Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Seduction of a Pen-Name

I’ve given this much thought and even researched some of my favorite authors who use pen-names (you’d be amazed how many do), and I’ve come to the following conclusion:

A pen-name is a good thing. 

Let me explain my thinking. 

My name as you see it on this blog comes with baggage, it has emotions and expectations attached to it and it has a history; the history of my life, family, friends, experiences, etc. It comes with a its own framework, lives within its own framework. 

A pen-name on the other hand is blank. I create the persona, I create the framework, the characteristics and attitudes. Similar to creating a character in one of my books. By creating a pen-name I free myself from people I know, experiences I’ve had and my own background. I get to completely recreate who I am as a writer. 

I can write in a different genre and not get pigeonholed into a place that becomes too limited. It allows me to explore different genres, themes and ideas. 

But the best part, aside from the sense of liberation, is that I can write without my ego getting in the way. My identity and ego are put aside when I write under a different name; nothing gets in the way of pure, limitless, writing.

I’ll let you know when my other persona publishes her first book!

Thursday, October 16, 2014


There is a romance surrounding freelance work that says freelancers get to do what we want, when we want and actually have plenty of money too. If money runs low, we just call up a client, do  some work, get paid and go off and have fun in the sun again. (Rumor has it top programmers can live like this)

The truth is a little different. A lot of time is spent finding clients, negotiating a reasonable hourly rate, and once the project is done then comes the challenge of hassling accounting to actually get paid. The difficulty there is that most freelance jobs are not built into the standard operating budget so don’t get paid along with the monthly expenses. 

Surprisingly this problem persists across the board, whether you’re working with a small company or a large one. I’ve given this problem some thought as I continue to wait for payment and send out my weekly reminders that I’m still owed money. 

It comes down to value. Is the freelance work valued at the same level as that of an employee? Is a freelance contractor working without the backing of a placement firm considered a valuable addition to a project/company/event? Usually that answer is somewhere close to ‘no’.

That’s not necessarily a fair assessment. It’s not an unambiguous ’no’. It’s more complicated than that, but when you’re waiting for your money for the work you’ve done, you’re really not interested in the ambiguities of whether you’re valued -no amount of praise affects that - or where in the budget, or the changing financial picture of the client you might fit.

So after a tough - lean - few months does that mean I’m going to quit freelancing? No. There are too many adventures to still be had in freelancing. There is that freedom to work any 24 hrs. of the day I choose, and have some time and energy left to work on my novels, volunteer at my offspring’s robotics team … and I get stay home with my ailing dog. 

It also means I get to jump on opportunities I might not otherwise. I can help somebody out who’s just starting out as a writer, by offering constructive advice and developmental editing, I get to continue to work with and advise my screenwriting client as he determines the best direction to take the screenplay. And I get to keep looking for that next challenging and exciting project that will require me to learn and grow and exceed expectations. But it does mean I will continue to evaluate this way of doing business, every month.  

Saturday, October 4, 2014

October Book Review

The Brethren

I found this book in the .99 cent bin at my local Goodwill store and thought it might be a fun read. I was not disappointed. It’s a heist story of a different kind. 

Imagine 3 judges stuck in a very minimum security prison in Florida. They each have done something in their lives that caused them to be stripped of their rank and position and tossed in jail. Once there they get to know each other and help their fellow inmates with appeals cases and other minor disputes over property inside. 

They don’t do this for free, no, these guys are in it for the money. They’ve lost everything on the outside and know they’ll need money if they want to have some kind of comfortable living on the outside again. The three ex-judges, known as the brethren, are a trio of scheming, conniving and shrewd operators. 

With the help of a washed up, broke lawyer on the outside, who also has a gambling and drinking problem, they set out to prey on lonely, older men, who live respectable lives, have money but are ‘in the closet’. They’ve concocted the perfect con. (It’s what’s known these days, as cat-fishing, which is a growing ‘sport?’ or hazard at social media sites and online dating sites.) 

That is, until they snare a presidential candidate. Now, it takes them a while to figure that out and when they do, they assume they’ll have it made. Except that they didn’t count on the CIA becoming involved. 

It will take all their ingenuity and shrewdness to come out of this free, alive and wealthy. 

The book is fast paced and well written. It was a quick read and taught me some more about writing. As I’m guessing you can tell, I’m reading some very varied types of books … the goal is to learn style, writing craft and to explore different ideas. It will all lead to better writing for me.