Yes, this is filled with whisky

Yes, this is filled with whisky

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Author names for mutually exclusive categories

I have several projects aimed at a fairly wide variety of audiences:

(1) YA fantasy
(2) children's short story collection (Christian)
(3) intimacy and sex

I've been told the general trend is not to use multiple names, that I need to focus on building my brand. While I understand building a brand, and that building multiple brands is a lot more work, I also feel that these particular markets might not mix well. Some parents of genre #2 might be put off by #1, and some would *definitely*[1] be put off by #3. And it seems that some readers of genre #3 would likely not take seriously an author in #2, and possibly even #1.

I have a book out under my real name in genre #1, and books nearly ready in the other two.)

If I were looking at you as a prospective client, the first thing I'd tell you is to focus. You've got a lot going on here.

I'm assuming the third category is non-fiction, and that's where platform is a requirement. You must have visibility there for any kind of book proposal to have traction.

Thus, pick the name you want to use for that, and start building your platform there.

You don't need platform for novels. I don't know enough about the Christian market to know why they don't like fantasy (for that you'll need to read Rachelle Gardner's invaluable blog---something you should be doing anyway.)

We've talked a lot here on the blog recently about how hard it is to do more than one thing really well. You might want to think about which of these projects is the most important to you, and focus on that. 

I'm not sure you need a different name. In this day and age of total transparency, trying to be two people is a whole lot more difficult than it used to be.


Carolynnwith2Ns said...

I can so identify with OP.
I am a columnist pitching myself as a Bombeck/Rooney wayward lovechild and a wannabe novelist/memoirist/essayist with so many irons in the fire I could brand every bovine ass in existence.
Focus? Isn’t that a car?

I really can't wait to read today's comments. School is open.

Colin Smith said...

Hmmm... now I don't read a whole lot of Christian fiction (most of my Christian reading is non-fiction), but I don't see why you couldn't write YA fantasy and children's short stories in the Christian market. Unless it's the children's bit that you think won't jive well with the YA fantasy, not so much the Christian bit. Writing non-fiction intimacy and sex books may not go well with children's stories, in which case I think a pseudonym for your children's fiction would be in order. So, if you decided to publish in all three, I would recommend a pseudonym for 1 and 2, but not for 3. It doesn't make sense to me to publish non-fiction under a false name, unless out of security concerns.

But Janet's advice sounds good: start off focused on one. When you have an agent, discuss the others genres with him/her as part of your career strategy conversation. I think that's what I would do.

But what do I know? I don't drive a focus. We have an Excursion. I guess that's why I ramble a lot... :D

E.M. Goldsmith said...

That is quite a range of things going on. I do have some things in my backlog that are different genre, not SFF, but close - YA Urban fantasy, paranormal thriller which I believe are sub-genres. That said, several agents and editors have told me it takes at least 3 books for an author to establish his or herself and for that you must focus in one market. That is what I intend to do for myself. I will let more experienced voices weigh in on pros and cons.

If I should vary, perhaps write a series of children's books about a heroic pug and mischievous monkey, I will wait until my fantasy series is doing well and I have an agent to guide me.

Yes, 2Ns, a Focus is a car and I am not sure why I have to have one when I am starting out. But that has been the consesus. Focus. Coffee time

Sherry Howard said...

A writer's brain is a dangerous place to play. So many ideas constantly swirl like a tornado that you're in danger of being swept away like a piece of driftwood if you stand too near. I specialized in Attention Deficit Disorder, and I think there's a special syndrome Writer's Splinter Syndrome, where writers splinter their attention in so many different directions that it's hard to finish anything without the ability to FOCUS on one thing at a time occasionally. (My BMW is so jealous right now with all this talk of Focus.) I get it, I write what grabs me. But, I know if I want any agent to take me seriously I'll need to introduce my multiple personalities one at a time.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

2Ns and Colin, thank you for the laughter. I needed that after getting my non-early morning daughter's car backwards up a slippery driveway so she could get to work (whoops, she just returned home now, 30 minutes later, after seeing 2 cars go into the ditch at the edge of town. The car behind her made the same decision to return home).

I have a published non-fiction book and my WiP is a women's fiction. I plan to stick with the same name for both as I don't THINK there will be a conflict of interest. My non-fiction is from a particular Christian perspective and that slant will show through in the subtext of my novel.

nightsmusic said...

Okay, first off, the new Focus RS. I can haz! Must have one. Must. Absolutely have to have.

Now, on to focus with the writing, OP, I think the others have said the most important thing, you need to have one focus. Once established, it's fine (my opinion only, like a nose) to branch out. But if you want loyal readers, you're better off to stick with one genre or sub-genre and then move out from there. Anne Rice, if I recall, started writing Christian fiction. Once she was an established author, she branched out. Same thing with Susan Fraser King, Pat Rice...many, many writers. This doesn't always mean you'll get representation in the new genre, but I would think it's easier once you've built a reputation and following. And it's not like those stories you have in other genres expire and explode, never to be seen again.

Robert Ceres said...

A little off topic, but Whenever I think about pen names I always think of Piers Anthony and the charming story of the teenaged fan who ran away to live with him:

Amanda Capper said...

I have 'focus' tattooed on my right forearm, facing me. I heard this word many times when I was a small tornado.

An author's fertile imagination has many garden paths. And it's a good thing, a wonderful thing, if harnessed. I concentrate on mysteries because I recognized this genre as my first choice when reading. But I have a YA fantasy on a back burner, and an absolutely horrific ghost story that I still work on when I need to lighten my mood.

I work on those books when I get bogged down on my first focus. But not for long. And I never rewrite or edit them. Just write until I've exhausted whatever impulse struck me, then head back to main book, more focused.

Brian Schwarz said...

I can identify with you Opie.

I have so many loves. Cigar smoking. Playing rock music. Volunteering by leading worship for my church youth group. Writing bloody thrillers. Writing tamer YA.

Not all of it mixes so well. I'd love to have a podcast on the paranormal and strange, but I don't know that it'd appeal to the YA kids that I hope will read my monster stories. I'd love to do a series of Cigar reviews on Youtube, but I fear what some of the parents of my youth group kids might think of that. I mean, I know the culture there doesn't care, but some parents lead very different lives than I do.

It's a mess, but Janet is right. I love at least eight genres of music, but when I started a band with the intention of doing something notable, I had to pick one. It didn't mean I wasn't passable at some genres. Heck, I was even great at a few. But I had to pick one.

It goes back to the comments from yesterday. Sometimes as writers we get all bent out of shape when people put us in a "box" and we think the box is imposed by the industry rather than by the consumer. But genre's weren't built to help industry professionals. They were built to help consumers. They want to know what to expect, even more-so than your agent or your publisher or your author pals.

My point is - trees need deep roots before they can branch out. Pick one and grow deep. Then think about how to incorporate the rest.

That's my opinion at least.

SiSi said...

I once sat in a meeting with a man who said, "The problem with this company is that we need to have a laser-beam focus, but we're distracted by every shiny new thing that comes along." He had laser-beam focus and actually scared me a little, so for the rest of the meeting I imagined him as the villain in a story about a laser-beam weapon that had been stolen from a top-secret government facility, a weapon that didn't work as planned and instead sprayed laser beams all over the place . . . that story is still sitting in my overflowing drawer of unfinished stuff.

Focus. That's something I need.

I wasn't Opie, but could have been, with different genres listed, so I'm talking this advice to heart.

Amy Schaefer said...

Whatever you write, it's important to avoid confusion for the reader. Let's say Avid Reader comes across one of your books and loves it. She goes straight out and buys the rest of your works. But she discovers that, while Book #1 was a gripping tale of the sordid, kale-fuelled underworld, Book #2 is epic poetry for children, Book #3 follows the hilarious misadventures of an elderly fairy trapped in an undersea kingdom, and Book #4 is a historical romance from the perspective of a cow. Maybe Avid Reader is delighted by all of your works. Or maybe she is now very, very annoyed. Point being, if you are going to write in several genres, each book's genre must be immediately clear to your audience. Avid Reader needs to know not to simply search for Opie's books, but rather Opie's Killer Kale books. No one likes a bait-and-switch.

Colin Smith said...

Amy: Have you read Fortescue Buttonweezer's classic FIFTY SHADES OF GREEN? It's about a harmless three-horned Carkoonian purveyor of ice cream who secretly sells kale smoothies on the side, leading innocent and bewildered young Carkoonians into a life of salad craving. Quite an underground sensation back on the exile planet. But salad tales always are. "Kale is a gateway drug," as they say... :)

DLM said...

I can add no wisdom here, but Colin clearly needs a bop on the head, so here I am to provide it.


Carry on.

Theresa said...

"In this day and age of total transparency...." Yes, I wonder how easy it is for pen names to really hold up now. Anyone with a sleuthing spirit and a computer can find so much information.

Reading about other writers' various WIPs, sometimes across genres, I always figured I was lacking imagination. At least now I know I'm focused.

Dena Pawling said...

I feel for you OP. Right now I have a women's fiction 2-book series, a YA urban fantasy series, and a mystery series. In November I took a step back to figure out “who I was” as a writer. I read a lot in each genre [still doing that], reviewed my social media platform, outlined a few new stories, etc. About two weeks ago, I think I made a decision, altho I'm currently letting that sit for another week or so.

Several writers in my local RWA group have one name for their romance and another name for their erotica. Those genres/categories aren't so different, but they use two names. I don't see a problem with you using two names [I wouldn't go to three], but just remember that's twice the work to get each “name” known to the relevant audience. You might want to start with one, build that, then move to add the other.

Good luck.

Bethany Elizabeth said...

Amy, I agree with you, and I actually think that might be a good reason for a pen name. Not to hide your identity, but to help readers. For instance like Janet mentioned yesterday, J.K. Rowling has a pen name for her crime novels. When her first post-HP book came out, everyone knew she was the writer. So obviously secrecy wasn't her goal. But it's a helpful distinction for readers when they hear about the next novel coming out. Is it Galbraith? Okay, it's aimed at adults. Rowling? Aimed at kids (probably).

But those are two morally compatible genres. Christian fiction can get complicated. I grew up in a moderately conservative area and I remember lots of hubbub about the HP novels. So YA fantasy could conceivably be problematic.

Lucie Witt said...

I have spent a lot of time thinking about this topic, because I write YA and adult fiction.

I generally agree with the idea that you need to establish yourself in one market and avoid reader confusion. It was not a pretty thing when I worked at Borders (RIP) and a very, very angry mother informed me that PC Cast's **adult** romances had inadvertently been shelved with her YA romances. Whoops.

Then there are authors like Chuck Wendig, who publishes adult and YA and Victoria Schwab, who has MG, YA, and adult books. Chuck Wendig uses the same name for all his works. Victoria Schwab pubs her adult stuff under V.E. Schwab.

What I've noticed about authors who pub across categories successfully is that their books have commonalities and are just aimed at different ages. Wendig's books are all a little scifi/fantasy, lots of cussing, dose of horror. Schwabs books all seem to be fantasy/magical. I think that is a lot easier to pull of than, say, writing adult cozy mysteries, YA fantasy, and MG contemporary.

My books might be intended for different ages but they are all romances. If I am ever lucky enough to get "the call" I plan on asking the agent if she is okay with me branching out into other categories (if she's interested in a YA, for example, I plan on asking how she would handle it if I ever wanted to write an adult romance).

I think pen names in this case, like Schwab, are useful to avoid reader confusion.

**off topic**

Not to get too personal, but last night we found out my brother-in-law died at 38 in a car crash. It's been pretty devastating, especially thinking of all the plans we intended to make with him, the things we intended to say. You truly never know how much time you have. In that spirit, I just want to say how much I value this community, and all the people who comprise it. Not just the way people come here to learn about publishing and being a better writer, but I've watched first hand people come here and discuss tough topics, like we're all trying to become not just better writers, but better people. You all are the bee's knees, and I just wanted to make sure I said that.

Craig said...

I wish that writers could write whatever those strange little voices tell them.

Just on the writer's side I have seen some great concepts begin to develop only for the writer to say
"I can't write that. That's a thriller and I writer YA Fantasy."
The ability to grow and expand your horizons should be something every writer strives for. If that moves you beyond one genre, so mote it be.

On the Agent's side I can see why they wish to nail a writer down. I think Miss Donna has closer info but my two bucks. I don't want to have to change my name when I run out of thrillers and step off into Sci-Fi. I see that as a continuation of the journey to be a writer.

All right, I'll be honest I started with a Sci-Fi idea ( first people off Earth and struggle with Earth's governments) but figured I could build the story better by starting in straight forward thrillers.

Amy Schaefer said...

Hey, DLM stole my bop-Colin-on-the-head. I call foul.

And I agree with Bethany Elizabeth. Pen names can be very useful in separating an author's different works.

Amy Schaefer said...

Lucie Witt, I am so sorry for your loss.

Colin Smith said...

Bethany: I don't think you can say YA Fantasy would be a hard sell among Christian readers, especially those who grew up on Narnia (not actually grew up on Narnia--it doesn't exist... does it?--but grew up reading Narnia). Yes, there was a bit of a bruhaha in certain areas with regard to Potter and witchcraft. But there were also a lot of Christians, like me, who decided the matter by actually reading the books. I know of one older teen at our church who is reading through Marissa Meyer's "Lunar Chronicles" series (she has my copy of FAIREST at the moment). I would be more concerned for Opie to distinguish between YA/children's fiction and sex/intimacy non-fiction than between Christian fiction and Fantasy.

But that's just my anecdotal opinion. Aided and abetted by a bop on the head. :D

Her Grace, the Duchess of Kneale said...

Pen names aren't necessarily to hide who you are. They are part of your branding. Agatha Raisin wrote Hamish McBeth and Marion Chesney wrote frothy RegRom.

Sure it's the same author, but when i'm brand hunting, I, the reader, won't get confused.

Colin Smith said...

Lucie: I'm so sorry about your brother-in-law. Wow, I can't imagine the shock of that, and what you are all going through. Big hugs to you and your family. Life is so so precious, you're right. Thanks for reminding us to take nothing, and no-one for granted. :(

DLM said...

Lucie, may your family grow close in this shocking, difficult time. I am so very sorry to hear of your loss; please accept my condolences and prayers.

You are right, this community is a warm, safe place to be grateful for.

Colin Smith said...

Craig: Saying that, I have had ideas for novels that I will never write because it's not within my skill set. One of the things writing flash fiction (and a few novels) has shown me is that there are certain genres I can do fairly competently, and others I don't do well at all. It's better for me to concentrate on what I think I do best.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Lucie, I am so sorry. Such a tragedy. That is rough. Wishing you and your family strength and love in this trying time.

nightsmusic said...

Oh, Lucie, I am so very sorry. It's hard to lose anyone but especially so when it's sudden and without any warning. Virtual hugs to you and yours.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Lucie Witt: I am so sorry about your brother-in-law. Life is tenuous and precious. My thoughts are with you and loved ones.

Another example of writing under more than 1 name is Nora Roberts who also writes as JB Robb, Jill March, and Sarah Hardesty (wow, how does she keep all of that straight?)

Bethany Elizabeth said...

Lucie: I'm so sorry for your loss. That's so sudden and devastating. You and your family will be in my prayers.

Colin: I think it really depends on what type of YA fantasy. My mother heard all the outrage about Harry Potter and read it for herself, then decided it was a wonderful story. (Side note: she still made us read it together as a family, because I had a very active imagination as a child and she was afraid I'd try to wingardium leviosa myself off the roof. Which was ridiculous. I tried the balcony first.)

That said, Christian parents still may have difficulties with YA fantasy that uses angels and demons or seems to criticize religion (His Dark Materials comes to mind, though I never really understood the fuss about that, either). But I agree in general - most people won't care. I just can understand Opie's concern.

Colin Smith said...

Bethany: "... I had a very active imagination as a child..." A child! Wow... that reminds me that next year will be HARRY POTTER AND THE PHILOSOPHER'S STONE'S TWENTIETH anniversary!!! 20 years. Two. Zero.

I got the first couple of Potter books in paperback (didn't want to spend a lot of money in the event I planned to burn them later). After reading book 4, I bought hard cover copies and started reading them to my kids. That was 11 years ago.

I'm feeling old now. Bop on the head please, Diane... :)

DLM said...

Happy to oblige, my friend. It eez ze bitchsmack of luuuuuve.


I look at 20 years ago as being "yesterday" and I don't feel old. I'll be 48 in about five minutes, and my venerable @$$ earned every second of it, thankyouverymuch.

(BTW, Colin, thought of you in particular but everyone here - posting a flash exercise at my blog this evening, I'm hoping hoping hoping some of y'all will come by and have stories ... I may even try to come up with some sort of incentive, but not sure what that could be!)

Colin Smith said...

Think... there are kids in college who have never known a world without Harry Potter. There are young writers out there who don't remember a time where there were no Harry Potter books on their shelves.

The mind boggles. Where's that bop on the head??

Colin Smith said...

Thanks, Diane. Our posts crossed. Like chips in the knight. :D

Bethany Elizabeth said...

I grew up alongside Harry Potter - the last book came out as I was going into my senior year of high school. But I remember how unprecedented it was and how everyone at my school would read the same book at the same time. :)

Incidentally, I started my writing 'career' by writing fanfiction for a book that was labelled 'for the child who keeps asking for the next Harry Potter!' It was nothing like Harry Potter, but I loved it anyway. :)

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Lucie, first off, I am so, so sorry. Hang in Honey. I grapple with how much time I have left every single day and it makes what I want to comment sound really self-serving. I considered not commenting but I'm going to go for it.

The illustrious Mr. King said in a piece written years ago, (not sure where), that he wanted to write the Great American Novel but knew, for whatever reason, horror was his thing. So that’s what he focused on. Out of that came many works which I personally believe could be considered A Great American Novel. Scary maybe, but indeed thought worthy and great.

To me, and this is a confession as well as, “the dream,” a book, novel or otherwise, is the epitome of writing. It is my “Great American Novel.” But I am an essay writer. The only way a collection of essays gets a hard cover is never.

If one goes viral, does it peak an agent and publishers interest?
Write a novel, do readers claimer for the writer’s opinions via essays?
If I were controversial, mean, got elected or was a housewife from wherever, would you read me?
What’s a writer of essays to do?

I love writing what I write. The joy I feel from painting, singing and dancing with words fills my writer’s soul. But it sure would be nice to wrap a cover jacket around that.

I’m way over my word count and have usurped the focus from Opie and switched to me. I’d say I’m sorry but I’ll bet there’s a few of you out there who turn away from what brings you joy to that which you believe affords you the mantle of success.

I’ll stop now.
This is what happens when I have the morning off and time to FOCUS on this wonderful group of fellow woodland kale lovers.

Again Lucie, you are in my thoughts today. God bless.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Diane, I am right there with you. Closer to 50 than 40. I am a Valentine's baby (the most annoying day imaginable to have a birthday). My daughter is 23. I still remember her curled up next to me at bed time with her hands on the book as I read out loud so she could turn the page. It seems like yesterday.

About six weeks ago, my daughter came home from college and exams sick. She made me read the illustrated Harry Potter out loud to her like she was a small child again. Time folded and as we read, it was 20 years ago again.

Time catches us all in the end. I am getting older no doubt, but I feel twenty-five most of the time.

Sorry, way off-topic. It's that kale smoothie Colin gave me yesterday. It's made me all reflective and stuff.

Brigid said...

Oh, Lucie, I'm very sorry. I hope you're all able to find peace and healing. Someone told me once that a relationship doesn't end at death. We keep growing, and we keep growing in relationship with them.

And yes, thank you for telling us. I recently told a friend, "I know you're the least sappy person ever, but you're part of everything that's good about the world, and you should know that." He misheard sappy for savvy and it ended up a bit awkward, but I'm glad I said it anyway.

Colin Smith said...

2Ns: Are you suggesting we should define what success means to each of us, and shoot for that, rather than some preconceived idea of what success looks like? Mmmm... sounds like sage advice to me.

EM: Yup. This year I pass the half-way-to-fifty mark, but in my head I'm still in my twenties. (Really, I hear the collective consciousness of the Shark Tank say, You comment like a drunken teenager... To which I say, pass the kale smoothies...)

Colin Smith said...

*Posts note on the Shark Tank bulletin board*

E.M.'s Birthday is February 14th.


SiSi said...

Lucid, so sorry to hear about your brother-in-law. Sending thoughts and prayers for you and your family.

Tony Clavelli said...

First, Lucie--my condolences. Your love of this community is really touching, and I hope all the messages that came after helped some. What a nice place it is here.

Second, a little about not doing separate things really well--my concerns come from OP's particular choices. It's almost as if they were intentionally chosen to be as disparate as possible. I know they're not mutually exclusive, but if I searched for books on intimacy and sex and got hits for a Christian children's book, I'd be more than a little disturbed.

I know lots of personal examples are posted above, but to share one more, for me, every moment I pour into my fiction is a moment that I'm not animating, and vice versa. 50-50 just doesn't work: I wind up "pretty good" at both things and truly good at nothing. So far my solution has been to chose the one that sings to me JUST a little bit more (writing) and do the other one like labor. That way I divide them so the lesser one is just good enough to sustain that part of me (and get my paid). So like 80-20. So This was partly chosen because I haven't made real money writing, and I was lucky enough to find animation work. My art didn't progress while my heart wasn't in it though--so for now, animation is coasting. The other part of me isn't dead and gone, but I've had to force it to lie dormant in order to do the one that matters most. With genres like this, I bet it's less dramatic, but the principles are similar.

french sojourn said...

Lucie, my heart goes out to you. Be strong and know this community is here for you.

Cheers Hank...*hug*

RKeelan said...

Colin Smith: Halfway to fifty is twenty-five, so it's not at all surprising you feel like you're in your twenties still :)

Laura Brennan said...

Lucie, I wanted to chime in with more hugs. And to marvel at your ability to hold coherent thoughts today, in your grief; to choose to contribute to the discussion; and to charm us with such a lovely turn of phrase as "the bee's knees." I am lucky to be part of a community that has you in it.

Sending you and your family warm wishes.

xnye said...

I can barely remember yesterday so transparency or not, I chose my pseudonym wisely. My initial reason for a pen name was to may homage to the surnames of the women before me. A lot of my characters are pieces of those transitional women. I realize I will be correcting pronunciation often, still it gives me a modicum of anonymity and salutes ancestors. My amateur thoughts. Also,I have a trove of essays and nonfiction writings on subjects that have little to do with my fiction. And...Pen names fun.

Julie.M.Weathers said...


I am so very sorry to hear about your brother-in-law. It must be absolutely devastating.

I'm chuckling about all the advice to focus. My first novel was Dancing Horses, the suspense about champion cutting horses being killed for insurance money.

The second is a high fantasy that has never seen the light of day, but may some day.

The third is Far Rider currently on submission. High fantasy

The fourth is Dragon Valley, epic fantasy. It's about 1/3 done. I putz with it, when I'm log jammed on my current work.

The fifth is ta da The Rain Crow a Civil War paranormal. It will be ready to submit by October if the creeks don't rise.

The sixth is Cowgirls Wanted the historical. It's started, but I need to make a pilgrimage to some museums to raid archives and finish research.

Plus the seven children's books that are lying around somewhere.

I guess, by evidence, I'm really a fantasy writer or possibly a children's book writer. I don't think I'll ever give up on fantasy. I enjoy the freedom to let my mind run wild too much, but I'm sunk in historical right now. I love historical, but for me to do it right, it's exhaustive research. I'd have to take a break occasionally and let my mind play.

Louis L'Amour's agent and publisher fought him tooth and toenail when he wanted to write a medieval book instead of a western. People like the familiar from their authors, I recognize that.

The reason some Christian agents/agency don't like fantasy is some fantasy elements tend to dwell on dark magic, witches, and have a very anti-Christian theme. I'm not getting into a religious debate, but the bible does address magic, so I can see why some Christian agencies are uncomfortable with fantasy as magic is pretty much the bedrock of the genre.

Yeah, I know. I probably shouldn't share my split personality with agents. Miss Janet already knows about it and accepts me. I'm feeling much better now.

Amanda Capper said...

Holy Hannah, Lucy, I'm so sorry. My worst nightmare.

Colin Smith said...

RKeelan: I was, of course, referring to the halfway point between fifty and the previous decade. Unfortunately repeated bops on the head are messing with my komunikashun sckilz.

'Nother bop please, Diane. And pass the kale smoothie... :D

John Frain said...


I'm thinking about you these past couple hours. It's unimaginable, not being in your shoes. You're so right about this community. Stay strong. It's an unfortunate reminder of how fragile this life is, so say the things you want to say.

I was going to say something and it's completely slipped my mind. Maybe that's because I'm supposed to send a note to some people who are important to me. Then it'll come back.

Julie.M.Weathers said...

Regardless, of what genre we write, if we can, let's all try to get some writing in today. Make it your daily goal.

DLM said...


Will someone please take over the bopping of Colin?

And maybe write the poem entitled The Bopping of Colin?

CynthiaMc said...

Lucie - so sorry for your loss.

I loved doing newspaper columns and magazine articles because I could do what I wanted. But then I missed the storytelling.

When it comes to fiction, there seems to be more of a tendency to box one in and I hate that. Is there anything I love enough to do only that for the rest of my life? Not so far. I love variety, I love a challenge. I get bored easily.

What do I want to do with my writing? Pretty much what I do with my acting and music - make people laugh, make them cry, make them think. I'm just not sure I can put that in a box.

roadkills-r-us said...

First, Lucie, I am so sorry to hear that. Big ol hugs and prayers for all who loved him.
Secondly, as OP, I'll clarify a couple of things. The first fantasy is done and the first sequel is started. The children's short story collection has been ready for donkey's years[1]; I've just been sittong on it. The intimacy book has grown out of a lot of counseling we do with young couples. It's a slowly evolving WIP, not even a finished first draft. I'm asking these questions as part of the big picture.
In terms of writing, I'm fairly well focused on the fantasy for now. But I'm not cut out to just do one thing my whole life. I could bore/regale you with my jobs and careers-- which have been all over the map-- but won't. I'll save that for my memoirs. 8^)

A friend recently suggested that publishing the intimacy book with both my wife's and my names on it solves that problem. I think they may be right.

[a] Such a weird phrase but I love it.

Lennon Faris said...

Lucie - thinking of you & your family. So sad to hear of that. I hope you all can find peace.

I don't think I had anything pertinent to the blog to add, but as always, I enjoy reading :)

S.D.King said...

Opie- thanks for that timely question.

My middle grade book is for a secular market, but I allowed my Christian faith has to seep in just a bit. (The 6th grade Beta Reading project is happening now and so far it has been great)

And, Janet, AMEN to the Rachelle Gardner recommendation. She is a truly quality person - I also read the Books and Such Agency blog pretty regularly as they share insider thoughts daily.

Lucie, Sorry to hear about your brother-in-law. It is such a wake-up call on the fragility of life.

Donnaeve said...

Lucie, when my own too young brother in law died February 14th, 2009, (suicide) I created a DVD in honor of his life showing pictures of him as baby right on up... There was a song I used for it, by Gerry Rafferty, THE ARK. It is an absolutely beautiful song, the lyrics in particular.

I'd like you to listen to it if you want...

The song still gives me a lump in my throat. I'm listening to it now as I type this...but it also is a healing song.

Peace be with your and your family.

Karen McCoy said...

Great post. I'm hiding under the guise of "speculative fiction" but I know I'll have to narrow the focus soon. But for genres as diverse as that (with equally diverse readerships), Janet's advice is sound (as always).

Rachelle Gardner also has a post about yesterday's topic, interestingly enough.

Julie.M.Weathers said...


Prayers go out to you and yours. Try to remember the life and the love.

Remember you have friends here. When the whirlwind is over, there will be someone to talk to if you need to.

I had this song played at Dad's memorial dinner at the VA home. Salute to your brother-in-law.

Janice L. Grinyer said...

(((hugs to Lucie & family )))

Our Town by Thornton Wilder -

"We all know that something is eternal. And it ain’t houses and it ain’t names, and it ain’t earth, and it ain’t even the stars . . . everybody knows in their bones that something is eternal and that something has to do with human beings. All the greatest people ever lived have been telling us that for five thousand years and yet you’d be surprised how people are always losing hold of it. There’s something way down deep that’s eternal about every human being."

...the saints and poets, maybe.

Theresa said...

Condolences, Lucie. It's always so hard to lose a family member.

Kae Ridwyn said...

Oh Lucie, I am so sorry! *hugs* to you and your family in this tragedy. Stay strong and know that we're all here for you!

Also, I'm wondering about what OP's agent, when he gets one, would say. Janet is clear about which genres she reps, and which she doesn't, and I'm assuming that most agents are similar. What should OP do if an agent who wants to sign him for the YA fantasy won't sell Christian children's works, or non-fiction sex / intimacy? Should he hold out for an agent who sells all the genres he writes in? (Does this agent even exist?) Or should he look for a different agent for each genre? (But isn't multiple agents a big fat no-no?)

Argh! Too many questions! *crawls back under covers* *remembers Janet's advice* *chides self* *clambers out and heads to writing desk to FOCUS*

S.D.King said...


So sorry about your brother! Since you mentioned that music helped, please take time to listen to this beautiful song "Ease the Blow" by Ann Arbor musician Chris DuPont.

He wrote it after being asked by a friend to sing at the funeral for her brother who died of suicide. That gorgeous haunting female voice toward the end is the sister herself singing.

here is a link

Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

Dear Lucie,

I'm so sorry to hear about your brother-in-law's passing. I hope you and your family can manage the grief and remember the beauty.

Roadkills-r-us, There are lots of reasons to write. If you want to make a career out of it, from what I understand, you need to create a brand. Everything these days is a brand. A brand can come from years of creating and focusing or it can be a one hit deal. We all know Mark Zuckerberg because he created FB. He is FB. We know Bill Gates because he is Microsoft. Stephen King did not write one book. But Madonna did do at least one picture book and so did Julian Moore. Perseverance can become a brand. The brand can make a product.

Focusing can mean creative death. But if you can focus and write a book sitting on a toilet seat while your day job is working in a mine surrounded by rats then one day you may make 10 grand an hour.

Consider the research time you will put into querying each of these projects. Which one of these projects do you see yourself branded to ten years from now?
Ask yourself what you want to be.

nightsmusic said...

SD King, are you by any chance, a Michigander?

Lucie Witt said...

Wow, after being away all day I came back to check in and I'm completely overwhelmed by the comments, well wishes, and condolences. You all are truly wonderful.

Julie, thank you for sharing that song. I've listened to it twice now.

We found out yesterday just as we were preparing to leave for Nashville (my husband is presenting for a conference here and up for a big work award). I intended to come, enjoy the fancy hotel, and use the time as a mini-writing retreat.

We decided to come anyways in the end, since Tracy (my brother-in-law) was in Las Vegas when he died and they have to get him back to Kentucky, so nothing will be until next week. I realize I'm still in the shock/numb stage, but being away from the world with my husband and losing myself in my writing/work has truly been the best therapy I (we) could get right now. And the wonderfully supporting community here, of course.

I also can't stop reading this week's header. Every second truly is precious.

I'm rambling, but really, thank you all for your condolences and kind words.

AJ Blythe said...

Lucie, my thoughts and prayers are with you and your family ((hugs)).

EM, my brother is a valentine's baby and he hates it too, but it's the one birthday no-one forgets!

Colin, the Bop is actually a form of poetry. So there's a challenge, write about the bopping of Colin as a Bop *wink*.

S.D.King said...

Nightsmusic, yes Pure Michigan. Go Blue! (Ok- Go Sparty, too).

nightsmusic said...

SD, I think I'm very close to you!! Michigan Born and Bred

Go Sparty! and Go Blue too ;)

A.J. Cattapan said...

First of all, Lucie, I'm so sorry to hear of your loss. Prayers for you and your family.

With regard to today's topic, there *is* such a thing as Christian YA fantasy. I should know. My debut novel was in this category, and I know plenty of other authors who write it, too. Unless the OP's YA fantasy has something anti-Christian in it, there shouldn't be any problems.

BJ Muntain said...

Wow. I didn't even realize I'd missed the blog post this morning - I must be sicker than I thought.

Whether you want to use a pseudonym or not would be according to your own sense of what works. I don't think there is a 'do this/don't do that' sort of thing about it anymore.

Branding is good marketing, but it doesn't have to be divided by genres. I was just telling someone in a Facebook group that it's about getting one set of fans to follow you to your future books. What will do that? In this person's case, it would probably be the sense of humour he puts into all his work.

But in your case, you don't *want* people to follow you from one genre to another, so a combined brand may not work.

Honestly, I agree with Janet. Choose one to focus on, get an agent, and then have this talk with that agent. As far as I know, you don't need a pseudonym before you sign a contract.

Lucie: Awwww. (((hugs)))

Megan V said...


I am so sorry for your loss. "Death leaves a heartache difficult to heal;
Love leaves sweet memories no one can steal." Clearly you and your family loved your brother in law. May your memories of him bring you comfort in this difficult time.

Nightmusic and SD— GO GREEN! GO WHITE! Blue who? ;)

OP: let's just say many of us fail at focusing. *hides WIPs behind back.* Nothin' to see here. said...

Lucie, I'm so sorry for your loss and grief. I hope this community will be a source of comfort when you need it, as well as distraction when you need that. Sending you virtual hugs.

On topic, pen names can be useful for a variety of reasons. I don't think it *necessarily* has to be for the sake of hiding anything. It's more a cue to the reader that this thing is different from that other thing. But in that case, it's usually because a writer is KNOWN for writing a particular genre and now here is a different genre with different reader expectations.

For instance, Victoria Dahl is known for writing romance and is now writing women's fiction under another name (Victoria H Stone). She's completely up front about it, no hiding the new name, but makes it very clear to her readers not to expect the HEA of romance. The distinction being, she is KNOWN for something. There are many, many writers using different names for that reason. Toni McGee Causey is another example, now writing as TM Causey. Hell, I plan to use more than one name and don't see it as being all that difficult. A bit more time-consuming, maybe, but not difficult. As for which name I might become *known* for? Who knows. Maybe neither/none.

And then there's the example of Neil Gaiman, who writes just about anything and everything imaginable and supposedly incompatible and uses just one name (as far as I know). But again, note he was first known for writing one thing (Sandman). Janet's not wrong about debut writers needing to focus, IMO. That will give you freedom/opportunity to do other things, later.

It's an individual decision, based in part on how prolific you plan to be in a genre, whether the distinction is truly necessary for your readers, and whether you are committed to dedicating the time and focus required to make it work. Honestly, that's true even if you only ever use one name.

Carolynn, I don't know whether this will be comforting or discouraging, but Lisa Scottoline has several collections of her essays/newspaper articles published in hardcover. All you have to do is first become a NYT bestselling author of fiction, then it's a piece of cake. Apparently. ;)

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

kdjames thanks. Another option, oh boy. I'll check out the possibility of being a NYT bestselling author. That should be easy don't 'cha think?

Anyway, just got home from work and caught up reading the comments. This is indeed a wonderful community. On days like this I am reminded of just how fragile we all are, how short our time on earth and how precious every second is.

Last year I wrote our dear Janet when I was trying to decide whether (at my age) to commit to a new project.

"Do it if it brings you joy," she said.

And that is what we all should do. Write what we love, write what brings us joy and write that which fills our cups. We should live and love that way too.

Jessica Snell said...

Lucie, I am so, so sorry. That's just terrible.

On today's post, add me to the chorus of people who say that yes, there is such a thing as Christian YA fantasy. I've noticed that the bigger Christian publishers (like Bethany House) tend to have a bit of spec. fic. each season, but it never seems to be a huge part of their catalog. The only Christian house I know that's doing it full-time is Enclave Publishing (used to be Marcher Lord Press), but I might be missing something.

Fantasy is historically v. Christian (Lewis and Tolkien being the big examples, as some already mentioned), but it's also more potentially problematic for Christians, because fantasy is more explicitly spiritual than many genres, and so it has a bigger potential to run afoul of certain religious boundaries. I think a lot of times it's left untried because it's tricky.

Jessica Snell said...

On pen names: the author I think of in this respect is Seanan McGuire, who writes urban fantasy, but uses the pen name "Mira Grant" for her sci-fi. It's no secret that Mira Grant and Seanan McGuire are the same person, but she's prolific enough to support two brands, and it helps the readers know what they're getting with each title.

(I do wonder if being prolific has something to do with it in these cases - thinking of Nora Roberts here, too. Can you just produce *so much* that it's better not to over-saturate your audience with product, and so having two brands is the only feasible way to handle it?)

Laina said...

Actually, Rowling's first post-HP novel was The Casual Vacancy. While that was released under her name, Robert Galbraith was presented as a debut author, and it wasn't until a couple months after it was released that it became known it was Rowling's book. People DIDN'T know it was a Rowling book when it was released.

Kersten Hamilton is one author who writes both YA and picture books. Jenna Black writes both YA and adult romance, some of which can get pretty steamy. YA can really bridge between children's books, and romance both, but romance (or books about sex/intimacy) to picture books would be a way bigger jump, and I can't think of any besides Debbie Macomber, who has a few picture books but largely writes romance.

So pick two basically? XD But your YA is probably not going to be your problem, whatever way you go.

Laina said...

(That first part was aimed at Bethany, but not, like, in a mean way.)

roadkills-r-us said...

The fantasy is not overtly Christian. I'm familiar with a wide variety of fantasy (Christian and otherwise). The fantasy isn't anti-Christian, but it's nothing a publisher focusing on Christian markets would be likely to pick up.
Maybe I'm making that part out to be a bigger deal than it is; I'm just remembering the furor over the HP books and the circus sideshow that went along with that. Maybe it seemed bigger than it really was.
Thanks to Janet for posting, and to everyone who responded. Y'all rock.
I have *got* to remember to log in under my real name for these...

nightsmusic said...

I don't think reCaptcha is doing its job...spammer duly reported!

Janet, I am surprised you have such a good Michigan contingency here! *waves* We should all get together, well, not Janet maybe, it's too far to drive, unless she wants to) for writing time!

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

Hugs for you, Lucie, you and yours. Families are forever. Y'all are allowed to cry whenever you want.


When I was young and full of beans I had the opportunity to do pretty much... everything. Science, Fine Arts, even some sports. I had a pretty busy life. But then, I was a single student at an American university, so I could indulge in all fields.

But as I get older, while there are many things I like, I discovered what I truly loved and couldn't live without. Those things I liked but didn't love, I could let go by the wayside. Also, as children came along, I had less and less time to indulge in everything.

I've kept a few things--those necessities for my soul--but I'm okay with letting the rest go.

I write escapist novels by day, I stare at the stars by night, and I have a piano gig on the weekend. That's it. I have my past and its wonderful stories to comfort me in my old age.

While it can be tempting to want to do everything that catches your interest, sometimes it's best to settle down and specialise in just a few things. No woman has to sing all the verses of her song at once.

We are in this for the long run. Sure, there's lots of stuff we like, but ultimately, if we are true to our deep passion and not just our shallow fancies, that is when our souls are satisfied.

PBs and YA and NF-XXX? Why so all over the place?

That is the question you need to answer.

Julie Glover said...

I am in a strangely similar position. I write both mainstream young adult novels and a blog and books on Christian sex in marriage. In my opinion, those platforms are entirely different, so I selected different names and websites. However, both names are variations of my full name so I don't have to keep up with a pseudonym, and I always operate under the belief that the streams will cross. These days, you can't really hide on the internet; if someone wants to find you, they can.

It's very possible someone who visits my Christian sex blog will discover my YA world and vice versa. Of course, I think the best way to approach that situation is to be positive and authentic on all your platforms. But I do keep those areas as separate as I can -- even using two different browsers on my computer for my two mes.