Ten Years of Blogging and the Struggle of Realness

WordPress sent me a notification recently, one I really hadn’t expected, but apparently I’ve owned this site for ten whole years!

That’s just crazy to think about.

Looking back over my first post, it took me a while to really get comfortable with what to even blog about. I was struggling to figure out how to open up, and it was difficult to even feel comfortable talking about who I was or where I was from. That kind of honesty online felt dangerous, even though now it’s an everyday thing.

When I was growing up, and the internet was the wild west it was really frightening to use your real name online. Everybody used aliases for fear of being the victim of identity theft, which wasn’t really understood at the time. You had emails for different usernames, you carefully managed what information you gave out because everything was public. Very few messageboards were behind passwords, so everything you said and did was public. Nobody knew how that would affect job prospects, or health insurance opportunities. Mental illnesses just weren’t talked about.

Then came Facebook, and you had to use your real name to get setup. You originally had to enter your real university email address to have an account. Suddenly there were potential ramifications of things you did online, or at least, you thought there were. Oh boy, things sure have changed ten years later!

I had to think of this site as a “professional online portfolio” which sounds kind of ridiculous these days, but that was the equivalent. Slowly my blog grew out of my writing experiences, my progress, my struggles, my highs and lows. Slowly I started to understand my online presence and how it reflected a unique part of me, similar to how my writing does. I grew more comfortable in my online skin, I grew more comfortable in what I could share.

Today it’s easily the hub of my author business and I work hard to keep it updated (*eyes that header image real hard haha*). It’s as natural a part of my work as my writing, as Facebook, as Instagram, and YouTube. It’s taken me a while to fully embrace it, both its more casual aspects (the blog itself), and its more professional pieces (media kits, book listings, social media links, etc). It’s had a lot of modifications in the past ten years, and several complete revamps. I feel like it’s going to get another one soon once I carve out some time.

Some of you all have been following my blog since I first published my sword and sorcery short story in Short-Story.Me! (which has also had a heck of a site update over the years!) and it has gone on to get–

*squints*

A whopping 58,500 views? Holy cow!

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’ve worked real hard to figure things out through this blog, and I appreciate you all for following me on my journey. Some of you have even been with me from the very start, and I can’t express how thankful I am for your support and motivation!

Here’s to ten more years of blogging, writing, learning, and figuring out this whole author thing.

Thanks for being here. ❤

Scrivener Tutorial Part 4: Using the Inspector

It’s been a busy year so far, y’all. I’m glad to get back to continuing my Scrivener tutorial series for fiction authors. I was really pleased to see how many people enjoyed the first three videos in my Scrivener playlist, so now that festival season has gotten a little bit quieter, I’m jumping back in with it.

In this video I tackle the Inspector and show features like labels, statuses, notes, an document references. I also show how to add color to your Binder to help organize scenes, chapters, and books.

Interview with Heather Kindt

Remember me mentioning how bad I was about sharing interviews here? Especially around a book release? It’s such a busy time that sometimes posts fall through the cracks. I’ll share hen on social media, but sometimes I forget to post them here.

Well here’s another poor interview that I forgot to post. This one is with fellow Parliament House sister, Heather Kindt. (Her book, The Weaver, comes out soon!) I talk about what inspired me to write Stolen and even mention some of the earliest original works I’ve ever written. (You’ll be surprised!)

I also discuss my journey on becoming an author, from my fan fiction days, to focusing on my computer science degree, and finally getting back into writing again. Every person’s journey to finding their craft is different, and these days there are so many potential paths to take too.

I hope you enjoy it!

Interview with Parliament House Press Author, Marlena Frank

Interview at The Horror Tree

So I apologize folks, but I am terrible at remembering to share interviews I’ve done on here. I share them around like crazy on social media, just because it’s easier to to do, but when it comes down to posting them on my blog, I just forget. It’s one of those bad habits I’ve noticed since my debut novel, Stolen, came out in January, and it’s something I hope to tackle as I continue doing interviews down the road.

The researcher in me thinks there has to be a pattern, because I see other authors struggle with this too, especially as interviews get done around release dates. When you have a book coming out, not only are you prepping for your own release party, but you’re also working on book tours and putting together materials for those. Interviews for some reason just get forgotten after the initial social media push.

So in trying to make up for that lapse, here’s an interview I did back in March for The Horror Tree. Now if you’re a horror author looking for publishers to submit to, this site is indispensable. They’re a free site, and they post up information that is often more detailed than what’s on Duotrope. For short story horror writers, it’s a gem.

The Horror Tree: An indispensable tool for horror authors.

So you can imagine my excitement when I was asked to do an interview for them! This is one of the most comprehensive interviews I’ve done about not just Stolen and The She-Wolf of Kanta, but also for Night Feeders. Check out the link below!

The Horror Tree Presents… An Interview with Marlena Frank

Author Vending: Business Cards and Branding

When I first got my business cards created, I didn’t know the first thing about how to make them. I was a short story author, but was just beginning to get into having full novellas and books published. I didn’t have any idea of where to go to get them printed, what made a good design for a creative person, or anything like that. The only design I was really familiar with were the ones I had from work. I work in IT in education during my day job, so you can imagine how plain those were.

So I researched and found out that Staples did business cards. Perfect, I thought, that’s where I’ll go! I designed them all online, expecting a variety of design options, but was dismayed with how quickly the price rose for just simple design elements. Want an icon? That’s extra. Want color? That’s extra too. Want to print on both sides? Yeah, you get the idea. It was difficult.

Another piece I didn’t understand at the time was that I needed an author brand. I needed a look and feel that described me as an author, and I wasn’t sure what that was yet. Should I define myself by my dark horror short stories? Or should it be my lighter fantasy pieces? It was a struggle, and so instead of making a big decision about it, I decided to go simple and dark to try and embrace my horror side. It… didn’t look nearly as good as I hoped it would.

The background of the card is supposed to be black, but came out as a dark, flat gray. I assumed that was as black as they would print it. The red lettering really looks bad against the color, and the words are almost illegible. The white font doesn’t pop and almost faded away as well.

At the time, I also didn’t see the value of having a back side to the cards. I could barely figure out what to put on the front of them, and I didn’t want to incur the extra cost. I saw it as an expense instead of an investment, as a simple way for people to remember my name rather than a way to advertise for myself. At the time I had no plans of being an author vendor or anything like that, and it really shows. Staples is more for basic business cards, not for more creative cards, and their color choices show that.

Now, these cards aren’t bad exactly, they’re just boring. I’ll probably still pull them out when I need just some basic cards. They’re great for a basic exchange of info and they have space to write on the back. However, I’m really proud of the recent redesign I made for them. I’m bringing these to the 4th of July event tomorrow, and I think they really pop, especially compared to the old design.

Look at how vibrant the colors are on these! Look at how just looking at the card you can see the style of my work. You see fantasy, but you also see the hint of darkness with the tendrils reaching out on the sides. The butterfly and the tendrils are from some free clipart I found online, but everything else was built in Canva and printed from Vistaprint. Not only do I get a beautiful glossy front, but I also get that true black that I wanted. Pictures don’t really do these justice because you miss that glossy effect and the brilliant colors, but I’m so very proud of how these turned out compared to their predecessors. I feel like people will want to pick these up.

Take a look at them side by side. The differences are dramatic. One looks like a plain business card, while the other looks like it belongs to a creative person.

Now as far as branding goes, I wanted to add that the theme of the new business card designs go along quite well with my vertical sign. Are they the same colors? No, but the butterfly theme links them together.

From our Geranium Festival setup, featuring Kelley M. Frank from Morbid Smile with the hat, and
Jordan Dixon from Heartfelt Knots Knitting.

My vertical sign also implies with the gradient from black to purple in the background that there is a darkness to my stories as well. This is a shot from our setup from the Geranium Festival earlier this year, and I think this was the first time my vertical sign was pulled out. These signs have been so very helpful in bringing people into the booths at our events.

I hope you enjoyed this little dive into designing and author branding! I hope it not only helps you figure out your author brand, but also how to reflect it in various mediums. I’ve only been doing this for a year and I still have a lot of learning to go, but hopefully I can share some experiences and resources to help others get started.

I’m hoping to do more posts like this one on vending as an author! Let me know if you have any topics you would like me to cover in the comments below.