Personal Branding ~ A Must For Authors

Nike, Boca Raton


A few of the authors in my American Christian Fiction Writers North East Zone Group have been kicking around topics such as taglines and platform. This made me think of personal branding. In today’s world, is an author a brand? I think, yes!



Moi 2In the marketplace, it’s human beings who call to us and the heartbeat of social media is human beings. Like it or not, your readers are also your fans.  The author must have a loyal following.

Writers might argue (and so might some readers) that the story is alive. It’s the book that need the following. However, it’s the author who has the real heartbeat. And heartbeat is important. It’s the human factor that attracts in marketing. You can’t just throw a book at someone. You have to engage them.




When I interview writers on my blog, I often ask them to send a “personal” photo that’s related to one of the answers in the interview. This would be a photo other than their book cover and their head shot. And I try to ask at least one interview question about their lives in general that would lend itself to providing that photo. Quite often the interview answers come back to me without that personal photo. It’s my contention that authors become much more interesting if they allow readers a peek into their lives. Almost everything in our lives contributes to our writing, so there has to be a myriad of small things we can share with readers that don’t fall into the “too much info” category.


Harmful Intent 2Taglines are important. I’ve got two of them.

  • Literature that reads like pulp fiction
  • I like my bad guys really, really bad; and my good guys smarter and better

I think authors need at least one. The tag line should be at the top of their web page and blog. They should mention it frequently in marketing.



I often include photos of myself with animals because I love critters and because they’re featured in several of my whodunits.

Writing is personal and the author’s image online should also be personal, without becoming too intimate. Authors shouldn’t cross that too much information line. There’s something amazing about being able to master language and write 80K, 90K or 120K words and have those words come out in the form of an exciting novel. Authors are not no-talent reality show personalities.  So, while in marketing, we want to come across as totally human, we must do that without disclosing the most private parts of our lives to the public.

Celebrate National Library Week ~ April 13-19

Library, PublicI recall visiting the public library quite a bit with my dad, and sometimes also with my mom. My dad was an English teacher, the school debate coach, and he also directed the senior play. He loved libraries, did a lot of research in them, and I loved to tag along.


This is National Library Week (April 13th – 19th) a time when we recognize the huge contribution libraries have made to the American culture.


American Library Association (ALA):

ALA National Library Week Fact Sheet:

***Leave a comment about your fav experience(s) in a library. 🙂


Who’s Point of View Is This Anyway???

I’ve been talking to my publisher and other writers about point of view. In fact I lead an American Christain Fiction Writers (ACFW) small critique group that specializes in deep point of view.
So, what’s all this about point of view, or POV? The crux of it is, someone’s got to tell the story. 

The writer’s choice of POV is perhaps the initial most important determination to be made for the story. It is the primary tool the author will use in crafting the story. Whatever vehicle the author decides to use in telling the story will be the author’s persona. There are quite a few POV choices, but I’m only going to talk about the three most prevalently used ones…

First Person: Imagine there is a tiny invisible video camera fastened to the narrating character’s forehead. Via this camera, the reader can see only what the narrating character sees. That’s first person point of view. The author is writing the main character  as “I” or as the narrator. Although the author is using this character’s persona and in some stories there might even be an autobiographical quality, the personality, foibles, quirks, and moral values belong to the character. The danger is if the reader is seeing too many “Is” it gets tedious. However, it’s a wonderful tool for showing the protagonist’s thoughts, feelings, and inner motivations. There could be multiple narrating characters (first-person accounts by two or more characters).

So, do you just write down whatever your main character sees as if the main character is chatting away telling the reader? That could be a huge mistake. First of all the reader doesn’t need to know every single thing the character sees or know everything the character knows. The reader only needs to know what the character sees and knows that will also move the storyline forward. Another danger is rambling or even ranting, depending upon the character’s personality. No matter how charming the main character is, eventually the rambling or ranting is going to get boring.

Perhaps the biggest mistake with first person is that it’s so easy to just go along telling and to forget about showing. Unskilled authors who write in first person will almost totally rely on the characters sense of sight, which leads to one-dimensional writing.

Third Person Omniscient: The all knowing, all seeing eye. The narrator in a god-like position. The narrator says: this happened, then this happened, then this, then that, and this is what the characters thought and felt about it and what they did and how they interacted. This was the form of fiction writing used during most of the 19th century. It is especially useful for broadsweeping or epic stories that span continents and time periods. A major drawback is that the reader may not know which character to form a bond with.

Third Person Limited: This is what we see a lot of in fiction writing these days. It’s the default POV.  With all third person stories, but particularly with third person limited, the reader has not doubt this is a work of fiction. It’s made up. Never actually happened.The story is told through one or more (often the heroine and hero) character’s POV. Since the reader knows it’s a work of fiction, it’s the job of the POV character to create a bond with that reader that allows that reader to suspend his/her disbelief. However, the story should only be told through one character’s POV at a time. No head hopping. The POV breaks usually come between chapters, but they can come between scenes. In that case the author should skip down a few lines before changing POV.

Steven James, Inspy Awards 2010 Winner, Thriller/Suspense/Mystery

It was a total blast taking the journey our committed panel of judges in the Inspy Awards 2010 Thriller/Suspense/Mystery category embarked upon. A pilgrimage into what demonstrates the highest levels literary talent in the general area of Christian crime fiction — and what constitutes Christian themes in literature.

Winner:  Steven James ~ The Knight

The statement issued by our panel of judges: Mark Buzzard, Kim Ford, Tim George, Dee Stewart, and myself.

How does one (who has no Christian reference points) make that first step toward the Lord? Where does that first question about spirituality come from? How does the author make it believable? Steven James makes it believable. This question encapsulates many of the judges’ thoughts about Patrick Bowers as he struggles to solve a series of grizzly crimes in the INSPY Award winner for the Thriller/Suspense/Crime Fiction category. The literary skill employed by James creates a story that steals the reader’s sleep while also stealing their breath. Creating an unforgettable set of characters who face an unimaginable and escalating series of terrifying crimes, James captures both the imagination and heart of the reader as he spins his tale.

Steven Jame’s website:

Desert Breeze, A Joy To Me

I’ve had a few days to let the rush of excitement over signing contracts with Desert Breeze Publishing for my Sanctuary Point romantic suspense series take me to the heights, and gently let me down. My first book contracting–not only one book, but a  series. Amazing!

I have to thank the Lord for this because that still small voice had been whispering Desert Breeze, for awhile. That they would get my writing. The Voice.. that Voice when I don’t listen, I regret it.

Speaking of voices, it has taken me a while to come into my author’s voice. It’s a voice that has a bit of roughness around the edges. It could be termed quirky.

I found out to my amazement, that I fall into the edgy category in terms of Christian writing. How can that be? I don’t write sex scenes, although I’m not opposed to somewhat steamy. I haven’t used profanity in any of my manuscripts, or at least anything I term foul language. I have used a few colorful words that can be found on any number of pages in the Bible. And yet, I’ve been told over and over my work is edgy.

Must be those darn rough edges. My Sanctuary Point series is historical romantic suspense with an action/adventure element. If you’re at one of my crime scenes the body is going to have an odor, flies might be attracted to the blood on the floor. The blood might even be on the walls.

I like my characters intense. I’ve found in life most people (even those sitting in the pews) have a few personal demons they’ve had to wrestle to the ground. I’ve had these internal wrestling matches. Members of my family have. So have friends. It’s life. I like to catch my characters in the midst of wrestling with their darker issues. I’m fond of putting my characters on a path whereby if they make the right choices, they’ll come out with a stronger, more mature walk with the Lord.

I don’t have too many Olive and Ollie Outstanding Christian characters in my books. Not too many white picket fences either. I do have a lot of characters who have been broken by the harsh realities of life, who are hurting.

One requirement for my heroines and heroes is that they have a little class. My novels are peopled with ordinary individuals who have a sense of personal dignity, or who are on a personal journey whereby they find their sacred honor.

I was at the point where I was thinking where in the world of Christian or even family friendly publishing am I going to find an editor to take a chance on me? And that tiny, quiet inner Voice kept nudging: submit, submit. So, I did. And Gail Delaney at Desert Breeze made the offer. Boy, did she. Thank you Gail, for this opportunity. I’m gonna work my tail off. Well, to be honest, I could stand a little buttocks reduction.

And thank you Lord for sticking with me, bringing me into focus when I’d get writer’s turmoil. That’s the opposite of writer’s block. Writer’s turmoil is too much going on. People pleasing. Trying to write something that would sell instead of sticking with the writer’s voice God gave. Then all I would’ve reaped is a bad imitation of what others are writing in the authentic voice God gave them.

Christian fiction is a wide playing field, or should be. There are many diverse genres, and the genres keep morphing into new sub-genres. Why am I surprised? I serve a multiplying God. There are many types of Christian readers and we need writers for all of them.

So, once again, thank you Lord, for pulling my creative fat out of the fire more than once — oh, and  for giving me great critique partners who don’t spare the  red ink — since way back, when my writing skill was laughable.

Motives For Murder ~ Fiction vs. Real Life

When I’m creating what I call my basic plotline, or my simple (very simple) plot outline and need a motive for murder — I usually go for what I call my big threemoney, jealousy, and revenge — or a combination of those three.

I’m sure  you wouldn’t be surprised to learn that research shows in real life the number one reason for murder is a domestic argument. This includes one of my big three, jealousy, but also encompasses all the non-sexual infidelity reasons for the termination of a marriage. Still we most often term this type of killing a crime of passion.

The second motive most often listed in police reports is revenge. Of course people who commit revenge murders don’t think of they’ve really committed a crime. Oh, they know it’s against the law or they wouldn’t try to conceal their identity. They just don’t think they’ve done anything wrong. After all the bum had it coming, in the murderer’s view. Some think revenge would’ve been the first on the list, but I think most people who are revenge minded don’t want the victim dead, they want them alive and suffering.

Coming in at three is money. Frankly, I thought this one would’ve been numero uno. Perhaps that’s because most of the vitriol I’ve witness has occurred after the will was read in my own extended family and in the families of friends and associates. Of course nobody I know actually committed murder over it, so maybe that’s evidence it’s not such a pressing reason to kill.

The fourth motive most often sited in real police reports is alcohol/drug use. This is a scary motive because it often includes no motive at all, or scant motive. A guy gets blotto watching the game with his buddies comes home and finds his wife didn’t do the laundry and he wanted to wear his team’s tee shirt, so he kills her. In a great many drug/alcohol murder investigations detectives find the perpetrator often doesn’t know or can’t recall clearly what went through his/her mind before killing.

Coming in about fifth on the list, depending on the locale, is the mob hit. This can involve money, turf, but it also can involve personal power and/or disgracing a “made man.” A made man is someone who has formally been inducted into a crime family as a lieutenant. It’s not a wise thing to cross such a man. Power and disgracing the family name in non-mob circles don’t even make it on the real life law enforcement list — both of these big reason in the prime time soap operas of the 1980s like Dynasty and Dallas.

A motive that has recently been finding it’s way into police reports in urban areas as a motive for murder with the influx of foreign immigrants is ethnic customs. The so-called honor killing is not as uncommon as one might suppose. A young Muslim girl has not behaved as modestly as her older male relatives think she should’ve. She’s taken off her head scarf while at school, or allowed an American boy to walk her part way home, so her father and brothers kill her. Another scenario could be that a young man comes to live in the USA with missionaries who lived with his tribe in South America. He spends his teen years here and marries, but then suspects his wife of infidelity, so as is the custom in his tribe, when his wife gives birth, he kills the infant.

Serial Killers are growing in popularity in fiction as the perpetrator of gruesome murders, so much so that they’ve practically become their own sub-genre. It’s not surprising that in real life mental illness and sociopathology seem to be cropping up more often in crime reports. If you or someone you love discovers they are married to a bigamist, are involved with a professional gigolo, or a con-man defrauding women — RUN. There is great danger there, even potential for murder.

Cry To Heaven by Anne Rice

What do you do when the unspeakable has been done to you? Who do you reach out to when there is nobody? Where do you go when you no longer have a home? How do you protect yourself when you dare not let them see your tears? That’s when you cry to heaven.

This is the situation fifteen year old Tonio Treschi faces, the hero in Anne Rice’s monstrously dark novel, Cry To Heaven.

Set in Venice, Naples, and Rome, the author uses lush prose to present to us the Italian opera of the 18th century, complete with its castrato. Let me include a little side note here. Rice doesn’t mince words when it comes to difficult subject matter. Of course the opera, particularly the Italian opera, has been built upon the backs of mutilated indigent little boys. This was due to the Roman Catholic Church’s ban against women on the stage.

Tonio, brought up in a sheltered, nearly reclusive home discovers a few skeletons in the family closet. Not long after that he’s brutally betrayed. He struggles with his sexuality and manhood  in the most heart wrenching manner. Some may want to shy away from the sexual scenes, but it can be argued they are central to the story. To say the least, the sexual climate of the Italian opera in the 1750s was bawdy. The escapades of the aristocracy amoral, and Rice doesn’t doesn’t soften that or conceal it from the reader. It is what it is.

Tonie captured my heart. Early in the book I could see disaster coming long before he did. Well, he was only a child, and adored and over-protected one at that. How could he see the plots around him that were a danger to him? I found myself silently admonishing him. “Nooooo, don’t do that.” I kept turning pages because I cared about Tonio. I wanted it to be all right for him at the end, and that was never a given in this story.