As I start writing my second novel I am being reminded often that I need to start branding myself.  It’s time to get my name recognized and associated with my style of writing.  There are so many things I would rather do – like oral surgery.  

The problem with branding and marketing yourself is that you have to assume that there are people out there who are going to get excited enough about you (who you are) to visit a web page, or follow your twitter account.  You have to assume you are that interesting.  It feels very different than branding and marketing a product. 

I have never wished for fame.  As an introvert I am happiest spending most of my days alone with my imaginary friends (characters), creating stories to entertain others.  I am starting to see the benefit now of a pen name.  Maybe I should have become K G Stylo (French for pen) before I put my first book out there.  (Damn, why do I think of these things now!)  It would be so much easier to announce to the world all the (imaginary) interesting things that KG would be doing.  As it is, I went to Target this morning and got more all-purpose cleanser in a new scent.  As much as this excites me, I’m not so vain to assume it would excited much of anyone else.  

I do write this blog, which is a form of branding myself.  I just love writing, communicating, opening up dialogs and tossing around ideas.  It was also easier to do because I have been able to remain semi-anonymous.  Here I am only Karen @joiedemidvivre.  It took me months to be OK with associating my last name with the blog or (god forbid) putting an actual picture out there of me.  

One of my next steps is creating a web site for myself as an author.  From the time I started researching self-publishing I have read that having one is very important.  I’ve been avoiding it because in creating one I am making an assumption that someone one (actually more than one person) will be interested in it.  I will do it because it’s all part of this process or creating, then getting really brave and putting that something (and now me) out there for the world to see (and comment on).  Jumping out of an airplane was so much easier than all this. 

My first branded item. Note my name is on the cute beach bag giveaway.

Much Joie

I have no idea what luck star I am hanging under today, but I’ll take it.  It’s easy to note everything that goes wrong on bad days, but here is everything that has gone right or is awesome about today (and it’s not even noon yet!)

1.  I slept last night!  (Any woman around 50 understands my sheer joie that this happened.)

2.  I had $3 off on a sandwich on my Panera card.  OK, actually it’s my husband’s card, but it is one of the reasons I love him so much, he shares his Panera points with me.  

3.  I got my kids to school just in time to not have to sign them in as tardy.  Feels a lot like sliding into home plate and just beating the ball.  

4.  I lost another pound.  My smoothies are doing their magic and I am loving them.  Had a choco, banana coconut one the other night.  Mmmmmmm.

5.  Almost every song on the radio this morning was a great one.  I was Shazam-ing all over the place.

6.  My hubby is on his way home to me from another business trip and it’s going to be a scary stormy night (you can put two and two together 😉 )

7.  My sorority sister posted stuff on FB that was so funny I laughed till I cried.  Made me remember college when I laughed till I cried almost everyday.  

8.  I got to go for a walk in my favorite park and it was almost deserted.  The trees were budding, the weather was perfect and the frogs were signing.  

9.  I get to spend time today in fantasy land with really fun, cool characters that I made up.  Writing really is the best job in the world. 

And that is what I am going to do right now, ’cause book two isn’t going to write itself.  

I just found this pic when I Binged “joie”.  I may have to find a bottle of this.

Notes from the Professor

I don’t share this info often, but in my other life I am an Instructor for a university.  It’s been my somewhat-secret, other identity for going on 8 years.  I’m only bringing it to light now because I have accumulated a few great pointers for all those who are getting their acceptance letters or sending a kid off to college this year.  These are my insider secrets to help you get an A (most of the time).

© Jackie Egginton | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Insider Tip  #1:  Most important, can’t stress this enough, can’t believe how rarely this actually happens – FOLLOW DIRECTIONS.  When you are given an assignment read the instructions.  Universities and professors tend to be very precise with these things.  If they say they want a 10-page paper, APA style, on the current price of crude oil, that’s exactly what they want.  The first thing your professor will notice, before he or she ever reads a single word of your paper, will be if you followed the instructions.  If your paper is 8 pages long and not in APA style, their opinion has already been swayed on the content.  

Insider Tip #2:  Your professor is not your bestie or bro.  Do not write a paper or an assignment communicating with them in the same way you communicate with your friends.  My boss recently received a paper with no capital letters.  It read like text message.  I abbreviate and use slang all over my social media, and I sound completely different in my work communications.  Learning to communicate in a formal style is great practice that you will definitely use in the work world after graduation.  If you find yourself stuck in slang speak, read some decent literature.  It doesn’t have to be Shakespeare (too many thou’s and shant’s).  A little Diana Gabaldon or Dan Brown should do the trick.  

Insider tip #3: Looks matter – at least when it comes to your work.  Hopefully your high school teachers already drilled this into you, but if not, always present the most-organized, neat work possible.  The current trend is turning your work in online, for some this is a fantastic break.  If your penmanship would qualify you for med school, you can always type neatly.  I love getting assignments where I can easily tell which question the student is answering followed by their answer (in a complete sentence).  Copy or type out the question, change font then type your answer.  This makes us professorly types so much happier; and happy profs tend to give better grades.  

Insider Tip #4:  Your first semester (or maybe even this summer) learn to write a paper in the current APA style, to deliver an organized speech and to create fantastic PowerPoint slides.  If you can do these three things, you will be so incredibly far ahead of the game.  

One final tip, communicate with your professors.  TV and movies like to portray us as hardhearted and sadistic.  These are only half truths.  We are actually human.  We have laptops stolen, hospital visits and other unplanned disasters.  If you are clearly working hard in a class and you get behind for a legitimate reason, contact your professor and ask to make up the work.  You will probably get more yes than no answers.  However, ‘I was in the Bahamas and just really didn’t have time to write a paper’ will never fly for an excuse.  Hangovers are also best left unmentioned. 

Fear of Art

This is why so many people don’t finish their half-written novel or bring their poetry or painting or photograph into public view, because it matters. 

Art in any form is a reflection of the artist.  My writing is very personal.  When I wrote “Burnouts, Geeks and Jesus Freaks: a love story” I really wasn’t sure if I wanted to ever show it to more than a handful of friends who would recognize some of the scenes and enjoy the characters.  I can’t begin to tell you how nervous I was when I mailed each of them a copy.  I knew I loved it, but creative people always tend to love their work.  We’re a little biased toward the words or images that speak from our souls.  As each reader contacted me and let me know that they really loved it too, I got this incredible rush, a feeling of super connection to them.  As colossally scary as the idea was, I knew I wanted to try to get that connection with more people.  

My favorite life-guru, Danielle LaPorte, is celebrating that her first solo book, “The Fire Starter Sessions” is now available in paperback.  In her amazingly eloquent way she summed up how authors and artists feel about the first creation they bring to the public eye: “I love that book like you love your first love. It was all sweat and fumbling and firsts and I’m grateful for everything that keeps coming of it.”  

I’m still fumbling along with my first love.  Some days are so full of elation I want to turn cartwheels on the front lawn.  When I got two more great reviews on Amazon this past weekend I desperately wanted to go and hug the readers that posted them.  And just like first love, there are scary days too, although most of them are more scary scenarios I have built up in my head than reality.  Either way it is a rush, an addictive one. 

I’m starting on the sequel, “Popstars, Friends and Lovers” this week.  I’ve done some research, but it is time to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard).  It is so tempting to hold back, to go with safe scenes, to give the readers what I think they want.  But the same muse, the voice from inside that pushed me to finish my first novel keeps screaming NO.  I have to write what is real, what is scary to say, what matters. 

Calling Names (The story behind my book title)

To celebrate my 2nd anniversary of publishing I’m re-posting this explanation of where my very-long but so cool title came from. If this piques your interest you can enter a Goodreads Giveaway to win a signed copy. Follow this link and sign up to win your copy.


After almost three weeks on Amazon, I am starting to get some feedback on the contents of my novel, but more on the cover and the title.  When it comes to the literary world of Amazon your book will be judged by its cover and its title.  My cover is courtesy of the fabulous Kim and Kitten and Deranged Doctor Designs, the title is my own creation.  So, how did I decide on it?

For most of the time that I was writing, the novel was simply labeled Ben and Carrie on my computer.  I knew I couldn’t stick with that. Not only is it really unimaginative, it also tells you nothing about the story except that there is someone named Ben and someone named Carrie.  Not exactly intriguing enough to make you want to plunk down $2.99 to find out more.

One of the themes in the story is tribe or groups.  I’ve written a few posts here on my blog already about this concept.  I am fascinated with the idea of social groups, how innate they are, how they are formed, why we join them or leave them, and how they both divide and connect us to others.  Exploring those ideas was one of the main reasons I placed the characters in high school (and a little of  junior high).  That is a key time in life when people start to choose who they want associate with and be associated with.  For some it is a conscious choice, for others, it is more of a hit-or-miss chance meeting.

Burnouts, geeks and Jesus freaks are names kids use to define themselves, create separate identities, and connect with others who share the same moniker.  The names are short hand for (stereotypical) characteristics that allowed me as an author to build my characters more easily. In the beginning of the story, lines are clearly drawn between the groups but those lines start to fade and become less clear as the characters grow and mature.

The title grabs your attention because most of us remember these groups in high school or similar ones.  We had preppies, nerds, burnouts, goody-goodies, jocks; all derogatory terms meant to divide and define.  There was almost always a price to pay for crossing over the divisions, moving away from your group.  But some, like Ben and Carrie, were willing to cross those lines, because that’s the other thing that happens in high school: a love story.


TFS Wednesday: Smoothies

It’s hard for me to think about drinking an ice-cold smoothie for any meal during the winter.  I spend too much time devising ways to thaw myself out.  Even for a great weight management idea I just can’t make myself any colder.  

Luckily, spring has sprung here in Memphis.  It is officially warm enough (for me) to add smoothies back into my diet.  It’s also a great time to do it because they are a fast, efficient, delicious way to eat healthier and lose weight.  

In the past I relied on Weight Watchers smoothies only.  They are still a delicious option, but since Pintrest came along, I have been inundated with all kinds of homemade smoothie ideas.  The key is finding the ingredients that both taste great to you and also fill whatever health need you have.

Smoothies can be created to fill you up with lots of fibrous foods (like oatmeal) and liquids (juices).  They can be a way to add more veggies to your diet.  You would be surprised how little you taste  spinach or kale when you combine them with a banana.  Add a little protein powder in and your smoothie is a meal replacement.  

Here’s a few of my favorite sources for smoothie ideas:

And a few smoothie making tips:

One final note:  Most diet plans and sites promote smoothies as a breakfast or lunch replacement.  Great idea if either of these are your least favorite meal of the day.  Personally, I love breakfast and lunch and could skip dinner most days.  Pay attention to your own rhythm and have one a day as a meal replacement when you want it, not when a diet plan tells you to.  If you are home or have access to a blender, smoothies can also be a great between meal snack.

More Jump Pics

Day 1 home from spring break and I am knee deep in laundry.  I thought it would be a great day to post a few more pics from my jump.

My training class – bend your knees, fall out of the plane, put your arms out and smile.  I nailed it. 

Stylin Goggles

Notice his hand “guiding” me to the plane.   No turning back!

My personal cheering section (+ two not in photo)

Smiling because I’m alive and still clinging to my cute Brazilian