by Alex

It sure is Spring.   That brilliant green grass, the burgeoning blossoms, explosions of color, those maddeningly delicious fragrances wafting in the breeze…

Beautiful.   Uplifting.   Rejuvenating.

Here’s a thought.  As soon as I turn in my book, I’m going to write something happy.  A love story.  A whimsical comedy.   Something light.  Something lovely.


I can already hear the stereophonic bicoastal hysterics of my agents and publishers…


No, It’s not a real thought.  Well, all right, it was a real thought, but a very fleeting thought.   

It’s a question of "brand".  I know my brand.  I don’t even have my second novel out yet and I don‘t just know my brand – I work my brand.  I work the hell out of my brand.  I write spooky, sexy, dark and eerie.  There might be some uplift going on there as well, but never at the expense of thrills.

And even though I’m having this momentary longing to do something not QUITE so dark next time (that or run away to a tropical island and never write again…) dark is not just my brand, it’s who I am.  It’s a brand in a much more metaphysical sense – it’s a brand on my character, on my soul.

I have a writer friend who is always saying that I should write my OWN story – like autobiographically.  I keep telling her that what I write IS my own story.  This is how I see things.

Here’s a perfect example.  I’m on deadline and have been housebound for what seems like months, but my next characters have already come to me.  Physically.   Like, on the sidewalk outside the window where I work.   I see these four kids every day now, two or three times a day, walking by, always together,  a strange collection.  A very short, slim, animated black girl.  A very large redhaired white girl with doughy skin and flat eyes.  A small, wiry black boy with a loud laugh.  A talk, dark-haired, spacy white boy. 

They are not your normal teenagers.  They are a pack.  They are always together.  They even move together – walking in a clump, closer than ordinary people stand to each other   It is very strange to see four people so near to each other and so synchronized.  They don’t seem dangerous as in violent, but dangerous nonetheless.  Though they chatter and caper like teenagers, there is a heaviness about them.  They stick together for protection, and it’s not hard to imagine what they need protection from, or why they’re on the street.

I have become obsessed with them.  I think they are homeless and now that it’s getting warm they have come out from some shelter and are sleeping under the railway bridge down the street.  But they’re clean, and they’re not obviously stoned.  What they are is feral.

They have noticed me, too, behind my window – at least one of them has – the redhaired girl.  She was as startled to see me in the local grocery store as I was to see her, because, you see, I was thinking about them at the very moment that they appeared around the end of the aisle.  They were shoplifting, I’m sure, tucking pizzas and cokes into their oversized jackets.  It was overwhelmingly odd to see them in the store.  It was even odder to come home from the store and see them walking on the sidewalk past my window the second I walked into the house.  I left the store before them and I have a car.  They could not possibly have beaten me home.

Definitely not the stuff of romantic comedy.

Zombies, revenants,  creatures of the night….  perhaps.  We’ll see. It’s inevitable.

You see, I AM writing my own story.

I’m branded.

Are you?

19 thoughts on “Branded

  1. billie

    I am branded, but I think figuring out how to work it is the next step. It’s not quite matching up with the existing categories in the publishing world.

    Re: characters showing up – as I’ve said before, it works in reverse for me. I write them and then they materialize. Just this week one of them has been quite literally channeling a main character in my wip – I go to this real-life guy’s blog and he has written, pretty close to verbatim, the words/thoughts of my character.

    I’m completely intrigued with your quartet – will look forward to how that evolves in your storytelling. 🙂

    Hope you can get out into the world soon.

  2. billie

    LOL – after writing and posting the first comment, I had this incredibly vivid image of a mad scientist writer woman, wild haired, hunkered down with laptop in garret by moonlight, readying for the evening’s writing, hooking up an IV to the arm of the Universe itself.

    Given that I am mortally terrified of needles and IV’s, I am scaring myself.


  3. pari

    This was such an interesting converstion between you and Billie, that I wondered if I should intrude.

    Alex, great post. Great description of the pack, too. “Feral” says it all.

    Branded? Yeah, I write witty, clever, smart. The whole NM thing is pretty much how people identify me as well. I’ll be curious to see what happens when I get the new series written — if I can manage such a different “brand” or if it will overlap with what I’ve already done. Just don’t know yet; it’s early days.

  4. Mary-Frances

    Hi Alex,Thanks for such an interesting post. I love the way your mind works.

    I know this isn’t exactly the same thing but it just happened to me yesterday. Earlier in the day I had written a scene where my protagonist puts a small GPS tracking device in the back pocket of her jeans. Last night I was doing laundry and when I went to wash my jeans I caught myself thinking that I better make sure that the GPS tracker was out of the back pocket before I added the jeans to the wash! That’s never happened to me before. Weird crossover in my head between my writing and reality.

    Have a great weekend everyone, and thanks again Alex for the post.

  5. Louise Ure

    I can’t wait to read about your gaggle of feral children!

    I guess I’m loosely branded, too. I write about shared guilt and resolutions that leave no one completely happy. And maybe I’m branded with Arizona as a setting, too. Not sure about that.

    Now go write that lyric, happy piece. But make it a love letter to someone you care about.

  6. JT Ellison

    Alex, I love the way your mind works too, and that you can translate it to the page so very well. The bicoastal howling of your “people” cracked me up. There’s always that little pause when you mention something they aren’t entirely behind — it’s heartsinking for that brief moment.

    I feel branded as well, but I’m not going to fight that anytime soon. I write what I enjoy reading, so that helps.

    Your feral pack are going to make quite a story. I have characters who intrude into my life as well and it can be startling. The seeds must come from somewhere deeply repressed.

    And Billie, when are you going to guest blog here? The IV of Universal Life. Wow. You’re welcome to one of my Fridays anytime.

  7. billie

    What a great post and great comments – I keep checking back only to find more. 🙂

    JT, I’m honored by your question. Sometime when you’re crunched and need a pinch hitter, let me know. 🙂

    I have to add this – I’m tethered to my laptop this morning, valiantly trying to get to the end of this revision pass on my wip/first draft. I knew there were two key scenes missing so I’ve been avoiding getting to the end. So this morning I decided I had to read on through and deal with what’s missing. I got to those places, made some notes as to what I need to research, and started to close the doc.

    But out of the blue, I thought, well, just read on to the very end to remind yourself what’s there.

    OH MY GOSH – I read on and there was a scene that I have NO memory of writing, NONE, and it totally knocked my socks off. It moved me to tears.

    This is the real pull for me – when I realize that often enough, I must be writing in trance. Like I’m tapped into something bigger.

    I’ve been reading Dean Radin’s nonfiction book Entangled Minds – it’s definitely having an effect. 🙂

  8. Alex Sokoloff

    MF, that’s too funny about checking for the GPS. “Weird crossover in my head between my writing and reality.” Yeah, and the closer you get to a deadline, the more the line blurs!

    YES!!! Billie must guest blog!!!

    Pari has a much summery -er (umm… much more summery?) brand that some of the rest of us. I’m jealous!

  9. Alex Sokoloff

    “I write about shared guilt and resolutions that leave no one completely happy.”

    Yes, Louise, but I think your brand is more like: complex (even harrowing!) psychological suspense.

    In the desert. And award-winning.

  10. billie

    Alex, this is a piece of the back cover blurb:

    “Albert Einstein called entanglement “spooky action at a distance” — the way two objects remain connected through time and space, without communicating in any conventional way, long after their initial interaction has taken place. Could a similar entanglement of minds explain our apparent psychic abilities? Dean Radin, senior scientist at the Institute of Noetic Sciences, believes it might.”

    I had come across a Dean Radin quote in a magazine in a coffee house awhile back that screamed to be put at the beginning of my second novel – and later that week I went in our little guest half-bathroom to clean and there was the book, on the back of the toilet! My husband had bought it and there it was. I’m intrigued with quantum theory but can only read about it if its made.. shall we say, accessible to non-math non-physics folks like me. 🙂

  11. simon

    You know I agree with you on this point, Alex. Today, I was discussing an interview with someone who sees ‘sin’ as a heavy driving force in my books…


  12. simon

    You know I agree with you on this point, Alex. Today, I was discussing an interview with someone who sees ‘sin’ as a heavy driving force in my books…


  13. toni mcgee causey

    I think my stories have branded me, worked their way into the stream of my life and set up a damn; I write chaos, and I crave calm, but it never happens. I had a brief moment when I wondered what it would be like if my character was a sort of pied piper to a bunch of crazies. That was the day my husband found a troup of troubadors trying to bicycle from New Orleans to Baton Rouge and were caught in a horrendous storm, and he called me, letting me know he was bringing a ‘couple’ of people home and then was going to shuttle them to their next gig at LSU. Except that it was 11 people (the leader was named Thistle) (I could not make this up). And I stood there in the dining/living area while Thistle and her group dropped all of their gear and packs in my living room, taking advantage of the (much needed) shower my husband said they could use, while some of them cooked something in the kitchen I to this day haven’t identified, all while my son’s girlfriend was upset that they were playing with her animals (she’d just moved in… with three ferrets, two boa constrictors, and a rat named Buddy), and I thought, gee, thanks, Universe, now I know the answer.

    Next time, Bobbie Faye is winning the freaking lottery and retiring to an island.

  14. Alex Sokoloff

    Oh, good Lord, Toni. At least my four teenagers are OUTSIDE my house. For the moment, anyway!

    But the troubadors are a great story…

    Writers have no boundaries – that’s the problem. We’ll do anything for research – that’s the other problem.


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