I’ve already posted here that I use my legal name as my author name. There’s no need for me to pretend that I don’t; it’s already out there in black and white and there’s no taking it back. I haven’t had any issues with doing so, but I don’t exactly shout it from the rooftops that I’m a romance author when I go about my daily business, either. Most people that I cross paths with don’t put two and two together, nor should they. Mine is not exactly a household name.
That being said, there’s a contingent of people that are up in arms concerning those in the writing and blogging communities who choose to use a pen name when they do their thing. To me, it’s a personal choice and not really a big deal. After all, people in the public eye (celebrities, journalists, radio personalities, etc.) have long taken stage names and this is considered an acceptable practice for them. Why should it be any different for an author or blogger big or small to do the same?
There are certainly many valid reasons for opting to use an alias. Privacy, for starters. Maybe your given name is difficult for others to spell or pronounce. Perhaps you don’t want others in your community – think employers or church members – to know that you write something like erotica on the side. Maybe you’ve come up with a witty pseudonym to market yourself with. Whatever.
However, those individuals that criticize the practice seem to assume that people that don’t use their real name ultimately have something to hide. In some cases, I’m sure that’s true. I’m thinking those that have left abusive relationships, etc. And that as a consumer, they have the right to know what this something is. Um, no.
In my eyes, you have the right to create the public persona that you want to. As long as you’re writing or blogging in a professional and respectful manner, which the vast majority of us do already, there’s no reason for the public to dig any deeper. Even when the public doesn’t like the book we wrote or the opinion we’ve taken on a topic, for most people it stops there. Sure, they might never buy another novel from us again, or stop reading anything with our byline on it, but that’s their choice and their right.
But keep in mind that the internet is the internet and that there’s a scary amount of information out there that can fall into the wrong hands. And no matter what you choose to call yourself publicly, there are people out there who know the real you. Think about it. We all have bank accounts, go to doctors and dentists, get our taxes done, have insurance policies. There are no ways around using our legal names for these purposes. Plus, there are well meaning family and friends who may let things slip accidentally. Despite all the various precautions taken, an alias is not a fail safe plan to protect your true identity.
Given all that, shouldn’t we all just hole ourselves up in our homes and stop creating or ranting? Should we change our opinions on things just because someone could search us out and torment us? I don’t think so.
This was something that I came to terms with a few years ago when I first obtained my insurance licenses. You give up quite a bit of privacy in becoming licensed, which I didn’t realize until I learned that there was an online data base that includes at least a smattering of every licensed agent’s personal information. Name and address (whether business or home) was enough to concern me. But nothing bad has ever come out of that in my case. No disgruntled customers waiting for me in the parking lot or showing up in my driveway. Granted, I don’t actively sell any more, but still. I suppose there was the guy that continued to call me after the fact we established he wasn’t a potential client, but I never felt threatened by him. Let’s just say he got a little more pleasure out of my phone voice than he should have.
Everything worth doing in life has a risk. Just like I put myself out there when I became life, health, property and casualty licensed, I did it again on a larger scale when I made myself a brand. To me, it was a big step in proving that I’m ultimately responsible for my successes and my failures as an author. It might also have a little something to do with the fact that I have a hard enough time coming up with names for characters, let alone myself.
But would I be any less genuine or snarky if I called myself something else? Not on your life. My books would read exactly the same no matter what name I put on the cover. Every single word.
So pick your name and own it. And don’t let anyone silence your voice.
When I was writing my debut novel, I didn’t have a dedicated workspace. Since my whole foray into the world of self-publishing started off as a hobby, or at the very least, a dare to myself, I wasn’t thinking of being in it for the long haul. At least initially. So I wrote in bits and pieces, when I was watching television with my husband. I’d perch the laptop on my legs and fire off a few hundred words or so at a time.
Formatting that way proved to be a bitch. Or maybe that was because I was learning the process. Just imagine lots of screaming and frustration at my technology. That’s a pretty accurate description of preparing my first book for publication.
Eventually, I decided that I would only write when I wasn’t spending time with my husband. Since he has a work schedule that has always been a bit opposite mine, this still allows plenty of opportunity for me to work on my books. It also eliminated him being around to shoot me weird glances when something didn’t go right. And stopped the whole reading over my shoulder thing that I’ve never been fond of anyway.
For books Two and Three, I moved my work area out of the family room and into our repurposed dining room. Here, I had a computer desk and an office chair. This also coincided with my new attitude of making self-publishing my second career. I would hunker down at my desk and spend hours at work, just like this was a job. I’d like to think that aided in my productivity, but I’m not entirely sure. I think a large part of my confidence also stemmed from the fact that I wasn’t new to the game anymore.
Formatting went the same way as the creative process. A little easier, because I wasn’t as flustered by things. And since the preorder option was available at that point via Smashwords, I was able to take my almost finished manuscript, sideload it to my Kindle, and proofread the thing from my couch like I was reading any other book. Since proofreading isn’t technically writing, I do fudge a bit on this step and I will read my own stuff while my husband’s home. Seriously, what’s the difference between having my Kindle out for fun or doing work?
So now we are on to Book Four and some things have changed. I’m almost, nearly, halfway done with my first draft. I’ve also given up my computer desk and chair to my ten year old. This time, I’ve moved out into the living room to write while sitting atop our brand new sectional.
I’ve also discovered television again. See, I can’t work in total silence so I’m always writing either to the sound of whatever program is on or whatever music I choose to play on my iPod. In my dining room, it was always music because I didn’t have the option of anything else. But now I’ve got choices.
And a new guilty pleasure. Namely, The Voice.
I shied away from watching much of anything on television when my husband was home during the week, simply because our tastes are so different. So we’d watch what we could agree on together, mainly sporting events or cooking shows. But now, with him back working weekday nights, I have a whole world of reality TV calling out to me.
Too bad for me that the program I picked to watch captivated my attention so much it cut into my writing time. And it’s on two nights a week to boot. But I’ll adjust, because it’s drawn me in that much.
A long time ago, in that hazy place called my teenage years, I used to sing, too. Depending upon who you asked (my choir director and some friends and parents of friends), I could have been good at it. I had solos and I sang in contests and musicals and such, but I always let that evil stage fright get the best of me and never really met my full potential. Of course, there wasn’t this kind of programming on back then to make you push yourself and truly believe that someone from Indiana could be discovered and make it big.
So what’s a few hours sitting back and getting caught up in the dreams of other hopefuls? Seeing people working hard and getting recognized for it is sort of inspiring. We’ve already established that I’m a bit sympathetically emotional, and some of their performances give me chills and/or bring tears to my eyes. Plus, it also reminds me that I always wanted to – but never did – learn how to play the guitar.
The world today is so different from what it was when I was growing up. Internet and all that goes with it has helped to eliminate the geographic boundaries that used to exist for those of us passionate about the arts. Now you don’t have to move to LA or Nashville to get noticed; just post a video on YouTube or audition for one of these competitions and you might very well become a household name.
It kind of reminds me of how self-publishing has eliminated boundaries for those of us who choose to explore our creative sides offstage.
Besides, writing is much better for introverts, anyway.
“I won’t give up on you,” I said softly, “not until you tell me that it’s time.”
– Designed, Chapter 17
A fairly benign statement, taken out of context.
To me, however, it’s one of the passages in my own release that I can’t bear to read. They’re the same words that I whispered to myself that day twelve years ago when I stood powerless and afraid of a future that I had no control over. The same words that take me back to that moment like it happened hours ago. The same words that make me tear up even now, knowing what I know.
That’s some pretty powerful stuff.
With my new release, I went darker than in my previous two books. Considering that I’ve already tackled drunk driving, felonies, death of a parent and familial estrangement, that’s saying something. Sure, there’s plenty of humor, steak and a happy ending. There’s also a whole lot of raw emotion, borrowed from my own experiences but with a few changed circumstances.
I, for instance, was older and married when it happened to me. I was gainfully employed and had a far better support system than my heroine did. I also told a handful of people what was going on when it happened, then relied upon those few to tell everyone else. I was not alone, even when I felt like I was.
But it still hurt like hell, and it continues to, right to this very day. There’s a numbness that comes with the passage of time, but it’s never really gone.
I’m not trying to be coy here. And I’m definitely not ashamed, but I’ll not mention the specifics here. Why? Because the thing that I share in common with my heroine is also her big secret – the bombshell that I’ve led up to for two entire full length novels. And though I know that I have a vastly different readership of my blog than I do of my books, I don’t want someone to stumble across it and see a spoiler. For those that have already read, they’ll understand. So far, the lovely bloggers and reviewers who have written about this book have quite eloquently skirted around this theme and I’m not going to be the one who ruins it.
Writing about it, passing that fear and grief and thought process on to someone that I’ve created has been a cathartic exercise. Truth be told, I toyed with the idea of chickening out and changing the big reveal to something else, because I was scared to deal with it myself. Maybe have her abducted by a UFO or something – something that wouldn’t hurt so damn much. But once I sat down and bled at my laptop, crying at the keyboard along with her, I knew I was doing the right thing.
I also knew that I would make some people uncomfortable. I knew that I might offend readers by being honest and open and genuine. Whether it’s because the subject matter hits too close to home or simply because it caught them off guard matters not. I knew I was running the risk of alienating those who were looking for a quick, breezy read and I more or less said “screw it”. I knew that readers would potentially label this novel as the “fill in the blank” book, and that’s okay. There’s still a stigma attached to talking about this, and it’s undeserved.
There’s also a lot of people who have the same history as I do – who might very well be ashamed or not distanced enough from the pain not to be lowered once more into those layers of despair that I know all too well. Who might slam the book shut or turn the Kindle off and stop right there. Now that I’m done with publication, even I skip strategic portions of that chapter because it’s too much. I totally get it.
I’m fairly new to the whole blogging universe, but I came across an article about trigger warnings. Which led me to Google the term “trigger warning” because I had no idea what in the world it meant. For the uninitiated (like I was two months ago), it’s more or less a disclaimer at the beginning of an article or blog alerting people that the content contains sensitive material. A lot of times, it’s related to depictions of violence or abuse, often of a physical nature. But it can be used for anything that a specific group of people could find especially disturbing because of their collective history. As far as I’m concerned, this topic also qualifies. I’m not being a softie, even though Pixar movies make me cry and that damn Apple commercial that ran over Christmas with the boy who you thought was always just playing on his phone, but was really recording his family in order to put together a video for them, well, that got me too. But seriously, there are bona fide support groups for this trauma. It’s a big deal.
It was then that I wondered if my novel should have contained a disclaimer. Granted, that would have been hard to incorporate without giving the entire crux of the story away. After doing a bit more research, I learned that most professionally published novels that contain sensitive material don’t allude to it on the book jacket, so I breathed a sigh of relief. Confirmation that you haven’t just made a major misstep is always a good thing.
Even so, there have been mixed reactions to my book and I’m good with that. Some have said it’s their favorite of mine to date. For others, it’s been their only introduction to my writing and it’s been viewed positively (meaning five star reviews). Some people picked up the series here and had nothing more to say than “meh”, but they really liked the side characters – who, of course, aren’t as depressing. Still others who have raved about Books One and Two have been completely silent after reading Three.
But I wrote the book that I wanted to. And that’s what matters in the end. I wrote it not to profit off of my pain, but to show that happy endings are still possible. I lived through this and came out intact. I’ve walked through the darkness and gotten through to the other side, knowing that I quite literally wouldn’t have what I have today if things had happened differently.
But always, always, there’s the hint of what could have been. And the fact that I will never forget.
“Never forget how much I love you,” I whispered. “I’ll never forget you.”
– Designed, Chapter 17
Both my 10 year old and my 9 year old have a new hobby. They are happily creating their own masterpieces, which will most likely sell better and garner more publicity than mine. I’m kidding. Really.
I’ve gladly downloaded Open Office to the old hand me down desktop and my former laptop (where Intoxicated was written) already has the starter version of Word installed. A few tips from mom – but not too many – and off they went.
I’m saving the lecture about proper formatting for ebook editions later. I’m also ignoring the fact that I’ve already found several grammatical errors and misspellings because, hey, they’re kids. We’ll discuss that later. No sense in raining on their parades yet.
What’s cool is that I didn’t push them to do this. At all. I guess they think it’s normal, that maybe all people sit and create something and try to sell it on Amazon. The verdict’s still out on that; I’m sure some that are harsh on the indie publishing world would tend to agree.
Like me, they started from humble beginnings. I’m certainly not alone in the fact that I created my first works in spiral notebooks. Then I graduated to my inaugural bottom of the line laptop with the free version of Office. Yes, the annoying one with ads. They’re just starting earlier with the technology.
The 10 year old is also a pretty talented artist. Some of the stuff that she creates on the computer baffles my mind. I have absolutely no idea where she learned how to do what she does. And her doodles on paper have an anime styling. Naturally, the first “book” she put together on a wide-ruled tablet included illustrations.
It also included this cover blurb:
For those of you that don’t read elementary school girl writing, I’ll translate.
Welcome to the magical world of Maleot! 5 teens on a big mission and 1 big problem. Read on to find out what happens or leave yourself clueless…
First off, I think she might have been listening to those marketing gurus who talk about elevator pitches. Secondly, her first attempt at a cover blurb may just be better than any of mine. And lastly, maybe she’s come up with a new technique that the #amwriting world could learn from: insult your reader.
After all, no one wants to feel clueless. Right? But would it convince someone to buy your book? Hmmmmm.
For the life of me, the poor child could not understand why I took a picture of this. Or why it made me both laugh hysterically and beam with pride. And she would absolutely kill me if she knew I blogged about it. But I doubt she’ll sue me for copyright infringement so I think I’m safe. Plus, I pay for everything that she has, so she knows not to piss me off. Anyway, I’m pretty sure that this is an abandoned project and that she’s moved on to bigger and better things.
As for the 9 year old, she’s working on a collaboration with a classmate. As in the classmate came up with the title of the story and my daughter is writing the entire thing. Being the nice person she is, she’s given her friend equal credit on the title page. Yes, I know there’s plenty of lessons to be taught from that, but her eyes sort of glaze over when I explain why hers is not the best arrangement. She’ll figure it out.
Realistically, this is probably just a passing phase and all hopes and dreams for them of being authors will fly out the window shortly. They’re already distracted by the PS4.
But then again, maybe not.
I’ve spoken here a couple of different times about my hate/hate relationship with Facebook. The only reason I have a personal profile there is because I need to have one in order to have an author page. I don’t post personal pictures or status updates. If something really exciting is going on with my page, I will share it with my friends. I don’t think it makes much of a difference, but at least they can tell I’m alive. I do admit to scrolling through my news feed to see what’s going on with other people, but I don’t like or comment as just plain old me. My author self does all liking and commenting, which isn’t a whole lot anyway.
Up until June of this year, I didn’t even have an author page, because my disgust with Facebook was so strong. Then I took part in a really awesome Facebook party with other authors and I changed my tune a bit. Since I had so much fun hosting that event for my allotted hour and I met so many cool reader types during it (who asked me if I had an author page they could like), I decided to bite the bullet and create a page.
Since then, I’ve been fairly good about posting updates and content that I don’t share on Twitter – my social media drug of choice – or Google Plus, which I dabble in from time to time. After all, there are at least a few people who follow/like/whatever me all three places and I don’t want to bore them to death. I’ve also been rather lucky at growing my audience. When I first started out, I doubted I would ever reach that 100 likes milestone that Facebook dangles before you. But I bested that number two times over plus some, mainly because of a new release/giveaway promotion in July and just a plain old giveaway that I took part in with about 100 different indie authors.
Most of those people who liked my page have stayed around. Judging from my stats related to reach, most of those people don’t ever see a single word I post. Considering that I’ve found documentation that a common visibility percentage is between 2-6, I’m still kicking ass in that department. But then we get into the bane of my existence: the unlike. Over the past week, that nasty occurrence has reared its ugly head more than once.
My gut instinct is to immediately ask “What did I do wrong?”
I’ve been around on Twitter long enough to not be bothered by an unfollow or ten after I tweet something. And I certainly understand a drop off of followers after a giveaway ends and a winner is announced. If you look at the majority of Twitter accounts of people who seem to do nothing on the site but enter contests, you notice that they have only a handful of followers themselves, but are following just under that magic number of 2,000. It makes sense that they’d pack up and run because they are on to the next contest entry.
I had to do a little digging, but I did come up with evidence that there is a Facebook liking limit as well. The exact terms of it appear to be very vague and confusing, or maybe that was just me because I was nursing a headache when I read them. But it appears that some contest enterers frequently hit this Facebook liking threshold and have to clean up shop.
I’ve told myself that this is likely what has happened in my case, but there’s something about Facebook’s terminology that makes it seem more personal. It hurts way more to be “unliked” then it does “unfollowed”. After all, do I really want someone tracking all my movements like that action on Twitter implies? Not particularly. But let’s face it: everyone wants to be liked.
So for you that use Facebook: are you very selective with your likes? Or do you like any old thing that tickles your fancy at the moment – from a toothpaste company to a band – and then deal with the consequences later? And what makes your list as grounds for an unlike?