Sunday, May 31, 2020

Naming Fantasy Characters, Places, and Things

The upside of me not being in San Diego on June 1 is that my event at Mysterious Galaxy will be available to all of you via Zoom! Would love if you all joined in!

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is Names: What's your favorite source/method for naming your characters, places, etc?

I have several go-to naming sources that I have bookmarked for fast and easy access. My first stop is always, the etymology and history of first names. The advanced search allows you find names by gender (or lack thereof), meaning, usage (including mythological, biblical, archaic, etc.), and keyword. I love to start with a name meaning and triangulate from there. It's also meticulously cross-linked, so you can find associated names and roots.

There is also a Surname version of the site,, which works the same way and is a great resource for building family trees and genealogies. Both of these work great to name places as well.

Once I settle on a general language group that I'm drawing from for a particular world, or place within a world, I find and bookmark an online dictionary for that language. I love to find the ones that index the old versions of the language too. ::The Vikings of Bjornstad :: Old Norse Dictionary is a great example. I can search for English concepts, find an old Norse version of the word, and then add a bit of drift to the spelling to make it my own.

Finally, I often resort to good old basic etymology to build new words. I look up the etymology of a word that embodies the concept of the person, place, or thing I want - then I break it down into component roots. Sometimes I search for related roots in other languages. Then I piece the concepts together again, maybe add some spelling drift and there it is! New word.

Now you guys know all of my secrets and can no doubt reverse engineer names from my books!

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Which Character Do Readers Ask Me To Write for?

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is the Character your readers ask you to write for or are waiting for to get their own story.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have readers become really fond of several of my supporting characters over the years beginning with Wreck of the Nebula Dream, my first published scifi romance in 2012. Almost immediately I started getting questions about what happened next for Twilka, a spoiled rich girl, and Khevan, the D’nvannae Brother she fell in love with. (He serves an alien goddess and can be an assassin or a bodyguard at Her whim.)

The thing for me is that I very much only write what the Muse is in the mood for, or feels strongly about. So even for a much beloved supporting character, I have to wait until the right story occurs to me or strikes my fancy. It was especially hard for Twilka and Kevan because there were a lot of moving parts to the D’nvannae Brotherhood but eventually I decided to come at it from the angle of what would someone like Twilka do after surviving the worst interstellar disaster in centuries? For a reference point I asked myself what did people do after surviving the Titanic’s sinking? Researching that was fun (I’m a huge Titanic buff) and gave me the ideas I needed to spin the story, Star Survivors. I also found a way to meaningfully incorporate Nick and Mara from the first novel as supporting cast here.

Shall we say the goddess didn’t give up easily when it came to Khevan’s service in her order? I pulled out another character who I actually have a novel in mind for, the Renegade, a Brother who did manage to escape the Red Lady’s grasp, and made him a supporting member of this book’s cast. He fascinates me and I’ve had bits and pieces of his story on scraps of paper for a long time but it needs more thought before I can write it. So I was happy to have a good reason to bring him into ‘reality’ in this novel, using the backstory I already know about him.

Another supporting character readers loved was Johnny in Mission to Mahjundar. He was loyal, brave, smart, strong and clearly deserved his own book in which to shine. Eventually I got a terrific plot idea about a Special Forces hostage rescue mission gone wrong and sent Johnny off in Hostage to the Stars to find his own love interest and future direction.

Mitch, a Special Forces sergeant and the hero’s best friend in Escape From Zulaire is another supporting character rather similar to Johnny. Readers love him. I love him. I even have a plot in mind developed for him but…the creative spark or fire that makes me have to write the book just hasn’t happened yet. I’m confident this will occur at some point because he’s too good a character not to write for, off key singing and all.

Readers often ask for the story of Captain Fleming in the Star Cruise series of books but I’m not ready to tackle that one yet. It’s on my mind and elements are there but the whole thing hasn’t jelled yet and I can’t write the book he plainly deserves until the Muse is fully engaged and ready.

I have a somewhat different set up in my Badari Warriors series about genetically engineered soldiers of the far future. I knew going in that I’d be writing many books and that each succeeding novel would feature a different member of the pack. What happened there was I wrote about Aydarr the Alpha and Mateer the first enforcer and then Jadrian, a senior soldier, popped into my head one morning with a full-fledged story and I had to write it. When a book shows up in your mind complete and ready to roll, you should never look that gift horse in the mouth – you should write! Which I did. But that meant I’d kind of short circuited Timtur the healer and his turn to shine. By the time of the events in Jadrian he was already mated and settled down. Fortunately I did figure out a way later to go back and write Timtur’s story and then a second novella about him and Megan, his human mate.

Currently I get requests for Sandara, the human chef, who is actually the heroine of the book I just started writing yesterday, along with Ivokk the enforcer from the South Seas pack. Sandara didn’t get treated too well in Jadrian’s book so I’m having fun figuring out her back story even before the aliens kidnapped her along with the rest of her colony, and brught her to the planet where the Badari were imprisoned. I've got what seems to me to be a logical way for her to move on from the events in Jadrian and for her and Ivokk to come together. In the midst of adventures of course!

There’s a lot of world building in my Sectors galactic civilization universe and that’s been so helpful to me so many times in spring boarding from a story into another novel. It’s all kind of organic as you can probably tell – I don’t outline and I don’t think a book through before I start writing it. I’ll know the beginning, the end, a few key scenes in between, the hero and the heroine and then I WRITE. The rest comes to me as I’m in the flow, sitting here pounding on my keyboard, and plot twists and turns can surprise even me at times.

 Readers also want to know the story for Jamokan, Alpha of a Badari pack with alien canine predator DNA infused into the humanoid structure. I have thoughts about this one, but so far the plot elements would probably only be novella-length so we’ll see. I’m not opposed to writing novellas if that’s the proper length the story calls for but I like to give a character a novel for his or her first appearance as leading protagonist if I can, then maybe a novella later to share more adventures.

A character I love and who readers seem to enjoy is Yonn, the Alpha-born in Generation 11. The current generation of fully mature Badari heroes led by Aydarr is #8 so you can see my challenge – with generations 9 and 10 between him and the men and women headlining the series, Yonn’s not old enough to have one of my typical books written about him! He may be mature for his age and possess a high level of dominance and power already but um…a little on the boyish side still. I’m thinking for him I might write a standalone novel, after the series ends (which won’t be for a long time, plenty of stories left to tell), set it in the future ten years or so and delve into Yonn’s further adventures. I think it could be fun and perhaps kick off another, related series.

So we’ll see!

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Craving a Character

I crave books like some people crave chocolate. Don't get me wrong, my ultimate treat is a glass of champagne with a side of truffles. But if asked what one thing I crave the's definitely books. If I go too long without reading, I crave it. If I hit too many reads in one genre, I crave another genre. If I get sucked into a multi-volume series, I crave more and more of the side characters.

It's those colorful secondary characters that build up our heroes, that carry their broken comrades up Mount Doom, that are there with shoulders to cry on. And we get attached to them! So when an author turns the spotlight onto one of those beloved supporting's like getting a box of chocolates.

I'm pre-published, so you can't read about my secondary characters yet. But the one who's gotten the most interest and fangirling over would be Mist from my Dark Queen's Daughter manuscript. This book is based off Norse mythology and Mist is the equivalent of a Valkyrie commander. She's foul mouthed, scarred, and as tough on my main character (MC) as she can possibly be, all because Mist sees the MC as one of her sisters. Oh, and she gets turned into a lynx in the beginning because she mouths off to a druid.

That's my pick for which of my characters do readers crave more of the most. Mist of Íssheim. And if you'd like to see the artwork by Eve Ventrue that inspired Mist, you can check it out on Pinterest here.

How about you? Any books you've read recently where you'd have loved to get another book based solely on a secondary character?

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

A girl is no one

Hmm. This week we're supposed to talk about characters that readers are clamoring to know more about or begging us to write about. As a reader, I absolutely know what that means, for I fangirl with the fangirliest who've ever fangirled. As a writer, though... welp.

After my first book, a few people asked for Chloe's story, so I wrote it. I think most of those people who had some interest have already read it? Not sure. If you were one of those people and never got around to buying the book, please feel free to contact me privately. I would be happy to send you a copy. I published it for you.

Other than that, this topic really isn't applicable to me, so I will refer you to yesterday's SFF Seven post, which was super exciting: Jeffe Kennedy, our Sunday blogger, released  her latest book, The Fiery Crown. Check it out!

Aaaaaand I'm off to read. :)

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

New #Fantasy Release: THE FIERY CROWN by @JeffeKennedy

Out today is the highly anticipated second installment in Jeffe Kennedy's Forgotten Empires Fantasy Romance series!

A desperate alliance. A struggle for survival. And a marriage of convenience with an epic twist of fate come together in Jeffe Kennedy's The Fiery Crown.


Queen Euthalia has reigned over her island kingdom of Calanthe with determination, grace, and her magical, undying orchid ring. After she defied an empire to wed Conrí, the former Crown Prince of Oriel―a man of disgraced origins with vengeance in his heart―Lia expected the wizard’s prophecy to come true: Claim the hand that wears the ring and the empire falls. But Lia’s dangerous bid to save her realm doesn’t lead to immediate victory. Instead, destiny hurls her and Conrí towards a future neither could predict…


Con has never healed after the death of his family and destruction of his kingdom―he’s been carefully plotting his revenge against his greatest enemy, Emperor Anure, waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike. When Lia’s spies gather intelligence suggesting that Anure is planning an attack against Calanthe, Con faces an agonizing choice: Can he sacrifice Lia and all she holds dear to destroy the empire? Or does his true loyalty exist in the arms of his beguiling, passionate wife―’til death do they part?


Available at these Retailers:

Monday, May 25, 2020

And the winners are...

To quote Jeffe: "Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is the Character your readers ask you to write for or are waiting for to get their own story."

The answer is easy. Jonathan Crowley gets the most requests. It's interesting to me, because Crowley is a bastard. I mean that. He's not loveable. he doesn't try to make friends. he's more likely to insult you than to even consider being nice, but he's probably y most popular character to date, seconded only by Rufo the clown, who is absolutely psychotic and will kill damned near anyone at the drop of a hat. 

Jonathan Crowley is an immortal monster hunter. He's been described as "plain," and "average" more times than I can shake a stick at He blends into the background is my point here and he's supposed to. But I've had multiple people to me he's sexy. Male and female. All I can say is that was never my intention. 

Crowley has shown up in UNDER THE OVERTREE, SERENITY FALLS (WRIT IN BLOOD, THE PACK and DARK CARNIVAL) CHERRY HILL, BLOODLINES, BOOMTOWN, ONE BAD WEEK and in at lest a dozen other novellas and short stories. There are more planned and currently I am writing THE TOURIST'S GUIDE TO HAUNTED WELLMAN which will also favor him heavily as a main character. He will continue to be a complete bastard throughout that story, too. 

I have absolutely no idea why he is considered sexy. I don't intend to investigate the matter. I just let it happen. 

Just for the record, he faces off against Rufo the Clown (number two on the I-Have-No-Idea-Why-There-Is-Fan-Fic-Of-This-Character-But-Okay list) in SERENITY FALLS and in ONE BAD WEEK. I know they'll encounter each other again, too. 

Crowley, by Alan M. Clark

                                                  Rufo by Dan Brereton

Sunday, May 24, 2020

The Forgotten Empires: Who's Next?

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is the Character your readers ask you to write for or are waiting for to get their own story.

Since THE FIERY CROWN, Book 2 in the Forgotten Empires, comes out on Tuesday (!!!), I'm *very* aware at the moment of all those secondary characters that readers are asking about. This trilogy focuses on Queen Euthalia and the Slave King Conrí - Lia and Con - and their epic battle to defeat a totalitarian emperor. As early readers plow through - seriously, I *cannot* believe how fast some of you read! - this second book, they're looking forward to Book 3, THE PROMISED QUEEN, - and beyond.

So, the questions I'm getting now are ALLLL about whose stories might come next. Who are readers asking about? In anecdotal, completely subjective order, I'm going to say the intensity of interest is:


Everybody seems to want to know what's up with our favorite enigmatic wizard. Will there be more stories with Ambrose? Yes. Yes, I absolutely think so.


The emotionally and physically scarred warrior woman who serves as Con's lieutenant and sarcastic bestie has excited a lot of interest. She definitely has adventures ahead of her!


The intense interest in Percy kind of surprised me - and he's definitely taken on a larger role as the series progresses. I have ideas for what could happen next.


It could be this is mostly me glomming onto anyone who mentions Ambrose's raven familiar. But you all also haven't read THE PROMISED QUEEN yet. Just wait.

Who did I miss? (From this series, Carien - I know you want to say Zyr!)

Available at these Retailers

Saturday, May 23, 2020

One Track Mind for Writing Tools and Apps


Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is "Updated writing tools/apps - what's new and different in your writing world."

I don’t use any tools or apps in my writing other than the keyboard (which gets replaced several times a year since I literally bang away on the keys as if I was still typing on the old Royal typewriter I got when I was 8!), the laptop and WORD. Sometimes I might actually use a pencil and a piece of paper for the odd note here and there.

Everything else is up to my Muse…who is housed in my own brain, not on a computer or other device.

I’m not much for apps in the rest of my author life either. I’m on Facebook and Twitter as places to connect with other authors and my readers. I have an old fashioned Wordpress blog but it works for my purposes. I have an Instagram account, where I post daily (usually earrings of which I have hundreds of pairs, cat photos, book snippets and flowers) and a Pinterest account where I forget to post. I tried Books+Main (exactly – who has really heard of it, especially in the scifi romance world???) I’m open to new things but not exactly a person who rushes out to seek and exploit them.

I use Canva a lot. It’s a program for making designs, documents, graphics etc. In conjunction with that and my other social media I also use DepositPhoto for stock photos to give my posts pizzazz without worrying about copyright infringement issues. (They license the photos and I trust them. So far, so good.)
I like Canva as for me it’s pretty self-intuitive and it fits my skill level. And my patience quotient! Which is really important because I am not at all patient. I want to get in, do the thing I came to do, download it and exit the program. I’m sure Canva has all kinds of potential and capabilities I never touch but I’m not the type of person to log and play and try things out. I’m very mission focused. I need a promo graphic for the new book – GO. Make it, post it, move on to the next thing.

There’s a tool named Book Brush which many of my fellow authors swear by and I did sit through an excellent private demo by one of their inhouse experts. I saw all the cool features and the “overlay this/tint that/animate the other thing and here are our 10,000 backgrounds”…but for me it’s just too much. I did try it out, but it’s not self-intuitive on my level, whatever weird and idiosyncratic level that may be, so I got frustrated, I knew I could have done what I needed to do on Canva faster and been done…so I didn’t pursue Book Brush any further.

I have used Book Funnel maybe three times, when author friends invited me to join specific scifi romance giveaways. The thing is, I have a newsletter but I only send it out when I have a new release of my own. It’s also a very small, organically grown list. So on the list of ‘sharing’ that BF tracks and reports back to organizers, I show up as pretty much a freeloader – I’m there but not sharing. Except I am, just on my various other platforms BF doesn’t track! I’m always very clear up front with the organizer about where I will share the BF if they include me.  So I don’t do many BF’s and that’s fine with me, although I’m always honored to be invited.

I use Mail Chimp for my newsletter but I don’t actually use it – I have a lovely person who prepares my NL for me after I write the content and sends it out. She swears laughingly that it’s too complicated for me and she’s probably right.

I still use Triberr (a social media sharing tool) to share blog posts but it’s basically a legacy tool that I expect to go away at some point. It’s time has passed, at least in my humble opinion.

I’m going to have to learn to Zoom and fast, because I’m doing both a book reading and a scifi romance panel for the upcoming online, free AMAZINGCON being put on June 12-14 by the AMAZING STORIES MAGAZINE. "A different con for a different world." I contribute to their online blog and I’m excited about doing the reading and Q&A session (I’m going to read from Aydarr, the first book in my award winning Badari Warriors series about genetically engineered soldiers of the far future and the human women they love) and the panel discussion. I have New York Times and USA Today Best Selling Author S. E. Smith and USA Today Best Selling Author Pauline B. Jones on my scifi romance panel – WOOT! 

Lots of other fun content on the conference’s schedule too, weighted more to science fiction than the romance.

So far I’m totally inexperienced with Zoom but I know I need a good background and that there’s a mute button. Wish me luck!

(And check out the AMAZINGCON site for more information…)

Friday, May 22, 2020

Not Entirely Writing Apps

Writing apps. I've pared down my list this year. Maybe it's quarantine. I don't know. But the whole financial insecurity thing has made me conscious of what I pay for these days. So a bunch of random subscription services got the axe. The one I am using, though, is 4thWords this is a website where you create a character and progress through a story line by 'defeating' monsters who require that you write a certain number of words in a certain time frame - all of them reasonable. There are special events and different rewards to chase if those things light you up. Or you can sit back and pursue a project as you see fit. You have complete control over how you approach the environment. I happen to like the structure and the defined time frames. It gives me permission to brain dump. Most of that is garbage, but every once in awhile, I glean a really great story piece out of it.

Then there's Calm. Sure it's a meditation app. I don't actually use it for that. It also has a huge selection of sleep music to select from as well as ambient soundscapes. When Dad decides he's going to watch some craptastic war movie at incredible volume, I'm gonna need something keeping my blood pressure near normal. Calm and a pair of headphones do a good job of that.

For book formatting (for ebooks) I use Jutoh. I can produce any format I want, including .mobi. It does an amazing job of sorting through your manuscript and telling you if something won't pass muster for Amazon. I guess they have this weird fetish about Em and En dashes. Don't get me started. Regardless, Jutoh builds the encoding seamlessly. I won't lie. It does have a learning curve, but it's not steep and there are great tutorial videos to step you through everything. It didn't take me but a day to figure out how to get a book formatted, built, and saved out to every single file type I needed. Because I'm a dedicated Windows gal, I can't use Vellum, which I hear is THE software to use if you can. Sadly, it's only available for Mac. And based on what it costs to get a Mac, that's never going to happen.

What else is there? I'm always open to the new and cool.
PS: I still have unreasonable love for OmmWriter. But you knew that already.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

New writing tools or apps?

I don't have the mental bandwidth to research new/up-and-coming writing tools right now... I still use Scrivener (Scrivener 3) and I love it. That's all I've got!

How about you? Have any new apps or tricks to share?

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Apps for focus, drafting, and file prep

The skinny on apps, from someone who doesn't use many:

For Wrangling Your Brain into Writer Mode

Years ago, my critique partner Sloane Calder recommended this iPhone app called Brainwave, and I downloaded it immediately. Have never looked back. It's better than playlists for getting my brain right into the writing groove fast. I draft best to Euphoria/Medium Rain and switch that to Concentrate/Medium Rain for editing. YMMV

For Drafting Your Manuscript

Okay, so most writers start off with Word. I'm not saying that's a bad choice, but do read all their info. A friend recently discovered that -- surprise! -- Microsoft no longer autosaves unless you are using their cloud storage gizmo for your saves. So if you're using Dropbox or your hard drive or literally any other thing, I recommend manually saving and OFTEN. This friend lost a lot of work, and we are all whoa sad about it because her stories are ah-mazing and the world is less sparkly because Microsoft is a greedy beast.

(Confession: I have a long and very unfriendly relationship with Microsoft. Next time we hang out,  ask me how Billy G and Co lost more than a year's worth of client emails when they migrated from Hotmail to Outlook and never acknowledged their mistake, apologized, or compensated me for all that money I wasted on a subscriber account. Yes, I am extremely bitter. We hates them, precious.)

Anyhoo... I now use Google Docs for drafting and back stuff up on Dropbox. I love Google Docs especially for co-writing, which I'm currently do it. If you're co-writing and you aren't using Google Docs, you should absolutely try it.

For Preparing Your Book for Publication

In terms of file preparation, I recently bought Vellum for my Mac (as it is only available for Mac), and y'all, it is the cat's meow. I mean, if meow meant "better than super stinky sardines" and also you were a cat. In other words, if you're in a position where you have to make your own book files (i.e., self-publishing), this is the premiere software for the task. And if you write a lot, it will save you its cost pretty fast because you'll no longer have to contract file prep, which can be pricey. Recommend.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

3 Useful Author Apps Beyond Word

What apps in addition to Word & Exel do I use to support my career?

1. Book Brush
The guys behind the image design app are constantly innovating new features that are actually helpful. From expanding their background image offerings to animations to book trailers to book covers to one-click background removal. The app was built specifically for authors who aren't graphic designers, which gives them a leg-up on other design sites. If you're doing your own marketing creative, I highly recommend this very easy-to-use app. They offer free features, pay-as-go credits, and two levels of annual subscriptions.
       Note: is also a good image design site with free, pay-as-you-go, and subscription levels. However, their audience is a general audience, thus lack book-specific features.

2. Book Funnel
This is a distribution site that allows you to put digital books in readers' hands. They handle the hosting and tech support. Billing is done through your preferred service (e.g. Paypal Integration) if you want to get into Direct Sales. They offer the ability to bundle, coupon codes, eARCs, etc. Have a newsletter and want to give new subscribers a free story? Use this service. They take the headache out of delivering your finished product to readers. They offer free features and subscription-level features.

3. Dropbox
Back up your files. Back up your files. Back up your files. Back up your files. Back up your files. Keep a copy on a thumb drive. Keep a copy on a cloud. Back up your files. Back up your files. Back up your files. Back up your files. Back up your files.

Monday, May 18, 2020


This week's subject is to discuss any new tools that we use for writing.

YEah. None. I do not change. I am legitimately opposed to altering my routines.

Do what works for you. That's what I do.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

THE FIERY CROWN today at GRRM's Beastly Books!

Check out this super cool video of THE FIERY CROWN from George R.R. Martin's Beastly Books here in Santa Fe!

This was supposed to be a live event, but it's virtual now. Instead of a live interview, Melinda Snodgrass, of Star Trek: The Next Generation fame, interviewed me via Zoom and we had a great conversation. You can watch it this afternoon at 4pm Mountain Time here. You can also support this wonderful local indie bookstore by ordering a signed copy of THE FIERY CROWN from them - plus get it well before the May 26 release date! (Or you can preorder via the links below.)

Afterward, I'll be doing a Facebook Live *and* Instagram Live Q&A. Look for me on Facebook or Instagram, according to your preference. I'll be on once the Beastly Book event ends, around 5pm Mountain Time.

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is "Updated writing tools/apps - what's new and different in your writing world." My answer? Umm... nothing? I'm pretty happy with my current system, which I've been using for years now. I write in Word, track everything on my own spreadsheets I've meticulously retooled in Excel, and I save everything in Dropbox. It works well for me and I see no reason to add more "tools."

Available at these Retailers