Happily Ever Afters Are Just A Book Away

Happily Ever Afters Are Just A Book Away

Friday, March 20, 2015

Cast of Characters: Part Two

In Act II Scene II of Romeo and Juliet, Juliet famously asks:

What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call'd.

Today I want to talk about naming your characters.

What if his name had been John Smith? Not as fun, huh?

Juliet claims that if Romeo went by any other name, he'd still be the same guy, but somehow I just can't see a play called Bob and Juliet. Of course, she's lamenting the fact that he's the son of her family's greatest enemy and dang, if she didn't fall in love with the wrong guy. Really, it's not the name Romeo that's the problem, it's the name Montague. If he'd been the son of any other family (say, the Rossis) he really wouldn't be the same person. He was shaped by the Montagues and their beliefs and internal culture, making him the guy Juliet fell in love with. So poor Juliet is really screwed.
This won't end well.

But the idea of names and what to call your characters is an important one for an author. How carefully do you choose what to call your characters?

For me, main character names are important. I try to consider all of the important factors such as ethnicity, age, historical era, the genre of the story. I also want to consider what the name is supposed to convey about the character. Should it imply strength, economic class, personality?

For instance, in my historical western series, I have to take into consideration that it's set in the 1870s, so names like Brittany and Jace probably won't work (in book one the heroine is Beth, the hero is Isaac. Book two is Lydia and Wyatt. Book three will be Daisy and Sam). In book two, part of the story takes place in a Cheyenne village, so I had to do a lot of research on Native American names. It was important to me to be authentic and respectful. In book four, the heroine is a Paiute woman. I'm nervous about writing that because I'm not a Paiute woman, so I want to be sure I get it right.

Cheyenne village

On the other hand, in my space opera, I didn't have the same kind of worries. Mostly, I wanted names that were different enough that they sounded "alien" but not so different as to be unpronounceable (alien names in the space opera include Jaska, Miklos, Otho). There's nothing I hate more when reading scifi and fantasy than when the names are loaded with vowels or consonants and apostrophes so I can't wrap my tongue around them (Rit'ux'kxlr or Aeix'eoel'i).

Guardians of the Galaxy - Space Opera

Things get even more complicated when you consider nicknames. You've already named your character, but maybe other characters wish to call them by a nickname or a pet name. There's nothing worse than men and women calling each other "babe" or "baby," unless it's meant to show how completely shallow the character is that they can't be bothered to remember the other person's name, or come up with an original nickname.

In my space opera, one of the main characters picks up the nickname "Dog" when he's stuck on a ship full of pirates, and the name sticks with him through the book, much to his chagrin. In the MMA-based romance series Merissa and I are writing, all the guys on the team have fighter nicknames (Juggernaut, Golden Boy, etc).

Names for things other than characters are important, too. Place names (planets, cities, realms, cultures, high school, buildings, etc), animal names, names of things (bands, cars, boats, airplanes, mascots, works of art), names of beings (fantasy or alien creatures, dieties), etc. The list can be daunting.

So if names are so important, how do you go about choosing them? I try not to spend too much time falling down the naming rabbit hole, because if you let it, it can become overwhelming. I have one favorite site I start with:  Seventh Sanctum. The site is mostly all about scifi, fantasy, and anime, but they have a truck load of name generators including a "quick name generator" which is a good source for general names.

Of course, there are a zillion baby name sites all over the interwebs, and you can search your favorite search engine for any kind of generator you want (fantasy name generator, historical name generator, high school name generator...the possibilities are endless--hence the rabbit hole reference).

Some of the fun generators I've found, other than Seventh Sanctum, include:

donjon (RPG tools, fantasy and scifi. I found it good for planet and star system names)
Regency Name Generator
Mithril Mages (there are a lot of fantasy, D&D and RPG type tools here, but also a lot of general name generators that are really useful)
Chaotic Shiny (again, this is mostly focused on fantasy and gaming, but there are some other useful generators on the site).

I could go on forever, but I won't. If you're looking for a specific kind of name generator, just type what you want in the search box of your search engine. Whether it's a band name generator, historical name generator, boat name generator, or planet name generator, I guarantee you'll find something that will work for you.

How do you name your characters? If you have a favorite generator you use, post it in the comments section. If you have other ideas, please share!


Friday, March 13, 2015

Cover Reveal: Bad Apple

  Let's have a drumroll, please..


Book Two in THE SNOWROSE SERIES by Wren Michaels is almost here, 
and because we love these naughty fairytales and Wren's amazeballs cover artist,
 Jay Aheer
we're giving you guys a sneak peek at the cover.  
Book One, UNBEARABLE, gave you Rose Red's story. 

And now...

Let us present Book Two, BAD APPLE, Snow White's story!



And it's been chosen as an Editor's Pick!

editor's pick

In preparation for BAD APPLE's arrival, Wren is giving away a copy of UNBEARABLE


Thanks for playing and good luck!

About Wren Michaels

Wren Michaels hails from the frozen tundra of Wisconsin where beer and cheese are their own food groups. But a cowboy swept her off her feet, and carried her away below the Mason-Dixon line where she promptly lost all tolerance for snow and cold. They decided they'd make beautiful babies together and they got it right on the first try. Now Wren lives happily ever after in the real world and in the worlds of her making, where she creates book boyfriends for the masses to crave.
goodreads facebookbutton thumbnail (1) amzn_fb-tw_Icon-global unnamed Wordpress-logo1

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Cast of Characters - Part One

Let's talk characters. If you write fiction, characters are generally pretty integral to your story. You can't tell much of a story without them, right? What are you left with if you subtract characters from the story equation? A setting? Maybe weather? An overgrown castle?

wyoming winter
A Wyoming winter is the setting for one of my books. Kind of boring without characters, huh?

Without characters, you got nada.

So when you sit down to write a story, probably one of the first things you come up with is who the story will be about. I know that's the case for me. Sometimes story ideas begin with a single character and a what if?

Holly as fae
The first book I wrote was: what if I tried to write a paranormal romance like Twilight, but better, and with faeries? (I wrote the book, it hasn't sold yet. Thinking about indie-pubbing.)

I'll make copious notes to flesh out the story, adding and scratching out details as the plot takes shape. At this point, the characters are usually just amorphous ideas rather than having any shape of their own. Of course, sometimes I'm inspired to write a character based on a photo I've seen, or an actor portraying another role in a TV show or movie.

Which brings me to casting your books.

How many of you cast your books using photos of actors or models?

I'd guess a great many of you. I know I do. My Pinterest account is full of the results of those casting efforts.

Celebrate Paranormal Month Hero For Hire!
Inspiration for character of Gwyn in Hero for Hire, our co-authored zombie apocalypse retelling of Snow White.

Some of those Pinterest pages contain only character pictures, but some are much more in depth and include clothing, setting, homes, food, etc from the story.

Rafe's place
Sweet place to ride out the zombie apocalypse. I can just imagine all of L.A. in the background awash in zombie chaos.

Aside from the fun of ogling gorgeous actors and models (for hours, because it's important to find the one that's just right), I find that casting my novels helps me focus on the characters and understand them better.

I have no idea who this guy is, but he's the inspiration for my hero, Isaac, in Gambling on the Outlaw (to be released by Entangled in June 2015)

Again, no idea who she is, but she's the inspiration for my heroine, Beth, in Gambling on the Outlaw.

Human beings are very visual creatures, and we pay attention--and put a lot of value (right or wrong)--in what things look like, including people.

Kate Beckinsale is inspiration for my heroine, Lydia, in book two of my western romance series.

So it's helpful to have those faces and other story elements to look back at when I'm crushing my characters' fondest dreams, throwing obstacles between them, dashing their hopes...and then giving them a happy ending (because I mostly write romance, so after torturing them, I have to give them happiness).

David Gandy is inspiration for my hero, Emmett, in book two of the western romance series (can't you just imagine torturing that poor handsome man?)

The point of all this is that storytelling should be fun. Even if you do it for a living and it's how you earn your paycheck, you started doing it because you like telling stories, and you like telling stories about people. Those people have to look like something, and the internet and Pinterest have given us the glorious means by which to cast the characters in our stories.

I even managed to cast one of my cats (remember Rufus? I had another ginger tabby before him named Bamboo) in the paranormal fae romance. Bamboo is the heroine's pet and he's just as grumpy, taciturn, and philosophical (I imagine) as the original.

Bamboo: doesn't he just look like he wants to tell you to fuck off?

In part two of Cast of Characters, we'll talk about how important names are for your characters, once you have a face for them.

So tell me, do you cast your books? Do you have Pinterest pages loaded with characters, clothes, settings, food, and other bits of your stories? What do you think is the best part of casting your characters?


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Writing Partners

This is what I woke up to this morning:

That's Rufus. He's my feline writing partner, not to be confused with Merissa, my human writing partner:

But I didn't wake up to her this morning, though we do chat just about daily. Unfortunately, she's not here with me to hold my hand every day when I write. She has a job and family and just doesn't have time to babysit me 24/7.

Sure, I have a family, and they're supportive, but they have jobs and school and extracurricular activities, and they can't sit by my side and pat me on the back when I'm frazzled, or listen to me whine because I've hit a wall, or stay up into the wee hours with me when I'm trying to meet a deadline or a writing goal. The novelty of mom being an author wore off a while ago.

Rufus, on the other hand, has nothing better to do. I figure it's the least he can do in exchange for food, water, a clean potty box, and a roof over his head. He's gotta be good for something, right?

This is his favorite way to help:

Clearly I can't reach the keyboard when he's hogging my lap like that. But he's sneaky. It looks like he's just getting in my way, but really he's calming me down, helping me focus, allowing me to pet him and rub his belly and talk to him in a voice suggestive of blithering idiocy requiring institutionalization. See the tolerant expression on his face? He loves me (He's very patient).

Recently, Rufus lost his brother-from-another-mother, Klitschko (named after the Ukranian boxing brothers), who passed after a battle with diabetes and dental infection. Here they are together:

So when Rufus starts doing the I'm-a-cat-so-I-knock-shit-off-everywhere routine, or wanders the house aimlessly, meowing like he's looking for his pal, or climbs on my lap and gets in the way of my writing, I cut him some slack. I figure, at least for now, he needs me as much as I need him.

I can't be the only writer who has a furry partner. Who's yours?


Sunday, March 1, 2015

To Indie-Pub or not to Indie-Pub?

I don't know about you guys, but I'm usually working on several projects at once.  Right now books one and two of the historical romances are with my editor. While I'm waiting on those, I should be plotting book three, but I kind of need a breather from historical western.

I've been working on a contemporary romance, which I love because it's sassy and yet kind of a women's fiction crossover, which is surprising for me since I don't generally care for women's fiction. It's really nice to write about different issues without having to worry about being anachronistic. I can use current slang, my characters have cell phones and cars, and I don't have to research 19th century fashion just so my characters can get dressed.

But the first book I ever wrote was a paranormal romance. It's a different take on fae, and it has a special place in my heart. I adore the characters and the series arc, but as many of you know the paranormal market, at least in traditional publishing, has fizzled.  Sure, lots of readers still crave it, but agents aren't signing it anymore, and bigger publishers aren't buying it.

So what are we supposed to do with those stories? Stuff them in a drawer and hope the genre experiences a revival in a few years? Try selling it to a small publisher? Indie-pub?

I'm in the process of submitting to smaller publishers, but I'm really intrigued by the idea of indie publishing, specifically serialized indie publishing. What do you all think about serialized novels? Have you read any, or do you write them?

Unfortunately, I'm a complete newbie where indie pubbing is concerned and know absolutely nothing about it, not to mention the fact that I've got very little platform or following (yet), and I'm still working on branding. I assume all that would make it easier to sell indie published work.

Nonetheless, successful indie publishers had to start somewhere teaching themselves the process, so I suppose that's what I'll do, too.

For those of you who have indie published, what kind of advice do you have to offer?