Friday, March 29, 2013

Happy Spring Break!

Just a quick note to let you guys know that we're taking a brief spring break/hiatus.

We'll be back a week from today! We've also decided to extend our Game of Secrets Event until then (that is, until Friday, April 5th). And if you don't know what event I'm talking about, then I suggest you go here and check out the details! And then submit those entries!

Bye for now! :)
Thursday, March 28, 2013

Author Interview with Elizabeth Norris!

Yep. That exclamation point was absolutely necessary. Why? Because UNRAVELING was one of my favorite books last year. Seriously. I couldn't put it down. I loved everything about Janelle's voice and, well, Ben Michaels, of course! The pacing had me on the edge of my seat all the way through and I can't WAIT for the sequel. Over the last year, I got a chance to get to know Liz and I just absolutely love this girl. When I realized I had the opportunity to promote her sequel UNBREAKABLE on Life of Writers, I was thrilled!

So here you have it. My interview with the awesome Liz Norris.

With the release of your novella UNDONE, how vital would you say, as the author, is it for readers to read this first before UNBREAKABLE?

It's not. I actually wrote UNBREAKABLE before I knew UNDONE was going to exist. I had talked about it as a concept with my editor but I hadn't actually written any of it yet. The last story in UNDONE overlaps with the beginning of UNBREAKABLE. Because it's from Ben's perspective and because I tried to reveal things about Ben that we didn't already know, I think readers can read either one of them first.
Was it difficult to tie in UNRAVELING and UNBREAKABLE while keeping in mind that some people might skip UNDONE? 

No, it didn't really factor in since I wrote UNBREAKABLE first. As an author I hope people who are fans do go and read UNDONE, otherwise I feel like they aren't getting the whole series, but they certainly don't need to.

Did you enjoy writing from Ben's POV in UNDONE? Was it difficult at all finding his voice? 

I was worried that it was going to be really hard or even that I wouldn't be able to do it. I don't know much about teenage boys. They are and have always been sort of a mystery to me. But when I actually sat down to write Ben's story, it flowed pretty easily. I knew his character so well that finding his voice came naturally. I did have plenty of moments when I was doing my first draft, where I wrote "[Ben's thoughts/feelings?]" and then I asked my boyfriend what he would be feeling in that scenario. Thankfully he was a good sport about that.

Can we expect dual POV in UNBREAKABLE or perhaps in Book 3? Will there be a Book 3? (Please say YES!) 

As of right now, there isn't a Book 3 in the Unraveling series. I did recently plot one out in case there will ever be one some day, and I flirted with the idea of dual POV. But my third book with Harper is going to be a different world and different characters. I didn't want to try to force the story into a trilogy, and I do really like the ending of UNBREAKABLE.

NO SPOILERS, but you seem to be a fan of killing characters off *ahem* *tear*––How do you make that decision to kill off certain characters? 

I really believe that no one is safe. I love reading books where I know the author isn't afraid to kill off a character, because then the stakes are always higher. Several years ago, one of my favorite authors (Kim Harrison) killed off a character in a book and I sobbed so hard I had to put the book down. And for the next several books in the series, I kept secretly hoping the character would somehow not be dead. I think there's a realism in that--if a character is in a life-threatening situation, even if they make it out alive, they're going to lose something or someone they care about. And that's going to shape who they are. As I was writing UNRAVELING, I had planned one character death because I knew that moment was going to change something in Janelle. It was going to be a really pivotal moment in the course of the plot. Another character death just sort of happened when I was writing, but it fit. It felt right. Janelle is a slightly different person in UNBREAKABLE as a result of what she went through in UNRAVELING.

It's no secret that you're a fan of The X-Files. Can we expect to find more X-Files references in UNBREAKABLE? 

There are a few, but less than in UNRAVELING. When I started writing the sequel, I wanted to figure out a way to raise the stakes somehow. UNBREAKABLE takes place over a shorter span of time and Janelle doesn't have much time to slow down and take a breath. 

And just for fun, what is one super secret thing you can tell us about your writing?  

I wrote part of the third story in UNDONE ("After I Left Her") with a mouse in my apartment. The mouse had run into my heating grate, and I trapped it in there (and was hysterical about it). I had to wait in my apartment for the super to come by and remove said mouse, but it was going to take him a few hours to finish up whatever he was doing. I was on a tight deadline for UNDONE and my kitchen table which doubles as my desk was right next to the grate. So I sat there and finished the story and periodically screamed when the mouse peaked out at me. It was an emotional day.

Thank you so much to Liz for being a part of our blog! You made this fangirl very happy. Be sure to pick up your copies of UNRAVELING and UNDONE before the release of UNBREAKABLE on April 23rd! 

Elizabeth Norris briefly taught high school English and history before trading the southern California beaches and sunshine for Manhattan's recent snowpocalyptic winter. She harbors dangerous addictions to guacamole, red velvet cupcakes, sushi, and Argo Tea, fortunately not all together. Her first novel, UNRAVELING (Balzer+Bray, April 2012), is the story of one girl’s fight to save her family, her world, and the one boy she never saw coming.
Monday, March 25, 2013

A Game of Secrets: YOUR TURN!

So, for those of you who have been following our posts over on The Mod Podge Bookshelf, you know that the five of us have finished telling OUR characters sides of the story of the most unfortunate demise of Miss Isabelle Stone.

But the story isn't finished.

It's up to you to do that. How? Glad you asked! All you have to do is write an ending, of 750ish words or less, and send it to us at: We'll read them all, and then decide which is the most creative, compelling, etc... The winner will have their side of the story posted on the blog, be lavished with praise, and, OH YEAH. WIN PRIZES. As in, all of these:

An Amazon giftcard!
A fancy moleskine notebook for writing all your secrets in!

A mustache mug, because everyone needs a secret disguise some days.

And possibly a few other SUPER SECRET goodies if we feel like tossing them in ;)

Haven't been reading along or following the event? No worries! It's easy to catch up and still have a shot at the awesome prize pack. Below, we've compiled all five of our parts of the story. Take your time. Read them, come up with your own idea about who's telling the truth, and then WRITE! We're giving you guys all the way until WEDNESDAY, APRIL 3rd FRIDAY, APRIL 5th to submit your entries!

So, here you go!

You can also learn more about each of the characters at the links below:


Questions? Leave 'em in the comments!

New Release: PICTURE PERFECT by Alessandra Thomas

Hey, lovelies!

A few weeks ago, the wonderful Alessandra Thomas guest posted about how her pen name saved her life. Tomorrow her first steamy NA novel releases, the very same one that helped her get her writing groove back. You are definitely not going to want to miss this one. Here's the blurb:

Picture PerfectFashion design major Cat Mitchell has a closet full of gorgeous clothes - and not a single thing fits. After two years of runway modeling for easy cash, an accident shattered her lower leg bone and her self-esteem in just one swift fall. Ten months of no exercise, prescription steroids, comfort eating and yoga pants meant returning to campus as a size twelve instead of her former size two. 

When her gorgeous long-time friend with benefits sees her for the first time after her accident and snubs her in front of all her friends, Cat’s self-image hits rock bottom. Her sorority sisters all insist that she looks gorgeous, but all Cat sees is the roll of her stomach when she sits down, or the dimpling at the back of her thighs that wasn't there last year. Cat’s therapist prescribes something radical to stop the downward spiral - nude modeling for a nearby college's human form drawing classes. 

When Cat faces her fears and bares it all for the class, she realizes that she's posing naked in front the most gorgeous, buffest guy she's ever seen in her life. He asks her out after the class, and after one steamy night together, Cat's absolutely smitten.

Nate’s pretty close to perfect – he takes Cat rock climbing when he discovers that it makes her feel strong and becomes a great chef after he learns that the perfect pesto sauce makes her swoon. Cat starts to feel like her old self again - confident and beautiful - as long as Nate's around. Even when he discourages her from entering the Real Woman Project, a design competition for plus-sized apparel, she reasons that he's just trying to prevent old body image wounds from splitting wide open again.

But when Cat goes home with Nate for Thanksgiving, she discovers something shocking from his recent past that proves that he hasn’t always been so encouraging of women of all shapes and sizes. Cat has no idea what to think, but she does know one thing - this might destroy their relationship before it's even had a chance to get off the ground. 

Before Cat can figure out whether the real Nate is the sensitive, adoring guy she fell in love with, or an undercover asshole, she'll have to finally feel comfortable in her own skin - even if it means leaving him forever.

You can add PICTURE PERFECT on Goodreads, and it's not available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble! And be sure to follow the author here for updates on her future projects.

Congrats, Aless!
Friday, March 22, 2013

Friday Reads

Rather than babbling about how crazy my life is, or how hard writing is, or how to edit something, I'm just going to give you guys some book recommendations. Is that okay? Good. Here we go. (Note: these are all titles that I've finished in the last month or so, which narrows down the impossible task of picking the ones that should be featured in this post.)

Unearthly series by Cynthia Hand

Goodreads Summary: In the beginning, there's a boy standing in the trees . . . .

Clara Gardner has recently learned that she's part angel. Having angel blood run through her veins not only makes her smarter, stronger, and faster than humans (a word, she realizes, that no longer applies to her), but it means she has a purpose, something she was put on this earth to do. Figuring out what that is, though, isn't easy.

Her visions of a raging forest fire and an alluring stranger lead her to a new school in a new town. When she meets Christian, who turns out to be the boy of her dreams (literally), everything seems to fall into place and out of place at the same time. Because there's another guy, Tucker, who appeals to Clara's less angelic side.

As Clara tries to find her way in a world she no longer understands, she encounters unseen dangers and choices she never thought she'd have to make between honesty and deceit, love and duty, good and evil. When the fire from her vision finally ignites, will Clara be ready to face her destiny?

Unearthly is a moving tale of love and fate, and the struggle between following the rules and following your heart.

In case you haven't heard of this series, it is fabulous. I just finished the last book, and I may have shed a tear or two. May have. Anyway, I highly recommend it!

The Darkest Minds series by Alexandra Bracken

Goodreads Summary: When Ruby woke up on her tenth birthday, something about her had changed. Something alarming enough to make her parents lock her in the garage and call the police. Something that gets her sent to Thurmond, a brutal government “rehabilitation camp.” She might have survived the mysterious disease that’s killed most of America’s children, but she and the others have emerged with something far worse: frightening abilities they cannot control.

Now sixteen, Ruby is one of the dangerous ones.

When the truth comes out, Ruby barely escapes Thurmond with her life. Now she’s on the run, desperate to find the one safe haven left for kids like her—East River. She joins a group of kids who escaped their own camp. Liam, their brave leader, is falling hard for Ruby. But no matter how much she aches for him, Ruby can’t risk getting close. Not after what happened to her parents.

When they arrive at East River, nothing is as it seems, least of all its mysterious leader. But there are other forces at work, people who will stop at nothing to use Ruby in their fight against the government. Ruby will be faced with a terrible choice, one that may mean giving up her only chance at a life worth living.

This book is so unique and intense! I read it in one day. Seriously, if you're looking for something with kind of an X-Men vibe, read this one.

The Body Finder series by Kimberly Derting

Goodreads summary: Violet Ambrose is grappling with two major issues: Jay Heaton and her morbid secret ability. While the sixteen-year-old is confused by her new feelings for her best friend since childhood, she is more disturbed by her "power" to sense dead bodies—or at least those that have been murdered. Since she was a little girl, she has felt the echoes that the dead leave behind in the world... and the imprints that attach to their killers.

Violet has never considered her strange talent to be a gift; it mostly just led her to find the dead birds her cat had tired of playing with. But now that a serial killer has begun terrorizing her small town, and the echoes of the local girls he's claimed haunt her daily, she realizes she might be the only person who can stop him.

Despite his fierce protectiveness over her, Jay reluctantly agrees to help Violet on her quest to find the murderer—and Violet is unnerved to find herself hoping that Jay's intentions are much more than friendly. But even as she's falling intensely in love, Violet is getting closer and closer to discovering a killer... and becoming his prey herself.

I am aware this series isn't new, but the last book DEAD SILENCE is coming out this year, and I am so excited! The plots in these books are so good and intense and unique, and the characters are swoon-worthy.  If you're human, you should probably check it out. 

Happy reading, everyone! Scurries off to read.
Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Writing Wednesdays: The Edit Cave or Why This Post is Late

Yep, I woke up this morning thinking it was Thursday because my brain is fried. See, I've been doing edits for THE SUMMER I BECAME A NERD, and seeing as this is my first time going through this process, I was a little overwhelmed at first. It's a strange thing. I was so excited to get to work, to make this book really shine, then the email came and uhhhh....

What have I gotten myself into?

There were cut paragraphs, comments lining the sides, all kinds of changes to be made. So, yeah, I might've cried... Just a little.

But once that was over (and that's one of the key parts, people. You HAVE to get over it and remember that your editor or agent doesn't hate your book. They love your book or they wouldn't have taken it on.), it was time to buckle down and just work. My problem was figuring out a process to make sure I didn't miss anything, even though I'm sure I did, but I tried my best.

So, I thought I'd share what I did. Maybe it'll help, maybe there's a better way to do it, I don't know, but here it is anyway.

1. I did a read-through. I soaked in all the comments, making note of things I didn't understand so I could  put them into a question email/question chat session later. I made note of things that I needed to be constantly on the look out for. I'll be honest, I over-use dialogue tags like a mofo. And parentheses. And a whole bunch of other words. But they all have to be fixed in order to come out with the best book you can.

All these little things can be overwhelming at first and you might feel a little brain-explody, but once again, you just have to get over it.

2. I thought... and thought... andthought andthought andthought. About how to fix things. I bounced some ideas off my writing buddies. And when I got frustrated, I looked at this which was provided by Stef:

3. Finally, I just did it. I went to work.

I make it sound easy. It's not. It's hard work, this whole writing gig. But as Stef and my editor's assistant told me when I'd whine and complain, "If it was easy, every one would do it."
Monday, March 18, 2013

Andrea's Creative Writing Prompt

Hey, lovelies!

Is your blog looking a little barren? Are you feeling a little jilted in your writing process? I know I am. I've been revising two different books for about three months straight now, and I'm pretty much aching to start a fresh idea.

So, in honor of my revisions (you're welcome), let's talk about stars.

You see, I've got stars on the brain because my current manuscript, THE DESTRUCTION OF STARS AND LIES, is a thriller based on clues in constellations, left behind by the heroine's ex-boyfriend post-mortem. My mind is still clouded with visions of Andromeda and Orion after a binge revising session this weekend, so let's talk stars and space, shall we?

Image source: Flickr Hive

Henry Stanton wasn't the the type to explore mountains. In fact, up until an hour ago, I thought the only shoes he owned were the tattered red Chucks he wore to work everyday. Even the way the hiking boots looped around his ankles looked awkward and out of place. 

So when he asked me to climb the Hill—which was definitely bigger than a hill, I'll tell you that—I knew he wasn't after some extra cardio or adventure. Plus, the bulk of the retractable telescope poked out of his backpack. 


I'd talked to him about it at work the other day, when we were shoulder-to-shoulder washing dishes in the back. I'd told him about my mother, about how she used to set up the rickety old telescope in the backyard and point out the dips in Cassiopeia's crown and the blinking star nose of Canis Major. My mother died last year. I haven't looked at the stars since. 

The tripod snaps open and Henry wiggles the eyepiece into place. He glances up at me, green eyes shining. "Ready?" he asks. 

It's a loaded question. As I dip to look into the eyepiece and Henry's fingers skim over my shoulder, I try to decide what, exactly, I'm ready for. 

There you have it. If you post on your blog, let us know in the comments so we can read and follow along. Happy writing!

Andrea Hannah is a YA writer represented by Victoria Marini of Gelfman Schneider. She writes stories about criminals, crazy people, and creatures that may or may not exist. When she's not writing, Andrea teaches special education, runs, spends time with her family, and tries to figure out a way to prevent her pug from opening the refrigerator (still unsuccessful). Oh, and she tweets a bajillion times a day, mostly about inappropriate things. 
You can find her on Twitter @:
Drop her an email @:
And visit her website @:

Friday, March 15, 2013

Author Interview with Our Very Own Stefanie Gaither!

Today I'm interviewing our very own Stefanie Gaither! Stef and I met way back on a critique-partner-dating-site type thing, and she's proven to be a fabulous person, friend, and writer every day since. Which is why I think we all need to know more about her. Without further ado, here's Stefanie!
So tell us about your publication process!

The short version: I wrote a book. It was terrible. Agents rejected it. I wrote another book. Same thing happened. I wrote another book. Agents started saying really nice things to me, but ultimately still said no. So I wrote lucky book number four. And then lots of agents started saying really nice things to me, and some of them even used the words “I’d like to offer you representation.” One of the users of those words was Sara Megibow of Nelson Literary. There was acceptance, and much rejoicing, and some revising, and then off on submission we went, and then one day a magical email with the magical word OFFER floated into my inbox, and then I drank lots of celebratory margaritas. The end.
The shorter version: A crap ton of hard work, an unhealthy level of stubbornness, and the developing of a skin so thick that you could bounce knives off of it.
The concept behind FALLS THE SHADOW is so cool. What inspired it?

Several different things at different times. I’ve always been a science nerd, and bioethics have always been especially interesting to me because there is so much room for so many different interpretations of right and wrong. A lot of grey area to explore, in other words. I’ve always loved stories that sort of blur the line between good and evil, because they feel the most human to me—since no one is completely good or completely evil. So, that’s why it seemed natural for me to write a story where cloning (a bioethical hot topic for sure) is the catalyst.
The book is as much about family as it is about cloning, though, and is actually told from the POV of the clone’s sister. My original intent was to tell it from the clone’s POV, but as I brainstormed I found myself more and more interested in exploring a character who had to deal with the fallout of her parent’s decision to clone her and her sibling, and who was presented with this familiar yet foreign girl/creation and told “this is your sister now”. And I suppose that part (unconsciously, really) was probably inspired by my own experience growing up in a combined home with step-relatives. They weren’t clones, though. Or at least, I don’t think they were….
What was the easiest and hardest part about writing this story?

The easiest part was Cate, the heroine, and her voice and everything, because she’s more like me than any other character I’ve ever written (I hope I don’t regret admitting that to the internet, haha). The hardest part was probably finding the right balance of science and accessibility—that is, I wanted to include lots of awesomely nerdy science fictiony things, but I also wanted to keep it compulsively readable/well-paced. I like my books equal parts entertaining and thought-provoking, but it’s tough to balance those two sometimes.
What is your writing process like?

I get a flash of an idea, and I let it sit in my brain for a bit, usually. And then I try to see if I can put it into pitch form, and then query form. Yes, I still write something resembling a query for all my books, even though I’m technically past the dreaded querying stage. I actually like writing them, to an extent, because I’m weird. And because trying to imagine the jacket-copy for a potential manuscript is both inspiring and a good way to test out your plot. If I can write a killer pitch about it, I can probably turn it into a killer manuscript, too.
After I’ve got the bare-bones query version of the plot, I usually write the first fifty pages or so with reckless abandonment. Then I stop, reassess, and do more in-depth plotting. I used to be strictly a pantser, but after taking a screen-writing class in college and studying three-act structure and stuff a little closer, I switched to the plotter camp, and I don’t think I’ll be going back any time soon. I’m much more productive, even on “bad writing days”, when I have a plot/plan in place.
Can you tell us something about what you're working on now?

I’d tell you all about it, but then I’d have to kill you.
I actually have lots of projects on the backburner, but the one that’s front and center right now is a YA epic fantasy inspired by the myth of the lost continent of Atlantis. It has dragons. And kelpies. And a sarcastic bounty hunter with pretty eyes. And I'm really excited about it.
What do you order when you go to a coffee shop? (This is more for me. I'm looking for new drinks.)
White chocolate raspberry mocha, or a vanilla caramel spice latte. Mmmmm…

Thank you so much for answering all my questions, girly. We should probably do this again. Soon. 

Stefanie Gaither writes YA novels about killer clones and spaceships, with the occasional romp with dragons and magic-users thrown in for good measure. Said writing is generally fueled by an obscene amount of coffee and chocolate, as well as the occasional tennis and/or soccer break. She's represented by Sara Megibow of Nelson Literary, and her debut novel, FALLS THE SHADOW, is forthcoming from Simon and Schuster Books For Young Readers in 2014. You can add it on Goodreads here!

You can find her on Twitter @:
Or drop her an email at:
And also visit her website @: 
Tuesday, March 12, 2013

SeCrit #4: Twitter Pitch

With the help of her dead brother, 17 y/o Seer Madeline Jacobs travels across the solar system to seek revenge on her family's murderers.  

With the help of her dead brother, Okay, I'm listening. This first line definitely has my attention. It makes me go: Wait. What? DEAD brother? Now this is gonna be interesting. 17 y/o Seer Love that we get an idea of what this story is about by the use of one word. The use of "Seer" ties everything together. Madeline Jacobs travels across the solar system This is kind of where you lose me. What's a Seer doing out in the solar system? Is this a Sci-Fi? By the mention of Seer, I immediately thought it was more a supernatural. Now I'm picturing spaceships and comets, etc. Those two things don't seem to go together, so I feel like we need more information. Maybe a hint that this is indeed sci-fi or something that explains the world building. to seek revenge on her family's murderers. I feel like this should be more specific. Did someone indeed kill off her entire family? Or just her parents? How? By blowing up their planet? I realize that you only have 140 characters for a Twitter pitch but that's what makes them so important. I think if we have just a little bit more to go off of, it will help us picture the characters and setting for what sounds like a very interesting manuscript. 

Thank you so much to everyone who submitted their pitches and a big thanks to the author of this submission! I'm definitely curious to know more about this manuscript, so your pitch definitely works. I just feel like it needs a little something to make it really pop. Please share your thoughts and suggestions in the comments section!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

A Game of Secrets: IT'S ON

Five characters. One murder. Plenty of secrets.

So who's telling the truth? That's up to you to figure out. Start by reading the posts over on The Mod Podge Bookshelf blog, each of which represents a different character's side of the story:

Simon's Story (coming 3/15!)
Mouse's Story (coming 3/18!)
Emery's Story (coming 3/20!)

You can also learn more about each of the character's at the links below:

And by following us on twitter (click on our names below if you aren't already following us!). Look for the hashtag #GoS.

Why follow along? Because it's going to be a ton of fun, and because once our posts are done, YOU will have a chance to write the ending to this story. The most convincing, creative, well-written entry will win a SECRET prize pack, containing an Amazon gift card, awesome things like a Moleskine notebook for writing your own secrets in, awesomer things like this mug (because everyone knows mustaches are essential to a good secret disguise), and other fun stuff.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Friday Fun and Game of Secrets info

Hello everyone! So, I figured since there was no writing prompt on Monday, I'd go ahead and post one. There's something special about this one, though. It will be the inspiration for the setting in the Game of Secrets event we are doing over on The Mod Podge Bookshelf. Check this creep-tacular place out!

Spooky, right?

I'm not going to post a piece today because I'm already using this as inspiration for the GoS, BUT I'd love to see what this image inspires in you! Link us to your piece in the comments!

And here's some more awesome news about the GoS. Do you remember prizes being mentioned? Well that wasn't a joke. We're talking Amazon gift cards and some other super awesome stuff. So, make sure to tune in to the event to participate and WIN!

This could be you!
Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Writing Wednesdays: A Guest Post by Alessandra Thomas

This week, I've decided to do something different for Writing Wednesday. Usually The Secret Lifers post about their tips and tricks for overcoming everything from planning to revisions, but this week, I have to be honest. 

I'm sick of it.

I've talked a little bit about the revisions I've been trudging through over on my own blog, and I'd intended to do the same over here. But. I'm still in the middle of revising, it's still slowly sucking out my soul, and the last thing I want to do is talk about it. Some more. 

So today, I've invited Alessandra Thomas, the author of PICTURE PERFECT, to talk to us about how writing under a pen name saved her life. (By the way, you can add PP to your Goodreads right over here. You definitely want to do this, promise.) 

Take it away, Aless.

The business of writing can kill you.
At best, it kills you socially. You lose time with friends and family. You give up parts of your precious family and social life willingly, to be sure. You have to write. You have to do this, for you.
Staying up late and waking up early, drinking a little bit too much caffeine (okay, a lot too much) and not exercising nearly enough - yeah, it can kill you physically, too.
Those things are fine. We writers accept them like a badge of honor, even, because we know they’re part and parcel of this writing life. Dirty houses, takeout meals, unkempt hair and nails. Bring it on - we know we have to suffer for our art.
But that’s nothing compared to the way the business of writing can kill your spirit.
You think you’re prepared for rejection. You’ve armed yourself with the memory of that one time your critique partner tore your story limb from limb, and some mantra reminding yourself that all the best writers suffered rejection for months and years before they became successful.  You’re going to be okay, just like them.
The first few rejections are fine. “Subjective,” “Didn’t connect,” “Not confident I can sell it.” “Subjective,” “Keep trying,” “Subjective.”
After twenty of those, your eyelid begins to twitch and your stomach churns. How horrible *is* your book, anyway? What is it about it that people would rather lay down on the floor and die than pay money for?
“Subjective,” “Didn’t connect,” “Subjective,” “Can’t market,” “Don’t be discouraged.” But you know what? Sixty, eighty, one hundred rejections later, you’ve poured your heart and soul and every second of free time into this book, and sacrificed a whole hell of a lot, and here publishing is, telling you, “It’s fine, but ultimately, it’s worthless.”
Maybe, eventually, you get requests, maybe you get an agent, maybe you make it to acquisitions at a big publishing house, but if you don’t sell a book? Sorry. All that work means one thing and one thing only - Your book won’t be a book. All this was for nothing.
Now, that? That can kill your spirit.
I engaged in that mad race for years. I was proud of and loved what I was writing, I loved the friends I’d made along the way, and I’d definitely found some level of success in publishing... but  for all the hard work I’d done, as beaten down as it all had made me up till then, I wasn’t going to be published. I’d been in the writing community awhile, a good handful of people were familiar with me, and...I don’t know. I kind of felt like everyone was watching, waiting, to see when I would sell a book.
Or maybe I was just watching myself. Every writing plan I made or activity I did, was all about when I would sell, all about the serious seriousness of when I would finally, finally write something that could break through the gates and Be Published. What was selling today? What would be selling tomorrow? If I wrote an outline that seemed promising, how quickly could I have it written? Would anyone like it? Would it be a waste of time? Or would this finally be The One that made my career? Was my stuff any good at all, or was everyone just telling me that it was because they liked me?
Would I ever even have a career?
Would I ever see any return, readers-wise, money-wise, recognition-wise, for all my hard work?
I knew I wanted to keep working on my masterpieces, but I needed an excuse for creative abandon, a shot of confidence that I was a Good Writer, a chance to put something that I’d written free of worry about marketability, conformity to genre standards, perfection of prose, or relatability of characters, out into the world and see it succeed without being a danger to my growing writing career.
I needed to write a story that was one hundred percent what I wanted to write, and to ask readers I didn’t know whether it was any good without risking everything I’d built.
I needed a pen name.
So, I got one. I picked the name “Alessandra” because I like nicknames, and Aless sounds classy and flirty at the same time - just like the book I felt like writing. That book was in the New Adult genre - about a college girl who’d gained more weight than she felt comfortable with, and how she got her groove back.
I wrote it without stressing out about all things one usually stresses about when writing an “issue book.” I wasn’t going to try to sell this to a big publisher, or even a small one, so why would I worry worry if it fit into all the molds and blueprints they are always telling all us writers we have to stick to?
The words poured out on paper into a story that was a little funny and pretty sweet and very sexy, and guess what? It turned out pretty damn well. The plot’s not complicated or extra-hooky, but it’s the kind of thing that happens in real life, and most people will probably like hanging out with the characters.
My CPs said it was good. I got a cover and a copyeditor. I set a publication date. In the first few days after I put it up on Goodreads, PICTURE PERFECT got over 150 adds.
If something goes horribly wrong, I can pull the book down and walk away, no harm done to my other writer career, the one where I use my given name. But just that process, that whole thing about writing-and-not-caring, and the story being good anyway, and people saying, “Yes! Awesome! We want to read it!” without knowing a single thing about who I was, did wonders for me.
It let me write stress-free for just a little while, showed me people want to read my work, and who knows? I might even make a little money.  Imagine that.
That’s how my pen name saved my life. 

Readers: Have you ever considered writing under a pen name? Are you doing so now? I'd be lying if I told you I haven't been considering it myself. Tell me about your journey to publication, pen name or not, in the comments below. 

Monday, March 4, 2013

A Game of Secrets

So if you came here expecting today's Creative Writing prompt, then sorry. But not sorry. Because it's not here, but we've got something BETTER to tell you about. And it's still creative and writerly. EXCEPT BETTER.

Oh yes.

A while back, the lovely Gabrielle Carolina graciously invited us to do a series of guest posts on her fab blog, The Mod Podge Bookshelf--an offer which we were of course thrilled to take her up on. So for the past month or so, we've been working hard behind-the-scenes here to put together what we think is going to be an awesome event that we hope YOU are going to participate in. Here are the basics.

The six of us-- Andrea, Stefanie, Heather, Kelsey, Leah, and YOU-- are going to be writing a story together. The story will be unfolding from multiple povs (one post for each of us, who have created a character specifically for this event). Each person's character will tell their part of the story on the following days, over on Mod Podge:

Monday 3/11: Stefanie
Wednesday 3/13: Andrea
Friday 3/15: Leah
Monday 3/18: Kelsey
Wednesday 3/20: Heather
Friday 3/22: YOU will be completing the story

You'll have a chance to get to know our characters over the next week and during the event, and then it will be up to you to decide how their story ends. Which means you'll have to decide which of said characters is telling the truth, which of them are telling lies, and which ones are keeping some dangerous--possibly deadly-- secrets to themselves.

So what is their story about, you ask? Well, that's a secret too, of course. Are you sensing a theme here? ;) Some of these secrets--details about the events leading up to our story, that is-- will be revealed in bits and pieces throughout the week here on the blog, on our individual blogs, and through our twitter account.

And why should you participate in our event? Well because A.) it's going to be a crazy amount of fun B.) there's going to be trash-talking of each other's characters involved and C.) OH YEAH, PRIZES. As in, a huge, fun, awesome secret prize pack for the person who writes the most compelling, creative, awesome ending to this story (as judged by us). Excited yet? GOOD.

And we're just getting started :) Watch this space for more updates, which will be coming soon! For now, if you have any questions, leave them in the comments!

~The Secret Life Team