Confessions from a Fictional (yes, you read that correctly) Author

by Serena Chase


My name is Serena Chase and I am not a real person.

I am an invention. A pen name. The secret identity of an author who, for reasons ranging from personal safety—due to a scary series of incidents—to shelf placement, chose not to associate her real name with her public career. But even though I’ve—no, she’s—ahem, we’ve coexisted for a long time now, it sometimes gets confusing. For both us.

More for her than me, probably.

Like now, when I realize I’m talking about the true me—the Social Security Number-bearing individual, the real me, the one responsible for the creation of “Serena Chase” and her associated products—in the third person.

Oh, boy.

When I (the real me) first made the decision to safeguard my work by writing under a pseudonym, I was revising my first two novels, The Ryn and The Remedy while blogging regularly for a popular Christian fiction blog . . . which soon led to becoming a regular freelance contributor to a USA Today blog. “Serena Chase” was gaining momentum, fast—not as an author of fiction, unfortunately, but as an influencer on behalf of other inspirational and YA fiction authors. (Ah, but that’s another “confessions” post.) The career wheels were turning, but it was becoming questionable as to whether I could keep both the pen name and my sanity. Every time I signed a blog post or an email with my pseudonym, I obsessively struggled with the idea that I was a BIG. FAT. LIAR.

Long had I bemoaned the absence of authenticity and vulnerability within the Christian community, but here I was, forming professional and personal relationships within the publishing world under an assumed name and, to some extent, personality. Through those early years, some of the authors I met became dear friends to whom I eventually stuttered through a pen name confession, but all the while, my natural leanings toward anxiety and depression screamed, “Liar!” like Miracle Max’s wife in The Princess Bride.

One moment I would be writing a draft of the apology post that would reveal my real name . . . and the next I would be deleting it, paralyzed with fear that the nasty people responsible for me actually considering a pen name in the first place would discover my secret and cause more damage.

I sought council from those who knew me by my “real name” and were aware of my situation. As a rule, the writers in that small circle saw the pseudonym as a career necessity, not a moral dilemma. My non-writing friends, however, while expressing understanding for why it felt necessary to me, either shrugged off or added to my fears and/or my feelings of being a liar. I was at a moral, philosophical, and business impasse.

Was my struggle, as one friend suggested, only a symptom of an overweening pride that wanted to claim the words I wrote under the name that was truly mine? Or, as another friend offered, was I a slave to fear, not trusting God with my family’s safety? Was I making a mountain out of a molehill? Was having a pen name a lie, and therefore sin? Or was it a solid business decision? Was it right? Wrong? A gray area?

It went on like that for a long time. I obsessed. I prayed. I cried. I hated myself for all of it. I hated “Serena Chase” for being cooler than me. I couldn’t sleep. When I could, I woke up in the middle of the night with panic attacks. I was a mess.

Sometime around the release of my third novel The Seahorse Legacy, however, there was a shift in my thinking. During a conversation with another author, we spoke about a newly released book, both us referring to it as an addition to “The (insert Famous Author Name) Brand.”

In the context of our conversation, we did not necessarily discuss the merits of the work produced. We spoke of a business model, a strategic campaign. Yes, it was Famous Author’s name—her real name, as far as I know—but we were not discussing it as a part of her human identity; we spoke of The Famous Author Name Brand as exactly that: a brand—a label attached to a specific collection of intellectual property and all connected marketing efforts.

It got me thinking . . .

As authors, we are told to “build your brand” and to “be brand-consistent across all platforms.” Could the “brand” concept justify the existence and proliferation of “Serena Chase” in the moral center of my mind? Instead of “Serena Chase” being the “big fat lie” I’d been losing sleep over, was she—er, it—, instead, a brand under which my creative intellectual property could safely reside?

Yes.  Yes, she—it—could.

It was a life-changing revelation.

Yes, it is still awkward sometimes, operating under one name in “real life” while using an entirely different identity when I need to be the human representation of “The Serena Chase Brand” online or at an event. Sometimes, I talk about myself in the third person and it weirds people out (including me, to be honest!) Sometimes, my worlds collide. Sometimes, it’s embarrassing. Sometimes, it’s scary. Sometimes, I just need more coffee so I can remember which name I’m using that day (*winks at Ronie Kendig.*)

But most of the time . . . I’m okay with it. I’m okay with building The Serena Chase Brand and representing it in the flesh when necessary.

Sure, sometimes I wish I could move far away from my hometown and legally change my name to “Serena Chase” because it would make life easier. I’ve realized I often feel more comfortable operating under my brand identity than the one I was born+married into.

Is that weird? Yeah, that’s probably pretty weird. Ah, well. Another confession for another day.

What do you think about the use of pen names?


Author Bio:

SERENA CHASE is the (pseudonymous) author of the critically-acclaimed Eyes of E’veria epic fantasy series and Intermission, a contemporary young adult romance. She believes readers expect a novel to be an immersive entertainment experience and seeks to provide that experience through her stories. When not writing, she can often be found assisting other authors with manuscript critique and marketing copy creation through her business, Reviewer’s Eye View, or teaching workshops on the art of crafting immersive, entertaining fiction. Connect with Serena on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and through her website and newsletter.


Time for a Giveaway!

With only a month until the release of Bellanok as a full book, available for both Kindle and paperback, it’s time for a giveaway!


One lucky winner will win a copy of Heir of Hope by my sister-at-heart, my critique partner, and all around snazzy fantasy author, Morgan Busse. (Don’t you just love the cover?)



Another luck winner will receive 9 Strategies to Build and Grow Your Author Platform by Shelley Hitz! (Great place to start if you’re trying to grow your platform.)



A final winner will receive a $20 Amazon gift card. (Yes, I’m feeling generous–it’s the fall air.) This winner will be based solely on social media sharing.



  1. Sign up for my newsletter. If you’ve already signed up, no worries, you have an automatic entry!
  2. Comment below, letting me know you are signed up for the newsletter. AND let me know which book you would prefer.
  3. While you don’t get extra points for sharing on Facebook and Twitter and anywhere else you feel like, you DO get entered into the sweepstakes for the $20 Amazon gift card! Winner for this will be chosen by the most creative/fun post. Be sure to tag me so that I’ll see it!


This contest will run until Sunday night at 11:59 p.m. I will announce the winner in another special Monday post.

Confessions of a Book Gypsy

confessionsof-abook-gypsyThere’s something gloriously fascinating about touching down in a new place, tripping along the cobblestones of an unfamiliar street, and eyeing buttery croissants in the display case of a cute café. And always—no matter where you go—there’s a wrinkled old woman gossiping on the corner. How do I know?

Because I’m a book gypsy, of course.

I’ve visited over 30 countries (some multiple times) in the last 10 years. I lived in northern England for two and a half years, while traveling to nearly every continent in my communications role with a global non-profit. I’ve interviewed an ex-Buddhist monk in Myanmar, ridden a camel on the sands of Arabia and photographed a wrinkled babushka (grandmother) in Siberia. My first published novel was co-authored completely via Skype and Google Docs, and I’ve edited more manuscripts at several thousand feet, on the floors of random airports, or in foreign countries, than I have at home.

My friends call me their gypsy, and I’ve enough of a Boho streak to concede their point. I’m also a bit of a collector in my travels. Of souvenir bits and bobs and smatterings of dialect, sure, but also of sights and smells and memories of places and people most will never see or know exist.

Istanbul? Colorful carpets and warm, fragrant bread. Northern England? Misty mornings and stone fences, a thick brogue and steaming steak and ale pie. United Arab Emirates? The call to prayer ringing out over the sunrise, crushed mint lemonade, and white robes flapping in a hot breeze. Bangkok? The sharp fragrance of incense and the insistent clanging of tuktuks. Africa? Pink, hazy sunsets and a baby rhino snuffling at a water hole, rough curls under my fingers and the most epic senior citizen dance moves you’ve ever seen.

ts00286rvOne of my greatest joys as I travel is to soak up the lives of very different people in very different places, to walk a mile in their recycled-tire shoes and experience their normal. Sometimes I capture a snapshot in a photograph or well-turned phrase, or sometimes I simply exchange a smile and make a memory.

My gypsy ways have given me abundant opportunities to observe a variety of people, places, and cultures and to employ the most important rule of traveling—first, always, seek to understand. Observe. Listen. Taste. Experience. Then, bit by bit, understanding will come.

I’ve found this experiential way of learning to be very helpful as I develop my fictional cultures and characters, layer by layer. I ask myself, as I do when visiting any new place, “What do they believe?” “What is valued in their culture?” “Who has power and influence?” “Is the individual—or the community—most important?” “What roles do people play in society? Family? Religion?”

Often, other people’s “strange” behavior (or even bizarre road construction!) makes perfect sense when viewed from their belief and value system, which may be completely opposite to mine. Once these “building blocks” are in place, I can then create the outer layers of fictional cultures and characters through sensory details, mannerisms, dialect, and more.

img_2280rvThat’s where characters really come to life. That’s when readers can take a walk through your streets, sit down and gossip with your old women, feel the desert wind sandblast their cheeks, and smell the spices stacked in pyramids at the markets.

If you’ll forgive me my worn, battered soap box (it’s seen a few miles), one of my greatest frustrations and disappointments when both reading and editing books is stories that lack realistic cultural depth, and characters that exist outside of their cultures.

Technology that doesn’t correlate, people behaving in ways that are inconsistent with cultural roles without repercussions, character housing and dress that is completely at odds with their culture, religion, or environment. The list is lengthy and egregious, but I’m sure you can think of your own examples, so I won’t belabor the point.

People say to write what you know, and for very good reason. How would I know that a Qatari souk (indoor/outdoor market) smells like saffron and sounds like a mildly-chaotic petting zoo if I hadn’t walked those crowded corridors?

Authors know their worlds better than anyone. Their fantastical cultures, people and places are their second home. But I’ve found they often don’t know their fictional home cultures as well as they might think. And that’s truly a shame, because truly rich and wondrous worlds can exist in the minds of writers—and their readers—if only they first would seek to understand.

That’s what I love about being a book gypsy, after all. There are always brave new worlds to discover, strange people to meet, fascinating cultures to experience, and a comfy armchair and a warm cup of tea to come home to after a long journey.

But, I must be off. Book gypsies don’t stick around long, you know. After all, the road goes ever on and on, and I must follow, if I can.


katiem2About the Author



Instagram: Create.Explore.Illuminate

Facebook: Create. Explore.Illuminate

Pinterest: @CPKarisWaters

Twitter: @CPKarisWaters


Confessions of a Male Introvert Thinker Author

Ceramic coffee mug and newspaper on wood table.

Ceramic coffee mug and newspaper on wood table.

When I decided to plunge into the work of novel writing, one of the first things I did was take stock of how those already in the business did things. I scoured websites, stalked social media sites, lurked inside launch parties, and otherwise gathered as much information as I could. I knew that writing a book was one thing, but connecting with readers and generating a following was something entirely different.

As I was writing specifically in the realm of Christian speculative fiction, I focused on those authors … and as time went on, I became aware of a general trend. The majority of the writers were women, as were their readers, and there was often a strong human connection between the two groups. In fact, in some cases their reader base was so devoted that there were entire Facebook groups devoted just to reading the author’s book and then talking about it with the author.

All of these things are absolutely fantastic. These authors have done a sensational job of bonding with their readers, cultivating community, and building on that to create cheerleaders for their (very good) books. It’s an awesome snowball effect to behold, and I’m excited for what they’ve been able to do, in some cases in a relatively short period of time.

It also creates unique challenges for this male, introvert, thinking author.

(I’m an INTJ, for those of your Myers-Briggs people keeping score at home.)

It’s not just a stereotype to say that women are a major force in the world of fiction; in a recent story, Christianity Today confirmed statistically what most of us have observed anecdotally. Women read more than men, gather to talk about reading more than men (i.e. book clubs), and hone in on Christian fiction more than men. Of course, there are men who are successful in both the broader category of fiction and the more specific realm of Christian speculative fiction (including a few men with my own publisher, Enclave), so I know can be done.

Figuring out, for me, how to get there has been a process. Part of that process has determining where I fit in. How do I connect with readership? How do I, as a science fiction writer, build bridges with both male and female readers? How do I push the door open so that those readers will take a chance on my writing? Most importantly, how do I accomplish all of this while still staying authentic to who I am – as a thinking introvert in a business that seems to revolve around human connections?

The good news for me is that, slowly but surely, I’ve been working through the answers. I’ve been blessed with a core of great people who have helped me through the process, from beta readers to launch team. Many of them (including my wife and my editor) have helped stretch my writing in ways that helps balance my thinking, plot-oriented nature with the nuances of personal relationships and character development.

As a result, I’ve had wonderful people – men and women – from all walks of life who have taken a risk on my writing and given me humbling comments. Some of them are sci-fi fans from outside Christian fiction altogether; others are readers of some of the same dazzling authors I talked about earlier. And as I continue to write more short stories and novels in my debut series, I’m ever hopeful that I’ll continue to find new doors to sail through.

Relationships, torpedoes, and all.


Joshua Johnston - Headshot - LowAuthor Bio:

Joshua was raised on science fiction television and film before being introduced, in his teenage years, to the wider universe of science fiction literature. In addition to his daily work teaching American history and American government, he is an occasional writer on a variety of topics, including video games and parenting.

His debut novel, Edge of Oblivion, released with Enclave Publishing (now Gilead Publishing) in April 2016. Joshua lives in St. Louis, Missouri, with his wife, Rachael, their two daughters, and a highly xenophobic cat.

He can be found online at

EdgeOblivionJAJ - Web

Confessions of a Publisher/Editor/Author

confessions of aThank you for having me on your blog today, Ralene! Let’s see … the good, the bad, and the ugly. Hmmm …

The Good:

As a publisher, I am constantly on the prowl for the next amazing story that will rock my world and be a good fit for my publishing company. And I love delegating tasks to my team. Especially marketing. While completely necessary, marketing is just the worst. (For me, anyway! I still learn everything I possibly can about it.) I love having a professional marketer who relishes promoting our books and is an expert in her field. It frees me up to be an expert in mine!

As an editor, I thrive on making other’s words succinct and captivating. I love hacking sentences to pieces, celebrating especially captivating phrases, and gently explaining the rules to my authors. (There are so many!) Being an editor is my favorite of the three.

As an author, I make myself giggle. As in, all the time. I especially find my new release, Zombie Takeover, hilarious. I’m quite certain it isn’t as hysterical as I think it is, but I mean, come on! If I don’t enjoy myself, what’s the point of writing? (Then again, I may be exhausted from all of the publishing and editing and writing and … zzzzzzz.)

Oh! Right! The Bad:

As a publisher, I get cornered at every opportunity and told about “this amazing book idea” an aspiring author has rolling about in his or her head. Write it down, people. I can’t read what hasn’t been put on paper, and neither can anyone else. You shove it at me; I will most likely read it. (I will. I love reading new material. So much.) But I can’t publish your ideas. I’m so sorry. Write. It. Down. End of rant.

As an editor, a comma in the wrong place gives me ticks, and I’ve been known to yell at my computer screen when an author gets “that” happy. (You know: “The thing that I wanted” instead of “The thing I wanted”—see. Nervous tick. Right there.) 😉 Also, I now constantly edit every. single. word I read. Books just aren’t the same anymore. Sniff. On the other hand, a well-turned phrase can send me into squeals and happy dances, and I have to read it to everyone in sight. I am so sorry, random stranger. Yep. That was me. You just had to hear it.

As an author, I’m always being bombarded by these amazing story ideas—that I’ll write down as soon as I’m done editing this other person’s book right over here …

The Ugly:

As a publisher, my pet peeve is a grainy or low-resolution image or a less-than-professional post for all the world to see. The ugly part (and this is all on me!) is I’ve been known to ask my authors to take down a post or re-upload an image that looked like it was taken off the internet at 1kb. (Only if it applies to marketing. I wouldn’t dream of asking them about a personal post—I hope! Just their professional image.) And watch. Right after this post, I’m going to accidentally upload something with the grainiest picture there is with three typos and not find out about it for a week. 😉

As an editor, I have actually cried over jobs that were so bad, I wondered why in the world I took them. (This was ages ago, way before publishing, not anyone who knows me! Completely random, anonymous jobs. No, I’m not talking about you. I loved your book, whoever thinks I’m talking about them. I’m not.)

As an author, I’ve been completely baffled when my own book comes back from my editor and has—red marks on it. Gasp! I’m an editor! How on earth can my stuff be swimming in red? Sob! I don’t handle it well. At all. (But it must be done! Even editors shouldn’t edit their own work. Sad, but true.)

Let’s end in “The Good” again, shall we? “The Ugly” there is giving me the shivers. It sounds so terrible!

As a publisher, my drive, my dream, and my passion is to bring quality books to life in this world hungry for the very best fiction. It’s important to me to have a professional cover, professional editors combing the manuscripts, professional formatting and interior design—notice the word professional? Quality matters, and I only hire the best. I want each of my authors to succeed.

As an editor, I want each manuscript perfected, not a mistake in sight. That’s my goal every time I edit. I reference the CMOS, CWMS, Proofreading Secrets of Bestselling Authors by Kathy Ide, and Merriem-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary often to stay on top of industry standard. And I take editing courses at every opportunity. (The EFA rocks!) Whether an author is published through my company or not, I want to give them my best. They deserve it.

As an author, I write the stories I adore and want to read. I strive for quality, and, even though it’s extremely hard to have my own work edited, I love learning new things and refining my manuscripts. I also love to hear if I’ve made a mistake (weird, but true)—how else will I learn?

Thank you so much, Ralene and everyone, for letting me share a slice of my world with you today! I loved spending time with you more than I can say!

What about you? What is your favorite gift with which our Creator has crafted you?

Author Head Shot MicheleAuthor Bio:

Michele Israel Harper spends her days as a stay-at-home mom and her nights typing
away furiously on her laptop. Sleep? Sometimes… A member of the Heartland Christian Writers, American Christian Fiction Writers, as well as the treasurer for the Indiana chapter of ACFW, Michele has her bachelor’s degree in History and can most often be found with her nose in a book when not chasing her two rambunctious boys or cuddling her new baby daughter. Visit her website at to learn more about her.

Social Media Links:

Amazon Author:

Zombie Takeover_Kindle editionMichele has a new book coming out in a few weeks. You can find out a little more about the book at the below link. I’ll also be reading/reviewing the book in July!