What’s in a Pen Name?

THIS POST IS FOR READERS and WRITERS:

You know me here as Lane Diamond, but my real name is Dave Lane. So why did I decide to write (and edit and publish) under a pen name?

When I first prepared to shop my first book around to literary agents back in 2008, I did what every author in that situation should do: I searched the internet for anyone else who’d published with the same name as mine. Why? Because every author should be unique. Many actors use screen names for precisely the same reason: you don’t want to be confused with another actor, or in my case, with another author. When people search on my “name” as an author, I want them to find my work, not someone else’s.

In my case, there were a few too many Dave Lanes out there in the internet world and publishing world. One of them was some knucklehead aryan race white supremacist out of the UK who’d published several books. Yeah, just what I needed: to be confused with that guy.

So it was settled: I needed a pen name. Now, what should I use? Well, I’d long been known by my nickname of Diamond, which went back to my old band and karaoke days (shortened from Diamond Dave), so it made sense to me to incorporate that. Dave Diamond? Taken. Diamond Dave? Taken rather aggressively by David Lee Roth, formerly of Van Halen. Diamond Lane? Nah, that just sounds off, since Diamond is more of a last name and… wait a second…. Lane Diamond?

And there you have it. You won’t find any others, unless you happen to be looking at an engagement ring, in which case you might purchase a [Neil] Lane diamond. As far as individuals go, I think I cornered the market. That means if you search my pen name in some combination with literary, book, author, writer, editor, publisher, etc, you’re going to find me. Perfect.

Are you an aspiring author? Is your name John Smith, or Jane Doe, or… eek!… Stephen King or Kathy Reichs? Yeah, then you need a pen name. The most important consideration in picking one is NOT some hidden, special meaning to you. It is uniqueness. Period. If you happen to be able to get both, as I did, then good for you.

Oh, and as far as using as a title for your book the same one that’s been used a dozen times by others? …well, that’s for another discussion.

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The Problem with First-Person Narratives – Beware the I-Bombs! (Part 2 – Practical Examples)

THIS POST IS FOR WRITERS:

This post is a follow-up to one I did some time ago: The Problem with First-Person Narratives – Beware the I-Bombs! If you haven’t read that one yet, this would be a good time to do so.

I’ll not repeat what I said in that post. Rather, I shall move right on the some practical before and after samples, identifying both the problem and at least one potential fix. I’ve used actual examples from pieces I’ve edited/reviewed/read, so as always, I shall not mention any writers’ names, so as to protect the not-so-innocent.

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BAD: When I was young, I pointed out the inconsistencies as if I caught him cheating at cards, which he also did quite often.

Notes: The new opening below is a simple turn of phrase to not make it appear all about “I” at every moment. The second key change was making it not about “I” catching the cheating, but about “he” doing the cheating. Focus on the characters and actions around “I,” making it about them as much as possible, relying on the fact that we’re in the POV of “I,” and trusting the reader to react as “I” would want them to react.

BETTER: As a youngster, I pointed out the inconsistencies, as if he’d been cheating at cards or something—which he did quite often.

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BAD: I used to think I could make a living as a skier, but then I realized that I was wrong.

Notes: This option, with its 4 “I” in just 20 words, is all telling and rather… well, dull. The second option takes us deeper inside the character’s true motivations, and concludes with a striking self-admonition (and commentary) in the form of monologue.

BETTER: I’d imagined skiing bringing me wealth and fame. Yeah, money and girls—a life to make most folks bristle with envy, at least the guys. I’m such an idiot!

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BAD: I hear a sound from behind the garage, and I wonder what it might be. Maybe I should investigate.

Notes: Blah! Ick! Phooey! Where to begin? 1) It’s all telling; nothing actually happens. 2) Yeah? Well, we wonder too, so please give us something. What kind of sound? A prowler? A dog? An alien invasion? 3) The narrator suggests doing something, but again… nothing actually happens. Seriously, haven’t you always wanted to read a book in which nothing actually happens? No? Shocker! In fact, elsewhere in the story, the author suggests (again weakly) that the character is fearful of a stalker. Okay… so…? It’s time to engage the reader.

BETTER: I spin around as a loud crash echoes from behind the garage. It seems those tottering, beat-up old garbage cans are still good for something. I waste not a second in bolting for the back door, zipping inside the house and throwing the deadbolt firmly into place. Next stop: the phone and a 9-1-1 call.

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BAD: I thought I’d be able to figure out how I got here in the first place, but I still couldn’t believe I was lost.

Notes: “But enough about me. What do you think about me?” That’s how these I-Bombs often feel, as if it’s just all about “me” and nothing else matters. Also, this violates almost every rule of Show vs. Tell, failing to bring the reader into the moment. Remember those 3 words: “in the moment.” The best fiction brings a reader in and allows her to experience the story right along with the characters, as it happens. Ah yes, 3 more important words: “as it happens.” In this particular scene, the author attempted—and failed—to paint the character’s fear at being so completely lost. She simply didn’t paint the scene for us at all.

BETTER: How did I get here? For that matter, where the devil was here? What a ridiculous situation, to be so utterly lost. I glanced around again, mindful of the knot growing in my stomach—churning, rumbling, threatening to seek escape at any moment. I spun around and… nope, no toilets out here. Well this is just great!

Another Note: I’m a huge fan of the writer’s directive to “make every word count.” However, you must create the story for the reader. This is a classic case of under-writing. As an author, you can’t keep critical secrets. It’s not enough that you see the image in your mind; the reader must see the image in her mind. So share!

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BAD: I thought I might make her understand. I thought I could appeal to her feminine wiles. I thought I’d probably get lucky, in the end. I guess I didn’t know nearly as much as I thought I did.

Notes: At this point, it seems as though I shouldn’t have to say anything. You should be jumping all over this and in your best Arnold Horshack voice (for you fellow old-timers out there), yelling, “Ooh! Ooh! Ooh! I know it, Mr. Kotter.” Nonetheless….

First, if you’re writing a first-person narrative, make it a point to use the Find function in MS Word, and type in “[space]I[space]“, and check the box that says “Highlight all items found in:”. This will highlight with a black box every instance of “I” in your manuscript. In time, you’ll want to do the same for variations: I’ll, I’m, I’d. Then, with the selections highlighted, scroll down and look for instances where those black boxes appear like a swarm of flies. Yep… time to revise.

In the case of the example above, the word “I” appears 10 times in 38 words. Umm… no. Just no.

BETTER: She’d come around in time. After all, how could she resist my manly charms, my smooth moves, my irresistible… well, me?

She didn’t respond at all. She just turned around without a word, and left.

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BAD: I saw smoke rising over the downtown district.

Notes: This is the simplest of all remedies, and it falls smack under the heading of “Show, Don’t Tell.” The first-person narrator, the character, is telling the story, so if he conveys some action, we know it’s because he saw/heard/felt it, etc. So just paint the picture for us.

BETTER: Smoke rose over the downtown district.

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I hope those examples will help guide you in trying to eliminate your own I-Bombs. Of course, my alternatives above are just a single example, in each case, of how you might fix the problem. Ultimately, your own style and voice will dictate the fix, and that’s fine. Just fix it! No carpet-I-Bombing allowed. :)

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Noir Detective Mystery “Hot Sinatra” by Axel Howerton an Award Finalist

THIS POST IS FOR READERS:

The big news is that Hot Sinatra by Axel Howerton is one of five finalists for the Arthur Ellis Award: BEST FIRST NOVEL. For a complete listing of finalists for this prestigious award, please visit the Crime Writers of Canada website.

Why am I so thrilled about this? First, I’m a fan. I absolutely loved Hot Sinatra as a reader. Second, I had the privilege of co-editing this book, including doing the final polishing edit. Third, I had the honor of publishing it for Evolved Publishing.

Okay… I know what some of you are thinking: “Oh sure, Diamond is talking about this because he edited and published the book.” Fair enough, BUT… seriously, I LOVED this book as a reader. I’ve long been a fan of the likes of Mickey Spillane, Robert B. Parker, Elmore Leonard, Raymond Chandler, and others of that ilk. So when I first read Hot Sinatra with an eye toward publishing it, I did so as a reader with awfully high standards. And yes, Axel Howerton’s book passed the test.

I categorized this post under “Readers” and “Characters.” Why the “Characters” category? Simple, Hot Sinatra is one great, tasty, funny, compelling character stew! Not only is the main character, Moss Cole, a lot of fun, but much of the supporting cast is just a riot. You’re going to love some of these characters. In particular, many readers have commented positively on Manlove and Kickerdick – a pair of knee-breakers unlike any you’ve encountered before, believe me.

I enthusiastically recommend Hot Sinatra, but if you’re still in doubt, just sample the portions that sites like Amazon and Smashwords offer. That should convince you. Of course, you can also see what other reviewers have said.

Don’t miss out. Grab your copy today.

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Available at Amazon US, Barnes and Noble, iTunes, Kobo, Smashwords.

Oh… and did I mention that it’s also available in French, Italian and Spanish? Yeppers.

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“Raven Reviews” Interviews Lane Diamond – Publisher, Editor and Author

THIS POST IS FOR READERS and WRITERS:

I had the opportunity to sit and answer some questions about the industry with Michele Biring-Pani, purveyor of Raven Reviews. We cover a wide range of subjects, and I offer some practical advice without pulling too many punches.

Please stop by at the link below:

Interview with Evolved Publishing’s Managing Publisher/Editor Lane Diamond

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Lane Diamond Is Now Offering “Mini-Edits” for Writers

THIS POST IS FOR WRITERS:

As a writing coach and longtime freelance editor, I know that many writers yearn for assistance, but don’t quite have the financial means to hire the help they need. Well, what if you could get help for just $20, or $10, or even $5?

Yep, you heard right.

It occurred to me that many writers might find helpful “mini-edits” of short segments that are giving them some trouble. As a writer, you might learn what you need, at least for one pesky little problem, by getting edits and helpful notes on 500 words or less – maybe even as little as a couple of paragraphs.

What would my mini-edits include? Well, I would do the actual edits in your MS Word document, using their Track Changes process, so you would see what I deleted and what I offered as an alternative. If you like it, you can simply ACCEPT the changes and – Voila! – your segment is fixed. I will also include helpful notes where appropriate, and possibly even links to additional resources to help you address your issue(s). In other words, I give you everything I give any client, or any author with Evolved Publishing, for example – just in smaller bursts.

If this sounds like a service that will benefit you, just visit my Writing Coach page, and you’ll find the purchase options for mini-edits right near the top of the page.

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Psychological Thriller “Forgive Me, Alex” Is Now Available as an Audio Book

THIS POST IS FOR READERS:

I’m so pleased to announce that Forgive Me, Alex is now available as an audio book. The full unabridged version, which runs 10 hours 22 minutes, is narrated by the talented Kevin Scollin.

Whether you’re commuting to work every day via car or train, or planning some time sitting around airports and on a plane, or just looking to relax and enjoy a few evenings with your favorite beverage, this is a great and entertaining way to pass the time.

Audio_ForgiveMeAlex

You can find the audio book of Forgive Me, Alex at the following retail sites:

AmazonApple iTunesAudible.com

An Opportunity for Aspiring Writers to be Published Authors

THIS POST IS FOR WRITERS:

Over at the Evolved Publishing website today is a post about my services as writing coach. Specifically, I’m looking for that one “special project” to help an author achieve his or her dreams, and to help make Evolved Publishing that much better.

If you’ve created a good novel-length story but your actual “writing” still needs some work, and you think I can help coach you up to “publishable,” then stop by and check out the post linked below.

Would a Writing Coach Make Sense for You?

Butterfly - Mark Twain

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“I have a Kindle Paperwhite, and I love it! It’s so easy on the eyes that I can read on it for hours, just like a paper book, in any light.” – Lane Diamond

CLICK THE IMAGE BELOW FOR DETAILS:

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