Sunday, January 31, 2010

Author branding

The issue of branding has bothered me for a bit. As someone who enjoys reading a variety of genres, I also enjoy writing them. Straight contemporary, contemporary/urban fantasy, dark fantasy/paranormal, historical, speculative… you get the idea.

So when I saw James Patterson’s TV commercial for his latest (and for Patterson, the term “latest” has a time stamp) release, Witch and Wizard, it made me wonder. This was outside his usual thriller arena. Thriller not being one of the genres I usually read, Patterson’s been off my radar. Until his TV commercials began appearing awhile back. The one below made many chuckle.

Although I also came across this YA offering on YouTube, which plays more like a movie trailer:

Also definitely outside the Patterson “brand.” Or so I thought. A New York Times article indicated he writes everything from “science fiction, fantasy, romance, “women’s weepies,” graphic novels, Christmas-themed books” to nonfiction. Interesting, because Patterson also talks about creating a brand.

According to the article, he writes in longhand and yet managed to put out 45 books. How? He has a stable of authors writing for him. Fellow Popculturediva Kayla Perrin wrote an excellent blog about it.

So I suppose this should put my mind at ease about not having a “brand.”
Wrong. It still bothers me.

I’ve seen authors who write under various names to separate out the various genres they write in. Not for me. Having too many pen names would confuse the hell out of me, so I can imagine how readers would feel. And what’s the point? They’d know anyway, presumably.

Maybe having a brand isn’t so important after all. But having a great tag line that encompasses it all would be great. Something that speaks to the heart of my writing without pigeonholing me into one corner. (I get claustrophobic that way.)

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Is it important for readers to be able to identify a writer by a brand or tag? Or should your byline carry the weight on its own, despite the fact it could be written in any number of genres? Or is that why book covers are so damn important?

Friday, January 29, 2010

New short story contract!

Eternal Press contracted my 10k story, Winning! This is an oldie I've always loved, about a man whose life is turned upside down.

Here's the unofficial story blurb:
Joe doesn’t expect much more from life. His marriage is average, kids are average. So when he wins the lottery -- one of the biggest jackpots of all time -- everything changes. Or does it? Or would they have made the same choices anyway?

My husband and I have discussed this on occasion, namely when the Powerball rockets higher and we debate buying a ticket. While we'd love to be able to spread the wealth around, it comes with an awful lot of baggage. And ever notice how lottery winners seem to be snakebit? But are they really, or are they making the same choices they'd have made anyway, but with a little more money to play with?

So sometimes I buy a lottery ticket, but mostly I don't. When I get a new book contract, though, it feels much better than winning the lottery. I'd much rather hit the jackpot with my writing.

Eternal Press is restructuring after merging with Damnation Books. Contrary to some quippers, they're not changing the name to Eternal Damnation Press. :) They are, however, expanding their line and moving from Canada to the U.S. Exciting stuff.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Hangin' with Tom again

This week, I entered the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. Yep, I have confirmation that my entry was received.
But received is not “in,” necessarily. ABNA’s open until Feb. 7, or until they receive 10,000 entries. At that point, only 2,000 entries of the 10,000 received will move on to the next round, proving once again that The First Cut is the Deepest.
James Morrison is new to me, but wow – can he sing:

But I’ll still love you, ABNA, even if I don’t make the first cut.
Why? Well, sure it would be great to make it to that first round, to be the top pick and get the peachy book deal and $15,000 advance.
But even if I only make the first cut, my novel gains exposure. What’s more important – feedback. And if it hangs in there until the second cut on March 23, when the 2000 are winnowed down to 500, a Publisher’s Weekly reviewer will read it. A little scary, swimmin’ in the Big Pond. But as Miley so aptly puts it (hey, don’t laugh, the kid has talent), it’s about The Climb:

And one thing I intend to do is never stop reaching for that next level, to shoot for excellence.
But if I should happen to make that final cut, I’ll be singing along with Rufus (though not nearly as wonderfully melodic, and much happier):

Jeff Buckley does an amazing version too, btw.
But for now, I’m hangin’ with Tom, waiting, once again, to hear. It’s not so bad to wait when I have Tom to see me through.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Google tricks

Come hang out at The Susquehanna Writers with me to talk about promo on the cheap!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Michigan's Word Banishment Committe strikes again

Each year, Michigan’s Lake Superior State University releases a list of words it categorizes for General Uselessness, Overuse or Mis-use. In this year’s annual List of Words to Be Banished from the Queen’s English, The Word Banishment Committee narrowed down the thousands of nominated words and phrases to these: tweet, shovel-ready, transparent/transparency, czar, app, sexting, teachable moment, friend (as a verb), in these economic times, stimulus, toxic assets, chillaxin’, bromance, and any word combining the President’s last name, such as Obamanomics, Obamanation… you get the idea.
I’ve never been a fan of buzzwords, so have no problem with never hearing some of the above terms again. However, I’m against censorship in general, and as a writer, I hate to lose any words that might prove useful. It’s like taking tools away from a craftsperson, and words are critical tools for communication, the basis of human understanding.
Obviously, authors should weigh each word for its usefulness. Jargon with short shelf lives can quickly date a story - for good or bad, depending whether it’s intentional. If an author needs to immerse a reader in a specific time period, certain words can immediately conjure the era. Likewise, use of certain phrases can enhance a character by making that character’s speech identifiable to the reader without tags.
Dumbing down language has never made sense to me. We want to educate our youth – and our population in general. Why corrode their understanding by removing relevant words and phrases? An obscure word used in the right context is immediately understandable to the reader, and enhances vocabulary. Writers sometimes take flack for using “million dollar words” but I, for one, prefer meticulously crafted work. Prefer Michael Chabon to say, Elmore Leonard. Yes, Elmore writes a good story. But his writing is blah. It leaves me cold. Certain other authors whose novels have gone on to film write so poorly, I can’t get through the entire book. Yes, I’m picky, but I aspire to write as well as the authors I admire: Margaret Atwood. Charles D’Ambrosio (his writing is ambrosia to me!). Richard Russo. I could go on, but you get the idea.
As the AP explained, the list is by no means official, and the committee itself says it’s all in good fun. Many previously-banned words or phrases still appear in current conversations – also for good or bad, but it’s for the individual to decide. I’ve been known to repeat phrases such as it is what it is. 24/7, happy camper, LOL, and back in the day, not so much (though this phrase made the list last year). Curious about other words the committee has banned over the past 35 years? The complete list is here.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Orchards in winter

Here are more shots of the orchards. Aren't the colors incredible?

This sunrise began as a sliver of red on the horizon, then exploded into this:

Within minutes, it faded to grey.

This just caught my eye because it looked cool.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Dishin' at the Divas today

I'm over at Popculturedivas today, wondering how you feel about popular songs used in TV commercials. Come on over and share your thoughts on the post, Singalong or Sellout?

To get you in the mood, here's one that caused quite a bit of buzz:

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Thanks for the Lovely Blog Award, Diane Craver!

Diane Craver gave my blog this award. Aww, thanks Diane! Diane was my guest last August, when her novel Whitney in Charge released.

I'm passing the award forward to these lovely blogs, for their inspiration, expertise and wit with regard to writing. Because we can only aspire to learn everything, and we need many tools to practice the craft.

League of Reluctant Adults

Magical Words

Riding with the Top Down

Shh, I’m Writing a Romance

Teach Me Tonight

Writing Career Coach

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Design for Life trailer

Yesterday I finished the trailer for Design for Life, which will release on Feb. 10 from The Wild Rose Press as part of its Flower Basket Series. So what do you think?

Friday, January 15, 2010

Want to be in the Author Spotlight?

I love to feature other authors and showcase their work. If you would like to be my guest, just send an email to: cate.masters AT (using the normal convention) and put Author Spotlight in the subject line.

First, please note the following:

This blog is not rated, so please keep your posts and excerpts to G or PG rating so the Blogger police don't bust me. Thanks for your understanding.

Any writing-related post is fine. If you prefer an interview, I have a set of questions you can answer/ignore as you wish.

Please check the posted schedule on the Author Spotlight Page to see which dates are available.

Because I love to write in various genres, I love to feature authors no matter what genre you write. (If erotica, again, I ask only that your excerpt is suitable for an unrated blog.)

Giveaways are optional. If you opt to have a giveaway, it is up to you to select the winner, notify him/her and post the result in the comments.

Please check in over the course of the time you're scheduled to respond to comments. You love to hear from readers, and they love hearing back from you!

That's basically it. Address your email requests to cate.masters AT (without spaces) and put Author Spotlight in the subject line.

I look forward to having you in the Author Spotlight!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The waiting

This will become a recurring theme, not very original but appropriate. Authors can relate to the excruciating wait following any submission. I have a few out there, so the pressure's mounting. But if I could wait with Eddie Vedder, I wouldn't mind a bit. :) Not sure where da Jamaican accent comes in though. Maybe he picked it up while surfing there. Eddie's been known to indulge in the sport with world-renowned surfer Laird Hamilton. Laird bears a striking resemblance to Wes Hamilton, the surfer in my contemporary Going with Gravity.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

5 tombstones for The Duende and the Muse!

Woot! Bitten by Books gave The Duende and the Muse 5 tombstones! Their highest rating!

The reviewer said: "I thoroughly enjoyed this short story! Melinda’s hopeful ideals were consistent, if a bit misguided, and Devon’s contrasting style added excitement. The characters were believable, and the settings were described clearly and were easy to visualize. I applauded Melinda’s defense of her student and was pleased that she was secure enough to listen to Devon’s very different ideas. This was a very nice story, easy to read, and enjoyable all the way through."

Thanks, BBB! The site has wonderful giveaways and author interviews. I highly recommend you check them out.

Here's the Duende and the Muse story trailer again:

Monday, January 11, 2010

Another contract with Whiskey Creek Press!

The New Year is off and running! This weekend, I received a contract for my novel, The Bridge Between!

Here's part of the pitch I sent to Whiskey Creek:

In The Bridge Between, photojournalist Jessie Moore returns to her hometown when a friend dies of AIDS. When Jessie reconnects with past love Billy Black, he fuels her artistic passion, too.

The story is set in my hometown of Lambertville, New Jersey, an arts community across the Delaware River bridge from New Hope, Pennsylvania. Similar to Richard Russo’s Empire Falls, the town follows its own story arc and is almost a character itself.

A work of women’s fiction, The Bridge Between is complete at 108,000 words.

These shots I took in Lambertville a few years ago. You may recognize the images from my trailer for Seventh Heaven, also set in Lambertville/New Hope. :)

So the novel is, in part, another homage to my hometown. Literally, these shots depict The Bridge Between, though for my novel, the phrase is meant metaphorically.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

A belated New Year's wish

Somewhat belated, but still pertinent... Neil Gaiman's New Year's wish, which I wish for all of you.

Here's hoping the upcoming year will bring us all luck. But as David Armstrong, author of How Not to Write a Novel, said: The harder you work, the luckier you get. I intend to be very lucky this year. In addition to several new WIPs, I've been hard at work revising an old novel, one I invested literally years in research, writing and revisions. I love these characters, and intend for them to find a publisher so others can love them too. Today, I'm pitching the story at Musetracks' Agent Shop. About a month ago, I learned about Agent Shop on Facebook and pitched my NA historical set in the late 1800s in Carlisle, Pa, but received not even a nibble from the agent. So I'm trying again today with this mainstream/women's fiction novel. Because, as author Barbara Kingsolver said, you can't take rejection too seriously: "This manuscript of yours that has just come back from another editor is a precious package. Don't consider it rejected. Consider that you've addressed it 'to the editor who can appreciate my work' and it has simply come back stamped 'Not at this address'. Just keep looking for the right address."

The right address is out there. Along that line, I'm entering the historical novel in this year's Amazon contest. And if the Agent Shop agent doesn't nibble at my pitch, I may enter the mainstream/women's fiction too. Persistence, my friends, is the critical component to writing. So for the new year, may we all have the persistence of a pit bull. Without the sharp teeth.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Annual Preditors and Editors polls

I'd love your votes!

Voting's open until January 14th.

2009 was a busy year for me, so I have a few entries :)

One Soul for Sale:

Picture This:

Seventh Heaven:

The Duende and The Muse: or The Lure of the Vine:

Liberation via Pen:

Wilderness Girl:

And Author's Page:

Oh, and Seventh Heaven is up for the cover too! Vote for Nicola Martinez's wonderful artwork here:
Isn't that a great cover? The bridge in the photo is the actual bridge between Lambertville, NJ, and New Hope, PA, where the story's set. My hometown.

Your votes aren't final until you verify each through your email account, so it will be two clicks apiece. A small price to make an author very happy. Ecstatic, in fact. Thanks!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

New contract for contemporary fantasy novel!

This week, I signed a new contract with Whiskey Creek Press for Surfacing, my contemporary fantasy novel!

Last year, I entered Surfacing in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. One of 10,000 entries received last year, it made the first-round cut. You can read the reviews, and the first 10,000 words, here.

This story weaves many elements dear to my heart. Music, first and foremost. A bit of the fantastic and magical, too. And at the heart of it all, a love story - though not technically a romance. All told from the point of view of AJ Dillon, a down and out wannabe rocker.

Here's the pitch I made to Amazon:
AJ Dillon is trouble. The former lead singer of an indie band has no home, no money and no future. His grandfather is the only relative willing to take another chance on him. AJ arrives in Weeki Wachee, Florida, with his guitar, a few clothes and a bad attitude. The only good thing about Weeki Wachee is the ocean -- the one place AJ feels at home.
Grandpa lines up a job for AJ piloting the Wilderness Cruise at Weeki Wachee Springs, home of the Weeki Wachee mermaid show. A mindless job, but at least AJ gets to watch beautiful women perform underwater. Grandpa says real mermaids exist, and a handsome singer can mesmerize one. AJ dreams of meeting one, but his greedy co-worker Chaz plans to make a fortune by creating a real mermaid show. AJ and Chaz get their chance after Cassiopeia saves AJ from an alligator. AJ falls in love and his passion for music resurfaces when he sings to her. He tries to keep Cassie a secret, but Chaz follows him and learns the truth. Chaz threatens to kill them if AJ doesn't go along with his plan. Reluctantly, AJ agrees. In saving Cassiopeia, AJ unearths long-hidden family secrets that, once brought to light, open possibilities for healing old wounds. In saving Cassiopeia, AJ learns the greatest gift – unconditional love. In saving Cassiopeia, AJ saves himself, too.
This novel, my fourth, layers family conflict onto suspense, danger and romance, and combines my love of music and research. Finding Weeki Wachee Springs provided a natural step to a contemporary fantasy, a genre whose limits are mapped by a writer’s imagination. Surfacing will appeal to teen readers through adult.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Short story to be part of fundraising anthology

On Sunday, I received a wonderful gift - a new contract! My short speculative fiction, Love and War, will be published as part of XOXO Publishing's anthology.

When then-President Bush declared the U.S. would invade Iraq, I became one of countless Americans glued to the television watching coverage. Horrified, I couldn't tear myself away. One night, I heard a distinct voice in my head say, "Turn off the war and come to bed." And so, Love and War was born.

Countless revisions later, the story remains important to me. Because it represented my objection to the war in Iraq, I wanted it to be part of an effort to give back. So it will be published as part of a fundraising anthology to benefit various charities.

At the end of last year, I'd also submitted a poem for an anthology for Little Episodes. I returned that contract too. Little Episodes' aim is to raise awareness of addiction, depression and mental illness through the arts.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Beauty without words

As much as I love words, I also love images. A good image can equally capture the imagination. I'm a big believer that artists feed each other with inspiration, and one art form can spark a new creation in another form.
But now I'm getting too wordy, and I wanted to share some images I'd recently shot with my Nikon Coolpix, the one luxury I allowed myself last year. And being on a writer's budget, my definition of luxury has dialed down quite a bit - $229 isn't extravagant, especially given that I like to use my own photos in book trailers.
The area I live in is so beautiful, it feels like a luxury. The orchards change not only season by season, but sometimes a great deal within a single day.

Click on any image to enlarge for greater detail.

Sunrise can bring vivid colors to the horizon, as it did yesterday (sorry for the blur).

By midday, all color had drained away, and this image was so stark, I had to capture it (though not very well - I'm still learning the camera).

The young trees lined up in the snow also struck me as a stark, almost bleak, image.

But sometimes the colors are almost eerie. The photo below is from last fall. The fog seems to glow as it rises from between the hills. It's actually the same view as in the second photo, though it appears completely different. It's very striking if you view it enlarged. (Go on, click on it! It's amazing.)

Snow defines the landscape in an entirely new way.

It's easy to imagine living here a century ago, when Civil War soldiers tramped these hills.

So if some of these images show up in my book trailers, you'll know where they came from. In the meantime, the 8 gig memory card allows for up to 3,000 photos (or six, depending on the resolution). So I have lots of room to play, and luckily, a wide margin for error.

Friday, January 1, 2010


The numbers seem full of portent, transposed as such. But here's wishing the upcoming year brings you joy and peace and fulfillment.

My only resolution is to follow Abe Lincoln's advice: Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other one thing.