Samuel Clemens is Mark Twain.
Nora Roberts is J.D. Robb.
Agatha Christie is Mary Westmacott.
Michelle Griep is...drum roll, please...Michelle Griep.
But not for long.
I'm in the midst of choosing a pen name, and you get to help. I know, I hear you. Aren't pen names supposed to be top secret? Well, yes, but (and I've always got a big but) you, my faithful blog readers, already know that I'm crossing genre lines and am working on a contemporary mystery with a buddy. And--happy, happy--you've been super receptive and encouraging on my crazy novel writing journey, so I've decided to puff a little more air into my secret pen name bubble and include you in on the intrigue.
Before I let you help me choose a name, you may have a few questions, like why in the world would anyone use a fake persona?
C.S. Lewis chose to first publish A Grief Observed under the name N.W. Clerk (the N.W. stands for 'nat whilk' which is Anglo Saxon shorthand for 'I know not whom'). He didn't want his loyal fans to struggle and/or be confused with his blatant anger toward God over the death of his wife. Interesting side note: some of his friends actually recommended the book to him to help him get over his loss. This title was not published under his real name during his lifetime.
Stephen King was on a mission to discover if his writing was good or not. Did readers pick up his titles just because his name was on the cover, or did they really like his prose? He published 4 books under the name of Richard Bachman. They sold well, but the numbers weren't as high as a "Stephen King" novel. He ditched the persona after a bookstore clerk discovered the style similarities and outed him.
Some markets are fussy. J.K. Rowling's real first name is Joanna, but she was advised that to write for the children's market, initials were best received by buyers. No, I don't know why, and I didn't dig into the market research. Apparently she didn't either, because she went with the initials. Research or not, she rocketed to the top of the young adult mountain.
Agatha Christie equals mystery, not romance. Her faithful readers wouldn't be able to wrap their minds around such a drastic change. But love was in her veins, so she wrote 6 romance novels under the name Mary Westmacott.
Personally, I'm in the Agatha Christie campground, but flipped. I'm known for historical romance, but am running off the leash for awhile in the contemporary cozy mystery category. Hence, I need a name for this venture.
I brainstormed with my hubby over the weekend, and we came up with a few. Go ahead and play around with the choices, then write your favorite one in the comments section. I'll let you know which one wins in a future post.
First name possibilities: Ellie or Ella
Last names: Marks or Griffin or Vonn
There you have it. No pushing or shoving. Wear a helmet. And have fun!
What's that? You like to poke grizzly bears with long pointy sticks just to hear how loud the roar is? Well then you're really going to love this fun activity...
Top 3 Ways to Make a Writer Put on His Angry Eyes
#1. Read the first 3 pages of the author's book. Skim the rest. Figure out there's no mention of unicorns or vampires or anything even remotely Amish, nor is there one freakin' zombie in the mix. Flip to the back cover and discover that the story is really historical fiction set in Regency England. Hop on over to Amazon and Goodreads and give it a one star for no horned horses, blood suckers, bonnets, or walking dead.
#2. Send an email to the author of your choice and tell them that you'd like to be a writer, too. Mention that you actually don't live too far away from said author and could you meet for coffee? Better yet, could you just stop by for a face-to-face discussion about how to get your manuscript picked up by Harper Collins or Macmillan? Do not indicate that you care about the author or his work in any way. Oh yeah...and don't forget to ask if they could please recommend you to their agent.
#3. Ask what the author's latest book is about. Let your mouth hang open and your eyes glaze over as you listen. As soon as the writer finishes, no matter what their story is about, compare it to Fifty Shades of Grey and/or ask them how much money they make.
You know that feeling you get when you've just read a fantastic book? It's a bittersweet dang-that-was-good combined with an I-want-to-read-another-just-like-it kind of feeling. But never fear...have I found a site for you!
Bookseer is just the place to visit. All you do is type in the title and author of the book you loved, and bam! It brings up a magical list of other books that are either just like it or is by the same author.
There you go. Problem solved. Next issue? World peace? Let me surf the net and I'll get back to you.
If you ever notice that I'm lacking new posts, it probably means I've been picked up by the NSA. Not that I've done anything wrong, but my Google searches prove I'm either really an author or some kind of freakish anti-American war monger.
Case in point: this week I've been researching Mexican drug cartels. Whoa. Think of the worst Hollywood-type shoot-em-up blood-n-guts scene you can possibly imagine, then times that by ten. These boys are some kind of bad--the most evil, vicious kind.
Which makes me wonder about the ongoing "war on drugs." Don't get me wrong. I think drug use is--putting it mildly--a sin. It destroys bodies, families, souls, and society. But (and I've always got a big but) think what if for a moment...
What if drugs were legal? Bam. End of cartels. They'd be out of business. Just like Prohibition ended the booze gang-bangers.
Of course, that would open up a whole new can of worms. There are no easy answers, which is why I write fiction. I can play around with scenarios and no one gets hurt.
I started reading Divergent last week, mostly because I wanted to see what all the hype was about and because I wanted to finish the dang thing before the movie comes out...which I neglected to do in the case of The Hunger Games. Anyhoo, the first half kind of drags, but mid-way it really picks up and now I'm finally hooked, enough to to toodle over to Amazon and buy the next 2 in the series.
The story is rather bleak, which is a given being that it's a dystopian. Still, there's no denying this book is flying off the shelves and readers are clamoring for more. My question is why? What is the underlying appeal of reading end of the world type stories? After noodling that for awhile, I came up with some handy dandy reasons...
3 Reasons Why Dystopians Are In Demand
#1. Because as crappy as our world is, it can always get worse.
Immersing ourselves in a fictional environment that's even more horrific than our own makes a reader feel better about their own messed up life. Yeah. I know. Sick and twisted, but true...kind of like watching a train wreck.
#2. Because maybe--just maybe--society at large will wake up and stop the political/power-grabbing madness.
By reading about worst case scenarios, hopefully people will rise up and/or band together to prevent an all-out war from splitting society apart.
#3. Because the heroes in dystopians are HEROES.
Everyone loves to see an underdog win, especially an underdog who's up against impossible odds. There's nothing wimpy about the characters in dystopians. Those that are die. Dystopian heroes suffer more than regular heroes and generally still come out on top, making them admirably drool-worthy.
I hear voices. Loud. Incessant. And very real. Which basically gives me two options: choke back massive amounts of Prozac or write fiction. I chose the latter. Way cheaper. I've been writing since I discovered blank wall space and Crayolas. I seek to glorify God in all that I write...except for that graffiti phase I went through as a teenager. Oops. Did I say that out loud?