Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Pseudonyms: To Be or Not to Be Yourself

Many famous authors have written under names other than their given ones, among them Mark Twain (born Samuel Clemens), Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson), George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans), George Sand (Amandine Dupin), George Orwell (Eric Arthur Blair), and Voltaire (Francoise-Marie Arouet). Ellery Queen is actually the pen name of two cousins: Frederic Dannay and Manfred B. Lee. Even William Shakespeare is believed by many to have been a nom de plume, perhaps for Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford.
There are lots of reasons for choosing to appear as someone else in print. In earlier times, female writers such as Sand and Eliot used men’s names because of the prejudice against women. The Bronte sisters––Anne, Charlotte, and Emily––posed as the brothers Acton, Currer, and Ellis Bell respectively. Anne Rice, on the other hand, was originally given her father’s name, Howard Allen O’Brian, and decided when she started school to call herself by a female name.
Others opted for pseudonyms because their birth names were unwieldy, such as Joseph Conrad (né Jozef Teodor Nalecz Konrad Korzeniowski), or because they wanted something catchier, such as Mickey Spillane (Frank Morrison).
Many authors––especially genre writers––use pseudonyms, either to add color or to conceal their true identities. Because publishers of literary fiction tend to look down their intellectual noses at romance books, writers who pen romance novels frequently do so under names other than their real ones. Authors who write various types of books may write fiction under one name and nonfiction under another, to prevent confusion. Writers of erotica often use fictitious names to avoid static from employers, family members, etc.
It’s perfectly legal to call yourself whatever you wish, so long as you don’t do it for purposes of fraud. Publishers will respect your right to remain anonymous (although if you get rich and famous, information sleuths might figure out who’s really behind that notable non de plume). And yes, you can copyright your book under your pseudonym. However, if you ever try to make a claim against someone for copyright infringement, you might have difficulty proving your ownership. If you seriously want to protect your identity, don’t include your real name on records you file with the U.S. Copyright Office as that information will be available on the Internet. 

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Confessions of an E-Book Convert

I never thought I'd become an advocate of e-books. Call me old-school, but I love holding a physical book in my hands, flipping through the paper pages, highlighting pertinent passages and making notations in the margins. My favorite books are so bedraggled from use they're held together with rubber bands. Bookstores--especially funky ones with lots of odd, rare, or esoteric books--draw me like taverns draw alcoholics. When I go to someone's home for the first time, I always peruse the books on his/her shelves. (Maybe you can't tell a book by its cover, but you can tell a lot about people from their books.)
However, I’ve moved four times in three years. Each time I move, I schlep dozens of heavy boxes packed with books from one locale to another, promising myself I'll downsize my personal library soon. Yet parting with my books is like parting with old friends. How can I resolve this dilemma?
Enter e-books. Admittedly, wireless reading devices such as Kindle lack the tactile experience of physical books. But they're lighter and thinner than a typical paperback, and hold about 200 books! Talk about traveling light... (Now the money I might have paid a chiropractor can be spent for more books.) Not only can I read and store books on one of these handy hand-held units, I can even buy books with it--and download them instantly. Immediate gratification.
But the "green" factor is what hooked me. Before I became a full-time writer, I worked in the publishing industry for many years. Let me share a dirty little secret with you: the environmental impact of conventional publishing is phenomenal! Trees--lots of them--get cut down to make paper. The paper-making process pollutes water and fouls the air. (Ever stood downwind of a paper mill? It smells like an outhouse.) Toxic printing inks and dyes seep into the ground.
Then there's the little-known (outside the publishing world) matter called "returns." Ever see those flashy promotional displays in bookstores, featuring stacks and stacks of a new book? Many of those books will never be sold. The bookstore orders them, then return them for a full refund--even after they've been sitting around the store for a year and are so dog-eared the publisher has to trash them. Often stores just rip off the covers and send them back. The books end up in landfills.
So when Ravenous Romance's CEO Holly Schmidt invited me to edit The Green Love Anthology, I jumped at the chance. Here was an opportunity to combine three of my passions: literature, the environment, and sex. The anthology includes twelve tantalizing tales that blend ecology with erotica--each one hot enough to take the chill off a cold winter's night (you can turn down the thermostat and save oil). I even got to write a story of my own for the anthology: "Midnight at the 11th Hour Cowboy Bar." Going green has never been so much fun! (Anybody know how to get a copy to Al Gore? It might warm him up a bit.)