Getting Your Priorities Straight

"We all have the same number of hours in the day."

I don't know about you, but when somebody says this, I generally want to kick them in the shins or slap them with a large, dead fish.

It always seems to get said with a self righteous air, as if the person uttering the words has everything in their life perfectly under control. They are never late for work. Never miss a deadline. Never find themselves scrambling to fulfill an obligation at the very last second.

The fact that the words are true just makes them more irritating.

Unless somebody has invented a time machine and is doing an incredible job of keeping it hidden in their garage, we all get the same allotment of twenty-four hours in a day. Except this week, of course, when those of us living in misguided countries have an hour stolen from us, but that's another story.

Some of us have a lot more living to cram into our time allowance than other people do. Some are contented with a slow and steady space. They go to work, come home, pet the cats, eat a tidy, low fuss dinner, watch TV and go to bed. I don't personally know anybody like this, although I'm told they exist. I don't think I've ever met anybody who felt they had more than enough hours in the day. People only trot out the "we all have the same number of hours in the day" statement when they're talking to somebody else.

My point is that until Science and Magic get their acts together and create a time turner, we're going to have to muddle along with not enough time to do All The Things. We can try, and sometimes even pull it off for awhile, but sooner or later we have to sleep. And the body, mind, and spirit will all rebel at some point if we push too hard, and find a way to force us to slow down. A rest enforced by physical illness, depression, anxiety, or some other system breakdown will slow us down more in the long run than a more reasonable pace.

So what's the answer, then, for those of us overwhelmed by the drive to do everything?

I think it starts with setting priorities.

I ran into a Facebook meme the other day about this which was pretty simple and brilliant. Every time you catch yourself saying, "I don't have time," change those words to "That's not a priority." And then listen closely to yourself.

"I'd love to write but I just don't have time," becomes, "Writing is not a priority."

"I know I should read but I don't have time," becomes, "Reading is not a priority."

And - harsh reality time – maybe these things are not priorities for you. Maybe your priorities right now are raising kids, building a career, and binge watching The Walking Dead. No problem. If those are the priorities, then do those things.

Or, maybe, The Walking Dead can wait, and writing could fill that time slot.

It's all about awareness and choices. You can find writing time and reading time, you can find time to play with your kids. You can find time to clean your house from top to bottom and do Pinterest crafts and bake chocolate chip cookies. But you might not be able to choose all of those things, all at the same time.

CHALLENGE

Take a few minutes, five at the most, to jot down a list of priorities, things like career and family and writing. Don't get deep into the weeds on this – just jot them down as they come to you, in no particular order.

Got your list?

Great. Now pick the top five. This part is harder. Be honest and ignore the niggling guilt if your true priorities aren't what you think they should be. Also be aware that priorities shift. Maybe family was the top priority when your kids were little, but now they're in college and you're focused on another goal. It doesn't mean you don't love your family if another priority rises to the top. It just means you are choosing to focus your energy elsewhere. Arrange your top five in order of current importance, with number one being the thing you would keep if you were forced to relinquish the others, and so on. Hold onto your finished list. Pin it on your bulletin board, or stash it wherever you keep such things. Whatever works for you.

Now, for the next week, observe how you spend your time. How many hours spent sleeping? How many hours on the internet? How many hours with the family? Watching TV? Writing? Reading? At the day job? Cleaning house? Jot down notes at the end of every day and make sure you account for all 24 hours.

At the end of your week of time observation, sit down with your priority list and your observation notes and compare them. How much time are you spending on your priorities? How much time are you spending on things that didn't even make the priority cut? If your priorities and how you spend your time match up, chances are you're feeling reasonably good about what you accomplish in your life. If they don't, my guess is that you're feeling frustrated and unfulfilled.

The next step is to figure out how to focus your energy on the things that matter most to you. This comes at a cost, by the way. We don't get anything for free, and no matter what we'd like to believe, we can't have it all.

I'll be talking more about this next month.

 

Should We Write About What We Know?: Experience versus Research … by Mariko Tatsumoto Layton

How often have you heard that you should write about what you know? At the same time, you might hear that we can write about anything we want, we just need to research the subject matter. This debate of personal experience versus research is like nature versus nurture.

I write middle-grade multicultural novels with Japanese protagonists. I was born in Japan and immigrated to the U.S. when I was eight years old. Even after our move, our home was very Japanese. I know a lot about being Japanese, what it feels like, how others treat us, the misconceptions, etc. So, I’m qualified to write about a Japanese protagonist. Even then, my character might be training to become a sumo wrestler, or is a violin prodigy, or is a samurai boy, something or someone I’ve never been or experienced. In those cases, I read books on sumo training or history books on samurais. I imagine what a boy might feel or think and write about it. But am I portraying those characters correctly? Am I doing them justice?

Have you read books with a subject you know well and seen errors? Does that aggravate you? An acquaintance of mine read Annie Freeman’s Fabulous Traveling Funeral. Early in the book, the funeral group travels to Santa Fe. My acquaintance used to live in Santa Fe and noted that the description of the area was not accurate. This infuriated her. Despite my argument that it was fiction, she disliked the novel intensely because of that error.

2016_Mariko Layton_Ayumi's Violin cover KindleEven though I am Japanese and I research every point in my books as thoroughly as possible, my Japanese sister-in-law, who moved to the U.S. at the age of thirty, nitpicks everything in my books. She might say that at a certain kind of a party, this kind of food would be served, not the food mentioned in my book. She might point out that the card game a child is playing is too old for her. She might be right, even though I recall playing that game at that age.

So, I often wonder if having had certain experiences is enough to precisely portray a character, a subject, or a place. Sometimes I want to shout, “It’s Fiction!” I know that even in fiction, we should be truthful and correct as to certain things. I sometimes envy authors who write science fiction or fantasy. They can create any kind of a world or character.

When you’re writing your first or second novel, the maxim of writing what you know might be good to follow because there’s so much to know about novel writing. The subject matter is one less thing about which to learn. What if the protagonist is a quadriplegic? What if you’re male and want to make your protagonist female? What if you’re Caucasian and you want to write about someone who lives in Fiji? How much research is enough? We can’t change the color of our skin. We can’t recreate our childhood. Is researching and doing your best enough?

I believe accuracy is a matter of degrees. I can’t know everything about which I write. I make a diligent effort to learn as much as possible about what I write. If I can’t learn enough to be fair to the subject matter, I won’t write about it. I don’t want to insult anyone who knows more than me. But humans all have emotion. We may not all feel the same emotion about something, but I can imagine how someone might feel.

Emotion is one thing I’m confident about. I might be criticized for the way a certain character feels, but there is no right or wrong with emotion. Therefore, I let my characters feel the highest of joys and the lowest of sadness.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

When Mariko Tatsumoto Layton arrived from Japan at the age of eight, she could only count to ten and say thank you in English. But as soon as she learned to read English, she fell in love with books and wanted to become a writer. She first became the first Asian woman attorney in Colorado before finding her way to become a children’s book author.

Learn more about Mariko at her website. She can also be found on Facebook.

Tips and Tricks to Surprise and Delight … by Suzanne Young

2016_Suzanne YoungDo you ever sit down to a blank page and hope an idea will flow from your brain to your fingertips like magic? Then do you simply stare at all that white space as your mind shuts down? I am currently working on the sixth book of my Edna Davies mystery series (Murder by Decay) and I have yet to run out of ideas, not because I’m a natural storyteller, but because I’ve learned a few tricks over years of taking classes and reading how-to books.

Why don’t I dread that blank page? Perhaps it’s because I don’t force myself to write every day—at least, I don’t always work on my story. I let a scene or chapter roll through my mind like a movie or a play, making my characters leave the stage and reenter, if I don’t like the way they’ve performed. When I’m satisfied with what they’ve done enough to capture the performance, I write it down. My rendition usually doesn’t do justice to their acting, but it often suffices for a first draft.

When I reach one of the many “What should happen next?” points in my story, one exercise I use to answer this question comes from a course I was taking while working on my first novel-length manuscript (Murder by Yew). Put your protagonist into ten good situations and turn them bad. Then put your protagonist into ten bad situations and turn them good.

2016_Suzanne Young_Arrangement cover sMerging these two tasks made more sense to me than dealing with them separately. So, I had Edna take a walk along the streets of Providence on a bright, sunny April morning. As she passed the house of a long-time friend, she spotted something shining in newly turned soil on the other side of a tall, wrought-iron fence (good). Wishing to get a closer view of what appeared to be a piece of jewelry, she removed her hat and stuck her head through the bars of the fence (uh oh). Once she verified that it was indeed a valuable pin, she tried to remove her head and found she was stuck (bad). Her friend happened along and, with the help of a gardener, freed Edna (good). When Edna pointed out the brooch, her friend identified it as one believed stolen years ago that had caused the ruin of a poor woman’s reputation (bad). This assignment actually sparked a story idea that developed into my third murder mystery (Murder by Mishap). I’m sure if you take this exercise far enough, you could end up with the outline for a story of your own.

Another reason I practice this particular exercise religiously is to pace my stories. When the tension begins to build (bad situation), I pull back and allow my readers to breathe a bit (good situation) before dunking the characters back into hot water (bad situation). If you’ve ever read an author who kept piling wood on the fire without allowing you to step away from the heat, you know the importance of pacing your story. The good-to-bad-to-good scenario is also useful when I need to develop enough action to fill up the vast desert (known as “the middle”) between “the beginning” and “the end” of my book.

If you want to kick start your imagination, you might try the “Rule of 20.” Applied to writing (as opposed to stock prices or bridge bidding), this is a mental workout that will help you deliver the unexpected to your readers. The “Rule” goes like this: Given a situation in your story, make a list of 20 things that could happen next. Let’s take Edna on that walk again and imagine 20 things that might occur (good or bad, whatever fits the plot at that particular juncture). I’ll suggest just a few, so you get the idea … Maybe the weather changes suddenly and she’s forced to take shelter on a nearby porch (Does she then overhear something to please or horrify her?). Perhaps a car comes careening down the street, jumps the curb and crashes into the wrought-iron fence directly in front of her (Who’s at the wheel? Dead or alive? Sick or injured?). Maybe she’s mugged by a couple of kids (One of whom she recognizes before she loses consciousness?).

Whatever the stage in your plot, list as many possibilities as you can. Stretch your imagination and try for 20, at least. When you’ve completed the list, toss out the first six items. These are the ideas that came most readily to your mind, so they’re probably what your readers might expect. Choose one of the remaining scenarios. If you wish to surprise and delight your fans, write something extraordinary.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Suzanne Young is the best-selling author of the Edna Davies mystery series which put her on Amazon’s list of “top 100 authors of mystery” for five consecutive months. She is a member of RMFW’s PAL and iPAL groups as well as a graduate of the Arvada Citizens Police Academy. After earning a degree in English and U.S. History from the University of Rhode Island, Suzanne moved to Colorado and worked as a computer programmer and business analyst for most of her career. She retired in 2010 to write fiction full-time.

Learn more about Suzanne and her mystery series at her website. She can also be found on Facebook.

It’s All About the Blog, ’bout the Blog…

The Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Blog is a labor of love for those volunteers who spend a year or two here as regular monthly contributors and those who write guestposts  from time to time. The goal is to provide an extra source of information about programs; to educate, motivate, and inspire; and to offer opportunities for RMFW members to share their specialized knowledge.

The blog would also be a good way to introduce more of our members to each other. The organization is growing every year, and there are way too many new members we don't get a chance to meet unless we run into them at a workshop or at Colorado Gold.

Co-editor Julie Kazimer and I have discussed doing a monthly (or twice monthly when we have enough open spots) RMFW member Q&A series, similar to what we do now with our Spotlight series on board members. At the most, however, we would only introduce 24 members in a year. That's not a huge percentage of our membership. Still, there are ways to increase member participation. Perhaps a "Three Members, Three Questions" series? Other ideas are welcome.

I'm going to get things rolling with a simpler series inviting members to share the link to one of their social media sites.

Today it's all about the blog.

Your blog, that is. Do you have one?

If yes, please leave your name and/or pseudonym and your blog's url in the comments below. Also tell us what you write about on your blog (your writing life, writing tips, writing instruction, book reviews, guest authors, etc.).

And then I encourage all readers to drop by and visit your fellow members' blogs. Read a post (or two, if you have time). If possible, leave a comment. Comments make a blogger's day so much better.

 

Returning to the Horror of it All … by F. P. Dorchak

After I released Voice last year, my thoughts once again turned to something I’d been considering for a while...

Short stories.

Now, I’m not an award-winning anything (I’d always wanted to be some kind of a William F. Nolan— who at one point claimed to have published everything he’d ever written—but I’m not...), rarely known (in fact some of my writer friends still greet me as “Heeey, youuu...”), and I’m no longer agented (five years, three novels, no takers, parted amicably). I’m an Indie author and for good or ill I’ve been writing since I was...well...very young. To be honest (and not unlike all of you), I love making shit up. Love messing around with the imagination. And I did a lot of that through short stories, most of them unpublished. Arguably, these stories weren’t doing anyone any good where they were (in cold, dark, computer files...), so why didn’t I take a look at them and see if any were worthy of non-traditional publication?

So, I dove in and now have nearly 20 of them out there on one of my blog sites; in fact, I’m currently scheduled out through the beginning of July with them and have (plenty?) more still to be released. Some are not as good as others, but the ones I am releasing are the better of my repertoire (to use a cool word). They’re not released in a particular order, and I release a new one every Friday.

But there was another reason I’d gone back to all my old short work: I’d wanted to revisit the roots of my writing.

2016_Dorchak_VoiceI’d cut my teeth (and other body parts—not all of which were mine...) on horror fiction. I wrote about blood and gore and creepiness. I’ve since largely departed the horror scene for what I call “paranormal fiction,” where I write about the weird and the metaphysical and supernatural...but I’m not above throwing in a little grit now and then. It is quite eye-opening to see where my head was at as a younger guy. Some of my work was quite nasty—and not all of it is meant to see the light of day—but it’s interesting to see “The Possession of Frank,” as he was driven to write all this early stuff. Since we’re talking 30 years, I’d actually forgotten about many of these stories! So, it was (and is, since I’m still doing this) quite enlightening! I’d experimented with different kinds of stories, done some prose and those other “rhyme-y kind” of poems, and for a period of time even tried to write as short a story as possible...and this was before anything called “flash fiction.”

I believe, above all else, story is King (or Queen, if you prefer). To me, I’m inspired by the story...and again perhaps like many of you, I don’t sit around and intentionally think this stuff up. It just comes to me and I feel compelled to write it down...effect the incorporeal corporeal. None of them are perfect, but that’s another cool part about them...their imperfections...the imperfection of a twenty-something-or-younger trying to find his way...his voice...his story...and do his best in bringing all of it to liiife!

Yes, some of my older work is, indeed, horrific—and not in a genre-kind-of-way—but, still, it’s fascinating to me. Future-Me is unearthing Past-Me, and I’m uncovering all kinds of passion and art in these archaeological digs. I willingly gave (and still do, though not to the same zealous extent anymore) much of my life to sitting down behind a typewriter-and-later-computer to create and work these things at the expense of a lot of other things. It has rekindled the passion of Past-Me into Future-Me. I am going to publish the better of these short stories under my Indie imprint, Wailing Loon in the next year or so. In fact, I’m soon-to-be releasing one of them, “Clowns,” as an e-short story on Amazon’s KDP Select. It’s one of those “short-shorts” I’d mentioned. Two pages. A fun, creepy tale of good clowns gone bad. And knives are involved.

I hope all writers (and artists) out there will have a time in their lives where they, too, can afford to revisit the roots of their writing. When I was younger I was still propagating my roots; when I was done with one piece, I literally was on to the next. Not much looking back. I was constantly blasting forward...sending things out, out, and out. Writing, writing, writing! Constantly starting new stuff, so much so, that after thirty-some years (I started treating writing as a business in the mid-eighties), I’d forgotten about all the stuff I had written...but now I’m rediscovering them.

Rediscover your roots.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

F. P. Dorchak has written many short stories, forgotten most of them, and is the author of Voice, Psychic, ERO, The Uninvited, and Sleepwalkers. Hopefully these are not forgettable. His short story, “Tail Gunner” is in The You Belong Collection – Writings and Illustrations by Longmont Area Residents regional anthology, and his latest release, the very short story, “Clowns,” is soon-to-be-available through Amazon’s KDP Select, once the cover is complete. As far as he can recall, he blogs at Runnin Off at the Mouth and Reality Check. His recently remembered website is www.fpdorchak.com, and as far as he can tell, his Twitter handle is https://twitter.com/fpdorchak. He vaguely recalls other forms of social media...all of which are on his website. He’s forgotten more than he ever knew.

The ‘Real’ Cost of Traditional Publishing: How to Budget for a New Release

A few weeks ago I wrote a post on the budgeted cost for my next project, which happens to be a self-published project. I also have an upcoming book release, The Assassin’s Kiss, coming out on August 15, 2016, from a traditional publisher, a smaller one. Trust me when I say, a big five release would carry a bigger budget sThe Assassin's Kissince I’d likely have an advance to work with rather than my own pathetic lottery winnings and the spare change from under my couch.

I also found a stash of sharpened doggie bones. I suspect my pups are plotting against me.

Anyway, here’s a look at my budget for The Assassin’s Kiss. This budget doesn’t have to be yours. Pick the line items you are interested in and ignore the rest. Also, feel free to add some. I’d love to have your feedback on what you plan, whether it’s new things or subtracting some of mine. The more we share, the better for all of us. Especially when talking money. I had no clue what I was getting into when I started. Who knew I'd need a full-time job to afford my full-time job?

Budget for The Assassin’s Kiss.
      Total  
Marketing          
Print Copies $10.00 (estimate, likely less) per book 50 $500.00 Buy from publisher after contracted copies (return on investment after selling at book launch/consignment)
Book launch $250 Food, drink, venue   $0 I’ve decided to forgo a physical book launch in favor of an online one. The only cost is my time.
Advertising (Banners) $300     $300 Fresh Fiction/RT (I'm not sure I'll do this, but I'm looking to branch out)
Newsletter $0     $0 Mailchimp free up to 2k
Conferences $1,600     $1,600 Estimate 2 Cons, plus hotel and travel, more if not a speaker
Publicist $2,000     $0 Use of in-house
BookBub $365 free promo   $365 If accepted for 1st book in series
Swag/Business cards       $500  I like to use swag as a tool, but not general swag like postcards, but theme swag for an example I’ve done fortune cookies in the past with witty fortunes or teeth related items for my tooth fairy releases.
Meme/Digital Postcard Design $100     $100 Do it myself. Price to purchase stock photos though.
Blog Tours 50     $0 Haven't found it worthwhile to hire tour companies. Set up own tour, smaller but targeted
Professional Marketer $45 per hour 10 $450 Check into fivver for multiple sources
Other promo sites $300     $300  
TOTAL       $4,115 Depending on your financial picture, all of this can be done for much less. I choose to budget to my dreams and spend to my reality, however sad and bleak it might be….

What did I leave out? How do you select your own release budget?

Since my self-publishing budget topped out about 5k, are you surprised to see nearly as much for traditional? My main point is this, neither publishing option is cheap, especially without an advance to cover the majority of expenses. There are upfront costs a business plan must consider.

Rethinking Book Promotion…Again

Recently, the woman who was promoting my books through social media announced she is quitting the “virtual assistant” business. She just can’t make a go of it anymore. And no wonder. The results I get from her promotional efforts have dwindled each month, and I’m sure other authors who use her services have seen the same trend. We can no longer justify paying for promotion that doesn’t increase our sales, which means our promoter is out of a job.

I signed up for her virtual assistant services nearly a year ago, as a means of reducing my guilt over my own pathetic promotional efforts. In our arrangement, I would pick a couple of my books each month, and she would tweet about them and feature them in her e-newsletter. At first, I could see results. My sales for the books featured would increase. I also credit her for helping my most recently published book hover in the top 50 list in its sub-genre for several weeks last fall. But now, unless I do a 99 cent sale (which reduces my income on the books to a depressing level), I can’t see a difference between the books she’s promoting and sales of my other titles.

I’ve tried several other promotional services. I’ve spent relatively small amounts: $40 here, $20 there, and once, $99 for a promotion that was supposed to get me twenty-five reviews. (I ended up with about fifteen.) Most of the services were busts. Recently, I paid a company $40 to feature my 99 cent book in their newsletter for a week, and had zero sales of the book for the week.

Other authors I know are becoming similarly frustrated. Oh, there are promotions that work, like Bookbub, but they cost hundreds of dollars and they are very picky about the books they feature, especially those from indie-authors. Also, you have to make the featured book free or 99 cents, which means unless you sell thousands and thousands of books, and/or you have several books out and the promotion significantly increases sales of your other titles, it isn’t possible to earn back what you spent.

The most troubling aspect of recent developments is that a year ago a lot of these promotional tools/techniques worked. When I first indie-published my backlist four years ago, there were proven ways to promote your book and increase sales. Every year since then, fewer and fewer things seem to succeed. The industry and the promotional dynamics keep changing, always in a negative way.

In her letter to her clients, my virtual assistant pointed out that part of the problem, besides there being so many books available, is that there are now so many competing companies doing the same thing. Book promotion has become a whole industry in itself, attracting large numbers of social media savvy people looking for a way to make a living or to at least supplement their income.

Not every author is in my situation. Several authors I know have cracked bestseller lists and done very well. And done it without spending a fortune either. But in most cases, they write series and have been slowly building up their following to get to that “break-out” book. And/or they write in a genre that is particularly popular right now.

Those are the only proven things that seem to help sales:  writing a series and writing in a popular sub-genre. There is one other secret, and that is having a new book out every few months, the more often the better. Neither of my series have really caught on, and I refuse to write books in a particular genre simply because it’s popular. (My muse would mutiny, and I’d never get anything done.) So all I can do is keep plugging away and writing steadily, hoping that if I keep publishing I will eventually gain ground. Maybe if I completely give up dabbling in promotion, the time and energy I save will help me write a little faster and gets books out more often. It’s worth a shot.

“The Idiot Plot”

I recently read a review of the new TV series based on Terry Brooks' classic epic fantasy Elfstones of Shannara when I read the following precis that made me laugh: "The elves' magical protective tree, the Ellcrys, is dying. Lethal demons are slipping back into the world. To banish them again, someone must take the Ellcrys' magical seed to Safehold and bathe it in Bloodfire. Problem is, no one knows where Safehold is, or what Bloodfire might be. These requirements have the weight of prophecy and doom, but they're also faintly amusing, as though the elves lost their car keys centuries ago, and don't have the faintest idea where to look for them." (article)

This made me think of the pacing and plotting of a story. Too many times I've read books (or seen TV shows) where the plot seems to move forward on the slimmest possible impetus, leaving me to wonder why the characters are even following through with it, rather than just catching a movie or running errands. This reviewer also invokes James Blish (iconic author of speculative fiction books, including many Star Trek episodes) who first coined the phrase "Idiot Plot", a story that only moves forward because none of the characters will stop to ask obvious questions or exchange crucial points of information. For example, keeping pieces of information secret for no apparent reason except that it prevents the conflict from being resolved too soon.

Rube Goldberg MachineA Rube Goldberg machine uses a complex, sometimes improbable, chain reaction to accomplish a simple task, for example cracking an egg into a bowl, which is much easier done by hand. Your plot points can be like parts in a Rube Goldberg machine, or they can be girders in a bridge. It's a subtle thing, to be certain your plot is moving forward intelligently, and not stupidly.

At any advancement of your story (plot point) be sure your characters are asking all the right questions, looking under all of the obvious rocks - and even some of the not-so-obvious ones. If someone is keeping something secret, make sure they have a reason to do so, and make it a damn good one. (Some old and tired cliches to avoid: "I kept this secret to protect you!" "I kept this secret until you were ready to hear it." "I kept this secret because you didn't ask.") Make sure that the reasons your characters got into this adventure to begin with remain the reasons they stay in it, or give readers new solid, plausible reasons to make this conflict even more crucial to the characters, personally, than before.

It is certainly important that every cause have an effect in your story, but even more critical is ensuring that every effect has a cause. Not just any cause, but one that proceeds from a prior plot point. It should proceed not only logically, but precipitously, causing the stakes to rise and the urgency to mount. And it must propel the characters headlong into the next plot point, almost against their will. At no point should the readers be left to ask, "Why?" If you have done your job correctly, they should have the answer before they even think to ask.

Avoid the Idiot Plot. Leave it for soap operas and sitcoms (and the TV show "The Arrow"...oops! I didn't say that! Except, they expend so much energy on the noble goal to "save my city" no one stops to explain just exactly what's wrong with the city! But 'nuff said!)

Branding Yourself with a Slogan … by Bernadette Marie

2016_Bernadette MarieWhen you think of Stephen King, a certain kind of book comes to mind. Your mind goes to a dark place. Images of certain movie stars with axes come to mind and nightmares begin. As an author, we quickly recognize that Stephen King is branded in horror. All you have to do is say his name.

When you hear the words, Eat Fresh, your mind will automatically think Subway restaurants if you’ve listened to the radio or TV in the past few years. If you hear Peyton Manning humming, you’re thinking Nationwide. Of course, the name Jake and the fashion of Khakis is synonymous with State Farm. These large chains have branded slogans to help you think of them, and sometimes at the most unusual of times. Seriously, when I said Peyton Manning humming, your mind heard the jingle, right?

Most authors set out to brand themselves in a genre. Nora Roberts writes great romantic suspense and Debbie Macomber gives you a much softer sided romance. They are branded by their writing styles as well as the book covers that their publishers put out. But if you’re predominantly a certain kind of writer, a slogan still might work wonders for you too.

I write contemporary romance. My books are novel-length, but not battling for word count. They’re what I would call an easy read and have been referred to as perhaps predictable. They also end with a happily ever after.

My slogan, Happily ever after…always, stems from the kinds of stories you can expect from me. I found early on, as a reader, that I didn’t want to ache after reading a book. You know the kind of books, the ones you weren’t expecting to have the hero die tragically just as the story was going in the right direction, but he does, and the heroine is heartbroken and now so are you. However, if I did come across this story line, it sure was nice to pick up the next easy read, which was predictable and lets my heart rest with happily ever after. That’s where my inspiration came.

If you pick up a Bernadette Marie book, you’re going to have a few pleasant hours of the rise and fall of romance, but you know how it’ll end because I’ve promised you that in my slogan. My avid readers know they can expect that from me. And wouldn’t you know it, when they mention me on Facebook or Twitter, they use my slogan.

A slogan can work for any author, especially those who stick to a certain genre with a certain pen name. For example, if an author had a slogan of, Murder follows him wherever he goes, you’re going to know that this author is going to give you a murder mystery. Okay, you might have known that when you went looking for a murder mystery in your Google search, but honestly, isn’t it better to know your chicken is Finger Lickin’ Good and not just your everyday greasy chicken—even if it is greasy chicken?

Slogans can be fun and entertaining. I believe the general consumer likes to feel as though they're a part of something bigger. Seriously, Just Do It! isn’t just a slogan, it’s become a lifestyle.

So, what’s your slogan?

*Eat Fresh, property of Subway restaurants
*Finger lickin’ good, property of Kentucky Fried Chicken
*Just Do It!, property of Nike

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Bestselling Author Bernadette Marie is known for building families in which readers want to belong. Her series The Keller Family has graced bestseller charts since its release in 2011, along with her other series and single title books. She has released 26 contemporary romance titles. The married mother of five sons promises Happily Ever After always and says she can write it because she lives it.

When not writing, Bernadette Marie is shuffling her sons to their many events—mostly hockey—and enjoying the beautiful views of the Colorado Rocky Mountains from her front step. She is also an accomplished martial artist with a second-degree black belt in Tang Soo Do.

A chronic entrepreneur, Bernadette Marie opened her own publishing house in 2011, 5 Prince Publishing, so that she could publish the books she liked to write and help make the dreams of other aspiring authors come true too. Bernadette Marie is also the CEO of Illumination Author Events.

You can learn more about Bernadette and her books at her website and the 5 Prince Books website. She can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.