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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Friday, June 13, 2008

Exploring the Pen Name
With Guest Blogger and Paranormal Horror Author Raven Bower
(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.)

Practical Use of the Pen Name

My decision to use a pen name was partly based off practicality. Being an Herbalist and a fiction writer, I wanted to keep my fiction separate from my non-fiction. That way when a reader picks up a Raven Bower book they know it’s fiction with a supernatural romantic slant instead of an herbal.

Of course, I’ve yet to write an herbal…fiction is where my heart is and where my passions flow. But you never know! One day that non-fiction bug will bite.

I also teach religious education at our church and thought using a pen name would help eliminate the “Eeek! That strange lady who writes the supernatural stuff is teaching our kids!” thing. I’m glad I did. People have rather strange reactions when you tell them you write fiction – let alone fiction about romance, ghosts, crime and the supernatural. Some people are intrigued by what I do and others…not so much. It doesn’t help that I live in the Bible belt and most of the newspapers up here won’t touch me or my work with a blessed crucifix – even though priests have read Apparitions and enjoyed it. Go figure.

So having a pen name allows me to choose to be writer or go incognito.

How did I happen upon this particular pen name?

Originally, Raven Bower was a character of mine for an occult suspense book. Unfortunately the plot had holes the size of the Atlantic and I didn’t quite like the flow. One day perhaps I’ll fill those gaps, redirect the currents and the story will be written properly – with a new heroine name!

Why Raven?

Ravens and crows are my favorite birds and I enjoy watching their antics. They also like food as much as I do. Have you ever noticed how they’re always eating? Granted, I don’t eat carcasses on the side of the road…but hey…a nice grilled steak… :)

The mythology behind the raven is intriguing and split – much like our political parties, but let's not go there. Some legends associate the raven with bad luck, others give it the ability to foresee death. Yet others associate it with blessings, if you’re kind to it, and link ravens with the soul – I prefer this one.

Why the Bower?

A bower is a shelter made of vines or tree boughs. If done well they’re gorgeous. I particularly like the ones made of Wisteria. I lack the patience to make one, but I can still ogle other people’s bowers! Even though they’re pretty, I chose the name more off their use as a shelter. Basically, the entire pen name means shelter for souls. A bit eerie perhaps but fitting to the genres I write.

Do I regret using a pen name?

Not really. I answer to Raven and do almost everything writing-related with that name. Admittedly, it can get confusing when I’m with someone who thinks of me as Jen and run into another who thinks of me as Raven. Sure makes for interesting situations!

I've read Raven's first paranormal horror novel, Apparitions, and can highly recommend it. Criminy, I'll never sit in a parked car with the windows down again. To learn more about Raven, you can check out her site here. And, even though she's a friend of mine, and we attended Context20 as panelists together last year, I just can't think of her as Jen. She's the "shelter for souls" person all the way for me. :)

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

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16 Comments:

Blogger Raven Bower said...

Awww thanks Sandy! *hugs*

I'm so glad to be able to make it today. We had yet another storm tear through here last night. As I'm watching the lightening and listening to the thunder my first thoughts were, "The internet and power better not be out tomorrow!!!"

8:51 AM  
Blogger Lyddy said...

I'm baaaack!
I don't read much in the way of horror and scarys tuff. I mostly read what I write, which is sci fi and fantasy, but I can appreciate the shelter of souls for a meaning behind a pen name i fyour writing horror novels. Makes perfect sense!
Lyddy

8:55 AM  
Blogger Raven Bower said...

Hi Lyddy :)

Without getting into the whole sub-genres of horror thing...(I'll avoid that rant to save everyone's eyeballs) my work technically falls into the category of Supernatural suspense.

It has a high element of crime and suspense, ghosts and the supernatural.

Unfortunately a lot of people associate horror with splatter punk (that gory over the top stuff), which my work is not.

9:03 AM  
Anonymous Markus Niemi said...

We learn something new every day - in my case, the secrets behind the name of Raven Bower. I've know her for quite a few years now, with both names, and I didn't know that her pen name had such specific meaning to it; though knowing Raven, I'm not too suprised by the meaning either. I was more suprised in fact, when I first heard people referring to her as Raven. Took me a few seconds of blinking to realize just who they were talking about...

As for the matter of the horror genre; I think it's gotten a rep as "splatter-gore" -genre mostly unjustly.

I read quite a bit of horror, suspense, mystery, fantasy , science fiction, (ok, I read a lot in general), and most of the really good horrors I've read are a far cry from being splatters - like Apparitions for example. It reads as as solid suspense/romance novel with a fistful of supernatural in it. It bases it's suspense more on human emotions, than blood and bodies.

I can think of a few truly "splatter-gore" 'horror' novels too, but those I think belong into a whole genre of their own, as they're less based on actual horror than they are based on an astronomical body count.


Happy Friday the 13th everybody. Stay away from Crystal Lakes ;)

-Mark

9:44 AM  
Blogger Raven Bower said...

lol

Nooo Crystal Lakes! Ever! They just creep me out.

Raven fits better, if that makes sense. It sometimes takes me a moment to answer to Jen or Jenny now. I do the 'huh? Oh yeah...that's me.' :D

9:52 AM  
Blogger Nancy said...

Raven, wonderful post! It's fascinating how authors select pen names - from the deeper meanings as you have done, to combining the names of relatives, to creating a name that allows one to keep the same initials.

I have a pen name selected, but don't know if I'll use it. That would depend on what I write in the future. :)

Happy Friday 13th! I love this day!

Light,
Nancy Haddock
La Vida Vampire

10:50 AM  
Blogger Stewart Sternberg said...

Raven, I set aside a pen name for myself when I was twenty one. I'm fifty three now. Optimism knows no common sense. And, I've never used it, except as an online presence from time to time.

I will also confess that I've been thinking about using a female name to try and market a novel about a haunting in a domestic violence shelter.

11:34 AM  
Blogger Raven Bower said...

Nancy - that brings up a good point. Do you think an author's pen name should reflect the genre they're writing? Or doesn't it matter?

Stewart!

A lot of men use female pen names if they write in romance or womens fiction. I think it's fitting as some female readers might not think a guy would understand their views...yet many do.

Now you have me very curious as to what your pen name will be... I don't suppose you could be bribed into telling?

12:04 PM  
Blogger Sandy Lender said...

Nancy, Raven,
The discussion yesterday touched on using different pseudonyms for different genres. One gal didn't like authors to practice that; but I've seen it in several of the online groups that tend toward romance. The different sub-genres of romance seem to lend themselves to splitting up the personality. And I don't have a problem with that. What I worry over, as I stated yesterday, is marketing different names. Ugh! It's taken a long time to get to the point where I can show up in an online venue and have someone in the group say, "Sandy Lender? I know that name." It would set me back in my marketing and promotion efforts to try to sell a new genre under Anne Chaucer instead. ;)

True story: at a Florida Writers Association meeting one Saturday afternoon, an artist sat down next to me. When I introduced myself she said, "Sandy Lender? I know you." We never did figure out where she knew me from, but she had seen my name on the 'net. THAT'S the marketing I don't want to lose by taking up a pseudonym for another genre.

But it would be nice to be afflicted with the extreme fame of J.K. Rowling or Stephen King and be FORCED to write under a different name when I publish the paranormal horror stuff. He he he.

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

12:41 PM  
Blogger Nancy said...

Sandy and Raven,

I think the pen name can dovetail with the genre. Edgy books, edgier name. I know folks who are writing in two romance subgenres with different names, but one is often erotica. Now for fiction/ nonfiction writers, I think a pen name is very wise.

However, Sandy, I'm with you on the marketing the name thing. Hard enough to get one to be "known," much less two! I'm leaning toward a pen name not too different from my own should I sell in another genre - cozy mystery, for instance.

I'm sorry I ran late to the party, but it's sure a fun one!

Light,
Nancy Haddock

1:44 PM  
Blogger Raven Bower said...

Sandy that is so true!

It's amazing the amount of effort new writers have to put into getting readers to realize that they exist.

It seems easier to stick to one snowball and keep rolling it than start new ones. Then again, there might be times when it's more practical to do new. Like if I ever chose to write erotica my current readers might be put off by that. Or if the writing veered too much into a different genre they might not appreciate that either.

I think fantasy, paranormal, supernatural, suspense, romance and horror seem to blend well and have quite a bit of cross readership. So one name for all those would work.

But if the author wanted to venture into say, hard core sci-fi, historical or literary fiction etc, it might be wiser to opt to start that second snowball...or third or...

2:17 PM  
Anonymous Matt Cowan said...

Hey Raven,

I haven't published much but I have never considered the possiblity of using a pen name. I kind of always wanted to see my name on something I published I guess. In my case I think it won't be much of a problem because I can't see me venturing out of the horror genre (actually I like to think of mine as the weird tale genre of horror). Fantasy would be a possibility some day, I suppose. I really enjoyed reading about how you constructed your name. Cool stuff.

Sorry to miss the party here,
Matt

9:14 PM  
Blogger jwhit said...

Hey Raven or Jen or next name please :-)

Do you know about bowerbirds? They also build an arch and collect all sorts of bits and pieces to entice their lady friends. So there may be another angle on your moniker that you hadn't considered. Google bowerbird for more info.

My writing partner has two names, well three now that we have a combined one for our work. When I first met her, I totally resisted calling her by her 'non-name' and still do. But as someone who has adjusted my first name for various reasons throughout my life, I can understand why one's identity is tied up in one's name so strongly.

Since I've been co-writing, we have come up with 'jumble names' made up of the letters in our first names. They are:
Casey Jarelle
Justine Kaiyler
JJ Kristin

Thanks for the article and the alert about it on About Writing Fiction.

9:19 PM  
Blogger Sandy Lender said...

Matt, the party never ends here.

Jwhit, the comment here caught me: I can understand why one's identity is tied up in one's name so strongly.
I've noticed how people tend to grow into the names they're given. You meet someone named Heather and go, yes, this is a soft, kind person. Or you meet someone named Alexis and you just know, looking at her, she's going to double-cross you and steal your boyfriend.

:)

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

6:42 AM  
Blogger Raven Bower said...

Sorry for disappearing last night. Another storm rolled through here and the internet melted on me.

Matt -

I think you'd do great at fantasy. Especially fantasy with a high amount of supernatural in it...and there's always forests in fantasy. After having read your story, The Collective of Blaque Reach, I'd have to say that your writing style would match well with both creepy supernatural horror and creepy supernatural fantasy.

My youngest still gets attacked by bugs that now escape some of the books we read together :D Granted, they tickle him and don't devour him, but still...that was amazing imagery you used.

Jwhit -- I had no idea bowerbirds existed! How neat! I'll google them and check them out. Thanks :)

That's interesting how you and your writing partner come up with the names. Out of curiosity, are there reasons behind using yours?


Sandy & Jwhit -- yeah, that's true. People somehow manage to fit their names. Another real life example that solidifies the fiction technique of creating character names that invoke the image the author wants associated with the character -- a Howard is different than a Peirce who is different than a Mark etc.

7:49 AM  
Blogger jwhit said...

Re the mixed letters pen name, it was a way to be a single person author instead of three. But if the agent or publisher suggested otherwise, I think we'd consider it.

9:18 AM  

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