Saturday, November 27, 2010

Turkey Chili

Now this is made with fresh ground turkey not leftovers but it makes a great "bowl of the red" if you get tired of the smoked or roasted bird from Thanksgiving.  This recipe is from Jeff Turner. For the full Turkey Chili Recipe go to the recipe page.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Unified Field Theory Of Branding

CJ Lyons is back to talk about branding. She talked about branding before you publish and now she will guide you through branding after that big day comes when you publish. Welcome back CJ!

CJ Lyons

by CJ Lyons

What is branding? How does an author build a brand?

I'm not a marketing professional, but over the years I've been trying to learn as much as possible about the marketing side of the writing business since I feel it is important to a writer's long term career.

(In fact, I've recently begun a blog devoted to creative entrepreneurs called *Marketing with Heart* where I share these resources:

Let's start with what a brand is.

To me, a brand is name recognition that evokes an emotional response in the audience.

In other words, it's a promise you make to your audience that a book by you will give them a certain emotional response.

When you build your brand you are creating yourself as an ICON (an easily remembered and identified entity) paired with that emotional response.

For those of you who have taken my workshops on building high concept story premises, I hope this sounds familiar!!!

The best way to build a high concept story is to take an universal Icon and pair it with an unique element to create an emotional response in your audience.

For example, Stephen King's high concept for Carrie is: Prom Queen (universal icon) terrorizes small town (unique element).

With branding, you are creating YOURSELF as the universal Icon. Combined with specific sensory details used as your unique elements to create that emotional response.

Which details? Anyone who has taken my classes on world building, knows that I've boiled that down to three types of details used in writing.

Guess what? It's the same three kinds of details used to build your brand:

1. VISCERAL details that reveal the emotion of the author.
These include your choices in colors, graphics, are you smiling in your headshot or serious, the voice of your website (light hearted, casual, authoritative, intimate), the voice of your books (are they dark, sensual, funny?), how you communicate, etc.

2. EVOCATIVE details are chosen to create an emotion in the reader.

These also include all of the above, but in addition to revealing yourself as an author, you are choosing these elements to specifically give your reader an emotional experience.

The obvious evocative detail is the graphics you use on your website and business card, bookmarks, etc. For instance, my webdesigner spent almost a month fine-tuning the colors and graphics on my site, to create an atmosphere that conveyed, suspense, strong women willing to walk into danger, and a sense of a community surrounding them, plus she wanted to convey a "rust belt" feel rather than a glitzy highrise urban feel.

But you can go beyond visuals to evoke emotion in your audience.

For instance, if you add a widget to your website, you could choose a game that is certain to make your audience laugh (a little humor is always good, even if you write serious because people remember people who make them laugh or smile in a positive way) or you might add a section where they can do something good like contribute to a worthy cause merely by clicking, like my own Karma Clicks page at

Instead of focusing on you, these elements of your brand are focused on your audience. Giving them added value and a positive emotional experience associated with your name--whether it's during a virtual visit to your website, watching a video you're in or a book trailer, or hearing you speak in person.

You make them feel good about knowing who you are....which will increase your name recognition when they see your books.

3. TELLING details. These are the specific details that you choose to share with your audience. After all, you can't (and don't want to ) pour out your entire life on your webpage or in your blog or bio.

Instead you edit. You pick and choose the details that will have high impact, build a picture of who you are and what you represent.

So far, I've combined two of the elements I use when I teach fiction writing and used them to build a brand: high concept and world building.

There's one more element (everything always comes in three, doesn't it?). Theme.

In a book, theme is what the story is really about. An universal, primal force that is communicated subliminally to the audience.

I'm talking "big" concepts, this is what people mean when they say to "dig deep." Love/hate, betrayal/trust, venegence, forgiveness, family, outcast, redemption....these are the primal elements we use to bring our stories to life.

We use the same primal elements in our branding. Look at your stories--all the stories, no matter the genre, over the life of your writing career.

If you really think about it (and this is hard! Sometimes having a friend help is a good way to go) you probably have been writing about the same theme over and over, exploring it from many different angles.

For many thriller/suspense authors this theme is fear. For romance it could be the power of love. For women's fiction, the importance of family.

Whatever your personal universal theme, try to give it your own unique twist (hmmm....sounding like building your own high concept isn't it? don't you love it when everything works together in synergy?)

For instance, I discovered (with a lot of hard work) that my theme is: how to find the courage to change the word. It's there in everything I've written since I was five. And in every book I've written, my characters have found this courage through love.

I could distill this personal theme into: all courage comes from love (which I absolutely believe) but since we're talking branding, we also need to remember that it's not about me but about the audience.

All courage comes from love, is a wonderful theme, but it implies that my books might be more on the romance side of the spectrum than they are. So instead, I distilled my personal theme into something that my target audience would respond to without being confused about what I write: Everyday, Heroes are Born.

I like this, it implies that all of us (including my audience) could be heroes, that it's not too late to learn how to become a hero, and that we might all need to be heroes some day.

I even used this theme to create my own subgenre of thriller/suspense novels: Thrillers with Heart.

Can you change your brand? Absolutely, but with great care--once you build a brand, it is a part of you, so cherish it.

Now that I'm moving away from strict medical suspense into mainstream suspense/thrillers with a women's fiction sentimentality through my new partnership with Erin Brockovich (yes, The Erin Brockovich!!!) I was advised that I might want to de-emphasize the medical elements of my brand.

I'm in the midst of revising my website to "feel" more like women's fiction--warm, welcoming, intimate place where confidences can be shared and the audience leaves feeling empowered and inspired--while also keeping some suspense/thriller elements like my articles on forensics, photos of my adventures in research, and some medical facts. There will be more "behind the scenes" info (again, to give that feeling of intimacy, of the reader coming into my "home") and the color scheme will change--less blood red, more mellow golds (think "hearth") and some blues.

I haven't changed. My theme hasn't changed. What has changed as my writing evolves are the specific elements I choose to communicate my brand.

Confused? Take a look at the most memorable writers in your genre. What details do they use to convey their brand? What works, what doesn't?

Then have fun playing with creating your own brand!

Thanks for reading,

About CJ:

As a pediatric ER doctor, CJ Lyons has lived the life she writes about. In addition to being an award-winning medical suspense author, CJ is a nationally known presenter and keynote speaker.
Her first novel, LIFELINES (Berkley, March 2008), received praise as a "breathtakingly fast-paced medical thriller" from Publishers Weekly, was reviewed favorably by the Baltimore Sun and Newsday, named a Top Pick by Romantic Times Book Review Magazine, and became a National Bestseller. Her award-winning, critically acclaimed Angels of Mercy series (LIFELINES, WARNING SIGNS, and URGENT CARE) is available now and the series finale, CRITICAL CONDITION, hits stores November, 2010. Her newest project is as co-author of a new suspense series with Erin Brockovich. To learn more about CJ and her work, go to

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Celebrating Christmas At Thanksgiving

Nature becomes very quiet in November, with the glory of autum well on its way and only a nip in the air to tell us that winter will soon be approaching. All of the plants that managed to survive the heat of this past summer are in full bloom. The end of the year beckons in the distance. But one  of the things that happens every year in this month is the gathering of families and friends to celebrate Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving dinners are traditionally bountiful feasts.  I grew up in S.C. and it was not unual to see a buffet dinner with pumpkin soup, oysters, shrimp, Turkey, duck, chicken, roast beef, ham, barbecued pork shoulder, stuffing, cavier mousse, macaroni and cheese, fruit salads, vegetable salads, tomato aspic, green beans, butter beans, corn pudding, green bean , squash , broccoli cheese,  and praline potato casseroles.  There were homemade biscuits, rolls, cakes and pies of every category. This was a day of high everything, calories, fat, carbs, and protein. Everyone got to take home enough food for a week.
Of course,  thanksgiving was not quite complete without televised parades and football games between rival colleges.

In my immediate family, because we live in different states, every two years we travel to the Carolinas and celebrate Christmas at Thanksgiving. Our menus aren't as elaborate as the ones in the past, but they  taste as good and have half the fat and calories. And all of our Christmas shopping is done! Christmas and Thanksgiving is still the season of the year that gives adults and children alike the warmest of memories to carry with them for a lifetime.

GFWW holiday recipes appear in the recipe section of this blog. If you have a recipe that you would like to share, please send it along. We'd like to receive it. If it's one passed down through your family and you don't know the origin, say that. If you've gotten it from a copyrighted cookbook, we need to know that also. Now it's your turn....

Thursday, November 11, 2010


This post was part of a series I wrote in early October on ideas for increasing Kindle rank at Thank you, Ruby, for asking to repost it here.
I wrote recently about reaching the Kindle top 1000, 8 weeks after releasing my first-ever novel, Hush Money. This post is part of a series talking about some stuff I did that helped me get visibility and sell books.

So I said the other day that Goodreads was described to me as "Facebook for book people." I think that's pretty much true. It's very social networky, and yet the only thing anyone's talking about is books.

I didn't spend much time on Goodreads before I released Hush Money. It's one of those things I probably should have done, but...need I tell you again that I'm not great with the social stuff? If you're not either, try making friends with just a few people who are active there.

One of the cool things about Goodreads are the update emails. People who get those get a digest list of things their friends are doing on Goodreads. Things like: adding a book to their "to-read" shelves, posting ratings and reviews, updating their progress in reading any given book.

Additionally, members who have their Twitter and Goodreads accounts linked are sending out tweets about books with every status update, so you're getting your name out there on two platforms at the same time in those cases. (I suppose this is also true of Facebook? I'm not a Facebook person at all.)

If Goodreads member "Jane" decides to add my book, any of Jane's friends who get those emails may see my book cover when Jane adds the book, when she starts reading it, anytime she updates her progress through it, and when she finishes it and leaves a review. That's a lot of nice exposure for my book cover, and it's exposure to a group of people who might be more inclined toward my book than the average person on the street, assuming that Jane liked my book, and that Jane's friends know their own tastes are often similar to hers.

But how did I get Jane to read my book? Well, if you've spent enough time on Goodreads to make some real friends, you might have some people reading you just because they like you and they're curious about what you've been working on. I had a few of these friends, but not enough to really get going.

After setting up my Goodreads Author stuff, I read about Giveaways. Unfortunately, that section of the site is only for physical books, which I didn't have at the time. But there was the Events section which didn't say you couldn't use it to give away ebooks...

First, I wrote up a post for my blog about giving away review copies of my book, so that I would have something to link to when I set up the event on Goodreads. Then I wrote a brief, to-the-point, no pressure invitation:
I'm giving 100% off coupons to download Hush Money, in a variety of ebook formats, to anyone willing to leave me a review here on Goodreads, at Amazon, on a blog, etc. If you're interested, just send message me via Goodreads or send an email and I'll hook you up. Offer ends August 23, 2010. Please feel free to invite your friends to this event.
By the way, I think it's better to keep things like this simple. Avoid playing the friend card, avoid sounding like a sales person. I think the only thing I would add to this would the the 400 character blurb for the book, so that the user didn't have to click around to look for it.

Two Goodreads friends tweeted me to confirm whether I really wanted to them to invite all their friends, to which I said Yes, please! I had only 8 friends at the time. A very small reach. Once they had sent out invitation, about 350 people were personally invited to come check out my book.

That might scare you. It shouldn't. How many people on their friend lists are actually active on Goodreads? How many read ebooks? How many are interested in spending their reading time on an unknown indie author? In my case, about 10% responded with a Yes or Maybe. And even had more responded, giving away ebooks costs me nothing. If you think of every giveaway as a lost sale, I'd recommend changing your thinking.

To each of those people, I sent a PM via Goodreads with the information to get my book with a 100% off coupons via Smashwords. While I had a form letter that I pasted in, I tried to personalize the messages any time someone made a comment in their event response, and I used different messages for those who said Yes or Maybe. I spent a lot of time that week responding to PMs and emails. All totally worth it.

By the way, very few people emailed, PM'd, or left comments to my blog. Most response I got was just saying Yes, No, or Maybe to the invitation (you get notified of each of those by Goodreads). So you'll want to keep close tabs on that and keep track of your replies. You'll have a few people who do not accept PMs via Goodreads, and for whom you do not have contact information. I don't know how they expect you to give them anything, and I'm not sure there's anything to be done about that.

Did everyone who downloaded a copy give me a review? No, not yet, anyway. I didn't actually expect 100% on that, yet I was very pleased with how many people have come through with reviews. And think of your own TBR pile. This is going to take some time. Smashwords sends out an email to anyone who downloads a book from there, reminding them to come back to Smashwords and leave a review. I think this was GREAT, in that it reminded people they had my book and were supposed to be reading and reviewing, without me having to ask them. I got a small flurry of reviews at about that time.

The event did get a lot of people adding my book, and it did result in more ratings and reviews on Goodreads, Amazon, and Smashwords than I would have had without having done it. All of this increased the book's exposure.

Another great outcome of the Goodreads event was that book bloggers hang out there, and they love books! Many of them have to buy a lot of the books they read and review, which gets expensive. So many of my responders were book bloggers! Bonus! I've had 15 reviews on individual blogs since Hush Money's release, as well as a few interviews. It's hard to approach reviewers when you've got no author cred, no publisher validation or reviews backing you up. But the event sort of had them coming to me, in a more low-obligation kind of way than if I gone to them and asked them to review my book for their blog.

Now, I had a lot of people read Hush Money before it was released. Eleven beta readers/proof-readers. Remember that not everyone who is your friend is going to want to read your book, and not everyone who reads and tells you they like it is going to write you a review. It's all percentages and is not personal. But since I had eleven betas, and they were my friends, when I asked for Amazon reviews as soon as it was live, I got 4 reviews right away. So anyone who came across my Kindle page in the early days had something to look at.

Between those reviews from the betas, and the ones that started to show up after the giveaway, it became a lot easier for me to approach book bloggers and ask for reviews because, in my query, I could link to a page full of positive responses to my book. There have got to be very few book bloggers out there looking for stuff to hate. They want to have some idea that this book is for them, and that they'll be able to recommend it. Many don't even write reviews of something they didn't like, so giving time to a book they don't like is a waste for them. They want to have the sense that they're going to like your book before they agree.

At the time of this writing, I've had 247 adds on Goodreads (and I think most of those have gone ahead and purchased because the price is low), 15 reviews on blogs, 20 Amazon reviews, 15 on Smashwords, and 29 on Goodreads (38 ratings). All of those, plus tweeting about them by me as well as others, have helped make me more visible.

And visibility is our biggest hurdle, seconded by credibility.

The reason that I consider the Goodreads giveaway event serendipitous, was because it wasn't something I had planned to do. It was more something that came out of a marketing brainstorm while the book wasn't really moving in that second week of release. And it's really been possibly THE best thing I've done so far. (Well, after that whole writing a decent book and putting it out thing.)

So I hope it helps some of you as well. Sorry I've run long today. I'll hope you'll come back next time, when I think I'll be talking about Blogging and Social Media. If you think other indies might be helped by the ideas in this post, sharing buttons are located below for your convenience. Thanks!


Susan Bischoff

I’m just a girl who wants superhero romance! Is that so much to ask? Why must it always be a tragedy? Why does Angel walk away? Why does Spike—what did happen to Spike? Why did Wonder Woman go back home after the end of season 1 and WWII, then come back, work with Steve Trevor’s grandson, and still not hook up? Seriously! And let’s not even talk about Superman Returns, ok? Let’s. Just. Not.

The Talent Chronicles series began with my desire for more superheroes! More romance! More Superhero!Romance. The first book, Hush Money, is out now, with the second, Heroes 'Til Curfew, due out in early 2011.

Visit me at

Available as an ebook from...
Available in Paperback:

Monday, November 1, 2010


Welcome Keri Arthur from down under to our blog. After twenty-five books, she is imminently qualified to discuss paranormals and urban fantasy.

Keri Arthur

Defining Two Popular Subgenres
by Keri Arthur

The two hottest genres around at the moment are paranormal romance and urban fantasy. Publishers can’t seem to get enough of them, and just about everyone seems to be writing them.

But what--if any--are the differences between the two? There’s plenty of small differences, but the basic--and most important--difference is the fact that one has its feet firmly planted in the romance field, and the other firmly planted in the fantasy field.

Basically, a paranormal romance is a romance with paranormal characters and events. It follows the same rules that apply to all romances and it has the build up of the romance as the heart and main plot of the novel. The only real difference is that either one or both of the main characters often aren’t human, and the story itself can dip into darker waters plot-wise than a regular romance. That said, the paranormal elements have to be a believable, intricate part of your plot. If you can take the paranormal elements out of your story (or swap them for something else—like a disease or an addiction), then they’re not ‘true’ paranormal romances, but rather, ‘paranormal lights’. I’m not personally keen on these types of paranormals, as they usually don’t delve too deeply into the whole mythos behind the paranormal element, but rather tend to keep to surface problems. For example, the somewhat common I’m a werewolf or a vampire, oh woe is me, how can anyone love such a monster theme. Of course, there is a whole boatload of books out there that could be described as paranormal lights, so there’s definitely a market for them regardless of how I personally feel about them.

Like regular romance, paranormal romance covers the whole genre spectrum. They can be humorous, historical, futuristics, contemporary, mystery, fantasy, urban fantasy, scifi, gothic, erotica—basically, if the romance is front and center, then it’s labeled a paranormal romance, regardless of the genre.
Urban fantasy, on the other hand, is fantasy that is set in a modern, urban environment (for example, Melbourne, Australia, New York City, or even some made up city) and it can contain any and all paranormal or fantasy elements (such as vampires, were wolves, shifters, demons, succubus, magi etc). But in urban fantasy, romance and romantic entanglements are not the main plot element, though they are often present as a sub-plot.
Dark urban fantasy contains the same elements as urban fantasy, but usually has serious leanings towards horror elements. Dark and bloody events can and do happen in these novels, and a happy ending is not a necessity.

But if you’re going to write an urban or dark urban fantasy, please do your homework and make the world work. World building is even more important in urban and dark urban fantasy than it is in paranormal romance. In romance, the romance is the key, and while the world building has to be believable and real, it often doesn’t have to be as multi-layered as what’s required in the fantasy genre. While in many ways it is easier to set a fantasy story in a modern day setting, you still have to integrate the fantasy and paranormal elements into your world in a very believable and realistic way. One key element to believability is making sure you include the history of your paranormal elements into the history of the real world. Make sure the paranormal or fantasy elements not only have a history of their own, but that their history entwines within the past as we know it. For example, in Full Moon Rising, I have an off-the-cuff mention of the Olympics, and how paranormal creatures have been competing in them since the birth of the Olympics—and that in modern day times, the paranormals were forced to have their own Olympics to offset their unfair advantage against humans. A tidbit like this mightn’t seem like much, but it gives the overall story a depth and richness that helps the reader believe.

Another important rule to remember is that there has to be limits. A hero or heroine—be they a wizard, vampire or a shapeshifter—who is capable of anything and who wins every battle not only strains our credibility, but often become boring. Unlimited or untouchable prowess robs the story of tension and suspense. Readers need to be worried about the outcome as they read, and if the odds are stacked in favor of your hero, then why would they worry, let alone continue to read? Make your characters doubt, make them make mistakes. Make them hurt. And don’t be afraid to inflict tragic results for weaknesses and poor choices—especially if you’re writing dark urban fantasy. Trust me, readers of these types of novels want and expect gore!
Keri Arthur, a native of Melbourne, Australia  is Australia's first New York Times bestseller in Urban Fantasy. She published the Riley Jensen Guardian Series, the third and fourth novels in that series debuting on the NYT bestseller list. She has written  more than twenty-five books since then.  She has had nominations in best contemporary paranormal category of RT Reviewers Choice Awards,  and the RT Career Achievement award in Urban Fantasy. Her next book Mercy will be released in 2011.

Moon Sworn (Riley Jenson, Guardian, Book 9)
 For more information visit her website at

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