Sunday, December 29, 2013

What's in a name? Writing under a pseudonym

Pseudonyms are funny things. Mine has a life of its own. We’re like a married couple who pretty much lead separate lives. We don’t talk, we don’t socialise together, and we have different groups of friends.

I chose to write under a pseudonym, because, hello, erotic romance!  And while I’ve got YA aspirations as well, there’s a reason I don’t really want my real name and my pseudonym linked. A few people know, and a few have figured it out, but that’s okay. I’m much less embarrassed about writing erotic romance than I was two years ago when I first had this crazy idea. 


 When it comes to choosing a pseudonym though, are you choosing a fake name or are you choosing to be another person entirely? I think it's an important distinction. 

Most people writing erotica have pseudonyms, because we also have day jobs. One writer I know of who writes erotica admits that she’d lose her job if her employer — a religious organisation — found out. And that’s a damn good reason to have a pseudonym.

But people, women especially, have been writing under pseudonyms forever. The Bronte sisters, George Eliot. A gazillion others I can’t be bothered Googling. Because to be a female novelist back in those days meant that nobody would take you seriously. You were probably hysterical, and needed to get married and raise children. Writing was a man’s job. Now tighten your corset until you can’t breathe, and go and smile politely while a gentleman talks at you.

Pseudonyms are still huge in the thriller and mystery genres. Because those, apart from cosy mysteries, are still seen as a man’s domain.  Just ask Robert Galbraith, a.k.a. J.K. Rowling. She didn’t just choose a pseudonym to escape from the pressure of being judged as the J.K. Rowling, did she? She chose a man’s name. Interestingly, she also published the Harry Potter books under her initials because of the prevailing “wisdom” that boys won’t read books written by women.

But back to Romancelandia. Things get weird there sometimes, trust me. Again, most people use pseudonyms. And a huge amount use initials. This usually means what it has always meant: gender neutral. Translation: a woman writer, but it’s okay to assume a man if that will make you more inclined to read the book.

Sidenote: While it’s usually women masquerading as men, the opposite can also be true. And awesome.

I should probably point something out here, right? A lot of you may be wondering why romance-writing women would have gender-neutral or males names. Well, we’re talking gay romance here. It’s just like straight romance, except there are twice as many hot guys. So in the corner of Romancelandia that I sometimes inhabit, there are a lot of gender-neutral or male names out there, that are attached to female writers. And I have no problem with that.

Where I have a problem is when a pseudonym morphs into an entirely false persona. For starters, who’s got time for that? But where does the pseudonym stop and the deception start? And what does it even matter? This is a complicated issue (anything focussing on gender always is), and Dear Author has addressed it beautifully here. My personal opinion is write what you want to write — it will find an audience — but don’t misrepresent yourself.

Don’t hire a man to pretend to be you at book signings.
Don’t talk about the struggles you have faced in coming out.
Don’t appropriate the experiences of a marginalised community of people.  
And especially don’t tell that story of the time you were bashed for being a gay teenage boy. 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas and happy holidays to everyone. 

I hope you have a great day with your friends or your family, and that your Christmas tree looks like this: 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

2014: Be unafraid

Here's something I didn't know before I got published: 

Every book is a little easier to write. 

Okay, so maybe that's an over-simplification. Sometimes a plot remains tricky, or a character just doesn't work, or the POV is wrong and you only realise when you're halfway through, or sometimes everything should work but still somehow... doesn't. 

But that's fine. Those are details. And in this weird and crazy race, you've already cleared that first big scary hurdle. The rest are tiny in comparison. 

Because what gets easier, every time, is the process

You know where to set your goals. You know you can do it, because you already have. Most importantly, you know what the timeframe is. 

Give yourself a deadline. 

If you don't, if you're like me, you'll spend months, or even years, fiddling around with every tiny word in your WIP to try and make it perfect. You'll tell yourself you have all the time in the world. Stop thinking like that. Make this a priority instead. Make it urgent. 

And don't worry that it will never be perfect. It won't be. But it's probably better than you think. 

Get it out there. Jump that first hurdle, and, once you know how to do that, keep going. 

Make 2014 your year to be unafraid. Stand up on that stage, give the audience a grin, and get ready to throw your hat in the air. 

Be these guys: 

Make 2014 your year. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Everything is about writing; Or, What do normal people think about?

Today I had an endoscopy. That's where they stick a camera down your throat. It sounds pretty disgusting, and I'm sure it was, but I was unconscious for the entire procedure so I can't verify that. 

Anyway, it got me to thinking as I was sitting in the waiting room, is it always about the writing? 


Yes it is. 

I don't know what anyone else in the waiting room was pondering, but I was looking around and taking mental notes just in case a character of mine ever goes to hospital. Things got really exciting when I was taken into a room and put on a bed, and met the medical team. 

"You'll just feel a tiny pinch," the lying anaesthetist said as he prepared to put the canula in the back of my hand. 


But also, I watched the whole thing. I've never shied away from needles, because I find them strangely fascinating. And a part of me likes to watch how it's done, while at the same time I'm filing away words  that I will later use to describe the sensation. Pinch was not one I would choose. 

As they wheeled me into the theatre, I was a little disappointed. I'd kind of hoped for a ceiling full of lights and doors that crashed open with a satisfying sense of urgency. But it was much more mundane than that. 

And then I was kind of hoping I'd get the chance to count back from ten. I was betting on making it to at least six...but I didn't get that either. I just had time to ask, "Is it supposed to make my arm ache?" as they hooked up the sedative to the canula, to hear the reassurance that it was perfectly normal, and then I was out. 

I'd also hoped for some freaky anaesthetic-inspired dreams. You know, this sort of thing: 


All in all, it was nothing like on television. 

But it was still a new experience, and, weird as it sounds, that's exciting to me. And one day I'll recycle every single bit of it for a character. 

Because that's what writers do. Whatever happens to us, and to those around us, we file away for later use. Which makes me wonder again: without that to distract and entertain them, what were the other people in the waiting room thinking about? 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Two weeks in and the schedule is already off...

Okay, so I knew that my writing schedule wouldn't last. Because, hello? Me. Schedule. It was probably never going to happen. 

The good news is I have met my actual writing obligations. Edits, done, done, done, and doing... So that's the heavy lifting out of the way at least, right? However, I have missed both of my self-imposed deadlines for plotting the new books. And for some reason that's okay, because I've actually started writing both of them. Have no idea where they're going yet, but I'm used to that! 

The editing I had to do took longer than I thought with one book, and absolutely no time at all with the others. So that kind of evened out. What really swallowed the hours were the posts I had to write for blog tours. 

I am pretty bad at self-promo. So is my co-author. And then we remembered, a few days ago, that one of our books is coming out on the 17th. Which, for those of you as bad at maths as myself, is less than a week. 

Okay. So that left us with two options: 

We went with the first. 

Luckily, we found some wonderfully generous bloggers who were happy to host us at such short notice. We found six of them. Next job: we had to find six ways to talk about the same thing without being repetitive. And also without jamming that whole BUY THIS BOOK down people's throats. 

It's sometimes a tricky balance. As a reader, I get really annoyed by those constant blog posts that are nothing more than a sales pitch. But give me a funny story or something actually interesting, and I'll read your post. I might even check out your book. 

So after some frantic writing and a random email exchange about super villains and sea turtles (not at all related), we finally got that done. 

And I was sitting here feeling really proud of myself. And then I remembered I hadn't paid the guy who mows my lawn. And he was here three days ago. 

Excuse me while I head over to internet banking. 

And may you all be more organised than me. In everything. 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Some good advice

Here is a lazy post, because I am currently on a road trip in Cairns. Hopefully I have not been swept away by a cyclone, right? Fingers crossed. 

Anyway, I don't know how widespread this is outside of Australia, so I thought I'd share with you the thing that is amusing my nephew and niece the most at the moment. Don't panic. It's not What Does The Fox Say. 

And definitely don't try any of these at home! Or anywhere else, really. 

See you soon! 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

OMG. That's a quarter of a year.

Guess what? 

Come on, guess! 

Actually, don't, because you won't get it. 

Last Friday night I worked my last shift at my day job for THREE WHOLE MONTHS. I put in for this leave years ago, given that it's over the Christmas holiday period and you have got to get in really early for that, because I was planning an overseas trip that fell through. And I thought, well, I can cancel my leave...or I can take THREE WHOLE MONTHS off. 

I did the second one. 

So for the next three months, I get to try being a full time writer, with the bonus safety net of a regular wage. That is a quarter of a year! 

I have a list. With dates on that things are due by. I currently have five things under contract. Of those five things, one is at final line edits, one is still doing the back and forth, two are waiting for edits, and the fifth thing is...

Oh, the fifth thing. The fifth thing is under contract, but then my publisher said, "I really want a second book from the other character's POV." 

"Sure," I said. Act cool, Jen, act cool. "I can do that." 

I can do that. By February. 

There's also this other thing that I want to have at least plotted, and this excellent call for a short story that would be totally my thing if I could write it by December 31. 

So it's not holidays so much as an intensive labour camp. Which is awesome, because, seriously, who saw this coming? Making money at writing? Hell yes. 

So I have a list, and I have dates, and for once in my life I am going to be ORGANISED. 

This is me: 

Not this: 

No, no, no. Not that at all. 

*looks down at pyjamas and quietly panics* 

What is everyone else doing over the holiday season? 


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