Well, since it's come up before, and since I have a ton of new friends come in from FW, it's time to tell the story behind my name, Cleolinda Jones. Because it's not my real name. This confuses more people than I expected, maybe because "Cleo" and "Linda," unlike, say, "Arwen" or "Galadriel," are relatively common real-life names, and most people aren't familiar with "Cleolinda" as a mythological name.
The story, and it's a very simple one, is this: My real name is Lauren. Initially I didn't want to use my real name online for the security reasons that everyone, but particularly women, should take into account. I also have some family issues with my father's last name, blah blah blah, but I still use it in real life because I'm too lazy to actually go through the trouble of changing it and confusing the hell out of everyone. On the internet, before I knew hardly anyone, this wasn't so much of a problem, and taking a fictional nickname/username is not only common, but it's fun and sort of encouraged.
So. I was home one weekend sophomore year of college (which would make this about 1998 or so), and I got it into my head that I wanted a new Hotmail address, dammit. A username that was one word. Not "lauren2938147!π." So I pulled out one of my mythology books and started typing in every outlandish female name I thought wasn't already taken. Shit like "Juliet" and "Guinevere," for example, clearly would have already have something like 30,000 users apiece. I wanted something that would be unique, if only on Hotmail. You wouldn't believe what was already taken, though--Boadicea and Gwynwhyfar and all kinds of weirdly spelled shit. So I just kept paging through my books looking for random names, and finally I found the name of the princess in the St. George and the dragon story. Little did I know at the time that her name is usually given as "Una" and sometimes "Sabra," so if someone does know the story, they don't associate it with "Cleolinda." (Grrrrr.)
A few weeks later, we were writing narrative poems in my workshop, so I came up with this. So it's about six years old now, not very polished, and in need of a lot of work, but I think it'll tell you more about Princess C.:
Call me what you will;
I have many names.
Una, Sabra, the cloddy Clodolinda—
it makes no difference now.
I am a gnarled forgotten crone
and he is immortal, visage
forever golden coined.
You know, they roused themselves
for him, erected cathedrals—
San Giorgio in Velabro in Rome,
Church of the Golden Veil.
When he broke his promise to return
they made me take the veil myself,
and the vows of silence were not golden.
I think they feared what I might say.
Did you know he was from Palestine?
They wore the Redcrosse Knight’s colors
into battle while crusading
against his own people—
him, Son of the Sheikh,
patron saint of battle and cavalry,
of England, Greece and Portugal
and a dozen glittering cities, the favorite
of troubadours and scout troops.
“Prince of Martyrs.” Right.
They founded the Order of the Garter
in his name. Figures. That day his hand
was ever creeping up my kirtle
as we waited for the dragon.
I was offered up as a bride
to man or beast, first come first serve,
because they had run out of sheep.
And besides, it was only a large crocodile.
“Fair Maid,” he recited, “Fear Not;
For I Shall Save You
Through the Power of My Lord.”
Lance that dragon, George.
Poke it in the eye.
Then he said, for the second time that day,
“Take off that girdle,” and this time tie it
“around that awful creature’s neck.”
And it did not go quietly like a “tame dog”
as stories claim--it lowed and sniveled
all the way back to Salone,
draggle-tailed, a forlorn wing-flop here or there,
fighting the leash and blinking that one bloody eye,
the two of us dragging on and on
behind George and his prissy white steed.
(“Hurry up,” quoth he, “or this’ll take all day!”)
Back in Salone we led our prize reptile
down the main drag, into the marketplace,
where he speared it in the skull
(one last crocodile moan)
and was lifted to the shoulders of the people,
feasted (guess the main course)
“You must have the princess’ hand!”
they cried, and I thought, Christ!
It was still blistered from the rope.
But soon, fête-bored, he rode off
and didn’t come back.
At first I was relieved,
until I realized we were
already married in their minds,
and before long the chorus was
Get Thee to a Nunnery.
I hear Diocletian lopped off his head
in Lydia. By then a Roman tribune,
he wouldn’t follow orders
to round up the Christians.
Sure, they venerate him for it now.
But I like to think he got the axe
because he never had a taste for work.
I like to think of him
prostrate beneath the heels
of saints and martyrs,
princes and gods.
So that's what that's about. I've actually come to use "Cleolinda Jones" as sort of a pen name--I remember that the woman who wrote the book that Boys Don't Cry was based on went by Aphrodite Jones (seriously, I've got to assume that's a pen name). (Why Jones? Because it renders any first name cool. Try it. You kinda have to give it a Cleopatra Jones/Foxy Brown intonation, though: "Cleolinda Joooones." ) I also use it at the Daily Digest and other things I've run; I'm actually considering using it as a legal pen name on anything I publish in the future for real, because... honestly, that's what people know me by now. Also, if you went to a bookstore and saw "Cleolinda Jones," that's a name you would remember--hell, I don't remember the name of the book she wrote, but I remember "Aphrodite Jones," right? In fact, the only reason I even use Lauren online at all is because I used my Hotmail account to email people in real life (employers, professors, etc.) and didn't want "Cleolinda Jones" as the user name. Inevitably I would reply to people with my real name in the sender box, so there was no point hiding it. And then I'd forget whether I'd told you I was Lauren or just stuck to Cleo, so now I just give out my real first name in correspondence as a matter of habit. At this point, I will answer to Lauren or Cleo without missing a beat, so it's your choice. I mean, in the course of your life, you're probably going to go by your first name, at least one nickname, Mr./Miss Last Name, Mrs. Husband's Last Name if you're a woman, "Honey" or some other endearment, and Mom/Dad. I never had any nicknames for "Lauren" as a kid, so I guess this one makes up.
Anyway, so, when you read Black Ribbon and you get to the Mr. Bennet/Miss Jones correspondence before each chapter, it becomes this weird meta thing. Like, I, Lauren/Cleolinda who wrote Black Ribbon am writing as an entirely separate girl named Cleolinda who, in the frame story, is writing Black Ribbon. (Example: In this letter, the story about the Awful Poem of Pure and Radiant Light is true. "Maximum Honey" was the name of my Easyjournal, and will be the name of the first collection of whatever I try to put out. On the other hand, people have gotten confused and asked me if Mr. Bennet is real and has actually offered to publish BR. Primrose Publishers is completely fictional, people. Seriously. PRIMROSE. Come on.) It's like, she is me but I am not always her.
Yeah. You're just more confused now, aren't you?
Oh, P.S.--Vladimir himself showed up as an anon in the American Gods entry from yesterday, so if you commented, you might want to go check that out. Also: OMG DUN STEEL MAH VLADIMIR!!!1!