The Art, or Lack Thereof, of Branding

celtic knotI recently attended a seminar on author marketing. A fledgling seminar, but one that evoked introspection. The presenter talked about world view, framing, audience, using social media, brand/voice, etc. Then there came the dreaded audience participation. She asked for a volunteer to talk about their work in progress, or WIP.

All fingers pointed to me. Did I mention that most, no all, of the people in this seminar belong to the same writing group? Yeah, they were all quick to volunteer me. Thanks a lot.

The question posed: “What is your brand? Why did/do you write what you did/do?

I think several snide and smart ass remarks (mostly aimed at said volunteering friends) flew through my head. I bit my tongue. Why do I write what I write?

ravenI did get one snarky “So I don’t actually do what I write about.” comment in. Referring mostly to my horror short stories and not the paranormal novels in progress.

I thought about my first manuscript, the one that’s shelved for the moment. And, then the novel I’m currently working on. That’s the one I chose. I’m writing it mainly because it’s something that I’ve always wanted to write, the one my daughter told me she thought I would write first. She can now say “I told you so.” every day until I’m ready to publish it. This novel has been incubating for–well, for more years than I want to disclose. I’m not ready to say what it is just yet. All because I’m still thinking about what my brand is and why I’m writing it and anything else I write.

On the surface, my brand is that I believe in the possibility that there is something to myths and legends, something to our tenacious hold on subject matter beyond reality. For me, there is a knowledge at my very core, you could say built into my 529263_438050886289531_2114181660_nDNA, that shapes this interest.

I know I’m being vague, but this seminar really got me thinking and I’m still hashing all this out. Believe me, you’ll know when I do.

In the mean time, what is your brand? Whether you’re a writer or artist or entrepreneur, why do you do what you do?

Djen in the House

Today’s post is dedicated to my friends and critique partners, Lisa Fender and Toni Burns, who have recently released their debut novel, Fable, Book 1 of the Lorn Prophecy. These sisters are taking a weekend for themselves and their families at beautiful Buena Vista, Colorado. However, they will be checking in regularly (probably from the hot springs) to reply to any questions or comments you post.

I’ve had the distinct and unique pleasure of seeing this book through to its fruition and of working with these wonderful ladies. Yet, while that only came about two years ago, I know the story of their four year journey (first Lisa on her own, and then Toni joining her for the revisions).

Fable, is a true labor of love in that, Lisa and Toni are sisters and this collaboration has brought them much closer together. Toni spoke to this at their recent launch party even after Lisa told her not to make her cry. They were joined by their cover artist, Mike Kloepfer, and the event was a great Fable Launch 078success.

Enough of the heartstrings and more about the book. I’ll let it speak for itself:

Stevie Barrett lives an ordinary life in Golden, Colorado, where nothing remarkable ever happens. That is until right before her high school graduation, when Stevie’s life takes a bizarre turn. Her best friends, Jack and Alyssa, want to be supportive, but are confused by the events plaguing Stevie.

 Stevie’s mom is attacked by men with glowing gold eyes. A strange being spies on Stevie, hidden in shadow. She has waking visions of a people called the Djen and their archaic world. And when her and her BFFs don’t think it can get any weirder, Stevie heals a stranger with a touch. The abilities build until they are a tidal wave awakening within her and threaten her sense of reality.

 Her efforts to understand what is happening lead her and her friends to discover a group known as the Rebellion. These warriors from another dimension are hunting her. Their leader is a man bent on destroying Stevie and possessing her legacy. In order to stop him and save everyone she loves, Stevie and her friends must embark on a quest to find and return Tecton, one of the five Orbs—relics—of the other plane she comes to know as Djenrye. The journey will alter everything she believes, propelling her into another world and another life.

Now, let’s hear from the authors.

RG How hard is it to maintain the ‘voice’ of the characters when you as co-authors and sisters have such distinctive voices yourselves?

Lisa: It is very hard, sometimes we have to meditate on it for a few moments to find a voice of a character. Toni is much better at it than I am. I think Colton’s voice is her masterpiece!

Toni: Now that’s funny, because I think of Colton and Stevie as having come from inside Lisa’s head. The twisted antagonist (Torren) I think was more me – only because of my love for horror and serial killer documentaries. Those tend to freak my sis out.

RG – Lol! I think I’m going to agree with Toni on that one. So ladies, how does critique play a role in helping to keep that voice and the consistency of the story?

Lisa: You and Janet are great at helping us keep that voice. I think sometimes though, you have one way of how the character should be and we have another, hence Torren, but once we explain what we’re doing you both grab the concept and keep us consistent. We appreciate your critiques and can’t see writing our books without both you and Janet involved. I guess what I’m saying is your stuck with us for the long haul!

Toni: I have to heartily second that! And, Robin, you’re twisted imagination helps us remain consistent with the creepier characters’ voices and actions.

RG –  Torren’s tough because he’s young/hurt/bitter in the novella, and older/colder/nastier in the novel. And, thanks for the compliment, Toni ;). This next question is more for Lisa although, Toni, you can chime in if you want. What prompted you to write this particular story.

Lisa: Actually, I sat down one day by myself and thought what kind of world I wanted to make. I knew I didn’t want to write about the usual Urban fantasy characters, like Vampires and Werewolves, I wanted to do something different. That’s when I came up with a take-off of the genie, or Djinni as it were. Then I wrote down everything about them I happened to look up about  Djinni lore and was amazed that some of my story was part of the lore of the Djinn. I had no idea! Anyway, the name Djenrye came from Toni. She had come over to visit one night. I told her my idea and asked how I should spell Djenrye, with a “G” or a “J” and she said why not Dj, like the Djinn. I decided to call them the Djen, instead to match the world’s name.

Toni: Robin, I ask that question all the time. I am happy to help put meat on the bones of the story, but I have to say I don’t know how my sis not only comes up with these great story lines, but keeps them straight in her head! I am in awe.

RG – Well, I think it’s Djenious!  Okay, we’ve been critiquing the novella, which continues your world building and provides some history of Djenrye. I know you’re readers are going to be extremely intrigued by Djenrye and its inhabitants the Djen, Adrone Elves, Faugns, Magi, and others. What one thing about Djenrye and/or the Djen is most fascinating to you? (BTW, there is an excerpt of the novella on Lisa’ blog of 6.14.13, see link below)

Lisa: Well, the one you didn’t mention—the Gods and Goddesses. Although, my favorite right now are the Djen. They are the main characters of the Djenrye world. The Gods won’t really come into play until the second novel.

Toni: The one thing I find the most fascinating is less with the characters, but how they came into existence. But… that won’t come to light until a later book (we have a secret – said in sing-song).

RG – Sorry, easy to skip them as they are so in the background right now. As I watched your grandchildren/great niece/nephew at the launch party, a thought occurred  to me.  You’re leaving a legacy for them. What would you say to them and your children about their dreams and aspirations?

Lisa: I say Go For It! No matter what they are, you can reach your goals if you work hard and dream big. I wish I would have started my novel writing years ago, but I guess this was the time it was supposed to happen. I hope they always remember that I did what I always dreamed of doing and they can too!

Toni: Ditto squared! I have always told my kids to do what they love and I am thrilled to be helping my sis follow that advice… now to just get me on board.

RG – I heartily agree! Here’s a question for your cover artist. Mike, what vision do you have for the upcoming novella and the second book in the series?

Lisa: Even though Mike isn’t here to answer this, (he doesn’t have access to the internet on a regular bases) I can answer this because they are my visions too . Mike puts into art the images in my head. The novella will be the sigil of Phraile Highlae, one of the cities in my world. It’s a saber-toothed tiger with a crown on its head. The crown represents the 5 Orbs, or Ortehlae in the Djen language. Each orb has a particular color, which relates to its representation.

The second novel, Lore – Book 2 of the Lorn Prophecy, is the city of Phraile Highlae, as if you were looking at it from the cliff on the opposite side of the canyon.

RG – That’s the way Stevie Barrett sees it in her visions. Perfect! Lisa and Toni, is there anything else you would like the readers to know?

Lisa: I will let Toni decide what to add here, but as for me, I’m married to a wonderful man who is completely supportive of my writing. I have two grown children, Brandie and Travis, and Brandie has given me two beautiful grandchildren, Madison and Carson. They are all the loves of my life! I am a sci-fi/fantasy nut and have never been one for chick flicks or sit-com’s on TV, although I did like MASH. I do read other genres though, such as mysteries and historical fiction. My favorite books are the Game of Thrones series, Harry Potter series, and of course, Lord of the Rings trilogy. I am a big fan of Dan Brown, Steve Barry, and John Sandford. I do not, however, like books that have become more commercial writing though, like James Patterson or Lisa Jackson. I want a book that takes me into the fiction world and into the characters minds.  I love reading, but I also love hiking and feel blessed to live in such a wonderful state as Colorado. We want to retire in the mountains.

Toni: A secret that’s not really a secret, my family calls me “Tanya”, my friends call me “Toni” and my sister gets to call me either one because she is my sis and my friend.

Front Cover for FableRG – Can I call you both too? You don’t have to answer that. Thank you, Lisa and Toni for making my blog a stop on your tour. Definitely leave comments and/or ask the authors questions. They will be checking throughout the day to reply.

You can purchase Fable in e-book or paperback, by clicking this link, at Amazon.com.

You can connect with the girls at:

Lisa’s Djen Den – http://www.lisafender.com/

Twitter – https://twitter.com/LisaFender1 and https://twitter.com/ToniBurnsMe

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/FableBookI

See you all in Djenrye! ~ RG

A Wee Bit of ‘Grave’ Irish Humor

skeleton St. Pat'sOkay. This is going to be a wee bit of shameless, self promotion. I’ve written several short stories and I would like to share one with you here.  It’s dark humor, which I hope you enjoy.

If you like dark, horror, paranormal, you can find this story, three more of mine, and many more author’s stories, in the Darker Times Anthology, Volumes One and Two. They’re available on Amazon.com US and UK (links will be provided below). The full poem, The Gravedigger’s Song, featured in this story, will be published in the Darker Times poetry and flash fiction anthology, which will be available later this year.

There, that’s it for the promotion bit. On with the story.

The Gravedigger ~ RG Calkins

Jack Sullivan strides across the cemetery lawn, shovel slung on his shoulder, a lantern swings from his hand. He sings a tune not known to most.

            When I was young my elders said,

            Don’t walk on graves, disturb the dead.

            This sounded strange, I questioned not

            Tiptoed ‘round each crypt and plot.

            The dead don’t mind if you dance on their bones

            They’re covered o’re with earth and stones

            None reside b’neath the ground

            Their souls are free, no longer bound.

     He reaches his destination and tips his cap. “Ah, now, Mr. Stewart. ‘Twas a nice service here today was it not?”

     “What was that bizarre lay you were bellowing?”

     Jack chuckles. “One passed from me grandda to me da to me.”

     Stewart huffs. “It’s irreverent and disrespectful.”

     Jack shoves his shovel into the pile of dirt at his feet. “Aye, to some ‘tis, but most folk laughs at it.”

     “That’s preposterous.”

     Jack continues to shovel steadily. “‘Tis the truth of it.”

     A woman approaches. Her pasty face sour and gait purposeful.

     Jack stops and tips his cap to her. “Evenin’ Mrs. O’Connor. Come to pay your respects have you?”

     “I’ve come to spit on t’ bastard’s remains, I have.” She comes closer and hawks a gob of spit toward the dirt.

     “Ah now, Missus is that any way to be?” Jack scoops more dirt in.

     “He was a thievin’ son of a whore.” She points a bony finger at him. “You know the truth of it Jack Sullivan.”

     “Aye, I know it well.” He says to the woman’s retreating back.

     “What a course and bitter woman.”

     Jack distributes more soil into the hole. “As you say, Mr. Stewart.” He pauses only to light his lantern.

Stewart squints into the dying light. “Sullivan, do you see that man striding toward us?”

“Aye, sir, I do.”

     “Is it All Hallows? He appears to have on a costume.”

     Jack peers at the young man. “Nay, ‘tisn’t Samhain and he’s not wearin’ a costume.”

     “By God, man,” Stewart exclaims, “then the boy’s been shot.”

     Jack, unconcerned, removes a flask from the back pocket of his pants. “Aye, I b’lieve he has.” He takes a pull from the pint size container.

     “Good evenin’ gents.” The lad says with a slight bow.

     Jack holds out the tin. “Nice to see you Finn, care for a drink?”

     “Ah, now, Mr. Sullivan, I can’t accept your hospitality, but I appreciate the thought.”

     Stewart looks appalled. “You, lad, go along to the hospital.”

     Finn’s pale face turns to Stewart. “There’s naught they can do for me, sir.” He peers at the now filled grave. “For him neither.” Finn throws his head back and howls with laughter as he takes his leave.

     “Mr. Sullivan, I think there is something amiss here.”

     Jack raises his eyebrows. “How do you mean, sir?”

     Stewart makes a grand gesture. “Why are all these people milling about a graveyard after dark?”

     Jack follows his gaze. “Because it’s their home.”

Stewart’s eyes are wide with fright. “Let us flee, man.” His voice quavers. “These apparitions may mean to do us harm.”

     Jack grins at Mr. Stewart. “I’ll be goin’ now, but as for you . . .” the sound of metal against stone draws Stewart’s attention.

     Stewart stares in disbelief at the newly chiseled headstone.

     “Good night, Mr. Stewart and welcome home.”

     Jack slings his shovel to its perch, picks up his lantern and crosses the turf.

            It occurred to me that ev’ry day.

            We walk the crust of death’s decay.

            It’s futile to pick up your feet,

Irish Graveyard

            When everywhere a corpse they meet.

           The dead don’t mind if you dance on their bones

            They’re covered o’re with earth and stones

            None reside b’neath the ground

            Their souls are free, no longer bound.

© Copywrite- The Gravedigger, RG Calkins, 2012

Is féidir leat rince! – May you dance! ~ RG

Now for those links (right click and select ‘go to address’ or copy and paste the link into the search bar):

US

Vol. 1 – http://www.amazon.com/Darker-Times-Anthology-Volume-One/dp/1481000985/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1363042840&sr=8-1&keywords=jessica+grace+coleman+darker+times+anthology

Vol. 2 – http://www.amazon.com/Darker-Times-Anthology-Volume-Two/dp/1481971727/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1363042840&sr=8-2&keywords=jessica+grace+coleman+darker+times+anthology

UK

Vol. 1 – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Darker-Times-Anthology-Volume-One/dp/1481000985/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1363042718&sr=8-3

Vol. 2 – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Darker-Times-Anthology-Volume-Two/dp/1481971727/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1363042718&sr=8-1

Enter the World of the Djen – Author/Character Interview

I am so excited!

This is my very first guest post and I’m so happy my first blog guest is my critique partner and friend, Lisa Fender. Her debut novel, Fable – Book I of the Lorn Prophecies is slated to launch April/May of this year. I’m ecstatic for her! I’ve been critiquing her work for the past two years and know exactly how much this means to her.

Not only did Lisa answer my questions about her book and writing, she brought Jack Snow, one of her characters with her. Jack is the long-time friend of her protagonist Stevie Barrett, and one of my personal favorites.

So, let’s jump into the world of the Djen, the inhabitants of Djenrye, a parallel dimension to our own.

I’ll start with some questions for you, Lisa.

RG – Lisa, I know you’ve been working on this book for four years and you’re looking forward to seeing it in print.  What has been the most rewarding thing for you as you’ve gone through the process of writing and revising?

Lisa – Seeing the book actually become a wonderfully written novel! When I first wrote the rough-draft I knew there was something wrong, but I couldn’t fix it. I had to take classes, hire a writing coach, and once I realized what was missing, (creative writing skills) the book became something I wanted to read!

Lisa and Tanya

Lisa & Toni

RG – You’ve been working with a co-author, who is also your sister, Toni Burns. How has that been and do you feel the two of you are closer for working together?

Lisa – It has been a great experience! We are now closer than ever. For some reason we are in sync with each other. We are always in each other’s head. But, to try and do it alone, well I am at a blank. I’m so glad she loves the story as much as I!

RG – Fable – Book I of the Lorn Prophecies, is the first in the series. How many books are planned?

Lisa – That is a question I don’t know if I can answer. Originally there was going to be 3, a trilogy. But, we decided to add short stories about Djenrye in between releases of the novels. And, we have discussed there being 5 novels, so that’s a lot of books…we’ll see.

RG – Okay, Lisa, give us a blurb about Fable . . . Jack, put your hand down, it’s still Lisa’s turn.  Where was I–oh, I think the readers will be fascinated by the world you’ve created.

Lisa – At eighteen, Stevie Barrett, discovers that she has powers, visions, and is from another dimension parallel to this world. Most startling yet, she is destined to save both worlds from total destruction. Her nemesis seeks to control the five ancient Orbs (Orteh, in the Djen tongue) that maintain the Earth’s balance—the spheres she is meant to protect—but to do so, he must drain her blood and powers. Stevie’s challenge is to embrace her birthright as the last surviving Guardian of the Orbs, learn to use her abilities, and accept exile from the only home she has ever known, if she is to save herself and everyone she loves.

Okay, Jack. Now it’s your turn.

RG – How old are you, Jack, and how long have you known Stevie Barrett?

Jack – Old enough to know better and young enough not to care. (Glare from Lisa) Okay, okay, eighteen. I’ve known Stevie since we were kids. Maybe, twelve or thirteen years? But, she didn’t succumb to my manly charms until about eight years ago. (Lisa shakes her head)

RG – I know you were pretty put out about the appearance of Colton in Stevie’s life. How’s that working for you?

Jack – Seriously? Like I have anything to worry about from a warrior god from another dimension who is my best friend’s soul mate…okay, never mind. We’ll always have Golden.

RG – Are you ever serious?

Jack – Like a heart attack. Hey Stevie’s still my bud, and Alyssa’s still my…well, that’s turning out to be another story all together.

RG – What’s the first thing you thought when you found out your friend isn’t human? That’s got to be a mind blower.

Jack – You aren’t kiddin! But hey, having a superhero friend is pretty intense. A cool kinda intense.

RG – These Djen guys are pretty serious and dangerous. Are you afraid for your life?

Jack – Nah. I’m mean, look at me…

(Jack winks at RG)

RG –  (rolls eyes) You and Detective Wood play a big part in Stevie and Colton’s quest to find the missing Orteh (orb). How does is make you feel to be included in the search?

Jack – Included? Why wouldn’t they include me? I’m Colton’s co-warrior and Wood’s IT guy.

RG – Okay, final question. Now that you know Stevie is spoken for, is there a new love in your life?

Jack – I don’t know if I’d say L…O…V…E. But, well, have you met that cute nimble little gymnast Stevie and I hang out with? Anyone who can do a back bend like Alyssa…I’m just sayin.

(Lisa sighs, RG raises eyebrows)

Jack – What?

RG – Thank you Lisa and Jack for visiting with me today.

Lisa – Thanks for having us, Robin! Wouldn’t miss it!

Jack – Anytime doll-face. And if you need any help fighting off warriors from another dimension, give me a call (Lisa punches Jack in the arm). Hey! I’m just sayin…

Fable – Book I of the Lorn Prophecies by Lisa Fender, with Toni Burns will be available soon. I will post the launch date as soon as that’s decided. You can follow Lisa and Toni at the links listed below.

http://www.facebook.com/FableBookI

http://www.lisafender.com/

https://twitter.com/LisaFender1

https://twitter.com/ToniBurnsMe

RG Calkins

http://rgcalkins-author.com

https://www.facebook.com/RGCalkins.Author

https://twitter.com/RGCalkinswrites

The Thing That Is Social Media

As a new author, I’ve been told that I need to be on social media. I get it. The way the publishing world is today, you have to be able to market yourself.

And, I am on social media. However, sometimes I feel weird blowing my own horn.

Like this guy.

So, I’m going to suck it up and play my social media tune. Here are my Facebook and Twitter links. If you’re so inclined please LIKE and FOLLOW. It’s greatly appreciated!

Facebook

Twitter

Of course, following my blog is also an accepted form of social media as well. So, feel free to do that as well.

Thank you for reading my plea and for doing any of the above. I promise not to post anything like this in the future as I feel painfully guilty doing it.

Does anyone else have a problem with this?

Yours in shameless self promotion,

RG

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