What’s in a (Pen) Name?

Guess what, folks? I’m married now! Woot woot! I know, I can’t believe it either. I had hit that age where I thought for sure I would be alone forever, me and my undetermined number of cats. And my immense library, of course. But then I found someone to accept my love of cats and my hundreds of books (and give me a dedicated room in the house for all those books), someone who is just as geeky and weird as I am, and that changed the story I saw for myself.

However, that also changed something else. My name.

Names are a big deal. I lived with the last name Eckert for 29 years. I like that name. I branded myself with that name. And now my last name is changing. And you know what? They never tell you how hard that is, even when you want to take your husband’s name and you’re happy to be a family with him. And it’s not just hard because of the government office visits. Changing your name takes an emotional toll, makes you consider the other things that are changing. It’s enough to give anyone a bit of an existential crisis.

And so I decided to keep Eckert for my pen name. I’ve already started marketing myself under this name, and I think it’s a pretty good one for an author, don’t you?

But all this thinking about names really got me thinking: just how do authors pick pen names, anyway? And why might an author want a pen name? I really wanted to know.

Let’s tackle the first question: how do authors pick their pen names?

  • Maybe, like me, they use their unmarried name or a name they had started building their author platform with.
  • They use a nickname or middle name or a place name.
  • They pick a name they always liked.
  • They use a name that fits in the genre they write.
  • They pick a unique name.
  • They pick a name that is easy to spell and pronounce.

And then I wanted to consider why an author might use a name other than their own. Here’s what I came up with:

  • Again, like me, they started building their platform with a name that they changed at a later time.
  • Concerns about their privacy or the privacy of their family.
  • Hiding their identity or keeping their writing career separate from another career (let’s face it, sometimes you don’t want your coworkers to read your work!).
  • If they write in multiple genres, it may be effective to use different names to distinguish the genres and avoid confusing readers.
  • To look for a different publisher (depending on contracts).
  • To relaunch their author brand after a particular work does poorly in sales and/or reviews.
  • To avoid gender bias. (Seriously, I knew a woman in college who had to publish under the name Andy instead of Andrea because she wrote science fiction and the publisher didn’t think it would sell with a female author) This isn’t as big a problem as it once was, but sometimes it can still be a consideration.

Those are all some pretty good reasons for using a pen name, but only you can decide if one of those reasons is right for you. As writers, our name is our brand, so it is certainly a big and important decision! If you decide to go with a pen name, make sure to research it thoroughly and ask people you trust for their opinion. Then, run with it!

So what do you think? Do you use a pen name (or do you plan to)? How did you choose? Why do you or don’t you use a pen name? Tell me in the comments!

A Tale of Two Apples Blog Tour

Today I have something a little bit different (and a lot special) to share with you all. Remember how I entered that Snow White retelling contest a while back? Well, two of the other participants are publishing their stories for all to enjoy! Check out the spotlight below!

Book Spotlight

Annie Louise Twitchell and Rebekah DeVall are joining forces to present two lovely Snow White retellings!

The Witch of Belle Isle

The Witch of Belle Isle cover image.jpgAnnie Louise Twitchell Image.jpg

A war between brothers. An apple between friends.

Trapped in the prison camp on Belle Isle, Henry longs for freedom–and instead finds a girl named Faith. How far would you go to save your enemy? And how far would you go to save your friend?

This short story is a Snow White inspired historical fantasy.

Purchase here.

About Annie:

Annie Louise Twitchell is a homeschool graduate who is obsessed with dragons and fairy tales. She enjoys reading, writing, poetry, and many forms of art. When she’s not writing, she can often be found reading out loud to her cat, rabbit, and houseplants, or wandering barefoot in the area around her Western Maine home.

Contact Annie:
Instagram: @annietwitchell
Twitter: @WriterAnnieLou


Death’s Mirror

Death's Mirror Cover Image.pngRebekah DeVall Image.jpg

“How do your human stories begin? Ah, yes. Once upon a time…”

Death tells the story of Snow White.

Purchase here.

About Rebekah:

Rebekah DeVall prides herself on being the girl who wrote 200,000 words in 21 days. She’s a Christian author with a penchant for killing characters and a love for writing real female protagonists described as “the example of a Christian hero that young readers need to see”.

Contact Rebekah:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Rebekah-DeVall-Author-217931808704713/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/rebekahdevall/
Blog: http://www.rebekahdevall.wordpress.com

Getting in Your Own Way

The writer’s guide to overcoming yourself.

Recently I had an incredible opportunity surface for my writing career. However, there was a bit of a trial period, and there was no guarantee I would actually be kept around after that trial was over. I sent in my materials, received a response from the person in charge, and sat back to wait, filling my time with my own writing, Camp NaNoWriMo, critiquing two friends’ projects, and generally just living my life.

Well, the two week mark hit since I had last heard from this person. I began wondering if I should send a follow-up email, and I mentioned this to someone in my life. In their attempt to keep me from having my heart broken, to keep me from getting my hopes up only to be disappointed, they made a statement about how I would have, should have, heard back within a week if they were interested.

I was heartbroken to hear it. I lost my joy from a great weekend, I went to bed early, I called off work the next day, all because I felt so discouraged and like my dreams were impossible, like I and my writing weren’t good enough to make it as a career, no matter how far off that might be. Pieces of my depression returned, all because of that statement, of wondering if I was wasting my time on my dream job, on trying to get my dream job past my day job. To make it worse, my day job, which was once a job I really wanted and loved, has been a bit miserable the last few months because of a specific project we’ve been working on. If I can’t even enjoy the job that earns me the money to do what I love, what’s the point?

So I felt discouraged in my dream and in my life, I felt like I was wasting my time, and I was starting to wonder why I should bother. I was getting in my own way, letting my head run away with a spiral of depressive thoughts and broken dreams that might not even be real. It was a fight to open up my work in progress, let alone get out of bed.

As writers, as creatives, I feel like we are more prone to these kinds of feelings sometimes. And it can be so easy to let these things stop us from doing what we love. So here are a few tips to deal with those times we get in our own way.

  1. Don’t quit. Keep writing or painting or drawing or whatever it is you do. When you’re feeling low, try to make yourself create through it, even if it’s as small as a sentence. Don’t let your head win.
  2. Remember why you started. For most of us, we create because we love it. Yeah, it’d be awesome to be able to do it full time, to really have our dream job, but we create for the simple joy of creation. Remind yourself of this, and let yourself enjoy the process without worrying about the logistics, at least for a while.
  3. Find supportive people. It’s been immensely helpful to have other writer friends as I navigate this process of publishing, of finding an agent. These people who share my passion and want the same things I want can spur me on and encourage me, and they actually understand all the bits and pieces we encounter as writers, including the discouraging things we find. And for me, on occasion I need to talk to a professional to deal with the depressive things that hold me back. Find your support network for your creativity.

It is so easy to get in your head and keep yourself from following your dreams and expressing your passions. Sometimes all we need is that little reminder of why we started in the first place and the push to never give up.

For me, I’m going to do my best to keep going despite the negative feelings in my head. But what about you? Have you experienced these feelings before? How did you combat them? How did they affect you and your creative process?

From Spark to Story: My Writing Process

One thing I’ve always found interesting is how the development of a story can vary from author to author. Everyone eventually finds techniques and patterns that work for them, helping them to cultivate their initial idea into a finished product. Personally, my process has developed through a great deal of trial and error of different methods until I arrived at the way I approach stories now. Today, I want to share what my process looks like.

The Idea

Yes, the elusive spark to a greater story.

Like many authors, I can’t really tell you where all my ideas come from; a lot of us honestly don’t know. But there are a number of things that can spark those thoughts. For me, my initial ideas have come from things like dreams, other people’s works (books, movies, magazine articles, etc.), things I’ve learned in school or through my own research, or even something as simple as a photograph, as happened with my most recent idea. But that’s all it takes: one simple moment of “that could be an interesting story.”

The Slow Simmer

After I get that idea, it simmers on the burner for a while, building up some flavor. Okay, metaphors aside, after I have an idea, I sit with it and simply think about it. This simmering phase can be anywhere from days to weeks to months long before I’m ready to move on to the next phase. I let the idea build until I know where I want to start.

The Exploration

Once I have an idea and I’ve given it some thought, I pick a fresh, brand-new notebook. I have a separate notebook for every project, one that I love to pick up and open. Sometimes I’ll even match the look of the notebook to the aesthetic I see in my head. And I also keep a small library of blank notebooks for the sudden idea I MUST write down immediately. Those can be unpredictable, and I need to be ready!

Then, the research begins. I start my notebook with research on what exists in our world that relates to the story. To keep with the theme of my most recent idea (which is currently in this phase and the next two phases), this was when I sat down and researched the picture that sparked it all, a photograph in a unique setting. So I looked up information about that setting, its geology, its geography, the earth science behind it, the flora and fauna associated with it. I learned everything I could and let that build on the ideas I already had.

In this phase, I also tend to make a board on Pinterest to help me envision what is to come, the Build. I save pictures for anything that could relate to the story, real or fantasy, any character inspirations, setting inspirations, or aesthetics to help me feel how the world feels, to achieve the emotion I want to achieve, to visualize the things I need to create.

Then I take it further.

The Build

I move past the real and into my own creation. I begin the worldbuilding stage. I get to know what my world looks like from the layout of the country to the ecosystems to the culture. I write down everything I can think of to build the setting for the story. This naturally leads to filling in other details, such as characters. In this stage I complete (or set up a solid foundation for) the setting and the major characters I need to start the story, any details I want to include, what makes it unique. And I fill all this information into my notebook.

Note: sometimes the characters come first. Some of my story sparks are a character, and I build out from there. Every story is different. But the general process remains the same, even if the specific parts change and rotate.

The Simmer, Part II

Then I let the story simmer again. This phase could last anywhere from minutes to weeks to months, depending on how the previous phases went. This is where I need to take the build I created and turn it into a story. What is going on in the world that could create an interesting tale? What are the characters facing? Where is the story in the place I found? With these people I met? I ask myself these questions, write down the possibilities, and let them sit in my brain as more ideas.

The Plotting

After I brainstorm the direction I want to go (which can happen all at once or in stages), I generally sit down and write a basic outline for the story. (Side note: I tried to pants one of my books…write it without an outline or any clear direction…and have decided to never put myself through that again! The editing has been a monster.) This helps me find my story beats, lay out the map for the story, and understand where everything is going before I begin. Sometimes, after that basic outline, I will fill in more detail, such as chapter by chapter, but this doesn’t always happen.

The Writing

Finally, I’m ready to draft. And this is my favorite part! I tell the story.

I typically write in a dedicated word processor. Previously, I used Word, and I tried Scrivener, but it didn’t benefit me much. Now, I do most of my drafting on Google Docs so I can open it anywhere and on any of my devices. I wait to convert to Word until I’m ready to share it. This may change in the future as my circumstances change, but I doubt it would deviate much from this basic setup. I prefer to type my stories directly in manuscript submission formatting.

The Revising

After I complete my first draft, which has historically taken me anywhere from a few months to years to complete (depending on how dedicated I was at the time of the writing, how motivated I was, or my health and life circumstances), I am ready to fix the problems.

First I let it sit for at least a month before touching it again. I want to forget what I wrote so I can look at it with fresh eyes.

Then, I read through the entire thing, changing nothing and keeping minimal notes, just to get a feel for how the story flows, feels, and accomplishes what I want it to accomplish.

Then, I do the first rewrite. A brand new, fresh document, where I write the story over again. I use some of the first draft, but the story typically morphs and changes along the way, so many of the scenes, especially early, also change.

Then comes more of the cycle of revisions, allowing others to read and critique my work, and revising again. This process never really ends, so at some point I say I’m done changing it (until I decide to revise again).

The Sharing

This is the end of my work on it. At this point, either it gets shoved into a word processor deep down on my hard drive or it moves to the next step in publishing. This could be anything from sharing it online, such as with Wattpad, to beginning the query process.

And then it is out of my hands.


Now that I’ve shared my process, I’m curious to know yours. Do you do any of these things the same way? Do you keep a dedicated project notebook or Word file for every new story? Tell me about your process in the comments. Let’s talk writing!

The NOPE Book Tag!

A list of things I can’t stand in books.

Today I wanted to do something a little different (and maybe a little controversial! Gasp!). This book tag is the NOPE tag, where something in the book made you go “Nope!” and walk away (or try).

Let’s dive in and have a little fun!

  1. NOPE Ending: A book ending that made you go NOPE either in denial, rage, or simply because the ending was crappy.
    I have 2 winners for this one: My Sister’s Keeper and Clockwork Princess. I won’t tell you why, but I will say that it involved a “bait and switch” ending and a “you can have it all ways!” ending that I hated. But up until the ending I basically enjoyed them? Even though I’m never reading them again and actually gave them away.
  2. NOPE Protagonist: A main character you dislike and drives you crazy.I can’t really think of too many. If I don’t like the MC, I tend to quit the book. But protagonists who continue to do stupid things and don’t learn from them drive me crazy.
  3. NOPE Series: A series that turned out to be one huge pile of NOPE after you’ve invested all of that time and energy on it, or a series you gave up on because it wasn’t worth it anymore.Again, there are a few, but I don’t really want to call them out. But I already mentioned the Clockwork Princess books. I didn’t really enjoy that ending after all the energy I put into the series.
  4. NOPE Popular pairing: A “ship” you don’t support.
    Honestly, I don’t follow too many ships, so I don’t really have any of these. But again, any “bad boy” paired with the MC. No thanks.
  5. NOPE Plot twist: A plot twist you didn’t see coming or didn’t like.
    I know there’s one there, I just can’t think of it right now…
  6. NOPE Protagonist action/decision: A character decision that made you shake your head.
    Usually decisions involving people who are kind of terrible people. This will come back in a later question, but basically that whole “bad boy” thing. Choosing a jerk over an actual genuinely nice person. Alternatively, any decision involving cheating. I hate affairs in books. They upset me.
  7. NOPE Genre: A genre you will never read.Erotic. No way, no sir. I don’t mind light romance or romance in the context of something else, but I’ve never been fond of the heavy scenes.
  8. NOPE Book format: Book format you hate and avoid buying until it comes out in a different edition.Hardcover. I mean, I buy them if I absolutely, desperately need a book (or if I already have previous ones in the series in hardcover because come on, they have to match, am I right?), but my preference is paperback. And I actually love mass market paperbacks. They fit in my bag quite nicely.
  9. NOPE Trope: A trope that makes you go NOPE.I have a few, but the biggest are: manic pixie dream girl, love triangle, or nerd to beauty. I think the biggest, though, is the entitled misogynist. There are way too many of those out there. I don’t know if it’s technically a trope though…
  10. NOPE Recommendation: A book recommendation that is constantly hyped and pushed at you that you simply refuse to read.I mean, I don’t think there are many that are constantly pushed at me. But I don’t have a ton of interest in vampire books, so Vampire Academy is out, and I don’t have a ton of interest in John Green. But I’m also not ruling them out in the future. So, eh?
  11. NOPE Cliche/pet peeve: A cliche or writing pet peeve that always makes you roll your eyes.”She let out the breath she didn’t know she was holding.” So many breaths she didn’t know about. Someone pointed it out once, and I can’t unsee it. Instant hatred for the paragraph.
  12. NOPE Love interest: The love interest that’s not worthy of being one. A character you don’t think should have been a viable love interest.I don’t have a specific one because it pops up all over the place. Any love interest who is the “bad boy” or treats the MC like crap. Like, those kind of guys (or girls) really are crap. They don’t deserve the honor of love interest.
  13. NOPE Book: A book that shouldn’t have existed that made you say NOPE.Certain ones make me angry for reasons, but I won’t deny them from people who like them. However, books that are plagiarized or have crappy authors (they are terrible people) I think shouldn’t exist.
  14. NOPE Villain: A scary villain/antagonist you would hate to cross and would make you run in the opposite direction.I can’t think of a specific right now, other than Sylar from Heroes (not a book), but pretty much anyone who is just plain evil with no redeeming qualities. If you can’t at least understand the motivations, if they are evil for the sake of evil, then I think that’s pretty terrifying.
  15. NOPE Death: A character death that still haunts you.Harry Potter spoiler alert. But if you haven’t read them yet, you’re pretty late to the party. But Lupin. My poor Lupin.
  16. NOPE. Author: An author you had a bad experience reading and have decided to quit.I’m not going to call specific authors out. But this one was so poorly edited and proofread and so shallow and irritating… I wanted to like it. I really did. But I couldn’t do it, and the author is ruined for me. Actually, now that I think of it, this happened twice with two different authors. Tip for indie authors: hire editors. Please. For the love of all that is written.

And those are my answers! I came across this tag a while back and thought it would be a fun adventure. So talk to me in the comments: do you agree with any of my choices? Disagree? Do you have your own examples? Are you fiery with anger over one of these categories? Tell me!