Man branding a cow.
I don’t mean what cowboys do to their cows!

I’ve been thinking a lot about this subject. I keep reading at different places that, as an author, I must create a brand. I have never quite understood what this means. After doing some research, I think I discovered a possible explanation.

I may be wrong, but it sounds like making my work into a series or writing about a world that I created to write my stories in.

Why would I want to do this? I know it helps generate sales, because readers get attached to your world and your characters, but I’m not really into writing about the same characters in one series indefinitely like so many authors do.

Book collection with series.
Book 1, book 2, book 3, book 4, book 5, book 6, . . .

I have so many ideas, and many are not in the same genre. I have a comedy in mind, several horror stories, and a steam punk adventure. Let’s not forget my current publication, Assassin Marked, a science fiction crime novel, and my soon-to-be-released dark fantasy, The Unfettered Child.

As I pondered this, I turned to one of my favorite authors, Stephen King. Everyone knows him as a horror writer, but he isn’t really. He has written many different genres, although I don’t know that he has written any space operas (he could have, but I don’t know of any).

It’s Stephen King Time

I know at this point in his career Stephen King’s brand is his name. I know I’ve picked up many of his novels just because of his name. However, if we really think about it, Stephen King does have his own world he writes in. It’s earth, but it’s this strange and twisted sort of earth with many different realities within it.

Anyone who has read his novels knows that a good majority of them, if not all, are tied together in some way or another. He has a recurring villain, bits and pieces of The Stand show up in The Gunslinger, as does a creature like the one in It. His towns in Maine show up time and time again, with incidents being mentioned by this character or that.

One of my favorite novels, Insomnia, ties in to It and others (I can’t think of the titles right now).

Anyway, I started to think. I have this world that Samara and Orin’s story takes place in (my protagonists in The Unfettered Child). I have these characters, and other characters too. Abdhul Havelle, Sigmia, Illtud, Nikolai, Zayra, and let’s not forget Priestess Samara, who saved baby Samara’s life. These characters could have adventures of their own.

My editor also pointed out that I could have my other stories tie into the world somehow, although I have no desire to tie The DuFonte Chronicles to my world, as those stories come from our very own Earth in some terrible version of the future.

Maybe I’ve missed the meaning of “branding.” What do you guys think?

~Michael C. Sahd

The Costume

So I got my model, and I had my photographer lined up. What’s next? Well, she needed to look the part. I needed something directly from the book, and Samara was described as wearing mammoth skin, black leather, with a brown-and- gray fur.

My first stop was Hobby Lobby and Walmart, where I bought a few things:

This was the fabric I purchased, and I know there is very minute difference between the two black ones in the picture, but they were very different in person. The black fabric from Hobby Lobby was softer, more supple than the faux leather from Walmart.

I had a friend, as I mentioned, who intended to put this together for me, but much to my horror, he was not getting back to me. So I took the fabric over to another friend’s house and attempted to sew it myself on his sewing machine, using a pattern I bought.

What a huge mistake that was. A tailor, I am not.

Fortunately, about halfway through the day, I got a call from my tailor friend. “I’m ready to work on that costume,” he said, and I was on the other end practically leaping for joy. “Great!” I responded, I’ll be right over.” What I didn’t tell him was that I already started it on it. To his great dismay, he discovered that when I showed up at his house.

“What the hell did you do?” he asked me, when I pulled out the butchered tunic that was way too large for my daughter. Looking abashed, I said, “I was trying to get started. I had a pattern. It said it was for 6-10 year old children.” What the pattern meant by that age though, was that it was meant for 6-10-year-old children of GIANTS.

Well, he took my stuff, and I didn’t hear back from him for days.

In the meantime . . . I went to work on the kukri, and I took pictures of the process. I had to think about how to make this blade. I didn’t have a forge, and I definitely didn’t have time to learn how to make one.

What I did have was a grinder. I thought to myself, I can possibly get a large blade and cut it down to size. I ran to Harbor Freight and bought a machete for $5.99

Oh wait, let me back this up. In addition to the knife, I also had to carve some buttons for the costume. We wanted it to be as authentic as possible so, in lieu of mammoth tusk, I used deer antler (that’s about the same, isn’t it?).

Then I went online and looked up ancient Siberian carvings (because my tribal people are loosely based off of them), and went to work. We had decided on toggles, and I finished them in short order:

Okay, back to the knife. I decided to use the excess deer antler to make the handle. I cut out the blade and the handle, then glued them together:

So there’s the basic kukri. Now came the hard part. I went online to look up pictures of sabretoothed cats. I needed something with its mouth open, and I found this:

I needed to carve the cat into the handle!

I have never carved anything like this before. Not that I had zero experience. After all, I am a jeweler and spent a good part of my life making jewelry out of lost wax. Still, this was a different beast (like what I did there?). I had to carve a three-dimensional cat’s head into a deer antler. Well, I went to work, and I think it came out just fine:

See how that progressed? Finally, I had to put on the finishing touches, such as the engraving and the gem. Considering it is a prop (although a functional one), I just hot glued the gem in place.

Yes, that is Arabic. If you want to know what it says, you must read my book! ūüėČ

Making the knife was very fun.

Okay, so I had two days to the photo shoot, and I still hadn’t heard back from my friend. I had asked him if I could come over to take progress pictures, and the response I got was, “There is nothing to take pictures of.” So I was getting nervous.

The Saturday before the shoot, we went to board game night and my tailor friend showed up. As nonchalant as I could be, I asked, “Where the hell is my costume!!!” Well, not quite in that manner, but you get the idea. He told me that he would have the finishing touches done that night, and I could come get it before the shoot.

I will talk more about the next day in part three, but here is the completed version of the costume. It came out wonderfully.

That’s my daughter in her Samara costume. She says she is going to be Samara for Halloween.

Come back next week for Part 3. I will show off the pictures from the photo shoot.

Author Michael C. Sahd

Yesterday afternoon, I sat down to write something on this blog. I admit, I’m terrible at keeping it up.

This morning, I complained as such to a coworker. He responded, “When I can’t think of anything to write, I like to think up some old memories.” He then proceeded to tell me a story from when he was a teenager, and after which, I shared my own story:

One cold November night, my family was driving through Texas, somewhere in the flat expanses on the west side of the state.

I sat in the front seat next to my father, and my brother and sister were in the back seat. We had just left New Mexico and were on our way back home to Brownwood, Texas.

My father and I were “discussing” religion. Being a staunch Catholic, my father was of the belief that only humans have souls. I, on the other hand, had a taste for something different. The tiring dogma of organized religion left a nasty film in the back of my throat.

The argument centered around the belief of what had souls and what didn’t. I argued that animals indeed had souls and he adamantly denied such a thing. At the time, I believed that in order to exist in a physical realm a spiritual counterpart must also exist, and I stubbornly insisted this was correct.

Off in the distance on this icy night, a bridge quickly loomed into sight, but we were too engrossed in our argument to notice the watch for ice sign.

“Actually,” I said, obstinately, just like any know-it-all teen might, “Even rocks must have souls.”

At this point, my father was furious. Such things were sacrilege, and could lead one straight to Hell. “Rocks . . .” he said angrily, punctuating each word, “Do . . . Not . . . Have . . . Souls!”

Immediately after “Souls!”, our vehicle passed over the bridge and directly onto a patch of ice. The car started sliding sideways. My father over corrected, and we skidded sideways in the other direction. We fishtailed several times before finally crashing gently into the side rails of the bridge.

We were all wide eyed and breathing heavy. My father asked if everyone was alright, checking on each of us individually. When the shock of the crash faded away and my father backed up and continued down the road, I turned to him and said, “See? Sacrilege. You pissed off the spirits.”

My father just ignored me after that, but the memory of that incident will stick with me for the rest of my life.

If you have any stories you would like to share, please feel free to do so in the comments below!

~ Michael C. Sahd

 

Many writers will share that real life experiences inspire the tales they tell. Many, myself included, scoff (or have scoffed) at such a statement; telling themselves, “My life isn’t nearly so interesting.” What I have learned, however, is that this is rarely the case. Experiences take place daily, and though they may be mundane to you, they won’t be after “enhancing” them.

Just the other day, I took a trip to the local library to find the second book to the Septimus Heap series. I, of course, found Angie Sage’s books fairly quickly, and although they had many of her books, the one I wanted was not on the shelf. Naturally, I asked the librarians to see if it was checked out. It wasn’t.

I informed the lady at the counter that I had looked and it wasn’t there; she responded by telling me to look around, because people don’t always put them back in the right place. A little disheartened, I went back to look again (I had already looked around the nearby shelves, duh). After not finding it, I went back to the librarians for help. Instead of helping, they shrugged and said it could be anywhere. I left, rather annoyed by their lack of help.

However, the librarians were interesting characters, and a version of this scene has already inserted into my next story with Damian. I have changed many of the details and spiced it up a bit, but the entire scene is inspired by this short interaction.

Your experience doesn’t need to be Hollywood material. Just the smallest interaction, large enough to catch your attention, but not much more than that, can turn into a scene in your book. Take notes, make a voice memo, or just tell someone about it, and you will be able to get it down on paper. Embellishing the experience into an interesting scene is what makes you a writer.
And no . . . I still have not found the second book to the Septimus Heap series.

Septimus Heap, Book Two: Flyte by [Sage, Angie]