Saturday, June 25, 2011
Friday, June 24, 2011
Thursday, June 23, 2011
“Writing is a socially acceptable form of schitzophrenia.” E.L. Doctorow said that. He was the author of the novel Ragtime, which the famous movie and play are based on, so the dude knows of which he speaks. But I am not sure if he was talking about pen names. However, in today’s world, he might as well be.
Just look at all of us out here. Nora Roberts writes sometimes as JD Robb. Stephen King had Richard Bachman. Joe Konrath (real name) writes under J. A. Konrath, Jack Kilborn, and now Joe Kimball. Heck, even Stan Lee, the creator of some of the greatest comics ever is really named Stanley Martin Leiber. Why do we do it?
Is it because we want to be someone else for a while? Because we want to keep ourselves hidden, even in the midst of putting our deepest dreams and hopes out on a page for the world to see? Or is because we just want to keep things straight in our minds, and perhaps in the minds of our readers?
I write under a pen name. My initial reason was more the last one than either of the other two. First, I wrote a book that was a pure thriller. It involved terrorism, a small town and was a lot of fun to write. But then I had an idea for a set of adventure novels. They would turn into the Rick Frost adventure series, of which two are currently available for purchase here and here (how’s that for a plug?). I still had ideas for more thrillers, some straight mysteries, and even had written a collection of noir short stories. So would they all be released under the same name? I put that question to my team of advisors, also known as my wife and a few close writing friends. Their answers were mixed, some in favor of a pen name, some not.
I decided to do it because I didn’t want the kids who would read my Rick Frost young adult adventures picking up my South Florida noir stories and delving into the dark and seedy side of life. So if one was written by Todd Bush, and the other by my pen name, then the kid wouldn’t know the difference. That is unless they did about five seconds worth of research on the internet and made the connection.
So what pen name would I pick? My name is Todd. But for some reason, people they either don’t know me, or know me and forget my name, always call me Scott. Don’t know why, just happens that way. I don’t have a bother named Scott, don’t even have friends named Scott. It just comes out. Maybe I look like a Scott. But I combined it with a random last name and got my pen name: Scott Chase.
Now I have my noir collection coming out next month. It is all about what happens away from the glitz and glamour of South Florida; how it was before the drug wars, and how it got to be the place it is today. The stories are not happy, not resolved at the end in a nice, neat little bow. But they are fun to write and, I hope, fun to read. They are also written by Scott Chase.
But do we use pen names so that we get to delve into a part of ourselves that doesn’t get to come out and play often? Perhaps that’s the case, because I don’t often get to show my love for the shadows, and curiosity for what’s happening behind the “Employees Only” and “Do Not Enter” signs at clubs and bars. Also, my mom worries about putting writing out that is… how to put it… less than holy might be an interesting way of saying it. So maybe writing under a pen name allows me to hide a little bit, even if I don’t want to. Let’s face it, if writing isn’t honest, then it doesn't have a prayer of being good.
Pen names have been around since the beginning of published writing. Ben Franklin even used one. They will still be around. I know a lot of indie writers who are using them to keep the genres they write in separate. But I am not going to hide that I am Todd Bush and Scott Chase. That wouldn't be honest. And I want to have at least a prayers chance of being good.
Sunday, June 19, 2011
I am a man without direction today. Father’s Day, the holiday we set aside to thank those who have taught us how to drive a car, check the oil, stand up for ourselves, and love the women in our lives… and for me, it simply a day I want to be over.
I have a son. He’s two years old. But today, he and my wife are on a trip to visit family and friends. I am happy for them. Most of the people who live up there have not seen my son, so it’s good that they went. But they are not here. I can’t hold him… kiss him… watch the US Open with him… I simply want the day to be over.
I had a father. He was 64. February 3 I received a call that he passed away. It was sudden, quick and still hurts. Today is not only Father’s Day, it is the final round of golf’s second major of the year, the US Open. My father loved golf. He taught me and my brother to play the game. I am decent, but don’t practice; my brother was a teaching pro who still is a scratch golfer. Every major tournament, as it came down to the back nine, when stress levels rose for the players and excitement built in my heart, I called my dad. His voice was also a little higher, a little more animated. He loved the game. We would dissect what was happening. As the tournament ended, I’d call for our own wrap-up show. It was better than anything you’d see on TV because it included talk about my son, my wife, and life in general.
But he is not here. I can’t hug him… shake his hand… listen to his laugh… watch the final round of the US Open with him… get excited as the holes ticked down…
I simply want the day to be over.
Happy Father’s Day.
Saturday, June 18, 2011
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
My favorite new TV show is “Game of Thrones” on HBO. The real hook that pulled me in was Sean Bean. He is one of my all-time favorite actors, always has been since I saw him in Patriot Games. Then he nailed all the Sharpe movies and finally, he was Boromir in the Lord of the Rings movies; maybe the best casting job of the whole thing. Bean is the consummate actor, who can play a good guy or a bad guy with enough charisma to make you like, or at least identify with, his character. He is terrific as Lord Eddard Stark in Game of Thrones.
However, a strange thing happened on my way to watching Bean kick some serious Lannister butt up and down the King’s Road. I found a character that I liked better than Bean’s Stark: Tyrion Lannister, the dwarf… the Imp… played wonderfully by Peter Dinklage. He is smart, hysterically funny and more than just the comic relief: he is the most well-rounded character in the whole group.
There is a scene where Tyrion is talking to Stark’s bastard son Jon, who is feeling sorry for himself because he is not recognized as an official son of the Lord of Winterfell. Jon has been seated with the servants during a feast, so he leaves and is outside brooding (good word, huh?). Tyrion, who is no stranger to being alienated, picked on, and looked down upon , literally, gives Jon some advice about being a bastard.
“Never forget who you are, for surely the world won’t. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness. Armor yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you.”
When I heard it, I wrote it down because I knew it was special. Now a month or so later, I know that Tyrion Lannister was speaking to all of us who have chosen to self-publish. Because as much as we have pumped ourselves up for all that we have accomplished as a group and individually, we have become the bastards of the writing world.
Don’t believe me? Let’s look at the facts. As Joe Konrath pointed out on his blog, the Mystery Writers of America will not accept self-published authors, no matter how successful they might be. Also, Amazon.com announced on June 9 that best-selling author Michael Connelly had become the seventh member of the “over one million e-books sold for the Kindle” club, with the other six members being Stieg Larsson, James Patterson, Nora Roberts, Charlaine Harris, Lee Child, and Suzanne Collins… and they left out Amanda Hocking and John Locke, who will soon join that club. Do a search on book bloggers who review books and you’ll find that most of them say absolutely and unequivocally “no!” to self-published books… and these aren’t corporate reviewers attached to magazines with millions of subscribers; these are folks sitting in their homes blogging in their spare time. Then, read the blogs of the most famous literary agents in the country and notice how they refer to the e-book craze as a curiosity, almost like you would describe a really interesting looking shirt hanging on a rack, and they talk about self-publishing like it’s the modern day equivalent of leg warmers and the pet rock.
You don’t have to go to Konrath’s blog or the message boards to see the scorn. Walk up to a friend you haven’t seen in a while and tell them that you are now a published author. You’ll probably get the wide eyes and the “Oh, wow!” look. Then tell them that you self-published. The “Oh, wow!” look just became a “Man, that’s too bad” sympathetic frown. Ever told someone that you won a contest, then that the prize was a fruit cake? Same look.
This is not the way it has to be. I say we learn from Lord Tyrion Lannister. The quote is good enough to say again. We should all frame it. “Never forget who you are, for surely the world won’t. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness. Armor yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you.”
He is right. The world will never let us forget that we are – GASP! – self-published. Amanda Hocking signed a seven-figure deal with St. Martin’s Press. But the first time she goes to a conference or awards banquet, she’ll get the looks as she walks up, and if not then, definitely as she walks away from any crowd of the glorious, most-esteemed traditionally-published ones. “She started out self-publishing, you know… on the computer. Poor thing, probably had to eat grilled cheese and Spaghetti O’s, too.”
We should revel in the fact that we are doing this our own way. That we had the cajones to do something that others couldn’t bear to do. That is important, but it’s not exactly what Tyrion was talking about. We should do it better than those who are traditionally published. Write better books, craft characters that are so real that readers fall in love with them, take those who buy our work on a path so astonishing, so enjoyable that they will not be the same after they turn off their e-reader or put down their print copy.
As self-published writers, the publishing world’s bastards, we must be extraordinary. Tyrion Lannister, if you have only seen the show and not read the books I won’t ruin anything, but suffice to say he is a highly intelligent survivor who always seems to defy those who think he is too short, too stupid, or too much of a bastard in his own right to ever achieve anything.
He proved them wrong. So should we.
Monday, June 13, 2011
By Mark Terry
If you remember the movie "Bull Durham," at one point Kevin Costner's character, Crash Davis, tells Tim Robbins' character, Nuke LaLoushe, that "you have to play this game with fear and arrogance."
To which Nuke says, "Fear and ignorance. Got it."
Well, when it comes to the fiction biz, maybe they're both right.
I've often thought it takes a serious kind of arrogance (bordering on megalomania) to think that our daydreams not only would be of interest to other people, but of such interest that they would pay money for the privilege of sharing them. I know I'm supposed to say that there's a fine line between confidence and arrogance, but I actually suspect in this case that there's a wide gray borderland here littered with the corpses of unfinished and unpublished novel manuscripts, lying alongside abandoned dreams and failed writing careers--this is where the artist resides most of the time, and has to for their own protection. If there's anything that can kill a creative project better than fear, I don't know what it is.
The thing that makes novel writing so difficult is it's absolutely impossible to know if you're doing it right (or well). It's almost impossible to be objective about your own work, especially when you're in the middle of it. You may spend weeks or months or years working on something that you think is wonderful only for it to be a piece of crap. Or you may struggle with something you think is a piece of crap, but when you finish it and read it, find that it's just as good as anything else you've written. I know these feelings all too well.
Most novelists I've talked to who are regularly published also have this fear: I'm not going to be able to do it again, I won't get published and I'm going to have to go get some "real" job that I hate.
When really stressed, I have dreams (nightmares) that the writing didn't work out and I had to go back to work at the hospital.
PJ Parrish commented once to me that when she's stressed, she has nightmares about the writing not working out and having to go back to working at Big Boy.
I believe it.
It's a dream job, but it's not all roses. I'm not whining. I'm just pointing out that Crash Davis (or the scriptwriter, whose name eludes me at the moment) was probably right: we play this game with fear and arrogance.
What do you think? Are you all cocky, sure you’re the best thing since brewed beer? Or do you fear you’re writing garbage?
Todd Adds: Ron Shelton is the name you're looking for, Mark as far as the screenwriter of "Bull Durham" and my answer to your questions is that everyone who thinks they have something that another person not only wants to hear, read, see or experience, but needs to hear, read, see or experience has to have arrogance.
My dad once said that anyone who runs for political office has to be able to go into a room full of people and without knowing any of them, believe in his heart that he has better answers and greater solutions to the country's problems than all of them. A writer almost has to be the same way.
But just like most politicians (and if you don't believe me, check out the news lately), we need validation. We need someone to tell us that what we are doing is just as good as we think it is. And that is where the fear comes in. Great post by Mark. Check out his books, they are a great read!
Thursday, June 9, 2011
Sunday, June 5, 2011
1) Thank and link to the person who nominated you.
2) Share 7 random things about yourself.
3) Pass the award on to 15 deserving blog buddies.