Trademarks in Fiction

And why you shouldn’t fear using them

First things first: I am not a trademark attorney. If you want legal advice on using trademarks, please consult a legal professional. However, if you want the point of view of someone who has managed numerous worldwide trademarks in her career in marketing, and also writes novels, read on.

Am I allowed to use trademarks in fiction? Won’t I get sued?

Across the online writers’ groups I frequent, I’ve seen this question more times than I can count. Unfortunately, questions about trademarks in fiction are inevitably followed by innocent misconceptions, wrongheaded advice, and blatant fearmongering.  Continue reading

Do, Say, & Think

The three pillars of characterization

Good characterization is a matter of discipline. Regardless of how you go about creating fictional characters, it’s their behaviors, thoughts, and actions that convey their characterization. If you tell the reader your character is a deep thinker with a goal of spiritual growth, then portray her as preening, superficial and manipulative in her actions, dialogue and thoughts, nobody is going to buy it.

Do, Say, & Think are simply a way to boil down action, dialogue and interior dialogue/narrative in a character’s point of view (POV).

I can tell you that The Dude in The Big Lebowski is “so laid back,” but nothing conveys that as well as his introduction. He shuffles in slippers and a bathrobe through a grocery store, drinks milk straight from the carton, then attempts to pay for it by check. I can tell you Walter Sobchak is temperamental, but nothing will convey that quite like him pulling a gun on a fellow bowler for letting a toe slip over the line. I can tell you Donny is a clueless nitwit, but nothing conveys it better than him piping in with the non-sequitur “I am the walrus” while The Dude and Walter try to discuss Lenin (not Lennon). Continue reading

Smokin’ & Cryin’ – coming soon!

Tuesday Evening, 85°F and hazy
Listening to The Zombies—This Will Be Our Year

Smokin’ & Cryin’ – a novel

The Rise and Fall of Smoky Topaz

August 27, 1972. Robin Chelsea, teenage lead singer of Smoky Topaz, disappears into the Atlantic Ocean mere weeks before the group’s double album, Smokin’ & Cryin’, is released. Recorded over one blistering Savannah summer in the dungeon of an antebellum mansion, it’s threaded with candid snippets of the band members’ dirty secrets, bitter arguments, and deepest fears.

In the wake of Robin’s disappearance, Smokin’ & Cryin’ flies off store shelves and dominates radio airwaves to become the obsession of a generation of music lovers. But what really happened to Robin Chelsea?

More than four decades later, the discovery of Robin’s candid writings—juxtaposed with news clippings, legal documents, reviews, letters, personal notes, and interviews—make it possible to finally piece together the tangled truth behind this mysterious rock and roll legend.

I couldn’t be more excited to finally bring you my second novel, Smokin’ & Cryin’. It has been a long time coming.

Set in the early 1970s, it’s the first-person narrative of teenage rock vocalist Robin Chelsea and is interspersed with epistolary elements. It was a blast to write, and I sure hope you’ll find it a  blast to read. Continue reading

Stone, hell yes

Tuesday Evening, 73°F and clear
Listening to The Beatles—Dear Prudence

A post shared by Grace (@realgrace) on

This is for every Pearl Jam fan who doesn’t think Stone Gossard gets anywhere near as much credit as he deserves. Ellie, Clive, and Saint all understand who the sacred heart of Pearl Jam really is. Oh my god, Stone, hell yes.

Read about these hardcore Pearl Jam fans in my tragicomic novel, State of Love & Trust.


Monday Evening, 62°F and partly cloudy
Listening to Tame Impala—H.F.G.W. (Canyons Drunken Rage)

I’m begging you, dear writers, beware of the scourge of Thesaurusitis. Symptoms include reader head scratching, books being flung against walls, and misuse of new-to-you vocabulary words. If you’ve noticed any symptoms of Thesaurusitis, it’s essential that you set aside your thesaurus and take several giant steps away from it. I’m not saying you should burn it (well, maybe, but let’s not be too hasty).  For now, simply put it down and take some time to consider how you’re using the thesaurus, and why.

A thesaurus is a powerful tool when used properly. But abuse it and it will ruin your writing and out you as an insecure rube with a weak vocabulary and possibly an inferiority complex. Never attempt to use a thesaurus to make your writing more interesting or make yourself appear more intelligent and well read. It will do neither. A thesaurus can’t give you anything you don’t already have. But it can give your writing a rampant, itchy case of thesaurusitis. Continue reading

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