Saturday, April 28, 2012

Pick my pen name

If you’re new here, I have a dilemma, and what better place to go than the blogosphere to solve my problems? My problem is simple: I have a number of exceptionally boring science publications. The science isn’t boring, but there’s something about the process of “just the facts, ma’am” that manages to desiccate a paper down to the common cure for insomnia.

And let’s face it, as a writer, I don’t want to be associated with science papers so boring even I fall asleep when I read them (and I really care about them!). And that means it’s time for a pen name.

But how does a person pick a pen name? I’ve seen some people just announce it, and I’ve seen people have contests, so I decided to go with a contest. It’s a simple thing, I’ve got a list of possible pen names (subject to publisher approval, of course) and a list of prizes. Vote for your favorite pen name, and comment below to be entered to win a prize of your choice! (and who doesn’t like prizes!)

See, easy as pie.

The poll is in the side bar and it will be open until May 19th at 11:59pm, and you have until then to enter for the prize. I know that people have different things that they want in life right now, so I thought I’d go ahead and put out a prize list that has something for everyone.

Here are the prizes:

A $25 dollar gift card for Amazon or Barnes and Noble (your choice)
A full beta read of your manuscript (up to 120k words). This is a beta read where I give you feed back on the overall arc of your story, characters, and emotional impact.
A line edit of your query and first thirty pages. This would include things like grammar and spelling, as well as an inclusion of
A custom binding of your manuscript (up to 120K words, they start to look lumpy after that). I will typeset, print and bind your manuscript into one book (cover paper of your choice from my collection).
And if none of those prizes strike your fancy, I’ll donate $25 dollars to Crits for Water in your name (or even sponsor you for a Kat-Crit, if you’d prefer).

How about those prizes! One lucky winner will get to pick whichever prize they want.

Now, since there’s no way for me to check to see if you actually voted, this is all on the honor system. Comment to enter and vote for a pen name (you can even vote more than once if you’d like). Anyhow, this contest is helping me out, so you don’t need to follow to enter (though, I’d love it if you did). Just comment and vote. Easy peasy. (do make sure that you leave your email in the comment so I can contact you in case you win, I promise not to spam you).

Now for the names: It’s hard to come up with names that seem like real names but don’t have five thousand other people with that same name. And names have power. People have a lot invested in names, so I don’t want to just have any old name. I spend forever picking names for my main characters, so I usually go generic until a name really catches my eye. Here’s the list of names to vote for:

Bridgett Ardin
Mithryl Kitras
Rena Rockford
Roslin Falkirk
Legara Leoria

And of course, if none of these seems like a good name, feel free to make a suggestion in the comments or hit none of the above. Thanks for voting!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Just a quick one!

So Adam over at Author's Echo had a really incredible post on the query letter today. I'm sure that everyone has already followed him and this is old news, but for the rest of you, go check it out.

Also, it's really well timed because of the Author's Voice Contest coming up next week.

I'll be posting later tonight on the Name contest, so I'll be back soon.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Call Me Ishmael...

Turns out that the smack going down was all terrible vicious rumor, and malicious lies (I’m totally relieved). Still, it’s made me think a ton about names. I always read about protags who were named so specifically for this or that story. It always makes me jealous because I wasn’t named so I could be the protagonist in my own life. I was named to honor a beloved aunt. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but for the record, my name has four letters and four thousand mispronunciations. I suspect people with the derivative of name Anne hate the Annas, Annies, Ahnas.

Mispronunciations aside (and it’s ree-nuh, in case you were starting to wonder), I grew up very under-appreciative of my name. My name didn’t fit right, but I was a teenager, nothing about me fit right. My sister always tried to shorten it (to reen, yeah, that’s appealing, but if my mother can put up with being called Die instead of Diana, I guess I can muster on under the burden of reen), and my friends tried to hide behind clever nick names: Kit (didn’t catch on), elffy (oh boy, internet inappropriate story there), and of course Sasquatch because I have enormous feet. Nothing stuck. Never did they find a name that worked. To this day I’m not sure if I was relieved or disappointed.

Then I went to college. I went with Rena there too, I mean, nothing else seemed to work. I got some interesting titles there (Ice Queen of the Universe and High Executioner of all she Surveys), but nothing seemed right. I wanted a name that hinted of the mystical without being silly. And then I got to be a horseback riding instructor at a camp. At camp, no one goes by their names, and they didn’t warn us until we were there. We had two days to pick then we had a naming ceremony in the hours before the kids showed up. I was completely stumped. I knew better than to pick my old fall backs because they didn’t work. I already knew that. So I picked Draco, for the constellation.

Little did I know, a very popular book featured a villain named Draco, and everyone asked if that’s who I was naming myself after. Now that I know who Draco Malfoy is, I’m glad I didn’t know at the time. But what was terrible, was that name fit even worse. And by even worse, I mean it started to be a relief when the other counselors would use my real name.

Fast forward to now, and I have to admit that the idea of a pen name has much appeal, but what to choose? As awkward as I am with my name, I doubt there’s one much better suited. I was watching a you tube channel and came across someone who was talking with a bunch of drag queens and they were talking about drag names. Apparently, your drag name is your first pet’s name as your first name and the street where you grew up as your last name. Mine then is Bridgett University. Or if you go with the first pet from my college days it would be Mithryl Ellwood.

Then there’s your blues name (the name you’d have if you were in a blues band, and for the record, I’ve been in a blues band, and I have never once been called Skinny Liver Brown).

My Jedi Name? Forre Fihop.
Pirate Name? Nancy the Mauve
Gangsta Name? Loose Gat Slinger
Ninja Name? Gisaku Ogata –san
Stage Name? Miranda Ashbourne

Obviously, this could go one, so I am going to have a contest, the Call me Ishmael contest. It'll start on Friday, so make your suggestions for pen names now, and I'll post all the rules. The prize is even better, it'll be the prize of your choice (I'll post the list of possible prizes in the official Contest post).

And definitely share your drag/pirate/jedi/gangsta names in the comments, my friends and I are have a huge laugh right now.

p.s. Crits for Water is going on right now, so head over and make a bid or just donate.

Monday, April 23, 2012


I pulled my photo.

I loved that picture. I mean seriously, you couldn’t have a more perfect for me picture. Maybe I’ll get to use it as an author pic someday (*snorts* no one would have such poor taste as to let my evil scientist picture be the picture on the jacket, I mean even I think I looked a little too excited about wearing the evil scientist goggles).

I also took down my email. If you need to get in contact just leave a comment with a user profile attached to an email. Sorry about that guys, but some smack went down at my department. It isn’t with me (seriously, this is a squeaky clean blog compared to my colleagues) but my email is my full name. I’m not in trouble, and I’m not likely to get into trouble (even if I left my picture up, and I’ll put it up again after I defend). I’ve gone preemptive. Discretion is key in this brave new world where the faculty cares about what their grad students do on the internet. I posit they might have some better things to do with their time than discuss our online presence, and I’m certain a majority of the faculty agree. In the real world, however, it only takes one disgruntled gate keeper to keep a grad student from getting the degree they’ve sacrificed so much for. So the new word isn’t mum; it’s discretion.

And this is what I find annoying.

See, I started this blog using my own name on purpose. I already have a blog under a fake name where I ask people not to mention my real name. But this was supposed to be my writer’s blog. I used my real name, because I wanted to make some real connections, but now I’m learning that my academic career isn’t conducive to using my real name on the internet. I guess that may have been na├»ve of me, but I figured if his real name was good enough for Asimov (who was a grad student when he sold his first science fiction stories), then my real name would be good enough for me. I guess Isaac didn’t have to worry about google cache.

It looks like I’m about to make the plunge into pen name land to distance myself from myself (Yeah, I know, silliness, but if discretion is key, I can go with that). And this could be a golden opportunity.

See, once upon a time I hated my name. I’ll have to write a post about it because it was very teenager, but that’s a post for next time.

Anyhow, help me out and leave suggestions in the comments. My mother likes Rena Rockford, and someone has already suggested Lena Charles (sounds like a romance novelist…) and there’s a suggestion for Draconna Ly Zeitlaunen (there’s a story behind it, but it has the dreaded Z last name). And let me know what you think of Pen Names. Maybe I should make a contest out of it. ::rubs chin like evil scientist::

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Getting in touch

I’ve hurt my shoulders a lot. It comes from doing things like playing hockey (fracture, torn rotator cuff), football with friends (dislocated clavicle), bike accident (torn rotator cuff on the other side). Well, needless to say, I haven’t spent much time working on my dunking skills since high school.

See, when I was a teenager (yes, it was a while ago) I used to go around seeing what things I could reach just by jumping. I had a pretty good vertical leap (not great, not even average for an athlete, despite being an athlete), and I always tested myself. I could easily jump and hit the ceiling of my house, most of the school classrooms, signs, expensive doorjambs, you name it.

Enter college, a decade and more than fifty pounds, and let’s just say I haven’t been jumping to test my vertical leap that much. In fact, I’d kind of just written off that whole aspect of my life. No, I’m not sedentary, but both my mother and my sister gave up their sport of choice in their mid thirties, so I’ve been starting to feel, well, old.

Put out to pasture, even.

I know it’s silly, and that attitudes change (yeah, my 60 year old mom now goes to dance conventions where they dance from 10 am to 2 am for three days straight, so clearly her throwing in the towel for soccer might have been a touch premature).

Still I’ve been feeling a little wore out and over the hill (I’m not, I’m just feeling that way, and if you are too, you might like this video).

So there I am doing a work out, trying to pump myself up to get it done, when in comes my crazy curiosity. Can I touch the ceiling in here?

The ceiling in that room is a decent jump, and I didn’t really think I could. I mean, yeah, in high school I could have touched that ceiling, but I ain’t exactly in high school anymore, if you know what I mean. I lined it up and took a leap.

I missed.

I did it again.

I missed again.

I’m pretty stubborn, and that ceiling was pretty close, so I jumped again.

And I missed again.

I don’t know where I’d gotten it in my mind that touching the ceiling was some sort of bench mark for old. If I could touch it then I was awesome, but if that ceiling remained out of reach, then I was doomed to grow old and die unsatisfied.

I know it was dumb, but that stupid ceiling now had something I wanted back. Some part of my life that I’d let slip by somehow, and that damned ceiling had it. Wisdom, grace, youth—I don’t know, I just knew that it had it.

I stepped back and thought about how I used to jump, how I used to move with freedom.

Then I jumped and touched the ceiling.

Complete euphoria. I might as well have won a gold medal with that leap. I fist pumped and everything (cause I am a nerd). I may have even hollered out my victory roar. In my mind I heard the 80s music as the credits roll.

Yeah, I know it’s silly, but it was such an incredible feeling.

Ever have that moment of complete euphoria? (though I suspect mine’s the only one for touching a silly ceiling).

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Legend of Korra

Okay, this is a really short post, but it's totally worth it.

So a friend was telling me about how Legend of Korra (this is the animated sequel to the Avatar: The Last Airbender animated series) would be premiering on April 14th. I have literally been counting down the days.

Then yesterday I was messing around on iTunes, and there it was: the first two episodes of Legend of Korra for download for free!!!!!

(I may have squealed a little... okay, I may have squealed a lot)

So if you liked Avatar: The Last Airbender, then you'll definitely like the Legend of Korra. So go to iTunes, download it for free (did I mention free, though the rest of the season has a reasonable cost).

I know, I sound like a walking add, but I hadn't heard that it was already available for download, so I'm just hoping to add some smiles to the world by spreading the word.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

IWSG: Anxiety or D is for Dissertation (or my other favorite, D is for Degree)

I know I said I wouldn’t be around as much, but I didn’t want to miss an Insecure Writer’s Support Group meeting. If you haven’t heard about IWSG, go over and visit Alex and sign up on the linky-do to join.

This month, I’ve been noticing something. I have two projects going on. They are both, essentially, writing. One is scientific writing. The other is of course science fantasy (seriously, that’s what I’d name my genre, but I have to come down on the side of normal ::shakes fist at da man:: ). The funny thing is that right now, I’m using writing to unwind from writing.

Bwah? That’s crazy talk.

Not for me.

See, the problem with my dissertation isn’t that I don’t know what I’m talking about (I do), and it’s not that I can’t string together words to form coherent sentences (I present my blog as proof of competency in that arena), which begs the question: why don’t I like writing my dissertation?

I hate it in fact. It makes me angry and scared, and when I’m done looking over the comments from my committee members (and never has there been a group in more dire need of the rule: honest but not cruel!) I feel small and miserable. Worthless, even if I’ve been working too long on it.

With my dissertation (which is in its sixth full rewrite *gags*), every time I sit down to work on it—which for the record, is Every Single Day including the weekends—I’m worried. The comments I’ve gotten back from my committee could scorch the ground, and if they’d been through Eden, you’d think it was the Atacama. They are intense. No, wait: they are INTENSE!

And they scare me, because they have all the control.

So when I write, every word is pounded out across my heart. It hurts to sit and write because I know that no matter how good it is, it will never be declared good. The best mark of approval they will ever give out is “good enough.” To which I always want to know, “Good enough for what? Toilet paper? Nobel? What does it mean?”

Clearly not Nobel.

The point is that I can’t sit down to write without this dread that no matter how incredible my skill, no matter how hard I work, no matter if I could fart funded grants, the best I’ll ever get is “good enough,” but the worst, ah, now there’s a problem.

The worst are comments that call into question my ability to write, form scientific thoughts, and in general, imply that I am complete moron.

“What a mess, that’s not English! Hell, that’s not even American!” Yes, my advisor wrote that on one of my papers. And that’s just one of the comments I feel I can reasonably quote because it’s also sort of funny. But then there are comments that say stuff like “I don’t think you’ve actually thought about any of this,” Or “Did you even try, because this, quite frankly, is awful,” or “Did you really site all these references, because it just didn’t seem like it.”

Yeah, my committee members are a cheery bunch who take the time to bolster my self confidence at every opportunity. Too bad they think dynamite can be used for shoring.

The problem is that it’s kind of like a query letter. You know how query letters go, every time you get a response, it’s either “I love it, and I’d love to see more!” or it’s “Wow, good luck with that one.” Except in academia, even the “Good luck with that one” responders are locked into making it work. That’s what the committee is bound to do. So they hate it, and they *have* to work on it. It’s not their project, and they don’t want anything to do with it, so any error—any error at all, no matter how ridiculous—and they go nuts. I swear, missing a hyphen might as well be murdering puppies with these people.

And for the record, I couldn’t care less about the proper use of a freakin hyphen. That’s what a bloody style guide is for. So it’s pointless to go on about crap like that until the last edit before being published. URGGH!

Whoops, I went all horrible squid of anger there, and that wasn’t my intent. I was trying to describe the difference between the writing that hurts me and the writing that sets me free. See those jaded paragraphs? That’s what burn out looks like (beware the burnout, grasshopper, it’s the same everywhere, mine’s just with research and committees).

Right, so suffice it to say, there’s a little bit of pressure when I write the dissertation. In fact, there’s so much pressure, I can feel the damned keys tapping away on my soul. It’s horrible to hate something that I love on so many levels. So I run around like a headless chicken, avoiding everything to do with my project. I hate sitting down at the computer. If I’ve sat down, then I would rather respond to student emails or surf the internet, or maybe I should practice that lecture one more time. Anything to not feel the angry little person in me screaming at my committee every time I sit down to write.

Insert crazy novel.

Not crazy as in I write whatever I want however I want it. It’s not even a write-whenever-I’d-like-to (don’t I wish!). No, my novel is crazy because there’s nothing like it (at least not that I’ve come across), and it’s ridiculous in premise. It’s so odd that its realistic chances are slim. Which means it’s all mine. So few people are going to ever see it that I don’t have to worry about whether it’s soft-skinned face, or soft skinned face (it’s the former for those of you curious about it, but my feelings are that you only ever use punctuation when there’s the possibility of misunderstanding if you don’t use it; in short punctuation is politely informing your readers of exactly what you mean without being a dictating pain in the arse). Regardless, chances of my novel getting published as the draft I’m writing right now? Zero. There is literally no way this will see the light of day without a huge edit and some serious soul searching.

My work in progress is for exactly one person: me, and to hell with the rest of the world (no offense world, I just need some me time).

I wish I could write my dissertation with that same kind of freeness, but now I’m stretched to deadlines and meetings and if I don’t get it done by, and what will my committee say when they read it? Is it “Good enough?”

And what exactly was so terrible about it last time that they hated it?

It’s crazy to have two such completely different experiences with writing, but I imagine there are plenty of people who feel like I do when I work on my dissertation when they’re working on their novels. Take a step back and breathe.

As much as the idea of it might hurt, you can always redo this draft. There’s no need for the crazy stressful pressure we put on ourselves. We can do as many redos as it takes to get it right. Even in academia, they’ll let you do it again. And even after you’re finished, they let you redo it one more time to clean up all the hyphens and what not.

So today, I’m going to write everything like I’m writing in my WIP. I’m writing for me.