Review Excerpts

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Name Game, Part 4

Here we are at the final installment (for now!) of this name-related discussion. It was delayed slightly by a nasty eye infection I've been battling for two weeks (boo!) and the first round of edits for Out of Orbit (yay!), but I'm back and in blogging action. But I will blame any typos on my gradually-recovering eye.

One issue I sometimes encounter when writing: when do you name a character? The major and minor ones are obvious. Most of the time, main characters need names. (And yes, I know there are plenty of books with an unnamed narrator, which is why I said "most of the time".) On the flip side, not every single person the main characters meet needs to have a name, especially if their role isn't all that significant. It's the ones in the middle I sometimes struggle with.

Too much extraneous detail can confuse or distract a reader, and we certainly don't want that. That said, the vast majority of real-life people have names (duh) and it's nice to acknowledge that. But do we really need to know the name of every single person we come across? We can probably even argue that you can have a significant interaction with a person without ever knowing his/her name.

Over the years, I've come up with an incredibly basic rule of thumb for myself: for minor characters, only name them when it would be awkward not to. There have been times when either a character winds up playing a larger role than initially expected, or someone takes up enough room on a page that not seeing a name attached to them just looks weird. The biggest example of this in my books is Captain Sampson in Flight of the Dragon Queen. For the longest time, he had no name, and was just referred to as "the captain". But after a while, that wasn't working out for me, and I needed to do better.

There are plenty of people mentioned in Out of Orbit who never got a name. But there was one instance where Jasmine had a long enough conversation with someone that I had to name him. He only shows up in that one part, but the flow just seemed off when he didn't have a name.

Come to think of it, "avoid being awkward" is a great rule of thumb for a LOT of writing-related things.

Next up: I'll finally start talking about my latest WIP (the first chapter of which is complete)!

Friday, May 6, 2016

The Name Game, Part 3

Next up in this series - the meaning of characters' names.

Right off the bat, I'll start by saying that though I'm a bit of a name nerd, I don't make myself nuts when it comes to the origin and meaning of names. I didn't even really care about that when it came to naming my own children. Some people do, and that's fine. In fact, for one of my daughter's names, I was even told "Oh, I love that name, but I could never get past the meaning!" (No, it's not Cecilia or Claudia, which, for someone who doesn't pay much attention to meanings, I always remember as originally meaning "blind" and "lame", respectively.) I'm sure there are plenty of writers out there who give symbolic names to their characters based on their meaning, but it's just not my thing.

However, that doesn't mean that I'll go around slapping names on characters all willy-nilly. A lot of times, my characters names do have some significance, even if it's only for me. I'm sure I've mentioned this before, but a large number of my friends wound up in the Disintegration series in some way, shape, or form. Some were straightforward: Vlad is, well, named after my friend Vlad. Dr. Zedek, however, is named after another friend's role-playing alter-ego. While the two Vlads share some similarities, the two Zedeks are nothing alike. But hey, I needed a name!

I'll use this opportunity to admit that there have been times where I've TOTALLY named antagonistic characters after people I don't like. Don't get on my bad side.

Sometimes if I'm not directly naming after someone, I'll go for a similar name, or use the same initials as an existing person/character. Like I said, the chosen name may only be meaningful to me and a couple other people, but I like knowing the symbolism is there, however minor. The main character of my new WIP is named Veronica Campbell. Some astute readers might eventually pick up on some allusions with her name (once the book is complete), but for now, I'm not telling. ;)

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Name Game, Part 2

I'm knocking out the next installment in this series because I just got a big, obnoxious assignment at work that is going to suck up a lot of time and energy for the next week, so I'm using the rest of tonight to pretend it doesn't exist. (But it should pay reasonably well, so silver linings and all that.)

Next up on the topic of names: characters who name themselves. I know what you're thinking - isn't the writer in charge? Shouldn't the writer have control over what the characters are named? One would think. After all, it's not like my children named themselves. (Though that could have saved a few days of strenuous discussion. And I do know more than one set of parents who went into the hospital with a name picked out, saw their baby for the first time, and wound up going with something completely different.)

Every now and then when a character first starts to materialize in my mind, there's immediately a name associated with him/her. I don't know why or how it happens. Sometimes I've even tried to fight back against that strong association between the character and the name, and it just doesn't feel right. The same thing has happened to me with titles. As regular readers here know by now, sometimes the title comes to me right away, while other times I struggle to pick a good one.

I recently experienced this phenomenon when I was first planning for Out of Orbit. As soon as the heroine started taking shape, she became Jasmine. It's not like Jasmine is a name I particularly like (or dislike). I hadn't planned on it being symbolic in any way, though I did wind up running with it and using the flower meaning. I even tossed around a few alternatives, but nope. Always and forever, she was and will be Jasmine.

The same thing happened with April in Elysium. Again, I don't have any strong feelings toward the name either way. No hidden meanings there. She was just April. That's it.

As I mentioned in my last post, I have a lot of characters to name in my new WIP. Sure enough, some of them named themselves. Several of the insta-names I adopted right away, while others I wanted to think about more. However, as I was plotting out certain points, I found myself thinking things like, "Oh, Paul will totally react in this way", when Paul was one of the names I wasn't sure about. I guess he's Paul, then.

So much for being in control.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Name Game, Part 1

Since I got the contract for Out of Orbit sooner than expected, my writing fingers are already starting to get itchy. I read the two books I wanted to read, and for whatever reason, video games are not calling to me right now, so I've already started outlining for my next WIP. I'll go into more detail at a later time, but due to the nature of this project, I want a really strong outline before I even get started.

One of the challenges for this WIP is there are going to be a lot of characters: eleven "on-screen" and a couple minor parts/people mentioned in passing. And characters need names. The name nerd in me enjoys most of this part, but as I said, it can be a challenge.

Somewhere in my archives here (before I started tagging posts, oops) I wrote about how I wanted the three significant women in Disintegration to have names that were very distinct from each other. Similarly, when I was getting ready to write The Fall of the Midnight Scorpion, I initially worried that Ro and Reggie were too similar for my leads. After all, we don't want to confuse any readers.*

I've ultimately come to the decision that having a variety of ending sounds for characters' names is more important than first letters or alliteration. (As indicated by me forging ahead with Ro and Reggie.) Having pored over tons of name lists to prepare for the twins' arrival last year, I can tell you that a LOT of female names end with -a. That doesn't mean that you can't have two characters with -a names in one story, but as the number of named characters grow, it's something to watch out for. 

When first planning this WIP, I had a Laura and a Clara before realizing how close they were. Laura's name was more tied to her character in my mind, so Clara changed (to Ruth, for the curious). On the other hand, I'm okay with having a Laura and a Veronica, as those are juuuuust different enough for my tastes. There's also a Mary and a Brittany, but to me, those are wildly different names that just evoke different feelings and images, if that makes any sense.

When looking over my file of ideas for blog posts, I saw a lot of name-related notes, so I've decided to make this the first in a series. If nothing else, it should get me blogging more regularly, right? ;) Stay tuned for the next part!

*Somewhat relevant, but not really: In Agatha Christie's A Murder is Announced (STOP READING HERE IF YOU DON'T WANT SPOILERS), part of the big!reveal! hinges on two sisters having very similar nicknames - Leticia and Charlotte are Lettie and Lottie, respectively. There's a clue when another character calls one by the other one's name. When reading, I did notice it...but this was in the early days of the Kindle and I'd just thought it was a typographical error made when converting the book, and didn't realize the name mix-up was significant. Oops. So I didn't solve the mystery, but then again, I rarely do.

Except for The Girl on the Train, which is one of the books I just read. Figuring out the ending ahead of time kind of ruined the fun. But I'll award points for the three main female characters -- Rachel, Anna, and Megan -- having names with different final syllables. There, I've come full circle. :D

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Out of Orbit - Coming Soon!

Well, that happened faster than I expected. A lot faster, actually. Either way, I signed the contract for Out of Orbit, so at least I won't be jumping out of my seat every time I hear the email alert on my phone. Details about a cover, release date, etc., will be forthcoming, so stay tuned!

In the meantime, have a blurb. (If you think you can spot some video game're probably right.)

Following an explosive space battle, Captain Jasmine Hale is forced to order the evacuation of her ship. She flees in an escape pod before its destruction, but the resulting crash on an unknown planet kills her pilot and leaves her stranded. Though imprisoned by the first natives she encounters, she soon meets Aras, their ruler. To her surprise, he speaks her language and tells her she is not the first human to land on Ryk.

When Jasmine questions why she has never heard of his planet, Aras shows her a journal of research notes written five hundred years earlier. Inside, she discovers the key to the mystery: due to an irregular orbit, Ryk is only accessible to humans for a short period of time during its path around its sun. She is horrified to realize if her crew doesn’t find her within that window, she will be trapped on Ryk for the rest of her life.

Despite her distressing circumstances, Jasmine resolves to immerse herself in the Rykian culture. Aras, while sympathetic, is thrilled to show her his world. Rumors begin circulating about whether or not his attention to her is appropriate, and she struggles to sort through how she feels about him.

The pair eventually admits their mutual attraction and they embark on a romance. As they plan for a future together, another ship of humans arrives on Ryk to rescue their captain. Caught between two worlds, Jasmine is faced with a difficult dilemma. Choosing one means leaving the other behind forever. How will she decide?

Monday, March 28, 2016

Crossing the Finish Line

(Just a reminder - the Smexy Romance Blog Hop and Giveaway is still going on, so if you haven't entered yet, don't miss out!)

Moving on....

I made it! With a couple days to spare! I finished writing Out of Orbit on Saturday night, so before my self-imposed deadline of the end of the month. I'm not so sure it'll be proofed, packed up, and ready to go by the 31st, but I'm hoping that can happen by the end of the weekend, so close enough. Even though I still have to write the blurb. Ugh.

Clearly, the writing process was not all smooth sailing this time around, for a number of reasons. Am I thrilled about the fact that it took me six months to write a 30K-word novella? No, not really. Were my writing and word building skills a little rusty, leading me to doubt myself a number of times? Oh, yes. But at the end of the day, I do like this story and I'm happy with it. It hasn't usurped the title of "best thing I've ever written" (that still goes to Elysium, I think, with Disintegration as a close second), but there are some moments that are pretty damn awesome.

Once I send this off, I'm going to take some time to READ for a change. I have a number of books I've been meaning to get to loaded up on my Kindle, begging for attention. And as we all know, reading makes you a better writer, so I do need to make some time for that. However, I don't want to take *too* long of a writing break. Maybe next time it won't take me six months to finish something....

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Smexy Romance Blog Hop and Giveaway

 It's blog hop time again! Welcome to my spot along the Smexy Romance Blog Hop and Giveaway! We're all posting super-steamy excerpts today, along with offering opportunities to win some great books.

Elysium has been out for about a year now, and it still remains one of my favorites of all my book-children. To celebrate my bias, I'll be giving away an e-copy to one lucky reader. Enjoy the smexy excerpt, keep scrolling down for the giveaways, and don't forget to visit the other stops on the blog hop!

We became trapped in a vicious, glorious cycle. With every nip and nibble of mine, she responded with a breathy moan or a roll of her hips. It was all the motivation I needed to further incite her pleasure. My erection swelled so heavy and hard it hurt, but her velvet skin tasted so good, I wasn’t ready to let her go yet.

Sliding my hands into her jeans, underneath the elastic of her panties, I groped her ass. She hooked one leg over mine, slamming our bodies together and trapping my engorged shaft between us. Even through multiple layers of fabric, I felt her blossoming heat, and it drove me crazy with lust.

I let her breast fell from my mouth and struggled for air. She pushed the scraggly hair from my eyes. “What’s wrong?” she asked.

Every drop of blood had rushed between my legs, erasing the ability to formulate coherent thoughts. “I…I want you,” I ground out between pants. My cock bulged against her as the words escaped and I bit back a groan. “I need you.”

April’s fingers skated down my chest toward the top of the khakis. She made quick work of the button and zipper and her hand slipped inside. “Say it again,” she murmured.

A flimsy piece of cotton separated me from paradise. “I want you.”

She pushed the pants and boxers down several inches, freeing my erection. The brief shock of cold air was replaced by her fingers wrapping around the shaft, and I shuddered.

“One more time. I need to hear it.” As she spoke, she gave me a deliberate squeeze.

I couldn’t take any more torment. The dam broke, and I launched another assault on her mouth. She eased her hips back just enough to grant me access to the front of her jeans. I wrenched away the last of her clothing and cupped her mound with a palm.

“I want you, April,” I said in between frenzied kisses. One finger skimmed the length of her dampened cleft. “I want to be inside you so bad.”

Two years have passed since April Patterson’s husband was shot and killed in the line of duty, and she’s trapped in a haze of grief and uncertainty. Having grown frustrated by all other efforts to engage her in activities where she could meet new people, her cousin pays for a date via 1Night Stand. Not thrilled with the idea, April nevertheless contacts Madame Eve and requests the impossible: a date with her deceased husband.

Brilliant software engineer Drew Monroe created his company, Elysium, to help give closure to those who have suffered the loss of a loved one, through the use of virtual reality. Though passionate about his work, being constantly surrounded by heartache and death has taken a toll on his mental health. When he accepts the case of a young widow referred to him by Madame Eve, her tragic tale depresses him further, but he commits himself to programming April the romantic date she desires.

April arrives at Elysium and prepares to enter Drew’s virtual realm. Will she find the solace she seeks within? Or will she discover she doesn’t need a fantasy world to discover happiness again?

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