I Wish I Had a Pen Name

I don’t think I’ve ever complained about my name here before, so allow me to rectify that, won’t you?

My name is Erika Mitchell. It didn’t used to be, I used to be a Martinez, but then I got married and now I’m Erika Mitchell. I love my name, it’s an excellent name. It suits me.

What doesn’t suit me is who else is named Erika Mitchell. Or used to be, until she got married. That person? Is EL James. Also known as the author of the Fifty Shades of Gray series.

Just for a little background (in case you’ve been somehow immune to the whole porn-in-plain-sight phenomenon {I’m not judging, just calling a spade a spade}) EL James wrote some Twilight fanfic and threw in a whole bunch of BDSM and sex scenes just for kicks.

Then, she fixed it up a bit so it wasn’t so Twilight-y and sold the books to a publisher and then people the world over bought oodles of the books and now she’s this mega-rich author whose maiden name happens to be my name.

Now, should this be a big deal? No. Is it a big deal? Yes. Because I’m an author. An author who just so happens to share a name with a super-successful household name author. And people keep thinking I’m her.

Here’s the thing: I’m not a Twilight fan. I don’t write erotica. If you like these things, that’s cool for you, but they’re seriously not my preference. At all.

If I were being confused for an author who writes virtually any other kind of book, it would probably be fine. I’d laugh it off and be on my merry.

But to be confused for someone who writes BDSM Twilight fanfic…?

It’s like some cosmic jokester sat around trying to think up the best way to make my head explode. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve fielded emails and comments from people asking to sell sex toys in my honor or making fun of how bad my writing is (which, even though I know they’re not making fun of MY writing, still sucks to have to read).

All this to say, I kind of wish I’d thought up a pen name before publishing under my own name. But I have an author website and books published under my own name so now it’s too late.

Still, if I did have a pen name, it might look like this courtesy of a pen name generator I found online:

Jackqueline Thomas

That sounds like a good thriller writer name, doesn’t it?

Desperately Seeking Venue

As I’m sure you’re all sick of hearing about, my new book (Blood Money) is coming out February 4.

(Obligatory freaking out that my book is coming out in just a week and a half. AAAAAAAAAH!)

It will initially be released as an ebook, because that’s just the way the world is shifting. If I sell a ton of ebooks, my publisher will do a print run, but it’s likely ebooks will be the bigger sellers.

All along, I’ve been okay with this on the outside while secretly pouting about it on my secret insides. I mean, yes, ebooks are spiffy and all, but how am I supposed to sign an ebook? If I can’t sign stuff, how can I throw a big ol’ party to celebrate my official status as a published author?

Boo.

Enter my publisher. She’s found a neat way to do book signings with ebooks, something all technologically advanced and serial numbers and blah blah blah.

Basically all I heard when she told me about it was: BOOK PARTY!!!

So, now I can sign my little face off and sell my ebook at physical venues and all I need now is a place to have my book party. Preferably somewhere with good food. I have my eye on a few places and I’ve started reaching out to a few proprietors. We’ll see what they say.

I’m just so excited. I love parties, and I love signing things This could be really cool.

What My Son Is Learning About Women

My friend Nicole is always trying to get me to read or watch articles and videos that will make me smarter and more well-rounded. Sometimes I even listen. I’m always glad when I do.

She directed me to a video the other day of a TEDTalk by Colin Stokes about what movies teach about manhood. He discussed the Bechdel Test, which is as follows:

  1. Does the movie have at least two (named) women in it?
  2. Do they talk to each other?
  3. About something other than a man they’re both interested in?

I was actually a little dismayed to find that not as many  movies pass this test as I would have thought. Like, the Lord of the Rings, for example. There are two predominant women in the movies (Arwen and Eowyn) and they both have their girl power moments, but they don’t talk to each other.

Bechdel Test fail.

Or Batman Begins. Or Fight Club. Or Secondhand Lions. Or Star Wars.  I could go on.

The guy in the talk then goes on to share an alarming statistic: 1/5 women have been sexually assaulted (according to a New York Times study). He then asks, What has gone awry in what we’re teaching boys about manhood?

It’s a valid and very important question. What do modern children’s movies teach boys about what it means to be a man? When there are few, if any, female characters, and those female characters are either boyish warriors or helpless sylphs, what are we establishing as their expectations?

One of Aidan’s favorite shows, Thomas & Friends, is predominantly male. There are a couple female engines (Emily {who is a bossy know-it-all and Lady {who’s cool but underfeatured}) and there’s Dowager Hatt and a woman in charge of the construction trucks, but that’s it. Sodor is a sausage fest, and it’d be really nice to see a female engine who is heroic and a good friend and hard worker.

It reminds me of a talk Joss Whedon gave about why he has so many strong women in his work. His mother is a strong woman, and his wife is a strong woman. He respects them and sees no reason why his work should be lacking because it doesn’t have strong women in it too.

I’m butchering it, but that’s the gist.

I suppose the best way to raise my son to be a good man is to model for him that women are strong, and worth respecting, and raise my daughter to be strong and respectable. So that she knows she doesn’t have to relinquish her femininity to be a force to be reckoned with. That she can be feminine, and nurturing, and beautiful, with a strength that is so apparent as to be elemental.

That’s really all I can do. Well, that, and maybe recommending to HIT Entertainment that Thomas could use a few more female friends.

The Male of the Species

Wes and I were catching up on the newest season of Castle the other night and…

SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! If you haven’t seen the latest season of Castle, read no further.

…Beckett was all up in knots because she’s talked to Castle’s ex-wife who told her why they divorced. The ex said Castle was fun to be married to but by the end she felt like he knew everything about her but she knew relatively little about him.

Cue Beckett looking into middle distance with an unsettled, pensive look on her face. This is a slightly tangential observation about her, but I kind of get the feeling she’s not very good at being in a relationship.

Anyway, the credits came on and I turned to Wes and said, “That’s a pretty apt description of most of the men I’ve ever known.”

It’s possible I’ve known a disproportionate number of cavemen, but I doubt it. I just think men and women are wired differently and people can run into problems when they start expecting their significant others to behave against their nature.

Take Wes and I, for example. If you get me going, I can make small talk forever. I’ll talk about how I feel about stuff, which will remind me of some salient memory from my childhood, which will probably spur me  into waxing philosophical about the kind of childhood I want for my kids.

All that stuff will make Wes’s eyes glaze over in less than a minute. If I ask Wes to tell me a story from his childhood, he’ll say, “I don’t have any.” It’s not that he doesn’t have any childhood memories, he’s just not thinking of any at the moment. If I ask him how he feels about something, nine times out of ten he’ll say, “I’m fine with it.”

However, if I ask him about economics, or the future of web-based computing, or music, he’ll start talking and only stop to take a breath when absolutely necessary. If you ask me about any of these things, I’ll say, “I’m fine with it.”

So in a way, it’s possible Wes knows me better than I know him, but I don’t think so. I think we just know each other in the way we prefer to be known. Every once in awhile Wes will tell me a childhood story, and every once in awhile I’ll read an article and discuss economics with Wes, but for the most part we stick to our wheelhouses and we’re cool with it.

Not that our relationship is perfect, but I think it’s a pretty good example of taking each other where we’re at. I don’t get all huffy at him for not talking about his emotions (which I trust are fine when he says they’re fine) and he doesn’t get all affronted that I have no idea what’s going on in the world of software development.

All this to say, I think Beckett (who is a fictional character) needs to chill the heck out and accept that her boyfriend is a man and stop expecting him to be someone he’s not.

Also? Can I just rant about a Bones episode I saw recently? It’s from the new season and called The Tiger In The Tale and a tiger gets shot during the course of the episode, prompting Bones to turn away from the sight of it and cry into Booth’s shoulder.

Are we expected to believe that Bones can look dispassionately at a dead child but can’t bear the sight of a dead tiger?

Nonsense. Absolute nonsense.

What’s Your Type?

I was reading a blog post by Penelope Trunk the other day and she mentioned a specific Myers-Briggs personality test that is especially rare in women. Something about the personality type twinged a memory buried deep in my psychology major archives so I did a little digging and found out why.

It turns out that the personality type she mentions, ENTJ, is my personality type. It’s been my personality type since college, and even though I’ve softened in many respects (I blame the children), the underpinnings are still there.

After reading up on it (because once a psych nerd, always a psych nerd), I found out that it accounts for just 1% of women in the American population and is known as The Executive or The Commander. It explains a lot about me. About my insistence on order, on my difficulty with handling certain types of people and conflicts.

I was so fascinated I sent a few pertinent parts of the various descriptions I found online to Wes, who said it explained a lot about why I am the way I am.

Of course, much of the information online is pure conjecture. One of the websites even went so far as to guess at what my favorite music might be. I mean, yeah, I enjoy classical, but it’s right up there with a bunch of other genres. My favorite genre varies depending on my mood (the same goes for most people, I think), so that was a wild shot in the dark for that website, I think.

I mean, there’s psychology and then there’s making-stuff-up-because-it-sounds-good. Don’t get me wrong, as a fiction writer it’s sort of my JOB to make stuff up, but I’m not about to start slapping non-fiction stickers on my books just because they sound good.

If you have time, you should definitely take a Myers-Briggs personality test and see what your type is. It might just shed some light on why you excel or struggle at whatever you’ve got going on in your world.