Monday, August 26, 2013

The Nom de Plume

Pen names!  Exactly why does a person have a "nom de plume" or pen name instead of using their real name?  The answers are interesting, to say the least.

1) Hidden identity is the most popular reason.  Yes, keeping the true identity of the author a secret is the perfect reason for a pen name. There are many reasons for keeping an author's name hidden.  The most typical, and first to mind, is the obvious. The writer pens erotica and would prefer to not have the family, church and/or community know it. Of course, it could be another reason completely.  S/he\ is a branch manager of a firm who prefers that their employees do not 'moonlight' for other income.  Or, perhaps the company thinks it is a conflict of interest.  The author is a programmer and has just written a book about how to write programs in XXX language or how to do this or that with YYY operating system. There is even the possibility that a writer could feel his/her credibility would be questioned if the public knew they wrote a certain genre. For instance, a family counselor who writes about broken homes or the Harvard professor who writes children's nursery rhymes.

2) Specific identity is another reason.  If an author is writing horror and decides to write romance, it might be better to use an alias - that nom de plume -- for the conflicting genre.  Some authors are proud of the fact they can work in multiple genres while others prefer to keep that particular talent hidden.  My co-author uses an alias for our horror series - Ancient Blood.  He writes action/thrillers under his real name and uses an alias for horror.  A friend of mine writes science fiction under one name - not his real name - and writes romance using a woman's name.  His true name is used in a completely different genre.  As he says -- would you read a trashy romance written by Max Whitman (not his real name) or Samantha Murray (not his fake name) when picking a book?

3) Publication.  How's that for sounding obscure?  One of my oldest writing friends uses an alias.  She writes in her real name and she also writes using her maiden name. Many authors use pseudonyms, pen names, to be able to have more books available.  As one person so aptly noted -- libraries can only purchase so many books by a certain author unless you are very lucky to be one of the top 10 authors. So, if you use a 2nd or 3rd or even a 4th name, you can have more books available to purchase and/or read.  That doesn't mean to write a book using your real name, and then another book with a 2nd name.  Publish 4, 5 or even 10 books in a name, then start using a new one.

4) Public vs Private.  Some authors prefer to keep their personal lives just that - personal and private.  The popular authors, like Stephen King, are in the limelight.  Writers like him have problems going into the public and not be noticed.  Some readers believe that what they read by the author is based on the author's life. Sometimes it is, usually it is not or at least, not completely.  Authors would prefer to keep the two lives separate, if not for themselves directly, but perhaps for their immediate family.

5) Miscellaneous.  This will be a collection of reasons.  One of the most unusual is pride or humility. An author may publish under a pseudonym just to make sure that their writing skill is truly valid.  A well-known write questioned if he was being published because the book was good or because his name was on it.  He sent the story to publisher under a fake name.  The story was accepted, published under the fake name and well received by the reading audience.  The author was humbled.

Soooo... Who has had or is using a pen name?  Try to match the Pen Name(s) to the Real Name.

Pen NameReal Name
1. Anne Rice, Anne Rampling, A. N. RoquelaureA. Howard Allen Frances O'Brien
2. George OrwellB. Eric Arthur Blair
3. George EliotC. Mary Anne Evans
4. VoltaireD. Francois-Marie Arouet
5. Lewis CarrollE. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson
6. Richard Bachman, John SwithenF. Stephen King
7. Anson MacDonald, Lyle Monroe, John Riverside, Caleb Saunders, Simon YorkG. Robert A. Heinlein
8. Nora Roberts, J.D. Robb, Jill March, Sarah HardestyH. Eleanor Marie Robertson
9. John Lange, Jeffery Hudson, Michael DouglasI. John Michael Crichton
10. Robert Jordan, Reagan O'Neal, Jackson O'Reilly, Chang LungJ. James Oliver Rigney, Jr.
11. Patrick Mac Conaire, Steve Costigan, Patrick Ervin, Patrick Howard, Sam WalserK. Robert E. Howard
12. James Tiptree, Jr., Raccoona SheldonL. Alice Hastings Bradley

Would you believe? The pen name(s) is/are on the same line as the real name!

Years ago I read an article about an author - I believe he resides in the South - who had over 100 books (and it might have been even much higher) published.  He had something like 30-40 pen names, some male names, some female names.  The names were driven by series, genres, and chance. I do wish I could remember his name. It was a wake up call to me.  I wanted to just get one book published but after reading that article, I wanted to be published many times over and with different names.

Yes, I do have at least one pen name I'll admit to - Sydney Dunne - but don't go looking for the name since it hasn't been used too often as yet.  Uh, there are other "Sydney Dunne" entities out there on the internet and they aren't me..

Until next time I decide to ramble on...

Monday, August 19, 2013


Momma Mia!  We all remember Colin Firth's character and his search for spontaneity or his claim that he was acting spontaneously.

We all, writers included, tend to stay in safe waters, holding close that which comforts us.  It's true.  Seldom do we push ourselves to that next level unless shoved by another force.  Years ago, when I started writing, somebody passed me a list of genres and how they all are basically the same in theory and plot.

Romance: Boy finds girl. Fall in love. Boy loses girl to another boy. Boy fights enemy, wins. Gets girl back.
Sci-Fi: Boy finds girl. Fall in love. Boy loses girl to alien. Boy fights alien, wins. Gets girl back.
Western: Cowboy find cowgirl. Fall in love. Cowboy loses cowgirl to Indians. Fights Indians, wins.  Cowboy gets cowgirl back.
Fantasy Dwarf boy finds elf girl. Fall in love. Dwarf boy loses elf girl to elf boy. Dwarf boy fights elf boy, wins. Dwarf boy gets elf girl back.

I think you see the theme.  It is the same, monotonous story line with just a couple of different twists to make each book somewhat different.  If you've ever listened to some music, many recording artists get a hit and then use the same tempo, beat, melody, whatever in the next big-hit wonder.  Working on what worked.

We've all watched the horror movies and it seems, without a doubt, at some point, a young blond damsel will run from the house, shrieking and only wearing the sheerest and smallest possible panties to stay above the "X" rating. She WILL get killed.  Just like the running joke -- If you're on Star Trek and wearing a red shirt headed down to the planet -- uh, don't make reservations for the evening meal, you're not coming back. You will be the fodder to save the stars of the show.  A Navy buddy of mine had a brother who was offered a part on a 1968 television Star Trek show.  He wore a red jersey, went planet-side and never returned.  He thought it was his "big" chance - or as his agent had told him "with the possibility of a recurring role."

So what with the spontaneity title?

You've written your G.A.N (Great American Novel) and hope to hawk it and make a bazillion dollars... or at least more than $1.98.  It's an epic fantasy in the style of J. R. R. Tolkien.  Okay, not quite that elaborate, more of a simpler fantasy where a knight, an elf, a dwarf, a has-been wizard and village orphan go on a quest to gain the knight's right to marry the princess.  Ho-hum.  Oh, wait, a twist.  The orphan is really the king's long lost son.  Ho-hum.  Another twist!  The wizard will be reborn or find he is the great and powerful Merlin.  Ho-hum.  It is so typical of quest story lines.  There has to be something more, something to make this story stand out from any other.

How about the elf is really the princess in a disguise and she is able to see the knight's true self.  He isn't the hero she thinks he is, but instead a thief and sneak who lets other step up to the task at hand and then take the glory at the end?  He takes the last of the food, pockets extra gold and is a hard-ass to those around him. And, at the same time, she discovers that the orphan is really a better man, all the while, trying to fend off the lusty advances of the dwarf?  All this is happening while on the quest for a scale of the golden dragon to impress the princess who is supposed to be sitting, pining, back at the castle.  Now THAT is a story with some kick.

Now that I re-read that last paragraph I have come to realize that I've written a pretty good story there.  So guess what I'm going to be doing when I finish this blog?  I got me a kick-ass story to write. LOL.

Again, spontaneity is necessary in writing.  You can't just rewrite the same ho-hum story with a little twist here and a tweak there.  Yes, sparkly vampires were a new twist, but really? Vegetarian?  Vampires are suppose to scare you, not be something dreamy that you want to become.  The same holds true for the werewolf.  They are a person who is tormented by the beast within -- not some muscle-bound hottie you can't wait to sleep with.  Next thing, you'll see Frankenstein doing a soft-shoe tap on stage ... oh wait, it's been done already.  Great Gene Wilder movie!  Now there was some spontaneity.

As I have mentioned several times before, when I write, sometimes the characters will take over the writing and scene. That is spontaneity. Let it flow. With my one book, it added another five chapters to the story with some great scenes and action.  One of my beta-readers said it was the best part of the book and kept her so enthralled at the doctor's office, she almost missed her name being called.  Again, spontaneity!

So, in your book, boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back.  Try something new, add a twist.  Boy meets girl. Boy tries to lose girl. Girl walks away. Boy wants girl back and HE CHASES HER until SHE is ready to CATCH HIM.  See?  Spontaneity.  Something different.

Until next I ramble on...

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Going Back In Time

A few days ago, Sunday, August 4, at 7pm, to be exact, I was the guest author at The Writer's Chatroom ( and was bombarded with questions over the two hour event.  I had a blast and thoroughly enjoyed the time which passed oh, too quickly.

I was asked some pertinent writing questions, some somewhat personal questions and some very profound questions.

One of the questions -- If you had a time machine and could go back to when you were just starting out as a writer, what would you tell yourself?

What a great question.  To be honest, I was stumped and really had to think. A flip answer was not going to suffice.  I stalled with "...thinking..." to give me some time and let the group know I was still there. Then I began to type furiously.  What would I tell myself?

My writing began to take off at the turn of the century ... Wow, doesn't that make one sound old?  Anyway, call it late 1990s, early 2000s.  I started writing back in high school (circa 1961-65) and struggled on and off over the next few decades (aka not submitting due to a rejection in high school)  If I went back today (2013 - almost 48 yrs later) and could give the sagely advice I gleaned over the eons -- okay, decades -- I might have been a big author during the 70s or 80s.  I could have been the next Stephen King or maybe Steve could have been the next Bob Nailor!

I stumbled onto my mentor back in 1995. She helped me and has guided me over the last couple of decades, aiding me in my path to publication.  I haven't hit that BIG time yet but I have 19 books with my name in them and hopefully another coming out soon to make it 20.  IF I'd found her back in 1965 rather than 1995, I am sure things would have been much different.

Another question asked was "Have I ever done something I was ashamed of doing or saying?"  Hmm?  That was getting rather personal but it was quickly amended to "in regards to writing."  Whew!

I am sure there are many things I should be ashamed of that I did in writing but the only thing I could think of was -- I promised an agent a project by mid-month, no later than end of the month.  Almost a week plus after the promised last due date, I still was working on the project.  I always, ALWAYS tell new writers that you must learn to adhere to deadlines and meet them, no matter what.  And, like my mentor, when I asked her about things I noticed in her writing that she always nailed me for -- Do as I say, not as I do.

Don't you just love that?

So, before I mosey on, I now ask you -- What would you tell your younger self if you could go back in time?  What sagely advice would you offer?  Would you even want to go back?

Until next I --

Oh, wait a minute... Starting next week, 8/19/2013, this blog will be updated/released on Mondays rather than the usual Tuesday.

Now!  Until next I ramble on...

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Parasite

Today was a day of reckoning. I discovered something about me that left me, well, shocked. I almost loathe myself and am feeling very ... okay, I'll admit it.  I should be ashamed.

I am a parasite.  Actually, to describe it even better, I am a writing parasite.

So what is a parasite?  It is, as defined by - a person who receives support, advantage, or the like, from another.

Well, that is one part of the lengthy description.  Hmm?  Colorful, but not what one would call complimentary, to say the least.

So how do I see myself as a parasite?

Simple.  I write.  I love to write.  I share.  I love to share my stories.  I love to let others read what I have written and bathe in their glorious adulation of my works. My soul soars to unknown heights with each word of praise.

Where is my humbleness?  Where is my shame?

Parasites have no shame.  They live only to seek the nutrients they need.  I write so I may hear a total stranger compliment my writing, spouting words of praise, approval, and admiration. As this stranger speaks, in the background, I can hear choirs of angels singing.  I want to write more.


My editor (the person I pay big bucks to fix my errors) returns this wondrous manuscript I have created. This fantastically coalesced collection of words to amaze all readers who are lucky enough to see it, is returned with corrections.

I start to peruse the edits.

The editor has dumped a 55 gallon barrel of blood all over my document.  In fact, it is still dripping with wetness as I allow it to slip out of the envelope.  What sacrilege is this?

The parasite is mortally wounded.

The cover letter from the editor was suppose to say "Bobbo, it's some of your best writing! It is truly amazing and I could only find a couple of itty-bitty fixes."  But, in reality, the cover letter is "Okay, here it is. You have a lot of POV jumps and punctuation issues. I tried to mark them all. Don't cry when you see the red."

It has been a week.  The parasite is weak.  There has been no influx of praise.  I've barely been able to face the edits.  I have struggled through a few pages.


At the bottom of a page there is a note. "The story is strong, the theme  interesting and you've done a good job of creating your lead characters. Do this assignment <assignment deleted> and it will help not only your characters but this story.

Could that be praise?

"I am a parasite! It sure sounded like praise to me and will take it as such.  Edits, here I come."

Yes, I am what I am. I am a writing parasite who lives on praise.

Until next I ramble on...