I recently popped into my local indie bookstore (shout out to Sundance Books!) and found that thing that makes a writer’s heart go pitter pat — their very own work on the shelf. If you look closely, Gentle Reader, the two collections in which I have stories are sitting side by side. This makes me so happy!
Pen name = Nom de plume.
I recently published a short piece of horror fiction under my pen name Arlene Stuart. It set off a firestorm of questions.
Okay, it was three questions.
First, hunh? Yeah, I know. Delusions of pretension over here. Like I’m Mark Twain or J.K. Rowling.
Second, why? It’s fairly common for authors to use different names for different genres. I’ve published a fair amount of non-fiction under my legal name (clips are here) and I’m working on a Middle Grade historical novel that I hope to publish. But I also have a few romances drafted, ranging from clean to a little smutty. Plus the short horror. It’s pretty simple — I want to keep the non-fiction and kids’ stuff separate from the smut and scary stuff.
And third, why Arlene Stuart? Family members will recognize both of these names. “Arlene” is my birth middle name and “Stuart” is my grandmother’s maiden name. So, in a sense, I’m honoring both myself as a youngster, and my ancestry.
But there are hoops to deal with. When I submitted the horror story, I noted that I was using a pseudonym. Unlike J.K. Rowling when she started to write mysteries, I’m not trying to keep it a secret. There’s no worry that I will be outed and then have to deal with the backlash. I told the anthology editor that I wanted to put this other name on the story and she handled the blurb perfectly. Which, of course, gives me direction for the future.
There are the post-publication the questions, the puzzled looks, getting paid, and autographs. I’ve compared myself to Mark Twain, which clears things up some. His nom de plume is way cooler than mine, though. And as for payment, hey, we live in a digital age. I didn’t get a check; I just provided a PayPal e-mail address. Easy peasy. As for autographs, I haven’t gotten to address that, yet. I imagine I’ll just sign “Arlene Stuart”.
Ironically, if I’d used my real name, I would be first on the list of authors on the back cover. Oh well.
Short stories are a great training ground for novel writing, but are they worth the energy?
I had this wonderful idea, with a great setting, interesting characters, and a theme. I had a submission goal. I thought the story was lovely, a perfect fit for the publication. Heartwarming and tender, my story even had dogs.
It was rejected.
I had another story. It was based on a true incident, but there was nothing special about it. Then the truthiness was edited away and a supernatural aspect came into it.
Length became an issue. It was too short for a short story, so it became flash fiction. I set an arbitrary word limit, which, while researching potential homes, was either too high or too low.
My critique group had questions, issues, and feedback comprising more words than the story itself.
I went to a conference and one speaker talked about shaking things up and changing the POV. He was also the editor of a literary journal and encouraged submissions. I changed the POV of my story to 2nd and it just sang to me. The freshness! The drama! I submitted to the journal and waited for months and months and months.
It was rejected.
So here I have two perfectly lovely stories collecting dust. When do you let a project go? Do I just tuck them away in my bottom drawer, never to be seen again? Or do I keep sending them out? And if so, where?
There isn’t much demand for short romance or shorter supernatural. My initial, and only, attempts at publication were both aimed at paper publication. Is electronic publication a paying, valid, or even respected alternative?
Paper magazines are going away. Newspapers are going away. Even books are going away. But are they being replaced with electronic alternatives? No one is really saying.
Lots of questions and no easy answers.
So I got my edits from Bona Fide Books and I am so tickled. Just two changes! Do I rock or what?
The first is the ever popular “The number of the subject determines the number of the verb” (thanks to Strunk and White’s Elements of Style for a clear and concise way to describe that). It was a has vs. have thing.
The second is a hyphen being needed in “flip-flop”. Who knew? Well, obviously, the editors at Bona Fide. I wanted to use go gos, which is what we called thongs back in the day, but no one knows what go gos are. And now thongs are a completely different piece of clothing, so flip-flop it is.
I’m learning so much.
I’m going to re-read what they sent me, just to make sure that it is in fact what I originally sent them. Hopefully I won’t find any additional changes that I think need to be made.
But really? Two edits? I’m in heaven.
Until the next level of heaven comes with a copy of my story in a book in my hands. Bliss? Oh yeah.
Earlier this month, I was notified that my short story Keep Tahoe Blue has been accepted for inclusion in collection of essays about Lake Tahoe entitled Tahoe Blues. The collection will be published in December by Bona Fide Books out of South Lake Tahoe, California.
This is such exciting news for me! I’ve had other pieces published (see my clips file for a selection), but this is my first work of fiction.
More details to follow as they become available.