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Author Branding

First off, I apologize for being a day late in posting, but I’m going to blame it on preparing to move. My brain is MIA!

I recently took a workshop on author branding with Theresa Meyers. What a great workshop! Time was that you wrote a book, had someone look it over for you, and you packed it in a box and mailed it off. If you got lucky and became a big-name author, you got to go on book tours and actually meet some of your readers. Your brand developed out of what you published.

Now, when you send off that manuscript, you need to already know what your brand is and how you propose to push it. Deb Werksman of Sourcebooks discussed branding on her blog and what she expected in a book submission:

“I’m looking for:
• a heroine the reader can relate to
• a hero she can fall in love with
• a world gets created
• a hook I can sell with in 2-3 sentences
• author career arc (OR, AUTHOR BRAND potential!!!!!!! Thank you Theresa!)”

Now that you’ve written your book, do you know what your brand is? Theresa’s article linked above can help you get going. You start by looking at the authors you love. What three things come to mind when you think of those authors?

What three things do you want people to think of when they see your name?

Theresa goes on to work those three things into your brand and your tagline. I really recommend taking her workshop if you can. She will take you beyond what you think you’re telling people as you write, to the theme that follows you no matter what genre you pursue. Many of the top authors write in multiple sub-genres, yet you know what to expect no matter which book you pick up.

When you find that part of yourself and your writing, you can focus much better on your career. (You are planning on this being a career, right?) Those of us with scattered thoughts and story ideas can look at the stories and ask, does this fit my brand? If not, can I tweak it to fit? Or should I move onto the next idea?

Finding my own brand was somewhat easy at first. What confused me was the books I have published are contemporary erotic romance, and my heart is paranormal. I’m a product of the Twilight Zone era, reality not quite as we know it. Some odd shift taking place that forces us to believe in something we’ve never experienced, be it ghosts, time travel, parallel worlds or shape shifters.

I couldn’t see how that fit contemporary romance. The one word that appears so often in my paranormal romance is Believe. I needed to ask myself what my contemporary characters were confronted with that forced them to believe in something beyond their realities.

Then came the aha moment! If you’ve been told you’re a failure, believing you are capable can be just as difficult as believing in ghosts. When your track record shows you that men don’t stick around when the going gets tough, that becomes your reality. To you, happily ever after is the stuff of fiction.

My theme carries through everything I write, whether I’m aware of it or not. Ride along with my stories and I’ll allow you to believe in something intangible, be it love, werewolves or reincarnation. I’m not asking for a leap of faith, just the first step of opening your mind to something you might not have experienced before.

Believe in love. Believe in yourself. Believe your happily ever after is out there, along with your spot on the NYT Bestseller List.

I believe author branding can help you define yourself as a writer. Take that step and discover who you are as a writer. I think you might be pleasantly surprised.


Juggling Act

Very few writers start out in a position to devote eight or so hours a day to writing without distraction. Most of us have jobs, families, friends. Then we join writers groups, maybe even volunteer to help on the board or committees. We volunteer to run contests, or judge them. We cheer on the friends we make while learning to write.

And somewhere in there we must write. It’s true. You will never get published if you don’t write. Once you are published, you won’t get more contracts if you don’t meet your deadlines.

So how do you keep all your balls in the air?

You have to be honest with yourself. Prioritize. It’s something women have been learning to do from they day they decided to work and raise a family. But while you’re making your list, delegate. Let the kids help with chores and allow them to not do it perfectly. You can take over once or twice a week to bring it up to par.

When you have your list and you’ve cut back the unnecessary activities (how many minutes a day do you play on Facebook? Twitter? Read and write email?), maybe you still don’t see time to write. You’re a single parent, working fulltime, helping with homework and hauling the kids to ballet and soccer practice. There aren’t enough hours in your day.

Steal minutes. You’ve heard people tell you to get up early to write before the family stirs. That ain’t gonna happen in my life! I need that sleep for brain function. I used to write longhand on my lunch hour. One day I’d write several blog posts, another, as many words of the story as I could squeeze in.

One successful author told me she edits her manuscripts at soccer games. She’s a big seller with a New York publisher. Writing is her job. Yet she still has to make time where she can find it.

Read your work aloud while you stir the spaghetti sauce. Tell your best friend you need to meet for lunch only every other week. Schedule errands better so you hit several places in one trip, rather than one stop today, another tomorrow.

Can you take public transportation? Write and edit to your heart’s content! Just don’t read it aloud if you write erotica. You really don’t want to know your fellow riders that well.

If you think about it, you can find minutes everywhere. While you’re on hold with the cable company. Waiting a the doctor’s office.

Be proactive and make your writing the priority you would if it were your only source of income. Let family know you won’t answer the phone during certain hours a day, but you’ll return calls soon after. Sit down with your kids during homework time and scribble a few paragraphs. When you respect your time, they will too.

The more snippets of time you can find for your writing now, the sooner you can quit the day job, or pay for preschool, or make the changes needed to have your day free to write. Well, mostly free. It seems no matter how you plan it, life will find as many things as possible to challenge your resolve to write. Demand the time and make the most of it. You’ll be amazed at how much you really can get done.


Author Contests (and Why They are Disappearing)

This is a subject I hate to have to write about, but it’s a growing trend that could mean the end of the line for many authors. Which means the books you enjoy won’t be written.

Ebook piracy is taking off like it did in the music industry a decade ago. When bands discovered their sales were dropping, many had to go back to live tours to make a living. Authors can’t do that. I mean, seriously, how many people would really pay to go hear La Nora read her latest novel? It’d be great at first, but how long does it take most of us to read a novel? Could you sit and listen to someone read that long?

But I’m jumping ahead. Ebook piracy isn’t only affecting the new releases published in ebook format. Pirates are scanning copies of print books and offering them for free. Or better yet, some are SELLING collections of ebooks. Some publishers are refusing to release their books as ebooks. J.K. Rowling insisted that Harry Potter not be made available in e-format. Yet it’s out there, thanks to the efforts of some scum.

Already there are authors who have ended certain series because of the number of prior books circulating for free. They’re focusing on print publishers instead.

There are those who insist that copyright is taking rights away from them. Huh? I will never understand that one. What I understand is they can do their 9-5 job and get paid for the work they did, without question. But we authors are expected to do our job for free. Cool, set me up mortgage free, with a working car, groceries, utilities, and all, and I’ll work for free. As it is, I work two (or three) jobs to be able to keep a roof over my head while my writing backlist grows. Those hours away from my computer mean stories that will never be written.

Another argument is that authors can afford to lose some sales. Or, the pirates would never have bought the book to begin with. Or, if they like the free book they’ll go buy it, or the rest of an authors books.

Get real, people. Does your grocer let you eat a steak before deciding if you’ll buy it? If you’re concerned, look for excerpts and reviews before buying a book.

Back to contests. The latest thing to do is surf the Internet, Twitter and other social networking sites, and join the author loops to try and win free ebooks. Then offer them up on a file-sharing site so others can read it, too. It’s a game to them. They do it because they can.

Big name authors and publishers are getting involved, though, so prosecution and fines will finally be handed down. Sure, some ebook pirates will just go deeper underground, but a majority are like the woman who recently got fined in the six-figures for downloading files illegally.

Most importantly, authors are discovering that giving away ebooks hurts their sales more than helps it, because of pirates. They’ll give away print copies or items other than books instead.

I apologize to those who enter contests for the right reasons, and tell their friends about the books they enjoy, without sending the ebook to all of them. You are the reason we still write, and why we fight to keep the pirates at bay. We’re spending more hours sending take-down notices and filing complaints than we should, but maybe one day we’ll be able to use that time as we should: to write MORE BOOKS!


Debbie Mumford Contest Winner!

Thanks to I have a winner from all the entries. The lucky recipient of Debbie Mumford’s The Silver Casket is RKCharron! Congratulations!

RK, email us your contact info so we can pass it along to Debbie.

Thanks to all who entered!


Sandra Sookoo Paranormal Romance Author

Romantic Journey welcomes paranormal romance author Sandra Sookoo! Multi-published, Sandra’s take on paranormal is a fresh break from the usual darkness. Here’s your chance to get to know her and check out her stories.

1. How did you first get published?

It was during a period of time when rejections were plentiful from both publishers and agents alike. I had convinced myself that being an author was an insane dream but I still had submissions out there. Simultaneously during Thanksgiving week last year, I was offered a contract for two short stories. Things pretty much took off from there and I haven’t stopped since. I can’t wait to see where 2010 takes me.

2. Do you have another job – what is it?

I do not have a job. I was laid off from the real estate industry and decided that since we could handle life (barely) on hubby’s paycheck, I’d work on my writing full time. In 2010, I might need to go back to work at least part time, but we’ll see. Until then, I’m learning everything I can about writing and how to make my work better. I wouldn’t change a thing about the past few years. One step closer to the dream.

3. Who’s your fantasy man? If it’s not a particular person, then what blend of qualities do you appreciate?

Hmm, that’s a tough question. I don’t that there’s one specific person, but I like these qualities in a guy: honesty, humor, loyalty, the ability to take care of his woman and lay down the law occasionally even if he knows his woman’s really the one in charge 😉

4. Are you a chest or buns woman?

Totally the chest, especially with a bit of a furry mat. It’s pretty darned sexy.

5. If you were stranded on a desert island, what two things would you need with you?

A big pile of money and some sort of device that will connect me to the nearest passing ship to get me the heck home (which is where the money comes in to secure the pick up)! I’m not a nature girl and being stranded is way worse than camping.

6. Did you have a certain song or inspiration that prompted this book?

Yup. A good friend suggested I write a story about a firefighter, but what really sent it over the top was Elvis’s song “Burning Love”, the version sung by Wynona. That’s when I decided to put a paranormal twist in the story. I hope it was a good gamble.

Safe from the Flames by Sandra SookooBlurb: Darren Kaestle wants nothing more than to do his job. Putting out fires and keeping the community safe is his idea of a good time until he finds an unconscious woman in an abandoned house fire. Only then does he get a glimpse of her paranormal abilities.

Hadyn Bernson has harbored anger and fear deep inside herself until it manifests in a rare phenomena. She can burst into flames whenever her emotions get out of control, and they threaten to do just that when she opens her eyes and finds a sexy firefighter staring back.

Together, these two people from opposite ends of the spectrum must find a way to settle their differences and quench the flames inside before the real terror of a dangerous blaze ends one, or both, of their lives.


“Ma’am, can you hear me?” Unwinding a green scarf from her head, masses of wavy red hair tumbled into his gloved hands. “Ma’am, are you hurt?” He yanked off his helmet, throwing it to the ground and did the same with the heavy gloves. He brushed his fingers over her cheeks, which were cool to the touch, and streaked with soot. “Talk to me.” Darren leaned closer and put an ear to her chest. Her heartbeat was strong and steady. Nothing like he would have expected from a woman who’d just been through a traumatic fire. He lifted his head, scanned the area for the EMTs “Medic!”

Relief surged through him as effective as a rush of air conditioning when she stirred. He always hated losing at the rescue game. Nothing crushed his spirit more than reaching a body and realizing they were dead upon arrival. When her gaze met his, it pinned him in depths so blue he could almost feel their coolness.

Time slowed down for him in that one moment, and it seemed that destiny barreled into him with the force of a Mack truck. He felt as if his entire life had been training for this moment, but he couldn’t explain why.

He shot to his feet when a couple EMTs arrived, jostling for position around the woman.

“Move Kaestle. We need to work.”

“She’s fine, no smoke inhalation, and no burns, just exhausted. Better keep an eye on her just in case.”

“Yeah, we got it. You did your job now let us do ours.”


As he gazed down at her face, saw the splash of freckles over her cheeks and nose, he made a spur of the moment decision. Like the gut instincts that had saved his life countless times during countless jobs, that same unexplainable feeling told him this woman needed his help. He didn’t understand it, but there was no way in hell he would ignore it either.

Kneeling down, regardless of the annoyed looks from the medical personnel, he smoothed the sweaty hair back from her forehead. “What’s your name?” The pale flesh of her exposed midriff as her tank top rode up drew his gaze. He quelled the urge to touch her with less than professional attachment. Not appropriate, Kaestle. “Any identification?”

One of the EMT workers shook his head. “Nope.”

Darren frowned as his gaze raked the legs of her snug jeans. “What’s your name?” This time, his request was more forceful.

“Hadyn Bernson”

“Hi, Hadyn. I’m Darren. You’re gonna be just fine.”

Her fingers gripped his arm so hard he could feel them dig into his skin through the heaviness of his coat. “Please don’t take me to the hospital. They won’t understand what I am.” Her lips twitched as if she intended to smile, but then her eyelids fluttered closed and she fainted with a tiny sigh.

The first emergency worker detached her fingers from his arm. “Sorry, sir, we have to get her to the hospital now.”

“Sure. Sorry.” Darren stepped out of the way as the EMTs lifted her body onto a stretcher. “Which one? Which hospital?” Once he had the vital information, he nodded and promised himself he would drop by for a visit. He wanted to know why she was so adamant that she not end up under professional care.

Visit Sandra Sookoo on the Internet:


Publisher website:

Personal blog:
Group blogs:


Kyle’s Redemption by Ari Thatcher

The countdown is on until my newest release, Kyle’s Redemption, from Ellora’s Cave! This contemporary erotic romance novella features Lily, Cait’s best friend in Celtic Rhythm. Watch for it to become available on 11/18/09.

The blurb:
Six years ago, Lily Astor looked forward to establishing herself in the Los Angeles art world. In one painfully public moment, those dreams were shattered. Now she has the chance to try again, but the invitation to exhibit comes from a gallery owned by Kyle Ventura. The man who should have cleared her name.

After a night of eyebrow-singeing sex, Kyle realizes who Lily is and his role in her downfall. Now, as his heart falls deeper for Lily, he needs to make amends. But Lily doesn’t want his help, just his body.

For the first time in his life, sex isn’t enough for Kyle. He wants to show Lily he’s not the man he was six years ago. But first, he has to prove it to himself.


Here’s the book trailer video:

Watch for contest news!


The Strong Silent Type

In the movies, one of the most popular heroes is the strong, silent type. Think Jeremiah Johnson, or many of Clint Eastwood’s western characters. In a movie that can be very effective.

But in romance writing, it can kill your story. The only way we have to know your hero is through internal narrative. Too much internal narrative drags down the pace. Or worse, readers skip the large paragraphs and get to the dialogue. How much of their story did they miss?

You can show his reluctance to speak. Give him short, curt sentences. Use body language in briefs sections. This type of word usage will get the point across that he’s not a yacker. And it will keep the reader interested.

What is your favorite type of hero? The guy who spills his guts easily, pours on the compliments? Or, the one who says little, but when he speaks, he packs a punch?


April 2020

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