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Pen Names

When you write with a pen name, there are invariably two questions you will always get asked:



How did you come up with it?

Here’s my story.

I remember back in high school, when I was just dabbling in writing, I thought about creating a pen name. I wanted something that would stand out, that people would remember, that sounded cool. I thought my real name was too plain, too boring. The only one I remember coming up with was Jessica Reeves, and it never stuck.

Years later, when I was way more serious about getting published, the desire to change my name was so that I would stand out. Jessica Robinson is fairly common. Back then, if you Googled it, a country singer would pop up. Now, it’s a various assortment of Jessica Robinsons, and I’m sure I’m in there somewhere, but I get lost in the shuffle. I knew if I had a pen name, I could stand out from the crowd.

I decided on Pembroke Sinclair when I was pregnant with my first child. My husband and I were researching names, and I came across Pembroke. I thought, “Oooo! Pembroke Sinclair Robinson. The kid would be destined to be an author!”

When I mentioned it to my husband, his response was, “You want our child to get beat up on the playground, don’t you?”

My friend suggested I take it, and the rest is history.

“But wait,” you say. “That’s not the only name you write under.”

And you are correct.

I also write under J.D. Pooker for my children’s books and Jessica Robinson for nonfiction. So what made me decide to do it that way?

The explanation for creating J.D. Pooker is easy: the publisher asked me to create a pen name. Their reasoning was that because I write adult/YA books, they didn’t want young readers or the gatekeepers inadvertently discovering them and perhaps being traumatized by the content. And I thought that sounded logical, so I was fine with creating another name.

J.D. Pooker is a combination of my initials and a nickname my grandma used to call me when I was growing up. I thought it sounded fun and quirky, something that kids might enjoy, so I went with it.

As for using my real name for nonfiction, I used to write for an agricultural magazine called Western-Farmer Stockman. I always used my real name as a byline because I wanted to keep my fiction and nonfiction worlds separate. I felt that my real name gave my nonfiction writing more credibility. I’m not sure if that’s actually true, but that’s how I explain it in my mind. Since then, it’s just stuck.

Often I will get asked if a writer needs a pen name, and my response is, “If you want one.” There’s no hard and fast rule when it comes to deciding what name you want to put on your work. It’s totally up to your own discretion. (Just know that when you sign contracts for publishing, it has to be under your real name. That’s the only way they are legal.)

Some authors do it to hide their true identity. Some authors use them because they write in different genres and want to keep those separate. The reasons behind using a pen name are as varied as the people who use them.

In some ways, it allows you freedoms that you may not have allowed yourself before. It’s like a secret identity. You can make up a whole new life/history for the person behind the name, if you’re so inclined. A pen name can be the complete opposite of who you are or exactly the same. Your imagination is the only thing that limits what you want to do.

The point is that you don’t have to have a reason to have a pen name. And you don’t even have to admit that you write under a pen name. I was more than happy to just be known as Pembroke Sinclair when it came to my fiction, but my local paper outed me during an article. No biggie. I’ve moved on. But it is a risk you will have to take.

My intention with pen names was never to hide, it was to be found. When people Googled my name, I wanted it to pop up instantly. There are people who know me by both Jessica and Pembroke, and will only refer to me as Pembroke, and I’m totally cool with that.

If you want a pen name, have one. Who can tell you you’re wrong?

Things Can Get out of Hand Quickly

Recently, I witnessed a meltdown on a social site from several authors who were unhappy with their publisher. It began as one author’s opinion about their experience and quickly devolved into mudslinging, name calling, and other unsavoriness. It made me sad to watch. I stopped following the thread and distanced myself from the mess.

I understood where both sides were coming from, and I felt they were entitled to their own opinions. However, it was not OK for them to attack each other and give baseless arguments—that’s when it became ridiculous. But at the same time, I still knew exactly how these authors felt.

Back in the day, when I first got serious about sending my work to publishers and/or trying to find an agent, I felt like the world owed me. I felt like they should be so lucky to have my amazing work. I would get angry and jealous when I saw other authors being picked over me. After all, their work was crap. They didn’t put in the same time and effort I did. They only got the contract because of who they are, not because they’re good writers.

I threw fits. I threatened to give up writing. That would show the world. They would beg me to write again.

And then I got over myself.

I stopped being angry and jealous of people who had more success than me. It was a waste of time and energy. I had no control over them, I couldn’t change anything. Wouldn’t my time be better spent working on my stuff rather than worrying about what they were doing? Absolutely.

As harsh and depressing as it seems, the world doesn’t care if I succeed or fail. It’s going to continue doing what it does whether I’m writing or not—and so are publishers. I’m not the only author out there. The only person I was hurting with quitting writing was myself. Writing is an impulse for me. It’s like an itch at the back of my brain that won’t go away until I put words to paper. It’s annoying. When I don’t write, it drives me crazy. I couldn’t just stop cold turkey.

So I re-evaluated what I wanted out of my career. I thought about what it meant to be a success and what I had to do to attain my goals. I still have my dreams, but I’m much more realistic about my chances of attaining them. And I’m OK with that. I’m happy with where I am.

The publishing road has not been an easy one. It has been littered with frustration and disappointment. It has made me angry. It has made me want to quit writing—for the millionth time. I’ve dealt with some incredibly irritating people. Publishers have made me want to scream.

Life is never what we expect it to be, but we have to make the best of what we have. I decided a bit ago that I wanted to be happy, and that meant focusing on the positive things that have happened in my life. Writing happens to be one of those things. Whenever I feel down about it or upset or irritated with what’s happening with publishers, I focus on where I am. I remind myself of the progress I’ve made over the years. And I remind myself that there’s plenty of time for things to get even better.

I’m an author. My work has been published and is available to the world. Readers can find me and enjoy my stories. That wouldn’t have happened if I had given up and withheld my work from the world.

I’ve wasted my time pointing fingers and saying, “YOU have to do this for me! YOU are the reason I’m failing!” All that did was make me even more angry and frustrated. I really, truly understand what these authors are feeling. And I sympathize with them. But in the end, blaming others for their lack of success will get them nowhere. I’ve experienced that firsthand.

The only person that can hold me back is me. Sure, it’s more convenient and easy to blame other people, but it doesn’t change anything. If I want to be successful, I have to go out and get it. I’m the one who decides where my career goes. I’m stubborn and motivated, so I’m willing to do what it takes to be as successful as I can be.

Happy Release Day!

It's here!  It's finally here!  The Ifs Return is now available for your reading pleasure!

“Gage escaped.”

These are the worst words Broden could hear from his big brother Landon—just one day after they battled alongside Slade’s Ifs and his army of forest beasts.

Sure, the brothers had learned to work together to fight and capture the evil If Gage. But, now, Slade has informed them that Gage has escaped!
Fear and distrust have entered the boys’ world. Why should they help Slade if he can’t keep control of his prisoners? Will they be able to fight against a familiar foe? Plus, Landon has more news…

“Gage has magic.”

What kind of magic? Will he use it against them? As the boys are drawn into yet more adventure with the Ifs, they find out just how powerful, and dangerous, Gage’s magic can be.

You can find it on Amazon.  

To celebrate, I will be doing giveaways.  Find me on Facebook and play along.  It's going to be a rip-snorting good time!

This book is the second in the series, the first book, The Ifs, can be found here.

“Mom, Landon’s throwing food!” 

“No, I’m not!” 

Landon and Broden are brothers. And some days they DO NOT get along very well. They spend most of their days fighting, arguing and plotting ways to get revenge on each other. Then, strange things start happening… Noises in their room that are not the cat. Homework is mysteriously finished. A broken shoelace repairs all by itself. Clothes are put in the hamper on their own. 

The brothers want to share their weird experiences, but they don’t know if they can trust each other. But when they find out who’s behind all the strange things around the house, they are called to battle. Battle? Whoa! Right there in the forest by their house! A battle with the most unusual creatures and wildest of beasts. 

And when the battle turns more dangerous than they imagined, Landon and Broden must face their fears, put their grudges aside and learn how to work together.

This Week is Going to Kick A$$ and Take Names

Last week had its ups and downs—and they were pretty extreme. I had a brand new kind of panic attack, which was definitely a down. I hadn’t had one of those in a while, but the stress and worry of the last few weeks just hit me.  It sucked, but I survived.

As bad as the downs were, the ups were just as fantastic. First and foremost on the list was picking up Floki. He’s such a sweet, fluffy baby, and I’m so happy to have a Corgi in the house again. I have pictures and talk about him a little more in depth here.

It’s exhausting since he’s still a baby and needs to get up in the middle of the night and gets into everything, but time will fly and soon he’ll grow out of that. But before that happens, we’ll have another little sweetie in the house and things will be even crazier!

Say hello to Siggy.

My family also came to town this weekend, so I spent time with them. We had a lot of fun. 

I got to see my friend do a reading at the library (hi, Tamara!), which was awesome.  I’ve read all of her books, and they are fantastic.  I recommend checking them out.

This week is going to be awesome, I can feel it. The Ifs Return is scheduled for release on Wednesday, and I should be getting edits back for Good Intentions, bringing it one step closer to publication.

And those are just the things I know of. I’m sure other things will crop up along the way, and I can’t wait! I hope the rest of you are also gearing up for an amazing week.

Attempting to Hold Back the Anxiety…and Failing

Tomorrow, my husband and I are going to pick up Floki, a Corgi fur baby we are adding to our family. He is in addition to the female that we should be getting in a few weeks. I’m both excited and scared to death to bring him home.

I just found out yesterday that he’s being flown in.  That makes me even less comfortable!  I’m not a fan of flying, so no doubt I’m projecting my fear onto him, but still!  He’s going to be on a plane all by himself for 10 hours!  We don’t get to pick him up until 11:07 tomorrow night.

When I spoke to the airline, they assured me that they do this all the time and even though it’s a long day for him, he’ll be just fine.  I really want to believe them.  I hope they are right, but I won’t know until tomorrow.  Gah!  This is soooooo stressing me out!

Rolo’s death really shook me, and as someone who deals with anxiety and panic attacks, it’s hard for me to shake the illogical and look at the situation logically. I’m terrified the same thing will happen to Floki—or that something will happen to him on the plane. I’m afraid of going through the heartache and loss again.

I’ve been worrying about what’s going to happen in the future. I know I shouldn’t, but—again—I can’t always shut off my brain. I know I need to take it one day at a time, and I will, but some days will probably be harder than others.

Wish me luck. Two puppies at one time is going to be a challenge. My one and only hope is that they both live long, healthy, happy lives.

Gearing up For a Busy Week

I hope everyone had an amazing Mother’s Day weekend. Aside from being cold and snowy, mine wasn’t too bad. I had a chance to work on the biography and spend some time being lazy.

I got some amazing gifts from my boys. My youngest gave me a flower pot, and my oldest gave me some herbs that need to grow. He also created a card for me with Aliens on the inside. It was so sweet!

You can tell from the red that not everyone survived the attack.

I’m so thankful I had a chance to rest up this weekend. I’m going to need all the energy I can get for this week. It’s going to be busy. The boys start baseball games this week. Their first one is supposed to be tonight, but if it doesn’t warm up, I’m hoping it gets cancelled. There’s no reason to play in 40 degree weather.

We are heading to get the new puppy on Thursday, then my family will be here over the weekend. I’m really looking forward to everything, but it’s going to be crazy.

Still, I have a feeling this week is going to be fantastic. I hope you all have a great one also!

What Was I Thinking?

I hate to travel. And by that I mean when I go to the airport, I usually have a panic attack. I freak out going through security, and then I have to take a Xanax before I even get on the plane.

I never used to be like that. My freshman year of college, I attended school in Florida, and I flew back and forth several times over the course of the year. It never bothered me then. In high school, I went to Australia and switched planes multiple times before reaching Perth. Didn’t bat an eye.

Now, it’s all I can do to stay calm. The older I get, the more mental I become.

(Side note: my coworkers and I were talking about this the other day at work, and one of them said that the reason it’s probably an issue now is because I’m more aware of my mortality. When I was young, the world couldn’t touch me. But now, I have different priorities—kids, family—and losing them or having them lose me is probably where the fear stems from.)

Despite this fear, I sent in proposals for two separate conferences that will be occurring in the fall. One is the Long Beach Indie Film Festival in Long Beach, California, and the other is the Mid-Atlantic Popular & American Culture Association in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Right after I hit send, my stomach started tingling and I became anxious. What was I thinking? I can’t go to these places. I’ll have to get on a plane! I’ll have to be in a big city! I’ll have to speak in front of people!

Then I took a deep breath and told myself to calm down—which only slightly worked.

The reason I put in proposals for these conferences was because the world isn’t going to come to me. People aren’t going to find out who I am just because I have books on Amazon. Sure, a few might, but I want to increase my readership. To do that, I have to tell people about what I do. I have to get out there and show them what I’m doing.

I’m fully aware that this may not lead to book sales, but it still gets me out there. People will still be able to see my name and know that I wrote something. And, on top of that, I like talking about what I’ve done.

I picked these specific conferences because they focus on film and scholarly work. My presentation is based on my book Life Lessons from Slasher Films. I am incredibly proud of the work I put into this book, but I rarely have a chance to show it off. I felt that these two venues gave me the opportunity to do just that.

It’s scary as hell, and I’ll probably wind up having a panic attack at some point, but I need to step back for a minute. First of all, I haven’t been picked yet. There’s no guarantee I’ll have to present at either of these conferences. The first step was to make the effort, and the second is to wait for a response.

Despite my fear, I really would like to get out more. Even though it scares me, I really enjoy presenting and getting people involved in discussions. The workshops I’ve done around the state of Wyoming have been fantastic, but this gives me a chance to branch out. Being at the conferences also gives me a chance to network with others who think like I do.

There are far more pros to going to these conferences than there are cons, but convincing my brain of that is sometimes difficult. I just hope that I get the chance to go. If you would be so kind as to wish me luck or cross your fingers or sacrifice a chicken so I get picked, I would really appreciate it.

UPDATE:  I received an email this morning informing me that my proposal had been accepted for the Long Beach Indie Film Festival.  Wooooooot!  This is going to be fun!

Fabulous Spring Giveaway

Spring is here and it's time for a big giveaway from Laughing Vixen Lounge. 11 shops have come together to create one amazing Prize Pack ($280+) full of Jewelry, Perfume, Clothing, Vintage and much more! Many of the shops offer items perfect for any book lover along with lots of other unique, handcrafted and custom designs.

The Fabulous Spring Giveaway is open worldwide. 1 winner will win the Prize Pack. You can enter via the Rafflecopter below. Please visit the Laughing Vixen Lounge Blog and the Main Giveaway Post HERE to see the full prize list, participating shops and daily features during the giveaway.

Since Summer is right around the corner the giveaway theme is Vacation Memories. Each of our participating shops, and many of our blog sponsors, will be sharing some of their favorite vacation photos with you.

Giveaway runs May 4th - 18th. Laughing Vixen Lounge is responsible for all giveaway details. See full details HERE.

a Rafflecopter giveaway