Archive for March, 2018

Pondering Pen Names

Ah, the pseudonym. Something to hide behind, for whatever reason. Authors as varying as Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, and C.S. Lewis have used them over the years.

As I ponder trying out new genres, I find myself returning to this topic. (Of course, depending on the quality of the finished product of said new genres, it may all be a moot point.) And also on how different a genre has to be from your original genre to warrant a pen name.

(For example, I’m plotting out a cozy mystery series with paranormal elements. Do the paranormal elements link it close enough to my normal fantasy/scifi/horror to keep using my same name? Or does the mystery structure move it far enough away to consider using a different one?)

There are various arguments for or against pen names. The reasons people typically use them include:

  • To protect one’s identity (especially if one is writing erotica or something controversial)
  • To confuse/hide gender (female authors might take on a male or gender-neutral pen name, such as using initials instead of a first name, or a male author might take a female or neutral pen name if writing in a women-centric genre)
  • To make things less complicated (if a real name is hard to spell or pronounce, or if a real name is identical or similar to a famous author’s)
  • For co-writing (two people writing under one name, ala Magnus Flyte (my favorite example))
  • To separate themselves from previous work (if they want to try something new or experimental, or just something different)
  • To separate different genres (such as scifi and romance, mystery and children’s, etc.)
  • To hide from past failure (if books sold under one name haven’t done well, an author can re-invent themselves under another and hopefully do better)

If any of the above are an issue, then it can be beneficial to have a pen name. But there’s also arguments against using a pen name, such as the fact that any audience you may have built up won’t follow you to the new pen name so you’ll have to start over audience building from scratch, processing royalties and other payments becomes more difficult, there becomes complications with copyright and rights sales, and things along those lines. There is also an argument that openness is highly valued these days, so using a pen name can seem dishonest to some people.

There are also bad reasons to use a pen name, such as believing that not writing under your own name will allow you to commit libel, or thinking that money earned under a pen name doesn’t have to go on your taxes, etc.

(As a side note, I have learned that some “authors” are really company-owned pseudonyms, meaning any number of people could have written under them. These include V.C. Andrews, Carolyn Keene, and Franklin W. Dixon. Wild. Also, now I know I could potentially write a Nancy Drew novel, which is somewhat exciting.)

I go back and forth on them myself. I’ve looked into people who have successfully published in more than one genre under their own names, and most are big name authors that could probably write down their shopping list and have them published (Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, etc.) or are authors that mostly write/wrote a single genre and then had one or a few random things. (Did you know Ian Fleming wrote Chitty Chitty Bang Bang?) But there are some–Lisa See is best known for her historical fiction, but also has a mystery series, and Emma Donahue is all over the place (though hers are all standalones, best as I can tell).

There is also the counterargument that you don’t need a pen name for different genres, especially if they are wildly different, because it will be obvious. If you write both scifi and romance, for example, one of your romance readers can probably look at your spaceship and alien-infested cover and figure out that it’s not a romance title. (Which goes into the importance of title/cover matching genre expectations, I suppose, but we’re not going to talk about that right now.)

What do you think, Squiders? Pen names or no? Under what circumstances would you (if an author) use one, or would you (as a reader) want an author to use one? Examples of people who have or have not used them to successful or disastrous consequence?

And don’t forget to vote in Tuesday’s poll!

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All and Sundry (and Your Favorite Poll)

Hi Squiders! We’ve almost run out of March already. How does that always seem to happen?

(We got a ton of snow yesterday, and our power’s been flickering on and off all day, which is very annoying, especially when one is trying to write a blog post.)

I finished the short story collection I’ve had since forever from the library last night, so now I’m down to three books! \o/ But I’m going to start another one later today. Whoops. I must stop checking things out from the library. Except we all know I won’t.

The collection is First-Person Singularities by Robert Silverberg, which is a collection of science fiction short stories told in first person from the last fifty years of his career. Never read anything by him otherwise (my husband picked up the book because he thought I’d like it) but it was pretty good. Some of the stories I thought were quite excellent, such as “Now Plus N, Now Minus N” and “The Secret Sharer.” So if that sounds like your sort of thing I’d recommend it. It came out in October of last year, so it’s only a few months old.

Writing-wise, I’ve hit the spot near the end of a book where I’m so close I can’t seem to properly focus and get the dang thing done on the Book One rewrite. I mean, I am writing, but it feels like I’m getting nowhere. I need to figure out a way to get through this part of the process in a way that is less taxing to my psyche, because it happens every book and drives me mad each time.

On that note, it’s hard to focus on the CoHaR sequel because I’m so close on Book One. Yet Siri’s waiting on me to finish my part, so…

And, probably thanks to First-Person Singularities, I’ve got a short story itch. I haven’t written one since the end of October and there’s one I’ve been wanting to write for probably five years, and maybe I should just sit down and do it…? I’ve got two coming out in various publications in April and I don’t really need any more to stick into my portfolio, but there’s something very satisfying about getting a story done in 2 or 3000 words, especially when your main project is up to 110K and probably has at least another 5K to go.

And it’s been a bit since our last nonfiction series here on the blog, so let’s get one going. We’re down to our last few topics.

Re-Learning How to Co-Write

Siri and I have officially broken ground on the sequel for City of Hope and Ruin! It’s just a couple thousand words, but we’re going, and so far it feels good.

It’s already interesting from a process standpoint, however. For City of Hope and Ruin, we each essentially had our own worlds, with our own characters and our own plots, that occasionally overlapped (or a lot overlapped, at the end). But for all intents and purposes, we could go and work on our own parts for a week or a month, then meet up and check in and go over each other’s parts, and then go back to our own stuff.

It worked pretty well. But it won’t work for this book.

Our characters are in the same place, now wrapped up in the same part of the plot. At least for now, there will be a lot more overlap between what the characters are doing (they very well might split up for a while later, but they’ll probably still be working on the same plotline). So we can’t go off and write independently. Each new section will need to be discussed beforehand and looked at after the fact.

So that will be new. It will be interesting to see how it goes.

Does anyone have examples of novels (preferably fantasy or scifi) where two authors wrote different characters interacting in the same place? Most of the dual author books I can think of either do what we did with CoHaR and separate the characters so they don’t overlap much, or both authors work on the whole book (which I don’t honestly understand how that works, unless people are doing different parts of the process).

Anyway, long story short, we’re here, we’re moving, so far so good, and we’ll see how it goes. Every book is different and has its own challenges, whether it’s your first or your fiftieth, so I guess we shall see what problems pop up on the way. At least we have more time for this book before it’s due, and the world/characters are already established.

How’s your Tuesday going, Squiders? Anything new and interesting?

(I’m down to four books, by the way.)

Day Job?

So, in theory, I’m living the author’s dream. I’m mostly a stay-at-home mom (though I do freelance and contract editing and writing part-time), so I should have plenty of writing time. Right? Isn’t that what we all want, to be able to stay home and write? To ditch the day job?

I mean, there are the mobile ones, who are a distraction and also very demanding. And there are chores (like the never-ending dishes, argh).

Still, plenty of stay-at-home parents find time for their writing. And, I mean, it’s not like I don’t get anything done.

But I recently came to the realization that this situation isn’t ideal, at least not for me. I was so much more productive when I was working full-time. I even managed 50K a month while working full-time AND doing graduate-level engineering courses. I’ve always chalked up the decrease in productivity to having kids, but now I’m wondering…

And I’m wondering if the editing/writing as a job isn’t hurting my productivity with my fiction. If I’ve spent three hours doing a content edit for a client, it can be hard to turn around and spend another two hours on my own work. If I’ve spent an hour and a half fighting with someone’s grammar, my brain can feel fried.

And maybe getting out of the house and doing something non-writing related would actually be beneficial. Maybe if I got a job doing something else, writing would be more of a reward again. I mean, I still love writing, I enjoy doing it, but sometimes the motivation just isn’t there.

There’s options here. I could:

a) Pick a different job to do on a freelance contract basis. I made a list. Some are things I already do that I’d love to do more of, if I could pick up more clients, such as book layout. I love formatting a book for print. ebook layouts are a little less fun but still enjoyable. And book layout keeps me with the books I love without eating my writing/editing brain. Others are new. Like being an audiobook narrator. I’ve got vocal training through singing and theater, so that could be really fun, and it keeps me with books. I’d also love to draw on a freelance basis, but am more lacking in skills/experience in that area.

b) Pick up a part-time job doing whatever outside of the house. Mostly I’ve been eyeing libraries and book stores. I have experience doing that (I was a library page for three years back in high school), and, same as above, keeps me near books. And gets me out of the house, which is probably a good thing.

c) Go back into the full-time work world. My college degree(s) are in aerospace engineering and mechanical engineering, and my preferred part of the production life cycle is testing, which is apparently rare, so I’d probably be able to pick up a job pretty easy, even though I’ve been out of the industry for almost seven years.

d) Go back to school for another degree. To be honest, I didn’t really like my last “real” job–the company was a bad fit for me in practically every way, and is a major reason why I went freelance instead of trying for another engineering job at the time. So I might be happier in another field (or it might have been the company). I’d like to write stories for video games, but would probably need to get a degree in video game design. Graphic design could also be fun, though, as above, I am probably lacking in skills/experience. Of course, college + mobile ones probably equals less writing time, but maybe not!

Any insight, squiders? Has anyone had success with career crises?

Bogged Down in Books

I worked the Scholastic Book Fair at my older mobile one’s school this morning, which was actually really fun! And I only walked out with one book and it wasn’t even one for me, which is kind of a victory. (I bought my smaller mobile one Kate Beaton’s The Princess and the Pony. I have both of her Hark! A Vagrant collections and the mobile ones really enjoyed King Baby, so I figure it’s a good bet.)

Also! I discovered Mary Downing Hahn is still publishing! She was one of my favorites when I was a kid. I re-read Wait till Helen Comes fairly recently and it held up pretty well even as an adult.

I seriously considered picking up one of her books (for me, my mobile ones aren’t old enough, and the older one is a bit sensitive about scary things anyway), but I didn’t because I’ve reached that state where I’m in the middle of too many books and hence am making no progress on any of them.

I’m in the middle of…six books right now. They are:

  • A Dweller on Two Planets, Frederick S. Oliver (1905) — this is a book the author claimed was written through him, and deals with Atlantis and re-incarnation and whatnot. I’m about halfway done, and it is pretty impressive work for a late nineteenth century homesteader.
  • The Well at the World’s End, William Morris (1896) — early fantasy, a lot of emphasis on chivalry and knighthood and all that jazz. Still working through all the public domain books I downloaded years ago when I first got my Kindle and Amazon was giving them away from free. This book must be really long because I spend half an hour reading it while reading the exercise bike and only move 2% at a time.
  • Thrice Upon a Time, James P. Hogan (1980) — At MileHiCon, there was a man selling old scifi and fantasy paperbacks for $2 each, and I bought four. This is one of them. I bought it because I thought Hogan’s Inherit the Stars was excellent science fiction. This is also scifi and the story takes place now-ish, and is a fairly common mix of overshooting on technological achievements and somehow missing all the societal changes that have happened.
  • Heirs of Power, Kate MacLeod (2017) — Reading this for a review group on Goodreads. Fantasy. So far so good!
  • One Man’s Wilderness, Richard Proenneke (1999) — nonfiction about a man who built a cabin by himself in the wilds of Alaska and lived there for 30 years.
  • First-person Singularities, Robert Silverberg (2017) — I’ve probably had this book since it came out. Whoops. But in my defense, nobody else is requesting it from the library. Science fiction short story collection, all told in first person. I always find short story collections a slow wade, because I like to digest a story before I move on to the next one.

One Man’s Wilderness and Heirs of Power should probably be my top priorities–the first is due back to the library in a few days (and there’s a hold request on it) and my review for the second is due Saturday–but when you’ve bogged yourself down, don’t you find it hard to read at all? Too many stories vying for attention.

And it doesn’t help that I re-read the second half of City of Hope and Ruin yesterday to remind myself of the ending/characterization so I can start working on the sequel.

But yes. Too many books. Must stop picking up more. The first two are slow going and I don’t read them very often, but I should probably just power through them and get them out of the queue. And also read more recent books. But I hate looking at those unread books on my Kindle library…

How many books are you reading right now, Squiders? Any recs (not that I need them)?

10 Writing Prompts to Get Your Day Going

If you troll about the Internet, you’ll see that a lot of writing advice out there, if you want to make a career out of writing, says to be as productive as possible. More stuff written = more practice and hopefully better stories = more material to send out to readers = loyal fans = success, or something along those general lines.

Since I have small mobile ones, I’m not terribly productive, so I can’t speak to the truth of this sentiment, but I do spend a lot of time gathering writing prompts for more stories than I’ll ever be able to write, so I thought I’d share them with you.

Also, you might look into some short story challenges if you’re interested in getting some practice in. The 12 short story writing challenge has a goal of writing one short story every month for a year. That’s doable even for someone like me. If you have more time or inclination, you might try the Ray Bradbury challenge, where you try to write one short story a week (and also do lots of reading).

Anyway, on to the prompts!

Sweet Home Chicago by TheEnderling

Nokken by Kim Myatt

Creepy gif from Pinterest

Fantasy Bg 77 by Moonglowlilly

Tumblr post by mspaintadverturing

Ball Thingy by Charly Chive

Man, it is surprisingly hard to find the original artists for Pinterest pins. Just a reminder to always credit the artist!

Happy writing, squiders!

A Surplus of Lesbians

Not that there’s anything wrong with lesbians.

As you guys know, Siri and I have begun work on the sequel to City of Hope and Ruin. If you’re familiar with CoHaR, you know that we have two viewpoint characters, Theo and Bree.

If you’re not familiar with CoHaR, we have two viewpoint characters, Theo and Bree.

Because we were writing CoHaR for Turtleduck Press, which requires romance be a part of its scifi/fantasy, we knew that we’d need said viewpoint characters to be romantically involved to some extent. And since we both wanted to write women, well, we ended up a lesbian couple.

(Though, to be fair, both Theo and Bree are bisexual.)

We have a Pinterest board for CoHaR, which we’ve started work on again now as we tackle the series. The board has a lot of setting pins, along with some individual pins of Bree and Theo (as well as some other characters), but I noticed that we were missing pins of the two characters together, and since, hey, romance, maybe that would be a good thing to add in.

So I did what you do–I searched for lesbians, and I sent several to Siri to see what she thought, and she was no help in narrowing them down, so I stared at them for a while and then picked some to pin to the board.

And Pinterest promptly decided that I wanted all lesbians in my feed, all the time.

As I said above, not that there’s anything wrong with lesbians, but it was interesting that the four or five lesbian pins I pinned overruled the other 1.5K pins I have, most of which include castles, dragons, writing prompts, the occasional soup recipe, etc. For a few days, that was it: lesbians.

(On the plus side, I found a couple of other pins that fit well and stuck them on the board too.)

My feed’s cleared up a bit, but it’s still got more lesbians than normal and, interestingly, other couples as well. I guess the algorithm is branching out a bit.

Anyway, I’m supposed to have a chapter to Siri tomorrow, which, ahahaha, I haven’t started yet.

Insights on how Pinterest’s algorithms work? How are you doing?