About Tsubion and Me
As a kid growing up in rural England, I thought I was the only Javier in the known Universe. And my close family were the only other human beings with the surname Lopez.
You'd think that a unique name in a strange land would grant some kind of special powers - an easy way to stand out in the crowd, like having a distinctive brand. Maybe so... for some. As an introvert that preferred to blend into the background, it had the opposite effect. An unusual name drew unnecessary attention where it was not desired. I realise now many years later that had I been named Juan or Jose it wouldn't have made the slightest bit of difference. It's the damned spanish J!
You see, it's a little known fact that most english people back in the day had no clue how to pronounce the spanish J and would butcher it every time they attempted to say my name. Java, Javia or Javiay was as close as they would get. After a while, they weren't the only ones that wondered why the J was pronouced like an H godammit. At least other people didn't have to explain that every time a newbie stumbled across it. As far as I knew, I was the only human being on the planet lumbered with this irritating side task.
A Ray of Light
Kids grow up thankfully. And when they do they come up with nicknames for each other, some more desirable than others, that's just the way it is. Ignoring spelling and pronunciation conventions, the other kids at school settled on Hav as my official nickname and that's what stuck. I'll leave the unnoficial nicknames to your imagination. They didn't bother me. They were to be expected in small town eighties England where foreigners were still a novelty.
So Hav became my goto solution when faced with the "Yeah, that's your name, but what do we call you?" dilemna which was always unfailingly followed by the inevitable "have or have not" joke which of course doesn't really amount to a joke for anyone with a developed sense of humour beyond that of a five year old. And yet most adults I encountered still felt kind of clever saying it nonetheless as if they were the first to have ever uttered such comic genius. Sometimes you just can't avoid the brilliance of others however hard you try.
Of course, had I grown up in Spain, where in fact I was born, none of this would ever have been a "thing". As I found out later in life, Javier is not a unique alien name from another planet at all. In fact, it's a very common name in the Spanish speaking world with the root in etxaberri, an old Basque label for "new house." It was popularised into its many forms after the co-founder of the Society of Jesus, Saint Francis Xavier was born in the castle and town of the same name, his parents being the Lords of Xavier. Yes, you read that right.
Little by little, I discovered other Javiers, many in the same area of my place of birth. I was simply unaware of them even though I had vacationed there regularly when growing up. The name itself of course causes no issues among Spaniards even across the many autonomous regions and variations in local language. Sometimes an X replaces the J leading to a SHA sound instead of the more common HA. Others replace the V with a B. The typical shortening takes the form of Javi pronounced Habi as well as Xavi and Xabi pronounced Shabby! Interesting huh!
Long before Javier Bardem had become the most famous Javier known to man and many a woman, I had heard of Javier Mariscal, a well known artist and designer from Barcelona. It was only natural that he would be my first other prominent Javier since I had chosen to study art and design myself.
Had I been an avid X-Men comic book reader in my youth, I would have stumbled across the existence of Professor Charles Xavier, a well known fictional use of the name. That was near enough and may have been a better alternative for adoption in practical everyday use, but who knows, it may have made matters worse. Fortunately for me, my French teacher would constantly remind me of this in class by exchanging my name for Xavier which in French was pronounced something like Zaviay - which didn't really help. I just kept quietly wondering why he would insist on pointing that out.
It was only later when I would type Javier Lopez into Google that I realised the importance of internet real estate and that there was a very famous baseball player with the same name squatting on all the prime property. It also dawned on me that there weren't just a few other Javier Lopezes knocking around, but a bazillion of them, all rabidly competing over scarce search engine linkspace and Facebook territory as well as all the other evolving social media haunts.
This is when I discovered that some individuals really do have unique names, even online. And how lucky they are in a world where personal branding and recognition is so important in most any activity you care to name. Claim your unique domain name and off you go. For many others that get close, a simple tweak, an added initial, or some other trick, and they are good to go too. Many authors use this and since I wanted to build a presence online around my writing, I thought I might be able to use the same tricks. But guess what? All conceivable combos of something plus Lopez are taken when it comes to domain names and many other uses in the spanish speaking world. It's a little like Smith in English.
The only thing that was available was my full name - Javier Lopez Fuentes. But not only do I find that to be ungainly, it also causes another level of confusion for english speakers... which surname is your actual surname? Either that or "is Lopez your middle name?" Too much explanation required especially if you're writing in english. Reminds me of my youth.
Rules Are Made To Be Broken
More and more for me personally, I was looking at using a distinctive brand name that would encompass all my writing efforts whether they be science fiction and fantasy novels or articles on the state of technological transformation of life in the real world.
It's not that I ignored all the advice that pointed to choosing something like Javier Lopez Books as a compromise, it's that my extremely common name was blocking the path at every attempt and the attempts at compromise were more than unsatisfying to my newfound need to be unique or at least to stand out somewhat in the sea of internet noise. The way I was organising my writing around a single online platform was a choice that arose organically from various personal responses to the way things were evolving in the online business space. Could I avoid going the Amazon route, at least in the early stages? Did I personally need to use social media?
My ultimate response to not having a distinctive name was to come up with a unique single word that would be instantly recognisable after initial exposure. After all, this is what most rappers do as well as many other artists, youtubers and bloggers and I don't see anyone complaining that they're not using their REAL names which on the whole are usually as common, boring and cumbersome as everyone elses.
Cardinal sin number two, so I'm told, is to use something like a character name from one of your books as a brand or domain name instead of your author name. Well, strike me down, for that's exactly what I ended up doing. In my defense, I didn't have much of a choice, and as part of my exception clause, the name Tsubion does happen to lend itself particularly well for branding and domain name purposes. It just has a certain ring to it. It's simple, unique and memorable. It's also relevant in that the character dominates the unfolding narrative in my first book series in ways I won't reveal here. Suffice to say that it also ties in with what I'm writing about on this blog as far as real world events go.
To put it mildly... there's a lot about the world of books, authors and writing that still hasn't caught up with the modern world. There was a certain air about the dinosaur publishing world that I was never comfortable with but I didn't quite know why at the time. It still lingers even though self publishing has finally shaken off its scruffy image. Something about that makes the rebel in me want to distance myself as much as possible from gatekeepers, middlemen, and platforms that attempt to tie you down and control the way you do things. I am not in favor of any of these aspects of traditional publishing and was encouraged by the example set by others to follow as independent a path as possible.
For example, I ditched social media when I'd had enough. And I mean... all social media. I use Youtube but I don't have an account with Google and therefore can't comment etc. Once you let go, you let go, and it feels great. It's liberating and I will never go back.
That doesn't mean that others can't share my stuff on social media if they so wish. My marketing strategy boils down to word of mouth, blogging about relevant topics to drive traffic to Tsubion.com, and staying in touch with fans via a monthly newsletter. That means that all my writing will be available for free here on this blog supported by donations and other monetisation.
There are several ways you can help keep this site (and me) alive. What do you get in return? A continous flow of free books and articles to read without having to go through Amazon or download any apps to read on mobile platforms.
Here's how you can be a hero:
- Bookmark Tsubion.com and come back regularly to read and give feedback in the comments.
- If you like what you see share it with all your friends on Social Media.
- Subscribe to Tsubion.com to recieve the latest updates.
- Support the site via Paypal and other payment methods.
And last but not least...
- Buy some wonderfully unique merchandise from the Store.
If the books gain traction and there is sufficient demand for publishing on other platforms then that is when I would consider it. At the moment I have to question the advantage of reading one of my books through the Amazon Kindle platform versus simply reading the book on your smartphone direct from this blog. The only issue that comes to mind is discoverability. As far as I can tell, I have more chance of people sampling some of my books through this blog than as a new author on Amazon.
I'm also a firm believer in the practice of delivering as much free content as possible as part of building a reputation. For me, this includes the novels that I have in the pipeline. I simply want people to have access to them in a world where virtually everything is available for free online and competition in every field is higher than it has ever been. Thankfully, there are ways to keep projects like this afloat until they reach a larger audience.
I see myself - Javier Lopez - as the main writer and editor for Tsubion.com much like so many other brand name blogs that usually have more than one writer. For now, it's just me, but who knows what the future may bring. In this way, I am prepared for whatever comes my way. Something I was unable to do with my actual name.
We don't choose our names. That's why actors sometimes change theirs. For example, British actor Andrew Lincoln of The Walking Dead fame is actually Andrew Clutterbuck. I can understand why an agent would suggest a name change. And yet Benedict Cumberbatch survived the need to become Benedict Truman, Washington, or Hamilton. Maybe it wasn't necessary after all.
Other unfortunates release themselves from the prison of their birth names as soon as they are able to. Lets just say that sometimes parents get carried away. They should try harder to resist the temptation of naming their offspring after whatever anime character they happen to be a fan of right now. But what do I know, I now qualify as an old fuddy duddy. The world changes and so do we. I just think names are better than numbers for now. Some day, some may choose not to have a name at all. That would be interesting. Others would still stick labels on nameless things because that's what others do. They can't help it. It's how they organise things. And it can be fun.
I just wish a J didn't sound like an H when I was growing up.
Master Chief at Tsubion.com