A Fine Year for Murder by Lauren Carr
Series: Thorny Rose Mysteries #2
Published by the author on January 30, 2017
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After months of marital bliss, Jessica Faraday and Murphy Thornton are still discovering and adjusting to their life together. Settled in their new home, everything appears to be perfect … except in the middle of the night when, in darkest shadows of her subconscious, a deep secret from Jessica’s past creeps to the surface to make her strike out at Murphy.
When investigative journalist Dallas Walker tells the couple about her latest case, known as the Pine Bridge Massacre, they realize Jessica may have witnessed the murder of a family living near a winery owned by distant relatives she was visiting and suppressed the memory.
Determined to uncover the truth and find justice for the murder victims, Jessica and Murphy return to the scene of the crime with Dallas Walker, a spunky bull-headed Texan. Can this family reunion bring closure for a community touched by tragedy or will this prickly get-together bring an end to the Thorny Rose couple?
An Author By Any Other Name ….
By Lauren Carr (aka Jack’s wife, Tristan’s Mom, Marilyn Mayhem, and Beast Master)
Occasionally, I receive an email from an author terrified of using Facebook, the Internet, or any social media for fear of friends and relatives identifying them. Once, I received an email from an author afraid to promote his upcoming book. “I have relatives out there who I don’t want to find me,” he said.
I’m certain there’s a great story behind this, but he refused to tell me.
I was surprised when I first started conducting workshops in using social media to discover that many writers are terrified of promoting their books online for fear of their friends and family finding out that they’re published authors. So, I offer this solution: Use a Pen Name!
Read on to learn about my not-so-secret identity.
My husband has been the financial director at our church for over twenty years. Yep, this mystery writer, who spends her days researching how to kill people is a middle-aged church lady. Since I am somewhat a local celebrity, our church’s gift shop carries my books. While we don’t endorse murder, my mysteries are clean of profanity, graphic violence, and explicit sex. Therefore, our senior pastor (a fan) allows my titles to be sold in our bookstore.
One afternoon, I was coming down the hall outside my husband’s office when I heard our office manager telling a woman, “You really should ask Lauren Carr about that. She might be able to help you.”
“Lauren Carr?” the woman replied. “Do you have her number?”
“Of course,” Jill answered. “She’s Jack’s wife.”
Hearing my name, I stepped into the office and a woman, a church member who I had known for years, turned around. When she saw me she said, “That’s not Lauren. That’s Marilyn.”
Laughing, Jill explained, “She’s all three of them. Lauren Carr is her pen name. She’s also Jack’s wife. He calls her Marilyn Mayhem. But her real name is Terri.”
The woman’s eyes got wide. “Jack is married to Lauren Carr!” Judging by her expression, you would have thought I was Nora Roberts (another author that uses a pen name) living undercover as a middle aged church lady called Marilyn by her close friends.
My true identity is not exactly a state secret. Yep, Lauren Carr, Jack’s wife Marilyn (which is another story), Tristan’s Mom, Beast Master to three dogs—they would all be me.
Pen names are nothing new. Authors have been using them for centuries. Some names are famous: Mark Twain was really Samuel Clemens and Dr. Seuss was Theodor Geisel. Ann Landers was Esther Pauline Friedman. O. Henry was William Sydney Porter.
Why would an author change his or her name to hide his or her identity from the real world rather than step forth and take all the glory they deserve for having completed the daunting task of writing a book?
There could be any number of reasons:
In Mary Ann Evans’ case, she was writing at a time when books written by men were more successful than those written by female authors. So Evans assumed a man’s name (George Eliot) to relate better with her readers.
Likewise, award winning mystery author L.C. Hayden, says that when she first started writing by her real name of Elsie Hayden, she received rejection after rejection until she changed her name to L.C. to give publishers and readers the impression that she was a male writer.
Another author I had worked with used a pen name because his first book, fiction-based-on-fact, said some not so nice things about some real people and he wanted to hide his identity. During my career, I have met more than one writer considering the use of pen names for just this reason.
In the case of Stephen King (Yes, even Stephen King used a pen name!) he didn’t want to risk saturating the market with Stephen King books. At the beginning of Stephen King’s career, publishers limited authors to one book a year. In order to increase his publishing, he convinced his publisher, to print a series of novels under a pseudonym, Richard Bachman.
My reason for using the pen name of Lauren Carr is not quite so grand, or even interesting. Frankly, I don’t like the name Terri. I never did. That’s why my husband calls me Marilyn. (No, that is not my middle name. … It’s a long story.) When I was growing up, I realized that since I wrote fiction, which is not real, then I was free to take on a not-real name and I could be any one I wanted.
What a kick!
I thought long and hard about my name. I gave as much thought to it as an expectant mother, because that was who I was going to be, even if only on the cover of a book. I chose Lauren because my sister’s name is Karen. I was convinced that if my mother was thinking straight, that Lauren, not Terri, would have naturally followed Karen. Don’t ask me why or how I came to this conclusion, I just did. Carr was my late stepfather’s last name.
So, I became Lauren Carr, a pen name that I have had longer than my real name. I was Lauren Carr before I married my husband and took on his name. Little did I realize that as my career has grown, that Lauren Carr would become a whole other identity, which is also a kick.
Is it fun? Sure is.
A couple of years ago, I wrote a mystery dinner theater in the small town where we have lived for close to a quarter of a century. I hosted the event. During the performances, I would be introduced as Lauren Carr to the audience. Jaws did drop. Many people in the audience had read Lauren Carr books, written by the local author, but they didn’t know Tristan’s mom and Jack’s wife wrote those murder mysteries. “She seems so normal!”
Other questions that writers considering using pen names ask me:
What about when customers write checks? Do you have to make them sign them under your real name? Check with your bank. When I first started making public appearances, I contacted my bank and explained the situation, which they thought was cool. This bank said they would accept checks made out to my pen name as long as I deposited the whole amount into my account, which is under my real name.
Yet, when we opened an account at a different bank, this one stated that they would not take a check made out to Lauren Carr because Lauren Carr is not a real person.
Post Office: Let the post office and your mail carrier know that mail addressed to your pen name is for you. Otherwise, it might be returned as wrong address.
Email Address: Very simple. Many people who don’t have multiple identities have more than one email address. I have one email that I use for my personal accounts, one for Lauren Carr for my writing business, and yet another for my social media accounts (which I rarely check). I get more emails to Lauren Carr than I do for my real identity.
I also have different signature lines set up in Outlook. If it has to do with writing, the signature line is from Lauren Carr, author. If it is a grocery list to my husband, it is Marilyn. Terri doesn’t have a signature line.
Social Media: For book promotion, I have a Lauren Carr account and a separate personal account for my personal life. Not too long ago, a friend said that she had to friend Lauren Carr because I never used my personal account.
However, I don’t put truly personal information out there on the social media. The foremost reason I use it for promotion. Therefore, never—I repeat—never put anything personal out there on the Internet that will reflect poorly on your public image. Example: You have a fight with your husband—don’t go onto Facebook to announce that you married a doofus and then provide a blow-by-blow account of your side of the fight. That’s not going to sell books and will alienate some of your readers. Constantly think about your public image and how you want to present yourself. Don’t upload that video of you wearing the beer hat and dancing naked on the kitchen table while singing “I’m a Little Tea Cup.”
Security is a big thing that most authors are concerned about in using social media. We have all heard stories about maniacs hunting down people who they have been following on the Internet. A few years ago, I received a phone call at home from someone who had found my mailing address on the internet. He knew he lived in the same town where I lived and GoogleMapped it. He claimed he lived only a few streets from me. After a few long emails from him and phone conversations, I went on the Internet and removed my address from everywhere I could find it.
Make an effort to not give away too much about your personal life even if you use a pen name to hide from long lost relatives. I don’t post pictures of my house. I refrain from posting pictures of my son and my husband. Not too long ago a reader who realized she lived in the same town I did posted questions on my timeline on Facebook trying to find out where I lived and if we knew the same people. At one point, when she had put it together, instead of sending me a message off-line, she posted on Facebook “Are you …” I refused to say yeah or nay. If she had sent a message off-line instead of my timeline where everyone could read it, I would have answered her.
What’s the point, or the fun, of having a pen name if you don’t get to live behind a veil of mystery? As an author, with a pen name, you can be whoever you want to be.
Are you a middle-aged church lady on the outside with a young adult cozy writer buried deep inside you? Or maybe you’re a shy kindergarten teacher harboring a thrilling romantic suspense author behind those reading glasses.
Then maybe you might want to unleash your alter-ego and give her a name.
It’ll be fun!
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