Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Writing Prompt #24

A new friend stopped by last night and caught a glimpse of my plotting whiteboards up on my wall. It was readily apparent from my character names that my current wip is a fantasy novel. Today’s prompt comes from his first question:

24) Where do you get your character names from?


Here’s mine:

Because I write fantasy for the most part, I get to have a lot of fun with naming. My names, like my book ideas, come from all over. I like the freedom of naming, and naming main characters is serious business for me. I have a couple of ways that I work, here’s how some of my characters got their names:

* Ishtae – Because she’s a badass, I wanted a short, one syllable nickname for her to go by, something with a hard consonant. I tried a lot on for size. Kat was an initial thought, but a) it’s overused, and b) it wasn’t “fantasy” enough for me. The sound “Ty” came to me, and I had to figure out how to work it in.

Tae needed a longer actual name, something that marks her former life of being a daughter of a wealthy family, destined for a court existence, something more feminine. I liked the softness of “Ish” but couldn’t go with Ishty because it would get mispronounced as Ish-tee. Same with Ishtie. I decided on Ishtae (which rhymes with buy and tie) and she’s rocking the latin pronunciation of the ae sound. Of course, I created my own new pronunciation issue since people want to pronounce it “Ish-tay” but I loved the spelling once I found it, so Ishtae it is.

* Razul – Razul was easier to name than Tae. He is from a combination desert/plains people who are nomadic. Their culture is centered on a tribal structure and they are skilled horsemen and horse-breeders. I started off knowing I wanted a Z in the name. Initially I was thinking I wanted to start with a Z sound, but most of the names I came up with sounded more like wizards than saber-wielders.

Putting the Z in the middle allowed for the same Arabian feel but gave me more options. I came up with Razul, which appealed to me because of the contradiction of sounds that the Z unites. “Raz” can sound a little harsh, and “Zul” (pronounced “zool”) has a sleeker sound. The final sound can be dragged out a little, “Razooool” and I think it adds a touch of mystery to the character, which suits his reticence.

* Silmande – Silmande’s name has an entirely different origin. Her name came from the computer game Neverwinter Nights. I was clicking on the random name generator function for making a new character and it popped up. I was rolling a fighter at the time, so I quickly passed on it, but it stuck with me. Once I started naming characters for my current wip the name Silmande came back to me.

For my current wip I’m focusing on less “western world” sounding names and aiming for more exotic sounds. Silmande (the e is silent) fits the bill. It’s not right for a fighter, but for a softer (but still determined) female who relies on diplomacy and a subtle form of magic, it’s perfect.

If I wanted to really play against type I could have named a male character Silmande (how perfect was Simkin’s name, from Weis and Hickman’s Darksword series?) but from the very beginning of the story planning process my lead’s name was Silmande.

* Iokoe – Silmande’s sister’s name came not from sound but from print. I love names that start with I (I’m a super sucker for them). I love names that involve I’s and K’s, and I love the look of the I-O combo. Honestly, I haven’t even decided on the correct pronunciation of Iokoe (eye-oh-koh versus ee-oh-koh) but I love the way Iokoe looks on paper.

As far as naming fantasy characters, I HIGHLY recommend trying out the Seventh Sanctum Name Generators. They have a bunch of generators which are good for several things. Firstly, entertainment value! They come up with some seriously comical names. But what I really like it for is the wide variation. And the unique pairing of sounds that only a random generator can come up with.

I’ve gotten the flavor of my naming for my current wip from odd sounds I saw in names from seventh sanctum. It’s definitely worth a look if you’re stuck on names; it’s a great jumping off point. I also use a book of baby names organized by astrological signs (99 cents at the grocery checkout line) and Sherrilyn Kenyon’s amazing Character Naming Sourcebook.

Mostly though, I make my names up, using resources as a starting point. I have so many other naming stories but I’ll stop here. ;-)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Writing Prompt # 23

23) Write a physical description for the same person from two different characters’ POVs. Really play up their voice and rock the indirect characterization!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Writing Prompt #22

22) World-building. It’s a given when you write fantasy that you’re creating a whole new world, but we all do world-building. Whether it’s creating the laws of magic that govern your fantasy world or describing the layout of your character’s apartment, world-building is a necessity. What’s your latest run-in with the world-building monster?

Here’s Mine:

I’ll be honest, I’m not a huge fan of some world-building aspects. I love characters and I’m known for appreciating good dialogue over a richly detailed world, but creating the physical reality of my characters is a must, so I drew up a map.

My current fantasy wip takes place on a chain of volcanic islands. As a geologist, I love the idea. Tectonic plates sliding over a hot spot on the earth’s crust? Fabulous! (Think Hawaii) So with that in mind I drew up a series of islands that might have formed based on the fictional (but hopefully realistic) movements of a tectonic plate. I feel like I did pretty well with it and was proud of how it came out.

Enter the problem:
When world-building and plot collide.

Several of my ereyns (think of it like a clan, or a ruling House) have been warring for some time, everything from all out battles to skirmishes. The enmity between the ereyns shifts back and forth depending on who has the most power, the best resources and so on. My current plot involves a situation between 3 of the currently major ereyns.

Because of the islands’ formation, they stretch out in an arc rather than clustering, and I had it designed so that each ereyn mostly occupied their own island. The problem came when I took a hard look at why they were fighting, and why they would continue to fight rather than reaching something of an equilibrium.

Now, we all know people will fight for any number of stupid reasons, and I’m allowing for that, but I also wanted a strong foundation for ongoing conflict between the ereyns. I currently have them all enjoying roughly the same religious structure, but, if needed I could rewrite that and add religious conflict in. Due to the fact that they all originated from one large ereyn on the main island, however, a similar religion isn’t all that farfetched. And the geographic area is relatively small.

The idea that makes the most sense to me is conflict over resources. Considering the logistics of bringing war to another island, and in the end controlling resources you’ve taken, geography becomes an important factor. You’re much more likely to take over your neighbor’s land first. That’s not to say that you wouldn’t skip to the next island if they suddenly discovered a new ore that’s great for making weapons, or someone has the ideal timber for making ships (it is an island nation, afterall), but it needs to be realistic.

Since I want to have an ongoing triangle effect, and the movement of the characters through the geography demands a certain course due to plot events, the single island in a line chain no longer suits my story perfectly.

I made the decision that the volcanoes forming the islands could have vents, so that the placement of volcanoes would not have to be perfectly linear. Toward that end, the real world-building began. I took the map I had drawn, cut each of the islands out and started sliding them around like puzzle pieces to find a new configuration.

The final conclusion? I’ll have to change the shapes of some islands once they get moved, which upsets me a little because I’ve grown attached to them, but welcome to hands-on world-building. :)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Open call for submissions

I found this call for submissions from Cindi Meyer's excellent blog on market news:

Editor Thomas K. Carpenter of Black Moon Books is seeking submissions for a new anthology on the theme of Augmented Reality. This science fiction anthology seeks to explore the human condition as revealed in the use of technology. Stories should be 3000 to 6000 words, any setting or sub-genre. Payment will be 2 cents to 5 cents a word. The deadline for submissions is July 8, 2011. For submissions guidelines, check them out at:

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Writing Prompt #21

In reading Robert McKee’s Story, I’m finding all sort of areas where I can improve my writing, especially in the slimming down of the language. Not quite an absolute of “less is always more” mentality, more a “you’re already doing so much with less, you don’t really need to add any more.” Part of this idea is the concept of subtext. That the language being used might answer questions on a conversational level and seem to follow a surface flow, but have entirely different meanings internally.

21) This might be hard to do off the cuff, but, try to script a quick dialogue scene that involves some subtext of some sort, and strip it down. Don’t over explain the subtext, let the reader try to find it.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Writing Prompt #20

I had such a disturbing dream last night that I can’t even write down the details of it. I want to scrub the inside of my brain and erase the image/memory entirely. I feel ill when I think about it. Naturally, such a terrible phenomenon leads to a writing prompt!

20) Write a dream/nightmare for one of your characters. What do they fear most when they’re sleeping? What dream would make them want to scrub their eyeballs and minds when they wake to get rid of the memory?


Here’s mine:

Kayla could hear Corinth calling for her through the fog that shrouded the room. He spoke. Did he? No, that was his voice in her mind, calling, calling.

Kayla? Kayla! Where are you!

Without sound she couldn’t tell what direction to run in. Without sight she couldn’t be sure what she was running into.

Kayla they’re here! KAYLA!

She ran.

Or did she? Nothing moved, nothing changed, but she propelled herself forward, Corinth’s voice screaming in her head.

They’re taking me!

She changed directions. Veered toward the pull she thought she felt in her chest.
Or was she running in the opposite direction? She stopped, turned again, then again. Which frickin way? How could she help him?

Corinth! her mind cried out, but he wouldn’t hear her.

Then she heard.

Sound. Actual sound, not imagined, not feared.

Worse than feared.

Boots. Shuffling. A struggle. A grunt of pain.

She sprinted in that direction and the voice she’d feared since she arrived on Falanar purred out of the fog.

“It was only a matter of time.”

The kin’shaa, Dolan.

She was shouting something incoherent. Curses and rage and Corinth’s name in desperation.

Arms pumping, legs straining.

And then she broke free.

A clearing in the fog, a smoky cave.

The flash of teal and indigo—IDF. And kneeling, his arms wrenched behind him, his head tilted back by a cruel grip in his hair, was Corinth.

Dolan turned to glance at her over his shoulder, the smile on his face twisting the spiderweb of scars around his eye. “Just in time, ro’haar.”

His knife drew a line of red on Corinth’s neck.

Not Corinth. Vayne.

Her twin died while she watched.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Writing Prompt # 19

19) You’re stuck. Really stuck. It’s not writer’s block, it’s ‘what in the hell happens next’ block. What do you do? How do you move forward?


Here’s mine:

I am at this point in two manuscripts right now, so it’s an excellent question for me. (Odd that, my having picked the writing prompt…)

I had been plotting, working on larger character arcs and the overall spine of the story. I wanted to move forward with the story at the same time and thought, “okay, now is the time to start outlining.” (I’m something of an outliner, working on a scene before I write it, and something of a wing-it type of writer)

So there I am, staring at my whiteboard, dry-erase marker in hand.

I’d outlined the idea of my next sequence: Hebrion and Silmande arrive. Their hope/expectation is to keep safe (Hebrion) and remain anonymous (Silmande), so of course, they are discovered. But, that’s really all I had. I don’t even know what the place looks like when they arrive, or where exactly they arrive, (Fantasy world…they need creating) what their plan is exactly when they arrive, and how they get spotted.

Staring at the whiteboard produced no more specifics than that.

I have one scene to write before that which is actually outlined, so I thought,Clearly, straight plotting isn’t working, let’s go to the source.

The Source?


I walked away from my plotting and sat down to just write, hoping that writing the scene I did understand would lead to my mind unlocking the secrets of the next scene.

When all else fails, I switch modes. If staring at the blank computer screen for an hour isn’t prompting anything I get up and walk, talking to myself over the plot notes I have. (“Ok, so she thinks this, but how does that make her feel?”) If thinking over plot points and scene arcs isn’t helping, I go to the written word. Switching back and forth is how I keep discovering new things and (hopefully) move forward.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Writing Prompt #18

High and past time for another prompt! In reading Story, Robert McKee talks about “the gap,” or that space that opens up when a character takes an action, expecting one outcome, but receives another, forcing them to respond in a different way.

18) Write a bit where a character takes an action and the result is something other than what they expected, forcing a new action by the character. Go as far as you want with this, gap after gap.


Here's mine:

The hours he’d spent in the belly of the ship had felt like days, grinding painfully on each other in a slow progression. Hope had long since abandoned him, and only habit kept him down here, sitting next to her corpse. There was no other place on the ship for him, with her here.

The words of Silmande’s crazy maid rang in his head.

You’ll know when.

When had long since passed him by. When had been at the moment of poisoning, days ago, when she still breathed. When was not here in this airless space.

And yet, the vial sat heavy in his hand. He knew its shape by heart, the peculiarities of its design. The chip on the rim of the mouth, the burr two-thirds of the way down, the way the interior curved in on one side, limiting volume . . . these were all familiar to him.

If his mere presence could have saved her, she’d long since have arisen.


A twitch of the body.

The lantern swayed with the roll of the ship, the cavorting shadows and smoke combining to fool sight. He rubbed his stinging eyes.

There again. A tremor.

Or did he dream?

When the next shudder wracked her body his stomach heaved. The unnatural motion of the corpse brought on nausea, fear, and an almost painful wave of hope. He retched once, spitting bile into the bucket beside him before he stood.

A single step brought him to her side. No pulse beat against the pallor of her throat, no breath parted her lips, but there. A quirk. A tick of a jaw muscle and a shiver through her frame.

In the space of a heartbeat he had the vial unstoppered and her shoulders lifted from the bier. He forced her mouth open with the vial and poured the concoction into her, frenzy gripping him. He could save her. . . .

He slapped his palm on her mouth and let her head loll back, shaking her, trying to force the liquid down a throat that wouldn’t swallow.

“Drink it,” he growled.


His grip on her upper body tightened. One hand slid down her cold arm until he found her fingers and he threaded his own through hers. His gaze locked on her face, watching, waiting in agony.

“Please Silmande.”

The creak of the ship almost covered it, but there it was. A gurgling sound. In the next instant her whole body tensed and she sat all the way up, breaking free from of his grasp. She coughed, choked, and finally spat out the fluid he’d poured into her before taking a heaving breath. She doubled over, still sputtering as her chest expanded, desperate to fill lungs that had lain empty for far too long.

He wanted to touch her all over, to believe the miracle of her renewed life and just hold her, but he gave her a moment.

When she could breathe she wiped her mouth on the sleeve of her funeral gown before turning toward him. Betrayal filled her hazel eyes, betrayal and horror.

“You didn’t Sing me free,” she rasped out, then burst into tears.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Congratulations Are In Order!

A co-worker of mine got THE CALL late last night! His agent sold his book to an independent publisher after searching nearly 5 years for the right home.


Talk about perseverance and dedication to a novel.


Thursday, June 2, 2011

Writing Prompt #17

17) Write 2 bits, one where your character is drinking something (anything) on a good day, and one where they’re drinking something on a bad day.

Here’s mine:

a) Razul sipped at his saĆ­n, the steam from the pungent red brew curling up in a wave. The heat felt good on his lips, his tongue, and he enjoyed the first taste of home in far too long. To find such a delicacy here in the tangled backwoods of Pencheira : bliss. He sipped again, peace seeping into him. The other Swords were out scouting, but they wouldn’t find anything. Helat was as quiet as their contacts had claimed. Razul indulged in the luxury of wincing in pain as he shifted his injured leg. Tae would insist on halting their search for days they couldn’t afford if she knew the extent of his injury. Instead he’d just take his ease tonight and hope the stiffness lessened in the morning.

Part b to follow, busy work morning so far, but wanted to get the prompt up. Get crackin'!

Okay, got a chance to bust out a quick second bit.

b) Razul eyed the inhabitants of the inn. His gaze shifted from the mercenary at the bar to the somber young soldier who’d clearly just been blooded. He took in details, mock-drinking from a mug of stale beer he’d nursed for an almost obvious amount of time. Across from him Derek signaled the barmaid for another round, clearly thinking the same thing.

“He’s not coming,” Derek muttered.

Razul scanned the room, never looking directly at the door he watched so carefully. “He had better.” He caught his fingers tightening dangerously around the clay mug and loosened them, lest his tension show in a shower of clay fragments. “Or so help me. . . .”

The barmaid knew enough not to react when they handed over their half-full mugs for new ones.

Tae sauntered over, fresh from an Outs victory. Her light step contrasted with the wariness in her silver eyes. “We either need to get real raucous real quick or make our way out. We’ve attracted enough notice as it is, just sitting here.”

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Writing Prompt #16

16) Write a paragraph/scene that begins with “There I was,”


Here’s mine:

There I was, sitting at my computer trying to write something because today I had a writing prompt. I thought it was a nice change of pace for a prompt, something of a free-write. In fact, I thought it would be easy. But, random creativity seemed to be escaping me.

I was in full-blown plotting mode.

Reading books on craft had really got me thinking. Where before I had had (I thought) a solid start to my story, there were now huge gaping holes in my mind. Wind whistled through empty space where conflict, action, pacing, characterization and “why in the hell would they do that” should have been. Suddenly, I was overwhelmed with the unknown.

Did I just use “suddenly?” Hadn’t I just edited out every instance of that from the pages I worked on over the weekend?

Free-writes aren’t edited, I told myself sternly (adverb). Shut up, internal editor, shut up.

I was obsessed with writing a stronger novel this time around, in all aspects, and that obsession was going to get me stymied, I feared. How could I write, I asked myself, a single page when I hadn’t worked out (blank). Fill in the blank here with a million details on world-building, plot, motivation and so on.

I needed to focus.

I needed to make lists.

These holes needed to be filled, and they needed to be filled well, not just with the first thing that came to mind. The amount of work I was suddenly facing was enormous. But the challenge…oh the challenge.

Behind this mountain, when I could imagine that the gaps in my knowledge had been filled, I could see the very tip of what this novel could be. I had in my mind a vision of what I could do with this ms, if I put the hard work in now.

Those holes, those missing answers to the what-ifs and whys, they will be filled.

I can do this.