A Writer’s Brand

Okay, you heard this here, first. (Rather, you’re about to hear my version of it here, first, er, in an iteration of many others, but here goes.)

“A brand is made up of a promise of consistency, paired with the trust that you build over time represented by a consistent style-set that elicits an emotive response.” You can quote me on that. In fact, you might say I wrote the book on this. I wrote a book on this. Well, it’s in progress, and there you have a quote from it.

Cover Rough Sketches… Coming… Not very soon…

That’s a mouthful. “A picture’s worth 10,000 words,” and brands are certainly one of the best examples of this.

(“Just do it.”) Swishhhh.

That’s the short, but a meaty version of my definition of brand, but now I’ll break it down, dissecting what that means for a writer. The major components of an author’s brand are…


  •  Consistency of Genre. – Usually, the first thing someone wants to know about a writer is, what genre do they write in? or for those who are persnickety about prepositions, in which genre do you write? That leads to…
  • Consistency of Voice – a style and tone recurrent through a body of work. (For example, I would never ask “in which genre do you write?” I’d say something like, “what genre do you write in?” Nah. I’d just ask, “what genre?” Grammatically, my voice is a tough nut to crack and annoys some people. They’re not my readers. People who forgive the use of a preposition at the end of a sentence, or those who are unbothered by incomplete and oddly worded questions – they’re my peeps.
  • Consistency of Quality. This is a loaded mark. What is quality? Well written? Grammatically flawless? Probably not, as exemplified above. A complex plot? That might eliminate much literary fiction. It’s up to the reader to decide… and to come back for more. Whatever your mark is, you want to hit it every time.


  • Time – it requires repeated effort and accomplishment to build trust. There is the odd bird or two who takes everyone at face value, bless their hearts. But a super fan has typically never been let down by the writer who delivered on their promise.
  • Commitment – I, as the writer, commit to delivering the same genre, voice, and as well-written as I am capable of creating.
  • Persistence – You. Show. Up. Every. Day. Full stop.. I create every day and to the best of my ability, I release what I have promised in previous books. (but more on this later.)


  • Author name – it’s the hinge pin of your brand. You should own it, (in the sense that you want to have control over that name.) You want to make sure it fits your genre. Destiny Hardon would hardly be an appropriate pen name for someone who writes inspirational romance. (And my apologies to all of the Destiny Hardons out there. Your parents are precious.) Google your chosen or your actual name to see who else may have it. (Go ahead. Google Sofie Couch. Sophie Couch. Not my genre, although I respect her right to make those films. I just wish my friends had googled it before they gave me that nickname.)
  • Font – look at other books in your genre. Comic sans has a place in this world, but it is not on your doctoral thesis. Do you notice the consistency of font over a body of work by one writer? Google John Grisham, Mary Burton, Joanna Bourne, Louise Penny. Check out those consistent brand messages!
  • Covers – what do you notice about their covers? Do you see consistency in the cover art? Subject matter? Tone?
  • Colors – the other kind of “tone”. Are the covers consistently dark, earth-toned, or bright and bold? That’s a part of their brand. My blog site/website has a pretty consistent color palette that was inspired by the colors in my office/studio. I do admit though, they are also the colors in the buckets of paint I had sitting around in excess in my workshop, but I like them, so… it is now a part of my brand.

For most of us, when we think of “brand”, we think of words like:

  • “Images”
  • “Icon.”
  • “Logo”
  • “Style”

But this is just the tools meant to elicit an emotive response provided you’ve consistently fulfilled your promise of the first two parts of “brand”. You tie that promise to an image, a logo, a style, you stir up that secret sauce and let it bake for a long time, and “poof!”

You will know when you’ve achieved “brand recognition”. It’s the first time a repeat reader picks up your book from a shelf of books and recognizes something about the cover, the font, and the style that reminds them of the heart that they were promised would be within the pages.

So, can you judge a book by its cover? Every writer should be so lucky, although I think it has more to do with hard work and conscious decision than luck.

I hope you’ve found your brand. I hope this helps define it a bit.

In the meantime…

Make some art. Read a book!


The Business of Being a Writer

It’s that time of year again. Yes, I’m talking about April 15th, the tax deadline!

I realize that tax season is stressful for many, but seriously, I kind of enjoy it. No, I’m not a STEM studies kinda gal. Math is not my thing. I’m humanities all the way. But tax season isn’t really about the mathematics and with do-it-yourself tax software these days, the math is taken out of your hands.

For me, tax season is all about reckoning the past year’s successes… and considering any potential failures. You do this by pulling out all of your receipts for expenses, (and I am very good about keeping up with expenses) and tabulating the net gains of the previous year.

Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol, 1912, 3rd ed. “Bob Cratchit”

This is the part of the blog where I insert a disclaimer: Nothing here should be construed as tax advice. This is one person’s methodology for tracking those troublesome bits and bobs involved in the calculation of taxes. I am neither a lawyer nor an accountant, and this should not be construed as legal or accounting advice.

Okay, now on to the fun bits. Yes, I said “fun” in a blog post about doing your taxes.

In years past, I have had to account for several small businesses. While they are essentially the same, requiring slightly different forms, I’m only concerning myself with The Business of Writing – for the purposes of this post.

Each businesses accounting must be kept completely separate – expenses as well as any profits. To do this, I’ve found the easiest means is to start a notebook for each year that contains sections that are based on the U.S. Federal Tax form, Schedule C.

Profit or Loss From Business (Sole Proprietorship)

Depending upon how large the business, I might have different notebook sections that align to the different line-items on the schedule C under expenses and gross income. Basically, when money comes in from that business, you log it in the section labeled “Gross Income.” When money goes out related specifically to that business, then a receipt for that expense gets pocketed in the corresponding “Expenses” pocket. For some of my larger ventures, I have separate sections for each of the common Schedule C expense categories. Some of my favorites are:

  • Advertising
  • Commissions and fees
  • Contract labor
  • Insurance
  • Legal and professional services
  • Office expenses
  • Repairs and maintenance
  • Supplies
  • Taxes and licenses
  • Utilities

There are other categories you can consider – just look at the schedule C under “Expenses”. Some of the other expense categories may apply to you and your business.

Then you just subtract the expenses from your income. Hopefully, the income is bigger than the expenses. If so, the difference is the amount of money on which you will have to pay taxes. (Not the amount of tax you owe. That would be bad.)

So you see, this isn’t a bad thing. First, it forces you to consider the overview of your business. Is it really a viable enterprise? Did you show a loss? Well, lucky you, no taxes on that income, but you might want to reconsider your business model. Profit? Well, pay your taxes on that profit and then think about what you did that was successful and how you might top it the next year… and consider putting aside 1/3 of your gross income next year for taxes… just in case.

So you see, the taxman is really doing you a favor because, let’s be honest, would you really take such a considered look at your business model otherwise?

In the meantime, don’t put it off. Do your taxes. Then make some art, read a book.

On that note, this week’s projects consisted of, as ever, writing the first half of the day, followed by the creation of a couple of decorative artsy items. The first project centered around a walnut wardrobe that I needed to get rid of, but could not give away. (Shocking how few people want to have to move a solid, walnut wardrobe.) So I took out my trusty circular saw and “brrrrzzzzzp” ten minutes later, I had created a bar for our daughter’s upcoming wedding. Still needs some work.

And then this piece of abstract art by that illusive artist, Rothko Nokov (Knock-off) was created to shamelessly color coordinate with a very boldly painted room.

An “original” Rothko Nokov painting.




How Do YOU Self-Motivate?

For me, it’s suspended disbelief. Fiction – it’s what I do. For example, today is April Fool’s Day, and there’s little that I enjoy more than getting my mom. She’s the master of April Fool’s Day pranks, so I’m always on my guard on April 1st. Well, I got her good today. First, you begin with something that could happen. Probably won’t happen, but could happen.

I’m a sucker for those alien conspiracy “documentaries” and I know my mother watches them too. Not for real, not because we believe in the credibility of the documentary hosts, but because it’s fun to suspend disbelief. So today, I shared with her the top secret news that someone we know was assigned the task of tracking UFOs, and they found something so big, they had to break silence to share it with me. 😀 Hook, line, and sinker… and I’m a terrible actor! (If you know my mother, she’s coming your way. Don’t fall for her story.)

The good news is, this suspended disbelief ploy can really work to motivate yourself and others. There was a game I used to “play” with my kids when they were little and I wanted the house to get tidied. In order for this trick to work, you kids have to be all-in, suspended disbelief. I would tell them that Dumble***e, from a particular book series, was coming over and we should tidy everything and prepare tea and dessert for his impending visit.

Okay, okay, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, I’m a jerk who lied to her kids to benefit from some child labor. Let me be clear, they were suspending their disbelief. They were old enough to know that Dumble***e wasn’t really coming over for tea, but it was just enough of a push for everyone to get into the fun of this game of make-believe. I merely motivated child labor to get the whole house picked up, vacuumed, and the dining room table cleared and set for tea. (We would have real tea afterwards, real food – muffins, cookies, croissants – whatever we found in the fridge.) There was a real reward at the end of the manic cleaning, but the game of make-believe was the reward. It was a side benefit that the cleaning sometimes went on for more than an hour! Do you know how much cleaning an adult and two children under the age of 10 can get done in an hour? It can be impressive; beds were made, toys put away, flowers on the table… and I never think to put flowers on the table.

(Some DIY Environmental art outside the Word Crone Cottage, inspired by Nigel Dunnet, U.K. landscape designer.)

I use my suspended disbelief daily to motivate what could be an odious task. Yesterday, I was picking up sticks around the yard that fell in the last storm. (I’ve got LOTS of sticks and a bad back.) I’m not a big proponent of burning debris. I’d rather use it in some artful way. So yesterday, I prepared the yard for a joint visit from Monty Don and Nigel Dunnet, U.K. gardeners extraordinaire. I think they would be horrified by my homage to Nigel Dunnet’s Environmental Artistry and Monty Don’s “garden rooms.” Good thing they did not show up at the end of the day.

In order for this to work, there has to be a pay-off at the end. In the case of yesterday’s project, I guess the little witchy stick garden is my payoff. The jury’s still out for deliberation. And so it goes with any big project – cleaning the house, renovating a studio space, writing a novel… or preparing for a wedding that is in just seven weeks!!!

So I’m psyching myself out, to complete some other big tasks, (like finishing the current work-in-progress) before the wedding! And don’t tell me there won’t be a special guest at the wedding. He might magically appear! I’m gonna be ready for him, if he is, because I’m all in, suspended disbelief!

In the meantime, I think I’ll make some art, read a book… and write one!




Time Management in the Word Crone Cottage

Time management is always a struggle for me. Lots of ideas. So little time to actualize. Okay, actually a lifetime of time, but if I am living every day as if it’s my last, then that’s not a lot of time! 😀

I do try to tackle large projects by breaking them down into tinier projects. It’s a skill that I guess every novelist learns to employ: plot novel, breaking it down into plot points that show character growth, write one word at a time to form sentences into paragraphs into pages into chapters into a novel. Slash and burn, edit, repeat.

So after posting my Friday post on Thursday night, I got the big idea to move my fish ponds. You know the type – hard plastic, 6ft X 4ft, amorphous with a deep center so the fishies can over-winter outside. I’ve never really liked where I put those ponds.

Breaking down a big task into tiny tasks…

So I broke it down into tiny tasks. Day 1 – empty water, rocks and wildlife out of pond 1, move pond 1 across the yard and refill with water, and rocks. (Gotta wait a day to make sure the water is the right temperature for the critters. Day 2 – migrate critters to pond 1 in new location. Booyah. Done. Day 3, empty pond 2 of water, rocks and any critters I may have missed. (I’m talking about you, Mr. 7-inch salamander and four bull frogs. How did I miss four bull frogs?) Day 4 – look at both ponds in their new potential location. Decide I hate the new location, and begin the process all over again to the new new location on either side of the foot bridge over the dry stream bed. Move pond 2. Dig the massive hole in the yard and refill original holes. Day 5 – move fishies, frogs and … where is that salamander? Day 6 – move second pond to new new location, digging another massive hole. Day 7 – edge with brick and later decide that looks weird. Start the process of replacing with stones from around the yard, then realize you’re due to finish a blog post in a few hours.

Reflecting on a week of pond moving…

I didn’t manage my time very well, with the one set-back of moving both ponds to the wrong spot before finding the perfect spot. Sigh. Oh well, such is gardening. You try a plant in a spot, it dies or doesn’t thrive or looks silly in that spot, and you move it. It’s the same with writing. You write a sentence. You let it stew and grow ugly hairs and warts, you re-write it, shuffle it to another scene, fix it again, trim it and sometimes you just throw it in the trash. I shuffle things in the yard as often as I shuffle furniture in the house, and believe me, I shuffle furniture… a lot!

Speaking of shuffled furniture. I “shuffled” an entire wardrobe right out into the yard. I tried to give it away on Marketplace. Afterall, it was a serviceable, solid walnut wardrobe. Sadly, no one wants to move a solid walnut wardrobe, not even after you’ve moved it outside to the edge of the driveway, so I think that will be my next project requiring some time management. My daughter is getting married in two months, so my blog posts until then will be filled with awkward tie-ins to writing, of course, but lots and lots of wedding-related projects. And if the wardrobe transformation is a fail, well, it won’t make it into the blog post next week. Or maybe it will. You’ve gotta be willing to kill your darlings, in writing, and furniture flipping.

Did I mention that I also managed to move the firepit this week? Oh, and I was able to construct a sort of make-shift step into the gable door of my office. The hope is, when the weather is nicer, I can swing those doors open for a fresh perspective.

Hope you have a great, productive week. May you master the art of time management and make some art. Read a book!



Word Crone Cottage Writing with Intention

Writing with Intention…

My days have been pretty predictable for the past couple of years. Well, we were in lockdown during the pandemic, so there was a force in effect to slow down.

Writing with Intention… and Magic…

I don’t imagine anyone else is interested in my day-to-day writing schedule, but it did occur that I might forget what I have found over the last two years, so in light of potential future distraction as we return to… ha ha. I almost said, “as we return to normal.” Silly, silly woman. Anyway, for my own edification, I thought I should write down some of the things I’ve added to my daily routine over the past two years.

1) Take time to quiet the mind.

Writing with Intention… and Incense…

The first thing I do as I enter my office is light incense. Just one. Then I meditate. Sometimes, meditation comes first. It depends on my mindset as I wake, and who else is awake in the house, so the meditation comes before or after coffee… but there is always coffee… and incense… and meditation.

2) Write down my goals and be mindful of my intentions for the day.

Writing with Intention… and journaling…

Some might just refer to this as a to do list, but I think of the to-do list as goals. Intention is how you engage with that list. My daily journal includes things like “write some words” followed by the daily word count when I’m done, usually around noon. I have a goal of 1,000 words per day. That’s quality words, not quantity, so the quantity might be more like 2,000 words. This is where I account for my daily writing goal. That goes something like this – “Rocky’s POV, chapter 4, the encounter with Bea, drop clues and foreshadow his reason for coming back from the dead.” That’s really the nuts and bolts of the writing goal, but in addition to that, I have to think about that character’s voice, think in his headspace, and consider my audience. Will you like this character? Have I been true to my promise to the reader? Is this thing that I’ve created worthy of my time here on earth?

Writing with Intention… and zhuzhing up the outside of the office…

3. Make some art/make magic in the garden

I also make a note about my afternoon’s intention, which usually entails some form of art. Today’s afternoon goals list reads: “photograph lace”, and “clean up trash around old fishpond.” Those are my goals, but as I’m doing those things, I’m thinking of next Friday’s blog post and how I will frame it around world-building and transforming the mundane into something magical. (Yesterday’s afternoon entailed transporting four goldfish, four frogs, an eastern painted turtle, and a 7-1/2 inch salamander across the yard to their new digs in the more accessible fish ponds. They ground me, and give me an added benefit to my hourly breaks. Every hour of sitting is followed by a stroll around the yard.)

4) Take Action

Writing with Intention… and finishing the darn book...

I am very fortunate in that I am surrounded, (online) with a community of powerful, talented writers with whom I share accountability. Like toddlers, we parallel play (parallel type in our case), and Fridays, we engage in a mastermind session, talking about our goals accomplished over the past week and our intention in the next week.

My intention usually involves my consideration of my readers, genre, and my brand in general. I remind myself of that brand, and occasionally, I tweak the brand through my ever-evolving mission statement.

And finally, I sit down, and write… every morning…  and every afternoon, I make art. But today is Thursday, and it’s five o’clock, so it’s time to wrap up this goal – of creating new content for my blog, and remind myself of my intention – to engage with readers who enjoy a happy ending, who can suspend their own beliefs to enjoy the ride that I call magic, and hopefully, be inspired to make their own art, and magic, and to share it with others.




Magic in a Reading Nook

This week marked the completion of the Word Crone Cottage!!! YEAH! So I’ve been enjoying the final edits, a dab of paint here, a dollhouse lamp there.

(Word Crone Cottage Loft)

I guess I’ve always enjoyed the everyday kind of magic.

(Word Crone Cottage loft/dollhouse lamp)

One of the first books I read was A Secret Garden, closely followed by A Little Princess.

In the first, the heroine finds and reclaims a garden, hidden by a stone wall and a heavy wooden door. A key admits her to this place of magic, coupled with secret incantations to honor the space.

(The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett, illustrated by Tasha Tudor.)

In A Little Princess, the heroine, thrown on her own resources, receives a transformation of her attic room into a magical space. Her “Fairy God Mother” turns out to be her father’s associate who takes pity on the little girl who speaks his native tongue and lives in the cold attic across the street.

(A Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett.)

I’ve always enjoyed Christmas with the same sense of magic I felt as a five year old. When my own children were about to step out of that magical age, I hope I impressed upon them my firm belief that if you cannot be the child with youthful belief in the magic, then the next best thing, (and I would argue that it is a lateral move, maybe even an upward evolution) is to be the maker of magic. Be the person who builds the secret garden, be the person who bestows the magic attic renovation. In my case, my little pandemic project, the Word Crone Cottage, was my magical gift to myself. It’s the space where I can make the magic of books.

This week, I spent a lot of time climbing up and down a ladder to top of the gable loft in my writing studio. No, it was not for my own benefit. Did I mention that I’m fifty-eight years old? My knees ache with “arthritis consistent with my age” according to my last doctor’s visit. Crawling around in a reading niche is probably a thing of my past, but it’s there, to cast its magic on some more agile person with an open mind. (This is a call out to you, LWDC – “ladies who drink coffee.” I’ll host the next coffee get-together. On the menu: coffee for J., something vegan for L., a salon of conversation for M., and maybe just a little bit of magic for the rest of you?)

Next week, I’ll get a start on the magic of a “secret garden”, ready to share its progress every Friday as I work my way around each “room” of the yard. I hope you will join me each Friday through this summer as I take my pleasure in being the maker of the magic.

In the meantime, I hope you will make some magic of your own: Make some art. Read a book. Share a magical space. <3


Cozy Southern Mystery: What’s Behind Curtain Number 3?

In the vein of blogging and stretching the topic to encompass that which I write (Southern Gothic Cozy Mysteries) and setting a weekly goal toward completing my pandemic project of converting my garden variety (pun intended) shed into a writing studio, I’m back again this Friday with the near-completion of the fourth side of the Word Crone Cottage.

This wall consists of all shelving – unattractive, plywood and 2X4, potting shed grade shelving. It was tough to make it look fancy, so I painted it, divided it into three compartments with extra shelves, partitions, and some gnarly porch posts I had on hand. (Doesn’t everyone have gnarly wooden posts just laying around?) Their purpose in all this is to just cover the crap behind it with curtains made from drop cloths.

So, what is behind curtain number three? I’m a compartmentalist. (Is it a word? It is now.) Curtain number one hides everything related to the business of writing – a printer, tax documents, books on grammar and story structure. Curtain number two houses all things artsy. In addition to writing, I whip out the odd illustration. (More on that in another blog post. It’s all storytelling.) And curtain number three houses the recording studio. (Very dark, so it doesn’t photograph well, thus all the closed curtains. (Maybe I’ll share an audio short story in the future. I should write down these blog post ideas.)

I loved the ceiling solution of covering the insulation with a dropcloth. Unfortunately, Scout has decided that it and the wood slabs that are currently stored in the rafters are there for her own enjoyment. Her new favorite napping spot is either on the wood slabs (that’s fine) or in the drop cloth ceiling covers. (Not fine.)

Next week I’ll share the last bit of renovation – the loft over this wall of shelves, (thus the reason for the theater ladder.) Woo hoo. I’m really looking forward to wrapping up my pandemic project, but is anything ever truly finished? Well, we can hope to see an end to the pandemic someday.  I’ll have some painted accent pieces to share along the way, but I’m already planning the next project, so please join me on Fridays… and in the meantime, enjoy this little “before” view of the next project.

Until then, make some art, read some books!




Cozy Southern Mysteries and an Angel on My Shoulder

This Friday, I’m continuing the tour around the edges of the Word Crone Cottage. Every week, I tackle another corner of my writing office, a pandemic project that is now ¾ done, thanks to the self-imposed Friday blog deadlines.

Everything here was thrifted or gifted and this week, I tackled the massive walnut armoire that was neglected, a catchall for tools and arts and crafts projects. It came into my care through my daughter, who received it from a friend. When she came home from college, the armoire was “stored” in what was, at the time, a storage shed… and it suffered for the lack of climate control. Today, it’s far happier serving as a bookshelf in the shed turned office.

Are you familiar with the story, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie? I styled the shelf, which meant moving books, which led to sorting/donating/curating those books, which led to moving my table desk from another corner, which led to the realization that I have a lot of angels looking over my shoulder.

Tomorrow will be the first day of writing with my entourage of angels peering over my shoulder. I’m re-working a cozy southern mystery. It’s part of a series that is receiving a pretty extensive overhaul. Yes, there is some mischief in the fictional town of Poropotank, but hopefully, the angels are working to keep everyone accountable – fictional characters as well as myself. A-chapter-a-day keeps the wolves at bay.

Join me again next Friday when I’ll be sorting out the “recording studio.” Okay, okay, at present, it’s little more than a corner wrapped in insulating batting. Someone asked about the banjo in the corner in a previously revealed corner. Yes, I play, not all that well, but what I lack in skill, I make up for with heart. <3 Click here for a little snippet.

I hope you’re enjoying the journey as much as I am. In the meantime, make some art. Read a book.


Inch-by-Inch, Wall-by-Wall…

It’s Friday, which means another corner of the Word Crone Cottage gets a reveal! This week’s task was the gable of the cottage, but as there was little to do to carry it around the corner, I’m including the gable and the other corner of this end of my office. This marks the half-way mark to completion!

I think I can safely self-diagnose as one of those special little butterflies with ADHD. It’s unfortunate that it has such a pejorative moniker. Attention DEFICIT Hyperactivity DISORDER describes it in adversarial terms, focusing on the limits created by this alternative means of processing information. But for those of us who can boast that particular means of processing information, it means the ability to make connections from a unique perspective, enhanced creativity, etc. It does, however, offer challenges to coping within the constraints of a traditional educational methodology, traditional 9-to-5 work, completing tasks set by others, etc.

For me, the greatest coping strategy I have is the ability to focus on short-term goals. I have difficulty staying on task if there is a great delay of gratification. With the Word Crone Cottage, I can imagine what it will look like when completely finished, but to tackle that entire project with that mindset? I’d be happy to dream about the outcome rather than tackle what I would perceive as an overwhelming task. But, If I break the tasks down into smaller bits with the more attainable goal to come on a weekly basis, well, that’s something even this willo’-the-wisp can handle. It’s the same strategy I use to complete a novel.

So I hope this inspires someone, a little, to tackle that giant project you’ve been dreaming about. Break it down into its smaller pieces, set small goals, and enjoy the journey. In the meantime, make some art, read some books. Enjoy!

Word Crone Cottage

Never mix plaid and floral?

The Magic of Space…

Whether it’s world building in fiction, or the physical space in which we work, I believe it can have an impact on what we do, who we are…

In continuation of the Friday tour of the Word Crone Cottage, this week, I finished the double doors on one end of my office. The doors are… were… the standard cheap double doors, treated plywood construction, that come standard in those little pre-fab sheds. There were not a lot of windows in the building, so when I thrifted four used windows, it was my plan to install them in the plywood double doors like full-French doors. Unfortunately, the bottom windows would cut into too much framing, so I decided against and opted to insulate, panel, and paint the bottom halves. The plaid is a work-in-progress. I underestimated the amount of time it takes to tape, paint, remove tape, wait for paint to dry, before doing it all again with the next color. I’ll add two more accent colors and next week’s tour will include the new, improved plaid panels, as well as the gable over the doors.

It’s the journey…