other ways to edit and I’d like to hear about them if you do things differently. As a matter of fact, I want to hear about it so much and in celebration of my new editorial business, the first four people who comment on this blog post will get the first five pages of their novel edited for free. Unfortunately, I don’t edit picture books, early readers, or short stories. Can’t wait to hear from you.

Happy Writing!

The Doors Are Open

open door
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It’s official. The doors to my editorial business are now open. I’m excited about the opportunity to help writers fulfill their writing goals whether it’s to be published or simply become a better writer.

I have been editing fiction manuscripts for 8 years. I am the author of 3 middle grade fantasy adventure novels and a teacher of creative writing to students of all ages. Clients include award winning authors of all genres.

My expertise lies in developmental editing. I will provide a comprehensive assessment of story concept, story structure and plot points, characterizations, point of view, dialogue, and setting.

I have a Bachelor of Arts degree in Speech, Theater, Communications and over twenty years writing experience.

My critiques will be constructive. I believe in focusing on the positive approach while offering suggestions to make your manuscript better. I will never use negative comments while handling your work. I respect and admire all my clients’ quest for publication and I’m honored to be able to assist them in pursuing their goals.

Should you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask. I look forward to working with you.