Monthly Archives: January 2011

Dr. Humperdinck, I presume?

Hello my name is...When I was in grad school, I heard that female PhD candidates were still being told to publish under their initials rather than their names, because being a woman would impede their progress on the tenure track. We’ve come a long way, baby, and gender should no longer be the reason you’re not using your real name.

However, some writers do write and publish under pseudonyms. I can see why some people might want to write under an assumed name, especially if they’re just starting out, and need that extra layer of anonymity to help them release their writing inhibitions. A pen name is a kind of security blanket. Or a blank slate.

But adopting a pen name isn’t just for amateurs. Some writers who are already rock stars in one genre might want to try something new on for size without confusing their readers, or want to disguise their prolificacy. Three cases in point: Nora Roberts as J.D. Robb, Anne Rice as A.N. Rocquelare, and Stephen King as Richard Bachman.

You may not be Anne Rice, but you might decide to write under an assumed name for modesty’s sake. Let’s say your mom reads every single piece you churn out—but doesn’t know that you’re also writing super-charged erotic fiction under your “porn name” (your middle name plus the street you grew up on. That would make me Helena Baldwin. Posh, no?).

Perhaps you think your name is wretchedly boring, and you want your work to stand out. So, Mary Smith, maybe Mariah Smythe is a good option for you. Temper your creativity, though. The jury’s still out on Engelbert Humperdinck (born Arnold George Dorsey).

Maybe it’s the opposite: you think your name is too unusual. I always thought my maiden name was too difficult to spell and pronounce, so I spent countless teenage hours trying out new writerly identities. I still hadn’t figured out a great one by the time I got married, but taking my husband’s name made the exercise moot.

For some writers, the reasons for taking a pseudonym are much more personal. Writing an autobiographical account of child abuse, detailing your painful divorce, or fictionalizing the shenanigans of your old boss…these might be legitimate reasons for using a pen name. Some of these reasons fall under the category of CYA: Cover Your Ass.

Some reasons for using a pen name may be valid. But if you’re just shy about releasing your stories into the world and being vulnerable to public opinion, maybe being a writer isn’t for you. Your work will be read and judged and bought and promoted and rejected and critiqued and loved and forgotten. That’s part and parcel of the writer’s life.

As a dear friend of mine once said, “suck it up, buttercup.” It’s your work—own it!

Have any of you published under a pen name?



Filed under Getting published, Trials and Tribulations

To Pay or Not to Pay

I recently discovered a great new resource, written by a published author: Jody Hedlund. She offers wonderful advice on everything from plotting to querying, but I was most intrigued by her post about the benefits of paying a freelance editor to critique your work.

Early on (probably too early, as it was my first draft) I had an editor critique my manuscript and I found the feedback to be invaluable. Along with a lot of other great tips, he basically told me to ditch the first act and start my story on page 79 (I was the queen of telling, not showing). He also suggested I join a critique group, hence the Restless Writers.

I was considering having the first fifty pages of my mss critiqued by a different editor, but unsure if I was simply procrastinating on the inevitable rejections that come with querying. But as Jody’s post points out:

It also gives us the ultimate critical and objective feedback we need. An editor tells us like it is, minces no words, and doesn’t tip-toe around trying not to hurt our feelings.

It sounds similar to a writing conference in that there are no guarantees that an agent will result from it, but it is an investment in my growth as a writer.

What do you think? Have you paid an editor to critique your work? Was it worth it?

To the comments!


Filed under Getting published, Starting up, Trials and Tribulations, Writing resources

How my e-reader changed my life

This post is dedicated to my Sony (touch) e-reader. I’m totally in love with its metallic and utilitarian charm. And here’s why.

It all began with my pre-Christmas read: SHIVER by urban fantasy novelist, Maggie Stiefvater—a lyrical story of alienated werewolves and first love. A poetic and heartbreaking read about living two lives in two forms and the fight to stay human. This book, I read in my hands. I turned the pages with my fingers. And I could smell that synthetic new-book smell of mystery and broken secrets.

Then Christmas happened. And my e-reader entered my nightstand. I wasn’t sure at first what to do with it or how this new bit of technology would change my life. But it did. I decided to purchase the electronic copy of LINGER, the searing sequel to SHIVER (Book #2 in the Wolves of Mercy Falls Trilogy)—the mythical continuation of the struggles of merging wolf and human forms. Another great read. Only this time, I read the book on a flat matte white screen. And in one hand. I turned the pages with the touch of my fingertip. And I could smell that mushroom-like smell of new technology. And I simply loved it.

If you’re wondering about the adjustment from paper to screen, it really took no time at all. It was all about the book really. A good story wins hands down. And Maggie had me at page one (aka screen one): “This is the story of a boy who used to be a wolf and a girl who was becoming one.”  This e-book, without a doubt, gives whole new meaning to the expression: “a real page turner.”

So, what else makes the e-reader awesome? It weighs about the same as a book. It’s super easy to use. You can make the font-size “granny-large” for those days when you need a little boost. You can hold it in one hand. And you can dress it, with accessories like a leather case and a mini light. The most difficult part has been peeling it from between my husband’s fingers. Apparently, the sacred texts of THE NOTEBOOKS OF LEONARDO DA VINCI are quite mesmerizing. 

Ladies, be careful what you wish for when you ask for something shiny. You might just get a sparkly new e-reader! A word to the wise: no two e-readers are the same. I encourage you to do your research (Google “e-reader reviews”).

I am officially partaking in the e-reader frenzy and I can’t wait to download the explosive third instalment of FOREVER (Book #3 to be released July 12, 2011) because I absolutely must find out what happens to the wolves of Mercy Falls…    



Filed under Book Reviews, Books and stuff

Writing on the run: paper or pixels?

Texting on a BlackBerryDo you scribble in pen on any writable surface when you’re out and about?

Or do you record your thoughts on whatever mobile device you happen to be lugging around (i.e. BlackBerry, iPhone, netbook, laptop)?

For me, it depends where I am when inspiration strikes. I was putting on mascara in a late-for-work panic this morning when I had a great idea for some dialogue. Luckily, I had my BlackBerry within reach, and emailed myself the details. (Yes, I had my BlackBerry with me in the bathroom. You’ll never know when I’m tweeting “en toilette,” will you?)

At the doctor’s office last week, I was well prepared with a little spiral notebook and my favourite pen. I was still scribbling when the nurse was taking my temperature.

So how about you? Is it paper and pen, or thumbs and phones?



Filed under Life and stuff


“One of the things I learned the hard way was that it doesn’t pay to get discouraged. Keeping busy and making optimism a way of life can restore your faith in yourself.”
Lucille Ball (August 6, 1911 – April 26, 1989) regarding drama coaches who told her that she “had no future at all as a performer.”

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Filed under Inspiration, Motivation

I’m Having an Affair. With My Pen.

My jobs have always involved writing in some capacity and over the years I’ve become adept at hunkering down and getting the job done when deadlines loom. Since beginning my foray into creative-writing-for-myself-and-hopefully-a-paycheck-one-day, however, my capacity to write whenever and wherever has been severely stretched.

Working from home (part-time with flexible hours) while taking care of my kids (double-time with sucky hours) does not an easy writing day make. For instance, this post is being written in bed at seven o’clock on Sunday morning. My husband usually takes the kids to let me sleep in, but lately I’ve been hiding up here to write for thirty precious, uninterrupted minutes while he thinks I’m sleeping.

When my mom was visiting last week I would drop my son off at school while she watched my daughter and I’d pick up a coffee for her on the way home. Guess who was hiding in the parking lot of Tim Horton’s, madly scribbling on a napkin?

During our New Year’s celebrations I had my iPhone handy throughout the night, not because I was afraid of missing a call from home if something went wrong, but because I needed to take notes (good thing, too – mama had a few cocktails and events were blurry).

So if we ever go for lunch and I disappear into the bathroom for twenty minutes or longer? Never fear – chances are good that the only thing I’m cranking out is a revision on chapter six.



Filed under Inspiration, Life and stuff, Motivation, Trials and Tribulations, Writing ideas

Happy new year-of-the-white-metal-Rabbit!

Wishing all of our friends, families, and readers a Happy New Year!

Check out some of the fun we had this NY Eve at, titled: We’re Gonna Party Like it’s 1899.

All the best,

Restless Writers

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Filed under Life and stuff, News