Thursday, August 10, 2006

A Rose Is A Rose

Shakespeare’s immortal quote A rose by any other name, would smell just as sweet, applies in so many areas of life, and probably to the issue of pen names as much as any other. Still, names have implications. They conjure up images, willingly, or grudgingly, and spark feelings of desire, or misgiving.

Pen name, pseudonym, nom de plum, what ever you choose to call it, the goal in the past was usually the same—the hidden identity of an author. That’s not nearly quite as true now as it was in times past. Now days with the advent of Internet, and the global business card called a web site, it’s not uncommon to know the variety of names each author goes by. The goal now is more a case of separation more than cloak. Of course, there are still the few that use the nom de plum as a device with which to hide their true selves. Much more often anymore, however, it’s a matter of an author with a proclivity to produce work in several different genres, and a way to keep them sorted for the readers.

One could only assume it would be a good idea to identify your erotic writing with a name all its own, especially if you have a following for young adult, and/or Christian fiction. It’s even stronger than that, though. If you have a loyal fan base in Sci-Fi, and you pen a sappy, sweet romance… using a different name is probably a good idea. It’s not that the Sci-Fi crowd doesn’t like love. More that they expect a certain thing from you as a writer in that genre, and are likely to buy another book with your name on it, perhaps without even realizing the difference in genre, and be… well, mad. Perhaps as if it were some planned trickery on your part.

Although I’ve known a great many authors with at least one pen name, often two or more, I myself have never carried one. Maybe it’s a matter of vanity. Beyond any issues of narcissism I often find myself wondering how those with more than one name keep things straight.

Well, I’m about to find out.

Having penned my first accepted erotic story, I decided upon the use of a pen name. The one I chose was brought to mind from a favored alcoholic beverage of my grandmother’s. It was kind of a frilly drink, yet in it’s hey day, a quite socially acceptable one—Brandy Alexander.

Now, I chose that name because, quite honestly, I didn’t plan on writing in that particular genre further. It was an attempt to stretch my horizons, and broaden my skills, and I was happy with the singular success. However, as time passes, and with the release of that particular story looming in the very near future, I’ve begun to think perhaps it might be fun to write a few more. Maybe a novella, or even a full-length novel. Then, suddenly my frivolous choice of names began to weigh on me. It was a fun little nod to my long passed Granny at first (whom by the way, just adored a good bodice ripper in her time), but now I wondered if that was the name I wanted to promote on a longer term.

So I tossed, and turned, and made the decision to kill of good ole Brandy, and give the cover designer a heart attack in the process by asking her to please, pretty please change the name on the fantastic cover they’d already produced. Thankfully, the wonderful folks in our art department are both forgiving, and talented, and I’ve been assured it probably won’t be a problem.

So I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

My new name is actually not a far stretch from my actual name. I normally publish under my real moniker: Tami Parrington. However, on my birth certificate it boldly proclaims my name as: Tami LEE (now) Parrington… I’ve never really liked my middle name. However, while pondering the subject of names it seemed to me a perfect solution. My new name for this fun genre will be: Tammy Lee. Exchanging one familiar form of spelling of my first name for another, and using my middle name… mission accomplished (so long as the art department manages to complete the mission in time for final galleys).

Have you ever given thought to what names you would use if published (assuming you aren’t at the moment), or if you are now… how did you come up with the names you’ve chosen? Perhaps even more of a concern to me, how do you find handling multiple names if you write under more than one name?


Bernita said...

I published non-fiction under my first two initials plus surname -going for neutral and avoiding any chauvenistic reaction.
Wish I had chosen a partial pseudonym for my fiction, since I've become enamoured with "Bernicia" as more genre attractive than my own.

MissWrite said...

I actually have a spiritual thriller almost complete that I've been toying with using T.L. Parrington on, both to avoid gender prejudice, and as a seperator.

Is your non-fic still avilable? I'd be interested to see what it is. Since you say 'you wish you had chosen a pseudonym for you fiction' does that mean you've already published some under Bernita? If not, why not use 'Bernicia"? First off, it's not that far of a stretch from Bernita, and secondly, much of your following could be alerted to the 'name' via blog, email, and such.

Bernita said...

Think T.L. Parrington would work well on both counts.Like it.
Small stuff, Miss Write.
Think I posted a couple articles in my archives.I don't count the magazine stuff before The Great Hiatus.

No, haven't, but there's blog, you see, and there's a couple of platform considerations which I won't go into which probably preclude it.

S. W. Vaughn said...

Ah! Something I can perhaps offer insight into!

I write under two names. Neither of them is my name. S. W. Vaughn writes thrillers; Sonja Baines writes romantic suspense.

I went with initials for the thrillers because I think many people still unconsciously shy from thrillers obviously written by women. S is my initial; W is my husband's middle initial; and I just like the sound of Vaughn.

For the romantic suspense, well, my real name just doesn't sound romantic! So I changed the y to a j and sort of shortened/ bastardized my real last name, and voila -- I am Sonja Baines. And S. W. Vaughn. And Sonya, Mommy, honey, big seester, hey you... I answer to just about anything. :-)

(PS Thanks for the congrats, Tami, and best wishes to you on your impending erotica launch! I like the name Tammy Lee :-)

MissWrite said...

Bernita, Bernita, Bernita... what am I going to do with you? EVERYTHING COUNTS!!! Never forget that. (hugs)

Quote Sonya: I went with initials for the thrillers because I think many people still unconsciously shy from thrillers obviously written by women.

Boy, I hear that. Same reason for my thinking on the T.L. thing, although there again, for some reason (can we say ego) I can't seem to drop, bastardize, or skewer my last name on that one. LOL

Thanks for the wishes on 'Games'... and the 'Lee' moniker.

Anonymous said...

It's funny how for same reason a woman thinks the public might be prejudiced to read thrillers from her gender,I find myself reaching the same conclusion. Except that instead of gender, I believe "José" might put off readers thinking it is in Spannish, or worse, translated! Hence J. H. Bográn is on my cover. Besides, I've receive many a good word for that little accent on the last "a".

MissWrite said...

You know, I think that was a good call, Jose. Besides, the J. H. Bogran (sorry, I can't make the mark, lol) is very, I don't know, mysterious. I think suspense and thriller authors do well with initial type names. :)

Anonymous said...

Hi! It's Cupnjava again.

I write erotica. That's all I've considered writing and all of my story ideas center around two or more characters who get in the bedroom. I picked the name because I'm a coffee addict. It's also the max number of characters allowed by my first ISP as a username.

Using Cupnjava as a penname started as a way of compartmentalizing my life and cutting down on distractions when I write. The person behind Cupnjava has to change a litter box or make dinner. Cupnjava doesn't have to do that. It's a mask I wear to help keep me focused not to hide that I write erotica. When I go to conventions I put it on my ID badge and I love being stopped in the halls. I use it whenever I'm online. (I consider convention attendance and all online appearances an extension of marketing.) My in-real-life friends have started calling me "Cup". A reader in England drew a picture of me in a huge coffee cup with a pencil in one hand and a whip in another. I couldn't be happier with the name except in one aspect.

I don't know if publishers are going to be willing to let me use it. Face it, Cupnjava doesn't sound like a real name at all. I'm not sure if "Cupnjava" will be taken seriously if it's on a book cover. I'm mentally prepared to change it, but I'm not sure if I'm emotionally prepared for it. I'll probably use my real name if I ever have to change it.

That would shock some of my old friends. I write m/m erotica and a lot of my friends thought I was going into the ministry. High school reunion here I come! My college friends would be a little shocked, but not as much as my high school ones.

MissWrite said...

Had a few brief moments of thought about the name difficulty there java, but haven't really sat down to consider the pro's and con's fully. Probably something to toss around with our marketing dept.

If, and it's a big if because pen names aren't usually something we really nitpick on except in the most extreme situation, like if you picked a name like F.U. Bigtime, lol, but anyway, if--maybe we can come up with something equally exotic that still holds the idea of cupnjava.

Also, another point to take into consideration is the following you have under that name too, and it seems you have quite a dedicated one. Might not be terribly intelligent to change things up at this point.

Anonymous said...

Also, another point to take into consideration is the following you have under that name too, and it seems you have quite a dedicated one. Might not be terribly intelligent to change things up at this point.

That's what I wonder too. I know I'm not famous by any means and I know that I have a lot of learning and growing to do, but I get fanmail from several different countries. People know "Cupnjava" (not nearly as many as I'd like) and I think the name recognition will help. I've spent quite a lot of time trying to build this reader base.

On the flipside, I want to grow beyond what I already have. Something similar like, C.J. Java (just off the top of my head. Some people do call me C.J.) might carry enough name recognition and still be acceptable to new readers. Whatever I use for "Full Circle" I want to use for all my original stuff that way I can help cross-pollinate if/when I work with another publisher. (I think it's arrogant to expect Chippewa to be interested in everything I may write.)

I sent you a PM on the other forum, but I'm going to ask here too. I've not been sent any log in information. I'm anxious to get started and I'm worried that I'm not doing something that I should be. Can you calm my fears a bit? I don't want to mess this up. (