for the Bookworms, for the Writers

What the L’s in a PenName?

To pen-name or not to pen-name – for any writer, that is the question.

There is a lot of factors that go into choosing between one’s own name or a pseudonym, and I thought I’d give you a brief sneak-peek at the process.

(Writers: Kristen Lamb has a post discouraging use of pen names in most situations. Rachelle Gardner has a post on problems to consider if using a pseudonym.)

So how’d I decide on mine, on keeping my own name, but adding the middle initial?

Step 1 – Default Setting

If you can’t find a really really good reason to use a pseudonym, you should be using your own name. That’s the default. I thought I might have good reasons until I read the blogposts mentioned above. (Writers: read those if considering a pseudonym.)

Step 2 – Google That Name

I googled myself. You know what comes up when I google “Amy Sauder”? Not me. “Amy Sauder – Peoria area photographer” shows up. That’s right, there’s an Amy Sauder, also in Peoria, also an artist, who has a perfectly legit photography business. Seriously, check her out.

With someone else topping the google charts, I can do one of the following:

  • compete for “Amy Sauder” space on google by creating alot of internet content with great Search-Engine Optimization
  • rely on readers to type “author” when googling me and photography clients to type “photographer” when googling her (a completely legitimate option that many choose, and it works)
  • find a different name so she has her google space and I have mine

Step 3 – Devil is in the Details

Sharing google space is not enough reason to choose a pen name.

With a pen name, everything is more complicated. Marketing is more complicated, because you lose the audience you already have with your own name. Paychecks and legal documents are complicated. Remembering the little details – like how easy/quick signing an autograph is with a chosen pen name – is complicated. I toyed around with pen names, sure. But it didn’t seem like a good option even still.

In order to avoid the sharing of google space and to avoid using a pen name, I tried my middle initial.

What happens when you google Amy L Sauder? Well now, you have a whole bunch of me, though not much popped up at all when I originally googled it. “Amy Sauder, photographer” still tops the google “Amy Sauder” charts – and I’m there too a little lower – but if you remember the L, I fill that space mostly.

Picture a Bookshelf

The final step, at least that I’m discussing at this point.

Imagine a bookshelf….where’s your book fall on the bookshelf? Usually books are ordered by genre and then by author’s last names.

In an ideal world, I don’t want my book crowded out and hidden next to the Stephen Kings or James Pattersons of the world. Can I see a place for my book under my name on the shelf? You bet I can! No overcrowding here.

And so, Amy L Sauder was born. And in the grand scheme of things, I think I might actually like it more than just Amy Sauder.

What’s In Your Name?

What about you? Do you have a pen name? Do you think you’d use a pen name? What are your thoughts, ideas, questions? Let me know in the comments!

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for the Bookworms, Showcasing other Creatives

Megan Fatheree “The Half-Shape Child” Interview

This past week Megan Fatheree’s new book “The Half-Shape Child” came out, and just last week you had the chance to read my fanfiction for it. Megan Fatheree was kind enough to take time to give this fangirl a behind-the-scenes glimpse of her story. Check out the interview:
 
 
ALS: Tell me about your book.
 
Megan: Wow, you cut right to the hard stuff, don’t you? Okay, let’s see… The Half-Shape Child (THSC) is a story of friendship, true love, and a never-give-up attitude. It’s a journey through space and a tale of redemption. There’s action, alien creatures, some romance and a lot of other fun stuff. I’m trying not to give too much away here!
 
 
ALS: What genre would you say THSC is?
 
Megan: I would call it Sci-Fi, but others might put other sub-genres on it. Either way, I tend to just call it Young Adult fiction since it covers so many areas of other genres.
 
 
ALS: How did you come up with the idea for this story?
 
Megan: This is actually a really interesting question, because usually I don’t know how I come up with story ideas, but I can nail down the exact moment that I had this idea. It started with a Pinterest post with an idea about “what if your soulmate had a necklace that got colder when they were farther away from you and warmer when they were closer, and when you were ready you could go on a journey to find this person”. It evolved from there.
 
 
ALS: With all the different genres THSC covers, who would really love this book? What types of readers do you see reading (and re-reading) this?
 
Megan: From the beginning, I’ve known this book has fandom potential. As soon as I wrote the first draft, I knew this book needed to be loved by hordes of amazing fangirls. So, in reply to this question, I think that the people who would REALLY love this book are those from the ages of 13 to 25. I don’t know why, but that’s the age range I feel would love this book the most.
 
 
ALS: Oh yay, I just make the cut. But next year I still plan on loving THSC 🙂 Who is your favorite character? Why?
 
Megan: OH Come on, Amy! That’s like asking me to choose my favorite child! For the sake of time, I’ll tell you my top 3 – the main characters. Collin because he’s loyal and thoughtful and an all-around good guy. Henry because he’s funny. Really funny. And Terra because I fell in love with her story from the first word of this book. She’s complicated, but she has depth.
 
 
ALS: Henry is hilarious! And is there a character you love to hate?
 
Megan: There are two actually. First of all, Madame Kowalsky. I have to confess, before this book I had never written a character I actually despised. There were times when I wanted to strangle the woman, and I created her! She’s maniacal, diabolical, and ominous. I love her so much! Also, Kelvin. He’s kind of a background character, but he’s loyal to the wrong people for the wrong reasons. I’m with Terra, he should be shot.
 
 
ALS: Is there any backstory scenes that you had to cut out of the finished piece?
 
Megan: I tend to reveal backstory through the current story, so no backstory had to be cut out. However, there was this great scene toward the end where Collin was rounding up people for a posse of sorts and he went to get Dulsa. They had this great dialogue and Dulsa offered to pay him back in “cash or ploosh”. I miss that scene.
 
 
ALS: How many times did you cry writing THSC? How many times did you laugh? How many times did you worry that your characters were going to die on you?
 
Megan: I cried at least thrice. (That’s 3 times, for the less literary). All three times were because of strong emotional scenes that I wish I could explain but shan’t for those who haven’t read it yet. At least 2 involved a death, that’s all I’ll say. I laughed a lot. Pretty much, if Henry’s in a scene you’re going to get a funny line or reaction. I love writing humorous reactions to things, so those are in there too. And sarcasm is my friend. I worried that my characters would die a lot. There’s an entire scene dedicated to how much I worried that Collin would die on me. I’m still worried Henry might not make it. We’ll see how it goes in book 2.
 
 
ALS: Not Henry! :’( Say it isn’t so.
For this story, you invented so many different things. What’s the favorite thing you created for this fictional world – whether creature, techie object, planet, etc.?

 
Megan: I think the one object I’m most proud of creating all on my own is the Solar Ray gun that Terra uses. And it’s only in one scene! I was like, “Solar rays. They’d literally burn you to a pile of ash. Yes, this has to go in there!” Really, really proud of that one.
 
 
ALS: That is a really cool invention that I hope I never encounter in real life. Is there anything else you want the readers to know?
 
Megan: Yes. I know I left a few things open-ended at the end of the book. That’s on purpose. This is the first book in a trilogy, so be watching for the next one. We’ll delve further into some minor characters’ stories and visit a new planet. It’s going to be really fun.
 
 
ALS: Can’t wait to read the sequel. And, finally, for those who are as psyched as I am about this book, how can we buy THSC?
 
Megan: Good question! This book is currently an e-book only exclusive. You can find it on Amazon and iBooks.
 
 
ALS: You heard it here – go buy The Half-Shape Child for a crazy ride of laughs, tears, aliens, and solar-ray guns.
 
 


 
 
Fatheree_author_photo

Megan Fatheree was homeschooled from Pre-school through 12th grade. During this time, she was blessed to be able to focus her efforts toward the craft of writing. She is now in her early 20s and a full-time author. Some of her books include “Precious Jewel”, “Eminent Danger”, and “Rose-Colored Glasses”. She loves what she does and wouldn’t trade it for anything. She looks forward to all the great adventures that lay in store for her in the near future.

for the Bookworms, for the Writers

Why “American Sniper” Couldn’t Hold My Interest

I may have been the only person who found “American Sniper” to be the most yawn-inducing movie of the year century decade quite awhile.

“But that’s unpatriotic!….’American Sniper’ is a hero that should be taught in every high school history class!” I know, I know, my mom told me. And I don’t have a problem with the guy or the theme or my country or anything extreme like that. I have a problem with the film….that’s it.

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Caveat: I don’t generally enjoy this genre of film.

That being said, this was still worse than all most the others in the genre. I’d say “it’s bad when the only part I like is the two minutes I see Jesse from Glee,” except really that would probably be a whole bunch of movies if he would just show up in more movies, please! So anyhow, that maybe isn’t a good example of how bored I was.

Here’s why “American Sniper” failed to grab my interest:

Stories Need Structure

Your main character starts out with an internal or external goal – something they really want. And stakes – something they’ll lose if they don’t get it. And an obstacle – villain, per se – something that’s in the way of achieving their goal. The entire story from there is the character overcoming the obstacle to either achieve (or NOT achieve) their goal.

Veer from that very basic structure and it’s really difficult to hold an audience’s attention.

This story didn’t start with a clear goal – Chris Kyle was just living his life and ended up joining the military due to girlfriend troubles and shocking national news. Then everything from that point is the different battles he fights.

Maybe you say “His external goal is catching Mustafa.” Sure, in the background is this elusive bad guy he needs to get, but the majority of the loooooong story has nothing to do with him progressing towards or falling away from catching Mustafa – he’s just brought up every so often of “Oh yeah, and this guy we want to catch still.” So there’s a whole lot of “fluff” if that’s the story’s goal.

Maybe you say “His internal goal is to live a fulfilling life despite the trauma of war.” Sure, I can go with that. The PTSD and figuring out ways to cope and deal – that’s rough. And add in the family dynamics and reverse culture shock – it’s crazy difficult. But once again, there’s so much that doesn’t add to that storyline either.

Overall, it ended up being a mod-podge of life events. That’s kinda how telling a person’s life works, except quality writing finds a way to mash it all into a story structure. And I personally didn’t think this cut it – I couldn’t figure out the POINT of the story long enough to care about any of the events.

What do you think?

Am I way out of line?

Am I just reading this story wrong since I dislike the genre? (I’ve been wondering….people who like this genre, what’d YOU think?)

Is there anyone who felt the same way watching the movie? Pipe up, I’m feeling alone in this 🙂

for the Bookworms, Showcasing other Creatives

Book Review: Rabbit Legacy by Ellen Maze

If you weren’t quite convinced by my book review of “Rabbit: Chasing Beth Rider“, I hope this blogpost will confirm that this series is worth the investment. The mythos of Ellen’s vampire world is crazy elaborate and believable, and you just want to jump right in (except, not literally. That might be a little too much.) Ellen Maze was kind enough to send me the 2nd book of the series, “Rabbit Legacy” and I am so psyched about this story now. I’ve already told Ellen she needs to hurry with the final installment so she is ON IT!

 Rabbit Legacy

What “Rabbit Legacy” is About

The crazy Christian vampire saga continues. The aftermath of wraiths turning to the Lord and transforming into humans. It’s not exactly a piece of cake to lose all that power and trust in God. And then there’s the remaining wraiths that denied God’s call, plus Isaac The Last and the demon Ta’avah, all ready to wreak havoc on these new believers.

Rakum have less power with the dispersement of their government – they actually are concerned about jail and fatal wounds and, ya know, the human law – perhaps not enough, but that’s beside the point. I thought Damien was crazy in the beginning for him to call 911 against a couple Rakum, but hey, it works now. That doesn’t mean that all Rakum behave though, and they still have powers that humans can’t fight against.

I’m still crazy stoked about the mythology behind this story: Rakum being wraiths that can “become” our idea of vampires or our idea of zombie, depending on what rules they live by. The Cows have been released, but remain obsessed as ever to find/serve the remaining Rakum. The Rabbits are still technically huntable, though less act on it, due to the Last Assembly and all. Still makes it very inconvenient for the Rabbits in the story though. And Beth Rider is a mom, who ya know, was hoping to live her white-picket-fence life in peace now that she’d completed her mission of bringing the Gospel to these creatures…so much for that.

Why You Should Read “Rabbit Legacy”

You may recall from my blogpost on the first book that the personality of the protagonist Beth Rider drove me a lil crazy sometimes and I wanted to whack her upside the head lovingly correct her for the arrogant hypocrisy misconceptions. I was totally cool with it in this book though. This book is written from so many points of view, there’s not really a main character. We hear from good and bad, old and new characters alike. And they all have their completely believable flaws and perceptions of others. Sometimes I wanna smack the characters upside the head and sometimes I want to give them a big hug. (Javie!!! *tearface*) I just wanted to scream all the answers to each and every one, but goshdangit, I’m not in the book to do that (and if I was….yikes! *shudder*)

I’m still sorting out my thoughts on this book, but let me just say it’s all good. It’s a risky call to switch point-of-view characters every chapter, which usually distances a reader from the characters, but this time the risk paid off and I loved it even more and grew close to each character, plus I was more okay with Beth Rider’s personality since I saw that wasn’t the narrator’s point-of-view.

And once again, Ellen gave the best book ending, which includes both a sigh of relief and a “Wait, but what’s next?! There’s still heaps of big danger right THERE!!!!” *frantically pointing every which way* And here’s why I’m sitting here twiddling my thumbs, wanting to leap into the story world and figure out what’s going on.

(Conspiracy theory: What if Beth Rider is REAL just like her books are real, and the last  book isn’t out  yet cause gulp Isaac and Ta’avah are still declaring war on this real-world earth and poor Javie and Canaan are still in danger and gulp gulp, I can’t even. Hurry up, Ellen!)

for the Bookworms, for the Writers

The Problem with Used Bookstores

Used bookstores. The elitist book-lover’s nook.

Libraries or Barnes N Noble or (God forbid) Amazon is for novices. Used bookstores are the bibliophile’s home of choice. The smell of the books, the cats roaming the stacks, the treasure hunt for some undiscovered antique or classic. It takes dedication.

I too love the atmosphere of a nice used bookstore. It’s exciting to seek out local book haunts.

So what’s my beef with used bookstores?

Authors receive no cut from the sale of used books. I’m a fan of authors. I want them to succeed and keep doing what they’re doing. I love them so much I plan on being one as soon as I’m able. So despite the wonderful atmosphere of a local used bookstore, I can’t regulary purchase books there without a shred of guilt.

Authors should be paid for their work. That is why I try to buy books new. If I love a book, I recommend it to a friend, or even gift it. Of course I still check out a used bookstore and give an unknown book a try – but I suggest making it a point to buy new books every now and again – support the system. The world needs more readers – so used bookstores are great to introduce unknown books to prospective fans. But readers should support their authors – especially the most-loved ones, but authors in general as well.

Note: Yes, I am aware that the astute reader will recognize this as a veiled plea for you to one day give me money 🙂

What say you?

Do you prefer online shopping, barnes n noble, libraries, or used bookstores? Why?

for the Bookworms, for the Writers

Why I Like Major Character Death (Thank You, Veronica Roth!)

You Read That Right – Everyone, Meet My Morbid Side

I’d like to say I exaggerated in that title a tad, that I don’t like death of characters I’m close to in books I read; but anyone who knows my book choices knows that I have some sort of minor obsession with character death. I think of Peter Pan’s “To die would be an awfully big adventure.” Or Anne of Green Gable’s romanticizing the death of Elaine in a reenactment. For me, when a character I care about dies, it’s devastating and tragic, but also oddly satisfactory and wonderful.

The Perfect Philosophy of Character Death

Recently while reading the Divergent series, I came across the most perfect Philosophy of Character Death ever. It encapsulates my feelings on character death. I recently posted on facebook for everyone to buy the book Insurgent just to read that (and then to read the rest of the book as a bonus of course.) But I found a cheaper option for those not interested in the series (le sigh, whyyyy not?????). You can (read “should”) enjoy the full post here, but the 3 main points are:

1) Character deaths should be felt by the reader, so it should be known characters that die.

2) For Veronica Roth’s stories (and most of mine too probably) it’s too much suspension of disbelief for the favorite most-well-known characters to survive unscathed. If main characters are constantly in danger and never gravely injured or dead – let me put it bluntly – that’s stupid!

3) Contrary to reader belief, authors don’t control everything in the story. God created a world that He controls, but humans have free will in that. Authors often have a similar dilemma – they create a story-world and control so many outside forces, but characters when created well have a mind of their own and will up and die without our planning on it.

I am in complete agreement here, and well, if you haven’t figured out yet, if you read my stories, you may want to brace yourself for a major character death or two. After all, life isn’t easy in these story-worlds we create.

 

What do you think?

Do you agree with Veronica Roth on each of her points? Do you find major character deaths satisfactory? Do you avoid tragic storylines like the plague? Comment below, I wanna know your take.

For another take on character death and some writing tips, check out http://www.writersedit.com/effective-ways-deal-character-deaths/ …. “Has death in fiction become a cheap gimmick, included with the sole intention of nabbing awards?”

for the Bookworms, for the Writers

Writing Like Rain

Haven’t had a writer’s prompt from “A Year of Writing Dangerously” in awhile (you can check out the other two here and here.)

1. What is your own metaphor for fear of writing that first line?

Here’s my answer:

Writing is like the rain: you can admire from afar, but to truly experience it you must allow yourself to look a little unprepared and very silly.

Do you agree or disagree with mine? Why? And what’s your metaphor for fear of writing? I’d love to hear some others, so please share!

for the Bookworms, for the Writers, Showcasing other Creatives

Book Review: The World Split Open

Great Authors on How and Why We Write

This is a collection of speeches (in written form) on how and why we write. I have to admit some of the transcript seemed odd to have been spoken – it made me wonder if it was altered for text or if the person who spoke it planned in out on paper without thinking of how it’d come across orally. Then there were other parts that seemed more spoken than written. It was an interesting balance.

World Split Open

The speeches were given anywhere between 1988 to 2012. Some seemed outdated, but not in a way that made it less interesting, just in a way that made me wish there was a continuation of what this means now. For instance, “No, but I saw the Movie.” First given in 1999, much has changed, progressed in the book-to-movie world, and I wonder what new revelations there are.

Some speeches I loved, some I found more boring, and each was unexpected. So many great stories to be told in these pages. All of them made me think – of writing, of reading, and of humanity. Here’s some of my favorite quotes:

From “On Beauty” – My theory of narrative as a fundamental act of consciousness implies to me that paranoia might be entrapment in a bad narrative, and depression may be the inability to sustain narrative.

From “Childhood of a Writer”….(and you must read the story that led up to this quote!) – I believe nothing of any beauty or truth comes of a piece of writing without the author’s thinking he has sinned against something – propriety, custom, faith, privacy, tradition, political orthodoxy, historical fact, literary convention, or indeed, all the prevailing community standards together.

From “305 Marguerite Cartright Avenue” – And so my best friend, in her complaining, said to me, “Well, just kill the character already so we can hang out!” And I said, “What are you talking about?” And she said, “Well, in your writing somebody always has to die.” And I wasn’t quite sure how to take that – I was quite taken aback, actually – and then I thought about it for awhile, and I realized, you know, she is right.

for the Bookworms, for the Writers

The Problem with Free E-books

 Free E-books. It’s quite a wonderful concept that a debut author makes an e-book available for free in order to pique a reader’s interest and gain readership. At least that’s what I used to think. Then I read about 20 free e-books – some not-so-good and some quality. I still hated it.

The Problem

The author needs money for their work, I get that. The author needs to leave the reader hanging at the last sentence of the first book, so the reader feels the need to purchase the second. And so the story builds to the climax – and then ends. No grand finale. No resolution. Just the cliffhanger. The second book presumably leads to the conclusion the reader awaits. Think the style of “Inkspell” or “Catching Fire” ending abruptly in the climactic moment, then “Inkdeath” and “Mockingjay” respectively concluding the story. The difference here being that this free e-book is likely the first story read from that author. We as readers are still evaluating the author, on if he/she is trusted with our emotions and worthy of our time. And to suddenly be dropped at such a moment, I lose confidence. Because it’s one thing to write a great beginning and a great middle. The mark of a great author though, is a great resolution. So I’m wary to spend my money in hopes of a great resolution when I don’t know the author yet.

My Solution

And that’s my dilemma with free e-books. As a writer, I don’t want to do that to readers. But I also think that a free e-book is great marketing if I can convince readers to purchase that my writing is worth their money. In a hypothetical future, I could see myself potentially publishing a free e-book short story to lead into a purchasable novel. But asking a reader to invest in a full-length novel with no resolution is personally devastating. I also would consider the first book in a series, complete with a resolution, as a free e-book – and then including a sneak-peek into the second at the end that leaves the reader hanging. But I think there needs to be a resolution for the reader’s first introduction to an author.

What about “The Selection?”

The Selection This brings me to “The Selection.” I purchased “The Selection,” put down good money and trusted the publicity, readership, and – let’s face it – the cover, that this would be worth every penny. Then this book did not have a huge conclusion, other than knowing that the next round of the Selection was starting. Wasn’t even a free e-book and it left me hanging. Though I had yet to read a great resolution from this particular author, I was so hopeful that I purchased “The Elite” and “The One” together. Thankfully, I was not disappointed. Great job bringing it all together! I still wish there was a little more conclusion to the first, but in case you were wondering, it is totally worth the risk here. The political intrigue escalates, which is what I was really hoping for, that it would overpower the romance drama. And I go back and forth on who SHOULD end up with whom, as well as who WILL end up with whom. And the resolution is both satisfying and believable. So that’s my plug. Kudos, Kiera Cass.

for the Bookworms

Thoughts on “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn

Well this is not an official review per se, so much as I had some sporatic thoughts as I read the book “Gone Girl” that I wanted to share. First off, total kudos to Gillian Flynn, this story was phenomenal.
 
 
 

My Namesake

It was interesting reading a book where people kept saying “Amy” and I’m like “huh?” and then I remember. Like walking through a grocery store where someone has a kid with your name and they keep calling them out. You know it’s coming, but it still gets your attention every. single. time. If you haven’t found a book where a major character has your name, you should. Gone Girl

 
 
 

Our Play-Acting

Fav quote: “We were the first human beings who would never see anything for the first time. We stare at the wonders of the world, dull-eyed, underwhelmed. Mona Lisa, the Pyramids, the Empire State Building. Jungle animals on attack, ancient icebergs collapsing, volcanoes erupting. I can’t recall a single amazing thing I have seen firsthand that I didn’t immediately reference to a movie or TV show. A f***ing commercial. You know the awful singsong of the blasé: Seeeen it. I’ve literally seen it all, and the worst thing, the thing that makes me want to blow my brains out, is: The secondhand experience is always better. The image is crisper, the view is keener, the camera angle and the soundtrack manipulate my emotions in a way reality can’t anymore. I don’t know that we are actually human at this point, those of us who are like most of us, who grew up with TV and movies and now the Internet. If we are betrayed, we know the words to say; when a loved one dies, we know the words to say. If we want to play the stud or the smart-ass or the fool, we know the words to say. We are all working from the same dog-eared script. It’s a very difficult era in which to be a person, just a real, actual person, instead of a collection or personality traits selected from an endless Automat or characters.” – For those who have read “Gone Girl,” this quote is even better realizing that Nick is the narrator of this section….as if he subconsciously knew all along. Anyhow, this quote speaks to the modern human condition a bit, as well as give an interesting foreshadowing to the story.

 
 
 

Drabble’s Take

For those of you who didn’t see the shocker mid-story (no spoilers!), I hate to break the news but I totally called it. It was still a complete delight, but I knew it was coming. Because I’d read “The Seven Sisters” by Margaret Drabble in college. It’s like a literary version that uses a similar shocking twist. In case you’re looking for a more literary, less thiller, angle of this type of psychological exploration. Seven Sisters

 
 
 

Your Side (what I was dying to dialogue about)

I’d love a discussion as to who is the villain and who is the victim. Amy? Nick? Who’s the worst here, who’s the instigator? I’m not talking theological “They both chose their sin” sort of thing, I get that. But I’m interested to hear thoughts. Is Amy relatable? Is Nick? Were they meant for each other? Are they more destructive being together or separate? Answer some or all of these questions in the comments, I’d love your thoughts and I’ll share mine.