Brand names, trademarks, and contemporary conundrums


For realistic fiction writers, brand names tend to slip into our writing. While editing my YA contemporary thriller and currently my NA contemporary romance, I ran into issues with brand names. Was I allowed to use them? Could I really be sued?After research into how to use brand names in fiction, I’ve compiled five general guidelines for using trademarks. Note that the tips below aren’t hard and fast rules, but they should be taken into consideration when writing your next contemporary piece.

(1) Brand names should never be mentioned in a negative light. I’m not even talking about someone buying a hamburger from Burger King and choking on it. Any sort of negative description associated with a trademarked item will not be appreciated by the company. When brand names are mentioned in literature, it should add something to the story. Save your complaints about the item for a well-written letter to the company, not for malicious intent in your story. If you do want to add a dimension of realism and admit a certain chain’s pizza tastes like cardboard, this brings us to tip #2…

(2) Fake brands should be used to represent real ones. It’s easy to replace names. Smoothie Queen and Palace of Pizza are two examples of brand name replacements. These fictional titles come without trademark infringements or worries over being sued. Readers are intelligent. They can figure out what a company resembles even without the official title.

(3) Don’t write falsely about the brand names you do use. If it’s completely unavoidable – you just HAVE to use Glad or Tupperware – make sure you’re using the right brand name for the right product. Don’t write “Domino’s hamburgers” or “Starbucks pizza”. Even if the brand names produce similar products, this could be considered a trademark infringement. Trademark infringement is the unauthorized use of a name that creates confusion regarding similar products. Keep tabs on whether or not you’re using the brand name correctly.

Continue reading

On Positivity, Publication, and Pushing Forward


Publication as a teen isn’t impossible, but like any endeavor, it isn’t easy. I want others out there to know that you don’t need to wait to pursue your dreams of publication – but you should also remember the importance of positivity and continuing on even when the road ahead seems bleak.

Growing up, I was always writing. My stories would become longer and longer, until one day they were novel length. And like most writers, I was a voracious reader. While stories of teen authors were far and few between, I’ve always believed age should never be a restriction for following your passions – no matter how old or young you are. So I polished my work and sent it out to the world.

I started submitting my stories to agents and publishers when I was thirteen, and it’s been five long years of rejection letters until this point. I’m incredibly grateful to be standing where I am now, but I also recognize the potential rejection around every corner.

As a writer, it’s important to remember that not everyone is going to like your work. You will run the gamut between five-star reviews and one-star reviews. Criticism is nothing new, but social media and the anonymity of the internet makes reading critique of your work more accessible than ever before.

No matter where you are on your path to publication or wherever your creative aspirations may take you, always remember to stay positive. Be thankful for what you’ve been blessed with, and trust that everything will work out in the end.

OneLastLetterThat’s exactly what I would tell my fifteen-year-old self. At one point that year, I received three rejection letters in the same day. I thought, “I’m never going to be published. No one will like my work. I should give up!” If I could go back now, I would tell the fifteen-year-old me to have faith. When you have a dream in mind, you have to keep pushing forward no matter what obstacles stand in your way.

When I read critique of my work, whether it’s from a reviewer or an editor, it reminds me that I have so much to improve upon and there’s still so much more to accomplish. I think, “Okay, I’ll write a better story next time. I’ll take this critique and make my work stronger than before.”

TheInnocentAssassinsAt the same time, don’t get so caught up in negative critique. Seek out all the inspiring reminders of why you’re pursuing your dreams. I also read positive reviews, e-mails from readers who liked my book, and submission acceptance letters from my publishers. If you’re going after a goal right now, start gathering your positive reminders. They’ll help reinforce your belief in your work when the going gets tough.

There will be days when you feel like losing hope. There will be times when you worry you’re wasting your time, or that the dream you wish to pursue is far too outlandish to ever be reality. Understand the critique and use it to improve. Read the positive reminders and reinforce your sense of purpose.

But don’t ever give up, and don’t ever stop pushing forward.

{Originally published on Relate Mag}

Let’s Talk Time Management

Recently, I’ve been feeling the college assignments struggle. The midterms struggle. The sophomore year struggle. The stay-up-until-who-knows-when struggle. And lots of struggles equal not so much time for writing and editing. I recently published a piece on Go Teen Writers about time management – or as it could definitely also be titled, “how I somehow miraculous find time every now and then.” I hope some of the tips below help you carve out time as well, whether you’re juggling work, school, or both.

I write because, like most writers, I have a consuming and compulsive need to write. That passion pushed me through the writing, editing, and publishing process of my Young Adult romantic thriller The Innocent Assassins (Astraea Press, June 2014) and my historical romance One Last Letter (Crimson Romance, August 2014) this past summer.

But I’m also a college sophomore who feels buried in schoolwork on a daily basis and who wants to go to the Saturday night party as much as the next kid. When my friends find out I spend time writing novels as well, the question that immediately follows is usually: “How do you have the time?”

I don’t. Do any of us? As students, we’re all incredibly busy. It’s not about having enough time; it’s about finding enough time. The following tips are a few that help me maintain my productivity as a writer and keep me producing new work.

1. Set small, daily goals. Whether it’s 100 words edited or 100 words written, make sure your daily goal is manageable. Even if you decide you only have ten minutes to write on a certain day, those ten minutes will add up over time.

2. Write down your writing goals in your planner as if it’s actually homework. Crossing things off a list is always helpful for me, and encourages me further to finish everything that’s on the list. When you treat your writing goals like actual homework assignments, it helps you finish them faster.

3. Form your goals in advance. If you jot down your writing goals like homework on a planner, you put more pressure on yourself to follow through with your intended writing plans. When editing The Innocent Assassins during my freshman year of college, I thought I could decide on a day-by-day basis how much I would edit. Because I never quantified how much I was planning to revise, it was easy to keep putting off the chapters I needed to edit and let them accumulate … until my publisher’s deadline approached! Time is never going to “slow down.” There’s always going to be another homework deadline coming up; there will always be another party you want to go to. Planning your goals in advance makes accomplishing them much easier.

Continue reading

Author Lily Paradis on writing: “Don’t give up” + IGNITE Book Review

I wanted to preface this post by saying that I don’t usually cover book reviews or author interviews on this blog. I prefer to focus mainly on the writing struggles process, but I love supporting the work of other young authors.

I recently had the fortune of interviewing a fellow young author, Lily Paradis, about her debut work IGNITE, which I was able to read and review this past month. Lily Paradis is only 22, but she’s already working on her next few books. Read on for writing advice from Lily, and find out my thoughts about her novel.

Interview with Lily Paradis

  1. What was the inspiration behind your story?
    I nannied for three kids for a week, and I started to wonder what it would be like if that was my life! Also, the DMV scene came together when I was actually sitting there waiting to renew my license. I typed it on my phone while I was sitting there.
  2. What did you find to be the biggest challenge about publishing the novel?
    Everything. It’s so much harder than you think it’s going to be. I also had a series of unfortunate events happen, my file was corrupted, and then my computer screen shattered four days before it was supposed to release!
  3. What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
    Don’t give up, and write what you love. If you aren’t passionate about what you’re writing, no one is going to be passionate about reading it!
  4. One of my favorite quotes is Toni Morrison’s “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” I’m always curious to hear about favorites from other authors. What writing quotes do you live by/have adopted?
    I love that one! I have a couple. The first one is what I think of when people want me to change everything about what I’ve written:
    “My will is mine… I shall not make it soft for you.” – Agamemnon, Aeschylus
    The second one is: “Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.” – Victor Hugo
    It’s a little cliche, but I love it. It’s phrased differently than a lot of others of that nature.
  5. New Adult is a relatively new genre. I know I struggled to decide whether or not The Innocent Assassins fell into the New Adult or Young Adult category. What aspects do you think defines stories as New Adult, and why did you choose this genre for your novel? 
    To be honest, I would probably go back and classify it as Upper Young Adult. My characters are New Adult aged, but it doesn’t have the overtly sexual situations that a lot of NA books have. You’re right, it’s hard to classify. Even if you Google the definition of New Adult versus Young Adult, you don’t get too many clear cut answers. It’s very opinion based.

Continue reading

Promoting strong female heroes in fiction

Female heroes, female heroines – take your pick.

About a year ago, I was watching the movie Jack Reacher, eating some buttered popcorn, admiring Tom Cruise’s fake-fighting skills … and then something clicked – where were the female thriller heroes?

I’d just finished reading The Bourne Identity around the same time. While I love thriller novels, overall the genre has a lack of stories focused on females as the protagonists. When females are mentioned, they’re usually in need of being rescued by the male hero or serving as bait to ensnare the hero into the villain’s trap.

There are some thrillers which feature women as the leads – Salt, Nikita, Alias, to name an awesome few – but the majority of action stories showcase the power of male heroes. I wanted to provide another (always needed) female hero, so I created Jane Lu in my Young Adult thriller, The Innocent Assassins. She’s a seventeen-year-old teen girl/highly trained assassin and undercover spy who beats just as many villains as the boys.

Even from the male-dominated thriller genre, female-dominated genres such as historical romance also tend to have “swooning” heroines and “brooding” heroes. The men are the ones with an exciting career, while women are the ones attending balls and worrying over gowns. While I love historical romance, I longed for more books featuring hard-working heroines who were just as capable as the heroes.

With that, I wrote about Evelyn Lancaster in my western historical romance, One Last Letter. Evelyn’s a tough-as-nails plantation owner who rejects marrying for love in order to do what’s best for her ranch. Her goals are placed firmly in continuing her financial success, not catching the eye of the closest cowboy.

Both Jane and Evelyn are around my age – late teens/early twenties. They’re the kind of heroines everyone needs to read more about, especially young girls.

As a teen author, I know both the weight of written words and the intense scrutiny teens face from peer pressure. With the rapid responses of social media, we’re incredibly influenced by whatever we read and hear and see. That’s why all the characters we’re exposed to influence our lives. Imagine how incredible it would be if every female character was an independent role model rather than a damsel in distress.

Strong heroines – if it’s an archetype, it’s my favorite one. The world can’t have enough tough female characters out there to inspire others. We need powerful female role models in fictional worlds to inspire girls in the real world.

{This article was originally posted on the awesome Girls Can’t WHAT?}

Lessons learned from my first book launch + One Last Letter is going on tour!


Hello, everyone! One Last Letter has officially released today! *throws up all the confetti*  If you want to learn more about my historical romance One Last Letter, the blog tour information is posted below for you to follow along.

In honor of my second book launch, I thought I’d share an article I wrote for Authors + Readers Book Corner about my first book launch and lessons I’ve learned  – “Book Launch Lessons: Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff!” Stress, mistakes, surprise, and Amazon issues galore abounded that first day. Learn how you can avoid it!


Fic Central: Review of One Last Letter

Happily Ever After Thoughts: Interview

SSLY Blog: Review of One Last Letter
Romance Obsessed Book Blog: Meet the Characters of One Last Letter!
Author Open MIC: Interview
Conversations with Lisa Mondello: Interview

Romance Obsessed Book Blog: Character Interview with Jesse and Evelyn

Shooting Stars Reviews: Excerpt and Playlist

Blurbs in Bloom: Promo

Buried Under Romance: Exclusive Excerpt

Storeybook Reviews: Deleted Prologue and Playlist
Bookkins: Review of One Last Letter

Love Saves the World: Review and Guest Post: “Famous Love Letters”

Sara Walter Ellwood: Guest Post: “The Music Behind the Story”

History From a Woman’s Perspective: Review of One Last Letter



Book Launch Lessons: Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

Stress, mistakes, surprise, and gratitude? Sounds like the release day for my first novel, The Innocent Assassins.

Unlike other digital-first publishers, Astraea Press doesn’t upload pre-orders for e-books on Amazon or Barnes & Noble. I didn’t see any of my book’s purchase pages until the day of release. Imagine my surprise (and horror) to discover the summaries on each e-book outlet included the wrong name for the hero!

It wasn’t a complete shock. I changed the hero’s name halfway through the editing process, so the summary I first submitted to Astraea Press used the original name for the hero. It was completely my fault. I was the one who forgot to submit an updated summary for the buyer pages.

I e-mailed the owner of Astraea Press about the summary change. She was quick to reply and said an edited version would be uploaded by the next day; all I had to do was send her the new summary with the name change. I rushed to send her the updated summary. True to her word, the summary with the right name for the hero was added to all major e-book outlets. Crisis averted!

On another note, let that also be a lesson to other authors out there! If you can’t see your Amazon/B&N’s book page before the release, make sure you check with your publisher that the summary/other information is correct. Check to see if all the information you last sent your publisher is still the most recent version.

Additionally, I hadn’t told anyone my book was being published. Since pre-orders weren’t available for my book anyway, I posted news of my release (for the first time) to all my social media profiles on book launch day. Within minutes, I received texts and messages from my friends and family with both words of congratulations and disbelief that I’d kept it a secret for so long!

News of my novel spread through word of mouth and resulted in a healthy spike of sales over the next few days. Pre-orders are a commonly discussed method for book marketing, but surprise can work in your favor as well. Advance orders can work great, but authors shouldn’t worry about losing a pre-order audience either.

The biggest takeaway? Everything will be fine. Put in the hard work and rewards will come your way. Seriously, no matter how bad something may seem at the beginning (it’s not on Amazon?! the title is wrong?! that’s not my name?!?!) – it shall be fixed. Most e-book retailers have a lag time of a day or two before the update is published. That day or two will seem like an eternity, but the page will be fixed before you know it.

I’m definitely keeping this in mind for my book launch day on August 18 for my second novel, a historical Western romance titled One Last Letter. Orders are now available on Amazon USUK, and Canada!

{This article was first posted on Authors & Readers Book Corner}

#8sunday – 8 Sentences from my WIP & 8 Literary Links for the Week


Hey Pema, what the heck is #8sunday?

It’s the hashtag for Weekend Writing Warriors, an awesome post that links to multiple writers posting story snippets on Sunday. In honor of #8sunday, I thought I’d also include eight equally awesome links I’ve found this week regarding writing and reading and editing and life. Read on after the snippet to discover the week’s round-up on pesky day jobs/college classes, Twitter talk for bloggers, coping with criticism, and the hottest YA author.

The excerpt below is from A Truth University Acknowledged, a New Adult college take of Pride and Prejudice.

His voice was low. “Are you telling people we slept together?”

“No.” I swallowed hard. “Look, I’m sorry about jumping to conclusions.”

“I know you run a feminist blog, but that doesn’t mean every guy’s a rapist.” He scowled. “I would never sleep with you. Why would you even think that low of me?”

“When most guys I know see a drunk girl wearing a crop top, they assume they can sleep with her. That’s just how they are.”

“Someone who stereotypes against all men as rapists?” His cold gaze regarded me with complete disdain. “You’re not my type.”

For more of the feminist Eve and the disapproving Duke, the first parts of the story are already posted on Wattpad!

And now for this #8sunday’s literary links:

  1. Tom Pollock: Writing Around a Day Job - “Prioritize the people. They’re more important.” Whether this involves you being a college student or an attorney or a mom of three kids, everyone’s got that OTHER-MAJOR-COMMITMENT which could fill in for the “day job” part of his article. Mainly, he’s reminding everyone to live a balanced life – yes, go outside and do things! Hang out with your friends! Run a marathon! (Not that I’d ever do the last one but, you know, you could.) Your writing will be there when you return.
  2. 8 Things I Wish I Had Known About Twitter When I Started Blogging – “Be ridiculous – but do it with class.” (And please do not send automated DM’s asking me to like your FB page.) Kelsey’s great article applies to authors, book bloggers, companies … it just covers Twitter in general. Super helpful for all those on the platform and for those thinking about starting an account.
  3. Finishing Line  –  “Finish it. Whatever it is.” Whatever project you’re working on, stick with it! Don’t doubt it. Continue forward. You owe it to yourself.
  4. Dealing with Criticism – “I put as much distance as possible between myself and the thing I have made.” This is actually a video from Charlie McDonnell after he finished a short film and posted it on YouTube. It’s a great video for any writer/director/creative content maker on the subject of reviews.
  5. To Build A Story: The Feels – “Yes, there are scenes later where she considers her mom and feels sad and everything, but she never really grieves, and never initially deals with it.” Victoria has an awesome writerly blog everyone should go follow, and this article’s especially relevant. I’m guilty; I always forget to pause and take in the emotions of the characters. Unless you’re writing a story where human emotions don’t exist in your story whatsoever – we react to things! We get upset. Think of the characters’ instinctual reactions.
  6. This photo tweet from Erin Niumata:
  7. A book store where books are wrapped in paper with short descriptions so no one would “judge a book by its cover” 
    Embedded image permalink
    I think it’s at one of Elizabeth’s Bookshops in Australia. Some stores have a “Blind Date with a Book” section. Either way, it’s a cool concept!
  8. Introducing The Hottest Young Adult Author In The World – I know this one’s been making the rounds already on a lot of book blogger tweets … if you didn’t know who Pierce Brown was before, you do now.


#1 Editing Tip + I’m live-writing my next novel for you to see!

The editing tip is actually directly related to the “live-writing” part. Also, pretty sure “live-writing” isn’t a word. But I digress. On with the story and invaluable editing method!

Remember the New Adult contemporary romance version of Pride and Prejudice that I discussed in my blog hop post? For now, I’m posting the story on Wattpad!

The first three parts are already up, and I’ll be posting the next part later today. Find the story here! You can also browse excerpts of The Innocent Assassins and One Last Letter on my Wattpad profile. Quite literally just set up the account yesterday.

While a lot of the site’s fanfiction, there’s quite a bit of original work too. Keep in mind that the majority of Wattpad readers and writers are teen girls. But if that’s your target audience for your work, you should consider setting up an account and posting your story as well. If any of you guys have a Wattpad account, let me know – I’ll be sure to follow you!

And that brings us to today’s #1 EDITING TIP -

Make your work as unfamiliar as hell.

From Nick Stockton’s article on Wired:

When you’re proof reading, you are trying to trick your brain into pretending that it’s reading the thing for the first time. Stafford suggests that if you want to catch your own errors, you should try to make your work as unfamiliar as possible. Change the font or background color, or print it out and edit by hand. “Once you’ve learned something in a particular way, it’s hard to see the details without changing the visual form,” he said.

And it works!

Currently in the editing trenches for A Truth University Acknowledged, and I’ve been at an editing loss. If someone else looks over my work, they immediately see typos that I never notice. My Crimson Romance editor, Julie Sturgeon, says, “…you don’t see a lot of things in your manuscript because you’d have to flip the switch from creative to analytical, and then you can’t create!”

Me and my current MS, in a gif.

I’ve been having issues with editing. Like to the point of: “Oh, well, that’s the second time I’ve read that chapter and it sucks but I can’t think of what to change so BYE.”

Clearly not an effective way to edit.

But Nick Stockton’s article helped a lot. He says you have to view your work in a way that’s completely different than any way you’ve seen it – literally. For me, that’s been posting ATUA on Wattpad. After I post a section, I read over it again and notice typos/other errors I never picked up on before.

Continue reading

Gratitude & why Mindy Kaling should be every writer’s writinspiration (it’s a word now)

What’s something you know now about happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?
When I was 18 years old, I took a semester off from college and was an intern at Late Night With Conan O’Brien. It was the most glamorous job I ever had, and I idolized the writers there. I remember lying in bed every night telling myself that if I ever got a job as a comedy writer, I would be so happy and all my dreams would have come true. Six years later I got that job, working on The Office. I felt incredibly happy and grateful for a about a week, and then a whole new set of complaints set in. This would’ve shocked and disgusted my 18-year-old self. It’s helpful to remember the younger version of me because it reminds me to feel grateful when I want to be snotty. (Mindy Kaling, x)

Wait, what?

Let’s backtrack for a second.

Whether your passion is writing novels or book reviews or screenplays … it’s all creative work. It’s all work that thousands – millions - of other people pursue and work hard toward and all serve as your potential next source of burning jealousy.

That’s why Mindy Kaling’s quote from her interview with Gretchen Rubin is so important. “It’s helpful to remember the younger version of me because it reminds me to feel grateful…” 

Think about it. Wherever you’re at now, whether it’s after your first published novel or after your first time hitting the bestseller list or after your first finished manuscript or even after your first novel outline – it’s more than you had a few years ago. 

I swear it’s somewhat relevant guys.

At the risk of quoting Miley Cyrus – there is always going to be another mountain (I’m always going to want to make it moveeeeee … okay. that’s enough). There’s always going to be someone out there in their writing career who’s farther/”more accomplished” than you. If you hit the USA Today bestseller list, you’ll see someone hitting the NY Times bestseller list and think, “I wish I had that.” If you release your first published novel, you’ll see someone’s else novel staying #1 on Amazon bestsellers list for weeks on end and you’ll think, “I wish I had that.”

Not that envy is a no-good-terribly-rotten thing. It can serve as motivation to continue working and eventually reach your goal. But you can always be grateful for where you are now – no matter where that may be. Remember to appreciate whatever your writing progress is at this point!

Mindy Kaling answered the interview quoted above in 2011. She didn’t know yet that her show launched in 2012, The Mindy Project, would become a hit and she didn’t know yet that it would be picked up for a second season, then a third season. She didn’t know the show would have over 300,000 fans on Facebook. But she did know to be grateful.

Rock on, Mindy Kaling. Keep serving as a writinspiration (still a word!).