Saturday, August 23, 2014

In Very Good Company

By Victoria Chatham

Picture if you will a cold, wet afternoon in December. A strong south-westerly, not quite gale force wind drives gray, low lying clouds racing inland. Winter-bare tree branches twist and writhe and rain sluices over rooftops and slaps against windowpanes. In one house, its three hundred year old walls easily withstanding the onslaught, a family sits in front of a blazing log fire.
The mother has just finished reading a book she has written for her daughter’s fifteenth birthday. Sitting side by side on the sofa are the daughter and her two brothers.
For a moment there is silence.
“Wow, Mum,” says the daughter. “That’s great. Thanks.”
“So that’s what you’ve been doing with your Sundays,” says the eldest son.
“If you get it published, you won’t use your own name, will you?” asks the youngest son.
“Why ever not?” asks the mother.
“Well, hell,” says the youngest son. “We wouldn’t want our friends to laugh at us because you’re a writer.”
This thought had not entered the mother’s mind.
“A nom de plume, that’s what you need,” says the eldest son.
With that, the youngest son fetches an honest-to-goodness opera hat, the collapsible type out of which magicians produce white rabbits, and Fred Astaire made use of in the movie ‘Top Hat’. The eldest son gets paper and pencils and the daughter smiles and says, ‘we’ll invent a name for you.”
For the next half hour the children giggle and guffaw as they write names on paper slips, fold them, and place them in the hat. The mother, slightly puzzled by the concept of her children being embarrassed by the fact that she is a writer, skewers thick slices of bread onto the prongs of a long handled fork then holds it over the glowing logs to toast the bread. The stack of golden slices on the hearth grows as steadily as the pile of slips in the hat. Finally the hat is full. The children butter their toast and, when they are full, tell their mother to withdraw only two slips of paper.
The mother shakes the hat and fearfully reaches in. She has heard words that sounded suspiciously like ‘wafflemonger’ and ‘poohbaba’ but she breathes a sigh of relief when she opens the first slip of paper and reads the name ‘Laurel’. She reaches in again, and again breathes a sigh of relief when she reads ‘Freemont’.
And so Laurel Freemont was born and became not only the butt of many a family joke, but also the nom de plume, or pseudonym, behind which my children could hide their supposed embarrassment - although that has yet to be tested. Laurel Freemont is now a registered pseudonym with the Canadian organization, Access Copyright and whether she is ever employed has yet to be determined.
The reasons for the use of pseudonyms are many and varied. A floating pseudonym is available to anyone who wants to use it. A publishing house may create a house name to publish separate contributions from the same author. Two people writing together can create a collaborative pseudonym, as did Judith Barnard and Michael Fain writing as Judith Michael (Acts of Love, Pot of Gold, A Ruling Passion), Serge and Moira Stelmack writing as S.M. Stelmack (RONE award winners for Undertow) and Books We Love authors Tia Dani (see post from 07/08/2014). From the earliest times pseudonyms have been used to hide a family name and disguise gender, to conceal the identity of the originator of strong political opinions and to further the aspirations of authors, actors and singers.
Sir Reg Dwight does not have quite the same ring as does Sir Elton John.  Archie Leach, born in Bristol, England, might not have become as renowned as an actor if Paramount, in 1932, had not changed his name to Cary Grant. Charles Dickens wrote as Boz, a childhood name for his brother Augustus and we all know the tale of Samuel Langhorne Clemens who spent ten years as a Mississippi river steamboat pilot. ‘Mark twain’ was the technical phrase that the leadsman called when sounding a depth of two fathoms.
In an age when women were supposed to be seen and not heard, let alone write books, both Amandine-Aurore-Lucile, Baronne Dudevant and Mary Ann Evans achieved fame (and notoriety) by writing as George Sand (Indiana, Valentine, Lelia) and George Eliot (The Mill on the Floss, Adam Bede, Silas Marner) respectively.  Answering her critics, Sand wrote: ‘The world will know and understand me someday. But if that day does not arrive, it does not matter greatly. I shall have opened the way for other women’.
And open the way she did. Today women write freely under whichever name they choose, their own or a pseudonym.  Smart marketing may have an author use their own name in one genre and a pseudonym in another, thereby building a readership in both genres and keeping the readers and the publisher happy.
Eleonor Alice Burford Hibbert wrote romantic suspense with gothic elements as Victoria Holt, romantic fiction as Philippa Carr and historical novels as Jean Plaidy. The Nora Roberts we know and love was born Eleanor Marie Robertson but also writes as J.D. Robb. Linda Lael Miller appears at times as Belle Lin or Georgianna Bell. Jude Gilliam-White writes as Jude Deveraux and Jayne Ann Krentz may be better known as Amanda Quick or Amanda Glass.
Whatever the reason for it, a pseudonym becomes as much of a tool as the pen, paper or electronic device the author uses with which to write. Should you choose to use this particular tool, then know you are in very good company.

Victoria Chatham's latest release is On Borrowed Time, Book Two in the Buxton Chronicles Series. Find this title here:

and find Victoria here:

Friday, August 22, 2014

Oh Foolish Human! So you think you own a Jude Pittman

Honestly, after raising four kids and the assortment of strays, foundling, adoptees and whatever they managed to fill our various households with, I firmly resolved that I’d admire other people’s pets and let them do the caretaking.  

My daughter Tami had a dog named Peppers.  All of us adored Peppy. Such a sweetheart.  Of course they got her when the grandkids were little and it wasn’t until John and I moved to Calgary eight years ago that we became well-acquainted with Peppy.  But boy did she have us wrapped around her little paws in a short time.  Sadly, she died two years ago.  We still miss her.

Last year, my mom who was 94 and slowing down a lot was going to spend her first winter here in Calgary where winters are long and cold.  For the past 8 years she had spent winters at my brother’s place in Phoenix and summers with John and I here in Calgary.  Last year, however, the travel was becoming too much for her and her health was failing so we decided to get her a cat for companionship.  My daughter had recently purchased a Rag Doll named Annie.  Gorgeous, docile, sweet tempered Annie.  So we thought, why don’t we get a Rag Doll, they seem so sweet.  

There was an advertisement for a neutered male, just one and a half, not pure bred, but they assured us he was mostly all Rag Doll.  They loved the cat but the husband had developed an allergy and his doctor told them they’d have to get rid of the cat.  I was working so sent John to check him out and pick him up if he was suitable.

John fell in love.  He must have because “Bailey” howled all the way from the other side of the city until they got home.  He was indeed a handsome kitty, but he was definitely not to turn out to be the “quiet, docile little rag doll” that we had envisioned.

My mom looked at him, and said, you know Judy, I’m pretty sure he’s a Siamese.  Look at his blue eyes and listen to him.  He sure sounds more Siamese than rag doll.  Well, as usual mom turned out to be right, but Bailey didn’t let that bother him.  He had her doing his bidding within a couple of hour.  As a matter of fact that very day he established what our purposes were.  Filling his bowls, seeing that he had the prime seat in the house, making sure our laps were ready for leaps (mom didn’t weigh more than 100 pounds, but he’d jump right up there, settle his head against her chin and she’d have to stay where she knew better than to get up and leave – the scolding she’d get was enough to discourage that behavior. 

Sadly mom passed away in February and looking back now I understand why Bailey spent almost all of his time either curled up on her bed or beside her in her chair (she’d become weak and he seemed to understand when she’d slide him down beside her so that he didn’t hurt her bones).

There isn’t a day goes by that I don’t remember things we talked about or things we did, just having her there.  She’s the one person in my life who always listened to me.  Bailey, I think feels the same.  He’s now taken over her room.  He sleeps on her bed (when he’s not taking up the biggest part of the middle of our bed), and it’s clear he considers her room to be his own private domain.  Mom was always a complete neatnik, and I now keep my clothes in her closet, but you should hear the scolding I get if I’m careless enough to toss anything down on the bed. 

Actually he also considers himself in charge of the other bedroom which is what I use for my office.  I’m a book publisher so you can imagine how much time I spend on the computer.  If he thinks I’ve been on there too long he’ll march into the room, leap into my lap and flatten himself out on my keyboard.  Message received.  Time to take a break.

What a cat.  How in the world did we ever manage our household without him?

We call him King Bailey, the Siamese in disguise.


Find Jude's BWL titles here:

and watch for her next release, Sisters of Prophecy, co-authored with Gail Roughton, coming soon from BWL!

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