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The 5 stages of nearly losing a manuscript file

At some point in any writer’s career, he or she has the hapless realization that a manuscript into which blood, sweat, tears, caffeine, and other vices were poured into is GONE – whether through erroneous deletion, #technologyandstuff #fail, or act of gods.

I had one such moment last week with the novel that I’m 51,000+ words into (working title COMMUNITY KLEPTO for those not in the know of all things Kelly I. Hitchcock). Its primary storage location was on our family NAS (network-addressed storage) device, which my husband – who is vastly superior in the realm of tech savviness – informed me underwent and update and subsequently crashed. Below is an account of the 5 stages of anxiety I experienced at this news and prospect of losing my manuscript.

Phase 1: Overhear spouse downplaying outage

“The device is down, but I don’t think there’s anything important on there…”

YES HUH! IS TOO! Okay, so maybe I shouldn’t be using the NAS as my primary location for my 50,000+ word manuscript, but it’s a little late for that.

Phase 2: Realize the last time you backed up drives was 5 months ago

We have a pretty retentive backup system that involves swapping out the drives every so often and putting the backups in a safe deposit box at our bank. Somehow, though, we hadn’t done this since before we left for Christmas vacation and other things besides running the backup were top of mind.

Phase 3: Realize your local backup is 4 months old

So at one point there was a time that I needed to work on my manuscript offline, but that time was four months ago and I had written several chapters since then, which pretty much made my local copy useless. Phase 3.1: eat an entire bag of potato chips while crying.

Phase 4: View stack of printed chapters with lament

While the prospect of losing four months worth of work is almost unbearable, the idea of re-typing your lost chapters using only the stack of printed chapter-by-chapter manuscripts you’ve been bringing to your workshop group is somehow worse.

Phase 5: Restart device and hope for the best

This phase took some time and it’s a bit like waiting for water to boil while watching it. “I see green lights. That’s good right?!” Then watch the cursor spin and spin and spin as you wait for all the file folders to load up so you can navigate down the 12 levels you need to in order to get to the one file you care about.

Phase 6: Dodge a bullet

When you finally get down to the file itself and see that the modified date was a mere two hours ago, you can indeed breathe a sigh of relief, knowing your work for the past four months hasn’t been obliterated as happens in your worst nightmares. When you’re finally done wiping your forehead sweat away, slowing your heart rate, and downing a couple shots of tequila, move on to the next phases to ensure this never happens again.

Phase 7: Back up locally

After all, this is where you should have been working in the first place. The network device is where you should be backing up to after you bang some words out. Besides, Micro$oft Word will be more performant locally anyway.

Phase 8: To the cloud!

No, don’t go take a bong hit. Download Dropbox (if you don’t have it) and enable two-factor authentication before creating another backup in the cloud that you can use in the event of nuclear disaster. You’ve learned your lesson, after all, and you can use all the help you can get to make sure you never have to deal with this again.

Needless to say, the last four chapters I write will be completed with far more intention to disaster recovery. And hopefully they won’t be a disaster themselves.


In search of a genre

I’m always impressed by how specific writers in certain genre and non-fiction can be with pinpointing their sub-genres: paranormal romance, slipstream mystery, speculative post-cyberpunk, satirical basketweaving history. For me though, this is an area that I’ve always struggled with. As I get closer and closer to finishing Community Klepto, I’ve been challenged by people both inside and outside the literary community to be more specific about how I classify my own genre; trouble is, the genres I’ve always considered myself to most closely identify with aren’t at all specific

Literary fiction

Thanks to the infallibility of Wikipedia, I can actually give a definition of what this means for people who don’t know what this means, which is most people. Now when people ask me “What type of books do you write?” and react with confused puppy dog faces when I say “literary fiction,” I can tell them that I write:

“…fictional works that possess commonly held qualities to readers outside genre fiction. Literary fiction has been defined as any fiction that attempts to engage with one or more truths or questions, hence relevant to a broad scope of humanity as a form of expression.”

Clear as mud, right? And sadly, those who do know what literary fiction is typically have a negative opinion of it. They see it as plotless drivel that only university professors to teach grad students to write more literary fiction could appreciate.

Women’s fiction

In the past when I’ve described my work as “women’s fiction,” I’ve been met with “Oh, so romance?” Why, if a book is written with strong female characters and a female audience in mind, do people jump to the conclusion that it’s a romance novel capable of hosting a male Fabio and a scantily clad lady in a heaving bodice on the cover? It’s not as though all women read nothing but stories about sexual tension and romantic entanglements. Nothing I write could be further from this; for one thing, I have far too immature a sense of humor to write sexytime scenes.

Still, this seems like such a broad label to apply to works that can be so different in nature. At least I have Wikipedia to back me up on this one:

“These stories may have romance. Or they may not. They could be contemporary. Or historical. But what binds them together is the focus on a woman’s emotional journey.”

Contemporary fiction

Again, a genre I feel fits my work but is so vague it’s useless in classifying it. Any work of fiction that’s happening in contemporary times could be classified as “contemporary fiction,” even if it’s got a woman in a heaving bodice frenching a cyborg on the cover.

True or not, I don’t know that any reader ever sets out to pick out something with the contemporary fiction label on it.

Literary humor

My latest book is meant to be a humor work that riffs on the tropes people find at the gym, but it’s told through a literary lens with elevated prose. You know, fart jokes told by painfully introspective fuddy-duddies. Humor can be smart and raunchy at the same time, right?

But is this a genre that’s specific enough for readers, something they actually seek out? Will they stop reading if they’re not bursting at the seams with laughter after the first page?

Chick lit

If none of my female characters have their storylines driven by male love interests or shopping for designer clothes, can my work still be considered part of this genre? After all, my books do fit the bill according to our friend Wikipedia:

“Chick lit is genre fiction which addresses issues of modern womanhood, often humorously and lightheartedly.”

My problem with labeling my work this way is that I don’t see shoe shopping as a real issue of modern womanhood (although I do have a $10 credit at DSW burning a hole in my pocket).


Maybe I could just create my own hybrid genre label from a combination of all of these. Does Contempowomen’s Lithumor sound like something you’d go looking for in a bookstore?


The Importance of Being Earnest (with shameless self-promotion)

I know I’m not the only one who has that one Facebook friend who always seems to be selling whatever the latest fad is and wants everyone to know ALL about it, multiple times per day. For my part, I can tell you that at any given moment, I am actively hiding posts from people inviting me to buy Jamberry (crap for nails), Thirty-One (crap to put your crap in), Pampered Chef (kitchen crap), Premier Designs (blingy crap), Nerium (expensive skin crap), or wanting me to visit their Etsy store, their DJ set, their band’s show at a seedy bar on the opposite end of town on a Tuesday night at 11 PM… you name it. Earlier this week, I got a notification from a family member I see maybe once a year, inviting me to buy from his girlfriend’s Etsy store because she makes beautiful baby and toddler gear. Dear family member, I’m not even a damned parent, but I’ve been trying to become one for nearly a year now, so you are particularly disconcerting and annoying to me at this moment.

As authors, we have a duty to not be a disconcerting, annoying, rotten spammer when we promote our work to the people we know. If there’s anything you can do to lose friends and alienate people quickly, it’s to assume that your work is for everyone. It’s not. You can’t assume that just because people know you, they can’t wait to run out and support you by buying your novel about a crime-solving lesbian urologist. Not everyone likes mysteries. Not everyone likes lesbians. Not everyone likes characters who also happen to be penis doctors. Just because you happen to go way back personally, it doesn’t mean your friends want to be bombarded with your commercial endeavors. If you were constantly being pushed to buy something that didn’t apply to you in the least bit, you’d get annoyed after a while, too.

Knowing you personally and liking you isn’t enough. Shameless self-promotion is only effective when it’s used on people who like you AND actually stand a snowball’s chance in hell of reading and enjoying your work. For everyone else, you should be respectful of their annoyance levels and create a separate author page on which to shamelessly self-promote. The people who are genuinely interested in your work will follow and won’t mind when you spam them with your latest cover concept art or work in progress word count. Don’t be the family member who annoys everyone with your shameless self-promotion. You’re better off trying to build a relationship with a stranger than to keep annoying your friends who haven’t seen the inside of a book in years.

Also, I’m having a Tupperware party later this month and I really need all of you to be there so I can more host credit and buy more shit!


Cause I’ve got a bad habit…

January is the month where two things are certain – everyone is focusing on New Year’s Resolutions, and everyone’s crowding the hell out of the gym (but more on that later). I’ve never really been one for resolutions; I’m more one to focus on something more tangible: goals and habits.

Everyone knows that habits are hard to form, and even more difficult to break. For all the habits I have around writing, I don’t make a habit of actually sitting down to write, which was by far my biggest cause of falling short of my writing goals last year. So it goes without saying that creating this habit is one of my primary goals for the year.

It’s amazing how powerful habits can be. Years ago, my writing routine looked something like this:

– Shut off all the lights in the house

– Find a playlist of music I can write to (this was the era before Pandora and

– Pull up the manuscript document

– Grab an ash tray, because I was about to chain smoke a lot of cigarettes

Then I decided to break a bad habit and quit smoking. I beat the habit, even overcoming the overwhelming desire to smoke after meals, while drinking, and in the car. But then a weird thing happened; I’d sit down to write, and become completely paralyzed without a cigarette in one hand. My brain wouldn’t let the words flow onto the page without a steady stream of nicotine to help them along.

I traded in one bad habit for another (no one’s ever done that, right?); I stopped smoking and I stopped writing. I was convinced that I’d never be able to write another word without smoking, until one day I realized just how ri-goddamned-diculous I sounded to myself. Like forming any habit, I just needed to put on my big girl panties, stop making excuses, and keep writing without smoking until it felt natural. Did I do it? You’re damned right I did.

Now my writing routine looks something more like this:

– Put the teakettle on

– Open all the windows to let the natural light in

– Turn on a Pandora or station

– Pull up the manuscript document

Next step? Make it a habit to bring daily writing into my routine, even if it’s just to sit down in front of the screen and derp some words around only to delete them minutes later. That is, until I have to kick the caffeine habit, at which time I’ll have to revisit my routine all over again…

How about you? What bad habit do you have when it comes to your writing that you’d like to break? What bad habits have you broken? What good habits have you put into place?


On Karma (and other celestialisms)

We’re told from the time we’re in kindergarten to obey the golden rule and treat others like we’d want to be treated. Sometime later, we learn the concept of karma, that if we do right by other people, the universe will do right by us and that the opposite is true also.

If there’s ever a karmic area where I’ve gotten my comeuppance, it’s smoking. I smoked many years ago, for many years, and I did all the annoying things smokers do. I smoked right outside the doorways of buildings. I smoked in large crowds with children in them at concerts. I smoked in places where no smoking signs were posted. I tossed cigarette butts out my car window. I once even had a neighbor kindly ask if I would stop smoking in my bedroom, which was across the wall from his closet and made his clothes stink. Instead of being nice and cease-desisting, I did it more, because asshole.

Now that I’m 7 years removed from my smoking habit, it’s like everywhere I go, I am surrounded by smokers. Being in Austin, we go to a lot of concerts, and it never fails that once I stake out a spot, the person next to me starts blowing smoke in my face. Every time I walk from my car to the office, there is someone smoking (in the same non-designated smoking area I would have previously occupied) in my path. Outdoor patio? You can guarantee the person who comes along and occupies the table next to me will light up. And having done it in a past life, I’m so revolted by it now that for the life of me I can’t imagine how I ever did it. I also feel bad for every guy who ever made out with me, but some of that is for other reasons…

My point – karma is real. As a writer, every time I review a fellow author’s work, I try to remember the rules of karma. After all, there’s a real person on the end of that review–a real person who put their heart and soul into writing the book I’m reviewing. When I read something especially terrible, I admit that there are times I want to personally attack the author for writing something so abysmally bad, but that’s only after I want to punch myself for reading the entire thing. Still, I don’t. I don’t because that’s no way to treat people and I would cry a lot if someone did that to me. I also don’t punch myself, because I bruise easily.

At the same time, I am honest about my reviews, because I would want a reader to do the same for me. If I don’t like something, I’ll say it (and try to focus on the plot elements or characters that didn’t work for me). If I really enjoy something, I’ll say that too. There’s a way to be substantive in literary criticism without resorting to nasty speech or personal attacks (but yeah, it’s hard sometimes).

So the next time you’re getting ready to write a review of a book, think about karma and do the right thing. Be the bigger person. You see that, Universe? I’m being the bigger goddamned person. Now please seat me in the non-smoking section.


My life hacks

Lately I’ve seen a lot of authors sharing their own lists of personal tips and tricks for winning at life – or life hacks. This got me thinking about the things I do to keep my life on track with my goals, both personal and professional. Maybe some of these can work for you, too, whether you’re an author or not. Here are mine!

1) Keep a dry-erase marker in the car

I live in Austin, which has the 4th worst traffic in the US. Especially before I started my new day job 5 miles away from my home (which still takes 30-45 minutes some days), I spent a LOT of time in my car. Chances are, you probably do too, and if you’re an author, you sometimes get your best ideas while you’re stuck in traffic or flying down the highway, when it’s least convenient to pull out your Moleskine and jot the idea down before you forget. How I combat this is to keep a dry erase marker in the car and scribble the ideas on the window (usually in short hand). A nice bonus – you can also take down license plate numbers of law breakers instead of trying in vain to commit them to memory.

2) #AlwaysBeReading

Everyone benefits from being well read, but no one benefits more than authors do. Reading more makes you a better writer, but it’s hard to find time to read between career, family, and extracurricular duties. I’ve found that I read more when I make my reading complement these duties, not replace them. Spending an hour in your car every day? Putting away a week’s worth of laundry? (Doing anything you’d really rather not be doing?) Listen to an audiobook. Hitting the elliptical machine at the gym? Waiting for your doctor to show up for your scheduled appointment? Pull out your e-reader. Trying to sleep and instead letting your mind race? Open a paperback. When I started reading across these 3 platforms, I found I read twice as many books that year than I did the one before it.

3) Take care of yourself

Make time to exercise. Period. No excuses. Endorphins are nature’s anti-depressants and you can still do wasteful things like binge watching Breaking Bad while working out (but you can also read a book). Life is short, but it’s even shorter when you’re unhealthy, and it’s my experience that running a great writer’s block buster.

4) #DontReadTheComments

This is a tough one for me. I read something that pushes all my buttons and raises all my hackles, and I can’t just stop at the end of the article; I scroll on down and start reading the comments to see what other people think. Why do I do this? I don’t know that I can pinpoint a reason other than that I am a masochist. I don’t particularly care about the opinions of complete strangers, and I hate being reminded of how ignorant, hateful, and rude people can be behind the anonymity veil the internet provides. As such, I’m making a concerted effort to #dontreadthecomments (except those on my own posts and sites, of course).

5) Feed your muse with music

Right now I am writing a book that primarily takes place in the gym, so when I am writing, I put on the cheesy upbeat mashup music my cardio kickboxing instructor plays in class to get me in the right mindset. Whatever you’re writing about, pair some thematic music to go with it. If nothing really matches, I recommend Groove Salad on It’s a great downtempo station that will keep you in the zone while you crank up the word count.

6) #ScheduleYourTweets

Yes, you should also tweet in the moment when brilliantly witty things (or funny cat videos) come to you, but you should also use tools like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck (I use Tweetdeck) to space out some scheduled tweets throughout the week that keep you talking and visible. Remember that as an author, you market yourself, not necessarily your books, and silence is kin to invisibility. (I stole this life hack from @RachelintheOC. She’s kind of an author PR genius and you should listen to everything she says – especially the parts about Nutella.)

7) Schedule your blog posts

Any blogging software worth a damn includes functionality for saving drafts of posts and scheduling them to publish at the time of your choosing. So when you get inspired about a topic, go slap some words on a page, come back to it and refine the idea when you want, and post it when you want. In my better days, I’ve written blog posts for an entire month in one day and scheduled them to post once a week. I wrote this one yesterday; I don’t get up and write at 6 AM because I am not that productive of a person. There are lots of commercials in a football game…

8) Leave your work computer at work

I’ve been guilty of bringing my work home with me, usually because I was taking on too much and was already doing the work of two people. I don’t have those jobs anymore, because I place too much value on keeping my professional and personal lives separate. I’ve always had a work laptop specifically designed for portability, but that doesn’t mean you can’t leave it at the office. For me, having my work laptop at home in the evenings is too much of a temptation to work ahead when I should be working on something personal, spending time with my family, or joyfully wasting time. Now I only bring it home on the weekends in case something happens (like ebola) and I have to work from home.

9) Don’t put work email on your personal phone

Unless you have to or are expected to. If your day job doesn’t come with the expectation that you be available 24/7 and respond to every email immediately – don’t. Say it with me now – it can wait ’til morning (or Monday). Your evenings and weekends are yours, not your employer’s. If you’re anything like me, you check personal email on your phone obsessively enough as it is, you don’t need work email invading your personal life, especially when half the emails are auto-generated crap you batch delete on Monday morning anyway.

10) #CleanAsYouGo

Anyone who’s ever worked in the restaurant industry has had this mantra permanently etched into their being. As much as I hated hearing it from front of house managers who let the most infinitesimal amount of power go to their heads, it’s true. You’ll spend less time cleaning if you can fit in loading the dishwasher while you’re waiting for that water to boil, wiping down the bathroom counter while you’re waiting for the shower water to warm up, etc. Clean as you go, and you won’t have to go clean later. Or not as much, anyway.

That’s for my life hacks! What are yours?

Remember, time you enjoy wasting isn’t wasted time.


Help me pick my back cover text (and digital equivalent)

As the publication date (though still concretely undetermined) draws closer and closer for Portrait of Woman in Ink: A Tattoo Storybook, I am playing around with the back cover text, or product description in the digital world. Any writer will tell you that this is one of the hardest things to do, since it is so hard to persuasively and objectively write about your own work. So much so that it’s often outsourced on elance to the tune of $6.00 an hour. While I could certainly afford this (even though I find it insulting), I try to not to make a habit of paying people to do things I am – or at least should be – perfectly capable of doing myself.

That said, I’m certainly not above asking y’all if it’s total crap. Or more kindly, which description piques your interest the most. So have a gander, let me know what you think, and grow your impetus for getting Portrait of Woman in Ink at the first possible moment. I’m not sure that impetus is the right word for this situation, but I digress…

Product Description 1

Whether you’re an avid body art collector or a Luddite who believes tattooed women have thrust themselves into the clutches of Satan himself, there’s no denying tattoos have become a mainstay for Gen-Xers and the Millennials. Thirty years ago, women with tattoos were viewed through eyes that saw them as freaks, while today young women proudly sport ink, even if they sometimes have to wear long sleeves to maintain propriety in less-enlightened professional or family company.

Portrait of Woman in Ink: A Tattoo Storybook is a series of literary vignettes about real, everyday women and their tattoos that, while they may seem insignificant at the time, are a symbol of the larger struggles and triumphs that make them who they are (and aren’t freaks because of it). The collection also explores the idea of tattoos bringing together women from different worlds, and teaching them how their worlds might not be as far apart as they originally thought. Portrait of Woman in Ink will touch your heart, make you snicker under your breath, and make you rethink the next time you see a woman sporting a tattoo.

Product Description 2

Twelve women, twelve tattoos, and a narrative thread that weaves them all together, Portrait of Woman in Ink: A Tattoo Storybook is a collection of stories that answers the question in the back of your mind when you see an inked woman: what does your tattoo mean? (or sometimes – what were you thinking?) From a parent’s suicide to the birth of an unlikely child, the stories behind why women tattoo themselves are literally worn on their sleeves, and retold on these pages with a literary twist.

Complete with artwork from the original tattoo artists and a foreword by women’s studies professor Dr. Marta Vicente, Portrait of Woman in Ink is a literary celebration of a woman’s defiance of traditional norms, transforming their skin in a way that was once acceptable only for criminals and sailors. These stories will touch your heart, make you snicker under your breath, and make you rethink the next time you see a woman proudly sporting a tattoo.

Product Description 3

Who says tattoos are unladylike? (Besides your mother, your pastor, and your boss…) Portrait of Woman in Ink: A Tattoo Storybook is a collection of tales from women who so wanted the world to know their stories that they put the words into a picture and etched it permanently on their bodies. These stories are tragic, hilarious, absurd, and touching all at the same time, with a narrative thread that connects each story to the one before it.

Complete with artwork from the original tattoo artists and a foreword by one of academia’s foremost voices in women’s studies, Portrait of Woman in Ink is a series of literary vignettes about real, everyday women and their tattoos that, while they may seem insignificant at the time, are a symbol of the larger struggles and triumphs that make them who they are. The collection explores the idea of tattoos bringing together women from different worlds, and teaching them how their worlds might not be as far apart as they originally thought.


2012 is gone… what did I do?

It’s that goal-reflection and goal-setting time of year. The time when the whole world reflects on its activities completed in the year as it comes to a close, and determines what activities will transpire in the year to come. And buys a gym membership they use a lot in January, sparingly in February, and completely give up on by March.

I, for the record, spent far more days of 2012 in the gym than skipping it. So, what writerly activities did I complete in the last year?

I read 60 books.

Not to be all braggy, but that’s more than a book a week. The secret wasn’t having more time, although quitting my shockingly low-paying freelance gig did free up a little bit more time, the secret was having more access. I started volunteering for the library, which meant I could bring something home every week, download audiobooks to my iPod Touch, and borrow Kindle books. I had never really gotten into audiobooks before, but I found it to be a great reading addition for certain activities like lifting weights, putting away laundry, and walking to the bank.

I finished writing my second novel

It was a collaborative effort between an academic, eleven women with tattoos, and a handful of tattoo artists. The writing part was great; in fact I think it’s one of the best things I have ever written in my lifetime. Getting a publisher was a bjillion times easier than what I experienced with my first book, but boy howdy going through the hoops of the book deal process is hard. I’m not sure if it’s actually hard, or if it just feels that way, but stay tuned because it’s going to be hitting the shelves before you know it… I hope.

My first novel celebrated its first birthday

And in its first year, it got over 5,000 promotional downloads, and had significantly far less paid copies sold. It got 14 reviews on Amazon, only one of which was a 1-star-er,  3 reviews on Barnes and Noble, and 18 ratings on Goodreads. It made it to the semi-final round of The Kindle Book Review best independent book of 2011 contest. It also pissed off my mom.

I started writing my third novel

Full disclosure – it’s barely one chapter at this point, but it’s going to rock. It’ll also be my first novel-length work that uses true chapters instead of a series of short stories. We’ll see how the long form story works out for me.

I wrote other stuff

A handful of poems, a couple flash fiction pieces, nothing too crazy, and not nearly as much as I should have written. I only got a couple of things featured or published, which I again should have hit harder.

Yep, that was 2012. So what’s 2013 going to bring, besides more steady gym time (I do, after all, have to fit into a wedding dress)? Here are my goals, in no particular order.

  • Publish novel #2. This one’s at the top, because it will with any luck happen first. Stay tuned.
  • Finish writing novel #3. If I can write, edit, and publish novel #2 in a little over a year, I should really try to do that every year. Even with a full-time job.
  • ABQ. Always be querying. I need to keep all my poems, short stories, and other crap in constant rotation.
  • Start expanding my freelance portfolio, because I might not want to work for the man all my life.
  • Write more stuff.
  • Keep my workshop group going.
  • Show nothing but love for other authors (but still make fun of ridiculous library finds).

Authors – always be looking to improve your writing, your platform, and your abdominals. My New Year’s Resolution, for the record, is to schedule my tweets each week so I am consistently building my platform. And to floss more.


Foreword, Introduction, or Preface?

For my forthcoming project, Portrait of Woman in Ink: A Tattoo Storybook, I thought it would be a good idea to enlist an academic who could speak to the history between women and tattoos. After reading this article in the Lawrence Journal-World, I knew I had found my academic in Women’s Studies professor Dr. Marta Vicente, and I asked her (and happily enough, she agreed) to write me a foreword.

But did I mean introduction? Or preface? No doubt you’ve seen all three in books you’ve read, but what makes a preface a preface, a foreword a foreword, or an introduction an introduction? I wasn’t really sure I knew the difference, since it wasn’t exactly something they covered in my undergraduate creative writing studies.

Besides, who needs book learnin’ when there’s Wikipedia? So I looked it up.

  • Foreword: Typically written by someone other than the primary author of the work, it often tells of some interaction between the writer of the foreword and the book’s primary author or the story the book tells.
  • Preface: Generally covers the story of how the book came into beginning, or how the idea for the book was developed; this is often followed by thanks and acknowledgments to people who were helpful to the author during the time of writing.
  • Introduction: Typically describes the scope of the document and gives the brief explanation or summary of the document. It may also explain certain elements that are important to the essay if explanations are not part of the main text.

Since the piece she wrote summarizes some of the book, but also goes into some of the historical significance of women and tattoos, I’m not really sure which of these it falls into. The summary part of it screams introduction, but the academic references indicate foreword. I could even argue for preface, since you might say women throughout history set the stage for the women in the book to tell their stories through body art.

Or maybe I should just call it a unicorn and be done with it. What do y’all think?

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What’s In A (Pen) Name?

I’ve been thinking a lot about names lately. For one thing, I recently got engaged, and my fiance isn’t super keen on the idea of me keeping my maiden name. As Kelly Hitchcock, I’ve published one novel (and hopefully one more), a few short stories, and several poems. Still, he maintains that he wants me to take his last name, which is four syllables… not exactly hyphen-friendly. And anyone who has read my work knows I am a big fan of the hyphen; almost as much as I would be a semicolon superfan if it didn’t make me look like a pretentious a-hole.

It also came up in my writer’s group the other day – when is it appropriate to use a pen name? I imagine that if your given name at birth is Brad Pitt or James Cameron and you plan on making a serious living as an author, you might want to use a pen name to distance yourself from the celebrity namesakes (then again, you might want to invite the connection). Then there’s the case of writers who cross over into writing in another genre – like erotica – and use a pen name to maintain the separation between the two genre’s writings.  Or maybe your name just sucks, like Dentenia Zickafoose.

What I wonder is:

  • It’s common practice for doctors and lawyers to keep their maiden names based on public professional accomplishments. Income disparity notwithstanding, does the same expectation exist for authors?
  • Is it icky to take on a pen name for no apparent reason? No evidence of genre-switching, crappy namesake, or celebrity doppelhood?

What do you think?

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