Character Names

clip_image002How does a writer devise a name for a character? First, we can’t choose a name similar to the other main characters or you’ll run into people named Maria, Marilyn, and Merle. It gets confusing for the reader. So that eliminates certain sounds and letters. The character’s ethnic heritage or her role in the story may influence your choice. For example, I can’t proceed with plotting my next romance without obtaining a name for my heroine, but so far, nothing has struck my fancy. The story is based on Norse mythology so that gives me a place to start. I looked in The Writer’s Digest Character Naming Sourcebook by Sherrilyn Kenyon, an excellent resource that lists names by nationality and gives their meanings. Then I drew up a list of Norwegian female names that caught my interest. I narrowed these down to selections with a certain sound I wanted.

To visualize my characters, I cut out pix from magazines like TV Guide and Entertainment Weekly. So here is my heroine. She’s the perfect counterpart to my serious, brooding hero, Lord Magnor.

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My female name choices:

Dagny (joy of the Danes)

Kelci (from the ship’s island) Kelsey

Mildri (mild and lovely)

Randi (lovely, goddess) Ragnfrid, Ragni

Brief character sketch: Heroine sculpts mythical figures of trolls and fairies out of natural materials and sells them online. Owns a pottery studio, wants to open a gift shop, and maybe teach children arts and crafts.

Other Women in the series: Nira, Jennifer, Lianne, Algie

Men: Zohar, Paz, Magnor, Dal, Kaj, Yaron

If I name her Dagny, I can’t call her Dag for short because one of the established heroes is Dal. So I have to keep in mind these other people when I choose her name. Mildri is cute but maybe too mild for her. Kelsey is too ordinary, although Kelci is a different spelling that might work. Ragni? Call her Rage for short? Hey, that might do. She looks kinda angry at the world, doesn’t she? I can’t nickname her Rag with a soft “g” because it would sound too much like Kaj.

What do you think? Who does she look like to you? Any other suggestions? What means do you, the writer, use to determine your character names?

Gifts for the Writer

What should you buy for the writer on your gift list? Some of these items are no brainers. Others are generic, and still others apply to the individual. But here are some cost-effective ideas that may appeal to all in no particular order. The best way to get a wish list: Ask. Or go look at their desk if you have access and see what they collect or use the most.      

   Some of the more interesting gifts I’ve gotten have come from my writer pals or my kids, like the jar labeled Writer’s Remedy that holds little squares with different words for inspiration, or the figure holding a hammer to his computer with a plaque that says #1 Author & Mom, or the coffee mug with my book title. Be imaginative, or be simple. Whatever you give will be appreciated.

Here are some ideas:

  1. An Ebook reader device, i.e. a Kindle, Nook, Sony, or Kobo, or a tablet like the iPad.
  2. Accessories for the Ebook reader.
  3. Books and DVDs on their Wish List.
  4. Gift Cards to Amazon, B&N, Borders, Starbucks. You can order particular books on Amazon Kindle now to be sent to the gift recipient’s email address if they have a Kindle.
  5. Office Supplies: highlighters, ultra-fine black Sharpie pens, a good quality ballpoint pen, a sturdy stapler, paper clips, rubber bands, pads of paper. You name it, we can use it.
  6. Personalized notepads and Post-its. Great for scribbling memos.
  7. Cute desk accessories like Brighton pens and mini-clocks or magnetic paper clip holders.
  8. Scented Candles. Scents can soothe or energize.
  9. Body lotions, hand cream, scented soaps. If we smell good, we feel good.
  10. A gift certificate to a day spa. A mani-pedi or a massage can go a long way toward relaxation.
  11. USB Flash Drive. We can use several as backups to keep in different locations.
  12. Chocolates and/or Wine. You can never go wrong here. My favorite place to order food gifts is Wine Country Gift Baskets. They have a selection of everything and their prices are reasonable.                              

What else would you add?    

                               

Home for the Holidays

HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS

With Thanksgiving and the Holidays approaching rapidly, now is the time to straighten your house and clean out the clutter before festooning your living room with decorations and welcoming your guests.            

                                     

Here are some tips for getting started:

1. Dust Collectors: Make a list of all the items you want to get rid of in terms of furniture, memorabilia, paintings, and knickknacks sitting idly on your shelves. Write down descriptions and the prices you’d like to receive. If necessary, take digital photos. Then decide if you want to put them on eBay or Craigslist, have a yard sale, sell them on consignment at a local auction house, or donate them to a charity.

2. Photos, Slides, and VHS Tapes: Consider converting these into digital format. Re the photos, do you want to scan them onto a DVD, upload them to online storage, or scrapbook them into an album? It’s easier to sort your photos first by subject and then tackle one album at a time. Now’s the time to throw out duplicates and blurry pictures. Clear your drawers for other uses and save your heirs the job of sorting through this stuff later. Label the photos as you sort them. And how about slides and family videos of your early vacations or of the kids? Photo shops and places like Costco will convert your slides and VHS tapes onto DVD. Pay the price then toss the slides and tapes that take up too much room. Or buy a machine that will convert VHS to DVD in your home.

3. Clothing, Shoes, Handbags: Sift through your closet with a ruthless hand. Collect any clothing you haven’t worn in years and accessories you no longer favor. Donate them to a charity or hold a yard sale.

4. Files: Try to clear out those mounds of papers that collect everywhere. Tackle one pile at a time. Throw out items that are no longer relevant. File papers you want to keep for reference. Take care of things that need immediate attention. You’ll feel better when your home office or kitchen counter is more organized.

5. Stuff That Doesn’t Belong To You: What do you do about all the items in drawers and boxes that belong to your adult kids or spouse? Can you toss them without permission? If the item has any meaning to your loved one, don’t touch it. You wouldn’t like it if someone threw out your treasures, even if they held value to no one else. Remember the command: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. On the other hand, if you find a lot of old papers or letters, toys or tools, etc. that likely no one would miss, why not box the stuff and tell the owner you intend to toss the items. You’re giving him or her the option of sorting through them first. This makes the task less overwhelming by dividing it into small bundles to attack at a time.

6. Prepare For Company: Now that your house looks neater, and you’re ready to get out the decorations, there’s one more thing you have to do. Polish the Silver. Here’s a handy tip on getting your silver bright and shiny with little effort.   

SILVER POLISH SHORTCUT

Put the stopper in your kitchen sink drain. Line the sink with aluminum foil, shiny side up. Fill the basin with warm water. Dissolve 1/4 cup each salt and baking soda in water. Put in silver pieces. Let sit for a few minutes, then rotate. Sprinkle in more salt and baking soda as needed. When tarnish is gone, remove the item onto a clean towel and dry. If you wish, rub off stubborn spots with your favorite silver paste, rinse, and then buff with a dry cloth.

The Great Void

I finished the second book in my paranormal trilogy at 444 pages. This comes as a great relief but with one downside. It leaves me mentally floating in a void. I want to take a break and catch up on all the household chores left by the wayside the last few months, but my mind needs an anchor. That’s usually a WIP. It’s what I wake up eager to work on every day, a purpose, a calling if you will. But before I begin writing again, I need to develop the characters and the plot for the next story. Sometimes, this takes a while, because the characters have to brew in my head and the plot needs time to gel. I can tackle these stacks of papers in my office in the meantime, free of a daily writing schedule.

With vacant time, I can also turn to my final backlist book that needs conversion to digital format. It needs quite a bit of revision, not only sentence tightening, but adding a glossary and fixing paragraphs where I jump POVs. This task is likely to take me several months. Keeper of the Rings is 521 pages, a long book. But those characters are haunting me. A new generation of readers are waiting to discover Leena and Taurin’s story. And I’d like to bring it to them. So I am working on this revision, while also spending time cleaning the office. It’s a good time for a break with the holidays approaching, vacations coming, and relatives soon to visit.

Or I may zero in on a target book depending on my agent’s advice. Part of me wants to lounge around for a few months and part of me doesn’t. Can a writer ever be happy? We’re damned if we do and we’re damned if we don’t. We can’t wait to finish a book and have time to relax but then our mind stretches for a new challenge.

Nancy’s Ramblings

I thought I’d pause in my conference reports to see if a) anyone cares for me to continue, and b) bring you up to date on what’s going on.

Basically, I’ve been working nose to grindstone, if that’s the proper expression, polishing my WIP. This is book two in my proposed paranormal trilogy.  When this revision is done, I’ll work on the plot for the next story.

Meanwhile, I’m excited that my favorite sleuth, Marla Shore, will be revisiting your homes once against when Five Star releases her next story in January 2012.  It’s a long wait but during this time will be line edits, copy edits, art department meetings, etc. so the publishing process takes a while. It’ll be worth the wait to finally join Marla and Dalton at an exciting upcoming event in their lives.  I am most grateful to my readers whose comments and encouragement inspired me to complete this story. 

The holidays rapidly approach, and I’ve put out our meager Halloween decorations: a few pumpkin thingies, candles, and some gold tinsel. I love the fall colors, the reds and oranges and yellows.  And Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday, and not because it’s also my birthday. 

It would help if our weather would cool down a bit.  The humidity has dropped but it’s 86 degrees out today.  All our landscaping looks great. Our gardeners took some bromeliads that were overgrowing our pool and planted them around a tree in front. With new mulch, everything looks much better.

We have another cruise coming up before the end of the year.  This will be a ten day voyage to the Southern Caribbean.  I’m especially looking forward to visiting the spice farms on Grenada.  Before then, we’ll be doing the Epcot Food & Wine Festival and visiting Universal’s Islands of Adventure for the Harry Potter attractions.  So that’s what is going on here.

Now, do you want me to continue with reports from the Ninc conference or stick to my own ramblings hereafter?

 

Publishing Concerns

“Brainstorming on the Beach” Conference with Novelists, Inc.

Publishing Concerns with Carolyn Pittis, Senior VP, Global Author Services, HarperCollins

Carolyn reviewed the progress of publishing from the first cave drawings to the printing press to our current Digital Age.  The pain over the digital media transition is caused by firms trying to hang onto their legacy business, the struggle to prevent piracy, and the fret over uncertain outcomes.

Media is digitized in the order of least resistance (i.e. newspapers, magazine, music, film, etc.) so books are last.

Carolyn predicts increased consumption by readers but less time with any one book or author, because readers have too many distractions.

Bloggers are the current reviewers.  Reviews matter more than social media in terms of selling books.  However, authors who are not engaged in social networking are at grave risk.

Issues in the digital ecosystem: advances, royalty rates, territoriality.  The old business model is losing scale.  There are reduced barriers to entry for new writers. Everyone is trying to figure out how to make money under the new model.

These five forces conspire to drive profitability out of the business:

Bargaining power of suppliers (writers)

Bargaining power of customers (readers)

Threat of new entrants

Threat of substitute products (products other than books)

Competitive rivalry within the industry

Considerations in the publishing world include Content Development, Production and Packaging, Marketing and Merchandising, and Distribution.

Content + Editorial + Distribution + Marketing + Product = Sales $$

C = E-D-M-P = $$     If self-publishing, the author will have to do the E-D-M-P herself or hire someone to do it.

Carolyn distinguishes between Word Writers and Word Brands.

Word Writers need an advance, have low tech knowledge, have a small to medium fan base, and want a support system.  

Word Brands don’t need cash up front, have other businesses, are confident in their abilities, possess tech knowledge and a marketing platform, and can hire people to complement their skills. 

Which one are you?  Which one do you think better leans toward self-publishing?

Ideally, a publisher’s role should be to grow an author’s reach in this manner:

 Fund:  Advance, royalties, subrights

Create: Edit, design, distribute

Defend: Protect intellectual property

Inform: Collaborate, communicate, integrate, lead, and advise

Amplify: Market, raise awareness and acclaim

Focus: Support creative renewal

***Don’t you wish all publishers would do these things for us?

Writing for Worldwide Distribution

“Brainstorming on the Beach” Conference with Novelists, Inc.

 Here are my notes, keeping in mind this is what I heard and my interpretation.  This panel was geared toward Harlequin Enterprises.

Writing for Worldwide Distribution with Marsha Zinberg, Executive Editor, Harlequin Enterprises and Author Vicki Lewis Thompson

 Marsha:  A breakdown on what’s popular with readers shows that cowboys, weddings, babies, and Texas remain favorite themes. The Presents line features the power dynamics between a hero and heroine.  A new line is coming, HQ Heartwarming with wholesome stories.

 Mini-series and connected series are always hits.

Direct to Consumer: No paranormals. Heroines should be focused on home not career.

Overseas: Fantasy and romance are welcome but not paranormal. Ugly Duckling, Cinderella, forbidden love, millionaires, and secret babies are themes that work.  The romance should be the focus of the story.

When you, the author, are doing your fact sheet, keep in mind that overseas editors read them so make your universal theme evident right away.  The synopsis shouldn’t be overly long or complicated since English may not be their first language.

Topics to avoid: Casinos and gambling, ballroom dancing, post-war traumatic stress disorder.

Medical sells well overseas but not in North America.

Be prolific to create your author franchise.

Time sensitive issues and brand names may date a book so be wary of using these.  Ditto for technology and politically correct terms.

Vicki:  Know what is selling but don’t always follow trends.  Focus what you do well and write often.  Be a pro regarding deadlines.  Challenge yourself as a writer and take a chance on special projects.

Refilling the creative well implies that you drain your energy when you write. Instead, think of writing as recharging your batteries.  The more you write, the more you want to write. 

Coming Next: Sharing Concerns with Carolyn Pittis, Senior VP, Global Author Services, HarperCollins

Digital Rights

DIGITAL RIGHTS

“Brainstorming on the Beach” Conference with Novelists, Inc.                                                   

lunch2
Lunch Break

Panelists

Lucienne Diver, Literary Agent

Angela James, Executive Editor, Carina Press

Brian O’Leary, Magellan Media Partners

Sue Lange, Book View Café

Barbar Keiler, Author

Chris Kenneally, Copyright Clearance Center

Lou Aronica, Publisher, The Story Plant

J.A. Konrath, Author & Blogger

Here are my notes, keeping in mind this is what I heard and my interpretation.

Lucienne:  Unless you have an audience or a platform, you need a publisher.  And to reach the broadest possible audience, you need a publisher to put your book into the different formats.

Chris:  Digital publishing offers you a chance to experiment with a novella or a short story. 

Google editions may discourage piracy because people won’t share their Google accounts.

Lou doesn’t advice just putting your book up on Amazon.  They don’t put effort into marketing individual books.  Plus with so many formats, going with a publisher is better.

Joe Konrath believes consumers feel less toward digital copies than toward works in print. 

Agency Model: Publisher gets 70%, Amazon gets 30%, publisher sets price.  Out of the publisher’s share, the author may get 25%  and their agent gets 15% of that money.

Barbara:  How will mobile phones affect the art of writing?  Will readers have patience for paragraphs longer than 3 lines?  Will description be tolerated or will it be replaced by a video clip?  Will the Twitter novel become popular?  How about turning off your cell phones on airplanes? Does this mean you can’t read during takeoffs and landings?  People with shorter attention spans will want shorter books.

Brian:  Re contract clauses and reversion of rights and subrights, try for a shorter term, like 3 to 5 years, after which these items are negotiable. 

Publishers have to agree on terms of sale with eReader device providers in order to offer their stock in that format.

“Windowing” is when a hardcover comes out then the eBook comes out xx weeks later.  You have to market the book twice when this happens so it causes the author more work.  This also may happen with books that release in the U.S. market and later in the foreign markets.  You lose sales momentum.

Final Advice:                                                           

Nancy and Denise
Nancy Cohen and Five Star Editor Denise Dietz

Write more good books and write quickly.

Don’t be overwhelmed by the marketing aspects.

Spend time selling your book.  Work it into your calendar.

You don’t need an entire social media strategy.  Start with just one thing.

You can reinvent yourself.  Don’t be frightened by the prospect; be excited by it.

Be transparent for your readers; let them see who you are.

You can find a smaller, devoted audience without a blockbuster mentality.  This can be artistically liberating for writers.

Follow you own path while keeping in mind all your options.

Lunch
Enjoying Lunch
Coming Next: Writing for Worldwide Distribution

EBooks

EBOOKS

“Brainstorming on the Beach” Conference with Novelists, Inc.                                                         

Annette
Annette Mahon, Nancy Cohen, Cynthia Thomason

Here are my notes, keeping in mind this is what I heard and my interpretation.

Panelists:

Lou Aronica, Publisher, The Story Plant

Donna Hayes, Publisher and CEO, Harlequin Enterprises

Al Zuckerman, Literary Agent and Founder of Writers House

Carolyn Pittis, Senior VP, Global Author Services, HarperCollins

Heather Graham, NYT Bestselling Author

Alan Kaufman, Literary Attorney

Loriana Sacilotto, Executive VP, Editorial & Global Strategy, Harlequin Enterprises

Angela James, Executive Editor, Carina Press

“Publishers are moving toward digital publishing because consumers want it.” Ereaders will be hot over the holidays.

A digital world offers no returns, no print production, and a different distribution avenue. It’s a very big opportunity for writers and publishers. Genre readers have adapted to the technology faster than others.

Neilsen Bookscan (if I got this right) reported $40.6 million eBook sales in one month.  The Kindle is responsible for this explosion.

The competition, i.e. B&N, Borders, Amazon, and Google, are growing awareness of this product.  What will really shake things up will be Smartphones.  This is the next big opportunity.  People who don’t own dedicated eReaders will have global Smartphones.  Even eReaders may disappear in favor of these devices.  The deciding factor is how long brick and mortar stores stay open.

See this article “Verizon Wireless Brings Kindle Experience to Android Smartphones and Other Devices” at http://bit.ly/9LypQG

Lou:  He doesn’t distinguish between print or eBook writers and publishing houses re prestige.  Readers want interaction with writers.  You must connect in some significant way with your readers.  The only way you can stand out from the pack is to market yourself, no matter the publisher or the format.

Regarding whether you should self-publish or go with an epub, Lou reminds you that epubs can manage the different streams of income.  Convenience is a major factor to going with an epub for now.  If eBook sales equivocate to print sales, perhaps these epubs should begin offering advances. 

Print publishers have to set up a new infrastructure while maintaining their legacy print operation, but there may be casualties as their margins are very small.

Angela:  Digital first authors may choose to go with an epub because they want to write something different or they want to start out in a smaller market.  It doesn’t mean they’ve been rejected by the major houses as many perceive it. 

“You don’t want to just publish a book.  You want a career.” Authors are small business owners and have to market themselves. 

Carolyn:  How do pubs and authors collaborate together as partners in a new business model to sell more books?  The major houses have to figure out how to reduce costs on the print side while increasing their investment in digital.  Readers care about what reviewers think and what their own friends like.  They care about a good story.  She believes too much technology (i.e. enhanced eBooks) may interfere with this experience, at least for fiction. It might work better for nonfiction.

Alan believes things may look similar in five years if the general trade publishers acquire the eBook publishing houses.  Then those pubs may in turn be acquired by Google.

“Publishers act as gatekeepers.  This is their most important function.  If they aren’t around to do that, who knows what’ll be out there?”

Harlequin is already ahead of the game because it has Carina Press.  Angela says other issues like DRM and pricing will change the landscape.

Other issues mentioned in the panel were consumer pricing and the strong trend toward price reduction, demographics and the behavior of younger readers and their purchasing habits, and the foreign market which is hungry for content. 

Coming next: Digital Rights

I’m guest blogging today over at Fresh Fiction on Creating Memorable Villains.  Please check out my post and leave a comment: http://freshfiction.com/page.php?id=2864

Judy
Judy Fitzwater and Edie Claire

                                   

Traci
Traci Hall, Sally Schoeneweiss, Kathleen Pickering

Contracts and Copyrights

“Brainstorming on the Beach” Conference with Novelists, Inc.

 Contracts and Copyrights                                                                                                                                        panel

Panelists:

David Forrer, Literary Agent

Alan Kaufman, Literary Attorney

Carly Phillips, NYT Bestselling Author

Deb Werksman, Editorial Manager, Sourcebooks

Donna Hayes, Publisher and CEO, Harlequin Enterprises

Chris Kenneally, Copyright Clearance Center

Al Zuckerman, Literary Agent and Founder of Writers House

Brenda Hiatt, Author

Here are my notes, keeping in mind this is what I heard and my interpretation.

Ad revenues surrounding e-books will increase.  For example, books will be sold on Google with ads surrounding them.  This will be new revenue to the publishers, and authors should share in it.  Publishers have to staff up their royalty departments. 

Regarding reserves against returns, one panelist believes they should not continue beyond two royalty periods. A book having ongoing sales a year or more after it was published should not have reserves held back. Another agent agreed that if there are ongoing sales above the advance, there should no longer be reserves.

Editors defended their reserves policies. One editor said backlist books are out there for a long time.  50% sell-through is considered a success in mass-market, but there are still going to be returns.  Trade paperbacks can be returned at any time.

Regarding piracy, is it cannibalizing book sales, or would those readers not have bought the book anyway?  One way to combat piracy is through education.  Mention it in your blogs and on your website.  You should let people know, those who feel entitled to getting whatever they want off the Internet, that information is valuable and it is not free. Another solution is to write to the advertisers on pirate sites and alert them to violations.

One panelist said she thinks the used book marketplace as we know it will go away.  If publishers price eBooks reasonably, legitimate readers will buy them. 

What about the issue of returns?  Why are we still doing them at all?  Because booksellers won’t stock the books otherwise.  There have been attempts to launch imprints without returns, but the experiments failed.  Booksellers demand return policies.  There have even been eBook returns when a customer clicks on the wrong book or downloads the wrong format.

Reversion of rights and the definition of a book being in print entered the conversation.  We should try to restrict this clause to trade editions, English-language editions, or a dollar amount like $250 sold over two royalty periods.  You could also try to narrow this clause by saying the book is considered to be in print if 300 copies are sold electronically within two royalty periods.  Publishers want to hold onto your rights and they will do so forever because of the clause “in any form whatsoever” as defining a book in print. 

A similar phrase to watch out for is when a book is considered to be in print “in any format now or yet to be invented.”  This is a sticky issue today as publishers are trying to grab whatever rights they can. “They have a huge challenge coming up and are running scared.”

According to one panelist, the most important rights to keep are your foreign and film rights.  Try for a movie bonus in your contract, i.e. you get extra money if your book is optioned.  Try to get an audio rights reversion clause for six months or later so if the publisher does not exercise these subrights within the specified amount of time, the audio rights revert to the author.  50% of net is a good deal for audio rights.

Also try for a Look Back clause regarding eBook royalties.  For example, after three years, you can renegotiate your royalty rate. 

The advantage of digital first pubs: no advance but a higher royalty rate. The size of the eBook market is equivalent to 67% of mass-market sales or 55% of hardcover sales.  The Book Industry Study Group is looking to measure data but Walmart, for example, doesn’t report to them.

Copyright will be more important than anything in the future.

Some publishers are sticking a morals clause in contracts now.  This means the publisher can cancel the contract if the author behaves in an immoral manner.  Try to cross this one out.

And a final quote: “If you’re confused, you’re beginning to understand the problem.”

Panel on eBooks is coming next.

And check my Contest page for new info!