Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Book 5 Hits Stores Today! Now With a Pen Name!

Farlaine the Goblin ~ Book 5: The Vaultlands hits store shelves today! Pick it up at your local comic shop, here on, and soon on Amazon!

Farlaine's latest adventure through The Vaultlands is one of the more background-intensive stories I've done, but hopefully you enjoy it!

There's one thing though that may stand out for readers of the series - Farlaine the Goblin now has an author listed!

What's in a Pen Name?

For anyone that's followed and read Farlaine the Goblin over the last few years, the one thing most people notice is that there is no name listed in it. It's simply a story, presented as it exists. No credit, no author, no illustrator.

This was always done for a variety of reasons, but at it's core there were two main ones.

First and foremost, I wanted people to read the series as it is. Don't let the author's name influence you. Regardless of my experience, gender, age, race, or anything else you may guess from a person's name, the idea was to let people simply read the series on it's own merits.

But the second reason was also a lot simpler - I like my privacy. I could care less about celebrity, and on the off chance the series had succeeded, I didn't want to lose that. So I'd always planned to have a pen name.

But a pen name is not an easy thing to decide on. A pen name is an alter-ego that the world sees and judges you on, and in many cases the pen name is remembered far more than the real person. It is often the first exposure someone has to the work, and it can be used to even convey a personality.

While most people know Mark Twain was a pen name for Samuel Clements, not as many seem to realize the long list of actors whose pseudonyms have been used for decades. Chevy Chase, Natalie Portman, Jon Stewart, Jamie Foxx, and on and on.

In comics there are plenty as well, from Frank Quitely to Moebius and Peyo and Herge.

A name truly matters too. We often don't give it the credit it deserves, but for every Zach Galifinakis that succeeds, there are twenty others like Demi Moore and Cary Grant whose names are unique and simple and easily absorbed.

A simple name helps build an audience and be memorable.

Some people are simply born with great names, like Stephen King or Ridley Scott or Jeremy Bastian. Most of us fall somewhere else, with names that we may be proud of, but which don't roll off the tongue or illicit the kind of remember-ability you'd like.

So I thought and I pondered and I made a great many lists.

I spent quite a few years trying to come up with one I was happy with, starting long before the first issue of Farlaine was ever written.

But I never came up with anythying I liked.

So Farlaine was released with no name on it, lest I use one I would grow to hate and be stuck with. There would be nothing worse than choosing something over a weekend and regretting it for decades!

And so I thought and I pondered for years while I worked on the comics, and the books continued to be released anonymously. It was quite fun to see how people reacted to it, and it ranged from curiosity to entertainment to downright anger. There were some people who were actually offended by my series being anonymous!

My plan was always to do more than comics though, so it had to be something equally marketable to novels and movies and whatever else I may one day find myself in.

One of my favorite pen names ever was Mark Twain, taken from a simple riverboat phrase for marking depth. (As a simple example of the power of a name, do you think his work would be so beloved if he'd kept his earlier nom de plume, Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass?)

I had some interesting ideas that sounded cool but fell apart over time. Things that seemed neat, but were not remotely "me". I liked the name John Gotham as a simple, straightforward 'cool name'. It had that Batman and NYC vibe to it, which while awesome and cool, also seemed horribly out of place for a person like me who hates cities.

The years passed and ideas moved around, and I continued to make lists and throw them out, until I eventually came up with a name that I quite liked.

You see, I have a little pug dog, a cute and squishy thing, and her personality is very similar to my own, silly and clownish and comical. Pugs are a unique breed too in that they have their own word for a collected group, outside of a pack or a kennel. A group of pugs is known as a grumble.

So with Mark Twain bouncing around in the back of my mind, I realized that Pug Grumble was a name that somehow suited me quite well.

Is it silly and ridiculous? Absolutely! But it also feels accurate and true to the kinds of stories and humor I write.

I sat on that name for the last 3 years, letting it sit and percolate. I mentioned it to a few friends, most of whom rolled their eyes and called me an idiot.

But I decided that, idiot that I am, I wanted to be the idiot who was happy with their strange name.

So that was that, and with Book 5 of Farlaine the Goblin, it's finally out there in print.

I'll continue to sign books with the same signature, and I'll continue to use the letter j to sign any covers I work on, but at least in the credits, it will simply be listed as Pug Grumble.

In my mind the J is an initial never seen, and the longer pen name could even be J. Pug Grumble.

So there you go. A new pen name to go along with a new book.

Now go out and buy a copy of The Vaultlands!