Showing posts with label travel writing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label travel writing. Show all posts

Pen Names

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Recently I was doing an author interview and the question came up whether I'd ever considered using a pen name.  

It's a tricky topic.  I write in several genres, and I've heard other authors recommend that you use pseudonyms for the different types of work you do.  One reason is that you don't want to confuse your readers.  Let's say that you write sweet historical romance and then write a steamy paranormal romantic thriller.  If your original readers pick it up without realizing and then read it expecting what they're used to, they may be disappointed or even feel betrayed.  

In my case, I've decided that my travel writing and my fiction are so different that I don't think I'll confuse my readers if I use the same name. They won't likely pick up Cruising Alaska on a Budget and assume it's a YA fantasy like Far-Knowing.  

I've also published contemporary and sci fi short stories, all under my name.  I haven't quite decided if that's a good move or not.  On one hand, my work may seem a bit scattered--various target ages, various genres.  Some readers don't like reading outside of a certain type of fiction, so it may be harder to build a solid following.  On the other hand, I know authors who write in different genres or for different age levels and I seek out all their writing.  Plus, using the same name streamlines the marketing and allows all my work to build on itself.  

It would be interesting to hear more thoughts on the topic, so leave your comments and experiences below.  

Some of my different work, all under the same name:

Far-Knowing, a YA Fantasy
Leaving Home, a collection of flash fiction, short stories, and travel essays across various genres

Being an Arizona girl, Melinda Brasher loves glaciers, streams, whales, bald eagles, and real trees with green leaves.  That's why she's in love with Alaska.  If you want to see a bit of Alaska for yourself, check out her latest book, Cruising Alaska on a Budget; A Cruise and Port Guide.  Read it for free with Kindle Unlimited.

Travel for Writing Inspiration

Dívčí Kámen, Czech Republic
Great inspiration for my current historic novel
All photos by Melinda Brasher
Many people resolve every year to travel more.  It's not just fun, interesting, and mind-broadening.  It also provides grist for your writing mill.  Article writers, of course, already know this.  But you can also find a wealth of inspiration for your fiction.  Here are some tips to use travel to enrich your writing.

1)  Steal from History.  This isn't only for historical fiction or academic articles.  History--told well--is one long story.  Visit museums, read informational plaques, take walking tours.  You'll find fascinating details of history's crazy characters and its dark and bright moments.  Take elements from here and there and twist them into your own story.  When I was in Znojmo, Czech Republic, the history of the catacombs there fascinated me.  I later incorporated them--in my own style, with many details changed--into my novel, Far-Knowing.

Volunteering at a village school in Guatemala
Seeing different ways of life is good for my writing.
2)  Meet People.  Talk to locals in trains, shops, and restaurants.  Get their stories.  See things through their eyes.  Stay in hostels and meet international travellers with backgrounds and experiences enough to fill hundreds of novels.  If you have time, organize a volunteer vacation to really interact with people.  Of course, you don't want to violate anyone's privacy or steal entire life stories, but let people's tales serve as the seeds of your own work.  On a train to Budapest, I met two Brits who told me a story about having to get off a train once in the middle of nowhere and walk to the nearest station with all the other passengers.  And that's what happens in "On the Train to Warsaw," my first published short story.  All the details and the internal conflict are my own, but I still owe the external conflict to those friendly travellers.

Hah!  The perfect place to drop my poor miserable characters
3)  Explore Nature.  Get out there in the elements, especially in climates and landscapes you're not used to.  Pay attention to the plants, the smells, the feel of it all.  Then plunk your characters down in the harshness or beauty or crazy variety of nature you've discovered and see what they do.  One scene from the novel I'm working on now came from my own scary experience in a Slovakian forest.

4)  Visit Libraries.  Depending on where you travel, libraries may serve as cultural or historic centers.  If you speak the language, ask for their local section of books and see what you find.  In El Salvador once, tired of "sights," I spent the morning in the library, reading local folktales.  One inspired me to write "A Learned Man."

Znojmo, Czech Republic
Which served as inspiration for a setting
 in my novel, Far-Knowing
5)  Imagine your Characters at the Sights you See.  While you're strolling the grounds of a castle or taking in the hum of a modern metropolis, imagine characters there with you.  What kind of people are they?  What are they doing here? How do they react to what they see?  What do they want that they can't have?  What problems lurk for them around the corner?

Record it!
Whenever you travel, carry a little notebook with you to write down these ideas and story kernels.  Then, even if you don't use something right away, you can go back to this idea bank for later inspiration.  Good travels!

Melinda Brasher loves to travel and has filled numerous notebooks with the things she sees on her journeys.  She's also lived abroad in Spain, Poland, Mexico, and the Czech Republic.  To read some of the work inspired by her travels, click the links above or check out Leaving Home, a collection of travel narratives and short stories, many of which were written on buses up mountain roads, in foreign town squares, or sitting in castle windows.  Visit her online at

Use your Setting to Market your Novel

Leverage your Setting:

People have an insatiable lust for new experiences, as shown by the popularity of TV, movies, and novels.  This lust also propels another passion:  travel.  When your novel takes its readers to another place—a virtual vacation—you can easily marry the two passions.  In marketing your novel, take advantage of the huge travel industry. 

Travel websites are very popular, and can be a good way to connect meaningfully with readers who crave adventure.  If the settings of your novels are real, and especially if they're important to the flavor or plot, publishing related travel articles can hook readers who are interested in exploring more on the subject.

You may think you're not a travel writer, but you are a writer.  If you've done on-the-ground research by traveling to the places your book takes place, or if you set it in your home state or city, then you have enough expertise to write a travel article.

How to Begin:

1)  Think of the type of article that would complement your book.  You want to make magazine readers buy your novel in order to see more of the scene you've painted. 

For example, if your characters go rafting through the Grand Canyon, and you've done this yourself, you could write a meaty how-to article on planning such a trip.  If your novel is a coming of age story set in a small town in the Midwest, you could write a narrative about small-town life where you grew up, humorous or not, depending on the tone of your novel.  If your book is a wilderness survival story, you could write a philosophical reflection on the grandeur of the Alaskan Bush in comparison to our own smallness.  If your main character meets her love interest in a dance club in New York, you could write a roundup on the best dance clubs in the city, including addresses and costs and best times to go. 

2)  Research  possible e-zines to submit to.  See the lists below or Google travel magazines.  Read their guidelines carefully and pay attention to word count.  Many e-zines are looking for specific ranges, usually somewhere between 300-1500 words.  Online, shorter is often better, so the 500-800 range is quite popular.  Check out the type of stories each magazines publishes.  Make sure they include author bios, so fans can follow your work.

Start small.  Breaking into professional travel writing is difficult, and most likely isn't your goal.  However, many online travel magazines are very open to amateur freelancers, and still have good readership.  Most don't pay contributors.  The benefit lies in exposure and free marketing.  It's also something to add to your credentials in query letters and the like.  Some sites do pay small sums, usually between $10-50 per piece.

3)  Write your article.  Revise.  Polish.

4)  In your short bio, include a teaser about your novel, and how it relates to your article, so it doesn't feel like gratuitous advertising.  Be sure to include proper links so people can easily buy your work.

5)  Submit until you get published.

6)  Advertise its publication on your blog, website, social media, etc.

7)  Repeat.

Some travel magazines that currently pay contributors (a small sum) and are open to freelancers:

Literary Traveler (articles about journeys inspired by authors or literature)
2 Camels (all about festivals and events)

A few of the many travel magazines that don't pay but still give you exposure:

Real Family Travel Magazine (articles on vacations for families with kids)
US Passport Service (only international destinations)
Regional magazines and newspapers

Melinda Brasher is the author of Far-Knowing, a YA fantasy novel, and Leaving Home, a collection of short stories, travel essays, and flash fiction.  Her travel writing appears in The Expeditioner, Travel Belles, Go Nomad, International Living, and more.  Visit her blog for all the latest:

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