Tag Archives: magic

Debut Authors of ’18 Interviews: Cass Morris

Hello and welcome to my blog series dedicated to author interviews for 2018 debut authors! This has been started as a way to support some of my fellow ‘debutantes’ of 2018. Some of the genres may be a little outside while I usually write/talk about here, but each of these I share struck my interest in one way or another.

(See past author interviews at the end of this post!)

WOW, am I freaking excited for this book. My interest was piqued just by the concept, but as I’ve read more of the content and the inspiration behind it, I cannot freaking wait!

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GENERAL

– Author Name: Cass Morris

– Book Title: FROM UNSEEN FIRE: Book One of the Aven Cycle

– Book Genre: historical fantasy

– Release Date: April 17th, 2018

– Publisher: DAW Books

THE BOOK

From Unseen Fire takes place in Aven, an alternate version of ancient Rome where elemental magic has shaped society as much as law and war. In the wake of a brutal dictatorship, two factions compete to rebuild the Republic in the shape they desire. One side is protectionist and isolationist, seeking to preserve conventional morals and keep their nation small enough to easily control; the other side is expansionist and more permissive, looking to embrace the opportunities that allies and immigrants can provide. By law, the use of magic to influence politics is forbidden, but both sides skirt the rules where they can — and some are willing to step dangerously far over the line.
– Share a teaser.

Shadow and Water both moved in him, a blend that lent itself to a strange intuition, an ability to hear words unsaid and see things not-yet-done. Drawing energy from the dark corners of the garden, from the dimming sky above, from the water that flowed into the peristyle, Sempronius concentrated on what it was he needed to know, willing the answers to come to him, etched on the surface of the obsidian mirror. His heartbeat slowed; his muscles relaxed as he eased into that place where body and mind flowed synchronously with his Elements. Thus settled, Sempronius passed a hand over the dark glass and waited, all patience, for something to surface.
– Where did you get the idea?

I knew I wanted to write a historical fantasy with a different setting than the somewhat typical pseudo-medieval-western-Europe. I’ve had one foot in the classical world since starting Latin at the age of twelve, and so working with Rome seemed a natural fit. The Roman pantheon blended nicely with some ideas about elemental magic I’d been developing for ages, and from that, the world of Aven was born.
– What’s the story behind the title? 

I am the worst at titles. If I can’t steal it from Shakespeare or a song lyric, I’m totally useless. This was just called “Aven” for the longest time. Eventually my first editor had me try to come up with something more compelling. I liked the idea of something like Scintilla, which means “spark” in Latin, with subsequent books using words for increasingly large fires, but my publisher was worried the Latin might scare people off. So I started plundering Roman poetry for elegant phrases. From Unseen Fire was among those, but my then-editor didn’t go for it, and for a while the book was titled A Flame Arises instead. When I got switched to a different editor, however, she much preferred From Unseen Fire, so we went back to that.
– No spoiler, but tell us something we won’t find out just by reading the book jacket.

There are nine magical Elements, and the power to use them is seen as a blessing from the gods. About one in every thousand Aventans manifests some magical talent, but far fewer have strong powers.
– Tell us about your favourite character.

Vitellia Latona is the character closest to my heart. She’s a powerful mage of Spirit and Fire, but she’s never made the most of it, partly for lack of training and partly due to discouragement from various sources out of spite, jealousy, or just plain misogyny. In From Unseen Fire, she’s in the process of breaking free of all those restrictions and repressions, learning to own herself and take up the space in the world that she deserves.
– If you could spend a day with one of your characters, who would it be and what would you do?

I would love to let Aula Vitellia, Latona’s cheerful and irreverent older sister, take me shopping and then to a lovely dinner party.
– Are your character based on real people, or do they come from your imaginations?

They’re mostly from my imagination, though they have some historical inspiration. Julius Caesar, Tiberius Gracchus, Germanicus and his wife Agrippina, Mark Antony, Fulvia, and many other Romans have not direct analogs, but correlations in my characters.

WRITING PROCESS

– How long did you take to write this book?

From Unseen Fire began life as a 2011 NaNoWriMo project. I was trying to kick myself back into fiction writing after having done little of it during graduate school and my first years working for a non-profit organization. By early 2013, I was ready to query agents, and I signed with Connor Goldsmith in October of that year. We spent about a year polishing the manuscript through several revisions and went out on sub in late 2014, then signed with DAW Books in October 2015. The book was initially supposed to debut in September 2017, but delays related to my editor switch-up pushed it into 2018. I am the poster child for the publishing world’s occasionally glacial pace.

 

– What kind of research did you do for this book?

A lot of my research was reviving things I had studied in high school and college and then delving deeper. I had to get a lot more into the social history of ancient Rome than just the political overview and the “great men” narrative. Alberto Angela’s Day in the Life of Ancient Rome was supremely helpful, as were the works of Philip Matyczak. I’ve a full list of recommended resources on my website (cassmorriswrites.com/aven-cycle/the-world-of-aven/resources-and-history/). The most fun research, though, was taking a trip to Rome and spending a few days wandering around the Seven Hills!
– What did you remove from this book during the editing process?

This book has been reworked and restructured so much that I suspect I’ve forgotten most of the changes. The one that stands out is an enormous set piece that, during my revisions with Connor, I removed in a single 20,000 word slaughter. It’s a sequence I love, set during games at a festival, but it just no longer had a place in this book. I’m intending to rework it for Book 2, though!
– Are you a plotter or a pantser?

By nature, a pantser. When I start a story, I tend to have a strong idea of who the characters are, and finding the plot is a matter of letting them collide into each other until something happens. As I work on Books 2 and 3 of the Aven Cycle, however, I’m having to work more to an outline, since it’s what my publisher has approved. It’s an interesting challenge — I have to remind myself that I’m not irrevocably wedded to that skeleton.
– What is your favorite part of your writing process, and why?

The moment where pieces suddenly fall into place. It might be finding the plot element to connect two scenes, or figuring out the reasoning behind a character’s actions, or seeing a connection between two characters that I hadn’t seen before. When one of those hits, I’m prone to flailing my arms about like Kermit the Frog before returning my fingers to the keyboard.
– What is the most challenging part of your writing process, and why?

Pacing. As a child who happily read the encyclopedia for fun, I don’t always have the best natural sense of how a story should move along. My inclination is to let characters wander into each other and have long conversations. My agent and editor did a lot to make sure that exciting incidents happen at regular intervals!
– Can you share your writing routine? 

I typically work at my standing desk in my apartment. I’m not well-heeled enough to afford a place where I can devote space just for writing, so it’s in my living room (which, in my current apartment, is also my kitchen). I tend to do my best work from about 7pm-Midnight, and I often enjoy a glass of wine to help lubricate the creative process.
– Have you ever gotten writer’s block? If yes, how do you overcome it?

No. The ideas are always there. If I’m not being productive as a writer, it’s because I’m having trouble making the time or summoning the energy.
– If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Perseverance matters a lot more than almost anything else. Learn how to take a punch and stay on your feet.
– How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

Dozens.
– Do you have any writing quirks?

I have to hunt down the words “somewhat” and “rather” and slaughter them. My copy editor also pointed out that I’m over-fond of ellipses and that I often use two prepositions where one would suffice.

 

THE WRITER

– Tell us about yourself.

I’ve lived in Virginia my whole life, and most of my work has been as an educator. I spent seven years at the American Shakespeare Center, where I wrote 22 guides to help teachers make plays exciting for their students. My parents and sister live in our hometown, so I revisit my old stomping grounds fairly regularly. I live in the mountains with two cats, a nineteen-year-old calico and a seven-year-old Abyssinian.
– How did you get into writing?

I literally can’t remember a time when I wasn’t a storyteller. I got interested in writing as a career after seeing Star Wars at the age of 11, and I’ve talked about that on my personal blog (https://cassmorriswrites.com/2013/12/22/how-star-wars-changed-my-life/).
– What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Read, visit wineries, attend conventions, play MarioKart and Civilization.

 

– Apart from novel writing, do you do any other kind(s) of writing?

I’ve done quite a bit of academic writing, including those Shakespeare teaching guides and a number of papers and presentations for conferences. I’ve also been a blogger and fanfic writer basically as long as I’ve been on the internet.

 

– Share something about you most people probably don’t know.

I am an utterly indifferent cook. I can make basic things like pasta, tacos, pancakes, but I just don’t have the interest in learning to make anything more complex. I can bake, though, and I make exceptionally good cookies.

 

– Which book influenced you the most?

Oh, gods. In my whole life? Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series, probably. Or the Witches books from Discworld. Or The Last Unicorn. Or Harry Potter. Or Dinotopia.

 

WHAT’S NEXT

– What are you working on right now?

Book Two of the Aven Cycle, as well as drafting a space opera with a rakish heroine loosely based on Julie d’Aubigny.
– What’s your favourite writing advice?

“Planning to write is not writing. Outlining, researching, talking to people about what you’re doing, none of that is writing. Writing is writing.” – E L Doctorow

TELL US…

– The book you’re currently reading

At the time of writing this, I’m in the middle of Glass Town Game by Catherynne Valente, Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood, and 1177 BC: The Year Civilization Collapsed by Eric Cline.

PITCH

Super-short version: I gave the ancient Romans magic to see what they’d do with it.

Slightly longer version:

In the nation of Aven, Elemental magic has shaped the way of life as much as politics and war. Latona of the Vitelliae, a mage of Spirit and Fire, has suppressed her phenomenal talents for fear they would draw unwanted attention from unscrupulous men. When the Dictator who threatened her family dies, she may have an opportunity to seize a greater destiny as a protector of the people — if only she can find the courage to try.

Latona’s path intersects with that of Sempronius Tarren, an ambitious senator harboring a dangerous secret. Sacred law dictates that no mage may hold high office, but Sempronius, a Shadow mage who has kept his abilities a life-long secret, intends to do just that. As rebellion brews in the provinces, Sempronius must outwit the ruthless leader of the opposing Senate faction to claim the political and military power he needs to secure a glorious future for Aven and his own place in history.

As politics draw them together and romance blossoms between them, Latona and Sempronius use wit, charm, and magic to shape Aven’s fate — but will that be enough, when their foes resort to brutal violence and foul sorcery?

BUY LINKS

Amazon — https://www.amazon.com/Unseen-Fire-Aven-Cycle/dp/0756412242

B&N — https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/from-unseen-fire-cass-morris/1125456861

IndieBound — http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780756412241

Kobo — https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/from-unseen-fire

GooglePlay — https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Cass_Morris_From_Unseen_Fire?id=hyq2DQAAQBAJ

 

BIO

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Cass Morris lives and works in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia with the companionship of two royal felines, Princess and Ptolemy. She completed her Master of Letters at Mary Baldwin University in 2010, and she earned her undergraduate degree, a BA in English with a minor in history, from the College of William and Mary in 2007. She reads voraciously, wears corsets voluntarily, and will beat you at MarioKart.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Website: cassmorriswrites.com
Patreon: patreon.com/CassRMorris
Twitter: @CassRMorris twitter.com/CassRMorris
Facebook: facebook.com/cassmorriswrites
Instagram: instagram.com/cassrmorris/
Goodreads: goodreads.com/CassRMorris
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/cass-morris-4509907a/

Previous author interviews:

Pamela Kopfler – BETTER DEAD

Anna Quinn – THE NIGHT CHILD

Clarissa Harwood — IMPOSSIBLE SAINTS

Negeen Papehn — FORBIDDEN BY FAITH

Clarissa Goenawan — RAINBIRDS

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Omens of the Moon – A Story Swap with KristaLyn A. Vetovich – Part 2: “26 Hours Until”

As I mentioned last Wednesday, fellow Glass House Press author KristaLyn A. Vetovich and I have decided to engage upon a storyswap! We were inspired by the moon on the 31st of this month — it’s not only a full moon and a blue moon, but a super moon and a lunar eclipse as well. Our imaginations went a little wild and we decided it was a little too good to pass up as a story.

The lovely KristaLyn was so kind as to start us out on this writing adventure, the first segment of which can be found here. I’ve taken inspiration from her beginning and continued below…

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Trevor stood on the boardwalk, throwing bits of lint from his pocket into the water, long after his fingers and toes turned numb with cold. Most everyone else had cleared out of the biting weather, with nothing much of interest out here besides the creaking metal and rhythmic waves. Trevor looked up again into the gaze of the waxing moon, deceptively full-looking, until another set of clouds shifted and covered the view. He took a deep breath of the biting air —

And saw her a second before she spoke, barely managing not to jump out of his skin.

“I still don’t know why you come out here.”

Trevor rolled his eyes to cover up the adrenaline surge, refusing to show she got the jump on him. “I still don’t know why you follow me out here.”

“I didn’t follow. I made an educated guess.”

Trevor’s big sister slowly came into view, bundled in a green coat over her bright pink scrubs from work. Their parents continually insisted that she’d been taken more seriously as a doctor if she wore blue scrubs like everyone else, to which she always wrinkled her nose and with eyes like steel said, ‘They’ll only make that mistaken once, not taking me seriously because of a color.’ Her hair was a mess and she looked exhausted, but she grinned when he looked at her.

“You look like crap,” he muttered. “How was the hospital?”

“The usual approaching a full moon. The ER is swamped. They sent all the interns home so we can be fresh for tomorrow, when it’ll be worse.” She reached him, gazing up into the sky like he had been. “Did you know that’s where the word ‘lunatic’ came from? Luna-tic, moon-crazy. The full moon has been making people erratic since forever.”

“I’m not being erratic,” Trevor muttered.

His sister side-eyed him. “I wasn’t saying you were. Though nice defensiveness there.”

Trevor drug a hand through his hair with a jerk. He couldn’t tell by looking at her how much she’d heard from their parent. She was always so good at being impossibly, always, upbeat. Which was misleading, really, because she also had the most perverse sense of humor of anyone he’d known.

Sophia turned back to the sky; some of the clouds had shifted a little and a part of the moon was visible again. “I asked the nurses if the super moon will be worse than a normal full moon, but I got varying answers on that.” She glanced at him, and he stayed mute. She continued: “I also found out today that a true blue moon isn’t actually a second moon in a month; that’s more common than a traditional blue moon, which is the fourth moon in a season. Which is a lot rarer.”

Trevor sighed reluctantly. At least she wasn’t asking about what had happened a few hours ago. “So is this a true blue moon or not?”

“I don’t think it is.”

Trevor smirked. Ha, he thought. It wasn’t even a real blue moon. The ‘doomsday-ers’ were even more wrong.

Sophia walked out onto the pier that was closest to them, and with a groan of effort, sat down with her feet dangling over the water. He made a face and followed.

“Isn’t that cold?”

“Better than standing. My feet are dying.”

“Don’t you have a car you could be sitting in?”

Sophia paused for a beat before shifting back on her hands and staring up into the sky again. “So, traditionally, the full moon was the time that the ‘good people’ came out to enact revenge on us mortals. What mischief do you think they’ll enact tomorrow?”

Trevor huffed. “’Good people’?”

Sophia grinned wickedly. “Fairies. That’s how you don’t offend them, you know. Call them ‘good people.’”

Trevor rolled his eyes again. “You’re ridiculous.”

She suddenly brightened. “Or, maybe the full moon will kidnap someone.”

“What?”

“Supposedly she’s done that before, to people who displease her.”

Trevor wracked his brain, trying to remember any folklore he’d heard about that, but came up empty. The only thing he could remember about the full moon was stuff about werewolves.

“Then again, tomorrow is an eclipse, which is a whole new barrel of fish. Gods will battle, the moon will be swallowed, and we’ll have to scare the monsters away by being as loud as we can.”

Trevor submitted to defeat, sighing heavily as he dropped next to her. Damn, the wood was freezing. And the water licked at his boots, as his legs were longer than hers. It seemed more turbulent than usual right underneath them both, breaking against the wooden legs of the pier in violent crashes. The moon did pull harder on the tides during a super moon…

Sophia smiled sweetly at him when he sat, and Trevor scowled.

“For someone into science, you sure know a lot about ‘magic,’” he quipped.

“I’m multi-faceted, what can I say.”

Trevor hunched against the cold, shivering again. “You didn’t have to come out here.”

Sophia leaned her head against his shoulder. “Yeah I did.”

“You should go.”

She let out a yawn, snuggling up against his side. “I’m good.”

Trevor stared down at the churning water, feeling guilty. He should go home, apologize, make up with his parents, smooth everything over. Sophia wouldn’t go home until he did. She was 8 years older than him, in the middle of her intern year, and swamped with work. But she was always by his side at the drop of a hat.

Trevor’s throat swelled. He kissed the top of her head before he knew what he was doing, and Sophia’s head turned, her eyes wide.

“Did I just get affection out of you?”

“Shut up.”

“You did! I’m so proud of you!” She practically squealed, her arms suddenly around him like a vice.

“Jesus Christ, get off…” Trevor half-heartedly shoved at her, turning his face away to hide the smile.

Before they could react, the water bulged upwards with a rush, soaking them to their knees and nearly spilling onto the pier itself.

Trevor and Sophia bolted to their feet with shrieks. Trevor looked up and down the boardwalk: all along the shore, the water was retreating back from the sudden surge. Panting, his skin prickled, his legs frozen into icicles.

“What the…”

“Good god that’s cold…”

The waves were perfectly calm now, lapping idly around the pier. The legs of Sophia’s pink scrubs were dark, almost maroon, sticking to her legs. Trevor stepped forward a few steps, scanning the water and now shaking with cold.

“Do you think – ”

Sophia’s words stopped with a gasp; Trevor lurched backwards: something moved around the legs of the pier. A long, sheer fin broke the surface, weaved between the pier posts, before disappearing below again.

“What was that?” she breathed, and crouched to peer down into the depths. “An eel? Was that an – holy crap, I think that’s a jellyfish!”

Trevor didn’t know how he’d missed it before — a gigantic jellyfish floated just beyond the reach of the pier, almost glowing faintly in the darkness. Its head was almost as big as a dinner plate, dozens of tentacles disappearing downwards, it’s body a myriad of white, blue, pink, and clear. His mouth almost dropped open. He’d never seen one so big and alive before. He moved forward instinctively, grasping Sophia’s shoulder, ready to pull her back.

The water shuddered … ripples fanned outwards from the bank… across the water, and disappearing against the usual incoming waves. Trevor’s breath froze in his lungs as a series of glowing shapes pulsed in the dark depths, like a response.

Trevor jerked Sophia back, the hair on his body standing on end. “We should go.”

“Yeah, humans who mess with fairies don’t usually end up on the right side of history,” Sophia said, her voice shaking.

“That’s not funny.”

They backed up slowly, holding onto each other, staring out in the dark. Once they reached the edge of pier, off the boardwalk, with land solidly beneath their feet, they both collectively stopped. Both Trevor and Sophia’s breathing was quiet as they stared out, gazes flicking over the dark waves.

Trevor felt his shoulders slowly relax a little as time ticked by. The ocean’s normal grace had returned: saltwater roar, rhythmic ebbing and flowing of the waves.

“There’s marine life that glows,” Sophia muttered, breaking the quiet. “But this close to the shore?”

“Is there supposed to be a storm? Pushing anything inland?” Bizarre things washed up on shore sometimes, but that was usually after a storm.

“Maybe…”

Trevor and Sophia slowly let go of each other. Sophia looked up at him, solemn now. “We should go home.”

The heaviness from the fight with his parents returned with a crash. Trevor clenched his teeth and stuffed his hands into his pockets. “I don’t know if I can – ”

“Come home with me. You can sleep on my couch.”

Trevor’s head came up, his heart leaping with relief for a second. “I couldn’t ask you that.”

Sophia glanced towards the ocean, and trepidation prickled up Trevor’s spine again. Sophia took his arm, pulling him towards the parking lot. Her little car was parked not far away.

“You haven’t heard my conditions yet.”

Trevor narrowed his eyes.

Sophia smiled a little evilly. “I never have time to do anything around my apartment, so this is perfect. In trade for staying, you clean my place from top to bottom. I want it spotless when I get home tomorrow. You’ll have the whole day, because I probably won’t get home until the wee morning hours.”

Trevor groaned, dragging his feet.

She made a little skipping movement. “It’ll be perfect! I’ll get back in time for us to watch the eclipse together! We can both be sleep deprived for the end of the world.”

Trevor made a sound that couldn’t decide if it was a laugh or a snort.

“And, if the world doesn’t end, we’ll work something out until you get your feet under you. You can stay as long as you want, but that doesn’t mean you’re getting a free ride.”

“Mom and dad – ”

“Can deal. You turned 18, you didn’t suddenly develop adulting superpowers.” There was steel in her voice, but Trevor didn’t really think it was directed at him. “You’re allowed to not know what you’re doing, but you can’t just do nothing.”

They reached her car, and Trevor slipped into her car and away from the ocean wind in relief. Sophia was quiet as she started up the engine, her gaze scanning across the water in front of them before she twisted to watch as she backed up.

Trevor was quiet too, stuffing down a different relief that he didn’t have to go ‘home’ tonight. Sophia’s little car picked up speed down the road, and he gazed out the window, eyes drawn to the water. It dawned on him then that the ocean was in sight the entire way to her apartment. It suddenly seemed ominous.

He mentally shook himself. The ridiculous newspaper and far-fetched theories had obviously gotten to him; there was a perfectly rational explanation for what had just happened. Trevor just needed to figure out what it was. His eyes remained fixed to the ocean, annoyed yet unable to stop watching for those glowing lights.

 

… enjoy this segment, curious to see what happens next? Head over to KristaLyn’s blog and give ‘er a follow for the next part this coming Wednesday!


Branding Myself Journey (er, the Incomplete Journey)

Like any author in this day and age, “marketing” is a huge part of our job, traditionally published and indie alike. Marketing is this huge vast subject that scares the crap out of most authors, but includes things like: interaction on social media (with fans and other writers — and keeping consistent with whatever platforms you choose), ads on different sites, getting your book into the hands of reviewers, etc, and… branding.

I want to talk about what I’ve learned about branding. I’m definitely not an expert, but I’ve read a lot and am starting to feel like I’ve got my head halfway wrapped around the concept. Mostly, I wanted to share what I know while processing what I know.

Branding, simply, is what face you show to your audience. It’s what they associate with you when they think of you. In marketing in general, you want to cultivate a certain image of yourself and what you write so that you can more easily attract people that are going to align with what you have to offer (and hopefully want to buy your book!).

If you can attract people who are interested in the same thing as you, who have similar passions or motivations, they’re more likely to become loyal fans. This is opposed to, say, tweeting annoying ‘buy my books!’ links, or just talking into the void. That is vastly less successful, and honestly, will probably turn people off. Thought, technically, I suppose it is ‘marketing’ in the broadest sense of the word.

You can read a lot of advice about marketing in general, not book related, which can be pretty helpful. But for specific book-related marketing advice, I take a lot of it from BadRedHeadMedia. Her slogan is “Helping you help your damn self since 2011”, which I can’t help but like. She’s funny, concise, and her stuff really makes sense to me. A big shout-out to her.

(If you need somewhere to start with her, since we’re talking about branding, her Branding 101 article is really great, as is her The Reasons Branding Confuses You and How To Fix That Right Now.)

I’m going to snag another one of her phrases right here, too —

“You brand the author. Not the book.”

The point is, with branding, is that you’re developing attracting readers for YOU, THE AUTHOR, not a one-time book sale. Yes, books bring readers, obviously. But they’ll connect even more if they feel a connect to you, the author.

Sometimes I wince at that, because I wonder about the risks. Readers loving one book and not liking the next, or being put off accidentally by something I say, or, or, or. Most advice I read says being genuine and authentic is key to people connecting and liking you as an author, but there’s a lot of vulnerability in that too. Which is scary.

But I digress. I want to talk about what branding actually LOOKS like, which is what I struggled with when I first started consuming vast amounts of marketing advice.

So branding is what people think of when they think of you.

For me, I separate branding out into three parts into my head which helps me wrap my mind around it.

There are the esthetics

  • Colors
  • Symbols

There is your personality (sarcastic? funny? sweet? tough?)

  • Being authentic
  • Being genuine

There are the issues

  • What are you passionate about? The environment? Dogs? Happy endings?
  • These issues should be important to you, which could possibly connect you to a reader who also shares that interest and will then want to read your book.

Now, that’s just what helps me. I’m not a professional marketer, and those categories are far from clear cut from one another. They blend a lot. But it helps my head to see it that way.

As for my esthetics, I’m all about dark colors. I love blues and greens and purples. I generally have some sort of plant-related or dragon-related thing somewhere. I like sprawling landscapes and epic scenes. I also like grittiness, though — a hint of darkness and danger. I want to do an overhaul on all my sites to really portray this better. I also want to create a symbol that really encompasses me — to put in all sorts of places, including business cards and the like. I’m getting there.

My personality, well. I love sarcasm. But, I’m pretty much a bleeding-heart sap to my core, so there’s that. I’m more timid than I like, and it comes through when I make stances on issues, because I tend to over-think and just make myself go in circles. I like adding aspects of thought to conversation rather than arguing. I know, devil’s advocate personalities are the worst. I try to restrain myself.

Furthermore, I want to be intelligent but accessible. I want to teach, not preach. I want to break boxes and step out into new ways of thinking and perceiving the world… and bring everything else along with the ride. (Succeeding at this is a whole new story.)

As for issues… well, let’s get a little more in-depth with that.

Advice I’ve read from professional marketers state that you should choose 5-6 major issues to include in your branding, and 4-5 minor subjects.

Major subjects are more directly related to what your books are about, the image you really want people to identify with you. These are things that are most important to you that show up in your books.

For example.

Environmental issues have been a big part of my life forever, and when looking at my writing, it shows up. A lot. Whether it’s actual solarpunk I’m writing, or there’s historical significance for the world, or the main character is worried about an environmental issue.

I’m also a huge fan writing alternate history. I like messing with time and events and making something new. My INITIUM series, my first series being published, is alternate history. And historical truth in real life (winners writing the historical narrative) has also been an issue near and dear to my heart since… forever.

Then, there’s the fact that I write fantasy. I love fantasy and magic and tend to be daydreaming wherever I’m at. So, another theme that I like to fit into my branding is pointing out the moments of magic in real life. I’d love to be known for seeing magic in the drudgery. (This theme doesn’t come up as often as it should — I need to work on it.)

Right off the bat, those are three issues that I can post about that reveal who I am as a person and what I write about as an author.

Also, my editor suggested a while ago that my heroine, Fairian, is quite the strong female figure. She’s kind of a reluctant hero, not really wanting to change the world around her, but doing so for various reasons. So: women power. That’s another issue that can fit into my branding narrative, as my characters are generally pretty strong and feisty. It’s also a pretty popular one, which helps. I’m working on really making this more of a part of my branding, since it’s a pretty complicated subject and I’m not sure exactly what this looks like, to post about.

Another issue that’s been slowly showing up in my branding is mental health. I suffer from depression, so it’s natural to me, but I’ve never really been one to share it or talk about it. But, I’m realizing more and more, that a lot of people struggle with this issue, especially writers. My characters also tend to struggle with some sort of mental/existential issue in their paths, so it fits there, too.

Then, probably the most obvious theme that fits into branding me-as-a-writer, is #writinglife itself. That one doesn’t need much explanation: whether it’s ironic jokes or complaining about word counts or posting snippets or joining Twitter chats, that one fits in pretty naturally.

Do you see where I’m going with this? I’ve got 6 major themes to use for branding, right there.

  • Environmental issues
  • Real History, #OnThisDay History, etc
  • Magic in real life
  • Strong women
  • Mental Health
  • Writer’s Life

All of these themes fit into what’s in my books, in one way or another. But they’re also related to me, and give an idea of who I am.

(This also works into the esthetics and personality stuff I was talking about before. Esthetics: there’s a lot of plant and dragon related stuff. Personality: bleeding heart save the environment, sarcastic to the core because I fight depression and that means I can fight you. But it also means I’m almost always in existential crisis and people suck.)

Then there are the minor subjects. These are, from what I understand, things you post about less often but are more about rounding out who you are as a person. They don’t necessarily show up in your writing.

For me, these include:

  • Goats — I have 13 of them, and who doesn’t want to see baby goats?
  • Funny plants/animals — I always find the strangest creatures, and this fits into the environmental theme.
  • Working in retail/odd fruit and things — I work retail at a produce market and have some pretty funny stories, and the fruit and vegetables thing also works into the environmental theme.
  • Geeky/nerdy things — I play Dungeons and Dragons quite a bit, among other things.

*deep breath*

That was a lot of information. But is it starting to make sense?

In the reality of my own branding, I want a stronger presence of magic-in-reality and strong women, and I’ve been wondering how to take all of them to the next level. Because while I post things in these themes, I’m not sure they engage or inspire the way I want them to.

The last piece of important information I want to convey here (at least for this post) is about engagement. Posts with high engagement contain one of these elements:

  • Challenge — does it challenge the person reading it?
  • Curiosity — does it satisfy or inflame a curiosity?
  • Fantasy — does it lead the person on a journey, a fantasy, a place they want to go?

In other words, when you’re posting this or that having to do with one of your themes, you tailor it with one of the three ideas above so that it really hits home for whoever is reading it. You want to inspire someone, somehow — and if you can do that, your post is going to get more engagement, but more importantly, people are going to remember you.

I haven’t quite figured out how to do this yet. I’m going to write another post at some point that goes more in depth on how I take my themes and turn them into actual content… but to be honest I don’t think I’ve figured out the reality of what all of this looks like.

I post a lot of environmental news on FaceBook and generally do a few #OnThisDay posts a few times a week, and my Instagram is full of amazing fantasy artists (and goats), and Twitter is all sorts of tweets about writing life and retail nonsense and different chats. But I want to inspire more, engage people more. I want more of my personality to bleed through, while at the same time, my introvert-self is like Oh HELL no.

But I think if I can find my groove, my way of being awesome and vulnerable to the world, I’ll really like it. I love Instagram for this reason — I love showing off art from amazing artists, and being inspired about writing something in turn. Branding should be fun, and while work, you shouldn’t hate it.

At least, that’s what I think.

 

Alrighty, I think this post has gone on long enough! Kudos for reading this whole thing — and I hope it was helpful. Like I said, I’ll be writing another post that goes more in depth on how I’m turning this information into content. Mostly because I like writing all of this out… and I hope you get some inspiration from it too.

 

Thanks for sticking through with me through my two month absence. ❤ I’ll be writing another Behind the Scenes in Publishing post here soon! I’m going to talk about contract writing versus writing from the heart…

Questions? Comments? Additions? Concerns? What did you think? What works for you in branding yourself?