Hello, my favorite booknerds! So, one of the questions I’ve gotten that you wanted to see in a blog post was: how I come up with my characters? I interpret this question in a few ways, from how I character build, to why I chose to have my characters look the way they do, as all of that was done intentionally. I try to always create my characters with intention—this is, of course, 100% the case for my main and secondary characters, though I can’t say I always do this for a character who isn’t named and has all of one page in the novel. Still, if you’ve read my last blog post about how I name my characters, you can bet that I love character building just as much (because I do).
Perhaps the easiest thing to explain is why I decided some characters needed to have certain personality traits. Once I figure out what the central story is, and how/where the book needs to end, it becomes a matter of figuring out what kinds of personality types will fit with the goal I have, and also add wonderful obstacles for my main cast, because a story without interpersonal conflict is boring in my opinion. That’s why Lana has such a strong maternal instinct and wants to be a mother, but Jon is more than content having their lives revolve around just the two of them. It makes for a persistent conflict that helps a character get to the place they need to end up by the end of the series—sorry, I am trying to avoid spoilers here for some of my new readers, so some of the specific traits will be vague.
The story and the struggle I wanted my characters to undergo dictated that Tallis couldn’t be a born leader and that Donovan had to have an incredible sense of familial loyalty. Whereas, because I wanted to challenge some of the tropes and stereotypes I find annoying, I made Tomas a gentle intellectual rather than a brawny meat-head, and I wanted my character of color to come from an unbelievably stable, supportive, and intact family unit. It’s also why I give Tallis her quirks of avoidance and have her struggle with anxiety, because I want to show that strong can come in a plethora of forms.
As for looks… I created characters that I would like looking at, as vain as it sounds. But hey, if I couldn’t fall for Tomas or Donovan because they looked like trolls, I wouldn’t expect you to, either! But the sad truth is, Tallis looks like the girl I wish I looked like.
I came to the body positive movement late in my life. For most of my formative years, I believed I was hideous; I was too big, disproportionally shaped, my hair too dull, and eyes too plain. I wanted to hide, to be smaller. So, that’s why Tallis looks the way she does. She’s petite the way I had wanted to be all my life. She has the wavy, long, platinum blonde hair I wish I had, and sea green eyes I would kill for—ok, not really. That’s why Tallis looks the way she does and isn’t darker skinned, or have red hair, or what have you.
That being said, it’s also why Rosslyn looks the way she does. In an effort to embrace my own shape, I made Rosslyn this crazy confident, enviously curvy woman. She loves her freckles as much as she loves her body’s size—and others find her irresistibly attractive as well! For both her physical looks, and her confidence. Rosslyn is where I aspire to be in terms of accepting and loving myself, and Tallis is a throwback to the way I prayed I had looked for decades.
There’s a phrase, a lauded piece of advice often given to authors, to “write what you know”. I may not deal with feral elves on a daily basis, but I did know what it felt like to be dissatisfied with something I couldn’t change, and I knew that was unfair to myself. So creating characters that allow me to work through those things is, in my own way, writing what I know.
So there you have it, my friends! This is how and why I create my characters and a bit of the process behind bringing them to life. Hopefully this makes them feel even more realistic and grounded despite their fantasy setting, and, hopefully, it inspires both hope and acceptance should that be something you need. I’ll be answering more of your questions in later blog posts, but, as always, if there is another topic you’d like me to cover, shoot me a message! And let me know what you think of my process in the comments.
Hello my favorite booknerds and lovers of my stories! So, if you subscribe to my newsletter you saw the open call for blog post topics, and you guys did not disappoint! I have a whole list of things you want to know that I’ll be tackling. If you don’t subscribe to the newsletter, or missed the email, don’t worry: you can suggest more topics via the comments or feel free to message me the things you’d be interested in me discussing. So, without further ado, the first of your blog post suggestions answered: How do I come up with the names for all my characters and places?
This sounds like a simple topic to start with, but honestly, I love this question. I love coming up with names for things. Too often fantasy writers feel they have to have unpronounceable names in order to make their book feel like a true fantasy. I personally hate that.
If I stumble over a name, if I can’t figure out how you’re supposed to pronounce it, I am immediately disconnected from the story. My flow in the plot disrupted as I pause to try and puzzle it out. Not that I find those books bad and therefore don’t want to finish, but I do find it annoying. Tell me friends: am I alone in this? But it was/is that annoyance that I take with me when I begin world and character building prior to writing the first paragraph of any of my books.
First, I figure out what place my fantasy worlds are based on, if any at all. For Selkirk, it has a very distinct Scotland/European feel to it, so all the names needed to fit that. As for places like Theda, it has a Sicilian/Italian feel. So, the names of the people and locations needed to feel authentic to such regions.
Once I have the geography figured out, I go on to sites like Behind the Name and filter out names based on region and how “old” something needs to feel. Selkirk, compared to Theda, is pretty far behind in terms of advancement, so the names needed to have an old-timey feel to them as well. From there I go through those lists and make notes of all the male and female names I like and, at first glance, can figure out how they are said—hence names like Raghnall, Baird, Ailbeart, and Lana. They look right when put on the page; they fit the vibe I want in being uncommon, being authentic to the region, and something that won’t trip people up—hopefully.
The process is rather similar when it comes to naming the rivers, forests, cities and towns in my books as well. If you haven’t noticed, I LOVE naming those regions. I even have maps drawn out where I label and name all the rivers and mountains that, one day, I’ll have re-made professionally, I promise. The only difference is I have to make sure these names don’t sound like they could belong to a person in order to avoid confusion. That’s how I settled on names like Kincardine, the Brethil Forest, and even Selkirk itself.
Fun fact: Selkirk is the name of a real town in Scotland! So you, my dear friends, can actually go and visit Selkirk if you so choose. Please let me know if you encounter any feral elves along the way!
The only time I don’t follow this pattern is for my contemporary fictions. As they are modern and set in today’s setting, having a name like Tallis would stand out, in a bad way. So I stick with names I like such as Rebecca, or use the names of family and friends, like Megan. Call it cheating if you want, but I like to think of it as creative problem solving.
So there you have it! That is my process for coming up with names. What do you think? Hopefully this clears that process up, but if not let me know, or if you’d like more details about a certain name in particular let me know that, too. In the meantime, let me know if there are any other blog topics you want covered and I’ll add them to my list!
Greetings friends and booknerds! It’s finally time for another edition of “Meet the Blogger”! Today I’m thrilled to introduce you to Paige Green of PopTheButterfly Reads and the Indie Blog Hop! I met Paige shortly after my first book came out, and we have been stalking each other on social media ever since. Recently, she hosted a read-along for my book with a handful of her friends, but that’s not why I’m featuring her this month. Paige is not only one of the most passionate readers—and lover of all things bookish—I know, but she is also a wonderful advocate for indie and small press authors. She devotes so much of her time and energy to spreading the good word about fabulous books written by smaller authors, who you may otherwise miss, that I’d be 100% a terrible person for not spreading the word about Paige and everything she does for the book-loving community. So, without further ado, please enjoy my interview with this fabulous human, and be sure to follow her and check out her websites if you’re an author and are interested in utilizing her offerings:
Blog – Goodreads – Indie Blog Hop – Instagram – YouTube
When I first “met” you, it was through a blog tour hosted by another blogger. Since then (goodness, it’s been nearly 2 years) you’ve started your own book blog tour service for indie authors! Can you tell us a bit about the Indie Blog Hop and what inspired you to start it?
Oh Lordy, time flies! I was inspired in December when I learned that Goodreads would start charging authors/publishers to host giveaways on their site. I thought it was extremely unfair and greedy to everyone, but especially Indie authors and publishing companies. I wanted to give people a way to freely promote their books and host giveaways without fear of losing money and the idea just kind of blossomed from there.
Your love of books is no secret, you even had a bookish themed wedding and engagement shoot! But what first got you into reading and made you love it so much?
I’ve always really liked reading and my parents encouraged it and are readers themselves. Both of them always challenged me to read outside my range and to explore the world through books. I’ve always traveled with at least one book in my bag since I was tiny, even when I was in a reading slump.
This is a very broad (and multi-tiered) question, but what is it about reading that you love so much? What is the most important thing for you when reading a book? Characters? World building? Unique plot? Etc.
I think what I love about books so much is that they’re reliable. They’ve always been a bit of a safety blanket for me, something I could rely on in whatever situation I found myself in. You can always open a book and find yourself somewhere new or familiar without judgment or condemnation. When I read I find that the most important thing for me in any book is my ability to connect with the characters. They don’t have to be likable and they don’t have to be good, but I have to be able to connect with them in some way or empathize with them somehow or else I’m not going to be able to get into the book. I also really like good world building, especially for high fantasy or sci-fi novels.
What would be your absolute perfect book? What would it have? Does it exist already, or will this be something you write one day?
Well sometimes I’m a bit of a mood reader lol, so that’s a hard question. I think I would really enjoy a book in which the main character isn’t a good character. Like, not a villain, but someone who’s misunderstood and acts out for attention because of issues they have at home. I used to work in Juvenile Justice and I’ve dealt with kids who were troublemakers. A majority of them didn’t commit crimes because they wanted to commit crimes, but because there were underlying issues at home that they couldn’t deal with and acting out was their only way of telling the world “hey there is something wrong in my life and I need help now!” While I’m currently writing a couple of books, one of them revolves around a teen who’s a habitual runaway, which I think is something that’s not been fully explored by literature.
What other bloggers and writers do you enjoy reading or admire? Why?
Oh geez. I don’t really get to enjoy bloggers anymore like I used to because of work and other obligations, but I do enjoy reading Kate Olsen (The Loud Library Lady) for bloggers and I love listening to booktubers like Hailey In Bookland and Nadine Brandes. For writers currently I’m really digging Alexandra Bracken (The Darkest Minds), Miranda Asebado (The Deepest Roots), Scott Westerfeld (Imposters), Katrin Van Dam (Come November), CE Clayton (The Monster of Selkirk), Nicole Lambert (Threatening Souls), and Kendra Radke (Entangled Collateral).
What’s the hardest kind of blog post or review for you to write?
Almost every review is kind of hard for me. I take a lot of time and consideration into each book review to hopefully make something that can help others. I also really struggle with tag posts because I suck at thinking up books off the top of my head that fit tag prompts.
You rep for a lot of different kinds of bookish companies as well as book groups. How did you get involved with them originally and what’s your favorite thing to rep?
I originally got involved with companies because one reached out to me when I was still a new bookstagrammer and asked me to help promote their products. I really liked promoting the items and started entering different rep searches for different companies. While I get a lot of free products from them, I also try to support the shops by buying from their shop as well. I currently rep for a lot of shops and while I love each and every one of them, I find that my favorite thing to show off and promote are totes. I’m a tad obsessed with totes lol.
I hope you all enjoyed meeting Paige of PopTheButterfly and Indie Blog Hop! If you are a booklover, she really is one to follow, I promise you won't be disappointed! In another month (or two...) I'll feature another excellent blogger, so stay tuned my friends!
Hello friends and booknerds! I have a question for you. It’s been something I’ve been thinking about for a while, and have even discussed with some other book reviewers and authors. All of whom have different—and equally as valid—opinions on the matter. But I want to ask you about giving a review / rating for a book you didn’t finish, or DNF as so many on Goodreads refer to it as.
How do you feel about giving a star rating for a book you couldn’t finish? Does it depend on the reason why you couldn’t finish it? For example, will you give a star rating for a DNF book if it was just so bad—0 editing, plot holes a cargo freighter could drive through, racist / sexist beyond belief, that sort of thing—that you feel compelled to essentially warn people away from it? Or do you prefer to write a text review stating you DNF for whatever reason, but leave off the star rating? It’s important to note, that only sites like Goodreads let you do this. Places like Amazon require both a star and text review when rating any item. Or, if you can’t finish the book because it just wasn’t your thing, or emotionally you aren’t in the mood for a given book, do you quietly put it down and say nothing?
This may seem like a hot button topic, but only because people have some pretty strong opinions on the matter. I want to better understand where people are coming from, passionate readers and “professional” book reviewers alike! As an author, I have mixed feelings on this. Generally, I’m fine with a text review of a DNF book—but not a star rating—if there was a good reason someone didn’t like it. I’m not here for author or book bashing as it’s helpful to exactly no one. But usually I find telling the world you DNF a book to be rather pointless? Unless you're rating and reviewing something so terrible it needs that kind of warning to readers—and even then—I don’t see the need to express that a certain book was something you couldn’t force yourself to read.
I struggle with DNF books because I don’t like it. I feel compelled to finish all books I read, even bad ones. I’ve been told I maybe shouldn’t do this, as there are so many amazing books I’m not reading while I force myself to finish something I regrettably started. But that means I feel justified when I don’t rate a book positively, because I read it and therefore am qualified to give an opinion. That point is also debatable by many who think authors shouldn’t review or rate books out of professional courtesy. I don’t know about all that. I get book review requests all the time and I do spend my own hard earned money on books, so why can’t I review those? I am a reader as much as I am an author.
If you’d like, we can discuss that as well. Because, again, I know people have opinions.
But basically, I’m just curious. Curious as to when you feel compelled to rate and review a book. Is it only if you loved it because you find the bad books not worth your time to rate or review? After all, just because you don’t like something doesn’t mean the book isn’t great, it just wasn’t your thing. Which is fine! Or, regardless of if you DNF, hated the book but finished it, or loved every moment of it, will you rate and review it? Or will you not rate and review a single thing because you’re also an author?
As someone who wears both hats, I will say I only rate books I finish, and I will always give my honest opinion about the book. I don’t think rating a book you DNF is fair because what if something amazing happens on the next page but you never found out? If I don’t like something, I’ll outline why so others can understand my rating and decide for themselves if my issues will be a problem for them.
But I do understand how, as an author, my opinions on books may be interpreted as bashing or unprofessional for the indie author community, even if I’m asked to review the book, but whatever. I get that concern, I just don’t agree with it. Reviews are so important that as long as someone is civil and is constructive with their criticism, I don’t see a problem in a fellow author reviewing a book. But I can respect when an author decides to not rate a book if they would otherwise give it a bad rating. I know such authors as Robin Hobb do that. She’ll review books occasionally, but only if the review is 3 stars or above because anything less, at least to her, means the book wasn’t her cup of tea and is, therefore, not something she feels necessary reviewing.
But tell me what YOU think, dear friend! Do you have an opinion? What’s your process? Sharing is caring! I’d love to have a dialogue with you on this topic that’s near and dear to my heart.
Well hello there my friends! Long time no see, I know. But I did warn you that with moving things would be a tad slow for me… I'm happy to say that things are back on track now and I have some updates, well, stories really, for you. And, as I keep you updated throughout the year on my life, my work, and my rambling thoughts in general, I’ll also have goodies like blog tours, interviews, reviews, and giveaways. So thanks for sticking with me and let me just say I’m so glad to be back and done with moving/unpacking!
Moving sucks. To anyone who has moved, that’s no surprise. Moving and starting a new job are, apparently, some of the most stressful times in a person’s life. I’m sure that goes up exponentially if you happen to travel with cats like I do. You can read the guest blog I wrote a while back on my first experience traveling with my fuzzy friends. I'm happy to report that they were much better this time! Aside from my boy cat wanting to walk across my face while I slept, the cats were angels. The dog not so much this time, but that wasn’t his fault.
Dobby was attacked by mosquitoes just before we left New Orleans. He was itching and chewing himself so much he had giant wounds all around his tail. Nothing we did worked and the poor pup just howled in pain if we tried to touch him (he sounds like a dinosaur when he cries). It broke my heart and my only consolation was knowing he had a vet appointment as soon as we arrived in California. The crying wouldn’t have been so bad, except me and my husband were idiots about the drive.
The place we were moving into wasn't ready for us by the time my husband had to be back in California and at his new job. In the interim, we were to stay with my parents which was fine! My dog loves it, he has lots of friends to play with at their house and my mom absolutely spoils that little dog. The problem was my parents’ dogs. They don’t like cats. At all. So the cat’s needed to be boarded at the vet. The vet could only take them on Friday because otherwise they wouldn’t have the right person there to take our kittens. Again, not a big deal because we could time our driving to be there in time for that. Except our moving company screwed us over.
The moving company showed up late on Wednesday and then had too few people to pack. They were at our house packing up until 11 pm at night! My husband was freaking out by 5 pm that day because we needed to be on the road in order to get to the vet in time for both the cats and the dog. Come 8 pm, we say “fuck it” and get a friend to sign off on the moving van so we can leave and try and make up some of that time on the road. Well, we couldn’t make up the time lost so once more we said, “Fuck it, we’ll drive straight from New Orleans to Phoenix, Arizona so that we can make it to California in time for the pets.”
Some of you are probably groaning/cringing by this point. Those of you who aren’t, let me fix that for you: New Orleans is a good 20+ hours from Phoenix. Yup, we decided to drive 20 hours straight starting at 8 pm, and that’s after getting up early (like 6 am) to be ready for the moving company who showed up late. It wasn’t a smart move on our part and resulted in stopping for 3 hours at 3 am to “sleep” at a turn off with a bunch of truckers, 2 panic attacks where my husband legitimately thought he was dying, and 3 pets who we couldn’t feed properly without risking them getting out and fleeing the hell hole that was the car. We were bad humans.
Anyway we lived, the pets are fine, and eventually we moved into our new place and our stuff arrived. Except a bunch was missing or broken, so I got to argue with an insurance claims adjuster on getting the items replaced or getting reimbursed if they couldn’t be fixed, so that was fun. All this to say I have no intention of moving again for a very, very long time (I did say that when I first moved to New Orleans, but this time I mean it).
But it wasn’t all awful. Moving back to California meant being much closer to my family. It made our father’s day weekend in Big Bear all the more satisfying to know that moments like that, making memories with my family and being involved in their lives, is something that will happen with much more frequency. So be sure to enjoy your family at every opportunity, my friends. You never know when life might take you, or them, away and you’ll miss them when they're gone. You’ll feel left out and forgotten, even though you aren’t. That little extra bit of distance changes things and I wasn’t prepared for that the first time around. I know better now, but still have no intention of getting that far away again.
Oh, Big Bear was fun by the way. We didn’t catch much on the lake and I have an epic sun burn on my thighs, but it was great because I got to spend it with my family and didn’t have to worry about catching a flight immediately after. Sun burns on flights are just the worst….
Anyway, the next few blogs will be highlights of my favorite bloggers and updates on my books, so get excited, my friends! And tell me about some of your horror stories about moving so we can all have a laugh about it together!