NEWS: I Have a New Site!

I have returned from my unintentional hiatus to bring some good news that partly explains my absence lately (actually, it was mostly laziness and NaNoWriMo, but I digress…): I now have a new website!

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I will no longer be blogging on Ode to Jo and Katniss, but I will have a blog present on my A.C. Shaw writer website. Previous blog posts have been transferred over and I am ready to get back to at least semi-regular blogging. The shift has definitely focused from a blog to a site that features a blog, but I am hoping this will result in better content from me. So please unfollow/unsubscribe from Ode to Jo and Katniss and follow/subscribe to the blog at acshawya.com. I hope you guys will come join me, and I really hope you like it! My first exclusive-to-the-new-site blog post will be up tomorrow, so be sure to check it out!

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Reset

I don’t know if I can really explain all the thoughts swirling through my mind, so I apologize in advance if this just sounds like a mess.

As you may have seen, I turned 30 recently. This birthday called for some self-reflection, but even before the new decade I was starting to notice differences in myself. Some of which scare me a little and I am not entirely sure how to process.

First off, I have spent the past few years working on a novel that I want to be the novel I start my young adult writing career with. I recently queried four agents and one editor for said novel, and after two quick no’s (one which gave detailed feedback) and receiving feedback from the most recent SCBWI Midsouth conference, I realized it wasn’t quite as ready as I thought it was. Still. After so much time. I went back to the drawing board.

Yet life has interrupted a lot. I mean, yes, there are definitely times I could have sat down and edited and I didn’t. I won’t promise I have used all of my time efficiently, but I also can’t deny that I have legitimately been a lot more busy lately with responsibilities that currently take precedence over writing.

My reading time has suffered too. I’ve read hardly any outside my lunch hour at work, and even that reading has been truncated with errands or going out to eat or catching up with work. Oh, and then let’s not talk about the fact that I’m suddenly feeling kind of worn out on YA, which feels kind of problematic when that’s when I want to write. I’m not sure what has caused this exactly, but sometimes I wonder if it’s that number 30. I have always firmly believed that you can read YA until you’re 100 if you want to, so why these sudden feelings?

But maybe it is just burn-out. Because then today I went to Barnes and Noble to explore not my typical YA section, but the children’s section. I browsed all the picture books to find the perfect ones to get for my friends’ daughter’s upcoming birthday and it was just wonderful. I knew it wasn’t literature geared for me, but seeing just the delightful concepts and the art and the creativity was a breath of fresh air.

And really my whole day was like that, doing things outside my routine. Going out for breakfast. Going to a local coffee shop. Things like that. All in a cooler temp we haven’t gotten much of lately. It’s been a refreshing day overall. (Except when I came home and opened boxes I’ve neglected for months and remembered how much crap I have that I need to get rid of. HA.)

Back to my novel though, I’ve been worried lately that I’m not going to make it work. But I don’t want to give up before querying more because I have only queried 5 freaking people and I haven’t even heard back from 3 of them (though with the amount of time that has passed that’s not promising). There is still a chance. But I’ve already been hit with self-doubt. They aren’t kidding when they talk about perseverance being the key to getting published. If I lose hope that quickly it’s not going to happen. I do have to keep going.

But I think it’s OK to step back sometimes and do things outside the norm. Maybe I should spend a little time on a new story, read something other than YA, and just do different life things in general. Earthbound will still be there when I’m ready for it. It really is OK if I don’t get an agent this year or next year, and I have to remember that. It’s even OK if I change my mind (if I do it FOR REAL and not because I’m scared… but after changing all my social media names to have YA in them I would kind of like to stick to that, ha ha). Sometimes priorities change and that’s OK so long as you’re not neglecting the most important things, like family.

So no, I don’t know where I’m going exactly. But I know that the not-knowing is not something to be scared about. It’s important to hustle, but it’s also extremely important to rest. So for now, I just may need to reset.

30.

Numbers aren’t scary by nature. But sometimes, in a certain context, they can be. Today, the number 30 scares me just a little. Because today, that’s how many years I’ve been on Earth.

I mean, I suppose in a way it’s kind of thrilling. 30! Three decades of learning and growing and living. It’s easy to focus on what I haven’t done in 30 years, or just how old I will be in 30 more years, instead of focusing on what I have done in 30 years.

Graduated college.

Married my best friend.

Found a writing community.

Started the process of querying in hopes of becoming a published author (a long-time dream).

Bought houses and cars. Went on vacations. Other “grown-uppy” things that I couldn’t really do 10 years ago.

I may not be exactly where I had hoped to be in all aspects of my life, but it’s not a failure to not be on a certain timeline. The important thing is I am moving forward.

And as I move forward, I have two goals for myself that I feel encompass the things I have been learning lately about what kind of person I want to be.

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I believe I have been improving in these areas over the past year or two, and I want to continue to do so. When I start to think of myself first, I want to stop and consider others. And when I consider not pursuing something I want simply because of fear, I want to move forward anyway.

I don’t want to think of life going downhill from here. I want to think of life as getting better, richer, fuller, and more meaningful. I want to continue to grow and learn and try.

So here’s to 30.

Rick Yancey Signing and a Few Thoughts on The Last Star

So I’ve been meaning to write this post for two months now… oops… But better late than never, right?

When I heard Rick Yancey was coming to Parnassus Books in Nashville on a SATURDAY (I hate when authors come on weeknights… so not convenient…), I decided I definitely needed to consider an outing to see him. I really enjoyed the psychological nature of The 5th Wave, and Rick continued to mess with my mind in The Infinite Sea, so I was looking forward to seeing how it would all conclude in The Last Star.

So I made the trip, and thankfully had a friend, who also happens to be one of my writing critique partners, to sit and chat with as we waited.

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At this point, it’s hard to remember too many details of what Rick said, but like pretty much every YA author I’ve ever seen speak he was so funny. (I really hope one day someone will say the same about me!) Someone asked him if he was a plotter or pantser, and he was like, “What’s a pantser? Like fly by the seat of my pants? Is that an actual term?!” And when we confirmed yes, that’s what a pantser is and yes, that’s a real term, he said, “Oh, I’m totally a pantser!” This surprised me because his plotting seems so intricate, but of course, that sort of thing can be helped through multiple drafts. He explained how the idea for The 5th Wave was really born out of an image he had of a young girl running from something, frightened.

Also, plotting or no, Rick Yancey had his plans disrupted when his editor read The 5th Wave for the first time and asked, “What happened to Ben Parrish?” In this version of the story, he is just mentioned in passing by Cassie. So Rick was like, “I don’t know, I guess he dies just like everyone else Cassie knows.” And then the editor went on to say, “Oh no, Ben Parrish does not die.” And thus, a whole new narrative ended up being weaved into the story. And then when Rick Yancey tried killing Ben again in the second book, his editor again insisted, “Ben Parrish does not die.” To which Rick exclaimed, “Seriously?! The guy’s a cockroach!” The trip to the signing was worth it alone to get in on this “inside joke” that is definitely referenced in The Last Star.

He talked very briefly about the movie, which I had just seen the week before and liked well enough, even if it didn’t encapsulate all the intricacies of the book, but it was clear that it wasn’t all Rick hoped it would be. However, I could also tell he was grateful for the opportunity.

IMG_1900I never know what to say at these signings, but I asked Rick if he was allowed to talk about his next project, to which he resolutely said, “Nope.” Oh well, had to ask.

IMG_1923 I read The Last Star not too long after the signing, and sadly, I ended up being a little underwhelmed. Rick warned us that he pulled no punches, which is true. The stakes are high. But I found myself not caring too much about the characters, sadly. Here are the thoughts I shared on Goodreads after finishing the book and trying to decide between 3 or 3.5 stars (no spoilers):

This rating is definitely a reflection of my thoughts on the book as a whole. The ending will no doubt be controversial among fans but I didn’t have an issue with it. I just feel the book could have been half the length and gotten the same point across, though thankfully the pacing wasn’t too bad; it’s just so little happens in these four days even though so much is at stake. I never felt the danger and I realized that I cared less about the characters in this book than I had the previous two. But maybe that’s part of the point, as humanity is slipping away? Still though, the stakes couldn’t be any higher and I was pretty chill through most of my reading. I expected a doomed ending, so maybe I just didn’t stress over it.

The trilogy as a whole though is still a very interesting take on the alien invasion story line, as well as an exploration of humanity and psychology, things which I appreciated most about the books. I feel the ending is pretty satisfactory, and it’s a surprising who the character with the most growth and resolution ends up being!

Have you read The 5th Wave trilogy? If so, what are your thoughts on it?

Greetings From The Other Side! And The Things I’ve Read…

Hello everyone! Yes, I am still alive, and now I have wi-fi again after moving into my new home and not having it for a while. Sorry I have been unable to comment on everyone else’s blogs lately; I hope I get to remedy that soon. I just wanted to do a brief post where I share a few things I’ve read lately and some quick thoughts on them.

Books I read in April and May any my brief thoughts on each:

  • Truthwitch by Susan Dennard: Interesting fantasy with complex characters and relationships. Wish there had been a glossary, though I think I mostly kept up with/figured out the terms.
  • When We Collided by Emery Lord: An incredibly hard read in terms of content. NOT a love story like I was expecting, not really. But it is well-written.
  • On The Loose by Jenny B. Jones: A cute follow-up to In-Between, though the romance was a little weak considering the guy she ends up with in the end spends most of the book dating someone else but obviously somewhat interested in her. Also, the next books in the series don’t seem to go in the direction I want the story to go so I’m afraid I’m stopping here.
  • Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy by Ally Carter: Cute and fun, and a little stronger than the first Gallagher Girl book, I felt. I’m looking forward to reading book three.
  • The Unbound by Victoria Schwab: This was a solid follow-up to The Archived, with enough closure for satisfaction, but a definite possibility for more. I appreciated Wesley more in this book, though I also really liked Cash.
  • The Rose and the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh: A pretty good conclusion to the duology. What happened at the end really surprised me, and it resolved in a clever way. However, for some reason the epilogue made the ending a little weaker for me. It would have been fine without.
  • Looking for Lovely by Annie F. Downs: This one didn’t capture my heart quite as much as her book Let’s All Be Brave that I read last year, but still a great and very worthwhile read. I’m very glad I got to devour this one while on vacation.
  • Love, Lies and Spies by Cindy Anstey: This one was cute and fun, but the writing could have been a little stronger. Another round of revisions or two could have made this one really great, because I loved the potential of a Jane Austen-esque story with spies. Spencer was fabulous.
  • The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord: This was a reread of one of my favorite books last year, and seriously, nothing has lived up to it yet this year. I just adore it from beginning to end. Such a me book.

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What have you been reading lately?

 

May Hiatus

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I know I’m already down to posting about once a week these days, but this month is shaping up to be a crazy busy one, so I don’t even want to feel like I need to attempt any posts (save for this one, obviously). I’m moving from one house to another and going on vacation, so things are going well, but again, just crazy busy! Packing is truly the pits. Thanks for hanging in there with me, friends. I look forward to talking books again in June!

SE YA Fest 2016 Recap

We have a few authors who live in Nashville and we have a few come for signings. Since I don’t live in Nashville proper though, getting to these events on weeknights just doesn’t happen (at least, not for any of the authors who have come so far. I would make an exception for Marissa Meyer FOR SURE and probably for Brandon Sanderson as well). But to have a huge event with so many authors so much closer to home in SE YA Fest was just a thrill! It was a non-stop day of panels and signings (not to mention I still had a lot going on after it was all over)! It was the first time we had this event here, and it seemed to be a hit, so I hope it’s not the last!

First I’ll recap my experience, and then I’ll share some things you should know before going to a book festival like SE-YA Fest!

The way this worked was that there were multiples panels happening starting from 9 going into the afternoon, with signings happening at the same time and in between. There were three different panels at 9, and I actually didn’t have a super strong interest in any of them so I initially thought I might not try too hard to make it to one of them, but something came up and I wanted to leave the event a little earlier than I originally planned, so I decided to make the most of my day and go first thing. So the first panel I decided to go to was with Helene Dunbar, Bethany Griffin, Katie McGarry, and CJ Redwine. I haven’t read any of their books but some of them sound interesting to me, and I thought it was about time I see CJ Redwine since she lives in Nashville. I had also actually seen Bethany Griffin and Katie McGarry on a panel before at the SCBWI Midsouth conference.

IMG_1168Highlights of this panel:

  • When asked to describe their books in one word, Helene Dunbar chose intense, Bethany Griffin chose dark, Katie McGarry chose raw, and CJ Redwine had no idea, but someone suggested real and she seemed satisfied with that.
  • CJ mentioned that she actually got her agent with an adult manuscript and they tried for two years to sell to that market. When that wasn’t working, she thought of how much she loved YA and wrote for it instead.
  • Katie lives out her research. She has done mixed martial arts and hung out with motorcycle clubs just to get a feel of the culture in her books.
  • Katie also said she is quite the planner and will have her entire book mapped out, but her characters always kidnap her and do their own thing with the story.
  • Each shared stories about the author experiences that meant the most to them, and they all were along the lines of someone being touched by their story or someone getting into reading because of them.

After that panel I got my book signed by Sharon Cameron, and wandered around a little bit.

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The next panel I went to was Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton, and Brenna Yovanoff. All three of these ladies were funny, but Maggie truly had us all laughing, plus she’s fascinating!

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Highlights of this panel:

  • We learned a lot about Maggie: She loves really fast cars, she played bagpipes in college, and she has a lot of goats and other animals on her land in Virginia.
  • All of Tessa’s writing is born out of her anger.
  • Brenna loves pink, but also monsters.
  • The three of them are critique partners and have two books with a novella from each of them with commentary about the writing called The Curiosities.
  • Stiefvater is Maggie’s husband’s last name that she took.
  • Maggie said it’s hard for her to say for sure which her favorite of her books is because she loves everything about The Dream Thieves, but it doesn’t stand alone, and she also absolutely loves The Scorpio Races.
  • While Maggie does not usually cry over books and movies, reading The Time Traveler’s Wife for the second time made her ugly-snot-cry, and from that she decided her goal in life was to write a book that made other people ugly-snot-cry.

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I went back to the signing lines and then I hit up a panel with Sharon Cameron, Linda Sue Park, and Tracy Barrett.

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All three have written some variation of historical fiction, so much of the panel focused on that.

Highlights:

  • Linda Sue insisted that if you find the right historical fiction, anyone can come to love the genre.
  • All three, but especially Linda Sue, insisted the importance of writing what you loved and are passionate about. Tracy and Linda Sue have written about periods in history that aren’t very popular or well-known, but their stories have sold and resonated with readers.
  • Sharon talked about the writing process that has worked for her when she doesn’t always have a set, consistent schedule to devote to writing is to steal every moment available for writing.
  • All three ladies said that historical fiction is important because history repeats itself, and we should be aware to try to not make all the same mistakes again. Plus, people hundreds of years ago lived similarly to how we do now in terms of desires and such.

Then I had a quick lunch before I headed out to my last panel for the day, which I had to leave a little early, but I still got some good info from, with Victoria Schwab, Gwenda Bond, Beth Revis, and Kristin O’Donnell Tubb.

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They went through a lightning round of silly questions before they got to audience questions. From these we learned…

  • If they had to choose between still having cheese as an option for the rest of their lives but not chocolate, choosing chocolate over cheese, or allowing someone to die, Victoria and Beth would let someone die. Gwenda said cheese and Kristin said chocolate.
  • Victoria just got a Master’s degree in Edinburgh that is basically in Monsters (she explained what it actually was but I don’t remember the exacts).
  • When asked about the one super power they would like to have… Victoria said time, but she has no desire to meddle with the past, she just wishes she could control the timing of the future. Gwenda wanted teleportation. Beth wants to be a Time Lord so she can time travel and have teleportation. Kristin wanted invisibility, and Gwenda said only sneaks want that.
  • Gwenda has a fasicnation with the circus, which is why she wrote Girl on a Wire.
  • When asked about their self-care routines, they all laughed and Victoria actually face-planted onto the table.

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Now, things you should know before you go to a book festival like this one:

  • Bring lots of water! I was smart enough to bring one bottle of water, but I really should have brought two, or tried to find a water fountain instead of buying another overpriced bottle. As long as you can figure out how to keep it with you without it being a burden, something like a Nalgene would also be great.
  • Bring snacks! This is one I didn’t do and wish I had! I ended up buying a snack at the bookstore to help carry me over when I ended up with a late lunch. Which brings me to…
  • EAT SOMETHING. Due to the craziness of me trying to leave a little early, I pushed back my lunch until about 1:30 and that was tough. The snack I bought helped but I would definitely recommend eating closer to your normal time if you can (which for me would have been noon). This is really a good rule for life in general, but when you’re doing something like this you don’t want a screwy blood-sugar level.
  • Have a plan but be flexible. I had a game plan of what I wanted to do which kept me on task, but things didn’t always move as quickly as I anticipated (some of those signing lines are long!), and had I been more flexible by keeping the afternoon open, I could have probably enjoyed myself a little more by spacing out my signings and eating earlier (though don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy myself!).
  • Dress for comfort, not style. I wore tennis shoes, jeans, and a casual shirt and I’m so glad I did. It was a pain to haul around the rain jacket I ended up not needing, but with a 50% chance of rain I felt I couldn’t be too careful (side note: it was nearly perfect during the event, but later in the day it was pouring, so we were fortunate!). Also, Victoria Schwab actually commented that she liked my shirt, a totally unexpected compliment that made me happy!
  • Have something to say to the authors. I’m completely the worst at this, and thankfully they were pretty good at keep the conversation flowing themselves since do this on the regular. But the best conversation I ended up having with an author during the day was with with Sharon Cameron, because when I told her I had seen her at SCBWI conferences, we immediately had something in common to talk about outside of the normal “I like your books.”
  • Get to know the area if possible. This wasn’t something I didn’t even have to think of because the venue was at my Alma Mater so I was very familiar with it, but after having to help out someone from out of state, I understood why it might be best to try your best to familiarize yourself with the venue beforehand. It would have been difficult to do at this festival, apart from the map and maybe scoping out the buildings before everything began.
  • Have fun! That’s the whole point of the event, of course!

The books I got signed!:

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Have you been to an event like this one? What did you learn from it? Which fact about these authors that I shared surprised you most?

3 Years of Blogging!

Holy cow, where has the time gone?! I’m writing this post the day of instead of earlier and scheduling it so it clearly sneaked up on me! Since I’m doing this last minute I don’t have anything elaborate planned, I just wanted to say THANK YOU to everyone who has stuck with me… through my hiatus, my sporadic posts since then… the support of my readers is truly what keeps me chugging along. I thought I would highlight a few of my favorite posts from the past year by month, as I have done for my two previous blogversaries…

February 2015: The Confirmation I Needed: TN Writer’s Workshop and Live Long and Prosper: An Ode to Leonard Nimoy & Spock

March 2015: Bookish Wedding Inspiration: Magnolia

April 2015: My Top Ten Inspiring Quotes from Books

May 2015: Thoughts of The Deathly Hallows and the Harry Potter Series Overall

June 2015: The Top 10 Books I’d Love to See as Movies/TV Shows

July 2015: On hiatus

August 2015: Why You Should Watch Deep Space Nine if You Love Mistborn, And Vice Versa

September 2015: Bookish Wedding Inspiration: The Start of Me and You (Emery Lord and her agent both saw this post and loved it!!!) and It Will Happen When It’s Supposed To

October 2015: Bookstore Tourist: Starline Books in Chattanooga, TN

November 2015: The Top 15 Quotes from Books I Read in 2015

December 2015: Character Study: Kaz from Six of Crows

January 2016: Am I Not Merciful? (Illuminae Review)

Once again, to all my loyal readers…

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A Quiet Beginning to a New Year

I haven’t been very inspired to post lately, and I thought I might make myself write some reviews. But then I thought, why don’t I just share what’s on my mind? Isn’t that why I created this blog in the first place?

I like the idea of resolutions, goals, and new beginnings like most other people, but I don’t like the hype of New Year’s and I don’t like making promises I won’t keep. So this year, I kind of just decided to not really make any real resolutions. I thought this was a good idea, and then I read somewhere that not making resolutions or goals because you’re afraid of failing is not a good reason to not make them, and I thought, ouch, OK. But then I still didn’t made any.

I don’t want to make resolutions just for the sake of making them either though. I like having direction but right now the only direction I feel really compelled to go in is to keep doing what I’ve been doing. So last year I hoped would be the year I would start querying agents, and it wasn’t, so now I really hope it’s this year and will continue to work towards that. I don’t have any big goals otherwise. I do anticipate things will change in my life, for example, I know my husband and I will be moving into a new house this year, but it’s not like anything I am resolving to do majorly different. Basically, I am just going to keep going forward until I feel it’s time to make changes. I feel like I am usually aware of what  needs improvement in my life and can usually devote myself to at least taking small steps in the right direction.

I asked for this big calendar for Christmas that is all the months together, so you see the year at a glance and you see it more so by weeks than months. It’s a neat idea and I wanted to write all kinds of things on there, but right now it’s just blank. Part of me is upset by this, but then I realize I don’t want to write things on there just to fill up blank spaces. When I get ready to send my story to beta readers, I will write the day I’ll send, along with a targeted deadline for my next step. I’ll fill it out as I go, taking one goal at a time. I don’t want to say today I will query by May and then life happens and it’s too early or I get some crazy creative mojo and it’s late.

So there has been no pomp and circumstance for me in 2016, but I aspire to be do my best everyday. To each day be realistic with what I need to get done and find out how I can do it. And if I mess up that day, I don’t want to beat myself up; I’ll start fresh again the next day.

One thing I am working on pretty faithfully these days, since it’s clearly not this blog, is my new bookstagram Instagram account. Please check it out and follow me if you haven’t already! I’ve gotten a decent number of likes and comments and such, and try to do the same for other accounts, but I don’t have very many followers.

How’s this new year looking for you? Do you have a lot of big resolutions, or has it been a more quiet beginning? 

Branding

Once upon a time I decided to start several social media accounts, and I was semi-smart enough to use a consistent username, though it did not match up with my blog name. Though that was OK, I thought, because I wasn’t really trying to brand my blog. But rather myself.

But why I thought my initials and birthday would mean anything to anyone or stick in anyone’s mind other than mine I have no idea.

So now I am facing a dilemma. I want to rebrand everything with my actual full name so I can get better name recognition so that when I hopefully query in hopefully 2016 (I have been saying I want to query for the last two years but one day this will actually be true) I will have a pretty decent platform.

But here are the problems:

  1. Every reasonable variation of my name that I can think of has been taken on all the social media sites I use.
  2. It could actually be confusing for the people who do know me if I switch now.
  3. It might mess up links and such.

When I looked through the authors I follow on Twitter, the vast VAST majority of them have Twitter handles that are very much their name. So basically I feel like I failed for not jumping on this train long ago. I should have planned this better. I shouldn’t have been so paranoid about putting my full name out there because apparently it’s more common than I thought and someone probably wasn’t going to track me down based on it. But who knows, maybe I would have run across this problem back then too. I don’t know how long these names have been taken.

And then there’s the issue of having a private Instagram account for people I know offline, but wanting to have a public one as well that I can use for bookstagram and similar things, and trying to juggle all that

It seems my only options (at least on Twitter, and I haven’t checked to see if anything matches up across the board) involve adding writer or writes or an underscore or numbers, and I don’t want to do that (even though my current  one has numbers, again, I am trying to simplify to my actual name). So what do I do? Stick with what I have? Choose a username close to my actual name but will still have something added?

And as more people grow up and sign up for social media accounts, what options will they have if they want to use their actual name?

Oh, and let’s not forget I haven’t even looked into domain names yet, which will be my last step in branding myself before querying and I have NO idea what my options are for that are…

Any thoughts on my branding woes?

*EDIT* Thanks to Jackie Lea Sommers and her comment, I was able to find something that was available without numbers or underscores and didn’t feel too long, yay! A million thanks! Of course, if you still have any thoughts on the discussion in general feel free to chime in! But now you can find me on the web as acshawYA. 🙂