Help Me Name A Character!

All right. I recently ran a poll on my Facebook page, but for those who didn’t see it, here is the summary. I’m trying to decide on the name of the Felidae Clan leader in Changers 2. This character is gender fluid, and I picture xem as Black + Asian. Not that culture really makes a difference in this world, but that’s just my mental image of what the character looks like.

In any case, the name needs to be unisex/gender neutral as well.

After the first round of voting, here are the current standings (in order of votes):

  1. Narcisse
  2. Kit
  3. Duri
  4. Fen
  5. Kevyn

The names possibly lean masculine because I think this character is biologically masculine, or was at least born a biological male. But Narcisse in French is used for both girls and boys.

One person commented (okay, the person was my mother, but still) that “Kit” is maybe too obvious/on the nose. But it did receive many votes, so I think it must be popular.

So here’s your chance to give me some input! Which of these names do you like most? Or if you have other suggestions, I’m open to hearing them. Let me know in the comments!

WIPjoy #17

What was the first thing you knew about your story’s world/setting?

That it would be set in Regency England? Seriously, though, I knew Faebourne would be an old house set in the forest—a place of mists and fey influences. It’s almost gothic, at least from the outside. The interior, however, is far from spooky.

The Popularity Contest Writer

I’ve noticed more and more—and maybe it started with shows like American Idol, where contestants rely on voters in order to succeed—that “awards” in writing are based more on how many votes a writer can muster than whether or not their work is any good.

For example, cover art awards offered by various bloggers and reviews sites (InD’Tale, Books & Benches) almost always require a writer and/or cover artist to go begging for votes. So instead of the best cover winning based on merit and design, it’s really the most popular author or artist who wins.

Kind of like high school all over again, really.

Same for many site-based reading awards. Your book or story gets nominated and then rounds of voting begin. Then I’m required to annoy my readers with constant “please vote” messages. I don’t enjoy sending them, and they don’t enjoy receiving them.

I’m not bitter, per se. (Okay, maybe I am a wee bit.) But I’d be much more proud of an award that came from experts who’d actually evaluated the work and found mine worthy of recognition.

And I understand, certainly, that popularity matters in this industry, at least to some extent. Being popular is how you sell books, and sales = success. Or does it? Well, sales = success in the eyes of publishers at the very least. And if you’re successful by that measure, you’re more likely to be given more opportunities. More opportunities = more chances for success = more sales . . . You see how it becomes a loop.

The bottom line is: what’s popular isn’t always what’s actually good. We all know this. We’ve all picked up a best-selling book or gone to see some blockbuster film and walked away thinking, What rubbish. I don’t understand why everyone likes it. And we don’t all have the same tastes, which is part of what makes our world interesting. But apparently enough of us like some things so much that it makes a blip on the pop culture radar. It causes “buzz.” Whether that thing is any good or not.

A lot of the books in these contests are indie books by authors who churn them out and now have a mobilized following. I’m sure the authors write well, though I’ll admit I’ve read few of them. They’d tell me to get a “street team” or something, and then I could win awards via votes, too. But that’s not the point. At least not for me. The point is, an award shouldn’t be based on popular vote. Unless it’s the People’s Choice Awards, I guess. Any award worth bragging about comes from your peers and from people within the industry who have the experience to determine the good from the great.

That said, if my readers—all five or ten of them—ever want to vote for me if/when I’m nominated for a vote-based award, I won’t say no.

WIPjoy #16

How would you describe your setting?

Most of the action takes place at Faebourne, which is an old, gothic house surrounded by forest. In fact, Duncan notices how unnaturally close to the house the trees are. However, though somewhat spooky from the outside, on the inside Faebourne is elegant and comfortable. The place is strange, and so are its inhabitants, but not particularly menacing. At least, not at first glance . . .

Random Thing

Sometimes—particularly during the summer—people will speak to me in Spanish. Then they’ll see the blank look on my face and say, “You’re not Hispanic?”

I’m not. I’m Creole. I have skin that gets dark as toast when I’ve been out in the sun, and being in California, Latina is usually the first assumption.

I told my mother this and she laughed and told me a story I’d never heard before. Apparently when I was pretty young—too young to remember this anyway—we used to go to a laundromat that for whatever reason was connected to a Mexican restaurant. (For context: this was in Texas.) One day the woman from the restaurant began to scold my mother for dying my hair and trying to “pass” me as white. “You should be proud of her heritage!” the woman said.

You have to understand, I was very dark skinned but had white blonde hair. My hair was extremely fair up until I was about nine or ten years old, then became a darker blonde—”ash” or “dirty” as they sometimes call it. I dye it red now, in part because I always wanted auburn hair, and mostly to cover my gray. Besides, the red looks fantastic with my skin tone and makes the blue-green of my eyes pop.

Anyway, my mother had a difficult time convincing this restauranteur that she hadn’t dyed my hair, that I really had come that way naturally.

As for Spanish, having grown up in Texas I do know a few words, but I’m nothing like fluent or even passable. But if you need me to fuss and cluck in Creole French, I can do that.

WIPjoy #15

From the MC: Your favorite music?

We’ll ask Duncan Oliver, the hero of Faebourne:

Anything soft and mellow, really. Maybe a bit of harp music? I find the pianoforte can be jarring unless the player has a light touch. Alas, so many young ladies attempt to showcase their abilities by going quite the other direction. And—just between ourselves, you understand—very few of them sing as well as they seem to believe. ::shudder::

Revisiting Goals

Okay, so a lot has happened since my last check-in with my yearly goals. For the record they were:

  1. Publish Brynnde
  2. Finish and submit Changers: The Great Divide
  3. Finish Hamlette
  4. Write another Sherlock Holmes story

(Accomplished goals are in green.)

Well. I did publish Brynnde, and though I didn’t write a new Sherlock Holmes story I did (a) compile my three existing stories into one collection, and (b) have an audiobook version produced as well. And I’ve started on a new Sherlock Holmes story, too, but that’s been sidelined for the moment due to other priorities.

In fact, I need to reorganize my goals. I’m bumping Hamlette up to #1 current project because I have a due date of September 30 and a solid chance at representation for this particular book. So now all my focus is bent in that direction. With Brynnde done and off the table, here are my mid-year goals:

  1. Finish and submit Hamlette to the interested agent
  2. Finish and submit Changers: The Great Divide to Evernight
  3. Finish and publish Faebourne
  4. Finish the new Sherlock Holmes story

I don’t honestly expect to finish all three before the end of the calendar year, but whatever doesn’t get done by then will loop to 2018. It’s so nice to have definite focus, though, and clear priorities. And a deadline. I work well with those, but not when they’re self-imposed. I really need others to hold me accountable. Thank goodness for my critique group!

IWSG: Lessons

It’s time again for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Posts go up the first Wednesday of each month. Read more posts and/or join in here.

I recently completed a writing retreat and workshop in France. As idyllic as it sounds, I was insecure about it! Six writers, all strangers (at least to me), in an intimate setting . . . But of course it went beautifully and was a wonderful experience. Now my insecurities are based on living up to all their faith in me and my work! I’ve been given a deadline for Hamlette, which is actually good for me; I work so much better under deadlines, particularly ones imposed by someone other than myself. I’m glad to have people to hold me accountable.

Question of the Month: What is one valuable lesson you’ve learned since you started writing?

I’ve learned so much over the years, so it’s tough for me to narrow it down to just one lesson. I will say that it’s important to set goals. Realistic ones. Bite-sized ones. Know what “success” looks like to you, whether it’s landing an agent and a major publisher, or self-publishing and selling X number of books. And don’t let anyone tell you your personal version of success is wrong. That is, don’t let them tell you what you “should” want. That’s their idea of success; it doesn’t have to be yours. (This is the whole point of my screenplay 20 August, btw.) Anyway, be sure and clear about what you want. Then break that goal into steps and start taking them.