PSEUDONYMS

 

Writing under pseudonyms or “pen names” is a fine and honored tradition; many of the stellar names in literature were “invented,” and many of the bestselling authors used and continue to use pseudonyms as well.

Five decades after the Hardy Boys books appeared, Leslie McFarland revealed himself as their writer Franklin W. Dixon. My kid sister, a Nancy Drew fan, felt deceived on finding out that Carolyn Keene is not really the author of the Nancy Drew Mystery Series. Mildred Wirt Benson, a young journalist, was the original ghostwriter for the them. Horror writer Stephen King also wrote as Richard Bachman for a variety of reasons. Some of them were obviating over exposure, writing his darker, more twisted tales and just substantiating that he sold not due to his name but genuine good work. To his chagrin, the Bachman book Thinner sold 28,000 copies during its initial run— and then ten times as many when it was revealed that Bachman was, in fact, King!

A lot of writers already have a more or less thriving career in a different field, and, well , writing can be a lottery. So they publish their first book under another name wondering if it clicks and when it does, that pseudonym has all the marketing goodwill attached by the time they write their next. If it fails, they lose nothing.

Then there are people who write fluff romance novels under one name to earn their daily bread, and serious literature under another, apprehensive that they won’t be taken seriously if the readers of the latter find out about the former.

At times writers have the same name as an existing famous author, say John Grisham, Anne Rice, or J. D. Salinger, then the publisher may ask to “change” it to avoid confusion. Sometimes you can get away with a variation on your name — for example, by writing as S. S. King when your name is actually Sidney Sheldon King!

Often, collaborative authors will invent a pseudonym to convey the impression that a book was written by a single author. For example, Robert Silverberg and Randall Garrett collaborated under the name “Robert Randall.” Similarly Emma Darcy, a famous Harlequin Mills and Boon author is actually a husband and wife team, Wendy and Frank Brennan !

Authors writing for competing publications are known to use different names for different magazines, say Varun Khanna becomes Samar Singh for another magazine and Abdul Rizvi for a third one.

Celebrated novelist Dean Koontz’s early novels brought in very little money, so he wrote several ones each year. When an unknown author writes that much, publishers urge him to use a pen name, since they feel prolific authors will not be taken earnestly. Dean wrote under 11 pseudonyms from David Axton to Aaron Wolfe, encompassing genres from psychological thrillers to Romance mystery. Finally he killed all his pen names and re-released all his novels under his own name, now famous and made a fortune.

Some writers adopted a pen name because they had a history of failure, and went on to write best-sellers under a different name.!

People writing in a genre that has “expectations” about its authors may also be forced to use a more congruous name with the genre. When was the last time you saw a romance novel by “Jake Hammersmith” or a hard-core thriller by “Felicity Valentine”?

One reason authors use pen names is to mask the fact that they are writing in the “wrong” gender for their field. In 1968 a new star burst upon the science fiction scene, James Tiptree Jr. The stories were literate, brilliant, piquant … but no one knew who he was or how he got to be so damned good. As speculation bristled, people contended that one thing was clear from his distinctive style- A lady would be too timorous for this; Tiptree was surely a man.

Finally it was disclosed that Tiptree was a former CIA intelligence agent and doctor of experimental psychology, a woman named Alice Sheldon !

Joanne Rowling’s publishers exhorted her to use only initials ‘J.K.’ for the publication of her Harry Potter novels with fear that the target audience of young boys would balk at having to read something written by a woman !

It’s true that George Eliot and Charlotte Bronte used male pen names so that their work could be published at all.

Mary Ann Evans became George Eliot, and

Charlotte Bronte initially published “Jane Eyre” as a male called Curer Bell.

Some great authors were forced to use a false name to avoid the indignation of their employers or coworkers. In 1969, the Edgar Award for best mystery novel was won by Jeffrey Hudson … a Harvard Medical School intern whose real name was Michael Crichton ! He, of course, went on to be the writer of phenomenal stories like “ Jurassic Park” and others. Two decades earlier, a young writer and Ph.D. candidate worried that his chemistry dissertation might be rejected because of a humorous essay published under his real name, despite asking his publisher to use a pseudonym. Fortunately, he was too talented — as both writer and scientist — to be turned down, and so he became “Doctor” Isaac Asimov.

Some had this fear of charges of slander or libel because they were revealing secrets of relatives, friends, coworkers, or corporate employers.

Keep in mind when using a pseudonym that it will not protect you from any legal action in case its deemed a transgression. A pseudonym has no existence as a “legal” entity; no matter what name you put on your work, the ultimate responsibility for that work always rests on you.

Balk

Contextual Meaning(s) : Verb; refuse to comply

Other Meaning(s) : noun an illegal pitching motion while runners are on base; the area on a billiard table behind the balkline; one of several parallel sloping beams that support a roof; something immaterial that interferes with or delays action or progress;

Synonyms : resist, jib

Celebrated

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; having an illustrious past; widely known and esteemed

Synonyms : notable, renowned

Chagrin

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; strong feelings of embarrassment;

Other Meaning(s) : verb cause to feel shame; hurt the pride of

Synonyms : humiliation, mortification

Collaborative

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; accomplished by team work.

Synonyms : cooperative

Congruous

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; suitable or appropriate together; corresponding in character or kind

Synonyms : appropriate, matching

Contended

Contextual Meaning(s) : Verb; fought over or disputed

Synonyms : argued

Deceived

Contextual Meaning(s) : Verb; cheated or lied (to someone)

Synonyms : cheated, tricked

Dissertation

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; a treatise advancing a new point of view resulting from research; usually a requirement for an advanced academic degree

Synonyms : thesis

Earnestly

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adverb; in a serious manner

Synonyms : seriously

Encompassing

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; closely encircling; broad in scope or content

Synonyms : covering, including

Exhorted

Contextual Meaning(s) : Verb; strongly urged or inspired

Synonyms : motivated, forced

Fluff

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; any light downy material; something of little value or significance;

Other Meaning(s) : verb ruffle (one’s hair) by combing towards the ends towards the scalp, for a full effect; erect or fluff up; make a mess of, destroy or ruin

Synonyms : frivolity

Indignation

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; a feeling of righteous anger

Synonyms : outrage

Libel

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; the written statement of a plaintiff explaining the cause of action (the defamation) and any relief he seeks; a false and malicious publication printed for the purpose of defaming a living person; verb print slanderous statements against

Synonyms : calumny, slander

 

Obviating

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; made impossible

Synonyms : preclusive

Obviating

Contextual Meaning(s) : verb; prevent the occurrence of; prevent from happening

Synonyms : debarring

Piquant

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; engagingly stimulating or provocative; having an agreeably pungent taste; attracting or delighting

Synonyms : salty, savory

Prolific

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; bearing in abundance especially offspring; intellectually productive

Synonyms : fertile, fecund

Slander

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; words falsely spoken that damage the reputation of another; an abusive attack on a person’s character or good name;

Other Meaning(s) : verb charge falsely or with malicious intent; attack the good name and reputation of someone

Synonyms : aspersion, defamation, denigration

Speculation

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; a hypothesis that has been formed by speculating or conjecturing (usually with little hard evidence); continuous and profound contemplation or musing on a subject or series of subjects of a deep or abstruse nature; a message expressing an opinion based on incomplete evidence

Other Meaning(s) : an investment that is very risky but could yield great profits;

Synonyms : conjecture surmise

Stellar

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; being or relating to or resembling or emanating from stars; indicating the most important performer or role

Synonyms : astral, leading

Substantiate

Contextual Meaning(s) : Verb; solidify, firm, or strengthen; establish or strengthen as with new evidence or facts; make real or concrete;

Other Meaning(s) : give reality or substance to; represent in bodily form

Synonyms : confirming, corroborating

Thriving

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; very lively and profitable

Other Meaning(s) : having or showing vigorous vegetal or animal life;

Synonyms : flourishing, booming

Timorous

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; timid by nature or revealing timidity

Synonyms : fearful, trepid

Transgression

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; the action of going beyond or overstepping some boundary or limit; the act of transgressing; the violation of a law or a duty or moral principle;

Other Meaning(s) : the spreading of the sea over land as evidenced by the deposition of marine strata over terrestrial strata

Synonyms : breach, overstepping, violation

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