Friday, August 17, 2018

Who Would You Rather Be?


HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Names. Don’t even get me started. Okay, too late.
A million years ago, I was offered an anchor job in another city. But, the news director said: you can’t be Hank Phillippi. Come up with another name.
Really? I thought. I could be ANYONE? Sadly, I came up with Amanda Armstrong. (C’mon, it was the 80s.) Happily, I didn’t take the job.
But it did get me thinking about the importance of names and  how we think of people when we hear them. My book TRUST ME just sold in the UK (yay!) and I will be Anna Ryan. Another blog for another day.   (And TRUST ME was just named one of Book Bub's  19 Incredible Thrillers--yay!)
Anyway. You know Mary Sutton, right? She is fabulous, lovely, hilarious, and a true dear darling friend of Jungle Red. A stalwart. A treasure. A FOTR extraordinaire.
And now, we are so gloriously happy to tell you her first book --ROOT OF ALL EVIL-is out! YAY. (Please not blurb on the fabulous cover.)
But. You might never know. Except that you’re wise enough to be here! Because she is using a different name.

Why? Well, let her tell you. And we’re awarding a book to one lovely commenter, no matter what your name is!

The Name Game
  By Mary, er Liz Milliron

First off, thanks to the Reds for having me. I can’t believe I’m guest posting on JRW!
When I first started commenting on JRW, I was just “Mary.” Then a few months ago, I started signing my posts as “Mary/Liz.” Why? Because I write under a pen name – Liz Milliron (that’s mill-iron if you’re wondering).
Now multiple names in fiction is nothing new. Edith Maxwell writes under no less than three (her own, Maddie Day, and Tace Baker). One of the questions I get is “why a pen name”? There are many reasons a writer might choose one. I’d written for kids and I wanted a clean break between my adult fiction and middle-grade.
But this occasions other questions. “Do I call you Mary or Liz?” My answer is usually, “I’ll answer to both.” I’m Mary when I’m with friends, but I’m Liz when I’m “on the clock” so to speak – like at conventions or with readers. As my grandfather would say, “Just don’t call me late to dinner.”
Speaking of conventions, I met Bruce Robert Coffin at Malice this year. He asked if the pen name was like an undercover sting for the police (sort of) and if I ever got my identity confused. I assured him I knew exactly who I was supposed to be at all times. Then I went to check in and forgot which name I’d registered under. Oops.
But the more I write and publish under “Liz Milliron,” the more I realize something. There’s a reason superheroes used special names. It isn’t simply for identity protection. There’s something empowering in the use of a public persona. 
Samuel Clemens used Mark Twain. That's cooler, for some reason.
Writers are often, by nature, introverts. I am. I’m not
particularly smooth when it comes to talking to strangers. I’m a wallflower at parties where I don’t know most of the attendees. I can do public speaking, but I’m a nervous wreck and I hate hearing my voice waver with nerves. Mary is just a woman in her mid-40s, living in the suburbs with two teenage kids, a hum-drum job, and is a bit of a nerd. In a good way, but still a nerd.
Liz is completely different. She’s a lot cooler than I am—and in some ways, a lot braver. Need to introduce yourself to a group of strangers? No sweat. Mingle at conferences or dinners? Easy-peasy. Stand in front of a group and talk? In the bag.
I’m rather jealous of her. Even though she’s me.
I wonder how Marianna Evans felt as George Eliot? Though she had other reasons. 
So Liz is my “mask,” something I can slip on when I need to go out and do things I might not have the guts to do without her. Cool, right?
But Liz wouldn’t exist without Mary. Just like Superman and Clark Kent are intertwined or Bruce Banner and the Hulk (although now I think of it, why does it seem like only the DC Universe superheroes have mild-mannered personas?). 
Without Mary sitting quietly in her house, tapping away at the keyboard, guzzling tea in her yoga pants, Liz wouldn’t have anything to talk about. There’d be no opportunities to meet and greet or pitch books to readers. She’d be a ghost…that is if she even existed at all.
 I guess I’m both – Mary and Liz. And I’m happy with that. Because being Liz is fun and all, but it’s Mary who makes the stories.

Readers, what about you? Do you have a “persona” that helps you push your boundaries? If not, have you ever thought about whether using one would help? One lucky commenter will win a signed copy of Root of All Evil (US entries only, please).

HANK: Oh, good question! I cannot wait to hear. This oughtta be good….

Liz Milliron has been making up stories, and creating her own endings for other people's stories, for as long as she can remember. She survived growing up through reading, cutting her mystery teeth on Agatha Christie, Mary Higgins Clark and, of course, Nancy Drew. As an adult, she finds escape from the world of software documentation through creating her own fictional murder and mayhem. She lives near Pittsburgh with her husband and two teenage children, and fantasizes about owning a dog - one of these days. (Headshot courtesy of www.erinmclainstudio.com)



(Photos of George Eliot and Mark Twain from Flickr; used under Creative Commons license)

107 comments:

  1. Mary, I am so excited about your book and looking forward to reading it. The cover is fabulous and one of those that people will definitely pick up to check out the book and then, of course, buy and read. I'm looking forward to seeing you at Bouchercon.

    Are we limited to one persona? Hahaha! I don't use a different name, but I do go witha Kathy Boone Reel for my reading blog and other related matters. Why do I use my maiden name, too? Well, Kathy Boone is the person who fell in love with reading as a young girl and majored in English in college in view of that love and my fascination with the written word. Kathy Boone is who had the mother who gave value to reading and spending time reading. Kathy Boone is who wrote a couple of stories in second grade that the teacher took to the principal to show how good she thought they were. So, I couldn't leave out Kathy Boone in my reading and writing activities now. My married name of Reel gets to come along for the ride. The other name that pops out occasionally is Kathy Lou, because it was what my sisters called me when I was a little girl, and sometimes I like to let that little girl come out and bask in the joy of a simpler time when life was pigtails and laughter, without any responsibilities.

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    1. Kathy, you can have as many personas as you need! Thanks for the compliment on the cover. Kathy Lou...I see her as a mischievious little girl in pig tails. Am I close?

      And I can't wait to see you Bouchercon!

      Mary/Liz

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    2. Kathy Lou! I love that, and you will forever be so!

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    3. Hi Kathy- I'm a Lou too (he he)

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  2. Interesting topic! I write under a pen name too, Paige Sleuth. Paige was born because the novels I published under my own name weren't selling well and I wanted a fresh start when I decided to write a cozy series. Well, Paige ended up being a lot more popular than me. Is it because of her name? I tend to suspect her books in general are more marketable, but I'm just guessing. Success and what sells books is still largely a mystery to me. I do sort of think of Paige as a separate person, but I never really thought about what her personality would be like. She's never been in public. It's interesting you think of Liz as having a different personality. And now I really want to meet Anna Ryan to find out if she has a British accent!

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    1. Marla, I want to meet Anna Ryan, too! Although I suspect she sounds a lot like Hank.

      Getting a fresh start with a new name is a common reason for a pen name, I've learned. You're right, though. The name matters less than the quality of the book.

      And Liz didn't start with a personality. It developed over time. Maybe Paige's will, too.

      Mary/Liz

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    2. Oh, does she have a British accent? What a fabulous question! I think she might need all new clothes, too :-)

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    3. Maybe she could borrow Agatha Raisin's fabulous wardrobe:-)

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  3. Congratulations on your book, Liz . . . I love the cover! I wonder, could you tell us a bit about the story?

    No other “persona” here [and I don’t think I’m much of a boundary-pusher, either]. I guess being confused with my sister when I was growing up was enough of being a different person for me . . . .

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    1. Sure! Here's my elevator pitch: ROOT OF ALL EVIL is a police-procedural about Pennsylvania State Trooper Jim Duncan and assistant public defender Sally Castle. Reports of a new meth facility reach the Pennsylvania State Police. At the same time, rumor is a man previously accused of meth production is back in the Laurel Highlands. It’s a connection even Duncan’s trainee can make. Meanwhile, Sally's colleague is being uncharacteristically nervous and reticent. What’s he hiding? Sally is determined to find out. When the two investigations converge, it uncovers disturbing secrets in the county justice system—secrets worth killing to keep.

      My sister is almost 8 years younger and looks *completely* different. So my mother always knew us apart...although with four kids she often did the "cycle through all our names until she got the right one" thing. =)

      Mary/Liz

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    2. Yes, my mom could never get us straight either… All five of us got called each other’s names!

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    3. Interestingly enough, my mother never mixed the two of us up. It was always other people, the result of which was that those other folks just referred to as "the twins," as if we were interchangeable and didn't have names at all . . . .

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  4. Hello Mary. I'm happy you've dropped in today. I felt a connection when I read in your bio "she survived growing up by reading." Yes, I know what you mean. To the question of names and personas, I currently find myself in a quandary. After my divorce I kept my married name for the sake of the PTA. There was an epidemic of kids who had one surname attached to parents who had a different surname. Also, it was the beginnings of the hyphenated surname craze. It was so overwhelming for the recording secretary of the my son's school I thought 'why bother?" Lately I don't feel particularly connected to either my maiden name or my married name. I know for a fact that I'm Lyda and I like who she is both publicly and privately. I just can't seem to settle on a family name.. It might be time to become a pseudonym. Congratulations on the book and I too love the cover design.

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    1. Hi, Lyda! I have friends who are in that boat. No longer married, but not the same person they were when they were single, neither name seems to fit. Fortunately in the US you can change your name - if you want to fill out all the paperwork.

      And when I say I "survived" by reading, well, I'm sure you know what I mean. Let's just say I had a lot of fictional friends growing up. Thanks for the compliment!

      Mary/Liz

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    2. Very very interesting. Let us know what you decide! I love your name…

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    3. Thank you. I'm open to suggestions. My given name is Lyda Louise Holliday.

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    4. I think Lyda Louise Holliday is fabulous!

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    5. Lyda, you're the winner of the giveaway! Email me at lizmilliron@gmail.com.

      Mary/Liz

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  5. How exciting to see you here on JRW! I often think of you as Mary/Liz and I love the idea of a public persona that manages your professional social life. Though I've been with you as Mary, and you can be chatty! I am happy at all of the attention Mary/Liz, as well as Jim and Sally, are getting these days.

    For Hank: When I was younger, my life's ambition was to be a private secretary because, in my mother's very straight-laced romance novels, private secretaries always had adventures and always ended up marrying the rich, handsome, heroic boss. My private secretary name was Leslie Harrington. Now I realize I was writing the script to Dynasty before it ever hit the airwaves!

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    1. I completely understand that ambition! It seemed like the very coolest thing. Leslie Harrington is over the charts fabulous. She and Amanda Armstrong could have their nails done together.

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    2. Aww, Ramona, you're a sweetie. I'm chatty with you because I KNOW you! And some of the credit for the attention goes to you and your willingness to help me fumble along and learn when I was starting out.

      Mary/Liz

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  6. Hey, thanks for the shout-out Liz/Mary! I don't have a different persona as Maddie Day (Tace Baker is on semi-permanent leave...), and I also love writing as Edith Maxwell. But like Marla/Paige, my Maddie cozies have certainly taken off in a way that my Edith cozy series didn't (although Edith is doing quite well writing historical mysteries, so go figure).

    One of my most fun launch parties was when I had a book under each name releasing within two weeks of each other. Edith and Maddie interviewed each other at my local indy bookstore. I had an Indiana ball cap and a Quaker bonnet. I made the Country Store Kahlua brownies and nineteenth century ginger snaps for treats. And the audience loved it!

    Hank - why a British name change?

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    1. Oh, I meant to add - best of luck with the new book, Liz! It's waiting on my kindle.

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    2. The UK publisher wanted to make it perfectly clear that trust me was written by a woman!

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    3. Edith, that's so interesting--that books under one name do better than books by another, at least in specific sub-genres. Makes me wonder if readers associate the "type" of name with the type of book. Edith being a more old-fashioned name that goes with historicals, etc. I hope you enjoy!

      Hank, that's so interesting. I guess maybe I've known you so long I can't imagine NOT knowing your're, well, you.

      Mary/Liz

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    4. Edith, hilarious launch party story! And I agree with Mary: the idea that books do better under one author name than another: wow. Just wow. A psychotherapist would have a field day with that one. Wait a minute...let me go get my alter-ego. Just kidding. But it makes me think: when I pick up a book at the store and evaluate whether I want to open it...how much am I influenced -- even subliminally -- by the author's name? Certainly it has an influence. The only thing you know (assuming it's an author unknown to you) is the name. You can't help but form some kind of impression, image, or opinion. I'd love to see others' thoughts on this!!!

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    5. Weird how some books do well and others don't, isn't it, Edith? I like Mary's idea that maybe readers associate the name Edith more with historicals.

      And Hank, the first time I loaned the boyfriend one of your books, I asked him what he thought when he was about halfway through. The response I got was "He's a pretty good writer." I had to point out you were a woman. Anna Ryan probably won't have the same issue!

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    6. It's not my imagination! I told someone once that "Liz Milliron" was a better name for someone who wrote a procedural than "Mary Sutton" and they poo-pooed me. Ha!

      Mary/Liz

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  7. For those of you who haven't had the pleasure, ROOT OF ALL EVIL is fabulous! You'll love it.

    No pen name here, although I'm certainly not opposed to it should the need arise, but I definitely have my public face, which is much more extroverted than my real persona.

    Since I've known Mary a long while, I'll probably be the one messing up at Bouchercon and forgetting to call her Liz in public. But they're both awesome!

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    1. I have a good friend called Mary/-Liz — maybe we could try that?

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    2. Thanks, Annette. I think most writers have a public face even if they don't write under a pseudonym.

      And I responded to "Mary Elizabeth" for years, so hey, Mary/Liz works for me.

      Mary/Liz

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  8. Congratulations Liz and Mary--what an exciting time! I'm in the two name club too, and I enjoy both. Would love to hear more about the new book and about your publishing journey with Level Best Books...

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    1. Thanks Lucy! Yeah, you're another one...but I mostly associate you with Lucy because that's how we were introduced, isn't that funny?

      See my response to Joan for the elevator pitch about the book. Working with Level Best has been a blast. Harriette Sackler has been such a supporter of the series and so enthusiastic during the editing, which went very smoothly. And Angel Trapp, who did the cover design, so a meager list of "please no..." and turned it into a fantastic cover. Shawn Reilly Simmons offered a late idea during line edits that I really liked and was very helpful in the production phase. The whole team is wonderful.

      The most interesting thing about Level Best Books is they were "the last stop" so to speak. I'd been querying ROOT for two years (the title changed twice during that period, from EVERY OTHER MONDAY IS MURDER, to AND CORRUPTION FOR ALL, to ROOT OF ALL EVIL). Some nibbles, but few bites. If Level Best passed, the book was sadly going into the virtual trunk and I had already developed another idea, a historical set in WWII.

      And I almost didn't query Level Best because I thought they were looking for cozies. But my friends Keenan Powell and Peter WJ Hayes (whose book just came out in July) told me that wasn't the case. So glad I listened to them!

      Mary/Liz

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  9. Congratulations Mary! Those who haven't read Root Of All Evil yet, you should. It's a great story.

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  10. Congrats on the success of having your book published Mary/Liz!

    In the real world I do not have a persona that I slip on an off. I'm Jay, for better or worse (usually for worse, LOL). I don't need to pretend to be someone I'm not. I'm sure it would be easier if I did have an alias to go outside of my comfort zone, but hey I LIKE my comfort zone!

    Online, I have a couple of different personas depending on where I am on the Net at a given time. On comic related forums I have one name (my favorite comic book assassin), on music related ones I have a different one (a combination of my two favorite bands).

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    1. Thanks, Jay! I have a couple of friends who have different personas for online gaming. They say it's both for security (because the Internet can be a very dark place) and to fit the world of the game better.

      Mary/Liz

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    2. Mary, thankfully I don't take part in online gaming. I waste enough of my life away on the pursuits I already have. And yes, the Net can be a dark place at times.


      Hank, I'm Deathstroke (from DC Comics) on comic boards. The music one I keep to myself.

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  11. What an interesting topic! I don't really have a different name but I did feel different when I started using "Judi" in seventh grade. There must have been a lot of eye rolling of which I was mostly ignorant. Now if I want to be formal and sophisticated I use "Judith". I'd like to hear more about your book, Mary.

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    1. Yep, I can see that, Judi vs. Judith. Unfortunately, Mary didn't lend itself well to that. I either got called "Mare" which I hated or endured a lot of nursery rhymes. See why I referenced surviving by reading?

      I mentioned the elevator pitch above. In tone, the book is not cozy, but I'd say more traditional. I avoid a lot of the heavy forensics that mark many procedurals--as well as the sex and the heavy swearing (fun note: I took out the worst language because my 90-year-old great aunt said she wanted to read the book when it came out, and although she was married to a cop and drove a high school bus, I could swear in front of her). The major themes I see are corruption and how far people will go to get what they want. I try to explore that question for all of my characters, major and minor.

      Mary/Liz

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    2. Yup, Judi and Judith are clearly and totally different. And that is SO fascinating!

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  12. I am curious about how you handle the legal aspects of a professional pseudonym. If you register at a hotel under your professional name but your credit card is under your private name? Who do your royalty checks go to?

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    1. All the legal stuff (hotel registrations, bank accounts, bills, contracts and royalties) are under my legal name.

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    2. ANd it's so funny--my legal name is Ann. So, when people ask my name, sometimes I have to to reply "Why?"

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  13. Congratulations, Mary/Liz! I'd love to hear more about your new book. (And--I'll try to break this to you gently--Bruce Banner is a Marvel guy, not DC, so there goes that mild-mannered theory . . . )

    I've wrestled with the pseudonym/no pseudonym thing for a while, but mostly in reference to using my maiden name or married name. When I was on the radio, I used Gigi Sherrell, first because it was my name, and then later because people knew me that way, even though I had become Gigi Norwood. Then I switched to print journalism and stuck with Gigi Sherrell because I figured any fans I might have collected on the radio could still recognize my byline in the newspaper. Sometime after that I started working in a different city, in partnership with my husband, so it was easier to go with Gigi Norwood and now . . . if I ever get a book published, I could be anybody! The public appearance persona is easier. Like you, I'm an introvert, but I developed a public persona when I was on the radio, so I can just do that when I'm out in public. It works as long as I have time set aside to get out of the crowds and into the quiet to recharge.

    Wishing you tons of success with your book. And Lucy/Roberta, I'm halfway through your latest, and having lots of fun learning about the Little White House and all the Key West/Cuba connections!

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    1. You know, I re-read that above and...I knew that. And I call myself a Marvel fan!

      I know people who built an audience or "brand" under a maiden name and kept it when they switched media. You're right, it is easier for fans to track you that way. And radio is so common for using pseudonyms because the name has to "sound" right (my dad worked in radio many moons ago using the name Paul Sheppard because his real name didn't have a nice ring to it).

      ROOT OF ALL EVIL is on the police-procIedural scale, leaning toward traditional. While the main story questions are around drugs and murder, it's really a story of "what would you do" and corruption. I set it against the backdrop of the Laurel Highlands area in southwest Pennsylvania because I find the contrast of what is often considered "big city" crime against a rural backdrop really interesting. The truth is people are people no matter where they live and we all face the same types of issues, if the details are a bit different.

      And yes - having a break to recharge is so important!

      Mary/Liz

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    2. Is your real name Gigi? Not...I don't know, Virginia?

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    3. Gigi is my real, official, on-my-drivers-license name.

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  14. Mary,
    FIRST: I LOVE YOUR COVER!!!
    What a fantastic topic to explore: the persona created by a pen name. Keziah Frost is my pen name, and yes, she's (I'm?) a separate entity from the "me" who works as a psychotherapist. These are 2 different lives, as I see them. I knew I'd need a pen name because I also wrote a self-help book under my therapist name--and who knows?--might write another one some day. I didn't want the confusion for readers. But also, the little kid in me (inner child?) delighted on putting on a mask and making up a name. It's kind of fun, really.
    After getting a sense of how you write here, I am very eager to read your book! Congratulations on publishing!

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    1. Keziah, thank you so much!

      I can see using a different name for fiction vs. self-help. Those are two very different brands. Also, did you ever worry that there could be issues between your therapy practice and fiction?

      Hope you enjoy the book!

      Mary/Liz

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    2. Yes, Mary, that is another factor. I do want to keep my writing life and therapist life separate.

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  15. Certainly my "persona" at conventions varies slightly from my "real self." Usually I am in marketing mode - trying to encourage folks to come and visit BOLO Books. But that said, so much of BOLO Books really is *ME* so I suspect that part of my success is that I come across as authentic regardless of the setting. There are never illusions about what one is going to get from me or from the blog.

    I'm sure the same holds true for pen names. It's just an extension of who you really are, so it makes sense that it feels empowering. It allows a bit of distance - since so many of us are most critical of ourselves.

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    1. Well, I only know your public persona, but I love it so don't change!

      I think you're right though. I can't say Liz is a completely separate person. Maybe it's more like she's the me I wish I could be all the time...except it's too exhausting! So I get to go "on stage" as it were, but they retreat to my dressing room and decompress as Mary.

      I bet Keziah would have a field day with me from a therapy perspective! LOL

      Mary/Liz

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  16. Mary/Liz, wow! So excited for you--doing my happy dance here--I love it when a writer perseveres and hits pay-dirt, so to speak! So glad you listened to your friends and sent out that query one more time to Level Best. Enjoy the excitement and the ride! Sounds like Jim and Sally will be around for another tale in the Laurel Highlands!

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    1. Thanks, Flora! Yes, I'm glad I listened, too. The contract is for 3 books. Hopefully Level Best will continue to like me and sign for more, because Jim and Sally certainly have more stories to tell.

      Mary/Liz

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    2. SO GREAT! Remember when you worried it would never happen??

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  17. Liz, congratulations on publication of Root of All Evil! What a fantastic cover...truly evil roots. Thank you for the story of your book “pregnancy” (if this is a book birthday those seem the right words). I’ve followed that story in your commenter posts here and on Wicked Cozy. An autobiography in multiple short paragraphs. May Liz/Mary’s words continue strong and clear!

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    1. Thanks, Elisabeth. Yes, the process of bringing this book out is a lot like pregnancy - in some ways even harder than the two I had. LOL

      Mary/Liz

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  18. Congratulations Mary Liz. I hope your book is a best seller this summer/fall/winter and forever.

    I've often wondered about pen names. I get George Eliot, because at that time it was far easier for a man to get published than a woman. Our cat is named Eliot since she was billed as a "he" for the first few weeks of her life. She's not published yet however.


    I kept my married name after the divorce, mostly because I wanted the same last name as my kids, and that's what was on all my legal documents. Besides, no one could pronounce nor spell Eberwein. But I did take it as my middle name. If I were a writer, I'd certainly want to tell all, so a pen name would be necessary for my safety.

    I say Lucy Roberta because I like the way it falls off the tongue, so pretty. But I can't imagine calling Rhys "Janet." She'd most likely rap my knuckles. The rest of your names I take as they come, using whichever one is most likely to appear on the cover.

    I have to add that I am very annoyed at names that nearly copy famous writers, both in spelling and in cover design. What a cheap shot that is. These people go on my never to be bought much less read list. Although I suppose it's a left handed compliment of sorts.

    Off to Niagara Falls, American side this time, and a ride on the Maid of the Mist with my sone and his family. Pray for me now and at the hour of my drowning.

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    1. Thanks, Ann! I hope so, too! LOL

      I found there are good reasons to take a pen name, and not-so-good reasons. And yeah, taking a name that is "close but not quite" to a famous author seems...sketchy, as my 18-year-old would say.

      Being originally from Buffalo and having ridden the Maid of the Mist multiple times (on both sides), you'll love it! Enjoy!

      Mary/Liz

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    2. I SO agree. I call her Lucy-Roberta, too. ANd there's no Janet in Rhys. Could you call me Ann?

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    3. I call her Lucy-Roberta, too. It just has a nice ring to it.

      Hank, I have a really hard time thinking of you as anything but Hank, but I dare say I'll get used to it.

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    4. I could call you Ann. Or Ankh lol

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    5. Can’t imagine calling you Ann, Hank. And I do love Lucy Roberta so thanks ladies!

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  19. Hank, you are too kind. That blurb is amazing - I was so fortunate in that department. All the authors I asked were so kind.

    I was going to ask why Anna, but I see you answered that. You would have rocked "Amanda Armstrong."

    Mary/Liz

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    1. With a 1950's superhero outfit underneath, right? But aw, thank you. I appreciatte your support :-)

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  20. Congratulations! This novel sounds captivating and unique. Names are important and staying with my given name was never questioned. Love your story which is fascinating.

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    1. Thank you! Names are indeed important.

      Mary/Liz

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  21. Mary, I'm so excited to read your new book! It's such fun to know new authors, and see their fame and expertise grow. Having a pen name helps make the transition, maybe?

    If I ever, ever get a novel written, I will probably continue to write under my own name, but it's difficult to pronounce and to spell. (In case you ever wondered, the middle syllable of Maslowski is pronounced "love") In fact, in the early days of Amazon my second book was listed under a misspelled name, thanks to a publisher who flubbed it. Thanks for nothing. My husband and his brother Pete have both written several books, so I'm in illustrious (nonfiction) company, though.

    So it's a quandary. Go with something easy, or continue to challenge everyone to try to remember how to spell it?

    Some days I wish I'd never changed from my maiden name in the first place, since it was super easy.

    Ann Mason, Rhys's darling husband John calls her Janet most of the time. She is far too kind to rap your knuckles.

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    1. Karen, you are so wonderful. Yes, maybe the pen name helps. I had the exact opposite experience with my maiden name. The married name was easier to spell and pronounced. I am surprised, however, that so many people in Pennsylvania want to pronounce the pen name "Mill-i-ron." It's my grandmother's maiden name and she never pronounced it that way.

      And due to the large Polish community in Cheektowaga where I grew up, I did know it's "Mas-love-ski"!

      Mary/Liz

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    2. Wait--Mill-iron. Is that differnt from Mill-uh-ron. Like Mill-Iron, like the metal iron?

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    3. You're right, Hank. Mill-iron. That's how Grandma and her sister-in-law pronounce it.

      Mary/Liz

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  22. Congratulations n the new book, Mary/Liz. I don't have a pen name or pseudonym or even nickname. Personna? Nah.
    For the foreseeable future, as a writer I am Hallie Ephron. I use my married name (Hallie Touger) off the book cover, in 'real life' as it were. I try to imagine calling Rhys "Janet" and I confess, I cannot.

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    1. Hallie, I saw your married name on FB and could not figure out who it was...duh.

      And I can't think of Rhys as anything but Rhys!

      Mary/Liz

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  23. I laugh because I'm not Kait - well, I am, well, I'm not. Well, you know exactly what I mean!

    Isn't it amazing how our pen people are so comfortable in public! That was an unexpected bonus for me. I created Kait because I killed off a lawyer in my first book. Since I work for lawyers in the day job, I figured that was politically incorrect, so -Kait did it!

    I'm almost finished with ROOT OF ALL EVIL and loving it. Well done.

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    1. Kait, I still remember the time you emailed me under your "real" name and all I could think was, "Who is THIS?" Too funny.

      And yes, it's so easy to blame the pen name. "I didn't do it - Liz did!"

      Mary/Liz

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    2. When we came home to the mess that was Hurricane Irma, I looked around me and thought, what would Kait do? Then that is what I did. I learned the trick from Edna Buchanan who when Hurricane Andrew took a turn toward her house on Miami Beach froze momentarily and then asked herself, what would Britt Montero [her series character] do. If our creations are real to us, they'll strike the right chords in our readers, that goes for pen names, too.

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  24. Not a writer so I don’t have pen name issues. When I married I considered keeping my maiden name of Erickson rather than becoming Dupuy. As you can imagine Dupuy gets mangled quite a bit. You pronounce it doo pwee. But there are a lot of people out there who couldn’t say my maiden name correctly either. Who’d have thunk it? I think I used Pat D on this blog to differentiate me from another Pat who commented. Now I’m stuck with it! Congratulations Mary/Liz. Your book sounds fabulous!

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    1. Thanks, Pat! Funny how names we think are so simple get mangled so much, yes?

      Mary/Liz

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    2. They say:what's your last name?
      I say: Ryan.
      They say: Lyons?
      ALL THE TIME.

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  25. Congratulations and best wishes. Your hard work and diligence was rewarded. I look forward to enjoying your book and the forthcoming ones which will be intriguing.

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    1. Thanks. I look forward to bringing them to you!

      Mary/Liz

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  26. I wish I had another personality I could bring out like Liz.

    Congrats on the debut!

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  27. So far I haven't had a need to use a pen name, though I know SO many writers who do, it seems almost beside the norm to use a "real" name. In one way, mine is a pen name - I write under my maiden name instead of my married. One was for practicality - my married name is shared by well-known authors Victor Hugo and Gore Vidal. But mostly, it was because I wanted my writing to be separate from the part of me that's a wife and mother.

    Also, I wanted people who had known me in high school and college to know it was me...:-)

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    1. Julia, I can see where sharing names with Victor Hugo and Gore Vidal might make you want to pick your own identity. ;-)

      Mary/Liz

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  28. Congratulations, Mary/Liz!!! The cover is fantastic and I have no doubt the book is, too. I can't wait to read it! As for the name game, I have written under pseudonyms and I did find it liberating in the sense that I didn't feel as bound to write like "Jen McKInlay". It let me play around a little bit - Josie Belle in particular was a bit sassy. LOL! Great post. Thanks so much for sharing your story with us today!

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    1. Jenn, yes! I feel I can be a little more "sassy" as Liz. Mary is much more sedate and mild-mannered.

      Mary/Liz

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  29. Mary/Liz,

    Congratulations on having the book published, no matter who you are! I can't wait to read it! Having read your posts in various on line places I've been eager to read your book(s).

    DebRo

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  30. Congratulations, Mary/Liz! I'm so thrilled for you!

    Just the other night at dinner out, someone asked me if my name was my real name or my nom de plume! I've been asked this before, so apparently, people think my real name is made up! One of my favorite made up names was my grandmother's "stage" name for the radio plays she did in Boston for WBZ: Her real name was Ruth Stone, but on-air she was known as Constance D'Arcy!

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    1. Ingrid, I think your name sounds "exotic" to a lot of people so they think it's a pen name. And I love Constance D'Arcy! It conjures up elegance (not sure if that meshes with reality, but it does).

      Mary/Liz

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  31. Congratulations, Mary/Liz! Going to check out your book as soon as I post this! And so interesting about the pen names. Crombie is my first husband's name. We were still married when I sold my first book (and as part of a multiple book contract), so I was stuck with it. But it WAS British, and it put me next to Agatha Christie, so I figured it was not too bad. I also kept it legally even after I remarried because it was my daughter's name and by that time my established professional name. The thing I did change when I divorced was going by "Debbie," which I had always hated. I insisted that people call me Deborah or Deb or Debs, all of which I like. Now, I wonder if I would ever have sold that first book as Debbie Darden? I suspect not.

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  32. Thanks Deborah!

    Location, location, location isn't just true in real estate, is it? And can't see you as Debbie Darden. I don't think she'd write the Duncan and Gemma books, either. Weird, huh?

    Mary/Liz

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  34. I used to don a persona when I gave presentations in high school. No one knew but me, but that was enough--the person I was being was confident, cool, a bit regal and reserved. Her name was Victoria. (Mine is Elizabeth, so it wasn't too far a stretch, I suppose.) I retired her, and mostly forgot about her. But in the last few years I dusted her off when I had to climb the stairs to enter our veterinary clinic and talk to them about coming down and bringing in the body of our dog for cremation. This happened repeatedly, as several of our dogs died in quick succession from cancer, kidney failure, cardiac arrest, and we spent about 18 months in permanent grief. I would hit those stairs and know that I was about to dissolve in sobs--and feel so bad for the young girl behind the desk who would have to deal with me. Bring on Victoria. She handled it all beautifully, accepting condolences with grace, putting everyone at ease and moving quickly through the necessary transaction. How thankful I was for this coping mechanism, how comfortable I was with this exercise in dissociation. Back at the car, with our beloved vet, I could cry as I said one last goodbye, but not in the waiting room filled with sympathetic people. Hail Victoria.

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    1. Beth, this is a beautiful story. Yes, having a persona who can get us through difficult times is often very helpful.

      Mary/Liz

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    2. Beth, so very sorry for the loss of your furry friends. I don’t think there’s any coping mechanism I could have used that would have gotten me through that public transition. It’s the hardest thing ever ...

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    3. Aw, so sorry about your losses, Beth.

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  35. Thanks so much. We just said farewell to the last of that generation--the fourth of the four puppies we raised, who somehow outlived his siblings by years. A lion-hearted boy. Now we're at it again with a new crew, and I feel like the rickety grandma, raising the grandkids, muttering, "I know why you have kids when you're young..." But it's so good to have someone to care about, to look after, to bust out in astonished laughter over, once again. And the old boy did his best to raise our very naughty puppy, so I love that there is a link, from her to him, from him to his sweet siblings and mom, from them to our very first beloved dog. (Sigh.)

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    1. Once you've had pets they're hard to live without. I have a friend who is allergic to cats but was forced to live with two after she moved in with her boyfriend. Well, those cats ended up passing away (they both lived long lives), and a year or so later my friend ended up adopting two kittens. I guess she figured it was better to deal with the runny nose than to live in a cat-less house.

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    2. No one should have to live in a cat-less house. :) That is a very sweet story.

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