Unexpected Stories

An unexpected view from a shop window in Mykonos

So, I’ll be making some changes to this website over the coming months. . .nothing major, essentially, just getting it ready for the launch of my second novel by late summer/early fall. Well, I don’t think it will look like anything major to visitors, but it’s minorly major to me. I’m trying to put some thought into the changes, improve the site’s searchability, and give the folks who’ve never heard of me (so, read: most folks, everywhere) some idea of what I’m about.

This website will turn three years old this summer. It’s no longer a start-up. And marketing habits die hard. While my day job is no longer in the day-to-day business of marketing, it’s still heavy in the communications arena. And I feel like some of the communicative elements here are getting stale.

What I’m getting at is, in marketing parlance, I’m saying it’s high time for this website to undergo a “branding refresh.”

For all things branding, once again, I turned to Sally Hogshead, creator of the “Fascination Advantage.” This is a personality assessment that’s supposed to help you figure out how everyone sees you (or your “brand”) when you’re at your best. I signed up for her “One Hour Personal Brand” workshop. (The fee was very reasonable. I’ve certainly spent a lot stupider money on less productive exercises trying to help me figure out what the world thinks of me.)

So far, the workshop is telling me I need to come up with an “anthem.” Her definition of anthem is “a tagline to describe myself,” or “my personal brand.” You can see the tagline I’ve been using these past three years, right at the top of this page. “Fiction writer. Yippee ki yay.”

I’m not so sure I’m ready to lose the “Yippee ki yay” part. Jury’s still out on that, even though the people who performed the search optimization audit on the site (a different company, in no way affiliated with Sally Hogshead) said something about how “it doesn’t add anything to search.” I wanted to respond back “oh yeah, but it says a lot  about me, mutha somethin,” but I didn’t. ‘Cause, yeah, as an aside, I paid this company more than twice what I paid for the One Hour Personal Brand, and it was like pulling teeth to get them to deliver the audit. About two months later than they promised.

Anyway, I’m very ready to refine the “Fiction writer” part. I’d like to replace it with “Unexpected stories.” I could make that my anthem: “I write unexpected stories.” But there’s something holding me back from using that phrase, which I’ll get to in a bit.

This is how I came up with “Unexpected stories:” the One Hour Personal Brand workshop told me to come up with an adjective from my Fascination profile, and pair it with a noun. The noun I’d really like to use is “stories.” Stories feels like the most appropriate word tying my long and short form works together. (Another aside, I have a short story that should publish later this month, in the sci-fi anthology Just A Minor Malfunction #4.)

Here’s why I like “unexpected” best: not only does it seem like a good descriptor for the paranormal and sci-fi themes in what I write, it also feels right for my fiction writing career. I think I always expected I would be doing this some day. . .but the rest of the folks in my world? Not so much.

But finally, here’s why I’m reluctant to forge ahead with a brand new “unexpected stories” tagline: it’s also the title of a collection of Octavia Butler’s short stories, published posthumously just a few years ago. Would using it usurp any of the rightful praise due this Hugo- and Nebula-award-winning author? The first speculative fiction writer to win a MacArthur “genius grant?” Or would using it honor her?

Jury’s still out on that question, too.

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