To have a pen name or to not have a pen name that is the question. At some point in your writing journey you will have to decied what name you want on your work. Will it be your real name? A variation of your name? Will it be a name of your choosing. Will you have many pen names or just one? These are all real question and for us writers it can be a bit troubbling at times. I know it has been for me.
My pen name story:
I remember thinking in middle school when I started writing my first book about what name I wanted on my books. I liked my name but at the same time I was sure I could have one that sounded more authorish. :D When I met my husband and things started looking like they would last, I admit to trying on his last name. I knew Shiels would be a great last name for an author. (In my mind it was perfect, and so was he.)
Fast forward a few years. I published my first two books, The Royal Spy and Lady A under my name, Cassie M. Shiels but when I started thinking about writing contemporary romance. I considered the idea of a pen name. I thought long and hard about it. I even came up with the perfect name. I decided that my alter ego would have to have the name that could have only been mine in an alternate reality. A name that only belonged in a parallel universe. I blame watching a little too much, Doctor Who, for that kind of thinking.
I settled on the name, Cassandra Grimes. Here is why: 1. I didn't want a frivolous name that I wasn't attached to in any way. It had to still feel like me in some form. 2. My real name is Cassie, I was almost named Cassandra therefore in a parallel world that would be my name. Grimes would have also been my last name if my grandfather had never been adopted. Again a parallel universe thought. 3. I thought it sounded cool. I 'll have to name a character that name.
For a few weeks I loved this idea. I thought it was the best thing ever, but then it lost its appeal. I didn't want to look at my book on amazon or on the shelf and not see my name on it. Then my books that I pour my heart into would look like any other, not mine. I wanted to fully claim my work. As cool as I thought this pen name would be, I couldn't do it.
Still worried that I needed a pen name but wanting the book to have my name on it. I settled on the pen name C. M. Shiels for my contemporary works. It was still me. It would work great. This idea lasted a lot longer. But guys I want to see my name on all of my books. I started asking questions about pen names and paying attention to other Autors and two things stood out to me.
The first was how a few of my author friends were working to get rid of their pen names. Mostly because their books were not that different. Or they didn't want to deal with a pen name.
The second thing was that as authors it is a good idea to think about not confusing our readers. Especially if we are writing for both kids and adults. This thought made me feel certain that I had to have a pen name even though by then I didn't want one. I kept telling myself that if I wanted to write all my ideas I would have too. I had dreams of writing picture books, concept books, new chapter books, middle grade books, Young Adult books, New adult books and adult books in various genres. I seriously have tons of story ideas. If I stuck with this plan, yes, a pen name or two would be required. But then I started thinking about what I actually like to write and what I wanted to spend my time writing. Guess what it wasn't picture books. I love and appreciate them but that isn't me. I am a novelist. I read over 35 new chapter books before I decided that I could write them yes, but I didn't really want too. Middle grade would still be fun but I'm not sure I ever will write one. Maybe but maybe not. I figured out my true love is writing for Young Adults, new adults and adults. I know I still want to write in multiple genres, but I hope that if my readers know that then they won't be so shocked to see a princess story from me, then a clean contemporary romance, then a paranormal romance, then a fantasy and a romantic suspense. I am a multi genre book lover and that is what I want to write. And my heart wants me to write it under my name.
I understand I will have different kinds of readers. The split is still there. Those who read my princess books might not want to read my bridal shop romances. Thats great. I will have my name on both but my readers are welcome to avoid what they don't want and read any or all.
To help with this I have two newsletters. One is for those who like magic, princesses, dragons, made up kingdoms, vampires, etc and one is for those who like contemporary romance stories without magic. They are all clean, books straight from my heart and honestly they all sound like me so you could totally tell.
I hope my readers will love my multi genres with me. And I hope having my name on them won't throw anyone for a loop.
This decision wasn't taken lightly. Lots of thought and time went into it. For those writers who are still trying to figure it out I have a list of things to think about below. I hope it helps.
Things to consider:
1. Are your genres or age groups shockingly different? ( Kids vs. Adults, nonfiction vs. horror)
2. Are you willing to manage more than one name?
3. Do you need a pen name for legal or personal preference?
4. Would you rather friends and family not know it's you writing this work?
5. Is your name so common that it would be better to use a pen name?
6. Do you want to have a pen name for your traditional stories vs. your indi works?
7. Do you like your maiden name better?
8. Do you want it to keep your author life and your everyday life separate?
9. What if you really do become well known for your books? Would you want it then?
10. Do you want to clearly separate the books your write?
Thanks for reading and good luck writing!
~Cassie M. Shiels~
Just like in any other job, writers get burnt out. Being creative is the way our brain works but sometimes we hit the bottom of our creative barrel and we need to recharge. Sometimes we hit what writers like to call writers block. Ah this is so stressful!!! Especially when we want to move forward with our story and we are feeling like we have nothing to write other than. I hate this, or what are words? First of all don't feel like you are a bad writer if this happens to you. It happens to us all. Secondly don't give up. Remember, "Tomorrow is always fresh, with no mistakes in it!" ~Anne of Green Gables~ You might feel like hitting your head against your laptop or notebook today, but that doesn't mean it's time to quit all together.
10 Tips to beat Writers Block!
1. Do a task that requires a minimal part of your brain, and think through the spot of your story that you are stuck at. Something like hand washing dishes, mowing the lawn or taking a shower work great.
2. Refill your writers bucket by reading a book that is NOT the same Genre you are writing but you still enjoy a lot. It can be a novel you love or a new book or even a book you are beta reading for another author.
3. Refill your writers bucket by reading a book that IS in your Genre. Pay attention to the story beats and see if it can clue you into what you might need to do next.
4. Take a trusted friend out to lunch and hash out the part of the story you are stuck on. A phone call also works, but it's less fun.
5. Spend a hour on pintrest looking up clothes your character would wear, the environment they are in, the costume or ball gown, or weapon they need soon. Use the time to build excitement for writing not as an excuse for why you're not writing.
6. Watch one of your favorite T.V. shows. Laugh, relax and then think about why you love it. Can you use that element in your story?
7. Play the What If... game (also fun with a friend) Think of the silliest, craziest, scariest, funnest things that could happen next. Not only is it fun but you'll probably find your answer.
8. Do a Timed Write Exercise. Set your timer for 20 to 30 minutes and write about whats wrong, where you need to get too and all the ways you could force your characters in that direction.
9. Make your favorite desert. Something that when sitting there is super hard to resist. Then reward yourself for writing a chapter or a certain large word count by earning some of the desert. #motivation
10. TAKE a bubble bath and relax. Ask yourself questions about your characters background and why they are the way they are now. Two good things comes from this. More knowledge about your characters and sometimes something you learn about them will help you with where you are feeling stuck
BONUS: Search for a song that represents your book or character and play it before you sit down to write
BONUS 2: Let the stress of the block fade into the back ground. Go to bed. Wake up, exercise, eat something filling, drink a large glass of water, stretch then sit down to write with your favorite music. Get yourself feeling good, with endorphins pumping thorough you and go for it!
I hope you find these helpful.
Good luck and happy writing! Cassie!
No one writes their stories exactly the same way. Ideas come to us in different ways too. One of my favorite things to look for when I am creating a story are the shiver moments. What is that? It is a moment where all the braiding of the story comes to a point. Where emotions are high. Where often we see theme. It is a powerful moment that causes the reader or movie watcher to feel shivers. To grip the book or their blanket tighter. The stakes are high. It could possibly be a climatic moment but not always. It works really great as a mirror moment to something else in the story. It is a moment where the reader really feels something. The five biggest ways I have seen this personally are: the climax, mirror moments, a character defining moment, a fail moment or a huge ah ha moment. So when writing a new story keep the idea of finding a shiver moment in mind. Think about what you would need to put into your story to make that moment strong. Remember these moments never contain one element it is a moment where your story braiding comes to a point.
You can also combine these moments to create a more powerful shiver moment. These ones hit harder and leave a longer impact. Example: Wreck-it Ralf has a shiver moment that is a mirror moment, a fail moment and a climatic moment all in one. I think that is why it's my favorite example of a shiver moment.
I will tell you not all shiver moments are created equally some are a lot stronger than others. But they all add a lot to a story. Personally, I feel if you are looking for a stronger shiver moment then use either a mirror moment or a fail moment. But that might just be my own preference. Below are some fun examples of each of the five ways I mentioned seeing shiver moments from both movies and books.
Examples of shiver moments from books and movies:
Beware the below may contain spoilers!!
1. Wreck it Ralph: (Climax, mirror moment, fail moment) Wreck it, Ralph says, “I’m bad. And that’s good. I will never be good. And that’s not bad. There’s no one I’d rather be than me.” This one is huge for me, it gets me every time. It is a climatic moment but it is also a mirror moment and a fail moment all in one. Everything Ralph has been looking for, the hero he is trying to be all comes to a point at that moment. He's about to wreck something which is what makes him a bad guy, yet wrecking something this time, makes him a hero.
2. Boss baby: (Mirror moment): I honestly thought I would hate this movie and then I watched it. The shiver moment happens after the climax is all done when they both got what they wanted and they thought they would be happy but they aren't is so powerful. Tim writes boss baby a letter mirroring some of the same things that were said earlier in the film but the way they are said this time has a different meaning. It is so fun to see the connections and such a strong shiver moment.
3. Thor Ragnarok: (Defining moment) The scene where he thinks all is lost and that he is going to die at the hand of his sister but then finally uses his full lightning power. He pushes her away and defeats her army like they are nothing, after he truly taps into his full potential. His father told him he is stronger and we get to see this at that moment. Every time I see this scene I can hardly sit still.
4. The non-animated Beauty and the Beast: The Evermore song moment (Fail moment): Beast lets Bell go knowing full well that he is out of time. He is choosing to fail in breaking the curse because he cares about her so much. His heart is breaking at this moment. But again it is also the moment where we know he finally has learned his lesson that he's changed. Great song! Powerful shiver moment.
5. Star Wars (Huge Ah ha) When Darth Vader says, "Luke, I am your Father!" Most of us know that now, but when that movie first came out it was a huge shock! The prequels have lessons the surprise but the point is still there. I also think of ah ha moments in romances when they finally realize that they love each other after all or mysteries when we finally understand who the killer was.
1. J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter (Defining moment) We see this again and again in the whole series. When Harry Ron or Hermione step up to fight Lord Voldemort. It isn't always easy but they rise to the occasion. One of the best moments, that is also a shiver moment, is in book number four when Harry fights Voldemort after Cedric dies in the graveyard. I remember gripping that book so tight I got red marks on my hands from the cover.
2. Louis Sachar's Holes (Mirror moment) Stanley Yelnats carries Zero up the mountain saving his friend from the desert. He keeps it light talking about a hot fudge Sunday. Add to this a scene in the next chapter where Stanley sings his family's song to Zero. Its mirror moment is in the past when Stanley's no good dirty rotten pig stealing great great grandfather was to carry madam Zaroni up the mountain instead after carrying the pig up so many times. This moment brings all the braiding together.
3. Gail Carson Levine's Ella Enchanted (Climax) Ella declares, "I shan't marry the prince!" Everyone is commanding her too, but she can't not with her curse. She wants nothing more to Marry him, but not when it would destroy him. To protect him she fights her curse.
4. Betsy Brannon Green's, Don't Close your eyes (Fail moment) When the reader realizes that the main character might have been poisoned and who the murderer is. This one gets me nervous every time! Shiver!
5. Bruce Coville's Jeremy Thatcher Dragon Hatcher (Huge Ah ha) When Jeremy finds out that his cool sphere is actually a dragon egg and he is going to be a dragon hatcher. Then again when he finds out why he can't keep her forever. These ones are softer shiver moments but still impactful.
Romances: I love the moment when one of the main characters figure out they they love someone and cannot let them go. They can also be great shiver moments.
In my own writing I am working harder to use this aspect because I feel like it is so powerful. When I thought back to writing my first book, The Royal Spy, two scenes kept coming to mind. Two scenes made the project have to work. One was the mud fight scene and the other the sword fight in the tower with lightning flashing. The first scene is just a fun one that creates happy emotions but the second is a shiver moment. What was missing in the first was the braiding. The layers that make a shiver moment work. Both needed to happen in the story but one had more power than the other.
Challenge 1: Start looking for these moments everywhere! In the movies you watch and the books you read. Look for why they are a shiver moment and what had to come before to make that moment so powerful.
Challenge 2: Start a new story starting with a shiver moment and then build the story from there. Think about what you would need to make this moment powerful.
Thanks for reading, Happy writing and Enjoy! Cassie M. Shiels
So love by Consequence is the first book in my bridal shop romance novella series. I am so over the moon excited for this book and the others to follow. One of my all time favorite jobs was working at a bridal shop. It has been a ball creating these characters and coming up with their love stories, with the bridal shop as the common thing in them all. I was honored to get that job and I am honored now to present these stories. I will note that all of the characters and situations are completely fiction, made up and in no way representative to anyone I worked with or knew at the bridal shop I worked at. Any similarities are completely coincidental, I did not base anything off of real people. I am just honoring my time with fun stories. I hope that you all enjoy this one too, due out in July 2018!!!
I had the awesome amazing opportunity this last weekend to attend an event. I love author events. I have loved them for years. Going to book signings, and writing conferences are a blast. Spring into books happens to be both of those combined. I loved every second of this event. It was so much fun creating book marks, ordering in a bunch of my books, talking to my neighboring authors, watching my brother and hubby step in to watch over my table while I taught, meeting readers and other writers. I was there for over five hours but it felt like two. I suppose book signings could be boring but I truly had a ball. Readers, we authors love to see you and authors if you are considering doing an event like this just do it! You'll be happy you did. See below for my 10 tips for a book signing event after these two fun photos!
10 Tips for a book signing event: