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Portrait of the Author at 35

Your AuthorToday is my 111th 35th birthday.

It’s not one of the big ones, but not exactly¬† small one either. I guess I’m officially middle-aged now (whatever that means) even though most of the time I still feel like I’m 19, pretending to be older than I am, and any minute someone is going to find out I’m not really an adult, just faking it to get by.

I’m not going to lie, this last year’s been a little rough.¬† I’ve been unemployed for most of it, which does not do anything positive for one’s self worth, especially when half of our ruling class considers my misfortune not just a character flaw, but a personal insult, and wishes I would just quietly die in a gutter somewhere rather than commit the mortal sin of drawing unemployment benefits.And while you shouldn’t let a bunch of jackasses define how you feel about yourself, there are moments when you wonder if all the hard work of the last decade was really worth it when you’re pretty much in the same place you were when you were 25.

But this year will be different. I’m working on becoming self-employed through my writing, which means that if we do end up living in the street in a box, It’ll at least be a spacious, ranch-style box with a nice view of the underpass.

Honestly, though, I’ve sold a dozen copies of the new edition of my first novel, all without doing any promotion other than occasionally shouting at people on Twitter. Imagine what I could do if, say, I sold a novel and had some real marketing weight to push my name out there?

I’m working on that, among other things. So 35 will be a better year. And secretly, despite the crippling bouts of self-doubt, 34 wasn’t exactly horrible. I had a roof over my head, a wife who loves me and two cats who think I’m a dashing wit, at least when I feed them on time.

So, Happy Birthday to Me!

The Power of Names

Everyone knows that Mark Twain was really Samuel Longhorne Clemens. And really, if you were born with a name like that, why change it?

There are several reasons to use a pseudonym:

Anonymity (which goes right out the window if you, like Mr. Clemens, don’t hide your birth name and prefer, in mixed company to go by it instead). Plus these days, a Google search can render anonymity moot, unless your smart, and let’s face it, people aren’t (have you met people? Generally about as smart as house cats, on a good day).

It’s a good idea to use a pseudonym if you have the same name as someone famous or infamous and want to avoid confusion. Not that there are a lot of Babe Ruth’s running about, but John Smith (no, the other one) could really have used a nom de plume. And pretty much everyone named Adolf who was born before 1945 but lived through WW II understands this reason. Except Adolfo Buey Cesarus, but really if you’re the sort of person who’d mistake a gentle-hearted Brazilian fabulist with one of history’s greatest fiends, you really are a house cat.

If you’re hiding form a past life of crime and general skulduggery, or from skull duggers who might want to do you in for something you’ve seen, a pseudonym is probably in order, the more common and nondescript the better.

And sometimes you have a respectable career as a mathematics teacher like Charles Lutwidge Dawson and you don’t want to mix circles with the fans of your silly poetry and children’s fantasy, like Lewis Carroll. Maybe it’s simply illegal for a civil servant like Brian O’Nollan to publish under his own name, and so Flann O’Brian is born.

on the other hand, some people were born with outsized personalities that their drab names simply could not contain. Marion Robert Morrison just doesn’t sound butch, but John Wayne makes the ladies smile-in-that-way, and the men stick out their chin with envy. No one was ever going to give Archie Leach a job in movies, but Cary Grant? Who doesn’t love that guy?

Stage names for actors have become so common, I bet you’d be surprised to find out just how few given names appear on the big screen. Just ask Moses Horwitz, his brother Jerome and their partner, Louis Feinburg, better known to the world as Mo, Curly and Larry.

Unfortunately, women still have problems being taken seriously as authors. Just ask George Sand, James Tiptree Jr., D.C. Fontana, J.K. Rowlings, J.D. Robb, K.A. Applegate and S.E. Hinton.

And sometimes the name your born into just doesn’t fit. There’s nothing particularly wrong with the name Edward Alexander Crowley. It’s British through and through. But it just doesn’t have the same ring to it as Aleister Crowley, and when you want to conjure an image as a master occultist, ringing the right tone is the key to the temple. Pearl Grey is a perfectly respectable name, unless you write westerns for a living, then maybe Zane Gray is a bit more appropriate. Eric Blair is a fine, if plain name, but we know him better as George Orwell, which just resonates with authorial intent.

You’ll notice I haven’t even gotten into the cultural reasons for using a collective pseudonym. We simply don’t know who the authors were of the ancient Greek epics, so we call them all Homer. In Japan, Pen Names are almost universal. Or did you think Bosho was really named after a banana plant?

All of this is the long way of saying that I’ve decided to adopt a Pen Name for my writing. So, in the (very near) future when you want to find a new piece of fiction, look for the by-line of Keith Edwards. I hear that guy’s stuff is pretty great.

Summer Vacation

The next 5 weeks are going to be busy. I have my in-laws visiting for a week, my last 2 weeks at my job, followed by my folks visiting for 2 weeks. Adding this to the general burned out feeling (who knew being told 6 months in advance that you’re being fired would lead to mental stress and insomnia?) what I’m saying is, I need a break.

So I’m going to go on hiatus until Mid July.

This doesn’t mean I’ll be incommunicado or anything. I’ll still be on Twitter and probably throw cat pics up now and again, but for the next month or so I’m taking some down time. When I get back, I’ll have updates on the novel and maybe even a new job.

For the Record

Last week, I’m preparing my resume for a new round of job searching and as is always a good idea, I google my name. Everything is looking normal until I get down to the bottom of the first page of google hits and find that, along with my usual public pages there is a Myspace page for a “Keith K. Kisser.”

This is not me.

I shut down my Myspace account two years ago. Also, my middle initial is not K for reasons that I hope are obvious.

I contact Myspace and ask them to pull the page on the grounds that it’s offensive, thinking it’s a prank or joke in bad taste.*

Turns out, “Keith K. Kisser” is a legit account and the bald gentleman in the pictures who emblazoned Kay Kay Kay across his Myspace page is in a punk band. Myspace won’t take down the page.

For the record: my name is Keith E. Kisser. I am in no way affiliated with Keith K. Kisser.

Also for the record: Myspace is well past it’s sell by date and should be shunned like lepers.
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*Last month, I had a troll on my blog write a three part rant about how I was racist because I was opposed to the censoring of Huck Finn by replacing the N word with “slave”. I assumed at first it was this troll, trying to punk me.

New Coat of Paint

You may have noticed things looking different around here. I spent the morning updating to WordPress 2.8.4 (which was worth it just to be able to delete 78,000 spam comments with a push of a button) and now I’m tweaking a new theme. So, things will be in flux for the next few days while I sort things out.

Needs Another Coat of Paint

I’m upgrading the blog and fiddling with the template, so things may get weird for a bit. Like the missing title. Don’t know where it went but I’m sure it’s around here somewhere.

Update: Found the title. It was in the back of the refrigerator, next to the milk.