Sunday, November 22, 2009

My (Virtual) Life


What's In a Name?






Some of you know me as Becke Davis. Some know me as Becke Martin. Neither is the name I was born with, but I’ve been Becke Davis since I got married at age 19.

Becke Martin was born in 2007 when I first tried my hand at fiction. I had been a garden writer for many years, with five books published under my real name, Becke Davis. I write for a lot of trade magazines in the landscape industry – a very male-oriented business. I worked hard and long to develop a reputation in that industry, and didn’t want to be laughed off the trade-magazine-page by letting it be known that I also wrote (gasp!) romance.

Becke Martin wasn’t my first pen name. I wrote a Backstreet Boys fan fiction story for my daughter’s 16th birthday and sent it to my garden editor as a joke. She called the day it arrived (those were the days of snail mail), and hired me to write a book about ‘N Sync on the spot. My daughter co-wrote it with me, and I went with the pen name Lexi Martin so the readers wouldn’t realize one of the authors was writing it with her mom.

I might have kept Lexi alive if I’d been writing YA, but I didn’t think she’d work for romance. After some hilarious early ideas, an author friend said the most important thing was to pick a pen name I’d remember to answer to – assuming I’d get published, some day. That’s when I decided to keep my real first name and reclaim the “Martin” surname (which, confusingly, happens to be my husband’s first name).

Becke Martin – I liked it. I could live with that. And, even allowing for senior moments, I was sure to answer to it.

Perfect.



Writing has always been a career for me, so even when I really, really sucked at fiction, I always worked with the assumption that I could and would learn and improve. It wasn’t the thrilling idea of seeing my (pen)name on a book that drove me, or that drives me still. It’s just that I will keep writing, and working at it, until I get it right. So.

I created a website for my alter ego: www.beckemartin.com. Created a MySpace page. Earlier this year, I created a Facebook page using “Becke Martin” because – again – I wanted to keep my professional life as a garden writer separate from my world of writing friends.

I underestimated the power of social networking. Big time.

My husband is on Facebook. My kids are on Facebook. My sisters and one of my brothers are on Facebook. Hell – my dad is on Facebook. So much for anonymity: old school friends, neighbors, friends from my days as a PTO mom – all are finding me here, through my other connections.

The pivotal moment for me happened at my son’s college graduation in June. A young woman came up to me and said, “Hi – you’re Becke Martin, aren’t you? We’re friends on Facebook!” Then she turned to my husband and said, “Hi, Mr. Martin!”

Turns out Amanda – a friend of my son’s – heard I was a writer, and friended me out of that mutual interest. She knew my son’s last name was Davis, but since she only knew me from Facebook, Becke Martin was the name she remembered. It was a very strange feeling – the first time anyone called me by my pen name – but it only struck me as kind of cool.

Then I went to the Romance Writers national convention in Washington, DC in July. Apparently my hair and glasses make me easy to identify, because more people than I could begin to count came up to me and said, “Becke Martin! We’re friends on Facebook!” It was wild – fun and disorienting and overwhelming, like the whole conference was – but mainly fun.

For awhile. The thing is, I have another day job: I moderate the Mystery and Garden book clubs at Barnes & Noble (BN.com), and in July I also started writing a blog for them called Garden Variety. Also in July, I joined Michelle Buonfiglio’s team at Romance B(u)y the Book, where I blog about contemporary romance and romantic suspense. Michelle also blogs at B&N’s Unabashedly Bookish and Heart to Heart, so we have this double connection – that Barnes & Noble was aware of when I joined her RBTB team – and both at RBTB and B&N, I use my real name.





At National, I had business cards promoting my unpublished book, business cards promoting B&N’s Mystery book club (since romantic suspense and mystery often overlap) and I had cards for Romance B(u)y the Book. Some people got my “Becke Martin” business cards, some got my “Becke Davis” business cards. Even Michelle sometimes forgets which is my real name.

At National, the amazing Hank Phillippi Ryan generously introduced me to her agent, not realizing she had already rejected my story. I was thrilled and nervous in equal parts, which made me babble more than usual. I’m sure Hank’s agent has me down as a total lunatic now! Anyway, Hank said, “This is Becke Davis – I mean Becke Martin,” and then asked which I preferred.

I hardly knew how to respond at that point – the movie Sybil with Sally Field came to mind. The whole strange moment became even more bizarre when I said, “Becke Davis,” and, moments later, Hank’s agent introduced me to a friend who said, “Oh, you’re Becke Martin – we’re friends on Facebook!” That whole incident brought home to me the fact that my alter ego has taken on a life of her own – and I think it’s a lot more exciting than my real one.

I now have over 2,500 friends on Facebook. I don’t think I have close to that many friends in real life. Becke Martin has over 700 friends on MySpace while Becke Davis has roughly 150 friends there. I’m on Twitter as both Becke Martin and Becke Davis, too. I’ve met a lot of these virtual friends in real life now, which has made this whole online parallel universe feel even more bizarre. I answer to both names, and have even wondered if I should start hyphenating the two.

As if this wasn't confusing enough, I use yet another pen name, Anya Davis, for my hot paranormals and dark romantic suspense stories. "She" is on MySpace and Twitter and has her own blog, which gets more hits than my real blog. I really relate to Jayne Ann Krentz/Jayne Castle/Amanda Quick, but at least she's published!

Your name is the first blank to fill in on a job application or a questionnaire, and you’d think it would be dead easy to answer. It shows how much my virtual life has spilled over into my real life, when I realize the answer for me is: it depends.

2 comments:

Becke Davis said...

I forgot to mention I have yet another name. My first day at RWA National, I was a little overwhelmed. I'd flown in a day early and my friends were all coming in the next day. I went down to the main lobby and got on a computer there, hoping I could find someone to hang out with. I'd just signed on when a voice behind me said, "See -- her email says Treethyme. It IS Becke!"

And that was how I met my virtual friends, PJ and Gannon, who used to blog at RomanceNovelTV and now blog at Romance: B(u)y the Book and The Romance Dish.

I also answer to "Mom."

Becke Davis said...

Addendum: Anya's blog is no longer, and I'm sad about it. Trying to be cyber-safety-conscious, I changed my Wordpress password and when I tried to sign in to Anya's Wordpress blog, the site wouldn't accept the new password. And it no longer accepted the old password. Wordpress never responded to my requests for help, so Anya is now floating around in the cyber-ether. :-(

Also, not sure how long my website will be up at www.beckemartin.com. I quit my day job to take care of my granddaughter, so funds are tight. I may have to let the website go. Oh well!

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