Monday, August 3, 2015

No Longer Me

E.G. Wiser, guest post. 
Writerly thoughts on pen names and process.

E.G.Wiser is a pseudonym—a name derived from the first letter of one person’s name, the first letter of a different person’s name, and the name that happened to be on the bottle of whiskey I was drinking when I came up with the whole plan to have a pseudonym. 

It was a plan that I did not enter into lightly—or entirely sober—as I had always thought it important to stand by whatever words I chose to make public, whether it was in the pages of magazine, between the covers of books or in the comment section at I was always, on some level, me, the true me.  Even when my first story sales turned out to be to places with names like Climax, Orgy, Thigh High my by-line featured the same name as the one on my driver license. There was nothing to be ashamed of (even if there was there was nothing to be overly proud of either,) and if on occasion I wrote my fiction from a point of view or predilection I did not actually possess in real life (be advised, dear reader: when pressed for cash I will fake a foot fetish in print), I wrote it without judgment or embarrassment. My fervor for the gentle insole of this or that angel may have been something less than sincere, but beneath the necessary details and repetitive motions of the genre, there could still be something real—something genuine.  Longing, for all its vagaries, is universal.

Time passed.  Something happened and the genre lost its appeal for me. Maybe the stories just stopped selling.  I wrote other, more serious things. Good things, mostly. Plenty I was proud of, and eventually my very real name graced the bindings of a small number of novels that could be found in the discriminating book stores, libraries and garage sales of several countries. I received some good reviews, some praise from writers I respected, even got the fan letter or two. And the books—cliché as it is to say so—felt like parts of me out there.

But I was still broke. And E.L. James was filthy rich.  My day job—the one that actually paid the rent—was a miserable, Kafkaesque affair and some nights the only way I could get to sleep was by convincing myself that there was a fair chance of dying peacefully in my dreams before morning.  This is not a healthy alternative to counting sheep.

And then someone got a book contract based on their One-Direction erotic fan fiction and something inside me snapped. I began to write an erotic romance novel—but one written the way I thought one should be written—with humor, with humanity, and without characters that were thinly disguised members of an insufferable boy band. And this time, I used an assumed name.
Two writers, one desk.

I had a number of practical reasons for deciding to use a pseudonym now when I had not used one before. For one, I had an agent who was ostensibly still trying to place my more “legitimate” work and I did not wish to confuse the two efforts. Secondly, I had the notion that the writer being an actual identifiable person could be a detriment to the type of stories I was now trying to tell.  It is one thing to write erotica, it is another to write erotica while reminding the reader of their uncle Fred or Aunt Beulah—and while I actually resemble neither of those fine relatives, you perhaps can see my point. If books are a kind of willed dream, my real name was a sort of nagging reminder of another world invading that sleep.

So I created my new self—a vague, genderless identity and tribute to Canadian whiskey— and then got to work on the actual writing part.

That is when something strange happened: The words—which had become an increasing struggle over the years—flowed freely. E. G. Wiser was not just a secret identity: it was a super power. I was unencumbered by neither expectation nor reputation.  There was no me standing in my way—no feet of my own to trip on. I found in my writing again the selfless joy of pure story-telling. The dream I was conjuring for the reader, I was dreaming for  myself as well—and rushing from scene to scene with a thrill I had lost somewhere in the layers of me that had begun to overlay all of my previous, more “personal” work. Now, free of identity, of ego, I feel am more purely a writer than I have ever been. At very least, I am a happier one; writing is fun again.

And all I had to do was lose my self.


Beth August, Special Agent with the Department of Ufology, is sent to investigate an object of mysterious origins. What she uncovers could send the world into an orgy of apocalyptic proportions.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

A Developing Philosophy for Maximizing Human Presence in Online Learning Environments

Establishing a human presence in online courses is imperative. Pairing professor content expertise and knowledge with the benefits of online learning environments give faculty the opportunity to  provide a unique virtual classroom experience. Fortunately, faculty don’t need a degree in experience architecture to be successful, only a guiding philosophy and some thoughtful planning. 

As part of my ongoing effort to establish a human presence in my online learning environments, I have begun creating short videos. These particular videos aren’t meant to be particularly informative, although they do contain information. All the information in the videos is also available in the online course site and/or in the text. The goal of the videos is to give a ‘face’ to the instruction with the hope that students will not feel so isolated from the course.

A few principles & practices of these videos:
  • Like a class session, the videos aren’t meant to be perfect. I don’t worry if I make an error; I just correct it and then continue.
  • I don’t worry about “looking silly.” I just go with it and be myself. My thinking, in that way my video self will match my online self. Again, my goal is to be human not to be perfect. Being perfect would take too long. Much too long.
  • Being human doesn’t mean being sloppy. I use the YouTube enhancements to clean up errors and maximize quality. Also, I consider things like lighting and background.
  • The videos are not meant to be permanent. I make them quickly and delete when no longer needed.
  • I post the links in the course site & host the videos on my YouTube channel, LuckenLCC

A few sample videos:

A few principles & practices of developing a human presence in online learning environments:
  • Products, such as faculty made videos, used to establish the human presence in an online environment do not need to be perfect.  Example.
  • Human presence means more than putting a face to the instructor. Linking the students together and linking students to campus resources, such as writing centers or student success centers, are excellent ways to establish 'humanity' online.
  • Technology tools are not a replacement for the personal connection. Use tools in a way that generates interaction, not simply presents and manages content. (Examples: Polleverywhere, twitter, Facebook)
  • Online environments have advantages face to face environments don’t. Make use of those advantages. (Example: Prezi & Google Docs & Hangout)
  • Students have digital literacy. Give them opportunities to use and improve it.
I continue to work on this philosophy of developing a human presence in online environments.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Killer Query Letter on the Quick, a Mad Libs style template to get it done

Need a query letter in a hurry? Try out this template.
Here's how it works:
  • Select one of the 1's to start the letter. If you have 2 main characters, you may want to fill out the section for each main character.
  • 1A is an alternative start or an alternative add-on.
  • Pick one of the 2's.
  • Add the closing.

1~Character & Conflict
{Adjective}_________________ {adjective} _________________________ {noun}_______________________, {character name} _____________________, wants{goal} __________________________________________________because{motivation}______________________________________________________but{conflict}_______________________________________.

1~Character & Conflict
{Adjective} ____________________ {adjective} ____________________ {character name} _________________________ is {describe character}_________________________________. When {state initial conflict} ______________________________________________. Then {state what intensifies conflict} ________________________________________________. The only way out is _______________________________________, but {conflict}__________________________. Unwilling to give up because {motivation} ________________________________________________, {character} ___________________, must {state what character must learn/do/change/learn/accomplish} _______________________________________________________________________.

1A ~ Setting & Conflict
{Adjective} ____________________ {adjective} ____________________ {setting} ___________________________ is {describe setting}___________________________________. The place that or A place where ___________________________________. But {state initial conflict} and {what intensifies conflict}___________________________________.

2 ~ Manuscript Details
{TITLE} ________________________ is a {genre} _______________________, _________________________ words in length.

2 ~ Manuscript Details
{TITLE}_______________________________, tells a/the story of {theme} _______________________ and shows that {what changes/how character grows/what learned} _________________________________________.

3 ~ Closing
I {tell a bit about yourself} ___________________________.

If you’d like to see {TITLE} __________________, I’ll be happy to send it.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Pitching to an Editor or Agent?

Step 1 -- Prepare
  • Complete the manuscript. Have it ready to submit.
  • Have the right mindset, try not to think this one pitch are“the big chance." It’s one conversation, there will be more.
  • Do your research. Be sure that person wants what you have, the more specific the better. www.publishersmarketplace is a great place for information.
  • Prepare 3 index cards. 3 One for the story-line, one for characters,and one for your questions.

Step 2 – Get started
  • Arrive early; don’t drink too much coffee/sugar/alcohol.
  • Dress professionally; leave your giant, overstuffed conference tote bags with the check-in desk.

Step 3 – Be at ease
  • Introduce yourself, shake hands, and make eye contact.
  • Be pleasant, enthusiastic and lively.

Step 4 – Throw the pitch
  • Keep the story-line focused and short, then tell about the characters, then how your work stands out (theme, characters, hook?) 
  • Read from the index cards if you must.
  • Pitch one book, two at the most. Offer more if asked.
  • If the editor/agent cuts you off to ask questions, stop saying whatever it was you were saying and address whatever he/she asked.
  • If editor/agent is not interested do not discuss how to rewrite book to make him/her want it. Ask your prepared questions instead.
  • In group appointments, the same applies; yes you have to share the time but 1) you will learn by listening to others and 2) group appointments are less likely to get canceled.

Step 7 – Ask questions
  • Agents and editors want questions.  Ask specific, but not pointed, questions.
  • Don't ask the editor or agent what you should write next.
  • Don't ask about other editors or agents.

Step 6 – Close
  • A short appointment is not a bad sign.
  • Leave your business card with your title on the back.
  • Thank them for their time, say something nice.

Step 7 – Enjoy the afterglow

  • Send whatever you agreed to send.
  • If you were not asked to send anything, send a thank you note.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Authors Not Getting Paid: Guest Thoughts about Piracy

Piracy increases discoverability. For writers who aren't yet famous, this may be a net positive. Also, it's doubtless true that many more ebooks are downloaded than are read. Some people who download have a hoarder's mindset, and they want to have every text and every song that they might one day want to read or listen to. Every download does not represent a lost sale.

What I find troubling is that there are three models for monetizing pirated content. One is a subscription service: Pay a fee to download as much content as you want. (Some such arrangements are legitimate and have licensed rights or have public-domain content. Others are pirates.) Or link hubs that generate a lot of traffic and sells advertising based on user visits. And, finally, there are eBay pirates who sometimes don't know that they are pirates. I've shut down dozens of these when I've found my work included on DVD libraries. Sellers typically post some boiler-plate language about how all the titles on the DVD are public-domain books, but this just isn't true. However, EBay requires that rights holders track down each seller and fax a VERO take-down form. I waged war on some of these resellers for a while, and none of my work is available on ebay currently. But the work of many writers is.

When pirates are making money from piracy, they have an incentive to persist and grow. I don't worry that friend-to-friend file sharing is a problem. But commercial ventures can eat away at the thin margins of publishers and the already-meager earnings of authors. Musicians have found that they can give away recordings and make a living from live performances. What will writers do?

At the same time, indy publishing enables us to publish our books and earn a margin that's maybe eight times what our royalties would be with a traditional publisher, per book. So a writer who sells 800 copies earns the equivalent of a 6,400-book press run selling out with a traditional publisher. If readers feel like they are supporting a particular writer, then they don't mind paying for physical books when they could have the ebook for free. That is, it may become all the more important for writers to find a readership that acts more like patrons than like consumers, but the good news is that each writer needs only a few hundred or (one hopes) a few thousand such readers.

The upshot, however, is that the Big Six will feel piracy cutting into their sales just when high overhead is cutting their margins thinner and thinner. I think writers are going to survive these enormous changes by coming to think about publishing in a very different way. Most big publishers will not last ten years, unless they figure something out. Many genre writers have been talking about this for years, but most literary writers haven't been paying much attention, or have been told that literary sales are so small they such writers aren't targets for piracy.

The issue remains just about as clouded as Lloyd Shepherd found it to be I find myself wishing there were more of a conversation about these issues among literary writers, but most MFA programs really don't address the business of writing and publishing at all, and that seems to limit discussion.


Bruce Holland Rogers is on the MFA fiction faculty at the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts. He was recently a Creative Artist fellow for three months in Japan and is a 2014 NEA creative writing grant recipient. His stories have been translated into more than two dozen languages, including Pashto and Klingon. Yes, really.