Monday, July 07, 2003

Naming of Names

I went into a restaurant and put my name on the waiting list, watching closely what she wrote down. Amazing, she spelled it correctly. Did you know that easily a third of the times I give my first name, people will spell it H E N E R Y. Now, this has been going on for decades.

My birth name is Henry James Melton, but I didn't know that for years. My maternal grandfather was named Henry and to ease family confusion, they called me Jimmy. By the time I hit school the confusion fell on me. Every form I had to fill out for years had my full name, and then (Jimmy) to let people know that to actually call me. Maybe it was just my imagination, but as I got older, the name field on the forms got smaller.

Came the summer before I was to enter high school. Somehow I was invited to attend a student orientation event of some kind, and I entered my name as Henry Melton. With all these new people, I was just Henry. It came natural to me, and it wasn't until much later that my family had to deal with the confusion as teachers started talking to my Mother about 'Henry', and she wasn't sure who they were talking about.

Perhaps it was just a growing up thing, but I like my real name. I have always written my fiction under Henry Melton. Henry James Melton is a bit much, but one of those days I need to read some Henry James and see if there is anything I need to know about his style. I think I have been avoiding him all these years.

Now, back to Henery. I used to blame it on Hermans Hermits -- you know the song. But having suffered through the illiteracy of a whole generation of restaurant waiting list composers, I now suspect these people have never heard of "Henery the Eighth" and are just making the mistake naturally. If anyone has a theory, I am all ears. Drop me a line if you have any thoughts.

Wednesday, April 02, 2003

On the Road

When your youngest child is heading off to college, there is a term for it -- the empty nest syndrome. My wife, Mary Ann, is an organized person, and she had been planning for it. For this first year on our own again, we have a travel schedule that looks overwhelming.

We just returned from Europe. This was a last family vacation, and for five weeks Mary Ann and Debra have driven around France and the UK. I was there for three of those weeks, and while I collected a lot of information and have a number of new ideas for stories, I wrote very few words. This full time writer profession is as hard to keep under control as holding an angry snake by the tail.

Back home, I have better luck getting back into the plot. I just hope I can keep it up. In the next month, I will be at three different cons, and will travel thousands of miles. But this time it will be in my RV, complete with internet connections via satellite. I have hopes. Since we purchased it, I have moved my "writing place" to this home on wheels. As I type, it is parked in our back yard, where I can watch the squirrel raiding the pecan tree just three feet away. Yesterday we spent the night at Granger Lake as a trial run.

It looks good. With a reasonable travel pace, this is an office where I can work, and with any luck, maybe I can turn those European ideas into something people can read.

Monday, March 10, 2003

Changes in Life

My life has changed. Taking advantage of the downturn in the semiconductor industry, I have welcomed the chance to quit the life in a cubicle and spend more time seriously concentrating on my writing.

Believe me, it is a mental stretch to step out on a shaky platform and declare that my sole job in life is being a writer. Before, of course, I was a writer, but to the relatives and salesmen, I could always step back and claim the "computer programmer" or "systems analyst" or even "database administrator" as safe, respectable professions.

Now I hand out my "Henry Melton Science Fiction" business cards even when I am talking mundane things, and not just at SF conventions. This past couple of weeks I have been touring the RV camper sales places, looking for a home on wheels, and I have given salesmen my card with a straight face, and a matter of fact reply when they say "Oh, you are a writer?"

Honestly, it doesn't matter what they think of me. It is all a ploy to keep me on my toes. The hardest thing about being a writer full time is to actually write full time. The more skeptical eyeballs watching me, to see if I fall flat on my face or not, the better. I refuse to hide. I will get these stories sold. Watch me.