Today the Dragon Wins

"Today the Dragon Wins" offers information from Fantasy Author and Professional Editor Sandy Lender. You'll also find dragons, wizards, sorcerers, and other fantasy elements necessary for a fabulous story, if you know where to look...

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Sandy Lender is the editor of an international trade publication and the author of the fantasy novels Choices Meant for Gods and Choices Meant for Kings, available from ArcheBooks Publishing, and the series-supporting chapbook, What Choices We Made.

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Exploring the Pen Name
With Guest Blogger and Author Bagheera
(During the month of June, here at Today the Dragon Wins we explore the use of pseudonyms. Don't forget to participate in the discussion in the comment field to enter the contest for a copy of the eBook version of Choices Meant for Gods. Details were posted June 1.)

What's in a Pen Name?

Born in the Year of the Tiger, it wasn't so surprising I developed the feline urge to roam. "He who walks alone" has always been a perfect description of me. Stealth and secrecy, magic and mystery. What more could any cat crave?
Independence. Freedom. My wanderlust took me to many different places over the years, and wherever I went I sooner or later became involved with the local Cub Scout unit. Everywhere, every time, sooner rather than later, the comment was made: "Nobody ever hears you coming."
And so, invariably, I became Bagheera, second in command after Akela.
Is it really surprising that cats have become a central feature in a significant number of stories I have written over the years?
Remember this, human:
Dogs have Masters.
Cats have STAFF.

You can check out Bagheera's MySpace page to learn more about him and his writing.

"Some days, I just want the dragon to win."

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Blogger edipet2003 said...

Having read the post, I agree that pseudonyms should mean something to the ones who take them.

Having said that, I'm not in favor of using what is an otherwise well-known name, coined/fashioned by a writer (albeit a dead one) whose work thus features a Hindi word for leopard - Bagheera, Kipling's character in "The Jungle Book." I respect a writer's choice in doing so - I just don't think it...wise.

Where past great writers are concerned, there can be only one character that they created - I tend to look uncomfortable when hearing that a writer took a pseudonym "Oliver Twist" just as much as I'd frown upon one who'd take a pseudonym "Anna Karenina." And while 'bagheera' means leopard/black panther in Hindi, there can be only one Bagheera and one Mowgli. Besides, as writers we're supposed to be inventive and original. I haven't yet checked out "Bagheera" on MySpace...and it's because that place these days tends to "bring in" for me a lot of unwanted emails - and I have filters upon filters, but somehow undesirable things from MySpace still get through.

Of course, anyone is free to do as they wish when it comes to choosing pseudonyms. I, however, would not go shopping for one in works of great literature of our past. In the same manner, I intensely dislike "punny or cute" pseudonyms - Forrest Green, Thunder Storm, Candy Luscious, etc. I admit freely that when I go shopping for books on many of today's e-publishers' websites I tend to avoid works by pseudonyms, especially the obvious ones that are clearly meant to "separate" the writer's genre works - eg. erotica from sensual/spicy romance.

I understand a need for any writer of several genres to "separate" one-name-genre from others, but at least for me, taking a 'cutesy-clever' pseudonym doesn't work. I'm the kind of person and a writer that if I like the work of any particular writer, I will READ HER/HIM even if they write porno and I prefer to "follow" that favorite writer with ONE NAME only. I write romance, mystery and fantasy, all with a great deal of suspense and often a 'sensual' level to my romantic sub-plots, but I've ventured into the so-called romantica. Currently, I have works being 'shopped around' for a N.Y. publisher that are very, very sensual - but also driven by strong adventure/fantasy/suspense plots. It will be interesting to see whether -- if NY publisher does pick them up -- I will be required to choose a pseudonym to "separate" this genre from my other novels that are out at this time.

Thank you for the invitation to post an opinion to what is a great topic. And though my opinion is obviously polarized opposite the key argument's position, it is not meant to offend or challenge in any way. It is simply my view and opinion on an interesting subject. Thank you and regards, Edita.

9:53 AM  
Blogger Sandy Lender said...

Hi, Edita!!
The worry I have about multiple pseudonym syndrome is losing marketing ground. I've worked doggone hard at promoting my name (my real name) Sandy Lender as a fantasy author and an editor, so the decision to select and use a pen name for my paranormal horror works is still up in the air. I don't know that I'm averse to it because there are readers who shun it as you do, because, to be honest, this is the first that I've heard of a reader being turned off by multiple-pseudonym writers, but because I'd have to work so hard at building a new name.

But I'm keenly interested in this point you've brought up. When you learn that an author has multiple genres written under multiple names, what about that gets under your skin?

And has anyone reading this heard whether or not J.K. Rowling is going to write her mystery novel(s) under her name or under a pen name?

Sandy L.
"Some days, I just want the dragon to win."

12:40 PM  
Blogger Lyddy said...

My Addy thinks I should use a pen name for privacy purposes when I finally get to the published staeg, but I would only want to use one. It hink that's because I only have two genres in which I want to write: sci fi and fantasy, and those two are so closely connected that I think the crossover would allow me to speak to both audiences from the same voice.

But I agree with the first poster, edipet, that I wouldn't want to choose my pen name from something already famous for something else. I wouldn't want to compete with something already out there in the world. If you do searches for Baghera, you'll pull up all kinds of information NOT about this new author. Why would you want to build in competition for yourself right off the bat? I twould be like choosing the name Cleopatra to write historical romances. People might type in Cleopatra and history in a search engine to find me. How many other references to Cleopatra and history are there already?

So I think you can honor something from teh past by selecting it for your pen name, but you can also shoot yourself in the foot at the same time. As edipt said, it's the writer's choice, but one to think twice when you consider promotion. (LOL about the Anna Karenina.)

Thanks for the grate article and chat, guys.

4:43 PM  
Blogger edipet2003 said...

Ah, Sandy - you've introduced a totally new facet of the subject - J.K. Rowling - now, for this writer, I'd say it's absolutely MANDATORY to choose a pen-name for her...mysteries? God, is the woman really going to venture into writing mysteries now? Sigh. Ten years ago, when she was just starting out with 1st Harry P. book, she would have done a decent job of writing a mystery. Today...any bets out there on the quality of the next genre for this billionaire writer?

However, my point here is that when your 1st and original name becomes so famous that it's practically a household name out there in publish-land, and it is focused on ONE specialized genre, then yeah - you do need to ravage...I mean conquer another genre under a different name.

However, when you're as famous as Joanne Rowling, then no matter what other genre you pick up to write, readers will always judge you -- and compare you -- to your original blockbuster work. That's the problem with writing blockbusters - nothing else you do can live up to them. :)

When I see obvious pen-names in erotic fiction or romantica, then my conclusion - right or wrong - is that the writer doesn't want the world to know that they're writing such a risque genre. But hey, it sells so I'm writing it...just that I don't 'fess up to it - that's what goes through my head, anyway. Not complimentary, I'm sure, but I'm being honest here.

To wrap up this discussion, ONE pen-name/pseudonym is all any given writer ought to pick if they are driven to use a pseudonym. Choose more than one...and there will invariably be readers out there, wondering just what the heck is the writer trying to hide - and more important, why? Edita

5:18 PM  
Blogger Paul McDermott said...

Looking through these comments, and particularly the VERY pertinent comments made by edipet2003, I'd like to "qualify" (or at least explain in more detail) a point which I see could be misunderstood ....
Although I'm 'flexing muscles' unused to date by branching out into experimental writing in 'other genres', I've never considered using a pseudonym or alter ego for any of my writing. I use the name "bagheera" with pride because I feel it was a GIFT from others who considered it appropriate.

The only time I've used it in any way connected with my writing was as recent as LAST WEEK when I entered a competition which insisted on a pseudonym (plus page number, plus title of work) being included in a HEADER on EVERY page of the entry.

Thanks for your thoughts, all the same. I hope I can persuade one or two of you to cast an eye over some of my work to date, and maybe buy a copy of the one which is available on the amazon website, a childrens' work called "Johnny Dupl'eau" ..........

5:45 PM  
Blogger Laura M. Crawford said...

I've read all the posts here and want to throw my 2 cents in.

Stephen King used the pen name, Richard Bachman, and wrote 4 books (or was it 5?), and his reasons for doing this was he wanted to see if he could be successful writing the way he writes, without the "Stephen King" enterprise to follow. His son, Joe, published a book under the pseudonym, Joe Hill, and he was doing quite well in the lists. But in both cases, once the secret was out, the sales went through the roof.

If Jo Rowling decides to use a pen name, would it be to see if she could be successful as a writer, in a new genre, and could possibly capture the magic once again? Or will the secret be released prematurely and the sales will reflect the curiosity of readers who will be asking...will this capture my attention? Will this entertain me? Or is this just a "project" to keep her busy while her children grow up?

I mean, the woman is richer than the Queen of England, for crying out loud.

I think if you already have established a "household name", like Stephen King and Jo Rowling, it would be really hard to take if you found out if readers were buying because the writing is just sooo DAMN GOOD, or was it just your name on it that made it attractive?

As for multiple pen names, if you have to have more than one, then you might have a multiple personality disorder and should seek help right away! :)

Just kidding. :)

I can see someone who is successful in one genre, using a pen name to break into a totally different genre.

But for someone like me, who is basically invisible right now, I don't have any of those problems.

And for now, I do use my full, given name. Laura M. Crawford. The "M" stands for Michelle.

I suggest if you are truly set on having a pen name, find a name generator, one that has a category or genre option. I love them! I crack up all the time on the one I have and I use it for character names.

I will post it here in the comments for anyone who is interested. Mine was a gift from my writing coach/mentor.

Thanks for the topic, Sandy! This has been a fun discussion!

Laura :)

2:38 AM  

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