Pen Names

Authors have used pen names for centuries and I make no secret of the fact that I use one. Reasons vary. There have been some authors in history who used pen names to protect themselves or their families from unpopular views or to mask their gender, a practice that is still fairly common as we all saw when JK Rowlings’ publisher ‘outed’ her alternate pen name in the Mystery genre. This is the most common reason for alternative pen names these days; for genre jumping.

My own reasons were a little different at first, but considerations of genre followed. I’ve had a varied life and have changed my real name several times, mostly just the surname, because of marriages, divorces, distancing myself from paternal association and choosing to revert to my mother’s maiden name instead, etc. My last change was done through a lawyer, to a name of my choosing because I wanted to lose and ex-husband’s name but didn’t want to revert to anything I had used before.

Through many of these changes, my pen name has remained stable so my readers do not have to try to keep up. This isn’t the reason I chose to use a pen name in the beginning, but it has proven a practical course for me. My current partner brings up marriage periodically, so the legal name could easily change again.

The original reason had more to do with separating my writer persona from my day to day self. This is something that many writers do, but because I’m a Scorpio I simply enjoyed the idea of being able to discuss my books with people without them knowing I was the author so they would speak freely and give their real opinions. I ‘outed’ myself when I went on television in relation to my filmmaking so its all publicly known now, but only a close circle of friends knew for some time and I enjoyed having that level of privacy.

When I was about to release my first fiction novel, I put a lot of thought into whether I should choose a different pen name. JDH had established a place in the occult field with several books on the subject and had actually become fairly well known among people who have interest in that area. My first book on chaos magic had even been described as ‘definitive’, which considering that it was written for the purpose of explaining it when all literature on the subject at the time was couched in obscure, inside terms and references, isn’t all that surprising.

The question was, would it be more beneficial to connect my established readership with a new direction, or to separate it? A lot of readers of occult literature also enjoy Fantasy fiction, but a lot of other Fantasy readers may have religious affiliations that would object to an occult writer. In the end, I decided to go with the same name so that I could connect the two with my readers and never feel like I was hiding anything that someone might object to.

Later on I did develop a second pen name for another genre, one that would not be likely to be associated with me. The books are traditionally published and thriving, but I intend to maintain the separation because it’s not even a genre in which I read. That makes it hack writing, though until recently, more profitable than my chosen genres.

I’ve flirted with the idea of a variation for the science fiction stuff I have in progress. Just using my initials, to create the gender ambiguity that is useful for generally perceived male targeted subject matter, though there are plenty of female scifi fans. A quick Google showed me that there are already not one but two writers using the name J.D. Hawkins. One writes Mysteries and the other writes porn. So, back to the drawing board on that one. I imagine there is already confusion on book sites over that one.

I frequently see advice on the indie writer’s sites that say, “You need to establish an audience, i.e. your reader base, way before you release the book.”

I don’t necessarily agree with this. So far, what I’ve seen is a lot of people ‘establishing their base’ on sites like Wattpad, but very few of them going very far. You hear about the occasional writer who gets picked up by an agent from their writings on these sites, but they are few and far between. Meanwhile, one of the authors I know who make a good living from writing openly admits to having ten pen names. Ten! Can you imagine trying to develop followings for so many?

Instead, this writer has spent her time writing stuff and releasing it, using marketing methods that she now teaches. These basically come down to good cover design, well thought out titles, carefully written blurbs and the proper use of keywords to make the books visible. ‘New’ authors seem to sell fairly well, though not in the league of the big names.

For the moment, my scifi is destined to be released under my usual pen name. I don’t want to go looking for a totally new one for a genre that is close enough to my Fantasy writing to carry over some readership. Hopefully I’ll have a new book to release before long. The filmmaking is still requiring much of my time, but I’m making slow progress and the scifi has taken on some importance in relation to immortalising a significant friend who died. Those who knew him will recognise him in the pub between the worlds.

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Audiobook release!

I’m overdue for a blog post… again. The audiobook of The Wake of the Dragon was released on schedule at the end of March!

I’m very pleased with the final product. The narrator, Kevin Marchant, has the perfect voice for a Victorian setting and did a brilliant job of using different accents for different characters. He’s an actor, which is a great advantage for a narrator.

I’m hoping he’ll be up for the book in progress that continues the story of Mister Bale. It’s in early stages as I’ve been working on other things, but this may be the inspiration I need to give it more priority.

Airship pirates are a fun subject. My task now is to learn how to go about publicising audiobooks! I’ve started contacting reviewers who specifically do audiobooks. I may make a new book trailer, using some of the narration that makes this one work so well.

In the meantime,if you do Twitter, you might come across Mister Bale sailing the skies of cyberland.

Listen to his adventures on Audible, The Wake of the Dragon!


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Audio books!

WotDaudio250It’s very likely that before this month is finished, my first audio book will be on Amazon.

This is something I thought about for a long time and then finally made a move, after looking into the ways and means for going about it. I went with Amazon’s ACX program, which is easy to use and gets the audio book right onto Amazon, although there is an exclusivity clause. With audio books, I don’t think this causes the dilemma that goes with publishing print books. Audio book outlets are more limited, so why not go with the most popular?

After giving the idea a lot of thought, I decided to start with my Steampunk Adventure novel, The Wake of the Dragon. The book is very Victorian in tone and I thought a pleasant, male voice would suit it best. This immediately ruled out the possibility of doing the reading myself. So, my choices were either to tap my supply of acting and voiceover contacts or to solicit a reader.

Part of the ACX platform is an option to connect voice readers with books for either an hourly rate or a royalty share. The hourly rate would have cost more than I have to invest at present, so I put my book up for a royalty share basis and waited. I could always change my mind later if there was no interest.

Amazingly soon, I received a notification of an audition. Excitement! A voice reader was interested in my book! I listened to the audition and the reader had a good voice, but not the right voice for the story. The story is very English and required an English accent, preferably with gentle tone. The first audition was from an American who came from a radio announcer background. He had great voice control and clarity, but I had to accept that he just wasn’t the right voice for this project. It isn’t easy to turn down first nibble on a new platform, but it was the right decision.

More waiting ensued. The benefit of always having too many projects going at once is that such waiting can pass unnoticed while I’m busy with other things.

A fair bit of time passed. Weeks, months… I don’t really know how long. I just left the project on offer and put my attention on things I was actively doing. Suddenly, out of the blue, I got a notification for a new audition. This time I approached it with a little less enthusiasm and the determination that if it wasn’t the right voice, I would not ‘settle’. If the right person didn’t materialise out of the ACX program, eventually I would find an actor myself.

However, when I listened to the sample, it was really good. The sort of vice wanted is listed with the project and this one fit the description. A pleasant, gentle, male English voice that would suit a Victorian novel well. Eventually I would learn that the reader is an actor and voice actor who has done non-fiction books, but chose only my airship adventure from the fiction category. We communicated, got on well, and he was very easy to work with. I accepted his first fifteen minute sample, required by ACX, sent him the printed version and left him to get on with it.

Over the last holidays, I didn’t give the project a thought. I was insanely busy and actually forgot all about it for a while. Then in February, I received a message that it was all done! I listened through the files and was very pleased with the result. There were a couple of minor things to correct and we discussed sound effects, eventually agreeing to try just a few subtle ones for scene changes. We had discussed accents and he did an amazing job of them, keeping the dialogue intelligible while giving the impression of a diversity of characters.

As of this writing, the minor corrections and sound effects are being done and this project will be ready to launch very soon. I’m hoping this month! I will need to listen through the files again, over eight hours worth! Then approve the final version and Amazon does the rest!

So, watch this space. If The Wake of the Dragon does well in audio book format, there may be others. It’s very exciting and feels almost like releasing a new book.

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A Mirror Site

This blog has been started with a view to eventually replace my blog by the same nameĀ  bcause the host of the other site does not offer an email follow widget. I decided it’s time to move to WordPress!

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