Struggling With Fantasy Names

Genres like Fantasy and Science Fiction are notorious for having unusual names. Character and place names help set the tone and the setting of a story. The Lord of the Rings would read a little differently if it told a tale about Bob and Rick rather than Frodo and Samwise.

So we speculative fiction authors do (and should, in my opinion) use or create names the readers may not hear in their every day lives. But how do you know if a fantasy name is too complicated?

I generally don’t struggle with fantasy names, and as a result have a hard time figuring out when a name might be difficult for a reader. Perhaps it’s because I grew up in Watervliet (pronounced WAH-ter-vuh-LEET) in New York, near other places with Dutch and Haudenosaunee names like Rensselaer (depending on who you ask, pronounced either RENS-slur or REN-suh-LEER), Schenectady (ska-NEK-tah-dee), and Niskayuna (NIH-skah-YOO-nah); or perhaps it’s because throughout my life I’ve known people with non-Western names.

So, how can a writer determine if a reader will be able (or at least willing to try) to pronounce a character or place name? One place to start is to use (or create) names that follow the conventions of the language you’re writing in. If that language is English, for example, readers may have trouble with Gaelic names. While both languages technically use the same alphabet, they read letters and letter combinations very differently. Therefore, an English-speaking reader may see the name Caoimhe and try to pronounce it as “Cow-EE-meh” or some variant, when the actual pronunciation is “KWEE-vah”.

Beta readers are a valuable resource for this issue as well. If your betas all come back complaining about the same name, it may be worth reexamining that name to see if it could or should be tweaked.

In my Gaslight Frontier Series, I’ve given my characters Russian or other Slavic names, and based place names on Russian words. Russian uses a different alphabet than English, so some trouble lies with transliteration. For example, the name Alexi could also be written as Alexei, Aleksi, Aleksei, etc. I chose to spell it as Alexi because it was the simplest transliteration.

Some names, though, still give some of my readers trouble. As the author, you have to decide if that will be something you accept or something you change. Only you can make that final determination.

Brief Update on Life and Camp NaNoWriMo

My post this week is going to be short and sweet. I’m in the process of moving, so free time doesn’t really exist at the moment. Every spare moment is interjected with “WAIT! You need to pack ALL THE THINGS!”

Some of you know I was participating in Camp NaNoWriMo this month. Some of you  noticed I used the past tense there. Yeah, at most I’ll write 200 words every few days, and that’s the best I can hope for right now. It’s better than nothing, but I won’t be meeting my 30,000 word goal by April 30th. However, I plan to kick things into gear once I’m done moving, and carry my 1,000-words-per-day goal into May. NaNoWiMay? Sure, I’ll go with that.

Are you also struggling with your Camp NaNoWriMo goals? Or are you seeing great success? Let me know in the comments!

Brain to Books Cyber Convention – Introduction to Steampunk Panel

I had the great pleasure of participating in the Introduction to Steampunk Panel, part of the Brain to Books Cyber Convention last weekend. The discussion, led by Aurelia M. Casey, covered topics such as our favorite aspects of Steampunk and how to get people more familiar with the genre.

Check out the video below to watch the discussion! I’d love to hear your own take on the various topics covered, too!

Some Inspirational Photos for Serafima’s Stone

I’m currently taking part in Camp NaNoWriMo, writing the first draft of Serafima’s Stone – Book 2 of the Gaslight Frontier Series! The draft is going swimmingly (well, mostly treading water and a little doggy paddling), so I thought I’d give you a little tease in the form of some of my reference images.

Compared to Grigory’s Gadget, the setting of Serafima’s Stone is much more varied! Grigory’s Gadget was pretty water-logged, taking place primarily on ships. In Serafima’s Stone, we’ll see what the landlubbers are up to.

We start here:


That is the Summer Palace of the Royal Family of the Empire of Starzapad. (Actually, it’s Peterhof Palace in Russia, and fun fact, I’ve totally been there! It’s just as cool in person) This is the home of the protagonist of Serafima’s Stone: the Princess Rozaliya.

We don’t stay in the Palace for very long…

(Artist Unkown)

(Artist: Vadim Voitekhovitch)

Well that’s a little different…

Then we do a little MORE traveling:

javier-charro-ss-mb-portada-manual-final-sn(Artist: Javier Charro)

Yeehaw! We’re going Wild West style!

Fun behind-the-scenes fact: I came up with “Starzapad” by combining the Russian words for “Old” (“stariy”) and “West” (“zapad”). Clever or lazy? I like to think both.

Want to learn more about Grigory’s Gadget? Check out Page One Books, N3rdbomber, and The Blonde Bookworm to read reviews of it, or check out the Goodreads page. Grigory’s Gadget is available in paperback at my eStore, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble, and as an eBook at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, iTunes, and Kobo.

How to Connect with Other Writers/Readers

Writing and reading are often considered solitary endeavors, and sometimes they are necessarily so. However, sometimes it’s fun and helpful to have a network of other writers and/or readers with whom you can share ideas, get inspiration, critique work, fangirl, etc.

The most ideal situation is to have a network of local people with whom you can meet up on a regular basis. These may be close friends, book clubs, or people you’ve met through local events such as author signings and readings. Unfortunately, sometimes finding such people can be difficult. Maybe you were the only one in your group of friends who enjoyed reading and writing. Maybe you just moved to a new town. Maybe there aren’t any active book clubs reading genres you like. What do you do then?

This is where social media comes in handy. There are lots of social media sites to choose from: Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Reddit, Goodreads, and many more. Stick to ones that appeal to you. I personally use Facebook and Twitter the most frequently, and occasionally stop in on Goodreads and Tumblr as well.

On Facebook, you can meet other writers and readers in Facebook Groups. These groups can share discussions, photos and videos, documents, etc. You can search for Facebook Groups by simply using Facebook’s search bar, then selecting “Groups” on the top of the search page. My favorite groups for writers are the Insecure Writers Support Group, Indie Author Group, Fiction Writers, and Rockin’ the Side Gig (this group focuses on writers who have full-time jobs!).

Twitter Chats are another great way to connect with other writers and readers. The idea behind a Twitter Chat is that people who want to partake in the discussion use a designated hashtag, usually at a designated time. You can find Twitter Chats through sites like Twubs. Some of my favorite Twitter chats related to writing are #bbchat, #k8chat, #StoryDam, #LitChat, and #indiechat. Pro tip: using TweetDeck is really handy for keeping track of a Twitter Chat discussion. You can create a column for a hashtag by using the search feature.

As I mentioned early, there’s also Goodreads, Tumblr, Reddit, etc. Explore these social media sites to see what suits you!

As some of you know, today kicked off April’s Camp NaNoWriMo. So go connect with some fellow writers and support each other as you work toward your word count goals!