Friday, May 06, 2016

Why Use a Pen Name?

I'm actually asked quite frequently why a person would or would not want to use a pen name when they start publishing. I decided that writing it out in a blog post would be a jolly good idea.

In my opinion, there are three main reasons why an author would consider using a pen name. These aren't listed in any particular order.

1. As a safety precaution. Some authors worry about stalkers, ex-spouses, or other unsavory individuals locating them and making their lives difficult if they publish under their own names. It has been difficult for authors such as Stephenie Meyer, for instance, who published as herself and now must use bodyguards and what-have-you. However, this is not ordinary at all. I've never had a problem with crazed fans or the like, and out of my many, many author friends, I'm only aware of one who has had a stalker. And she uses a pen name. Go figure.

2. Their name is completely unpronounceable. If their ancestors came from a foreign country or they have an unusual name for another reason, they might consider using a pen name just so it's easier for readers to request them at libraries and bookstores and such. Or, if they happen to have the same name as a famous person, they might choose a different name for themselves. My name is unusual, but it's served me well because there's only one of me.

3. To differentiate between genres. If an author is well known for writing middle-grade fiction and then decides to write adult horror, they might choose to use a pen name so their middle-grade fans don't accidentally pick up the horror novel and be scarred for life.  Or a sweet romance author might choose another name for her erotica novels. It's something authors to do help steer their readers where they want to be. They know what to expect when they pick up a book by that author. However, if they're writing YA romance and then decide to write adult sweet romance, they don't need a pen name because those two genres are similar enough that the same audience can read both and will probably enjoy both.

Using a pen name isn't difficult. You don't need to do anything legally to make that name yours - you can have your publisher send the checks in your real name and you can use your real name on your business license and so forth. Some authors do a DBA where they add their author name onto their bank accounts, but I haven't done that since all my checks are made out in my real name.

When you choose your name, run a search on Google and make sure there isn't someone else by that name doing things you don't want to be associated with, and check Amazon to see if there are other authors by that name.  If all that checks out, take a second to make sure that website address is available, and then snatch it up immediately.

I'd say that the vast majority of writers don't need a pen name, but you know your circumstances better than anyone and will know what you most prefer to do.

A Touch of Gentility

Side Note: I don't shop at Target. That has nothing to do with their bathroom policy - I don't like their selection and I don't like their prices. I've felt that way for years. To find out how I feel about bathrooms, keep reading.

I look back and remember going to my grandma's house as a child. She'd be in the kitchen baking up something in the oven, my grandpa would be reading the newspaper in his living room chair, and the grandchildren would run in and out, taking cookies from the jar on the counter that was always full. What precious memories those are to me years after my grandparents passed.

They were raised in a time when you'd say "sir" or "ma'am" simply as a matter of course, when you'd stop and help someone whose car had broken down along the side of the road, and when you'd give someone the benefit of a doubt and trust their good intentions until you found out they weren't who they said they were - and you knew that for a fact.

Today, all I have to do is look at social media to start longing for those days to return.

It seems there are many who are eager to take offense first and ask questions later ... if ever. Opinions are shouted and screamed, accompanied by name calling and personal attacks. In my grandfather's time, two fellows might disagree on who to vote for, but it would rarely disintegrate into profanity and attacks on someone's moral character.

It seems there are many who distrust others' intentions and believe that they're rarin' for a fight or trying to be hurtful rather than taking a moment to listen to what is really being said.

It seems there are many who are careful to be politically correct, but who have forgotten something even more basic - kindness. Simple kindness, which is more inclusive and more powerful than any mandated way of speaking.

It's true that technology has brought us a long way since my grandparents' time. We've made tremendous advances in science and medicine and transportation. But I fear that many have slid backwards in terms of respect. If you and I disagree, we can do so without coming to verbal blows about it - and yet, there are those who spend their time looking for the next fight, the next battle.

I have a challenge for all of us, and that's to take a step back and understand that the beliefs we hold dear may not be dear to others - and that's okay. We are each given the choice as to how to think and feel, and taking away their ability to choose their beliefs would also take away our ability to choose our beliefs. On both sides of every issue, we should state our position, and we should allow others to state theirs without the whole thing being reduced to mud slinging. Sadly, those who do this most will never see this post.

And as far as bathrooms go, what if we were to take this furor and this angst we feel on both sides of the issue and concentrate instead on lobbying for a third bathroom? It needn't be as large as the others because statistically speaking, there probably wouldn't be a line of people waiting for it, but it would be a compassionate way to address the issue for everyone, including those who are transgender ... I can't imagine that public restrooms have ever been comfortable for them, and I don't see the opening up of just two bathrooms as being the right solution for them either. At whatever stage of their transformation, they might enjoy a little more privacy and respect.

It's my hope that we can see each other as human beings all sharing space on this planet and not leap into attack mode whenever something is presented that opposes our world view. I'd like to see conversations, not battles. I'd like us to stop using social media to say things we'd never say to someone's face ... and to stop letting social media callus us to the point where we would start saying those things to people's faces. We are all, at heart, good people just navigating our way though life the best we can. Let's wave at each other as we go by instead of sticking out our tongues. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Spotlight: The Magnificent World of Spirits by Marlene Bateman Sullivan

Life. Death. Life.

Not everyone who visits the spirit world stays there. The Magnificent World of Spirits: Eyewitness Accounts of Where We Go When We Die, gives fascinating glimpses of life beyond the veil by people who visited the spirit world during the early years of the LDS Church.

Filled with stories of insight and inspiration, The Magnificent World of Spirits is a stirring book that combines documented personal experiences with scripture, commentary, and quotes from latter-day prophets and other leaders. This book will bring you peace as you come to understand what awaits on the other side of the veil. After reading this book, you will never think of life—or death—in the same way.

Author Marlene Bateman Sullivan paid a visit to my blog today to talk about her new release and share with me how she got the idea to write this book. 

"Years ago, as I was doing research for another book, LDS Heroes and Heroines, I came across some touching stories in early Church history about people who had visited the spirit world. I found so many personal accounts in journals and other personal records, and in old newspapers and magazines, that I divided the material into two books. 

"The first book was Gaze Into Heaven; Near-death Experiences in Early Church History, which contains over 50 accounts of people who had near-death experiences. Writing that book encouraged me to write The Magnificent World of Spirits: Eyewitness Accounts of Where We Go When We Die, which is about people who also visited the spirit world, through dreams, visions, and other means. Their experiences are almost identical to those who had near-death experiences.

"Each one of these experiences is a comforting testimony that God lives, that He loves us and that when we die, life will continue on in a beautiful place where we will be reunited with our departed loved ones, be freed from earthly trials and disabilities, and experience great joy and happiness."

This book sounds fantastic, Marlene! It can be purchased online at and also at Deseret Book and other LDS store locations.  

Reading these experiences can bless us with a better understanding of this life and increase our knowledge of the life to come. We can benefit from the insights people gained when they entered the spirit world and use that to reevaluate our lives and use our time on earth more productively.


Monday, February 22, 2016

New Book Release - The Changing Season by Steven Manchester

This was supposed to be a simple summer for Billy: one more lazy expanse of time before college began. He'd fill the hours playing with Jimmy—his canine best buddy—going camping and doing all the things he promised Jimmy they'd do before Billy left. But that was before the accident that shook the entire town. It was before the summer job that turned into something so much more than a way to get a paycheck. And it was before Vicki. This summer was destined to be many things to Billy, things he didn't truly understand until now. But it was definitely not going to be simple.

An enormously touching, richly textured, deeply moving novel of new adulthood, The Changing Season is an experience to savor—with special appeal to dog lovers. 

Steven Manchester is the author of four #1 bestsellers: Twelve Months, The Rockin' Chair, Pressed Pennies, and Gooseberry Island. His long-anticipated novel, The Changing Season, is now available. Steve is also the author of the award-winning novel Goodnight, Brian. He has written A Christmas Wish (Kindle exclusive), Wilbur Avenue (novelette), Just in Time (novelette) and The Thursday Night Club (novella), while his work has appeared on NBC's Today Show, CBS's The Early Show, CNN's American Morning and BET's Nightly News. Three of Steven's short stories were selected "101 Best" for Chicken Soup for the Soul series, and he is the produced playwright of Three Shoeboxes. When not spending time with his beautiful wife, Paula, or their four children, this Massachusetts author is promoting his works or writing. Visit him at his website or on Facebook.
From the book:  

          The beach was nearly deserted. After erecting their tent and establishing a cozy campsite, Jimmy trotted to the water. As Billy looked on, the silver-faced mutt walked in slowly—like an old man easing himself into a warm bath—the reckless abandon he’d once been known for completely gone.
Jimmy swam for a bit before sitting in the shallows with the water line at his chest.
Billy waded in and took a seat beside him where they sat for a long while, looking out onto the horizon. While the tide gently lapped at their chests, Billy wrapped his arm around Jimmy’s shoulder. “This is the life,” he whispered.
A seagull landed on the sand a few feet from them. Jimmy just sat there, watching the squawking bird with mild interest. “You must be tired, Jimmy. Back in the day, you would have chased that vulture until you collapsed.”
Jimmy stood and took chase, but it was a haphazard effort.
“Half-stepper,” Billy teased the dog and stood to go for a walk and dry off.
As they strolled along the coastline, Jimmy shook the salt water from his coat. He also took breaks, long breaks, acting like he was exploring.
“I know you’re stalling,” Billy told him, “and it’s okay.” At least your spirit’s still willing, Billy thought, getting choked up.
When Jimmy slowed even more, Billy headed for the campsite. The sea grasses had lost their summer hue and were now brittle, snapping in half as Billy and Jimmy walked through the abandoned dunes.
They reached camp and sat together again where Billy discovered that the pads on Jimmy’s paws were dry and cracked. One was even bleeding, which Jimmy licked for some time. Billy pulled the big moose into his lap. “Too many miles on those old tires, huh?” he whispered, before noticing the patch of missing fur on the mutt’s hind quarter—a souvenir from a vicious fight he’d won in his glory days. A mean stray had swaggered into the backyard looking for trouble. Unwilling to let it go, Jimmy gave the growling stranger all the trouble he could handle. That one battle scar had been rubbed and patted thousands of times throughout the years, the family being forever grateful for Jimmy’s sacrificial love and fearless devotion. As they sat side-by-side, Billy rubbed it again.
Resting his head in Billy’s lap, Jimmy’s eyes squinted while he enjoyed the heavy scratching.
Billy worked his hand up the old dog’s body, stroking Jimmy’s head and kneading the scruff of his neck. “I love you, buddy,” he said. “You know that, right?”
Jimmy licked Billy’s hand.
“And I need to go away pretty soon…to college.”
Jimmy licked him again.
“The last thing in the world I want is to leave you, but I…” Billy stopped from going any further. A wave of tears was waiting to break on the shore just behind his eyes.
As though Jimmy understood, he nestled deeper into Billy’s lap and began giving Billy’s hand a thorough bath.
With his free hand, Billy rubbed Jimmy’s chest up and down—fast and hard—exactly the way the old mutt liked it. As he did, he looked up and noticed a bank of even darker clouds had gathered above. “Looks like rain,” he told Jimmy. “Hopefully, there’s no thunder.”
They napped in the tent, Jimmy appearing much less worried about his nails on the air mattress than Billy. They curled up together, the rain pitter-pattering on the light canvas above. “It’s just a shower,” Billy told him. As good a guess as any meteorologist would make, Billy thought, though it doesn’t matter either way. As they began to nod off in each other’s arms, Jimmy snored peacefully. Billy stared at his best friend’s face, studying every nook and cranny—memorizing every crease and line. But it was silly. He knew Jimmy’s face better than his own. And I’m going to miss it something awful, he thought, swallowing back the lump in his throat. While the rain picked up and began thumping on the tent’s roof, Billy closed his eyes.

You can purchase The Changing Season by clicking here.

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