My original plan was to keep this blog horse-free. Then, NYT best-selling and award-winning author C.J. Lyons called me out on it.

Branding isn’t just for livestock

In publishing, numbers speak volumes. Sales for books featuring horses tend to run low. The bottom-line advice from publishing professionals? “Play down the horses.”

However, this blog is supposed to introduce me to you.

That’s what C.J. might say. She wrote a blog post on the IndieRecon blog with an offer I couldn’t refuse.

If we readers left a comment on the specific day her post first ran and if we included the URLs to our author websites, C.J. would take a look to see if they fit our book or author branding. A way to define “branding” is the overt and subliminal promise we make to readers with the content we produce.

Cool! I jumped on C.J.’s offer like hot buttered popcorn topped with Parmesan cheese.

The skinny from C.J.

What she told me both surprised me and didn’t surprise me. If you scroll down in the comments on the post, you’ll see our exchanges, but I’ll sum them up for you.

My voice was too journalistic, too distant, not enough “me.”

Also, if horses were part of my stories-in-progress and a part of my life, why weren’t they on this blog?

The first issue was an easy fix, even though you can take the writer out of the newsroom but you can’t take the newsroom out of the writer.

I re-wrote my Welcome page and, starting with this post, this blog’s voice will feel more like that of The Horsey Set – chatty, casual, sometimes passionate. Even unedited, which may not be so smart, but these pieces are blog posts, not the Magna Carta.

The second part took me aback but made my heart sing.

More horses. Here.

Again, C.J.’s second assessment went against everything I’ve been taught.

You’d think a mystery featuring a specific sport, activity or passion would have a ready audience. Apparently not. People with a passion want to do that passion or read about how to improve their experience with that passion. They don’t necessarily want to read entertainment featuring that passion. At least, that’s the “smart money” assessment.

Yet, I realized C.J.’s comments echoed my life. When I was 14, I set aside my passion for horses to build my future with academics and school activities.  I soon noticed most people weren’t passionate about horses, even in Kentucky. Not only that, but a woman giving up horses was perceived as “normal” and “mature,” as seen in this article in “New York Magazine” about “horse girls” becoming “horse women.”

Only in hindsight did I realize I’d left a piece of my heart and/or soul behind, as if it were a chunk of dead weight.

Ignore the mashup of tack and the clumsy hands. My second lesson back after a long absence..

My 2nd lesson back. Ignore the tack mashup.

Even worse? While reading between the lines of what C.J. told me, I realized I was doing it again. Even though many of the story ideas I have and am working on feature horses. Even though The Horsey Set Net is, as of this writing, almost five year old with an international readership and fans I adore. Even though I’m finally riding again.

Very well. Let’s open the door and let the horses in.

Thanks, C.J.

Actually, if you’re a writer or have any business website you’re charged with keeping, go read the comments and click through the author sites to see what C.J. has to say. Also, check out C.J.’s Thrillers with Heart at and her writing advice at  C.J. is also the winner of the 2013 International Thriller Writers Award for Best E-Book Original Novel for BLIND FAITH.

C.J. also founded the Buy a Book, Make a Difference fund, which helps rural police departments with small tax bases buy equipment to helps them catch criminals. If you click the link in this paragraph, you’ll see how C.J.’s BaBMaD is a special endeavor arising from loss. I heard her talk about the origins of this charity of hers, a true work of the heart, at the 2013 Writers Police Academy and felt tears rise.   

Thanks again, C.J.