Sunday, April 26, 2015

PIMP YOUR STYLE: How to Make Your Writer's Wardrobe Work For You

This blog was originally posted on the Affair de Coeur Scratching Post blog in 2012. With Malice Domestic looming in the near future, I figured what better time to dust it off? --Diane
I'm guessing we've all heard the advice to start building your brand the second you decide you want to write for profit. Many of us started a website before we finished the first draft of our first draft. Our online presences are carefully constructed works of art: the photo we chose after bypassing thousands we didn't like, the bio that hints at our platform and our voice, and the blurbs that tease better than a high class call girl. But what happens when we have to turn on the lights and step in front of the very people we've been asking to leave the price of an ebook on our bedside table?
When you attend a writer's conference or convention, you become a hyper-version of you. You are a walking representation of your brand. How you conduct yourself-and how you look-are important elements to your success. You want to get noticed, but not for the wrong reasons. Here are a few tips how:
Red light district or blue light special?  
Color can be your best friend. Are you promoting a book? If so, is there a predominant color palette to the cover? Consider your ARC or your personal copy to be an accessory to your outfit and dress to match it. If your book is purple, make purple your signature color for the conference. Maybe a purple dress on day one, purple scarf day two, purple shoes day three. People will notice you the first day. They'll come talk to you on day two and three.

Rely on the kindness of strangers. 
You might have the most awesome network of close, personal friends who want nothing more than to see you succeed, but they might not know how to tell you they always thought your obsession with beige was unhealthy. Shopping with a friend rarely works. Why not? You see each other the way you've always seen each other. While this is one of the most awesome things about friendship, it's not so good when it comes to trying something new. You might never try on the perfect dress because it looks like nothing on the hanger and your friend tells you not to try it. These are the kinds of things professionals are there for, and the best thing is that you get their advice for free.

Rely on pins and needles. 

If your clothes are too tight, too baggy, too short, or too long, people will notice. Check how your clothes look from the front and the back. If your skirt rides up in the back, it's not the right skirt for you. If your pants are so tight they're on the brink of bursting at the seams, consider how it would look if they did burst at the seams. In front of your dream agent. Right after you gave a fantastic pitch. Ask yourself what they'll remember: your pitch or your pooch? That's right. Most dry cleaners will do alterations for you for a low cost, and most can easily tell what needs to be done simply by seeing you in the clothes. Getting your clothes to fit right is well worth the money.

It's what's on the inside that counts.  

You probably know if you are a woman, you need a bra. But that's not the only undergarment you should think about. Panty lines and excessive jiggle are not good. There's a reason the inventor of Spanx is now on the Forbes Rich List. Her unmentionables make clothes look better on without forcing you to trade your diet of cupcakes for celery stalks.

Comfort is best left for ice cream and stuffed animals. 
There's not a person among us who isn't more comfortable in stretchy pants and a soft T-shirt, but going to a writer's convention is not about comfort. While I'm not suggesting you get yourself strapped into a corset for the event, I do think it's a good idea to think about structure. A blazer, twinset, or cardigan is going to look better than a sweatshirt with cats on the front, even if you write cat-fiction. You can change into your cat sweatshirt when it's time to retire to your room. Unless you have a roommate.

Don't mistake "appropriate" for "boring" 
I convinced you to leave your cat sweatshirt in a drawer at home, but that doesn't mean you should abandon your sense of whimsy in the drawer with it. You already know not to write the boring parts of a story. Now it's time to apply the same thought process to your conference wardrobe. Find what represents YOU and make it part of your conference look. Maybe you love chandelier earrings. Maybe you love shoes. Make that one category your signature for the conference. "Great earrings!" you'll hear on day one. "Another pair of great earrings!" you might hear on day two. And guess what people will be thinking about on day three? "I wonder what kind of earrings she'll have on today?"
When the opportunity for marketing through social media exploded, the first thing we all learned (either through the grapevine or by experience)was to NOT talk about our books. Twasn't easy, we found, but nothing good in life really is. We had to figure out how to make people like us for who we are and what we represented, so hopefully they'd pick up our works, expecting them to be an extension of our online persona. Your conference clothing is going to do the same thing for you. Your goal? To look interesting enough that people want to know more about you and what you write. Don't let wacky clothes take away from your empire. Pimp your style and let your wardrobe work for you!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Preorder Contest!

Capture every mid-mod moment with retro flair.
You'll be the envy of every vintage vixen (or daddy-o) in town!
How to enter:
1. Preorder a copy of WITH VICS YOU GET EGGROLL
(Ebook: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | iTunes | Google)
(Paperback: Amazon | Mysterious Galaxy**)
2. Forward your confirmation to
(screenshot of purchase confirmation page works too)
*Your choice of color
**Mysterious Galaxy will handle orders for signed copies.
Link will be active when the book is added to their database.
Other fine print:
Each preorder = an entry.
Gift to your friends! Stock up for the holidays! Buy a copy for every room in the house!
Prize includes film.
Contest ends April 13, 2015 at midnight. Winner announced April 14.
Good luck!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Some Like It Haute, Style & Error #4, Now Available!

A funny thing happened on the way to this release date. I lost my hard drive. Yep. The place where I store just about everything. I haven't stopped to really think about what is gone, and I maintain hope that some tech professional out there can retrieve it. Where's Marshall Flinkman when you need him? or Mac from Veronica Mars?
The one shining light in this particular crisis is the fact that a new Samantha Kidd book is out. In the middle of a crisis, Samantha makes me laugh. She's tenacious, determined, impervious to adversity, and on a continual question to find where she fits in life. I can put her into situations that don't fit Madison Night or Poly Monroe.
If you've enjoyed her escapades in the past, I hope you'll follow her into her fourth adventure, and if you haven't met her yet, I hope you check her out now!
And if you're not already subscribed to my newsletter list, consider doing so. I'll be running weekly giveaways all year to celebrate my four releases in 2015. You can sign up here.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Bouchercon 2014 Memories

Another conference comes to a close. This time it was Bouchercon 45. Great conference, though, since it was my first Bouchercon, it was a bit overwhelming. 2,000 people and more fantastic panels than I could possibly attend in a month. The humidity contributed to some bad hair days, but what are you gonna do? The week in pictures and comments:


Took the train from Hollywood. Conference travel for $1.75. Can't beat that. Roommate and bestie Kendel Lynn and I headed off to the grocery store for conference essentials.
The extra glamorous view outside of our hotel room. Not to worry, we only needed that room to sleep, eat bowls of cereal, and establish the fact that when we're away from home, we live like rock stars.


Fabulous day of forensics with Sisters in Crime. No photos. Totally worth it. Just one of many reasons why it's important to belong to Sisters in Crime!


Kicked the day off with Author Speed Dating. After brief pitch rehearsing, we were ready to hit the ground running. Then off to the Hyatt to fill up the swag table, mingle with friends, and take in some panels.
"Short But Mighty" panel Speaking of rock stars, these peeps have staked their claim on short story territory. Craig Faustus Buck, Travis Richardson, Barb Goffman, Robert Lopresti, Paul D. Marks, and Art Taylor. Art Taylor went on to win the McCavity award later the same night. Congrats, Art!


With a few members of the Henery Press team: Lyndee Walker, Kendel Lynn, Annette Dashofy, Sybil Johnson, Susan M. Boyer, and Wendy Tyson
The "Hollywood Premiere" Opening Ceremonies at the Pacific Ballroom. Half an hour later, this place was packed.


Big day for me. Not one, but two sessions. Powered up on Cheerios and coffee and hit the ground running!
My fellow panelists for the Sassy, Sexy, and Smart Protagonist panel on Friday: Elaine Viets, Hilary Davidson, James, Ziskin, and Andrew Mayne.
Later on Friday, my pincushion cupcake panel! So, yes, me posing by the sign, that you cannot read. In my special Bouchercon apron, designed and crafted for this very event.
The graduating class of pincushion cupcake school!
And just incase you need a close-up, here's a pincushion cupcake.
With friends Susan M. Boyer and Kendel. No, I did not want to take my apron off. It was cooler than the tweed cape!


After a fantastic breakfast with Sisters in Crime, where I managed to both tear up and forget to take photos, I headed out to the conference.
The Fine Art of Murder panel with Juliet Blackwell, Kate Carlisle, Sheila Connelly, Kendel Lynn, Reba White Williams, nd Jane Cleland.

"We've Got Grit" panel. I moderated, and may I say this ended up being a conference highlight? With John McFetridge, Charles Salzberg, David Stout, and David Swinson.


After the conference, Susan Boyer, Kendel Lynn, and I headed off to the Queen Mary for High Tea.

Objects are larger than they appear. And by objects, I mean the boat.

I can't resist a phone booth photo op. The only thing missing were the circuits of time.


Many hours service. Don't judge. (For the record: it wasn't all for me, and we didn't finish).

As always, it was great to get away from real life and exist in the world of mysteries for a week, but all too quickly it was time to go home. Back to the grindstone tomorrow!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Anatomy of a Cover Girl

In addition to writing the Style & Error Mystery Series, I also design the covers. This is generally not recommended in the world of self-publishing, but I've had experience with graphic design, plus, this is kind of like having my own set of paper dolls (more on that in a bit!). The fourth Style & Error Mystery will be out in early 2015, and I thought it would be fun to share the process of designing Samantha Kidd for her next cover.

First, I start with a concept sketch. This is basically me getting an idea of what elements I want to use while coming up with the body language I will then mimic when I build her. I knew I wanted flames because the book deals with an arsonist.

Next, I start the process of layering shapes (literally rectangles, circles, triangles, etc) to get as close as I can to the position of the figure in my sketch before I start fine tuning. At this point, everything is still very rudimentary, at least until I feel good about the overall thing. She remains faceless/headless. She has the same face on every book, so that is a final detail.

After that, I start playing with the design elements to see if this is going to work:
But already, I'm thinking the hand on the hip is too similar to the hand-on-hip pose from the third book: I start experimenting with alternate arms:
While the above isn't right for this book, turns out it's PERFECT for an upcoming book, so you'll see that get developed into something at a later date. But okay, let's just put her hand on her other hip for now and move on. I've always loved a motorcycle jacket, so...

I love the jacket, but my sense of proportion kicks in, and I don't love those pants with it. But I'm wildly impressed that I built a motorcycle jacket out of triangles, squares, and trapezoids in the first place, so I'm keeping it. Plus, it does fit the story, since Samantha spends much of the time partnering up with Dante, who drives a motorcycle. Let's give her a skirt instead and try a couple of hairstyles:

I feel like I'm zeroing in on something, but still, the whole thing is too busy. Plus, that hand on hip still bothers me. Maybe if I drop her onto the rest of the cover, I'll get a better sense of what to keep and what to lose.

Old cover fonts
New cover fonts
The skirt's not quite right and that hand on the hip still bothers me! How about:

Yes! Now to give her a head and add the rest of the cover elements, including Logan, who fits perfectly in her helmet (which is way better than having him sit in the flames!):

And that's the cover for SOME LIKE IT HAUTE, #4 in the Style & Error Mystery Series, due out in January 2015. Here's the blurb:

Fashion expert Samantha Kidd is in the hot seat. After agreeing to help her ex-boyfriend’s former girlfriend with a runway show, she’s attacked backstage, landing in the hospital. But when a garment goes up in flames on the catwalk the day after the attack, the already explosive situation turns deadly. She recruits a smokin’ hot photographer to turn up the heat on the investigation, but even the third degree won’t expose an angry arsonist. With a crash course in sizzle, Samantha’s curiosity leads her into another inferno, and this time she either faces the fire or gets burned.

If you're like me and you grew up reading mysteries and playing with dolls, then leave a comment below and enter to win a copy of SAMANTHA KIDD PAPER DOLLS, featuring dolls and outfits from the first three Style & Error books.