Do You Have A Literary Doppelnamer?

When I became serious about being a writer in 2006, I did an Internet search for variations of my legal name and found another “writer” using a short version of my name. (I added quotes since he haven’t published much of anything in the last six years.) The author name that I came up with was the initials of my first and middle names combined into a first name. All the search results for my author name pops right up without any competition.

The word for finding an identical or similar name as your own on the Internet, according to Carrie Kirby of the San Francisco Chronicle, is doppelnamer (a play off the German word, doppelganger).

At least [Norb] Vonnegut’s name is linked to someone [Kurt Vonnegut] with a good reputation. Not so for Michael McAfee, an Ocean Beach (San Diego County) podcast producer who had an escaped convict for a doppelnamer. Tara Murphy, a recent law school graduate and blogger in Minnesota, has been dogged by a whole pack of Tara Murphys with overdue library books, DUI arrests and sexy pictures.

The only problem that I have with my author name is that certain ebook websites don’t handle abbreviated names properly in their search results and return all the ebook listings by last name only. (My family name, Reimer, is supposedly the German equivalent to Smith in the United States.) Back in the snail mail submission days of six years ago, ebooks publishing wasn’t on my radar. If I were starting over as a writer today, I would pick a different author name without the abbreviations.

As for my legal name, I embraced all my dopplernamers—the good, the bad, and the ugly—in the search results. The dopplernamers helps preserve my secret identity as a writer from my non-writing job in Silicon Valley. But my legal name has the opposite problem when hiring companies conduct a social media search as my anonymous alter ego ceased to exist in the late 1990’s. Most computer technicians leave behind an Internet trail as wide as the debris field of a crashed airplane. By the time that a lack of Internet presence becomes a problem, I’ll be making a living as a full-time writer.

Molly Ringwald As Literary Novelist

Like many teenagers in the early 1980’s, I fell in loved with Molly Ringwald in “Sixteen Candles” and “The Breakfast Club”. Six years ago she appeared in “Sweet Charity” at the San Jose Center of Performing Arts, giving an excellent performance of a dance hall girl with an endless string of boyfriends. Although still working as an actress, she has a new career as a literary novelist with the recent release of her first novel, “When It Happens to You.”

Ringwald explains in an interview for The New York Times that acting and writing went hand in hand when growing up as a child. Her literary pedigree is impressive.

Q. Who are some of the writers you most admire or feel inspired or influenced by?

A. The writers that inspired me the most as a young person are the same writers that resonate with me today. I discovered Raymond Carver as a teenager, and although I don’t think you would necessarily be able to see his influence in my writing, he has always moved me and deeply inspired me as a writer — the same with Joan Didion, Philip Roth, Lorrie Moore, Toni Morrison, Leo Tolstoy, Gustave Flaubert and Georges Perec. In the past decade, I’ve come to admire Carol Shields, Doris Lessing, Jonathan Franzen, Robin Black, Lauren Groff and most recently Jami Attenberg, whose [upcoming] “The Middlesteins” is a marvel. I have always believed that the only way to be a good writer is to be a great reader.

I’m looking forward to reading her novel. I just hope it doesn’t put me to sleep, as so many literary novels tend to do. Beautiful language about ordinary life can sometimes be very boring, which is why I don’t write literary short stories. I keep the language plain and simple, but add a speculative element to spice up the ordinary life that I often find twisted and absurd.

21 August 2012 UpdateAn opinion piece in The New York Times by Ringwald, “Acting Like A Writer,” explains how acting and writing are closely related to each other. I find that interesting. I consider writing and web comics are closely related to each other in terms of production (read my review of “A Drifting Life” by Yoshihiro Tatsumi).

The Rock Bottom Remainders Final Swan Song

This week on the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, the literary rock band, The Rock Bottom Remainders, played their final performance. Following the death of Kathi Kamen Goldmark, who founded the band with some really famous authors—Stephen King, Amy Tan, Scott Turow, Dave Berry and many others—20 years ago, they had their final concert at the American Library Association convention this past June.


The outsized personality of the band has always been Stephen King. A biography about him quoted a band member saying that if the tour bus ever crashed and everyone died, the headlines would say, “Stephen King and 30 Others Dead”.

The first guest being interviewed was Stephen King, promoting his newest book, “The Wind Through the Keyhole: A Dark Tower Novel” (the eighth book in the series). This book better be good. Like many readers of the Dark Tower series, we were finally relieved to finish the series with book seven. The circular ending that links the seventh book to the first book was an interesting but not satisfying ending for a great quest.


He talked about a short story called “The Lady’s Room,” where husbands are left stranded outside as their wives disappeared inside and were helpless to do anything about, that he left unfinished because he couldn’t figure out what went on inside the lady’s room.

Seriously, the literary master can’t finish this story? His mother never took him in the lady’s room when he was a small child?

Having been forced many times by my mother into the lady’s room at Gemco in the early 1970’s, sometimes kicking and screaming as she took my hand to force me through that sinister door, I know exactly what goes on in the lady’s room.

  1. For little boys, your eyes must always be on the worn black-and-white floor tiles to avoid seeing fat bearded ladies do makeup and/or smoke cigarettes.
  2. You must turn your back on your mother to study the flaking lead paint on the stall door before she can mount the ivory throne.
  3. You MUST ignore all sounds as a tentacle monster from deep inside the toilet bowl sexually assaults your mother. If you cry or throw a fit, a squishy thing will press you flat against the stall door.
  4. You exited the lady’s room in a daze, wondering if your mother was still your mother and not a monstrosity in disguise.
  5. Unless you become a writer as an adult, you will NEVER EVER REMEMBER what happened inside the lady’s room and stand around clueless when your wife takes your little boy into the lady’s room.

If Stephen King can’t finish a story like that, I might as well. Heck, I might even submit it to The New Yorker and win an O. Henry award.

The Month-Long eBook Promotion That Wasn’t

Smashwords had their July Summer/Winter Sale last month, where I offered a 50% off discount on three omnibus ebooks and a half-dozen ebooks were automatically enrolled as they were already FREE. (See the new free ebook page for list of titles.) The results are in—drumroll, please—it’s, meh.

That’s not surprising. Nearly all my ebook sales from Smashwords are through the third-party distribution network (i.e., Apple, Barnes & Noble, Sony, etc.). Sales through the website itself are very rare events. The 50% off discount went over like a lead balloon. The FREE ebooks, however, went flying off the virtual shelves. The Post-It note with the pre-sales numbers disappeared, so no breakdown of how well the FREE ebooks did for this promotion.

July was such a distracting month that I couldn’t do any active promoting.

I spent three weeks trying to get a small business checking for my intellectual property holding company (IPHC). US Bank didn’t like my anonymous limited liability company (LLC) from Wyoming, or the supporting documents provided by my registered agent to represent me in Wyoming, because my name wasn’t officially listed anywhere. After three trips to the branch office and several heated arguments, the manager denied my application.

This isn’t an uncommon problem in the post-9/11 era. The stricter banking standards are to thwart terrorists, organized crime and Wall Street from opening accounts for money laundering. Not that this actually prevents that from happening. The practical application is to prevent the little guy from getting a leg up on big business. I’ll have to shop around until I find a bank or credit union that will accept my out-of-state LLC.

US Bank, however, had no problems opening a business checking for my writing business with a California LLC as my name was on all the documents. Providing a copy of my DBA statement also proved that my writing business had existed since 2006. Opening a new account still took two more trips to the branch office to get it done. The manager became shocked—shocked!—to find out that I wasn’t kidding when I told her that I was operating a “small business” with lowercase letters. I hope that will change next year.