Catherine Stine's IDEA CITY

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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Versatile Blog Awards! And Angst over a Crashed Harddrive

Hi all! I am relieved to say that I am back online after dealing with a hard-drive crash (new hard drive installed, covered by the warranty-phew!). This mishap was followed by spending some time in the Catskills with a downed Internet. Wahhhh!

Anyhoo, I was awarded a versatile blog award by the fabulous T.G. Ayer, otherwise known as Tee. I thank her and urge you all to check out her blog. As part of paying it forward, I want to give out Versatile Blog Awards too! But first, the rules stipulate that I reveal 7 things about myself, so here goes:
1. I've seen James Brown in person five times, and John McLaughlin four. Hear, hear to soul and rock fusion.
2. I had a serious painting career before getting published in children's fiction. See one of my oils above. The one with the hedgehogs. It's called NECTAR. Don't ask me why! Can you figure it out?
3. I am rather obsessed with birds. I've painted at least 25 bird paintings. Thinking about designing a bird calendar for 2012. Maybe sell on my website? Stay posted.
4. I stabbed a mouse that was stalking my apartment with a giant screwdriver. I know, I know, very gross! And disturbingly impulsive. But it was even more disturbing that it was setting up house and terrorizing me every night.
5. I love to line edit. And fold laundry. Hey, if you are in the market for a good line edit or manuscript evaluation, I am probably less expensive than most, so shoot me an email describing your project. No, you can't hire me to fold your laundry.
6. I despise squishy food like custard, cream pies, and soft breads--yeeeccchhhh. Give me something really crunchy, even scorched toast.
7. I love the outdoors. Could spend all of my time outside if it never snowed, hailed, rained or thundered.
And now, DRUMROLL, please!!!

I grant the next seven Versatile Blog Awards to...
1) The amazing illustrating blogger, Lynne Chapman's An Illustrated Life for Me.
2) The Book Rat, because I love the reviews, the topic of YA spec, her Fairytale Fortenight, and let's face it, hers has got to be the coolest banner around! Check it out here.
3) Alison DeLuca's Fresh Pot of Tea, because indie authors rock too. Take a look.
4) From Sarah with Joy, because she's another cool indie author with brave posts.
5) Helen Mallon's thoughtful blog WritingNurture. She is also a kick-butt author of literary fiction. Welcome her into the blogosphere as she redesigns and builds her world.
6) Moving on to PK Hrezo's Fiction Addiction with major swag and sass. She will not disappoint.
7) Miriam Forster's Dancing with Dragons is Hard on Your Feet. I mean, the title alone is worth an award!
8) Love this one too: YA Authors You've Never Heard Of. There is power in numbers for these small press YA authors. Though they may have to change their title to Authors You Have Heard Of, if they keep up the good work.

And there you have it! Come back and drop a line, tell us what you think.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Too Many Books, Too Little Time-or the Summer Reading Race Starts Soon

I teach literature to freshmen college students, and we just finished our last novel of the semester, Dr. Faustus, by Christopher Marlowe. Before that, it was The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer. and before that... too many to mention.

I teach these books every year, but I have to at least skim them closely each time in prep, for after a 4 to 6 month hiatus, I get foggy over themes and plot elements. I love the characters that populate these books: the lusty Wife of Bath, the irreverent friars and crafty Mephostophilis, but these re-reads don’t leave me much time to devour other material.

Now, I’m suddenly free to read exactly what I please until next September. Happy Day! During the school year, I compile multiple novels on my kindle, and on my nightstand. I’m about 20 or 30 pages into at least ten things, and now I need to figure out which novel I’ll pile through first. HELLLLP!!! Here’s the list. (Interesting to see where I purchased the novels, and hey, a shout-out to the indie bookstores I frequent, and every other one in the country!):

Amanda Hocking’s eBook, Switched, from her Trylle trilogy (Bought on amazon)

The Demon Trapper’s Daughter Jana Oliver (Picked this up at my local B & N)

Dust by Arthur Slade (Bought online via Arthur’s blog)

Altar of Bones by Phillip Carter (A giveaway ARC at awesome indie Greenpoint, Brooklyn Bookstore WORD.

Four and Twenty Blackbirds by Cherie Priest (From Forbidden Planet, a great scifi and graphic novel bookstore in Manhattan)

Black Hole Sun by David Gill (From my local B & N)

Noodle Maker by Ma Jin (from ultra-cool Manhattan indie bookstore McNally-Jackson)

Faking It by Elisa Lorello (Bought on amazon, for my kindle)

A Thousand Years of Good Prayers by Yiyun Lee (Bought on amazon for my kindle)

On top of this, I’m looking forward to reading and critiquing a colleague’s 400-page first draft YA novel.

EEEPPP! What should I read first?

What’s on your summer reading list, and where did you buy your copies from? What’s on your kindle, your nook, your kobo reader, or your iPad? What’s on your night table? Your coffee table? Your kitchen table? What will you cart to the beach? And how many books do you think you’ll actually get through before September rolls around?

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Benefits and Perils of Using a Penname

Ever thought about using a penname? Say you’re writing early chapter books and you also wrote a racy adult potboiler. You don’t want those third grade nippers googling you and reading about your loose ladies who work the graveyard shift at a sleazy nightclub. Say your cursed with the last name Meany (Real name!) or Pugh. Or suppose your name already has an infamous double, say Michael Jackson or R. Nixon.

Maybe you just love the mystique—the idea that you could be known as Alexandra Sahara for your erotica and also as Xander Smart for your boys' middle-grade fantasy series. Consider Benjamin Franklin. He was so into pseudonyms that he made up entire personas to go along with them. Many were comical, such as Silence Dogood, Harry Meanwell, Alice Addertongue and Timothy Turnstone.

He also used a pseudonym for more serious business. While in England, Franklin penned letters under the name of Benevolus. These letters to various newspapers attempted to answer the nefarious assertions made by the British press about the American colonists.

The popular author of the Animorphs series for kids, K. A. Applegate writes many books under pen names. For her Harlequin romances, she used the name Katherine Kendall. For her Disney Aladdin series she’s known as A. R. Plumb. Sometimes publishers themselves use pen names in their work for hire projects. For instance, Carolyn Keene, so-called author of the original Nancy Drew series, didn't even exist!

If you’re worrying about whether you need to use your penname to sign your contract, stop fretting. You would sign it using your real name, and then state that you are (real name) writing as (penname). Your public appearances could be a little sticky though. In that case, best to stick to phone interviews and blog tours or wear dark glasses and a wig in your Skype author chats.

But let’s get real. There are drawbacks to publishing under a penname. If your fans are looking eagerly for your next novel, or other back titles they won’t see your whole output, because you’ll need separate websites to support all of your personalities. You can’t really show off your true range because everything is so compartmentalized. And in ten years you may outgrow your penname, but you’re stuck with it. Your readers have come to know you only by that name. Think of it as being stuck with a raunchy tattoo that you’d love to raze off your flesh, but it’s in a sensitive area. Ouch.
Still not convinced? Perhaps you should read Kristen Lamb’s great blog post about why pen names suck.

Have you ever considered using a penname? If so, why? Have you already used one? More than one? If so, tell us about your experience with that! What would your fantasy pseudonym be, and for what genre of fiction?