What is in a Pen Name?

What is in a name? And if you get to CHOOSE your own name, what does that mean about you?

I believe names are important. We start life with two. One name is given when you are born. One name is inherited from your family. These names to me are precious and have history and meaning beyond a single person. Then there are nicknames; you don’t get to choose these either and these can be jabs, jokes, or reminders.

And then there are pen names. A rare opportunity to pick something for yourself.

Some people may choose a pen name to disguise gender, to jump genres, or personal choice. Personally, I didn’t want to go with a pen name. I liked my name. Here’s my reasoning: I thought remember two names instead of one was confusing. Clemens and Twain? It’s like a quiz when I can’t even remember the name of the book! I also was worried about growing out of it like my middle school email address or my high school nickname. Those I will leave behind thank-you-very-much. And finally, I didn’t have anything to hide. I’ve been public about my book writing and I don’t write erotica, I write science fiction. My last name is unique, a good length, and well, it was mine.

So why am I talking about pen names? Oh, I’m so glad you asked!

I got married and am excited to start a family with a shared last name. By gaining a new name, at first I felt like I was losing another. But instead of losing Hasling, it has instead risen like a phoenix and taken on a new life as my pen name. It is so fulfilling to have my pen name inherited from myself and my book family.

And let me tell you a secret… it is kind of awesome! I wasn’t expecting to feel this since I hadn’t thought about picking one on my own. But let me say that having a pen name feels like a secret life, something you can crawl into a blanket fort with paper and pen and tell hidden mysteries and wild fantasies. I knew continuing to use this name would make me feel like I was keeping a connection to my family, but I didn’t know it would simultaneously give me freedom with the separation of my life online as an author and my life in the real world as a wife.

So would you choose a pen name? Searching for other tips on blog posts, I was surprised by how many posts were titled “new pen name”, but there are also a few other good reads out there I liked:

Release Day for Mars and Mayhem

On September 4th, my book was delivered to tons of Kindle devices, for you to start reading! Paperback is available to order!

Yes, this post is September 10th, but the truth about my delay is September 5th is the day Hasling became my pen name. I’ll let you read into that one.

There is something about no longer editing. It’s crazy to flip to a page in my book and instantly be transported. Every single word is mine, I put it there. It is so easy to read two words on any random page and feel like you picked up where I left off. Like greeting an friend, knowing every inside joke like no time has passed. Real pages that are crisp as I turn them, and I can easily find a certain scene because I know it by heart.

Making it real is a rewarding and surreal feeling. I’m now a published author. Wow.


They say not to judge a book by its cover but I need you to do just that.

I’m still gushing over the cover of Mars and Mayhem revealed last month. And this month, the cover is nominated for the AllAuthor.com Cover of the Month contest for August. I need support from you! You don’t have to register, just click on the link and VOTE!

Click to Vote!

Cover Reveal! Mars and Mayhem

The big moment has arrived! It’s like the moment the bride walks down the aisle, as everyone marvels at the beauty of the moment while also seeing perfection in the future that is starting that wedding day.

I have been waiting to share this with the world! I love the cover! I hope it entices you to buy and to read! Pre-order it today at a discounted price!

For my speech, I’d like to thank:

  • my family, who have put up with my incessant questions and long conversations about this book
  • my fiancee, who probably will never read the book but supports it none the less
  • my colleagues and friends, who love science fiction as much as I do
  • the #WritingCommunity on Twitter, who provides support the only way people on social media can
  • the artist herself, who really is the only person that should get credit for this milestone

How to Publish a Novel: Part 5

It’s like watching a sunset. The beautiful colors of red, purple, orange, outlining the clouds and creating hypnotic layers is worth the commitment, patience, and wonder that escapes your heart.

I’m excited to share my coming soon novel with you. This has been such a journey. I have learned that going from writer to author take a lot of work. This is my story and it may not be the same process for everyone, but it helps me stay organized and hopefully you learn something too.

This is another post of my eight part blog mini-series.

Part 5: Thank you, Beta Readers

Ok, so by this point, I determined that I needed help editing. Who do you ask to do that? I know tons of readers and writers, and supporters to my book writing, but who do I trust? Also, who reads fast? And who can tell me the constructive criticism I need to hear? This has been an accelerated process having 3 beta readers (maybe fewer than most) in 6 months, but it has been more than rewarding. I’ve learned that in my next novel, I should 1) start sooner, and 2) find a critique partner.

Tip 1: Over-writer or under-writer

First of all, I learned that I am an under-writer. I make assumptions of my reader’s imagination and need to add detail to show the reader. To help put this in perspective, I thought I was “done” at 51,000 words in December. After adding huge world building and character development bits, I am now over 70,000 words. That’s 30% more. My beta readers would ask me questions of “did you mean–” or “what about–” and I could clarify in a conversation, but the main take away was, if it wasn’t clear in the book itself, add it.

Tip 2: Talk it out and uncover what is truly missing

Sometimes it was frustrating. Some questions my beta readers posed were, “So I don’t get the spaceship–” and “I like reading Mac, but he doesn’t do anything for the plot.” It was obvious to me, or maybe I liked leaving the color of something up to the reader’s imagination, but I’ve come to terms that that doesn’t make a good writer. There is a fine balance between too much detail (Lord of the Rings) where you skip chapters or pages of descriptions, and not enough (i.e. what I had). And by the way, sometimes you know the answer, and sometimes you have to dig deeper and go from editor to writer again. That is tough.

Tip 3: Never too soon

I was scared to give my unpolished book to someone, wanting a magical answer to the time and place for when it would be ready. Thank you to my beta readers that honestly read an incomplete novel and helped me relinquished the protective hold I had on my book as a dream. Through their involvement, it opened doors that would grow organically into reality. I learned SO much from my friends and family beta readers. They read it as readers, and it completely refueled me with their enthusiasm.

Thank you, from the bottom of Michelle’s heart, beta readers!

How to Publish a Novel: Part 4

Shhhhh….it’s like a surprise birthday party that everyone is in on the secret!

I’m excited to share my coming soon novel with you. This has been such a journey. I have learned that going from writer to author take a lot of work. This is my story and it may not be the same process for everyone, but it helps me stay organized and hopefully you learn something too.

This is another post of my eight part blog mini-series.

Part 4: First Impressions – Giving it a Face

This may not be true for everyone, but science fiction screams action and adventure on the covers. I couldn’t do it myself (oh, I tried, yes, I tried) and I needed help.

Tip 1: Copy Someone that Does it Well

First, I took advice from my day job of product design. A common statement from UX/UI designers is “give me an example.” Show me. There is already a product, agent, or author out there that has mastered what you have in your head. Look for book covers that draw you in. Look at book covers that you like. Why do you like them?

I did this and science fiction book covers look like movie posters: Action-packed! They have jet engines, exploding planets, spacesuits, dramatic poses, everything. I was going to need something up to par.

Tip 2: Compensate others how you want to be compensated

Treat others how you want to be treated. We as authors are artists of words, and we share a common goal with other book cover artists: make money (that’s not the only goal, but it is one of them!).

When I learned how expensive finding an artist is, I initially got discouraged. What these folks create is beautiful! I chose to flex my budget of zero because it was worth it. I believe every artist and entrepreneur should be fairly compensated, but I had to weigh the options.

So here is a compilation of my findings, to help you weigh options for your cover. This isn’t a comprehensive list, but this is everything I personally looked into:

  • Amazon is free. I don’t think there is an export feature. Amazon only.
  • Canva is highly promoted and has a free and pro version to make your own (I tried it but could do less than photoshop personally for layering complex images. May be good for non-scifi. Is fun for promo things.
  • Barnes and Noble partners with 99 Designs starting at $279, for many artists to submit ideas and buyer picks from them (I haven’t tried it)
  • Reedsy has a platform for finding entrepreneurs for editing services as well as cover designs. Prices range considerably. I got responses of $350, $700, and $1500. (I tried it but didn’t choose any of these.)
  • Premade covers is an interesting and affordable option! Falling in the $50-200 range, Do a google search for premade covers and see some beautiful, inspiring artwork that is waiting for your title!
  • Then I found fiverr.com. Fiverr is freelance art of not only book covers, and the price ranges from $20-400 (a wide disparity so I recommend narrowing your goals in quality and style by looking at the other options first).

Tip 3: Show it off beyond the book store

If you look again at fivrr, Canvas, and other sites again after you have a finished design, there are ways to reuse your book cover in promotional materials on social media. I’m so excited about my cover that I’m doing an event to reveal it’s beauty! The magic is what will be revealed on July 1st.

Sign up here to see it first hand!

How to Publish a Novel: Part 3

The anticipation is like the applause that happens when the conductor bows, turns to the orchestra, and you are poised, ready to play the first note, waiting for the downbeat. Don’t time it wrong, be precise and be beautiful. Is it time yet???

I’m excited to share my coming soon novel with you. This has been such a journey. I have learned that going from writer to author take a lot of work. This is my story and it may not be the same process for everyone, but it helps me stay organized and hopefully you learn something too.

This post is one of my eight part blog mini-series.

Part 3: Amazon, Oh Amazon

At this point, I was feeling frustrated. I felt like I had accomplished something, I had finished a novel, and instead it felt like there was so much up hill to go! I said to myself, fine, if I want do all it all myself, then what do I need to do? I went to Amazon KDP, which is so easy, I really could publish right then and there. But when even that engine pointed out spelling and grammar in my upload, I knew I wasn’t ready. By that time, I had learned that if I actually want readers of my book, I needed to take a step back and do more research.

There are tons of posts out there about how to use Amazon to publish, and not all are still relevant. Amazon listened to their users and it is REALLY EASY to self-publish. Honestly, if you are committing to the self-publish thing, you can do-it-yourself! You don’t need help anymore because Amazon does it all. It means you can work on all that other stuff I like editing that I talked about in part two.

Back to Amazon.

Funny thing is, Amazon is a prolific corporate force in my near-future novel. Musk gets to Mars. Amazon and Google run the world. Delivery drones are common place.

So it seems fitting to share a few real-life warnings about using Amazon and their Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP):

Tip 1: Free ISBN

An ISBN is needed for each version and format of your book (ebook is one, print is another, an updated print version is a third). If you buy 1, it’s $125, but if you buy in bulk you get a deal. Which is why Amazon gives it away for free.

Secondly, an ISBN on Amazon is only good for printed Amazon copies, so be wary of identification numbers that aren’t ISBNs in other places too.

Tip 2: KDP Select

This is putting your book into the Kindle Unlimited library. This is common for indie authors. Every “checkout” or “book rental” gives you the author a small commission (not the same as a sell). Because readers rent your book for free, and more people will download it if it’s free, you have the potential to gain tons of readers and therefore gain reviews, that leads to moving up on the best sellers list, which leads to people hearing about your book, and finally people willing to pay to read your book.

The problem with this is: Amazon is an exclusive publisher while your book is in KDP Select. Meaning you can’t publish on B&N, Kobo/Walmart, or any other indie channels like Smashwords.

It also means, your public library.

Libraries don’t use Amazon as a distribution partner. They use OverDrive, and other services. Which means for your ebook you pick either the Amazon “library” or the public library. There. I said it.

You can have it available on both, but only if you don’t go with KDP Select.

Tip 3: Creator Tools for formatting

Some of the older blog tips mention using CreateSpace to format the pages. It’s all built into Kindle now and is called Kindle Create. You download it, format chapter headings, and page breaks, and you’re done! Again, I really appreciated the check that they put your book through a final spell check. All for free!

KDP even has a Cover Creator if you want to go the simple route. They look pretty good too! I’m not artistic in that way at all and they look professional enough! I will tell you about my cover in my next post and what I ended up doing for my scifi novel.

Attend my cover reveal event
to see the real deal compared to my first attempt at a cover!

How to Publish a Novel: Part 2

It feels like walking into a room full of flowers because you smell the beauty before you see it. I can smell this book and I can’t wait to show you the cover that emanates the beautiful story. Focus for a moment on your sense of smell instead of sight for a long breath in, hold it, and out, and again breath in, relish it, and out. I love the smell of books and of libraries, don’t you??

I’m excited to share my coming soon novel with you. This has been such a journey. I have learned that going from writer to author take a lot of work. This is my story and it may not be the same process for everyone, but it helps me stay organized and hopefully you learn something too.

This is post two of my eight part blog mini-series.

Part 2: What is an Editor anyways

So I finished writing the first draft, and I felt amazing! Caught up in the accomplishment, I vainly thought, there can’t be much more left to do before I can publish! I’ll just read through it a few times, fix these spelling and grammar errors and done! There were tools out there like Grammarly and ProWritingAid. Just a little clean up and I’ll be done. No one likes to edit anyways, right?

Boy was I wrong.

I started researching what published authors do for editing. I found so many surprises.

There aren’t people that edit your manuscript. There are teams of people that edit your manuscript. I learned on reedsy.com there are three to seven different kinds of editors: Development Editors, Structural Editors and Copy Editors.

I had no idea there were so many different ways to read a novel. But it started to make sense to separate your mindset. Think: today, I am looking for world building holes. The next week, I am looking for flow of chapter to chapter POV. Then, I am fixing grammar. It made sense, but it immediately extended my “quick editing” to at least 3 edit version. Okay, fine.

I haven’t hire anyone. But I am on edit version 6 now. Here are a few other things I learned:

Tip 1: Know Your Genre

I naively believed the 50,000 word novel definition of NaNoWriMo. Apparently, there are heavier expectations out there for science fiction and 70,000 is a lower limit. I also learned that YA (young adult) is a big category, but does my novel fit into it? By my definition (which by no means should be trusted) is that a YA novel has a “realizing who you are”, usually younger 18- characters (but doesn’t have to be). My novel is not that. My characters are firmly planted in their ways and adults.

Tip 2: Use Grammar for the Reader not the Character

Maybe this is obvious to others, but write properly. Always. Not like this blog. Not like you speak. Readers are reading and it’s easier to read, flow between sentences, if the grammar is correct. I used language like “sumthin’ ta drink” instead of “something to drink” to convey my characters personality, style, and [lack of] grace. I learned you shouldn’t do that. Stay true to English (if that is your language to publish in).

Tip 3: Have a version system

Oh bother. When do you start to name a draft a final draft? Then it becomes final final draft? And where did you save it and which “final” version did you give to who? The worst problem is when you come across something that you thought you fixed once before — but was that v3 not v4 that I changed it? I begrudgingly learned that I needed to slow down. One edit type at a time. Save it. Back it up again. And start the process over again. For me, I am always working on vF, and to make edits, I always know which one to change. If I send something out or move to another edit type, I do a Save As… increment the version to v5, and then keep going on vF. Not sure if it’s the best way or not!

How to Publish a Novel: Part 1

It feels like December 24th. I have found the perfect Christmas gift, and it is wrapped and ready and waiting. Oh my goodness, the anticipation! I can’t wait for the day that you get to open it.

I’m very excited to be sharing my debut novel with you VERY soon. This has been such a journey. I have learned that going from writer to author take a lot of work. This is my story and it may not be the same process for everyone, but it helps me stay organized and hopefully you learn something too.

This blog mini-series has eight steps. As I work towards publishing in July, you’ll get two blog posts a week! I’m so happy you have you as a reader, follower, and fan.

Part 1: Write until It’s Done

The first step is not only to write, but to finish writing! NaNoWriMo got me through to my first draft. It stands for National Novel Writing Month (November) with the soft goal of 50,000 words defining a novel (versus a novella). I finished at 50,057 words.

A few things helped me finish. For one, having a log helped me match my word count goal with my plot goals. Otherwise the climax would have been 2 pages before I moved on. Second, I started as a rebel, with 25,000 words on my novel. And third, I learned the following tips about writing that I want to share with you.

Tip 1: Set time boundaries

Let me do some math for you. NaNoWriMo 50,000 is 1,667 words a day for 30 days. It takes me on average 3 hours to write that many words. Let’s just say that is a big time commitment. Thinking about your novel as time rather than words really helped me finish what I started. I couldn’t commit to 3 hours a day, but I could do 1 to 1.5 hours a day. My goal was to write 800 words every day. It was still tough, but doable. And yes, the last day I had to write over 2,300 but I did it.

Tip 2: Don’t skip a day

Here’s the ugly truth about tip number one. It is really hard to make up a day so don’t. Don’t reason it at all. If you miss a day, oh sure, you can try to say that’s only 57 extra words a day for 29 days… that doesn’t sound too bad. But that’s best case if you skipped day 1; worst case is skipping second to last day with 3,334 words. And that’s just skipping ONE day. I know. It starts to get scary, setting goals. But if you instead think about TIME, finding an additional three hours of free time was hard to do in the first place so more than three hours…. hmmmmm. Write every day.

Tip 3: Find a trend

My word count fluctuated wildly. There were days I only wrote 370 words and days I wrote 1,257. When you write every day, you can start to see when creativity sparks. Did you write at midnight or over a lunch break? Did the glass of wine help or hinder?

For me, I learned a secret. It wasn’t when or how I felt, it was the type of writing that increased my writing speed. I learned that writing dialog flowed easily. So if I was feeling stuck, ta-da, oh another character walked in and now we have a conversation going. World building on the contrary dragged my word count to a crawl because I would get caught up in research. It’s what worked for me and I recommend finding your sweet spot.

Tip 4: Don’t read

Some people like to read what they wrote yesterday before writing today. I am going to say very loudly: DON’T. And don’t edit while you are writing. Do not edit! Stop that! Don’t read anything that is already on the page. Writing is not about making something polished that flows. I would argue, don’t even fix spelling (which of course those little red or green lines drive us nuts, but that’s because they are doing their job of distracting us too well). I would get instantly caught up in tweaking what was already there, and moving towards finishing something instantly becomes a standstill. Keep going forward, get all of the ideas out of your head and onto a page before you go back and fix anything.

3 Ways to Help Your New Remote Team Work From Home

I’m going to be honest. I hate working from home. In my past I’ve had team members and managers that took advantage of it. They were not available when I needed them. It was unclear how much work they got done in a day. It became a stressful, distrusting team dynamic. Please, don’t be that person.

The #ColoradoShutdown is enforcing what my office was already practicing, and everyone should be staying home to help the medical infrastructure carry out the greatest survival rates of this COVID-19 pandemic. Are you feeling uncertain about your team working remotely? Are you confident your team can stay sane working from home? Here are three tips if you are fearful that this new style will cause commitments to slip.

  1. Get alerts that work for you

Whether in the office or at home, there are distractions. We get up and move around for necessities like going to the bathroom, to take the dog out, or to answer the door for UPS. Distractions are good, even healthy, for the sedentary desk work. But you need to ensure that you answer questions as soon as possible. There are so many notification types out there: Slack, Skype, email, phone, text, the list goes on. Sometimes you see one and think “I’ll get back to that later”. Don’t. Find a notification style that works for you and that you respond to every time. Communicate what your preference is to your team and respond as soon as you can.

2. Make office hours

Finding the new balance of work-time vs home-time is going to be hard. You might find yourself feeling guilty if you watch the latest press conference live in the middle of the day and so make up for it by working until seven thirty at night. If you do the above well, you shouldn’t feel guilty. But please, don’t use time as a measure of whether you got your work done or not. You’ll spiral into counting how many hours you worked or half-worked. Half working and over working doesn’t help you get more done. If you are having a bad day, tell your team you need a break and step away. Take a full break, feel justified, and be accountable to your team that you’ll return.

3. Set goals and communicate them

With one and two above, it is even more important to communicate. Tell people when you are going to lunch. Tell people how you are progressing on a task and ask for input. It might seem silly, to check in and say only “how are you?” but now more than ever you need to make sure your team knows you are available when they need you. Give them opportunities to reciprocate. Your teammates need to know that every time you ping them it isn’t with something bad. Keep the trust alive, keep the hallway conversations alive, reach out for 10 minute brainstorming without a meeting, and talk to your team constantly.