Sunday, May 21, 2017

Your Author Brand - Choosing and Maintaining It

That’s me at the Nebula Weekend mass autographing with science fiction author Lawrence Schoen. His top hat was most snazzy—and the little stuffed elephant is a nod to his elephantine aliens in his novel BARSK. I picked up a copy from SFWA’s (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) book depot at the conference and look forward to reading it.

Of course, someone suggested we pose together because of the hats. And, as always, people at Nebula Weekend—though this was my first time attending—commented on how easy it is to find and recognize me because of my big hats.

Also, as inevitably, that evening when I didn’t wear my hat, most people didn’t recognize me. I was honored to present the Nebula Award for Best Novelette and I know that, under stage lights at night, wearing a hat would only cast my face in shadow. I really need to find a sheer hat with net, perhaps, to wear on such occasions. Small hats that might be appropriate, like a cloche, don’t have the same effect—people still literally do not recognize me.

I have this theory that people see the hat and don’t really pay attention to remembering my face. They don’t need to. But it is kind of a problem—albeit solidly first world—that my hats are so recognizable that I nearly vanish without them.

That’s an interesting aspect of having a very recognizable author brand, which is our topic this week.
I’m very lucky to have stumble into this relatively inexpensive, simple and stand-out brand. It came about because I began wearing big-brimmed hats to protect my very fair skin. The very first RWA (Romance Writers of America) convention I attended, I stayed at the overflow hotel a few blocks away in San Francisco. When I walked over to the convention hotel, I wore my hat, naturally, and then kept it on, for lack of any place to stow it. I received so many positive comments and compliments—and people recognizing me again, even after one quick meeting, that I began wearing my hats indoors all the time, at all author events.

Now, as you all likely know, the hat is on my website header, my logo, my business cards, and so on. It is solidly my brand and I’m happy to have it, regardless of minor inconveniences like really needing to find (or make?) a hat I can wear at night.

An author brand is what makes YOU stand out and be remembered. It can be related to your books or genre, but since those things can change over time, it’s better if what distinguishes you as a person and makes you memorable is related to you as a person. It might be hair color, or a style of dress. Maybe certain kinds of shoes. Some authors are memorable for a certain style of wit or social media presence. Perhaps a giant beard or very long hair.

The most important aspect of author branding, however, is to choose wisely. Because, really, as witnessed by my hats, once people latch onto it, they don’t forget. This is a good thing! But it also means you don’t get to be fickle and change it up. Keep that image consistent—and plan to do it for the rest of your career. Which, hopefully, means the rest of your life.

This is one reason I don’t advocate changing your social media avatar—not to a book cover or other logo. Pick something and plan to keep it forever. Don’t think people get bored. It’s how they recognize you.

Make it easy for them to do that!

Also, any and all suggestions on evening hats are most welcome!

Saturday, May 20, 2017

You Say Extrovert I Say Introvert

I just really liked this Deposit Photo picture plus there is purpleness
Over the years at the old day job, the Division I was a member of probably tried every team building and self-knowledge tool there was. Some were fun (colors – whee) and some were nearly incomprehensible without the highly paid consultants to explain the results with powerpoint decks. Along the way we did the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, which helps you understand how you perceive the world around you and react. I’m an INTJ who can switch to ENTJ when required.

Before I explain that, hey folks who create tests – I understand myself pretty well without circles and colors and letters and statistics. I’m definitely an introvert who’d rather be at home in my comfy cotton ‘patio dress’ than out at a party. But put me in the right situation – working retail (even a yard sale), doing a panel, teaching a class, signing books – and I’ll be the most extroverted Extrovert you ever saw. I’m also pretty darn good at extroverting on social media because I love it there and the people on the other end can’t see my lovely Dillard’s patio dress of the day. (Think very colorful.)

So, INTJ means “introversion, intuition, thinking and judgment” are how I approach the world on any given day. This would be after I feed the cats and drink my tea and probably before I scan twitter.

This quote I found sums up the INTJ pretty well for me: “INTJs are strong individualists who seek new angles or novel ways of looking at things. They enjoy coming to new understandings. They tend to be insightful and mentally quick; however, this mental quickness may not always be outwardly apparent to others since they keep a great deal to themselves. They are very determined people who trust their vision of the possibilities, regardless of what others think. They may even be considered the most independent of all of the sixteen personality types. INTJs are at their best in quietly and firmly developing their ideas, theories, and principles.”

— Sandra Kreb Hersch; Jean Kummerow (1998). Introduction to type in organizations: individual interpretive guide. Palo Alto, Calif. : Consulting Psychologists Press.

("Very determined" - HA! I am supremely stubborn.)

Nothing is one size fits all!

But if you see me at a book signing, a conference, a panel or a yard sale (where I will sell you ALL The Things for a good price), figure I’m in my extroverted mode and we can have a wonderful, easy going conversation. That goes for twitter and Facebook too.

If you trip over me prowling the aisles of Ralph’s grocery store late at night, eyeing the flavors of Haagen-Dazs, maybe give me a moment to switch gears to the extrovert side, ok?

Friday, May 19, 2017


A friend died today.

I'm a mess. So bear with me here. Forget about introvert and extrovert and do me a favor. You're mortal. Your life is precious and fragile and not stuck in a rut unless you will it to be. While you're alive, you can still DO something.


Whatever it is you want. Start it. Smile. Breathe deep. Step forward, even if only an inch.

Because only one thing is certain. This all ends. For your sake, for mine, for the sake of the friend who died today, don't go to your deathbed wondering what could have happened.

Oh. And take a second to go hug your loved ones.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

My Kingdom for a Writer Retreat

Writing is a solitary activity.  It is fundamentally about holing up somewhere and shutting out the world and getting the work done.  This is a job for introverts.  
But promotion, appearances, interacting with the fellow writing community?  That takes extroversion. And I can do that: I can turn it on and get the job done.  But then I want to crawl back into a hole and just write.  
Now, as things currently go, I don't have much option for holing up.  There's no single space in the house that's just for me just to write.  We also run our business out of the house, and due to the nature of it there isn't an area that can be just MINE all the time.  
This past weekend at Comicpalooza, I was sitting with a bunch of writers, and one that I didn't recognize (and because, you know, that's how things go, no introductions were made between us) talked about finalizing his cabin in the woods: isolated, with a great view of a lake (but still only a few minutes away from the grocery store).  The perfect place to be completely disconnected from the world and just get writing done.
I said that sounded like bliss.
Turns out that guy I didn't recognize was Jim Butcher.
If Jim Butcher is only JUST getting his cabin on the lake to write in isolation, it's going to be a bit for me. So I'll keep working out of my bag, using my headphones to isolate myself.  (And reminding my family that Headphones Means Do Not Disturb.)
All that said: if any of you out there has a cabin on the lake or beachhouse or isolated studio or adobe hut in the desert you want to lend me for a week or so?  Let's talk.  I would love to have a place to retreat to, if just for a little bit.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017


If people are asking you to do things (whether it is writing and business related or not) you should of course always consider the request and the person making the request. Some of you may be good at knee-jerk "No" responses, and you parrot out your answer before you've thought it through. The request might benefit you, so think it over. 

A few times in your life, a request might be easy because you adore and respect the person making the request and you genuinely want to help, or you 'owe' them one because they helped you previously.

But more often the requests will come not from that adored person and not in a timely manner.

As an author with deadlines, you can say no. Don't feel guilty! You might have to say no because, serioiusly, this is your career. You might truly be wishing you could help, or you might be rejoicing that you don't have to because you have the great excuse of a deadline. Either way, the important factor is that you maintain your professionalism. 

Don't ignore a request; that is rude. 
Don't accept and promise to help, then stop responding or never following through. That's also rude.
Don't promise to get to something later just to avoid actually saying "No" right now.

Do be honest. 
Do be helpful if you can.

You can say no without details:
"I'm flattered, but my schedule is so tight right now, I'm just not in a position where I can take this on."

You can say no with details:
"Look, I know this is going to disappoint you, but I simply cannot promise to ______ because no matter how much I might want to help you with this, the deadlines I'm responsible for right now require my utmost attention. You deserve feedback that is fully focused and there's no way I can manage that right now."

Here's more ways to say no that I found HERE on The Greater Good blog.

1. Vague but effective: “Thank you for asking, but that isn’t going to work out for me.”
2. It’s not personal: “Thank you for asking, but I’m not doing any interviews while I’m writing my book.”
3. Ask me later: “I want to do that, but I’m not available until April. Will you ask me again then?”
4. Let me hook you up: “I can’t do it, but I’ll bet Shelly can. I’ll ask her for you.”
5. Keep trying: “None of those dates work for me, but I would love to see you. Send me some more dates.”
6. Try me last minute: “I can’t put anything else on my calendar this month, but I’d love to do that with you sometime. Will you call me right before you go again?”
7. Gratitude: “Thank you so much for your enthusiasm and support! I’m sorry I’m not able to help you at this time.”
8. Give Dad a chance: “You know, I feel like moms are always getting to do the holiday parties at school. Let’s ask Dad if he wants to help this year.”
9. 5-minute favor: “I can’t speak at your event, but I will help you promote it on my blog.”
I also asked my friends Renee Trudeau and Katrina Alcorn—two people who’ve honed their ability to say no well—for their favorite go-to ways to say no. Here are Renee’s favorite ways:
10. Just No: “Thanks, I’ll have to pass on that.” (Say it, then shut up.)
11. Gracious: “I really appreciate you asking me, but my time is already committed.”
12. I’m Sorry: “I wish I could, but it’s just not going to work right now.”
13. It’s Someone Else’s Decision: “I promised my coach (therapist, husband, etc.) I wouldn’t take on any more projects right now. I’m working on creating more balance in my life.”
14. My Family is the Reason: “Thanks so much for the invite, that’s the day of my son’s soccer game, and I never miss those.”
15. I Know Someone Else: “I just don’t have time right now. Let me recommend someone who may be able to help you.”
16. I’m Already Booked: “I appreciate you thinking of me, but I’m afraid I’m already booked that day.”
17. Setting Boundaries: “Let me tell you what I can do…” Then limit the commitment to what will be comfortable for you.
18. Not No, But Not Yes: “Let me think about it, and I’ll get back to you.”
(Renee’s list is from her book The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal.)
And here are the additional ways that Katrina most often says no:
19. Say nothing: “Not all requests require an answer. It feels rude to ignore a request, but sometimes it’s the best way for everyone to save face.”
20. Let it all hang out: “Recently my daughter got injured in gym class. It was a week of visits to the ER, the concussion clinic, specialists, etc. I decided to just tell people what was going on, which sort of shut down the requests for a bit.”
21. I’m “maxed out”: “We need a ‘safety word’ for saying no—an easy way to tell people that we can’t/won’t do the thing they are requesting, but that it’s not personal. One convenient thing about authoring a book called Maxed Out is that now I can say ‘I’m maxed out’ and people who are familiar with the book know I’m asking them to respect that I’m taking care of myself, and that I also respect their need to take care of themselves.”

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Release Day: Jovienne by Linda Robertson

Big celebration day today as our Wednesday captain Linda Roberston releases the first book in her new urban fantasy series Immanence. Because Linda is such an amazing artist, she's written a musical score to accompany the book (sold separately via Linda's website).

A horrific car accident put Jovienne in a coma. When she awakened months later, she was told that her family had died. And Jovienne? She felt different...irreversibly changed.

Years passed, and she was raised by a stranger who trained her to use the quintanumin. She excelled at every lesson, and she longed for her mentor to become much more. When the time came for her final test, a death-match against a demon, she uncovered a terrible truth: the man she had trusted to teach her had a dreadful secret, and Jovienne had become a monster's monster.

The traumatized Jovienne becomes desperate for a way out of this new life, working on a way to rescind her immortality. But this only brings the demons ever closer, one of which claims to know a secret of its own about Jovienne-a secret she doesn't even know herself...

BUY IT NOW:  From Linda  |  IpG   |   Amazon   |  IndieBound

Monday, May 15, 2017

No fences for me.

I try to be friendly to anyone who approaches me at a convention.

I also try to be professional, so not too close for comfort.

once upon a time I gave out business cards with my phone number on them.

that stopped when someone I THOUGHT was a writer started calling my place at any old time of the morning to fanboy out.

That was when I set my boundaries.

They haven't really changed. Be a professional at conventions, folks. It's all the difference in t he world.

I'll be polite, I'll even be friendly, but beyond that? Hard to say what will happen.

So, no fences. fences imply that I want to keep a certain distance. In public, at conventions, I believe in an open door policy. I look forward to meeting new friends and fans alike.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Writer as Friendly Curmudgeon - Building Fences Without Walling People Out

One of my favorite pictures of my mother, embodying all her effervescence and zest for life - letting her fringe fly.

It's apropos for me that week's topic - which has to do with attempting to be both a writer and a socially acceptable person - falls on Mother's Day. My mother is tremendously social person. She's good at it, and she loves it. Me... well, I've always struggled a bit with feeling like I'm not as good at it, and it took me a really long time to understand that about myself.

I just never felt all that social, though I could fake it to some extent. In fact, I often thought to myself that I was antisocial. In a brief bout of therapy during a dark angsty period in college, my therapist said to me, "Antisocial people don't get elected to be Social Chair of their sororities."

Which was an eye-opener for me, because it was a really good point.

Now I know how to label it, because there's so much more good language to talk about this aspect of human interaction. I'm an introvert! Or perhaps, more accurately, an ambivert. I have a lot of extrovert skills - which I've always attributed to my mother's tireless efforts to make me a better person - but I have a deeply introverted aspect to my personality. I need alone time to rejuvenate my energy.

Because my mom is an extrovert, she needs companionship to rejuvenate herself. Thus she's always worried that when I'm alone "too much" that it's not good for me.

But loving being alone is part of what makes me a good writer. In fact, I'd argue that so many writers are introverts because it's got to be super hard on those extroverted writers to make themselves sit in quiet rooms alone to get the work done. Introverts are all over that.

The downside, however, is that we can be perceived as unfriendly and shunning society of all kinds. Part of this comes from the necessity of building fences around the sacred space where creativity occurs. We absolutely need to be left alone. No quick questions or short conversations. No "but I only need ..." Anything that interrupts that quiet space will derail the work at best temporarily, at worst for a really long freaking time. And the worst part is, allowing minor infractions leads to larger and larger ones. A quick question today leads to a two-hour errand in the not-too-distant future. It can become a convoluted exercise in logic to try to explain why the short convo yesterday was okay, but a total disaster today.

And this is hard to explain. It sounds curmudgeonly and sometimes downright mean for us to say, "I'm turning off my phone, my internet, and shutting my door. If you need me, you'll have to need me later." We know our boundaries can make no rational sense, which means we end up snarling impossible demands like "Nobody talk to me EVER AGAIN."

I always think of the cliche of the Victorian era writer locking himself in the library and roaring that anyone who enters will be reduced to a pile of ash.

Okay, I've totally wanted to be that guy on occasion.

But most of us don't really want to be THAT antisocial. We love our friends and family and would like for them to continue to love us. It's really lovely when we unlock the library doors, emerge, (bathe), and find them smiling, possibly handing us food.

So the trick is to build fences around that writing space without building walls so impenetrable they can't be breached. I suspect the answer there, as it so often is, lies in communication.

I greatly appreciate all those years my mom spent drilling social skills into her reluctant daughter. They've come in very handy. A part of me is also amused that, for all those times she told me to get my nose out of my book, that I'm totally vindicated now.


Also, I love you, Mom. Happy Mother's Day, from both the good Jeffe and the bad one. ;-)