Thursday, September 26, 2013

Who Am I ?

I've been thinking a lot lately about my pen names and whether I should combine them or keep them separate.  That also got me to thinking about my given name and how it has changed at different times of my life and how it reflected specific roles I played with that name.  I think this happens more for women than men--at least in my generation of women.

Our first grandchild was born in July. His name was carefully constructed by his parents. The first name unique, not one in use in the family or by extended relatives. The middle name a respectful homage to an uncle who died too young. The last name one that shows the child's relationship to this specific couple. Being male I wonder if he will ever decide to change his last name if he marries. I wonder if he will grow up loving his first name, or decide to use his middle name instead. Then what about a nick name. How many people are given a "proper" name but called by a nickname all their life?

Now that the Internet remembers everything about us--even when we wish it didn't--it is hard to change one's mind about a name.  Even if a name is changed legally, getting a previous named erased from the Internet is near impossible.

At birth my first name was after my great-grandmother--the woman who raised my father. It was given to me not because my parents loved that name, but because my great-grandmother insisted I be named after her.  My middle name was in rememberance of my father's sister who died when she was young. My last name was my family name.  I was always called by middle name because my mother hated being forced dto name me after great-grandma.

When I married, I took on my husbands name and took the opportunity to drop that hated first name so I could retain my family name.  When I divorced I dropped by husbands name. When I remarried I took on my new husband's name.  When I look back on it, all these names were a reflection of me at that time of life and how I perceived my role in the world.

As a fiction author I have two pen names now, Maggie Jaimeson for my adult fiction and Maggie Faire for my young adult fiction. I kept Maggie so if anyone ever called out my name I would at least know to turn around.:)

Am I a different person with each of these names? Inside I am the same person. I can't help but be the same. I still care about the same things, have the same life philosophy, and I think my writing in both young adult and adult fiction deal with similar issues. However, on the outside, I think I am a different person.  We all show different sides of our personality in different social situations. My Maggie Jaimeson persona is older, more serious, more of a motherly figure. In many ways I channel my counselor training through Maggie Jaimeson.  My Maggie Faire persona is an adult, but allows me to channel some of the freedom and angst of being a teenager. I feel more free to joke, be a little over the top, or emotional.

I believe everyone chooses personas for different parts of their life. They aren't falsehoods, but the desire to only reveal a small part of the whole.  How about you? Do you have different personas? Do you act differently depending on who you are with or what you think is expected in that situation? Do you ever wish you were a little less inhibited?

I love this quote about writers I saw today. It reflects that dissonance between who we portray on the outside and who we are on the inside. Now if only could change my name on all the bad books. :)

"A person who publishes a book willfully appears before the populace with his pants down. If it is a good book nothing can hurt him. If it is a bad book nothing can help him."
--Edna St. Vincent Millay

Saturday, September 21, 2013

We Keep Alpacas. Or do They Keep Us?

The whole alpaca adventure started out innocently enough.

I was reporting for the Scio News two years ago, and went to an alpaca auction in Scio, Oregon to cover it for the weekly paper. I’d never been to an alpaca auction – I mean, really, how many people have? But it sounded interesting. I volunteered to cover it because I’ve always thought alpacas were adorable.

I left my family, and my horse, at home in Lebanon while I went to the auction. Did I mention my horse was lonely? Yes, she was. My husband and I had recently taken our grown daughter’s horse to her, which left my mare by herself with no pasture companion. Did I also mention my youngest child, who loves animals, is allergic to horses? Adding those two things in my head gave me an inkling that I might want to bring home an alpaca from the auction. If my husband was hip on the idea. And if the price was right.

Just one. A little one. To keep my horse company, and give my youngest an animal to love that didn’t make his eyes swell shut.

Being the good wife that I like to think I am, I asked my husband before leaving the house what he’d think if I brought an alpaca home.

He said, “I don’t care what you bring home.” Those were his exact words, and I quote: “ I don’t care…”

I did my journalistic duty at the auction – talked to people before the sale started. Took notes. Snapped photos of the alpacas with their big, round eyes and poufy top knots.

And I fell completely in love with the hilarious creatures.

The auctioneer started off selling pairs – mama alpacas with a furry little baby at their side. When a black mama entered the auction ring with the cutest brown, teddy-bear-looking baby, I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t sit on my hand.

Butterflies leaped from my stomach to my throat as I realized I had really done it. With one raise of my hand I had just bought not one, but two alpacas. The auctioneer was a friend of mine. He knew this was my first foray into alpaca ownership. He asked the lady who brought the pair if I could have a free breeding. She said yes.

In the course of five minutes, I’d just gone from zero alpacas to nearly three.

The auction ended and I met with the previous alpaca owner for care instructions. She offered me another of her females that hadn’t sold.

“Alpacas are herd animals,” she explained. “They like to have companionship of the same gender.”

I couldn’t have a lonely mama alpaca now, could I? She made me a smoking deal on a white female named Georgia.

I called my husband to bring the horse trailer. When I told him I’d bought three alpacas, he sounded completely dumbfounded on the phone.

And not in a good way.

But he brought the trailer, and we got the alpacas home.

And so started the adventure.

Two years later, we’ve gone from the starter three, to a herd of 11. Two of those are babies born in the past month. Just take a look at little Colonel’s face.  

Now you see why I couldn’t keep my auction hand from flying into the air.

By the way, although my husband might not readily admit it, he is nearly as charmed by these funny, whacky animals as I am. As for my allergy-prone son and lonely horse? They love them, too.

How many of you have seen a baby alpaca up close? Have any of you ever knitted or crocheted with alpaca-fiber yarn?

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Sunday, September 15, 2013

What is Life Without a Happy Ending? by Paty Jager

I’ve always had an active imagination that revolved around romance. I’m not sure if it was from the fairy tales I read, the television shows I watched, or the fact it is just something that is inherent in me. I was a voracious reader through school. But I wouldn’t read any sissy, skinny books. No- I picked the fattest books I could find in my school library. Those were books by Phyllis Whitney and Victoria Holt. Fat Gothic romances.

In the summer, when I didn’t get to town often, I rode my horse in the mountains and fantasized about an Indian riding bareback toward me, his long black hair floating behind him, revealing a broad, bronze chest, rippling muscles on his torso, and long legs gripping the horse. We’d stare at one another and without speaking he’d lead my horse up the mountain to a secluded meadow—

Yep, as a teenager, I had a very vivid romantic bent. ;)

As a new mother, I read mysteries, with a romance thrown in the mix here and there. Then one day I picked up a LaVyrle Spencer novel. Her book “Hummingbird” took me on a whole new path of reading enjoyment and clenched the genre I wanted to write. I could write about the history I loved and conjure up people who could come to life not only for me but for readers.  I could make characters love and hurt and love again.  And always, always have a happy ending. After all, what is life if you can’t imagine a happy ending in your future?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

From The Gutenberg Press To The E-Reader – Look How Far We've Come Baby!

Something many of you might not know is that I love collecting information. Especially
information that is almost forgotten, or so hard to find, it's nearly impossible to dig up - like ancient civilizations, archaic weapons, how the land masses of the planet have migrated. We would know nothing of these events if historians hadn't started writing them down, or in the case of early cave dwellers, drawing on cave walls.

In the beginning...a little history were painted on cave walls. Later, the Sumerians made tokens inscribed with pictures. These tokens were pressed into clay to keep a record of cattle, grain and land transactions (remember those days?). There was cuneiform, pictographs drawn with a reed stylus by scribes (some of our first authors). In the forth millennium BC, the first alphabet morphed into Egyptian hieroglyphics drawn on papyrus. Then along came the Archiac scripts, and the Aramaic square scripts.

Along the way, either simultaneously, or independently, alphabets were developed in the Indus Valley, and by the Olmecs and Mayans. Fast forward to the biblical scrolls, the Greek, Roman (wax tablets), Gothic, and Italic alphabets. Soon came parchment, allowing monks to hand scribed books for the nobility. Paper was developed in China.

All this before the quill and the Gutenberg Press made their appearance. Rag paper, made from recycled clothing from the Great Plague (as a nurse, this makes me wince) became readily available. For the first time mass production of books is possible. From there it's a mad dash to digital books and the hand-held reader, though we did linger for a long while with the printed book, which has not totally been lost in the recent rush to the digital age.

Along this historic journey, there have been story tellers, stringing their words together that make me either laugh, or cry, or both at the same time. It's a new world out there, and I think as humans, we can learn a lot about where we're going by knowing where we've been. Today, print along side digital books and the e-reader. Tomorrow … ? Any guesses?

Susan Lute is an avid reader and the author of Falling For A Hero, The Anthology, and Dragon's Thief. You can find her on Facebook, Goodreads, and Pinterest.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

I Always Wanted to be a Faery

I know Halloween is still two months away, but they are already putting things in the store and it got me to thinking. When I was young there were two things I always wanted to be for Halloween--an angel or a faerie.  I think the two options were probably one outfit in my mind.  It was the wings that appealed to me.  Wings, flying, appearing whenever I wanted and, of course, always being helpful.  I didn't know about bad faeries then.

However, given our family circumstances Halloween costumes were always made at home from the rag bag.  Needless to say I was always a Hobo.  Hobos are kind of cool because they don't have to be careful with their outfit, and if it is too large it's great because it's more Hobo-like.  If my parents had told me about the riding the rails part, I may have been more interested in the outfit. In my mind, Hobos were more like Emmett Kelley--part clown and part hobo.

Now, when I give out candy each Halloween, I rarely see faeries or angels anymore. The vast majority of costumes are super heroes or warriors. The girls are whoever the latest kick-butt heroine is, and usually that is the kind of person who kicks first and asks questions later. On the one hand I think: Yay! Girls can take care of themselves. They are confident. They don't need a boy to save them.  On the other hand, I think it's kind of sad that no one wants to be that sweet, helpful person anymore. The one who works in the background to help others and doesn't demand attention or kudos for all their wonderful deeds.

I definitely believe in powerful heroines, and I do write them in my books. However, they tend to be powerful because of making difficult decisions and carefully weighing what they do before they do it. They are powerful because they learn to become comfortable with who they are, even if it's not the fantasy they hoped. If they run into the fray without thinking, there is always hell to pay. In the end, I guess I still have a lot of angel or faery qualities in my heroines. They are not retiring and demure, but they also aren't exactly kick-butt.

What kind of heroines to you prefer? If you could choose a costume for  Halloween, what would it be?  I think I'll go as an author. :)

Thursday, September 5, 2013


The other day as I opened my inbox and scanned through my email I clicked on a NetGalley review.  Short and sweet, the reviewer didn’t say much, but still it was nice to get some positive feedback.

And that’s when I sat back on my balance chair, slightly awestruck.

Ever have one of those moments?  That epiphanal A-HA that sweeps through body and soul?  Not all that long ago, before I saw e-book publishing light, I’d be sitting there on my balance chair bummed out by the rejections I’d received.

Now, I check my email and rejoice that READERS are READING my books.  

This is so much better than waiting for rejections from agents and editors. And the moment everything changed, the moment that set me free, was when I got crystal clear on the reality that I don’t, and NEVER WILL, have that NEW YORK publishing voice or style. I just don’t.  And it doesn’t matter anymore.  Just because agents and editors don’t get me, doesn’t mean readers won’t.
Because some do.  Sure, there are a few critics, too… but there are readers and reviewers who love my voice and style and THAT’S WHAT COUNTS.

All I had to do was find the courage within myself to step away from the madness, leave the old dream in the dust, and believe that I could find readers.

What happened to the old rejection collection, the emails I amassed when I was trying oh-so-hard to get traditionally published?  They sit in file in my inbox, ready for permanent deletion.  Because they just don’t matter anymore.  
Are you a reader or a writer?  What do you think of this new frontier of publishing?
Jamie Brazil is the author of The Commodore's Daughter as well as other novels.  Please visit her on Facebook at