Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Trad, Indie, or Hybrid?

Where the books are: traditional publishing, self-publishing, or a fusion of the two.
What works best for me?

Welp, I have eight books that I've self-published, so that's working best for me right now. I love that I'm in control of most aspects including my schedule (okay, I'm in control of 90% of my schedule), the art, and the content. I dislike the relentless marketing spend.

I don't eschew traditional publishing. I'm not in the Indie or Die! camp. My supply and major houses' demand haven't synced yet. With trad publishing, I think there are advantages in gaining reader reach. However, there are disadvantages not only in process but also in cash-in-hand. 

I imagine being hybrid published is ideal, but since I haven't walked that road, I'll defer to my fellow bloggers who have. 

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Top 3 Inspirations for Names, Places, and Things


As a writer, gamer, and a lover of high fantasy, mythology, and cultural exploration, I have many influences on the worlds created for my fiction. From the lush green farmlands of the Low Countries, to the multi-faceted world of Tamriel, and the beautiful cinematic traditions of Indiathe modern writer is blessed with a plethora of material to create immersive experiences, dynamic characters, and themes that span the human (and inhuman) experience.


But, there are a few good old standbys that help me create memorable, enchanting, or haunting names for the stories I create and I’m happy to share them with the readers of the SFF Seven blog. 

Real World History and Geography

A couple of my books are based on real places and people--with alterations and omissions where necessary, of course. I called the Netherlands home for a couple of years, and during that time the names of colleagues, strangers, and places would show up in my work. I combed through tables of names from the 17th and 18th centuries to find unique ones that encapsulated the nature of my characters--with the hope that none of my Dutch friends would ever read my well-intentioned butchering. 

The small seaside towns, mist covered winding roads, tiny local restaurants, and weather-worn landmarks were also based on places I visited during my time there as I tried to weave in the haunting mystery of the Dutch countryside at night into the tale.

I’ve even had whole characters whose arcs, personalities, and motivations were spawned from a name that anchored itself in my mind for one reason or another.

Similarly, the short story “The Troll’s Daughter,” which I’ve contributed to the Once Upon a Forbidden Desire anthology being published by the FaRo group (pre-order it now!), relied on fragments of Norse mythology to shape the lore and setting while using names of familiar, and prominent, figures and cities to help flesh out the narrative into something epic in scale. I’m going to be expanding that story soon, so stay tuned.

Video Games

With the prevalence of gaming media and some of the most award-winning games deriving from books (hello, The Witcher series!) I wouldn’t be surprised if other writers aren’t reaching into some of their video game settings for inspiration.

The premise of another one of my series is based on a “what-if” scenario involving a favorite video game setting, where I used the names of the cities and towns of this world to craft the names of characters, places, and other items within my own fantasy work. 

Besides, what’s the worst that could happen from adding breadcrumbs hinting at a high stakes adventure to a steamy romance?

Someone might steal your sweet roll?

Fantasy Name Generator

Last but never least is Fantasy Name Generator, the one stop shop for any and all naming needs. Whether writing for sci-fi, high fantasy, anime-inspired, and everything in between, this website can help the adventurous writer with naming not only characters but taverns, cities, space ports, alien species, dishes, and more. 

I relied heavily on the Fantasy Name Generator for my SciFi romances. With a couple of creative twists of my own, I could come up with the kind of exotic names I wanted for my alien species. The site is entirely free and constantly updated with new content and categories.

Inspiration can come in many forms. I don’t believe an artist should ever be shy about allowing it to come from the media we consume in an information-soaked world, since there is so much at our fingertips. 

All of this can be done while keeping cultural sensitivity in mind and paying homage to the tapestry of myth, storytelling, and your own imagination.

Dani Morrison writes steamy, adventure-packed, dark fantasy and sci-fantasy romance. Looking for banter, cheeky heroines, sexy heroes, and breathtaking romps through multiple worlds? Visit the rest of her catalog at https://danimorrison.home.blog. 

Friday, July 22, 2022

In a Name

This is a photo (through glass) of an archeological site in Galway. The stones are the 12th century foundation of a castle found under several shops in Galway. It's called The Hall of the Red Earl. How's that for a name? Does it not evoke a bit of Game of Thrones?

The name has power. It's almost its own question - who was this Red Earl and *why* was he red? Also, who named him the Red Earl?

I ask that last because naming something claims that something. Names are ownership. We own our names and become our names in some weird synergistic fashion so that they own us. I can only illustrate what I mean by saying that I have never told anyone not to shorten my name. I've never told anyone not to call me Marcie. And yet no one does. One single person in my life asked if he could. I shrugged and said he could try. It lasted three days. Then he reverted to using my full name. Marcella. And he came to me and asked how I'd known. It's because if you've ever met me in person, you *know* I'm not a Marcie. It just does not fit. I don't look like a Marcie. Apparently, I don't act like a Marcie and here we are. I don't know why this is true, but it is. There's a difference between Jennifer and Jennie. Or between Anthony and Tony. This may be a long way of saying that I'm weird about names. I need character names to be *right*. If they aren't, I can't operate. This is the curse of the character-driven writer. Fortunately, I have options.

1. The weird roller coaster that is the inside of my head. When I have a character who needs a name, I usually start with a feeling and an initial sound. I usually know if I need a name to sound soft or hard or heartless or cold. From there, I already have a feel for whether the name should begin with a vowel or a consonant. How many syllables comes next. If there's an ethnicity I'm attempting to convey, that plays into shaping whatever name I concoct. This is to say that I make shit up. Sometimes what I make up equates to an official name that exists in our world. Sometimes it doesn't - as far as I can tell. This is my preferred means of coming with names because it makes me sit with the character and begin to become acquainted with their unique voice. That voice is associated with name and that voice is my key into the story. Win/win.

2. Baby name websites. If I'm coming up empty or I need a name that means something specific, I will resort to baby name sights with the full knowledge that my social media ads are gonna get really weird and off target for awhile. I like the sites that let me look at names based on their meanings. The thing that chaps me about them, though, is their insistence on gendering words. That's probably a me thing. But yes. I will occasionally use a name site to prompt me.

3. Video games. Especially MMOs. I pay attention to other player characters in the games I play. I watch their names. Most are d@ngrboi3 or something. But a few people put real thought into names. NPCs sometimes have interesting names. I pay attention to credits to movies and TV shows, watching for names to add to my running prompt list. It's nothing super official - a running list of names I jot down in a Word doc and keep in a file. I listen to the Latin names of species - flowers, insects, animals. Some of those offer up evocative sound combinations that can be tweaked for story use.

None of this even touches on the power of names or the notion that if you know the true name of a thing, you have power over that thing. But for me, when I'm naming characters, it's true. Without being able to name my characters, I have no power. Without power, I have no story.

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Jeffe's Top Three Resources for Names

ROGUE'S POSSESSION, Book #2 in my Covenant of Thorns Dark Fantasy Romance trilogy, is out in a week! It's been so fun to see readers rediscover this first series of mine.

This week at the SFF Seven, we're talking Naming Resources: Your top 3 sources for choosing names of characters, places, etc. Here are mine:

1. Jeffe's Big List of Names

I keep a list. A spreadsheet (of course! for those who know me) that I add to any time I encounter a name I really like. I save them for important characters. One #protip: there are few disappointments greater than discovering you squandered a really good name on a throwaway secondary character. Save those names for someday!
2. Behind the Name
BehindtheName.com is a great resource that lets you search for names in all sorts of ways. There's also a surname version, for those tricksy family names. 

3. Relevant Dictionaries

I also use archaic language dictionaries for whatever language family I'm using for a given world or realm within a world. These are easy to search for online, then look up word meanings and cobble together names from there.
Names are always important in my books - it's one of my themes - so I'm almost always choosing them for their underlying meaning. Something to look for!

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Insert Name Here: 3 Resources

Naming Resources:
Top 3 resources for choosing names of characters, places, etc.

For the names that don't just pop into my head, I have lots of rabbit holes to tumble down. Today, I'll share three of my most frequently used resources.

1. 20,000 Names: Back in the days of narrowband (if you're too young to know what that was, get off my lawn!) this site came into being...along with its ads, so run an adblocker if you're going to spend time here. It hasn't been updated and probably never will be. Still, it has names by region, language, fantasy categories, meaning, and genders (it predates gender inclusivity, so the names are male, female, or unisex). 

2. IMDB: Full Cast & Crew Listings: Oh sure, we all know the big names from our favorite TV shows or movies, but not too many of us stay to watch the full credits. The cast and crew list is a gold mine for naming. I don't straight lift a name, mind, but I do mix. 

3. Google Translate (among other translation sites): When it comes to locations or monsters, I use translation site(s) to look up a keyword that describes the place or thing, then I scroll through the assorted language options until a result catches my fancy. I try not to make phrases because #TranslationFail is real and often hilarious. If I ever get called out for this approach, I will accept my shaming. 

General Guidance: Before naming something--from the book title to a backwater town--do a generic web search on that name. It'll minimize the odds of you naming your hero after a serial killer or your ivory tower after a dung heap. 

Sunday, July 17, 2022

What's In a Name?


Hi all! This week's topic at the SFF Seven is Naming Resources: Our top 3 sources for choosing names of characters, places, etc. I'll get right to it.

  1. My brain: The old noodle is my #1 resource. Names are weird for me, because I almost always hear them in dialogue in my head, or a character will say the name of a place I didn't know going unto the drafting process. When I was building City of Ruin, I typed up to the point that I needed a temple name, and that chapter's POV character, the Prince of the East, provided what I needed: Min-Thuret. I needed a city name too, and as the Prince of the East was leaving Min-Thuret's Rite Hall, he called the city Quezira. And thus, that part of the world was born. It's as difficult and simple as that.
  2. Fantasy Name Generator: Sometimes I get stuck, and FNG can help stir my brain. There are so many options on this site though that it can be overwhelming for me, so I don't usually stay long. Instead, I read through a few list generations and let sounds guide me. I keep a naming list for each book so that I don't begin too many names with the same letter or sound.
  3. Old name registries: You can Google just about anything, including old church/parish registries, travel logs, and common surnames of any particular time and place. When I'm writing historical fantasy, I use these methods so that the names are historically accurate. 
Bonus: Behind the Name. This is a great website for historical naming and just to peruse to get your brain working on a name. It provides the etymology and history of first names.

I hope this helps!! Good luck and happy writing!

~ Charissa

Saturday, July 16, 2022

Bad Reviews and Rejections


Is there anything worse than seeing that dreaded one star review appear below your book? Or get that dreaded “No” in the mail? 

For authors, I don’t think there are many things that are worse than rejection. We spend months or maybe even years on our manuscripts, polish them up, read them countless times, put beautiful covers on them and send them out into the world. 

And then...

We wait. For some authors, the wait is short. For others, it is excruciatingly long. 

Seconds slip by into minutes, which somehow become days. And then, it happens. 

Someone, somewhere in the world, has read the book. And they decided it just wasn’t for them. 

It has taken me a long time to realize that part of being an author is recognizing that not everyone is going to appreciate or enjoy our art. That’s just the way it is. Art is subjective, and no matter what we write, it won’t make everyone happy. 

Still, knowing that we will receive bad reviews is very different from actually experiencing the reality of someone taking the work we’ve spent countless hours on, and saying it is garbage. I wish I could tell you that as an author, you won’t ever get a bad review or a rejection. But I’d be lying to you. The terrible truth is, you will. We all will. I have, and I will again. 

How we choose to cope with them is up to us. 

First, let me say this: Never, ever engage reviewers. 

Especially not bad reviews. It will never end well. 

This is the golden rule. 

Do not engage reviewers. 

Reviews are not for authors. They are for readers. I know that sometimes we get a bad review that makes us itch and we want to say, “But wait! That’s wrong! You just didn’t understand ____.” 

But believe me. Any type of answer is the wrong one. You can, and probably will, make the situation far worse by replying to the reviewer. Don’t do it. Do not engage them. 

Just don’t. Please. If you take nothing else away from this, take that with you. Don’t reply to reviews. They aren’t meant to be personal, and they are almost always directed at the work, not the author. 

Remember this: whether it was a bad review or a rejection, it means your art was not a good fit with that particular reader. It doesn’t mean it was bad. It just wasn’t the right fit. 

When we get that one star review or that rejection (God forbid they show up on the same day), we have a choice to make. Are we going to let this rule our lives and destroy our productivity for the day (I’ve definitely done this), or are we going to try to be adults about it? 

While I’ve been guilty of choosing option A, there are much better and more productive ways to tackle bad reviews and rejections. Here are a few things that I personally find helpful. 

Of course, the easiest thing to do would be to not ever look at reviews. Right? That would make sense. If you don’t see them, you don’t have to do that. If you are able to do that, I applaud you. 

If you’re anything like me, however, common sense falls to the wayside when you want to see what people are saying about your book. In that case, read on, fellow author. 

  1. Cuss a little. There are no rules saying you can’t do this. In fact, I find it helps. Get it out of your system. In private. Without anyone watching. Call the reviewer all the bad names you want and walk away. Take a break. Give yourself time to heal. 
  2. Since you’ve already gone ahead and looked at reviews, take a look at some of those good ones. Copy them. Print them out. Frame them. Just because your work wasn’t the right fit for that dreaded one star reviewer doesn’t mean it’s bad. Other people probably think it’s amazing! Take that to heart. 
  3. If you really need to write something out in response, do it on a piece of paper and then burn it. Don’t let that response see the light of day. But get it out of your system. 
  4. Go look up your favorite book on amazon and read some of their one star reviews. Every book has them, it’s just a matter of time. 
  5. Remember why you write. Everyone’s story is a little different, but we all have that reason. Let that be the driving force behind everything you do. Let it push you. 

And then—and this is the really important part—dust yourself off. Get back on the proverbial horse. 

Don’t let a bad review or a rejection stop you from pursuing your dream. Let it be a learning experience and grow from it. 

You are stronger than a bad review or a rejection. 

Happy writing, friends! 

Elayna R. Gallea is an author of young adult dystopian novels and new adult fantasy romance novels. She lives in beautiful New Brunswick, Canada with her husband and two kids. She is an avid true-crime lover, and in her spare time, she eats copious amounts of chocolate and cheese. If Elayna isn't reading and writing, she can probably be found watching The Food Network. Elayna and her husband have dogs and cats and enjoy touring their beautiful province whenever they can.

You can find her at: https://www.elaynargallea.com/

Friday, July 15, 2022

Reviews, Rejections, and Other Opinions

You want to know how I handle rejections, critical reviews, and other opinions? The facial expression of this photo of me in Ireland (at a 14th century monastery ruin) pretty much covers it. "Whaddya mean NO?"

Yes. You're going to get a lot of Ireland photos for the next couple of weeks cause I came home with 200+ and frankly, there's jack all to take photos of around here in the sweltering heat where everything and everyone is just melted. 

Listen. I don't know what it is about my make up - or my particular mental dysfunction - but most of the time, rejection and shitty reviews don't get me down. I've got a mental filing system for rejections and bitey reviews. 

First file: Crooked photocopy rejections and rubber band rejections. These are the easiest to blow off. They're meaningless rejections. These are the ones that come in so fast or so anonymously that it's obvious no one read my material. These aren't rejections. These are cries for help. Whoever sent them is so overwhelmed, they've closed to submissions without saying they closed to submissions. No problem. That's not really a rejection. They never even looked at the baby to tell me it's ugly.

Second file: Whiny one stars. These are the reviews people leave on a book that make me laugh and/or wonder aloud if they actually read the book I wrote. The second cousin to that review is the one star that whines 'man, this is nothing new or interesting why does everyone else like it?' Both of these reviews say more about the people leaving them than they do about my writing or story. Again. Easy to blow off (or leverage for a reverse psychology advertising campaign in you're into that sort of thing.) The first one is pitiable and the second is whining because their 'nothing new or interesting why does everyone like it' cry is code for 'I had an idea like this! How dare you write it!' Ask me how I know that and I'll show you the story I started in 8th grade (and never finished) that sounds a whole lot like the movie ET that came out a few years later and was a far better story anyway.

Third file: Rejection with cause. Critical reviews with specifics. NOW we're getting into the daggers to the heart. These rejections and reviews come from editors/readers who obviously read my work and read it thoughtfully. They've identified problems or issues I failed to address or that I hoped no one would catch. Occasionally, someone will catch something I was entirely blind to in a story. I'm pissy about the first and grateful for the second. I get het up about having issues and problem identified *when I knew about the issues and ignored them* - but note. I'm not mad at the person who called me out. I'm mad at me for thinking I could get away with it. Dumb move, author. For the people who call out issues I didn't see, I still get mad at me for not seeing it, but I'm grateful to having my eyes opened to it so I can fix it. It's possible I give myself a 24 hour pity party after it all hits before I have to adult up and fix my mess.

Fourth file: This one stings, y'all. This is BIG pain. Rewrite on spec and STILL get a reject. Not winning contests when a story finals goes in this folder, too. This one is when an editor asks for revisions on spec - they're asking for work with no guarantee that they'll acquire when that work is done. Of course I have to take the chance. I'm going to invest that time and that energy knowing that it may still not be good enough. It's that sunk cost that hurts when I feel like I got SO close (both in edits and in a contest) only to have what feels like the prize yanked from my fingers at the last second. Of course the 'prize', whether statue or contract, was never mine to begin with, but dang if my fingertips didn't brush if just for a second. The other tough aspect here is that when a rejection finally comes or a book doesn't win a content, there's no why. Typically, the editor won't go into reasons why the rewrite didn't hit the mark. They just say, 'not going to work for us. Good luck.' and contents say nothing at all. That twists the rejection knife becuase there's no clear action I could take to make my writing better. Again, I'm allowed to sulk like I'm three. But only for so long. Then to get past this, I have to turn my eye and my thoughts to what's next - the next goal, the next target, the next whatever it is. 

I suspect, for me, that having a new goal to move toward is the secret to recovering from rejection. I need activity - some new shiny to chase. I do have to give myself space to wallow in messy reaction. Based on my brain, I know that I have to sit with something emotionally loaded for 24 hours before the gears will shift. When those gears shift, ideas start rolling. The 'what if' thinking starts up - it's like having a relentless five-year-old in my head throwing "What if this happened? What if that happened? What if we . . .?" At that point, I'm not longer focused on the rejection. I'm focused on solution. Which may include getting spiteful and saying, "Fine. Your loss. I'll self-puh."