Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Author Branding

I do a lot of talks for authors at conferences in various different cities. One of the things that I share is the importance of the author brand. I ask authors to consider who their target audience might be for their writing and whether or not they have a distinctive author brand that might click with such an audience.

I typically use concepts such as my own use of Barnaby Bones, the "mascot" who attends various author events with me. Barnaby is my personal example of an author brand. I write horror - therefore, the props of tombstones and skulls and a life-sized skeleton create an instantly recognizable and classifiable "brand" that speaks of "Mark Leslie"

And just a few days ago, I took the "author branding" to a more literal level.

I branded myself - my skin - with something quite appropriate for a horror author, when I finally got a tattoo.

It all stems back to the early 1990's when I remember sitting at my desk when I lived on Craig Street in Ottawa. I should have been studying, but instead, I was looking at three things on my desk -- the pencil cup on the edge of my desk, the coffee mug in front of me, and a cool drawing of an eerie skull with flesh melting off of it from one of the small press horror magazines that I was either published in or had ordered a sample copy of/

I ended up combining the skull, the mug and the pencil cup into a single sketch that I quite liked. I later inked the sketch in, enjoying the feel of the piece.

A copy of the original "Skull cup" sketch I had created
But I didn't know what to do with it. When I released my self-published short story collection One Hand Screaming in 2004, I considered using that sketch for the front cover. But my buddy Steve who designed the cover for me, did something much better - so I went with that.

The skull cup sketch sat, like many stories often do, in a drawer.

And it wasn't until I had decided to get a tattoo earlier this year that I realized I could use this. (And it took me several hours of digging around in boxes of my misc creative and writing files to find it)

So this past Friday, I had the tattoo done at Skinners in Hamilton.

I was relieved to learn the tattoo could easily be removed should I change my mind

My appointment was for 2 PM on a Friday - I arrived for the appointment on a bright and sunny afternoon. I was delighted to learn that, should I ever change my mind, there was an easy way to remove the tattoo.

The artist began by shaving my arm with a little Lady Bic razor and then rubbing my arm done with some sort of warm liquid then transferring a stencil from my sketch onto my arm.

The stencil is on. "Look Ma, no pain!"

That was pretty cool and also quite painless.

Then the actual tattooing began. It felt, basically, like a simple and relatively painless needle going into my arm (which, I suppose, is exactly what it is - a needle that is injecting ink into the skin) - the second that it was out, the pain was over. Only, it was followed by another relatively mild pin prick sensation, then another, then another.

Here is the Tattoo outline as completed
Then, once the outlining of the tattoo was completed, the "filling in" of the shadowing and the eyes and nose, etc began. (There was a good 5 minute break while the artist was attending to some other customers - and it gave me a good chance to move my arm around and get the feeling back into my hand - for the procedure, I had to sit with my arm danging straight down and my hand went to sleep being in that position for so long)

The tattoo as complete - is all that red part of the design or just irritated skin?

Admittedly, the series of pin-pricks that accompanied the "filling in" of the "black space" was quite intense - but again, it was just a pin prick, following by another, and another, and another, and another, and another, etc, etc, etc.  To be honest, the numbing feeling of my hand falling asleep was more painful than the tattoo itself. And there was a TV on and which I amused myself by watching from the multiple mirrors set up in the shop, likely for just that purpose.

Then, I was coated in a cream, a bandage was applied and I was given instructions on how to treat it for the next couple of weeks. (Basically, applying a Vitamin A/Vitamin E cream, keeping from submersing it in water for 2 weeks, keeping it out of the sun and keeping the skin lubricated while I go through the process of scabbing and flaking and healing.

Oh no! Blood! ;)

I was a bit surprised when I got home to see that there was quite a bit of blood leaking out from the bandage.  But the next day, when I removed the bandage, it was starting to look good. (Although, sure, there's still a lot of redness around the tat -- and the feeling is more like some sort of sunburn)

The day after tattoo look

In any case, I'm now going through the process of applying the vitamin A/ vitamin E cream multiple times a day and, of course, showing the tattoo off.

But I have to say that this is quite the appropriate tattoo for a horror writer to spot, which the brilliant horror author Jason Brant pointed out in a tweet that day.  (Quick side note for horror fans, if you haven't yet checked out Jason's writing, do yourself a favour and go buy one NOW.....you'll be sorry if you don't)

Tweet by horror author Jason Brant

As Jason says, I'm taking author branding to the extreme.

I suppose I might use some of this in my next "author branding" example.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Thirteen Years Ago

It has been thirteen years since the tragic event of Sept 11, 2001 and 2996 people lost their lives.

Blogger D. Challenger Roe began Project 2,996 as a way to bring bloggers from around the world together to remember and pay tribute to the victims of Sept 11, 2001.

The point of the project is to celebrate and remember the LIVES of those who were lost rather than focusing on the tragedy of that day.

Birds circling in the tribute lights - from 9pixs.com
I adore the fact that the focus of this blog meme wasn't on the horror, but on the celebration of the lives, the people they had been before 9/11.

Here are my own links to three individuals that I focused on learning a bit about and sharing.  Every year, on this anniversary, I re-read the posts, think about the lives they lived before the tragedy.

 Raymond Meisenheimer

Deora Francis Bodley
  Remembering The Lives of Two Heros (Blog post from 2007)

David Reed Gamboa Bradhorst
  Project 2996 - Sept 11, 2008 (Blog post from 2008)

It's my small way of continuing to celebrate their lives, of not forgetting . . .

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Podcast Alley

My voice has been getting a lot of "airplay" lately with having been a guest on several different podcasts lately . . .

And, of course, I was delighted, as part of my hosting of the Kobo Writing Life Podcast, to get to interview Rainbow Rowell and Faith Erin Hicks (In Episode 22) in a delightful conversation about their work and a new collaborative project they are teaming up for.  (Rainbow and Faith coming together to work on a project is as genius as the merger of peanut butter and chocolate -- two great entities on their own forming something even more spectacular when brought together - and that's definitely something you get listening to the two being interviewed at the same time . . . .)

Rainbow & Faith taking a selfie in the front lobby at Kobo's home office in Toronto