Wednesday, August 31, 2011

“You need psychological help!”

I’m not ashamed to admit that on more than one occasion in my life I’ve been to a therapist. These wonderful men and women have helped me recognize my thinking errors and change my perspective.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could take your emotionally broken characters to the therapist—sit them on the couch and get them some serious professional help?

Ya! You can! Jeannie Campbell’s blog The Character Therapist lets you do just that. Jeannie is a REAL therapist by day and also an author.

Yesterday she had one of my characters on the couch (read about Taggert here), and I learned a lot. I have to say that even just filling out the answers to her questions about him really helped me flesh him out. Here are a few of my favorites:

  1. What is the most important childhood event that still affects you today and why?
  2. What is your soft spot or biggest vulnerability? Why? Do others know this or is it a secret?
  3. What is your greatest fear?
  4. What would your best friend say is your fatal flaw? Why?
  5. What would the same friend say is your one redeeming quality? Why?

Try and answer these questions for your characters or make an appointment with Jeannie. All the cool kids are doing it :)


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I Love Your Blog

Angela Ackerman of The Bookshelf Muse recently posted thoughts on how to create a break-out blog. I loved her ideas. Here are a few of my own. This is what makes me love your blog:

Humor: If you can make me laugh—I’m hooked. It doesn’t have to be stand up comedy. I love quirky, silly, everyday funny. And I truly believe everyone has some humor in them :)

Brevity: If a blog post is brief I’m more likely to read more and more posts. I’m ashamed to say if a post is REALLY long I will skim or skip it entirely. Come on—use your writing skills to be concise.

Knowledge: I want to learn something when I read a blog. Writing tips. Editing Ideas. Metaphors that make me look at things differently. I suck up every bit of learning I can—so share your knowledge.

Sincerity: I love blogs where I really get a sense of the writer. Who they genuinely are is obvious in their posts. Just like in books, I love to see peoples flaws, strengths, wishes, joys. Show me who you are!

What do you look for in blog posts?


Monday, August 29, 2011

I “Heart” Goodreads :)

I’m a Goodreads junkie. I love it…love it…love it! I find some of the best unknown books there.

I love to hear what people are saying and thinking about books. So in this vein of thought, I’m looking for more people who would like to be my friend on Goodreads :)

I want to see what other pre-published authors like myself are reading and loving.

Here are the reasons you want to be my friend on Goodreads:

  1. I write short reviews. I read a novel—I don’t need to write one.
  2. I never write the synopsis of the book. You can find that anywhere. Reviews are for opinions.
  3. I always try and find something positive. No book is all bad—except Ivanhoe!
  4. I read lot of different genres. No matter what you like I will be interested in what you have to say.

So how about it? If you are game I think you can search for me on Goodreads by my email:

You may be asked a security question. The answer is: Jesse

Okay, I’m trusting that no one will use this info for nefarious purposes. If you would rather me find you, leave your email in the comments. Don’t leave me hanging :)


Saturday, August 27, 2011

Magnifying Glass Writing

My Sister-in-law is a proof reader and a fantastic one at that. I've just handed her a copy of what I think just might be...drum roll please... the final draft of my book. Aughhh! In celebration of this moment, I cleaned my house, organized my desk, folded clothes and even cleaned out my children's closets! In short, I did all the things that I've put off for the last four months of my life while writing and re-writing and re-writing my book.

Now, to say that it's finished is only to say that I think all the raw, rough content is there and in place. I've, hopefully, filled the plot holes, fleshed out the weak characters, and corrected all or most of the pacing issues. But now, I begin the Magnifying Glass Writing. I'm line editing, analyzing every sentence, every punctuation, asking myself if it contributes to the feeling I'm trying to get across, or does it side track my plot?

This quote by Oscar Wilde both sums up the last three days of my life and accurately predicts the foreseeable future I'm afraid.

"I have spent most of the day putting in a comma and the rest of the day taking it out."

I'm not a detail oriented person. In response to Angie's post a few days ago, 'The Elephant in the room', I'm a screener- one who looks past and through and around all the clutter and still manages to function--barely. Molly Weasley would feel very much at home in my office.

This summer, I've been dedicated to finishing my book, The Take Back. And I admit that while I LOVE the idea of writing in a clean, orderly room, with my desk clear and and free of scraps of paper and sticky notes. I have been writing around piles of clean clothes, and dirty clothes and sippy cups and dolls and shoes and books and remotes and tissues and socks (I'm just looking at my desk, taking inventory! Seriously, I am.).

I've looked past the clutter and managed to finish my book. Now, as I plunge into what Angie has called the micro-editing stage, I'm a little nervous. For one who somehow didn't mind scattered letters, dvd's and crayons spilling off of her I really equipped to take a magnifying glass to my work; to look at tag lines, punctuation, etc? I'm not going to lie, I'm nervous and grateful, yet again, for Angie, Amy, my sister-in-law, and all those who have offered to read my book. Thanks to all of them, for their eagle eye comments and critique.

I'm not just saying this to be kind, but I really couldn't do it without you. Without proof readers, and detail oriented non-screeners, my WIP would look like my desk does right now. Thank you!


Off Campaigning

I’m so excited to be part of Rachael Harrie’s Platform Building Campaign.

I love meeting people who don’t think I’m crazy for hearing voices, staying for the movie credits to looks for character names, or writing description on grocery receipts in the parking lot.

To everyone in my YA and Romance groups. I’m so excited to see your talents. The successes of other authors inspires me :)


Friday, August 26, 2011

I Hate Dinner!

I apologize before hand—I just needed to vent!

Dinner is my nemesis—my archenemy extraordinaire! We do battle every night, sometimes I win...sometimes He wins. But lately I feel like I end up having a panic standing in front of the fridge at 5:30.

I've found a way to slay this evil super villain, Dinner, but it feels like cheating. With a gallon of milk in one hand and a box of cereal in the other I knock Him back to tomorrow. But before He goes He stares me down with beady eyes and says, "That was a cheap trick...until tomorrow."(Imagine Him with a Russian accent—I do).

Part of the problem is that the children I slay Dinner for boo and hiss if I do it properly. Vegetable chicken stir fry and Enchiladas sit on the table UNTOUCHED!

Dinner chuckles in my ear menacingly (still in Russian) at 8:00 when my 6 year old says, "I'm hungry." I raise my fist to the sky and yell, "*X%# you, Dinner!" (insert mild swearing here...I am a Mormon mom after all.)

So for now I will kill Dinner with waffles, pizza, sandwiches, cereal, and macaroni and cheese—waiting for the day I learn to prepare better, my kids taste buds develop, or I get so old I can eat cheese and crackers and no one will care.

Maybe then I can make peace with Dinner.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Writing for Boys

I woke my kids up for school and as they come stumbling up the stairs I notice my 10 year old has a book in his hand (The Shifter by Janice Hardy). After we get the regular morning stuff done, he sits on the couch and starts to read. What is it that made him read for an hour before school started?

Do you write MG or YA? Do you think about the boys who will read your books? Do you know what they like in a book? Do you know what they hate?

I have access to 2 tween boys—who are avid readers and I thought I would share their minds a bit with you.

Here they are disguised in their Halloween costumes from last year. Napoleon Dynamite is 12 and in 7th grade and Scary Goblin is 10 and in 5th grade.

Me: What is your favorite book series and why?

Napoleon: Pendragon (by D. J. McHale) – It has tons of twists. It has suspense and romance. Action—lots of it. It’s funny and Bobby talks like a teenager.

Scary Goblin: Fablehaven (by Brandon Mull) – because I like the fantasy, adventure and how creative it is.

Me: Why do you stop reading a book?

Napoleon: Well, because things don’t happen as quickly as I think they should. They are boring because nothing happens. There should be at least something cool in every chapter.

Scary Goblin: Sometimes it feels too long, or you are just not into anymore because it is too long.

Me: What will make you stay up late at night reading ?

Napoleon: Probably if it’s good and really awesome. I get worried about the character so I need to know what happens. I’m reading and something pops up and then something else pops up and I need to know how it ends.

Scary Goblin: Sometimes comedy and adventure. I like the plot and the twists and stuff. Sometimes I can’t sleep.

Me: What is a mistake some authors make when writing for boys?

Napoleon: You need to have girls in the story too. Kind of to go along with the main character. Sometimes the book is too slow. I don’t like that.

Scary Goblin: Too much romance and not enough excitement.

Me: (I’m a little unsure what Scary Goblin is reading)

Me: If you could tell authors anything what would say.

Napoleon: There should be a little bit of romance in every book. Someone needs to do some action. Also books need to be a little bit funny. Make the main characters likeable.

Scary Goblin: Put a lot of excitement in your book. And at least one scary guy.

Napoleon: And lots of romance.

Scary Goblin: No, dude. No more romance or kissing.

There you have it (even with the conflicting romance answers :) If you have any questions you are dying to know the answer to, post them in the comments and I will ask my boys.

I’ve always believed love of reading is a matter of exposure. Since my boys were small we’ve read together. Once they were bigger I started to read chapter books to them at night. It took time and many nights I didn’t want to do it, but reading became an activity they looked forward to with anticipation. I figure I’ve read over 40 chapter books to my boys over the last 8 years.

So my advice to parents of boys (and girls)—READ! Expose them to books no matter how old or young they are :)


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Elephant in the Room

I’m going to ask you to bear with me for a moment (I know that’s an ominous way to start a post—sorry).

When I was studying Interior Design I had a teacher that told us we would eventually have two kinds of clients: Screeners and Non-Screeners. What are they you’re dying to ask—well it’s your lucky day, I’m going to tell you :)

Screeners: People who can screen out the noise and mess of pattern, clutter, and clashing color. Example: Molly Weasley’s house would be the house of a screener.

Non-Screener: People who need simplicity and clean lines. If too much is going on, it makes them a little crazy. Example: A sleek and futuristic room from your favorite Sci-fi novel.

So with those definitions in mind—are you a screener or a non-screener when it comes to reading and writing? Do you need peace and quiet to write and read? Or can do you thrive in the bubbling chaos of life?

I’m a bit of both actually. My house is the house of a non-screener. It’s almost always clean and clutter free. I cannot function in a mess. It makes me crazy and VERY grouchy.

But when it comes to reading and writing I am a screener. An elephant could walk through the room and I wouldn’t notice. Sometimes my kids stand in front of me and need to yell to get my attention. I guess I’m just whisked away :)

So what about you? Screener? Non-Screener?


Monday, August 22, 2011

Light that Spark

I’ve joined in on Christine Tyler’s—The Spark Blogfest. It’s easy and fun. Jump on over to her blog to see how you can participate.

I thought I would answer her three questions—in no particular order :)

What book made you realize you were doomed to be a writer?
I came to writing later than most. I didn’t study it in college. I didn’t have childhood dreams of writing. But I’ve always had a love affair with reading. I can’t really pinpoint one book. For me it was more of an accumulation of thousands and thousands of books, until one day I thought, “I wonder if I could write a book?”

What author set off the spark for your current WIP?
Different parts of my WIP are inspired by things I love from many authors: Lyrical LanguageShannon Hale, AdventureMadeleine Brent, SymbolismC.S. Lewis, Emotional RomanceStephenie Meyer, Surprising TwistsAgatha Christie, and then a lot of authors taught me what I didn’t ever want to do—but it’s tacky to mention them :)

Is there a book or author that changed your world view?
This has happened to me multiple times over the years but the first memory I have off this is TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee. I read it fairly young 11 or 12 and I loved it. I remember thinking that I never wanted to be the kind of person who judged others.

Well there you have it :) Riveting, I know. Join in and comment below so I can check out your answers.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Break Up

Never go to bed after writing The Break Up scene. You wake up in a terrible mood and feel like kicking every male you see in the shins. Not good when I'm about to go off to singles ward, might I add.

Don't you just hate it when you're reading a romance novel and, near the end of the story the characters have a fight or for some reason they just cannot be the happy couple they've been for the last hundred pages? They are meant for each other! Don't tear them apart! I hated it so much that when I started my current WIP, my first actual romance novel, I decided I just wouldn't put in "The Break Up" and they would live happily ever after without the stupid fight. I even threw in a suspenseful subplot in the hopes that its climax would add enough conflict in the end.

But then I realized they had to have The Break Up. It just simply isn't a romance novel without it, right? I wasn't sure how I was going to do it. I had a very general idea, meaning that I wanted them upset with each other during the suspenseful climax so that when the dust settled and the bullet's echo subsided, the could have a really cute Make Up scene. Sigh.... Sometimes it makes me sick that I'm such a helpless romantic.

Anyway, I didn't know for sure how I was going to drive a rift between them since, you know, I just love them both so much I couldn't possibly plot their demise out beforehand and have a clear conscience about it. Then, when I was writing last night, it just happened. All of a sudden, the romantic hero was stalking away from the party fuming, and the romantic heroine was left there, broken.

I've never felt so cruel in my entire life! And in my last novel I had killed off my favorite character's father! My poor, poor characters. How could I do this to them? But I have to admit, it was a pretty great scene. It did both the characters justice, even if it did break their little hearts.

I just really shouldn't have stopped writing last night after that. I'm in such a rotten mood, I think it would be safer for everyone I may come across today if I just didn't leave the house. But its Sunday and I have to go to church. Maybe I should have gone to my home ward...

Anyway! Moral of the story: a romance novel is nothing without its Break Up. Just don't leave your characters in the middle of it. They need you to hold their hands and reassure them that they'll get back together. I mean, it is a romance novel, right?


(Coming soon: My thoughts on writing romance.)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Editing Celebration

Hip Hip Hooray! I finished line editing my 92,823 word MS!!!!! I’ve been working on it for six months. It takes a long time to go through that many words.

I don’t really know what to do with myself now. I guess I should start working on the next WIP, but I want to take a little break and CELEBRATE!

So while editing is on my brain this is how I edit.

  1. Macro Edits—Plot Holes, Set Pieces, Beginnings, Endings
  2. Mid Edits—Pacing, Flow, Dialogue, Characterization, Themes, Symbolism
  3. Micro Edits—Punctuation, Adverbs, Tags, A close look at every—single—word.

How do you approach editing? I would love to know. Got any great tips?


Gotta love Kool and the Gang :) And their bright white shoes!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Off to a S—L—O—W start

I consider myself pretty easy—an easy reader that is. I generally like most books I read, but when I come across one I don’t like I’m never sure what to do. Keep reading? Stop reading? I will admit I feel like a failure stopping.

I’m currently reading a highly praised, highly recommended, 600+ page adult fantasy debut and I want to hit myself over the head with it. Yikes.

What are the problems?

The slow start: OH MY GOSH! I’m 80 pages in and NOTHING has happened. NOTHING! I have no sense of the plot and even worse—I have no sense of who the MC is. I can deal with a slow start. A lot of books I love take a while to build—the difference is they do eventually build.

Terrible cover copy: I have no sense of what this story is about. I even went on to Goodreads to try and unravel the mystery, but it was no help. I have a sinking feeling—there is no plot. *sigh*

Telling not showing: So far I’ve read very little showing. Yuck. The actual writing only goes to add another layer of dislike.

If this book hadn’t been recommended to me by people I trust I would chuck it out the window. They keep telling me, “It gets better.” But will it really get better for me?

Maybe I needed to read this so I would have a firsthand experience with “what not to do”. Agents have been saying this forever, but now I REALLY believe them :)
1. Give readers a sense to the plot and stakes early on
2. Engage readers early
3. Have a strong character voice
4. If something is boring leave it out

Maybe I will give it 100 pages. That’s fair right? But as I look at this book sitting next to my chair—I’m already bored.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Hey, I’m funny…I really am!

My sisters call me a laugh whore—because I laugh at everything. I’m currently laughing as I write this :)

My husband says I’m not as funny as I think I am. Whatever :) He’s crazy, I am funny. But—am I a funny writer? Are you a funny writer? How important is humor in your genre?

I write YA adventure/romance. It isn’t inherently funny, but I think humor is a great way to ease the inevitable tension of the story. Laughing releases endorphins, and causes euphoria. Won't euphoria make readers better connect to my story? Here is how I add humor:

Funny Characters: Lighthearted funny characters are important. They give readers an emotional break. Can you imagine the literary world without Ron Wesley or Mr. Collins? I’ve have a funny character who often gets drunk and spouts secrets and inappropriate comments :)

Funny dialogue: You know that delicious witty back and forth between Elizabeth B. and Mr. Darcy? Can you write that kind of dialogue? I’m not terribly witty, but I can write funny sarcastic dialogue. I tend to use sarcasim more than wit—I guess I’m just low brow.

Funny situations: I hope my crit partner Sara will forgive me for sharing this :) She has the most hilarious situation in her WIP that makes me laugh every time I read it. Her MC has car trouble and a boy she has a crush on stops to help her, but she is wearing her PJ’s—and not cute PJ’s but horrid faded holey old ones. Oh, the fantastically funny humiliation.

So what about it—are you a funny writer? Does it come easily to you? Or do you feel it doesn’t have a place in your WIP?


Monday, August 15, 2011

Confessions of a symbolism junkie

The first step is admitting it—right? Okay…I love symbolism.

Am I weird? Am I the only one?

I love symbolism so much that my favorite book in the bible is—Isaiah. I’ve spent years studying it. The thought makes me giddy :) I don’t say this to brag (who brags about something like that?) I just wanted you to know just how bad it is.

So here is my question: Do people still use symbolism in their writing? Do you?

I do. My WIP is full of symbolism. Character symbolism. Setting symbolism. Action symbolism. Item symbolism. Color symbolism. I hope I’ve left enough clues so that symbolism junkies like me will figure it out and it will add to the story. If not, I’ve tried to make the symbolism not too in your face.

Symbolism has many different forms: Metaphor, Patterns, Literary Mirrors, Signs, Symbols, Allegory, Motif, Archetype. Symbolism needs to be grounded in something relatable. You can’t just attach anything together—acorns = despair or chocolate milk = old age. No one will get that.

I say let’s bring symbolism back. If we all do it, maybe my book club won’t stare blankly at me when I want to talk about what the color red means in Jane Eyre :)

What do you say? Is everyone in?


Friday, August 12, 2011

What I learned about writing from Phineas and Ferb :)

My six year old has been sick for two days, which means I’m either confined to the couch holding her hand or rocking her in the chair—what will I do when she gets too big to rock? :( ?

So with all the sickness and fevers I’ve watched a lot of kids TV—Disney Channel in particular—Phineas and Ferb more specifically. And I’m becoming quite a Phineas and Ferb expert.

If you’ve never watched P&F (I need an abbreviation, I can’t keep typing that :) you should. Here are a few things about storytelling I’ve learned from P&F.

Have a relatable Villain: Evil Dr. Doofenshmirtz is a great bad guy. He has backstory. He’s funny. In fact he is sometimes so funny, you even root for him. You can relate to his shame and embarrassment. And really how evil is a machine that makes the city smell like dirty diapers?

How to juggle plots and subplots: There are always three plots running through the story: 1) What Phineas and Ferb are making, 2) What Candace is going to do about it, 3) And the showdown between Secret Agent Perry and Dr. Doofenshmirts. Now, I will admit that the resolution of all these plots is sometimes obvious, but it's fun to watch them get so twisted into each other. Plots and subplots should build off of each other. This show is a great example of this.

Quirky characters: A pet platypus that is really a secret agent, a British boy who rarely talks, two brothers who can make a rollercoaster in one hour, a high strung teenage girl conflicted about whether to “bust” her brothers or hang out with her boyfriend, and an evil scientist who just want someone to love him. You root for these characters and want them to succeed even though their goals are in opposition to each other.

It’s funny: Even though it is a kids show the dialogue is hilarious. Not potty talk or burp in your face funny—but clever and witty. Here is a tiny example:

Phineas: Time to test our maze.

Baljeet: Did somebody say “test”?

Phineas: It’s not really a test. We’re more like lab rats going after cheese.

Buford: Did someone say “cheese”?

Phineas: Buford, that’s just a metaphor.

Buford: Hmm, I am to metaphor cheese as metaphor cheese is to transitive verb crackers.

I couldn’t stop laughing. That is funny stuff—and not just written for kids.

I really believe that as writers we can learn from all kinds of storytelling: books, music, movies, dance, TV—and many more. So next time you have a sick day…enjoy it.


How about it, anyone else have any favorite TV lessons or P&F parts?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Fiction and Empathy

I’ve never loved non-fiction. Unless it is downright riveting it won't hold my attention—and I have a decent attention span.

I’ve had this debate with my book club—Which is better Fiction or Non-Fiction? Which teaches you more? Which makes you a better person?

Now, I know that the answer to this is different for different people. I also know that it’s a complicated question. But I would like to share a bit of information I recently ran onto.

Dr Keith Oatley of the University of Toronto conducted a study in 2006 with these results: (read the entire study here—just a warning it’s non-fiction :)

“Through a series of studies, we have discovered that fiction at its best isn’t just enjoyable. It measurably enhances our abilities to empathize with other people and connect with something larger than ourselves.

To sum it up simply—Reading fiction engages our brain in the task of working out how others are thinking and feeling. It drops us into situations where we have to interpret motivation and actions. Fiction can help us flex our emotional and social muscles.

“How do we explain these results? My colleagues and I think it’s a matter of expertise. Fiction is principally about the difficulties of selves navigating the social world. Non-fiction is about, well, whatever it is about: shellfish genes, or how to make Mediterranean food, or whether climate changes will harm our planet. So with fiction we tend to become more expert at empathizing and socializing. By contrast, readers of non-fiction are likely to become more expert at genetics, or cookery, or environmental studies, or whatever they spend their time reading and thinking about.”

Fiction is art—subjective, expansive, and moving! I believe both fiction and non-fiction are important. But if someone tells you are wasting your time reading and writing fiction. Tell them to look up this study. And you can use the line I did to win the debate at book club, “Jesus taught in parables.”


I know it’s low to use Jesus to win a debate—but I couldn’t help myself :)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Families in Storytelling

Maybe it’s because I just came back from an amazing family reunion, but I’ve been pondering the role of families in storytelling.

In a lot of the books I’ve read lately the family unit is destructive and even ruthless. Because this isn’t my personal experience with families I have a hard time relating.

In my WIP the MC’s family has been murdered by her betrothed—someone who is supposed to be her new family. This murder influences her choices and drives her desire for close relationships.

I really feel that story families do the same things that real families do.

  • Support: Families compensate for our personal weaknesses. When we are at our lowest they make us strong. Literary examplePride and Prejudice: Jane and Elizabeth Bennet use each other through out P&P. Without the other I’m not sure either sister could get through.
  • Growth: We can’t help but be our true selves with our families. And sometimes that is our worst selves. Families can magnify our weaknesses and help us grow as people. Literary exampleSummer of the Monkeys: Jay Berry Lee’s family lets him grow and learn until his growth culminates in the climax of the book
  • Love: Having people who love us no matter what is a powerful thing. Families also give us an opportunity to love in return. Literary exampleTo Kill a Mockingbird: Atticus Finch's love for his children trickles down to all the other characters in the story. Scout and Jim can’t help but show others the love they receive from their father.
  • Dysfunction: Competition, anger, undermining, passive aggressive behavior, neglect, and a million other examples of what can be wrong in families can still be useful to our characters. What better way to know what you don’t want than to experience it firsthand. Literary exampleThe Hunger Games: Katniss’s neglect at a young age drives her choices and her connection to her sister.
  • Needs: Families either meet our needs or they don’t (deep, I know), either way it helps us focus in on what motivates us. Literary exampleHarry Potter: Harry’s deep need for family is woven through the book. There would be no story without Harry’s need for family and connection.

Families—good and bad—are such a common human experience we can all relate. And whether families are amazingly supportive or horribly dysfunctional they shape our view of the world—and our characters world.

Friday, August 5, 2011

What is in a Name?

As I approach the end of the first draft of my current project, I'm trying to decide which of the many stories bouncing around in my head I want to work on next. I've narrowed it down to three. Why those ones, you ask? Well, because I've already decided on the main characters' names.

That is always the most challenging part of starting a new story for me--finding the perfect name. It has to fit the character just right--like a favorite part of well worn jeans. For example, you can't name a rough tough, motorcyclist, who eats barbed wire for breakfast Eugene Smithee. It just wouldn't fit.

I had this problem with my second novel. I just couldn't think of a name for my main character so I decided to just stick a name in there and start writing. When I was halfway through, I finally thought of the perfect name. But when I went to change it, I just couldn't! I mean, she was Emily now. That's what everyone knew her by. I couldn't give her an identity crisis! So I left the name and I think that is part of the reason I can't stand that story anymore.

My poor future husband... I'm going to be one of those people who put "Baby" down on my childrens' birth certificates until I can think of the perfect name. Probably by the time they are about to enter kindergarten. Maybe I'll leave the child naming up to him... Save my children that sort of emotional abuse.

Anyway, here are some useful tools I use to help me pick the perfect character name!
  • Building Believable Character by Marc McCutcheon. Actually, this book is fantastic for just about anything character related. It has huge lists of hair-styles, eye colors, personality types, flaws, phobias and illnesses you can give your character. It even has a section on accents and lists a few words and phrases from different cultures. But in the very back are lists of common first and last names from different countries. I especially like it for interesting last names.
  • The Hidden Truth of You Name from The Nomenology Project. It breaks down names into their runic and numerological meanings, describing people with the name. Okay, so I don't really believe in runes or anything, but its pretty interesting. It even tells you where the name came from and lists unique spellings and nicknames for each name.
  • this website is especially useful when you're looking for a name appropriate for a certain year between 1879 and now. Like if you want to give great-grandma an authentic name for her time.
  • This is a name generator site called Serendipity. This comes in handy when you're looking for something a little different. Like French, Japanese, Medieval, and Trendy names. There are also generators for villains, royalty and gnomes. This site also has some other handy generators like the Chinese Resturant name generator, Fantasy Novel Titles, and much more! Sometimes I even use this site when I have writer's block! Just click a few random generators and use the info you get to write a short story. Its really a great tool!
  • Next time you're at a movie, stay in your seats and watch the credits roll with a pen and paper handy. Its the perfect cornucopia for unusual names! Also, if I'm not writing or reading, I'm most likely watching a movie, so its a good source for me.
  • If you happen to be walking through a cemetery, look around at the different headstones. There are tons of great names here too. I may or may not go to the nearby cemetery just for this reason...
Anyway, I hope I gave you guys some really great places to find perfect names for your characters! Or whatever else you may find! Have fun!


Forgotten Books: Darcy's Diary

Well here we are—last but not least:


Author: Amanda Grange

Genre: Historical Romance - Classic?

Published: 2005

Pride and Prejudice is the most popular romance of all time, and in this enjoyable retelling Amanda Grange allows us to see the events of Jane Austen's famous novel from Mr. Darcy's point of view.

Scenes only hinted at in the original are here recorded in detail and brought to life as Darcy writes of his horror at discovering his sister's plans to elope with George Wickham, his efforts to separate Charles Bingley from Miss Jane Bennet and his disgust at having to arrange a marriage between George Wickham and Miss Lydia Bennet.

But, most satisfying of all, he discloses his feelings for Elizabeth. Darcy's Diary records the full story of their courtship, from initial hostility to their eventual love, before revealing a tantalizing glimpse of their early married life.

I know I already did a historical romance, but this one is too good to keep to myself. If you are a fan of Jane Austen and Pride and Prejudice in particular—this spin off is for you. I’m generally not a fan of the spin off, but this one is done so well.

When I first discovered this book it was almost impossible to get in the United States, since then it has become easier. If you like it, Amanda Grange has written one for each of Austen’s leading men :)


Thursday, August 4, 2011

Forgotten Books: Prize Winner

I am generally not a fan of true stories. I’m not sure why, but with fiction if something terrible happens I can always say, “Well at least it isn’t true. But the Prize Winner of Defiance Ohio is hands down my favorite non-fiction memoire.


Author: Terry Ryan

Genre: Memoire

Published: 2001

Evelyn Ryan, wife of an alcoholic husband and mother of ten children, lived in a small town in a time and place when women did not seek jobs outside the home. A lesser woman might have succumbed to poverty, but she was determined to keep her family financially afloat and to teach her children that the life of the mind was important. In the early 1950s, Ryan started entering contests, composing her jingles, poems, and essays at the ironing board. Ryan's unconventionality and sense of humor and her persistence makes the reader cheer her on.

This book is one of the funniest books I’ve ever read. Evelyn Ryan’s attitude and sense of humor make you believe anything is possible. This story is basically a love note from the author to her mother, just lovely. I read it whenever I need my spirits boosted :) I know they made it into a movie and I can’t vouch for it, but I’m sure as is always the case—the book is better!

And last thought: How can you not want to read a book with that many attractive people on the cover? Did I go to far?


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Forgotten Books: The Belgariad

If you are a fan of fantasy you may have heard of this five book series—The Belgariad. I couldn’t just pick one, I had to highlight them all (it would be like picking one Harry Potter—shutter).


Author: David Eddings

Genre: Epic Fantasy

Book One: Pawn of Prophesy (1982)

Book Two: Queen of Sorcery (1982)

Book Three: Magician’s Gambit (1983)

Book Four: Castle of Wizardry (1984)

Book Five: Enchanters End Game (1985)

The series tells the story of the recovery of the Orb of Aldur and coming of age of Garion, an orphaned farm boy. Garion is accompanied by his aunt Polgara and grandfather Belgrath as they try to fulfill an ancient prophecy that will decide the fate of the universe. Along the way, various "instruments", or helpers, of the prophecy join their quest to recover the orb, and Garion discovers his true identity and destiny.

It is a travesty that more people don’t know about this series. David Eddings has some of the BEST characters I have ever read. If you like Christopher Paolini you will LOVE David Eddings. I can see Eddings influence throughout Paolini’s books.

Eddings has many more books but The Belgariad is a great place to start—and these new covers are amazing. Much better than the original!!!


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Forgotten Books: The Phantom Tollbooth

Okay, here we go—day 2 of books not to be forgotten:


Author: Norton Juster

Genre: Children’s Literature

Published: 1961

The Phantom Tollbooth tells the story of a bored young boy named Milo who unexpectedly receives a magic tollbooth one afternoon and, having nothing better to do, decides to drive through it in his toy car. The tollbooth transports him to a land called the Kingdom of Wisdom. There he acquires two faithful companions, has many adventures, and goes on a quest to rescue the princesses of the kingdom, Princess Rhyme and Princess Reason. The text is full of puns, and many events, such as Milo's jump to the Island of Conclusions, exemplify literal meanings of English language idioms.

This book isn’t totally unknown, but it isn’t as well known as it should be. It is pure writing genius! They way Juster uses words—well it makes me want to drop the book and write. It is a fable for children about the joy of learning. I’m blown away every time I read it.


Monday, August 1, 2011

Forgotten Books: Moonraker's Bride

Sometimes it feels like everyone in the world is waiting for the next big thing—the next big movie—the next big song—the next big BOOK.

So what does that mean? Is your book doomed if it doesn’t make it big in a year? Six months? Before it comes out? (Explain that to me). Are you relegated to obscurity?


I thought I would dedicate this week to “Books that should have been big—but weren’t.” I love to find books like this. Books that have been forgotten by time, publishers, and all but a few loyal readers. First up:


Author: Madeleine Brent (a pseudonym for author Peter O’Donnell—if a man writing romance under a woman’s name doesn’t make you want to read it, I don’t know what will :)

Genre: Historical Adventure/Romance

Published: 1973

Born in a Mission in China, Lucy Waring finds herself with fifteen small children to feed and care for. The way she tackles this task leads to her being thrown into the grim prison of Chengfu, where she meets Nicholas Sabine - a man about to die.
He asks her a cryptic riddle, the mystery of which echoes through all that befalls her in the months that follow...

This book is AMAZING. It is one of my top ten favorite books of all time!!! It is out of print and hard to find. Some libraries have it some don’t. I just broke down and bought it on Amazon. I am ALWAYS looking for a great used copy.

So every day this week I’m going to give you another relatively unknown book. Now you have to give me some too. I was going to put a year restriction on it but you know—go wild. Give me books, old or new, that should never be forgotten!


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