Monday, April 16, 2018

Nom de Plume

From the book by Lemony Snicket, nom de plume of Daniel Handler.
A nom de plume, Webster's dictionary tells us, is French for “pen name”; an invented name under which the author writes. They cite Mark Twain as the nom de plume of Samuel L. Clemens.

It's a good example, but I can think of others that make me smile. Lemony Snicket, for one. I mean, what a delightful name for a children's author.

Why use a nom de plume?

Reasons for a nom de plume very, but basically, it is to hide the identity of the author. Here's why: 

1. Parents

Dr. Seuss, born Theodore Geisel, chose Seuss (pronounced Zoice) as it was his mother's maiden name. He added the 'Dr.' because his father was so disappointed in him for dropping out of an Oxford PhD program in favor of writing children's books. 

1.  Gender bias

Being female had, and still can have, its limitations in the publishing industry. The solution is to adopt a male or androgynous pen name in the hopes of being successful. 

We see this in some of our most cherished SF/F books. Alice Mary Norton wrote under Andre Norton, Andrew North and Allen Weston. Alice Sheldon wrote under James Tiptree, Jr

Of course, one of the most celebrated authors in the world, Jane Austen, published anonymously all her life. Her name didn't appear on a single book until after she died.

2. Distinguishing genres

A name change can help distinguish writers who publish in different genres. Kim Wilkins, the wonderful Fantasy writer, publishes her historical fiction under Kimberly Freeman. Our own Nicole Murphy also writes romance under Elizebeth Dunk. 

2.  Humor

It seems some authors over the ages have enjoyed ridiculousness pen names for no other reason than humor. A fun example is William Makepeace Thackeray who wrote satire such as Vanity Fair. He chose hilarious nom de plumes like George Savage Fitz-Boodle, Théophile Wagstaff, and C.J. Yellowplush. 

4. Collaboration

When authors collaborate, they may choose a nom de plume as in the case of the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews. This is the pen name of Ilona and Andrew Gordon, a successful husband-and-wife team writing urban fantasy and romance.

5. $$$

The reasons to go with a pen name can be financial/sales. One of my publishers told me about a fantastic writer, Margaret Lindholm, whose books just weren't selling. They worked out a nom de plume -- Robin Hobb -- and her next series sold over a million copies. 

With a new YA Fantasy series coming out next year, I have chosen the nom de plume, AK Wilder
If I check my list above, reasons include #1 Parents - Wilder is a family name. #2, Genre distinction - even though all my books are SF/F, I feel good keeping the YA and Adult Fantasy separate. #3 Collaboration - the new series is co-written with my son. His first initial is A, I'm the K and well, we are both Wilders by blood. 

Have you any nom de plumes to share? I'd love to hear them.


Kim Falconer's latest release comes out in 2019 - The Bone Throwers, book one in the Amassia series, writing as A K Wilder. Find her new page on Facebook - AKWilder Author and on Twitter as AKWilder.

Her latest novel is out now - The Blood in the Beginning - and Ava Sykes Novel.

Learn more about Kim on Facebook and chat with her on Twitter. Check out her pen name, @a.k.wilder on Instagram, or visitAKWilder on FB and website.

Kim also runs where she teaches the law of attraction and astrology. 

Kim posts here at the Supernatural Underground on the 16th of every month, hosts Save the Day Writer's Community on FB and posts a daily astrology weather report on Facebook. 

Monday, April 2, 2018

Leading Ladies: Seven Awesome & Epic Heroines

Epic Fantasy is often touted as the genre of world-saving-or-falling stories, grand campaigns, and larger-than-life adventures, where the leading character is the hero, whether farmboy or paladin, with a sword and a destiny.

But today I'm starring a few of the fabulous heroines that are not only leading ladies but also their story's lead protagonist, all of whom have rocked my reading world  – as well as giving a nod to a leading lady and central protagonist of my own. :)

A is for Aerin in Robin McKinley's The Hero and the Crown (YA)
Aerin is a classic epic heroine, an isolated and disregarded princess who teaches herself to slay dragons and master the magic of her people, and who is eventually called upon to save both people and kingdom from a demonic horde. And you can't get more epic than that!

A is also for Aidris in Cherry Wilder's A Princess of the Chameln (YA)
Aidris is also a princess, one who must flee for her life from her home and Chameln peoples and survive until she can return and reclaim her kingdom's double throne. A fascinating exploration of kingdoms, cultures, and with intriguing and mysterious magic. 

B is for Breyd in Roberta Gray's The Sword and The Lion
Some of you may better recall Roberta Gray as author Ru Emerson, but if you like your fantasy with overtones of Greek myth and legendary history then you'll enjoy this tale of Breyd, a commoner chosen by lot to bear the magic that may save her city from a ruthless invader (think Alexander the Great.) Breyd and her tale have never gotten the attention they probably deserve, but this is still a grand epic with some romance woven in.

G is for Gill in Katherine Kerr's Daggerspell
Gill is the only daughter of the famous mercenary warrior ('silver dagger') Cullen of Cerrmorr and grows up to carry the silver dagger herself as well as discovering that her destiny is to become a master of the magical dweomer. If you like your fantasy with a strong Celtic element, including time slip and multiple lives aspects, as well as adventure and romance thrown in, then you'll love Daggerspell and its sequels.

L is for Liath in Kate Elliot's The King's Dragon
Although there are other leading characters, Liath is still arguably the central protagonist in Kate Elliott's The King's Dragon, or sufficiently so, at any rate, to have  a place on this list. The orphaned daughter of a scholar, cast adrift in a dangerous and changing world, Liath must chart a course between war, politics, and magic to assert her place in the world. Plus her relationship with Sanglant adds romantic interest to a many-layered tale.

M is for Mara in Janny Wurts & Raymond E Feist's Daughter of the Empire
Orphaned in a single battle through an enemy House's treachery, Mara must assume leadership of her House and save it from annihilation through political and strategic acumen, personal self sacrifice and courage. If you like a young woman succeeding by her wits against almost overwhelming odds, in a fascinating and colorful world, then you'll love Mara.

M is also for Malian in The Heir of Night
In creating my own leading lady and lead protagonist in The Wall Of Night series, I feel honored to be adding to such a great tradition of clever, courageous, and resourceful heroines. Malian is also a leader who cuts a swathe through her world's grand campaigns and masters both magic and weapons' skills as well as knowing how to form alliances with others to achieve her ends. Nor is Malian alone: her tale includes a cast of supporting heroines, as well as heroes, all playing vital parts in the story.

Nor is this by any means all: names such as Tamora Pierce's Alanna (Junior), Marion Zimmer Bradley's Morgan, CJ Cherryh's Morgaine, and Elizabeth Moon's Paksenarrion also spring to mind not to mention other heroines penned by these authors.

But if you have other heroines that are lead protagonists to suggest, then please leave your recommendation in the comments. Because here on Supernatural Underground there's always room for MOAR! :)


Helen Lowe is a novelist, poet, interviewer and blogger whose first novel, Thornspell (Knopf), was published to critical praise in 2008. Her second, The Heir of Night (The Wall Of Night Series, Book One) won the Gemmell Morningstar Award 2012. The sequel, The Gathering Of The Lost, was shortlisted for the Gemmell Legend Award in 2013. Daughter Of Blood, (The Wall Of Night, Book Three) is her most recent book and she is currently working on the fourth and final novel in The Wall Of Night series. Helen posts regularly on her “…on Anything, Really” blog and is also on Twitter: @helenl0we