I’m intentionally writing this post before the USA Today listing comes out. Why? Because in reality, big picture, it doesn’t matter either way. Letters and labels are never what define a person or an artist. I honestly believe that. No matter what happens, I will continue to write and chase my crazy dreams. I know no other way.
More than fifty books, a million words, three years in indie publishing and a lifetime of dreaming later, here we are. Thank you to all who have supported my writing, believed in my crazy vision, followed me through successes and failures and been there along the way. You keep the pen returning to the page. Thank you, too, to those who have doubted me, criticized me and made me trust my gut more. You make me stronger and more determined.
Without all of you, the ride would be lonely and, well, boring. The laughs, shared interests, stories and friendships we’ve shared are what make this a community. A special thanks goes to Rita Delude, Kimberly Lee, Samantha Talarico, BeBe Harlow, Erin Wolf, Lisa Seleska and Bert Hostetler – members of my original ‘tribe’ who have weathered the worst storms with me and kept me dry. Thank you to Ditter Kellen, who became my sanity in our shared mission to chase those letters, NYT Bestselling Author Rebecca Hamilton for the opportunity, and USA Today Bestselling Author Heather Adkins and Lexi Foss for putting up with me. Thank you to my set mates, who put up with a hell of a lost and crazy set leader and still haven’t blocked me. I wouldn’t blame you…
A list run is no joke. I went into the experience naive but came out more confident and better prepared to tackle an ever-evolving industry. I am tired but invigorated. I have big plans and bigger changes in store and am excited to regroup and make several announcements in the upcoming weeks about the direction of my own works as well as Crazy Ink Publishing, LLC.
The list goes up Wednesday afternoon and I know you’re rooting for us. I saw it in the buys, the pimps, the shares, the private messages, the emails and even the pep talks along the way. Our numbers are very hopeful and solid and I anticipate great things. That is because of you. I appreciate each of you who pulled for us and will always be here to return the favor. Thank you!
Are you team angel or demon? I know where I stand!
My New Year's Resolution is to make USA Today with this book!
Check it out here! http://mybook.to/WingsWicked
#newyear #newreleases ##bookstagram #book #read
It's been a long time since I've been this excited about completing a WIP. There's a new circus in town and it's not like any circus you've ever seen! Check out the main characters who entertain the crowds at Lusus Naturae Circus - where the show never ends and magic is a verb! Coming in 2019!
Meet the Freaks:
Rosa and Shirley Hawkings
The show’s double conjoined anomalies who’ve shared everything, including a wishbone-shaped spine since birth, Rosa and Shirley Hawkings, know how to put on a show.
Rosa has a huge—or very tiny, depending on how literal you are—secret. It’s a secret that will flip all they have planned acrobat-upside-down and twist the very future of Lusus Naturae Circus. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves…
Ladies and gents, boys and girls, meet The Twins! Nicknamed Left and Right, they are sure to delight! Marvelous indeed. But more normal, too, than one might think. You see, the Hawkings sisters have pretty ordinary dreams.
Both hope to marry and have children one day – setting up separate households and spending time with each husband and family three days a week. They plan on leaving Sundays for themselves. They’ve only talked about this their entire lives and Shirley is a marvelous planner. What could possibly go wrong?
After years of both discussion and compromise on their adjoined plan, they’ve finally got a clear picture of their individual futures with families of their own. The only problem is, well, they haven’t quite locked down their men. Fear not! They’re working on it. The show’s tattooed man for Right and pint-sized ringmaster for Left. Sounds simple, right? Have you forgotten Rosa’s secret?
Worry less! Every great performance has its juggling act and the sisters are used to odd predicaments. You see, the twins are double pygopagus twins. They are connected at the base of their spines as well as by a vain patch between their necks. They share common circulatory and nervous systems but are otherwise independent. What more should you know? Our resident Giant reports that they weigh 190 pounds together with Rosa carrying the bulk of it. This, for sure, is an ongoing source of contention between them. Rosa is tired of being considered the fat, ugly twin. Shirley is sick of comparisons to a doll. Aww, the problems of being unsymmetrical. And, folks? That’s not all!
They are just short of five feet tall and have their own vital parts, including sex organs. Imagine that! Most days, both sisters wish they had been born parasitic twins with one twin dormant. It’s a complicated matter of fact.
At the same time, they are glad they have each other in times of both crisis and achievement. Doctors, specialists and surgeons alike have all agree – they can never be separated. They are, indeed, peculiar but very naturally born freaks. It’s the way our Puppet Master intended it to be. And so the show goes on.
Rosa has eyes for Slash Jones while Shirley is in love with Church Schow. Neither is entirely secure in their relationships and how the two rivals will ultimately get along. This brings us back to the secret:
On top of the fetus she carries in her unshared womb, Rosa has another. Yes. Allow me to confirm. One of the twins is pregnant. There’s more. Rosa was born with the supernatural power of the ability to read minds and see futures. The only person she’s sure knows is our very own Madame Lusus who shares the very same powers of her own.
Please know: Rosa can’t always bring this on at will. It just happens. But when it does? She’s never wrong. She refuses to share this gift with her sister for reasons mostly unknown. The bigger twin prays she won’t pass this ability on to her child and needs to find a way to get Lusus onboard with her latest premonitions.
You see, there are two very new and illusive performers in the show. With big decisions ahead for Lusus, her ability to focus on Rosa’s warnings is imperative to the future of the show. What happens between them matters more than ever before with the impending arrival of Rosa’s baby. Will the jealousy our barren Lusus must tackle be enough to get in the way of what could ultimately bring the tents down?
And then, ladies and gents, we have our newest circus dad! A reluctant ‘normal’ born freak, tattooed man and shock artist Slash Jones is the product of a family with a rich circus legacy. His mother was a little person and his father had a growth so big in the shape of a horn coming from his abdomen that it’s now on permanent display at the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Be careful what you might believe. Slash is not ashamed of his chosen status as a freak. Instead, he is certain ascertaining the title “is goals, man” and was raised to believe that being born a ‘natural freak’ is the equivalent of being one of God’s chosen people. For this reason, he is obsessed with the most curious performers in the show. While he’d be entirely up for Left and Right’s plan to make a part-time husband out of him, constant battles with Shirley’s crush and Left herself make that hard.
Of course, Rosa’s pregnancy won’t make the delicate balance in co-parenting with conjoined twins any easier. But Slash isn’t one to turn down a challenge. He’s a man who prides himself on being able to swallow fire without the use of charcoal. He won’t allow their complicated predicament or Shirley either to keep him from his child. For now, he’ll let Rosa figure that out. His goal, at the moment, is mastering the swallower’s pole.
In the meantime, tattooing and extreme scarification including mimicking his father’s horn out of an old, dulled tent stake, are the closest he can get to being a rarity himself. He often feels inadequate because he wasn’t a natural-born mutant. Insanely jealous of Church Schow, the show’s ring master and the man Rosa’s twin is in love with, the animosity is mutual.
But the show goes on and Slash Jones know: it’s the twisted relationships in the circus that keep things interesting. While he’s a simple man who can usually quickly make sense of things, the one person he can’t quite figure out is his mentor and the freakiest of all – Bailey ‘Ax’ Brown. There’s just something about him, folks. And it when it’s revealed, Slash’s entire plan as a family man may just bottom out.
Step right up! Watch the show’s most daring charmer curl around the most poisonous snake this side of the equator! Meet the show’s gender-fluid snake charmer with the dual human ability to twist realities. Finley Sutton charms humans as easily as snakes. Both manipulative and cunning, those who truly know Finley—no one we know—understand he/she cannot be trusted for he/she has no interest in truth. At least, that’s the rumor.
Finley Sutton has personal agendas that no one at Lusus Naturae knows. Yet, the illusions he/she spins are imperative to the show’s future. This person is very powerful. Hell, the charmer’s got Dog Boy ready at any moment to kill just for spectacle of it all.
Lusus Naturae Circus’s most loved known sociopath, Sutton is a cunning liar but also knows how to get the truth out of people. Sutton is the show’s biggest uncertainty and is motivated not by what will be in the greater good but only for self.
With a dark past and odd connection to the Hawkings sisters, it’s only a matter of time before Finley intentionally and precisely allows the show’s darkest secret out. Until then, there are motivations and obsessions to derail. There are tales to spin and relationships to change. Like boa constrictors round the gut of a charmer’s waist, Finley Sutton will stop at nothing to ensure that karma is arranged.
It’s an act you can’t afford to miss and at $19.99, where’s the complaint? I’m telling you, folks, this is an act to see!
What carnival would be complete without a human seal? A natural freak, Whispers Spinler-Goorick suffers from a condition known as phocomelia. She has no arms to speak of and is otherwise known as Seal Girl. It’s marvelous, indeed. The tiny stubs that would have been her arms grow out from her shoulders and look more like hands; each with three fingers. Yes. You heard that right: a grand total of six. People often compare her to a pinniped. A natural-born freak, she is one of the oddity tent’s greatest commodities and the candy apple of her Giant father’s eye. She is well-liked by most all the other freaks and the surrogate daughter of the show’s fat lady, Truly.
But the show’s not over. We’ve only just begun. If you look at the base of your rows, we are selling popcorn. Just $5 will get you some! What we have to offer you here is better than any reality show. Ladies! Listen up. Whispers is in love with Church Schow. She despises the Hawkings sisters—specifically Shirley—for this reason. The two are known for fights Rosa is left to break up or ignore. And when you’re bettin’ on half of a conjoined twin or a human seal, where do you lay your cards? Before you lay down your chips, you should know more:
Whispers has no current biological family to speak of. As a child, she was locked in the attic of her well-to-do biological family’s massive home. Her birth mother, a devout follower of extreme religious beliefs, believed her daughter’s deformities were punishment for a one-time affair with a man who called himself a profit. Of this fact, Whispers’ biological mother’s husband, was entirely unaware. But fret not, ladies and gents. It’s not like it mattered. For this reason and her spectacular deformities, Whispers was dropped off at the circus and left with Truly at ten years old.
It was a blessing the kind you read about only in the curiosities tents. Down six trailers and straight to your left. Since joining the show a decade ago, she’s never looked back and wouldn’t want to be found. For us, the circus is home. Don’t believe me? Ask her yourself for a $10 VIP pass. She will tell you that even if her birth mother changed her mind, Whispers would never go back. Not even if she had her heart torn in two by Church and a twig of a twin called Left.
It doesn’t end there. Not even close. What show would be whole without a little person clown? Fully grown, Church Schow stands forty-three inches and weighs less than seventy pounds. He is considered the modern-day Tom Thumb. Church does his best to avoid drama but it always seems to find him especially when it comes to Left and Right. Like I told you before, Left—Shirley Hawking—is in love with him. He isn’t quite sure the feelings are mutual and would rather not deal with it at all if it means competing with shock artist Slash Jones.
Church works as the show’s ringmaster and dresses as a clown. He can’t figure out why Dog Boy is so jealous of him. Slash? Well, that’s easy. He’s always wanted to be a natural born freak and is in love with Right. But Dog Boy? He’s the best kind of freak there is – he can hide his mutation and pull it out only on demand. Church would rather have a tail than be a little person. He could hide a tail.
Most days, Church does the best he can to avoid spectacle. He’s rarely successful. At night, after the lights go down, he likes to spend time with Left but more as a friend than anything. At least, this is what he tells himself. He can’t imagine a life trying to deal with Right’s snoring. Still, there’s something about Shirley.
Neither of them get enough sleep because of late nights sneaking whisky. And lately, he’s been grouchy because time alone with Shirl has been rare with Slash constantly around for Rose. That’s not all. It’s even worse with Whispers—a girl Left believes far too young for him—chasing him. At the end of the day, he’s starting to wish he’d never agreed to be part of the show at all. He’s beginning to rethink everything. But what would the show be without its favored clown?
It’s not done, folks! Beyond the sights lie the sounds. Hear that? It’s the voice of an angel. The show’s token fat lady (who sings) Truly ‘Dimps’ Abbot-Goorick is known to consume 10,000 calories a day with the current weight of 683, a bust line of 72 inches, upper arms of 44 inches, and the best singing voice anyone’s ever heard. She is well-liked by the rest of the freaks and known as the show’s mother figure to a heck of a lot more anomalies than just our Seal Girl, Whispers.
When not stuffing pies down, Dimps is often found breaking up scuffles between younger performers and serves as the troupe’s confidant. She is adopted mother to Seal Girl and regrets not having children of her own. Still, she’s made peace with decisions of the past and always does her best to look forward toward the best interests of the show.
Married to giant Logan, Truly is not afraid to stand up to over-sized him or anyone else. Because of her close relationship with Lusus—the show’s top dog—she is well respected among the freaks but looked down upon by nutrition-conscious townies from one fairground to the next. She’s over it.
Lately, she just doesn’t have the same desire for eating. It’s a problem – given that the show’s finances are struggling and her entire act depends on the size of both her appetite and diameter. She tells herself this may not be a problem for long, not with Lusus’ attention on rebranding the whole of the show. And certainly not with other key act waistlines growing on their own…
Bailey ‘Ax’ Brown
Business plans and measurements aside, and even after the fat lady sings, the midway wheezes on! There are shock artists here to delight. You, too, can be awed and amazed as they risk their very lives to send you away with memories of a lifetime!
Born with a cleft palate so severe it looks like his face was split by an ax, Bailey ‘Ax’ Brown is constantly drooling and not just over swallowing swords. He’s taken advantage of his deformity and has turned his situation into natural lubricant repurposed to amuse.
He swallows swords like no one can. As not only a natural born ‘freak,’ but a shock performer, he swigs flames too. To help his body cope with things like the nails he pounds through his nose, he uses saline spray – a trick only a circus like ours would be transparent enough to tell you! Ax also ingests charcoal tablets to deal with the effects of swallowed glass and ash in his system. His life goal is to win on the reality television show “Fear Factor” and—believe me, ladies and gents—he stands a hell of a chance. Now, if he can only get over his fear of snakes…
These days, Ax can’t get his mind off another goal: kissing a man who stands six feet tall, is covered in ink and has a modified horn sewn into his abdomen. Ax’s mentee and intended future lifelong mate, this artificial freak is constantly following him around. Ax doesn’t mind at all. In fact, he would love to get closer to Slash Jones.
He only has one complaint. Or maybe it’s two or three? You, ladies and gents, decide for yourselves what number that might be. Here’s what Ax thinks: If only Slash would stop being so envious of him and chasing after the twins. But love is never that simple. For years, there’s been tension between the pair. Ax believes it boils down to Slash being jealous of his own natural mutations. But it’s not like he asked to be born like this. Determined to win Slash’s love, Ax continually promises Slash he’ll help him become one of the best shock artists the show’s ever seen. It’s a promise he fully intends to keep. That doesn’t mean it will be easy. And it still leaves them with the problem of Shirley.
It’s hard being a rarity. That’s what Slash doesn’t understand. Most days, Bailey believes he has no true friends and often complains he feels very alone. This might not be a problem at all, if it wasn’t for Finley – a guy with an agenda all his own who has set out to help Ax land his tattooed crush. There are times, folks, when keeping track of it all is exhausting. That’s when the tales come in. Here, they are both the kind that you spin and the other you’d find on a dog.
Which brings me here, my friends. Children of all ages: meet our newest freak. It is said Dog Boy is the most elusive and terrifying of them all.
Xavier Michael Gleason was born with a four-inch hairless and furless tail. Others tease him about this and call it his ‘fairy tale.’ He hates it. He’s tired of being teased. It’s been happening since he was a kid living with a wanna-be witch and beast.
Dog Boy has secrets that are lesser known than his contempt for bullies. Can you keep a secret please? What happens at Lusus Naturae must stay here and here alone. Dog Boy’s is a secret to keep to ensure the show goes on.
Severely abused as a child, Xavier came to show to run away from a former life as a Halloween haunted hayride performer where he killed multiple people playing the master of karma.
Now, and new to Lusus Nature Circus, he’s trying to play it straight and regrets the life he led that brought him to become rabid in every sense of the word.
But with a canine half breed comes loyalty. Xavier is closely aligned with Finley – enough to kill for him/her. And the show’s freaks are the first family Dog Boy has ever really known. Because of this and with his violent past, Xavier is also considered the protector of the freaks yet most don’t really know why. In their confusion, though, they aren’t alone.
Dog Boy has no idea that Rosa can see his past, present and future and that, even under the veil of dark tents, secrets are mostly impossible to keep. It is, perhaps, the circus show’s most epic curiosity of them all.
Speaking of things curious: Logan Goorick, stands about eight feet, 6 ½ inches tall. He weighs 425 pounds and wears size 24 shoes. He was not employable in the outside world because he didn’t fit well into tiny shops and offices. Besides, constant questions of why he didn’t play basketball quickly got old. Logan came to the show at thirty years old.
These days, and only for now, he runs the travelling oddities tents and works during his off time as the show’s top freak finder. He has a problem with townies—that’s you, folks—and anyone considered ‘normal’. He doesn’t trust them. At the same time, he wishes to be one of them. It would be nice to blend in to a crowd. His one exception to this is the average-born freaks in the circus who work as shock performers. Those, he respects and those alone.
Logan is gentle and soft-spoken most of the time but has quite the temper behind closed doors. He is newly married to Truly – the show’s singing fat lady and has come to adore their adopted daughter Whispers.
Lately, his frustrations come with rumors that Lusus—the show’s boss lady—has plans to take the curiosities tents down. She believes they are bad publicity. But in an era fixated on what is or isn’t ‘PC,’ the old-fashioned giant still believes there’s fortune to be made off the show’s legacy of selling the most extreme and unusual curiosities. He’s determined to convince her. After all, it’s the freaks that sell the show. And boy, he would know…
Ladies and gents – the one you’re been waiting for! With no further ado, the star of our show! Let’s get a round of applause for our very own Lusus!
Lusus Naturae-Voss is an enchanted fortune teller with the ability to read thoughts and fates on demand. She is also the show’s top boss and namesake. Alas, it didn’t start out that way.
Ironically, she was born entirely normal; an unfortunate thing the way she sees it. Lately, she feels like she spends more of her time than anything doing a lot of babysitting. She’s tired of it and tries to leave most of that up to her best friend, Truly. Generally, and like with many things, she’s unsuccessful.
Lusus is married to Frankie Voss, otherwise known as Lizard Man. She desperately hopes to get pregnant but her abilities tell her a baby freak isn’t exactly in the cards. She’s determined to ignore her instincts and shove lady luck in her direction. For now, she’ll have to settle on babying the show.
Lusus, like Slash Jones and Skeleton Man, comes from a long line of natural-born freaks. Other than being born with supernatural abilities and the gift of mind reading, she appears entirely normal. Still, she can relate to the physically deformed and has always aligned with their struggles.
Even with her limited freakishness, at times, she believes her gifts to be more of a curse than anything. For this reason, she has learned to turn it off and rarely gives readings. These days, she has no interest in talking to Rosa – the only other at the show to share her abilities. Something tells her there’s something Rosa would want her to know.
When she and Truly aren’t in cahoots about how to better manage the show, they talk recipes, books, fertility and even weather patterns – anything to feel normal. Sometimes, extraordinary circus life gets old.
Still, the circus is what Lusus knows. For this reason, she has grown her hair out so long she can step on it. She believes cutting it would curse the show and—like The Tattooed Man—enjoys playing with matters of self-expression. Besides, she’s read that femininity equates to better fertility.
Like Truly and Slash Jones, Lusus sees natural born freaks as wonders and wants to do something about the circus arts’ legacy of using them poorly. She’s determined to make Lusus Naturae Circus a forever home to the otherwise abandoned. There is nothing she won’t do, including risk the show, to make it a safer place for her someday-child and the others who are coming of age in the show. The problem is, when she turns on her abilities, she identifies the illusion to it all.
First things first. With the circus in another financial crunch, Lusus is determined to shut the curiosities tents down and replace them with exhibits more freak-friendly. It will not be another House of Flesh – she’s sure about that. But Giant and the rest of the show continue to resist. It’s a business decision that will put her at odds with the very freaks she’s trying to protect. Because at the circus? The spectacle of even the littlest of details never runs old.
Step closer to our exhibition tents where men so thin will show you their bones! While the boss is juggling matters of business, Skeleton Man is ignoring them as a living anatomy chart. He’ll show you his ribs for a mere fifty cents. Got a dollar? A full-on leg bone.
You see, folks, Nolan Ranson can’t put on weight no matter how hard he tries. Six feet tall and 110 pounds, Skeleton Man has given up on marathon eating sessions and tips from Truly. He is who he is, he supposes. With his health starting to fail, he can’t help but worry.
He also suffers from a skin condition that makes his hair fall out. He’s tired of distressing about it. After all, the circus is his home. For now, he vows to try to play content. His act involves riding around on miniature ponies. He is in love with Finley Sutton but temporarily has no idea how mentally ill the show’s resident snake charmer really is. For this reason, brutally honest Skeleton Man in great danger. An animal lover, it may take making friends with a man who is half-dog to save himself.
You thought that was all? No, no! We have every kind of freak in this show. Lizard Man is the scariest-looing of all. Frankie Voss suffers from a skin condition that makes his skin scaly like a reptile. He’d kill to have skin like Skeleton Man’s. He figures, at least, bald, there are no scales.
Newly married to Lusus, the show’s owner and boss, Frankie is well-regarded but not on his own merit. He is often referred to as ‘Mr. Lusus.’ He resents the fact that even though he was born a natural freak, he hasn’t yet carved out a practiced shock act of his own.
He often hangs out with Ax, Slash and the other shock artists to learn new tricks but hasn’t come up with anything of substance quite yet. He’s tired of the never-ending drama and often wonders if he made a mistake in marrying Lusus.
Lizard Man’s not sure circus life in a travelling show is a place for a kid at all. He’s made sure not to pass on what could only be a retched legacy to an impossible-now baby freak. The only problem is, his wife—and the boss lady in charge—doesn’t know.
Worse yet? There are other issues at hand. Lusus plans to replace the freak tents with something more ‘politically correct.’ Secretly, Frankie is in agreement with the others. Ditching the freak tents would be the death of the carnival. Yet, he’s torn. If she followed through, it might give them all a chance to start over.
Not all history that repeats itself is insanity. In fact, another saying goes that in repeating something a person or community has a shot at improving it. Like a clumsy ballerina practicing her spins, a soul transported from one life to the next could improve. For Lilith, well, we all know how that worked out now. But maybe not. Maybe Lilith’s legacy was exactly what it was meant to be—with her on her final life achieving her one true destiny.
If Lilith was merely created to be Adam’s wife, why should she cling to her soul less life? Was it ever really hers or simply his? There had to be something more in it for her. The Big Apple, after all, was certainly filled with more opportunity than a tiny garden where she was expected to lay on her back for a man who didn’t respect her back. But at what cost?
At the same time, if Eve came after Lilith, she certainly couldn’t have been the first to tempt Adam to sin. Adam was running around naked shameless in that very garden with his first wife that he gave birth to his second in. What’s to say he wasn’t the one tempting and doing the sinning? A male God?
According to other, maybe less traditional religions, Goddesses or other feminine supreme beings are in charge. Would they allow one of their own to be thrown from a magical place simply for not obeying the word of a man? Likely, they would not. So who was the true demon? And who ultimately became one? This new wife, whom some in contemporary society would call a homewrecker, has been pegged as a sinner too. But was she? If only pulled from a rib of a man so flawed? And does it even matter? Probably not.
But like with anything, especially myths and legends passed down from one century to the next, there are usually parts left untold. In this conception, some will always wonder if Lilith had a soul. Was it she or Adam, a city man multiple lives later still so infatuated with creatures from a garden where he ruled over all things, to blame? Easier asked: Who was the angel and who was the demon? And who is left now to finish the painting?
All things, they say, come from one creator. It is he, or she, who ultimately determines the beginning and end to all things and the type of city, time, and place they happen in? Perhaps. Truth be told: It is he or she who determines when the image is finished. Until then, it’s all merely a matter open to mortal interpretation. That is, we all march in parallel lines toward our unknown fates through time either planned or unplanned; colliding through the wills and whims of purpose and an artist’s brush. And one thing is certain: Nothing is ever as simple as it might first appear in a place like the City of Eden, metaphorical or half-stroked onto the texture of the finest canvas. Or is it?
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Everything I know about branding… How I figured out who I was in indie publishing.
New authors have come to me asking for tips on branding. I can tell you that it’s not an easy thing but it’s also an important one. It’s becoming clear it’s much more important than I ever knew. And, lucky for me (and them) I do have a lot of experience in this area both inside and outside of indie publishing.
Having worked as a marketing director in a mental health agency for eight years before going back to graduate school to earn my psychology degree, I learned a lot about branding. I came into the agency with no clue what the word even meant. During those eight years, I worked with talented designers and marketing experts to help establish a brand for a community mental health agency. The brand we were able to achieve was fantastic if I do say so myself.
When I first stepped into indie writing, I had no idea how to brand myself. As an author, I didn’t even think it was necessary. I figured that was my publisher’s job: WRONG. Publishers change and, frankly don’t have the time. A brand for an individual author is their job and theirs alone – who else knows you better than you?
Initially, I knew I wanted to write multi genre. I am of the belief that there are readers for every book. I also believe people read by mood. I know I do. As a reader (where I first began to love books) I read things based on how I am feeling, what the season is, etc. I soon discovered that I wrote that way too. Still, I felt I had to pick one genre and stick with it. That’s what other authors seemed to do…
I’ve heard it said many times that multi genre is a bad thing. I didn’t believe it. Still don’t. Never will. Sure, for me, it might make branding harder – but why couldn’t that be part of my brand too? Let’s face it – I’m a pretty complicated, eclectic person. So are my works, tastes and even moods. Could THAT become part of my brand? (Stay tuned).
For the first few years, I played with only writing real life stories because that was what I was ‘supposed’ to do. As a reader, I gravitated to autobiographies. Clearly, people, and the psychology of what makes them do the things they do is fascinating to me. I figured I should write what I knew. And so, naturally, I called myself a non fiction, or based on true stories author. I released Crazy Like Me, Wave to Papa and Nine Lives. But I got bored and quickly. While they were important stories to tell, I also wanted to try out a story that came from nowhere other than my imagination. After being challenged to participate in a horror anthology (Limitless Publishing’s 13) I soon learned that my creative side had been neglected.
Always one to think outside the box and a natural trendsetter, I’d lost that along the way and almost quit writing. That anthology saved me. I loved creating new worlds and characters I hadn’t met or didn’t know or wasn’t working with. Instead of drawing on real life experiences, I was writing from a different place that I soon realized was another big part of who I was too. But that screwed up brand plans. (Should, wrong, inexperienced – those words beat at me like an inner critic but they didn’t come from inside – they came from people who felt they knew me better than me). What they didn’t know? I’m a confident person. I’ve NEVER followed crowds…
So I was: eclectic, by this time a therapist working on licensing and entirely frustrated with people thinking the world ‘crazy’ was a bad thing (anti stigma campaign from that mental health agency work comes in there), dying to be more creative and experimental but feeling like I ‘should’ box myself into one genre or maybe even two. Then what?
(Adios, unsolicited advice).
I asked myself “who am I?” I have never in my life followed rules. For me, unless they are needed to make something run efficiently or for safety, they get in the way and stifle creativity. Why was I allowing what other authors and even the bulk of the industry said about branding to box me in and stuff more creative words under the bed?
It was time for new ideas about brand.
(Hello, me. I’ve missed you)!
I answered simple questions (see attached graphic) and quickly realized that I was these things: 1. A mother with a crazy hectic schedule and responsibilities to keep, 2. A partner, daughter, and all those other family responsibilities, 3. An author dying to be more creative and not boxed in by what other people thought, 4. An artist, 5. A shrink trying to reinvent the word crazy. (Because stigma is bullshit).
It was long before I started Crazy Ink Publishing, LLC that I put all these things together. My brand was screaming at me. I just hadn’t listened because I was too busy listening to what other people thought and how they were doing it better. Never again.
It was almost like my entire career and life plans were meant for a simple and easy brand that tied it all together. My tagline would be “Crazy Enough to Try it All.” My logo/brand would be Crazy Ink. Crazy was my lifestyle. To me, it wasn’t a bad word. Yet, I was surrounded by it and always trying to help redefine it. Ink? Well, that’s the obvious author and artist in me. And, because I’ve never been one to turn down a dare (I have more than 400 sky diving jumps under my belt to prove it) it only made sense to use that tagline. The tag referred to not only me and my personality but also to my writing. Tell me I can’t write about vampires: I’ll do an anthology. Tell me I can’t do horror: Enter Vegan and a host of other titles. Hell, I’ll give you a five-book series on a serial killer. It’s just ME.
This brings me to my next point. I am who I am. I AM “multi genre madness.” Take me or leave me. I am happy with me and there is nothing fake about my brand or Crazy Ink. THAT is why it works.
Even now and nearly daily, I get people telling me I am doing things wrong or that I don’t know what I am doing. I get unsolicited advice about what I should be doing or how others are doing something or other better. Guess what? I don’t care. Yes. Feedback is good. So is research. But I do that and make my decisions based on my brand and experiences not anyone else’s. Why? Because it works for me. It has and continues to. For this reason, I never offer unsolicited advice. I only give advice when asked for it. Why? It’s the right thing to do. I don’t want others to feel the doubt and waste the time I did in listening to nonsense noise from others about my own brand. I wish others would do that too.
(One can hope).
I have seen one author upon another make the same mistake. I see them copy each other and shake my head. I truly believe you are better off with no brand (it’s coming, you just aren’t listening closely enough or ready yet) than a fake one. Authors or publishers who copy each other are hurting themselves. Readers can spot fake from miles away. They can also sense desperate. Don’t do it. If you aren’t sure where your voice is yet or where you plan to go with your writing, hold off. It will come – I promise you! It may even take years and that’s perfectly normal and okay.
During a conversation last week from someone who knows the industry better than I could ever hope to, I felt great to learn my instincts on branding and in other areas are right on the mark. While I’ve always been confident in my choices, I’m human too and thought maybe my own brand needed a tweak. Apparently, it does not. Why? Because it’s authentic. THAT is the key.
You can be authentic too! With that said, I would challenge new authors looking to find their brand to answer the questions in the graphic and start thinking about how their lives and personal interests connect. Who are you? How do you want your readers to know you? What are you passionate about? Be honest, real and reflective. You’ll find your voice. Once you do? Your readers will find you. Happy branding all! Your brand is calling to you. Are you listening?
Hey Crazies! Thanks so much for stopping by during this busy holiday season!
For this stop, I figured it might be fun to give you an excerpt from my Wings of the Wicked Box Set book called Unsuitable Companions. I'm super excited for you all to meet Eve! Adam too...
The young woman before him didn’t fail to steal his breath. Following her into the elaborate loft, taking in the way she moved with wide swings of her supple hips, Adam couldn’t help but study her. Somehow, he knew this angelic woman on a level so deep it couldn’t possibly be of this world. Yet she was different than before—when he’d first met her at Eden Market on the corner of Fifth and Broad. That day, with a tiny pink carnation in her hair, she’d looked more like a country girl lost in the big city chasing some stupid dream like the others who made him yawn. If it hadn’t been for the way she’d shined the fruit against her perfect breasts, he’d probably have ignored her. But to see her was to want her—to possess her in all ways a man could. That day, he knew her to be the woman God had created for him—his one and only helpful companion. He couldn’t quite understand it but had to find out more.
And he had. But today was different. She was too. The only word that came to mind now was tempting. He watched her pull her long silky hair over her shoulder as she moved toward the romantic day and later evening he had planned for her. Fiddling with the ring in his pocket, it was impossible not to think back to their first meeting at the market. He shook his head, wishing his mind would stop with the racing. Everything had changed. But nothing had. He reminded himself that he knew her to her core except in the one way he was thirsty for. We’ll get there. And soon. Be patient. This one’s worth waiting for. Still, he could feel that she knew too—that something was different. Today, the obvious alterations were there down to the way she moved and how her back was arched just slightly, as if to entice him. He watched, amused. She was ready. Finally. He was too.
It wasn’t like they hadn’t taken the time to get to know each other. It had taken longer than he’d have chosen to truly know her. Still, something very subtle had changed, just as knowing her fully would on this night. She knows too. She has too. Anything else wouldn’t make sense, he decided, still mystified by what was hanging in the air between them and why. There had to be some logical sense to it all. For one, he’d never seen Eva dressed in this manner: The bold slit in her tight red dress exposed a tan thigh like an invitation but not. The way her gown cut to the tops of her nipples affirmed everything he hoped would transpire that night. There was no way the angel from the market would ever be caught in the streets in a gown like this. She’d worn it just for him.
But it wasn’t just that. Tonight, even her very aura seemed different in its glow. There were no trace of her usual innocence at all as she entered his dining area. Instead, she smelt of the lust he’d so often paid for—where kissing wasn’t allowed and money was exchanged first. He expected those days were behind him now. Hopeful, he pulled out a chair for the mystery woman he knew he should know but didn’t. Breathing in a pungent flowery scent that rose from the crease of her neck, he watched her as she sat and slid her chair to the table in a slow, yet graceful motion. In silence, he rested his hand on her shoulder before finally walking to the other end of the table. It was when he sat himself across from her and Eva laughed for what seemed like no reason at all, that Adam grew school-boy nervous. In a way, it was a relief. But lack of confidence was not something he was used to. Adam was a man who always maintained control. Still, in the same moment the chuckle escaped from her fat ruby-painted lips, he recognized her again as the girl from the busy city market. He reminded himself she was still the Eve he knew and loved. Gussied up or not, she was the one he’d watched sniff a Macintosh apple, poking it to check for brown spots. He couldn’t be sure which day she was more tempting—then or now. He smiled, taking her in and considering his good fortune as he waited for words he knew would soon come. She didn’t disappoint. Eva never did.
“This all looks so lovely, Adam,” she said simply.
Her words finally reached him, intended, he was sure, to be understood as something deeper.
“Why thank you, My Lady,” he bowed his head, “And all done for you, I might add.”
In a long gesture, he swept his hand above the table setting that servants had been instructed to pull off without flaw. “You see, the roses there in the vase are beautiful, like you. They match your dress too.”
Adam smiled and continued, “To one side of your setting, you will find a box of very tasty chocolates for your enjoyment and opposite, well of course, your Valentine’s card. You may read it at your leisure, Princess.”
He watched his intended immediately reach for the elegant card and tried not to chuckle. It was tempting for sure.
“Yes, the roses are wonderful and their scent. It is just heavenly,” she said, eagerly tearing open the envelope and bending in the dimly lit room to read its contents. Looking up, she thanked him, “All of this, Adam. Just lovely. Thank you. And you have surprises coming too.”
“You’re welcome, my love. And all of this,” his hand made another sweeping gesture across the long cherry table, “Cannot, even begin to compare to the wonder that is you. Nor can it ever represent how much I truly love and care for you. So Happy Valentine’s Day, Evie. I think you will enjoy your other surprise very much. At least, I hope so.”
“Now?” Her blue eyes sprung wide open and turned navy.
She knew. He knew she knew. But he refused to make it easy. Adam was a man of control. Eve was too. Never before had their conversation been so stiff and, well, formal. He shuffled in his seat just slightly to adjust himself. Her returned desire for him was blatantly obvious but he couldn’t let her know of the temptation stirring in the mouth of his stomach, or trousers for that matter. It was his turn to laugh now. He could no longer hold it back. It wasn’t as if they were newly acquainted.
“No,” he chuckled. “That you'll have to wait for, love. We have this wonderful luncheon to enjoy. Shall we?”
Somewhere in their foggy haze of soaking each other in, the spread had already been masterfully served out. A frosted herb icing on cold poached salmon atop mint lemon oil dressing and sided with a spinach salad garnished with slices of rich red pickled beets. It was only the best for Eve—Adam had insisted and the servants knew better than to argue with a man in charge of all the goings-on in the city.
Rising, Adam poured Eve a flute of chilled wine and pressed his lips into her forehead. Pulling back, he was surprised when Eve stood too—initiating a deep kiss. Her tongue pushed between his lips and he inhaled deeply through his nose as he accepted it and their mouths became one. When they finally broke apart, Adam wished they could skip the meal all together. It had been too long since he’d felt this way about a woman. Evie was special. She’s perfect and sweet, like chocolate, he thought.
“Thank you,” she breathed in a lusty, low voice. Her cheeks flushed with pleasure. “You’re wonderful, love.” She ran a hot hand over his chest and starred up at him before continuing, “Those things that you said about me. Sometimes I can't see it like I'm blind to them, but you bring out so much of me. Make me feel like I’m important. Not just Eve.”
Her words confused him. To him, she was everything. He pulled her closer, not knowing how to respond. He didn’t have to as she continued.
“It's you Adam who has shown me what a wonder love can be. I, too, love you more than words can say.” She rose to her tiptoes to kiss him again, slower but more deeply than even the last kiss before finally breaking free. She laughed. “You are so temping. No more. Let’s eat our meal; that’s what we’re here for, isn’t it?”
An electric thrill shot through Adam’s back. His little Eve could apparently be quite the vixen too. He knew she was teasing him even with little things like the slit in her dress alone and he couldn’t wait to bed her. It was fine. He could play the game. Adam wasn’t a man to rush and lose. He only smiled, walking slowly back to his end of the table. He knew how to be seductive too. When he was finally able to truly get his hands on her, the games would end. He wasn’t sure he wanted them to. But they had to, soon. It had been too long and there wasn’t enough commerce in the world or a city Gentlemen’s Club big enough to buy what Eve could give him freely.
They shared the meal in mostly silence.
Finally, when both were through, Adam wiped his mouth with a linen napkin, staring at his future bride.
“Well, that was very tasty,” he said, laying his napkin over a nearly empty plate. “Are you through? I think now, might be a good time to show you your surprise, Evie.”
Eve smiled, pushing back from the table and pulling her own napkin from her lap, nodding.
Adam grabbed the half-empty wine bottle and said, “Bring your glass along and we'll go see.”
He turned to leave the dining room when Eve stopped him. “Wait, love. I want to bring my card.”
Crimson rose to his cheeks as he realized he had been about to leave her card on the table and had been too eager to bring her to the studio to stop to really wait for her.
“Sorry,” he mumbled, returning to the table and picking up the card. “Your beauty makes it nearly impossible for me to think.” It was true. It did. But it was nothing compared to the excitement that came from the surprise he had waiting her. That was screwing up his head…
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Note: This blog is not aimed at one author or group of authors in particular. It’s simply a collection of three years’ worth of observation and hella fascinating on why people do and say the things they do verses owning their failures. I’m aware that some of these excuses were real and valid but that’s not generally the case in my experience.
Excuses are like assholes. That’s what they say. Everyone has one. Unless, of course, your dog ate yours or you just got evicted or that pesky terminal illness you have had more than three dozen times and just barely escaped has crept back in. Whelp. Yes. Excuses are like assholes.
Between box sets I’m involved with, running a publishing company, and even co writing, I am pretty sure I’ve heard them all. But writers are a creative bunch. The fictional tales—often rooted in reality—I’ve heard for reasons people can’t make deadlines or honor commitments are nothing short of genius. Annoying? For sure. Because excuses are not something I make many of. At the same time, I think they warrant a blog of their own.
Excuses I have seen and heard in the three years I’ve been in indie world:
Shall I continue? I would, but I mean, my mother is dying and there isn’t much more room to write in chalk on my neighbor’s driveway since my eviction. I should probably stop here because it’s not good enough and my dog needs surgery because of my laptop he ate but I don’t really need it since I don’t have electricity and am on hospice care and destined to be dead before release anyway. If I was good enough I would have it done because my idea to finish this was epic. Instead of making adjustments, I’ll just make excuses because accountability gives me anxiety too. I hoped you enjoyed what I did get done of this blog because at least it can be a go-to guide for the next time a writer needs an excuse. As for me? I’ll work on my issues and try to remember that I’m an asshole too. ;-)