General Status Update 4/7/17

I couldn’t think of a particularly specific topic to blog about this week, so this post will just be a general status update: what I’m working on, current goals, future projects, etc.

I’m trying to wrap up the first draft of Serafima’s Stone in the next month or two. I’m very close to finishing the primary story line, and then have to fill in some secondary plot points. I’m moving into a new house at the end of April, so my free time is a bit limited until then. However, I’ll be setting up a designated writing space (as opposed to my current writing space, aka sitting on the couch with the TV oh-so-temptingly sitting on the other side of the room…) in the new house, and am hoping this distraction-free space will help me focus and increase my productivity. The new house will also have a patio space, so maybe once the weather gets nice I’ll write outside.

In addition to working on Serafima’s Stone, several plot bunnies have been jumping around in my brain. While Serafima’s Stone is of course the highest priority, I have spent some time exploring these other plot bunnies. Follow the muse! Writing something is better than writing nothing, right? Even if it’s not what you meant to work on…

Oh, hai!I'z yer personal plot bunneh fur today!.png

Anyway, these other plot bunnies will form the foundation of novels I’ll work on more specifically once the Gaslight Frontier Series is completed. You can look forward to an urban fantasy novel, a post-apocalyptic/humorous novel, and an epic fantasy novel down the line.

Because I’m moving this month, I’m not officially taking part in Camp NaNoWriMo. If you are, though, I’d love to hear about your progress (or struggles!) in the comments!

Fantasy & Sci-Fi Network Christmas Sale

This weekend, December 17th and 18th, the Fantasy & Sci-Fi Network is hosting their annual Christmas Sale!

All weekend, authors of fantasy and science fiction novels, novellas, and short stories will be having awesome deals. Books will be either discounted or free, and there will also be giveaways and chances to talk with the authors! The sales will be posted in the Facebook event and on the Fantasy & Sci-Fi Network website. Grigory’s Gadget is on sale for $0.99 until the end of the month on Amazon and Smashwords!

I’ll be hosting the event on Sunday December 18th from 12 to 1 pm EST. You’ll be able to find me on the Facebook event page, or on Twitter using the hashtag #FSFNet. Feel free to ask me any questions about Grigory’s Gadget, writing, reading, or anything else! I have some questions/prompts ready to go to get the conversation rolling, but feel free to chime in with whatever topic you want!

Book Review: American Gods by Neil Gaiman

I finished reading American Gods by Neil Gaiman a couple weeks ago, and I’m posting this delayed review because I needed time to process!

Let me back up, and, oh yeah, SPOILER WARNING!

American Gods follows the story of Shadow, a convict who was just released from prison only to discover his wife died in a car accident while cheating on him with his friend. As if that wasn’t enough to handle, a certain ancient god inserts himself into Shadow’s life and brings him along for an adventure of epic weirdness.

This god, Odin from Norse mythology going by the alias Wednesday, brings Shadow to meet other gods and other mythological beings as he tries to rally forces against the new gods: gods of technology and pop culture, etc. He says a war is coming, and the old gods need to fight to survive.

A whole lot of trippy weirdness ensues, including but definitely not limited to the reanimation of Shadow’s wife via magical sun-coin.

Near the climax of the story, Wednesday is killed by the new gods, and Shadow agrees to hold his vigil. In this instance, holding vigil means being tied to a tree while naked for days and days. Shadow, being human (kind of, more on that in just a moment), dies. He travels the underworld/afterlife, and at one point chooses to walk a path that reveals truths about his life. One of these truths: Wednesday is his father. Shadow is a demi-god.

Some more weirdness ensues and Shadow is brought back to life by the goddess Easter. The war has started, Wednesday’s death spurring the old gods into action, and Shadow goes to play his part.

Shadow pieces together that Wednesday’s intentions were not very noble. He and fellow Norse god Loki (known to Shadow as his old prison buddy Low Key – come on, Shadow!) feed on wars fought in his name and chaos, respectively. They set the entire war into motion so that they could become stronger and more powerful, at the expense of the lives of all the other gods, old and new alike.

Those bastards.

Shadow, being a resurrected demi-god and all, alerts the other gods to this plan and effectively stops the war. Odin and Loki’s plan is foiled, and they die.

That is an extremely over-simplified breakdown of the events of this novel! It’s definitely a trip, and if you can keep up with all of the “real” world vs spirit world/otherworld/underworld/etc stuff, it’s a great story. It’s also great if you’re a mythology nerd. Some gods’ identities are spelled out for the reader, but some are not. If you’re a mythology nerd, it’s fun to pick up on which god is which.

One of the main themes of the novel is, of course, the battle between traditions and the old world vs technology and the way of the future. The moral of the story, it seems to me, is that it doesn’t have to be a battle. The old and the new can peacefully coexist.

Overall I really enjoyed the novel, and am beyond excited that it’s going to be a TV series! If you haven’t seen it yet, here’s the trailer for that:

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.