Thursday, October 5, 2017

What's in a name? Lots! (#iamwriting #MFRWAuthor #NaNoWriMo)

I'm sure I'm not the first writer to blog about the significance of names, nor will I be the last. There's even a wiki about choosing character names! 

Authors carefully choose names. Why?

First, the right name must fit in with your story. Tolkien wouldn't have called one of his characters John Smith--John wouldn't fit in with Bilbo Baggins or Galadriel. 

Secondly, some names are so famous that popular references have attached. Don't name a character Adolf, Madonna, Elvis or Marilyn--that choice will jar a reader right out of the story, and that's the last thing that an author wants. We want to keep the reader immersed in the wonderful, engrossing world we've created.

http://a.co/4qStMAR
But an author can use that to her advantage. In Spy Game, my hero is named Richard Rexford--a conscious aping of Robert Redford. Richard is also a handsome, athletic blond, and I wanted readers to make the association.  

contains Ocean Dreams and
Viking in Tartan

http://a.co/ftMIDIO
Few readers picked it up, but I named a character in Ocean Dreams Sandi Ricks, after a character in the old Flipper TV show--Ocean Dreams is about a very unusual dolphin.

Also, I try to avoid too many names in a story that start with the same letter, which will confuse a reader, especially if there are a lot of characters introduced quickly. Avoid Martin and Maria, Barbara and Bobby, Jane and Jenny.

I avoid names that are unpronounceable. Readers don't only look at words on the page, but their minds are reading to them. When I as a reader encounter an odd name, I find myself falling out of the book and trying to figure out how the name is pronounced. So I avoid Gaelic names that are confusing. None of my characters will ever be named Airdsgainne or Slaibhin. In futuristics or sci-fi, one often encounters names with accents or apostrophes in odd paces. Avoid these. They distract and may even annoy a reader. 

http://a.co/5d9XZCD
Every name has an intrinsic meaning. Dickens was famous for his interesting names, which often reflected characters' personalities. The Artful Dodger is only too obvious. Esther Summerson (Bleak House) is one of Dickens' most lovely characters, lightening one of his longest and yes, most bleak books. Stryver in A Tale of Two Cities is, indeed, an ambitious striver.

I often take my cues from Dickens. In a book I wrote for Harlequin/Silhouette, The Ranger and the Rescue, the heroine calls herself Serenity Clare, a name she chose for herself after she left an abusive husband. She pursues serenity and clarity in her life.

The hero of Viking in Tartan, Erland Blodson, is a warrior and also a vampire. The name Erland means "leader." Blodson is also obvious.

http://a.co/hkRzRa9
In my memoir, Perilous Play, I had to rename a man I know in order to protect his privacy. I chose the name Trapper Hart.

It wasn't a very good relationship.

http://a.co/7i0JVmo
I also look at the sounds of names. In Queen of Shadow, a futuristic, I created a name--Storne--for my hero, using a lot of strong-sounding consonants. 

If you're a writer, how do you choose names?

If you're a reader, what character names are particularly memorable for you?

Friday, September 1, 2017

Naughty Nights is here! (#naughtyliterati #boxsets #romance #EverComing #LJGarland)

Say hello to another fabulous, entertaining short story anthology from the Naughty Literati!

This autumn, we welcome Guest Authors Ever Coming and L.J. Garland, who have contributed wonderful stories.


Here's what my story is about:


The Cowboy, His Countess, and Her Companion


(England, 1870) The Honorable Amelia Haddon must marry, or lose the income that supports her and her "companion."  Averse to men, she is desperate until an American cowboy proves to be her unlikely rescuer. But will judgmental society drag this happy trio apart?

And here's a snippet from Chapter One--the setting is Almack's, of course :)

Leonore Wingate turned to her bosom-bow, Amelia Haddon, bending slightly so the smaller woman could hear over the music and chatter. “Can you see that chap? He’s new.”

Amelia blinked. “Really?”

“Yes, and he’s coming toward us.”

Leonore grinned. “What shall we tell this one?”  They had been inventing stories to explain their unusual closeness since they'd met at boarding school. Their most innocuous story was that she was Amelia’s hired companion, which was fairly close to the truth. They enjoyed telling others that they were engaged in the study of Sapphic poetry; in the main, their peers had no idea to what they were referring.

Amelia eyed the stranger. “Intuition tells me that this one might not be easily fobbed off. You do remember that Madame Esperanza told me that my intuitive powers are usually great.” 

Leonore withheld a sarcastic retort, but rolled her eyes.  

Amelia continued, “Perhaps we should encourage his suit.”

Shocked, Leonore lost her breath and therefore her voice for several seconds. Then she managed to say, “But—but—”

“You have not yet heard my news.”

“That letter you received from your father?”

“Yes. He threatens to cut me off should I fail to marry before my next birthday.”

“But you can’t marry! You can’t!” Heads turned at the vehemence of her tone, and she lowered her voice. “Why?”

“Of course I do not wish to marry, but what else can we do?”

Leonore pressed her lips together. “I’ll not leave you.”

Amelia touched Leonore’s hand briefly, so quickly that she was sure no one else saw. “Of course not. 
We shall maintain the fiction that you are my paid companion.”

“But what about at night? You can’t, Amelia! It would kill you!

Amelia drew a determined breath. “We all must do what we must. And I will have to bear his attentions, at least some nights.”

“You’ll lie quietly and think of crown and country? Ha! I’ll not allow it!”

“We don’t have a choice. I shall have to bear his attentions, at least on some nights. Many men keep mistresses for such...activities.”

Leonore paused, thinking. “Hm. You are right. Without your funds, we are left with only my tiny portion.” Her birth was impeccable but her fortune small, her parents having inconveniently wasted the Wingate estate before dying in a carriage accident.

She looked at Amelia. Amelia looked back. They sighed in unison.

“Good evening, ladies.” The stranger sketched a clumsy bow.

Leonore raised her brows as Amelia raised her fan. The stranger was so untutored in the social graces that he did not realize that he ought not address ladies to whom he had not yet been introduced. But...

“Your accent is not English,” Leonore said.

“No, I’m from Texas.” He smiled.

“In America?” Amelia sounded excited, and Leonore felt a spark of hope. Perhaps this foreigner would be different than other men. Perhaps he would not demand what Amelia couldn’t comfortably give.

“Yeah. From the good ol’ U.S. of A.”

Leonore winced at his speech. He seemed like a nice fellow, but...

Amelia said, “And what brings you to our shores?”

“I’ve inherited an estate that is in poor shape, and I’m here to claim it and find a wife to help me get it to where it should be,” the man explained in a rush.

Given the accent, Leonore understood perhaps half of what he said. She exchanged glances with Amelia, then said, “Umm, with all respect, sir, we have yet to be properly introduced.”

“Oh, sorry, miss. I’m Nate Fortune.”

“Of the Darlingside Fortunes?” Amelia asked, closing her fan.

If Leonore raised her brows more, she was certain they’d disappear into her hairline. She controlled herself. “You must be the new Earl Darlingside.”

“Yeah. And you?”

She and Amelia again exchanged glances. Despite the social solecism, Amelia responded. “I’m Amelia Haddon, and this is my...companion, Leonore Wingate.” She hooked her arm through Leonore’s elbow.

He eyed their linked arms and raised his brows. “Your...companion?”

“Yes,” Leonore said with emphasis. “We are quite inseparable.”

Now the stranger—Darlingside?—raised his brows. “That’s good.”

Leonore stared at him.

“Well, it would be very hard to choose between you. You are both such lovely ladies.”

“Flatterer,” Amelia said flirtatiously. She rapped his knuckles with her fan.

“Ow!” Darlingside made a show of rubbing his hand, as though he’d actually been hurt.

Amelia giggled while Leonore smiled.

He smiled back. “So the only question is, which one of you will I marry?”

If you like what you read, find it here on Amazon
or any other etailer you prefer


Saturday, August 19, 2017

Say "Hey, good to see you again" to the new Queen of Shadows by Suz deMello (#scifiromance #iamwriting)


I've often mentioned one of the great joys of epublishing--an indie author can get her rights back to books published by a traditional publisher and repackage them as her own.  And so it is with Queen of Shadow, a book that appeared originally with Liquid Silver (I think) and then went through editions with Totally Bound and Ellora's Cave, where it was presented as Queen's Quest. 

When I decided to indie publish it, I contacted April Martinez, the cover artist who created the original cover--I loved it and felt it expressed the themes, characters and story very well. I was lucky enough that she still owned the original files, and recreated the cover beautifully:



But what's it about, you ask?

Here's the blurb:

Looking for the next GoT? Here you are.

A brave queen struggles to control divided kingdoms on a terraformed planet thirty thousand years in the future.

Janus is a planet which lacks both tilt and spin, and the Shadowlands are the pewter band of dusk dividing its violently hot Lightside from the Darkside, imprisoned by eternal night. Because of the peculiar conformation of the planet, birthrates are low and indiscriminate mating encouraged.

Audryn, Queen of Shadow, has reached that time in her life when she must choose a King to rule with her or fail to bear an heir, casting not only her realm but all of Janus into chaos.

Despite her duty, she is reluctant to share power, even a bit distrustful. Janus’ nobles vie for Audryn’s hand. Although she enjoys trysting with all her suitors, none seize her heart.


Then Storne, the warrior Prince of Darkness, arrives to claim her as his bride. Will his masterful ways allure or repel the willful Queen?

Here's the backstory:

I wrote Queen of Shadow while I lived in Thailand in 2006-07. I was coming out of a dark period of my life during which my father and eldest brother died, my dearest friend from childhood committed suicide, and my marriage fell apart. I also had endured writer’s block for several years.


Queen of Shadow brought me out of my personal darkness and into light. I hope her story does the same for everyone who reads it.

While I hadn't read GoT when I wrote QoS, there are many similar elements, but there are differences. I took an idea I'd gathered from my interest in history--a Royal Progress--and combined it with the "tour of a strange planet" storyline that Robert Silverberg had used in Lord Valentine's Castle, one of my fave books. 

I had also seen a sci-fi TV  movie in the 90s--can't remember the name--that had used the conceit of a planet that, like our moon, has a lightside and a dark side, always turned away from the sun. I wondered what kinds of societies would evolve under those conditions.

What reviewers said about the older editions:

“sexual elements that can set your eyebrows on fire…”

Mrs. Giggles

“thrilling…Spicy, erotic sex scenes so hot they singed the pages…exceptional erotic fantasy.”

Coffee Time Romance

excellent… The plot line unfolded perfectly leading us into…dangerous political intrigue…will keep you glued to the pages… Another winner!”
Sensual eCataromance

“an ingenious plot…the story blazes…4.5 hearts”
The Romance Studio

 “The Planet Janus all but leapt off the pages and into my imagination…
Suz deMello has done a wonderful job…
an extremely satisfying read." 
ParaNormalRomance.org 

“An extreme amount of very hot sexual activity…I enjoyed it immensely… 
Queen of Shadows fulfilled my every desire." 
Whipped Cream Erotic Romance Reviews

Here's where you can score your copy:

Amazon: http://a.co/73CMKQ5

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/743053

Enjoy!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

How Reading Can Make a Good Writer by Suz deMello (#iamreading #MFRWAuthor #writersblock)

In another installment of what to do when you're blocked, another option is to seek inspiration. Or, rather, do what you did when you were an author in training. 

I didn't know I was an author in training as a child and as a teen, when I read obsessively. I clearly remember the first book I really loved--I believe I was about three years old. I don't remember the title, but it was about a train, all the things the train carried, and the people on the train. 


I went from there to read just about everything I could lay my hands on. When I was a teen I was a little bit more organized. I had a science fiction phase in which I read sci-fi from A to Z, literally from Asimov to Zelazny. Then I read
every British murder-mystery I could, starting with Holmes of course, moving through Sayers and Christie. Then I started to read Regency Romance. Going to college interrupted my unplanned unconscious reading schedule. But I still read novels almost exclusively with the exception of British histories, mostly by Thomas Costain.


I didn't realize what I was doing at the time, but the obsessive reading of pop fiction educated me in the basics of writing pop fiction. I unconsciously learned everything from the overarching notion of story down through plot characterization conflict and even proper sentence structure. 




I make the point in my book About Writing, as follows:



Writing a book starts long before you open your new journal, or begin a new document on your computer and type “Chapter One.” You need to have read a lot of books, and I don’t mean craft works like this manual. Read, but not just anything.

Aspiring writers are often told, “read in your genre.” But Faulkner said, “Read, read, read. Read everything—trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You'll absorb it. Then write. If it's good, you'll find out. If it's not, throw it out of the window.”

I don’t completely agree with the above advice. Mine is: Read well-written books.

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/628973
What books are they? Try using the internet to search for lists of the best books ever written in English, or whatever language in which you’re planning to write. Do not read translated books. While many are great, you want to read excellent books by those who have mastered all aspects of writing. Book translators possess extremely refined skills, and writing an original work from start to “the end” is not often among them.

Be selective. While reading works such as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight in the original middle English may be interesting and educational, you want to read books that are written in the version of English we use, so as to accustom your ear and your mind to modern, grammatically correct language.

The purpose of extensive reading is not to entertain but to enlighten. Pay attention to what you’re reading. Read books that call to you more than once, to figure out why they’re compelling. Look at the big picture aspects first: character and conflict, plot and story. During the next reading you can analyze narrower mechanical concerns such as word choice and sentence structure. Ask yourself, “How does this writer use these tools to elicit a particular reaction from the reader?”

Third reading: start looking for subtleties such as symbolism, subtext, and theme. How does the writer express these? What images does the author employ? What words does she choose? How long or short are sentences, paragraphs, chapters? Why?

It’s not the purpose of this treatise to teach everything there is to know about every aspect of fiction writing. It’s not possible. But reading programs your brain in particular ways. I emphasize reading modern works, works that use the same sentence structure, grammar, and vocabulary common in contemporary fiction. Read to increase your knowledge of, and command over, your tools: words, sentences, paragraphs, scenes. Read great books over and over again. Learn an appreciation for the English language and good writing, even down to correct apostrophe placement and comma usage.

Reading well-written books will imprint strong storytelling, correct grammar, and good sentence structure upon your mind, and it’s a lot easier to learn by reading than by taking classes. A lifetime of good reading can create a good writer. You’ll become a more able author, especially if you’re writing as well as reading, such as keeping a journal or making notes. It doesn’t really matter what you’re writing at this phase. If you’re writing fiction, great. If not, that’s okay too.

All of this is to encourage becoming thoroughly fluent in the English language. If you aren’t, the sad truth is that you needn’t try to write anything more complex than a shopping list or a thank-you note. Readers know what good writing is and isn’t, and they can be as unforgiving about sloppiness as the plastic surgeon’s patient.


Law school interrupted my reading. I did not realize how much I missed it until
after I had graduated and I found that something in my life was missing. My eye fell upon a copy of Ursula Le Guin's A Wizard of Earthsea, one of my favorites, and I realized that I had not read a novel in 3 years. 


Because I'm blocked, I'm back to reading. I used to read books that I loved, and rewatch TV and movies that I adored, but now I don't do that very often. A book has to be amazing for me to reread it, and the same is true of films. I like new things. I like novelty, and I like to learn something new when I can.

And so I've returned to my roots, and am again reading fanatically. And enjoying every word.


Right now I'm reading all of Nora Roberts' The Obsession. What are you reading?

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Want something #sexy and #free? The #NaughtyLiterati are on Instafreebie!

The Naughty Literati are now on Instafreebie! And we're starting off by giving away our Autumn 2015 anthology Naughty Reunions: Return to Romance -- for free!

Just go to our Naughty Reunions page on Instafreebie and sign up to subscribe to our newsletter, Naughty News. Instafreebie will send you your choice of an epub or mobi file.

Naughty Reunions has nine stories including BBW, Contemporary, F/F, M/M, New Adult, Paranormal, Regency, Shapeshifter, Speculative Fiction, and Stepbrother Romance from bestselling authors writing as The Naughty Literati!

Silent Sky by Regina Kammer
Homeward Bound by Alexa Silver
Lady Esther’s Lesbian Lover by Berengaria Brown
Renovating the Relationship by Katherine Kingston
Part 2: The WyndMaster’s Homecoming by Charlotte Boyett-Compo
Back in Your Arms by Marianne Stephens
My Cups Runneth Over by Francesca Hawley
Ocean Dreams by Suz deMello
Hybrid Mates 5: Take Me Home by Nicole Austin

Subscribing to Naughty News keeps you up to date with new releases, giveaways, author spotlights, exclusive excerpts, and contests! And now you'll get a free copy of Naughty Reunions: Return to Romance!


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Peter's Story has hit the shelves--let me know what you think by Suz deMello (#AA)



I've been working on a miniseries for my writing group, the Naughty Literati, and the third out of four shorties came out this month. I'm delighted to share Peter's Story with you.

As you may remember if you've read any of the preceding stories, the series, A Fortune to Win, centers on the three children of... Well, just reading the Prologue and Chapter One of Peter's Story will explain everything you need to know about the aristocratic Fortunes and their dilemma:

LORD DARLINGSIDE AND WIFE MARA FOUND DEAD

DRUG OVERDOSE SUSPECTED

[ROME] The jetsetting couple known as ‘Marvey,’ Harvey Fortune, Lord Darlingside and his supermodel wife Mara Tove, were found at three a.m. today (local time) drowned in the historic Trevi Fountain. An autopsy is planned, which many fear will confirm the initial assumption that the couple’s known heroin addiction caused their deaths. Reportedly, used syringes were found on the fountain’s marble balustrade… They leave three adult children: Peter, age 26, the new Earl Darlingside; daughter Alice, 23, a teacher; Sophia, 19, a model.


            …one week later…


CONTENTS OF ‘MARVEY’ WILL REVEALED

[LONDON] …Though the Fortune family solicitor, Rabbie White of White, Cheshire and Queen (Lincolns Inn Fields) remains closemouthed, an unidentified source close to the family states that the Fortune fortune, encompassing a manor house in Kent, a mansion in Hampstead, and invested monies totaling some 50 million pounds, will be divided between ‘Marvey’s’ children. However, the ‘Marvey’ trust requires the heirs make a substantial non-monetary contribution to society. Whether each child’s acts are sufficient to inherit is a decision left solely to White’s discretion. Apparently Lord and Lady Darlingside wanted to ensure that their progeny did not follow the same dangerous path they trod…

...eighteen months later...

Chapter One

One cool, bright summer morning, Peter Fortune, Earl Darlingside, awakened in a big, four-poster bed covered with a fluffy white duvet with a woman beside him. She was dead.

Until that moment, he’d been doing quite well, thank you very much, considering that he’d spent the night before drinking Remy Martin Black Pearl with a number of equally dissolute young noblemen and getting drunk as, well, drunk as lords. He should have had a throbbing head, unclear eyesight and a belly that pitched like bloody hell, but he felt great. And, given that he’d won rather than lost betting on billiards was another point in favor of the day.

Which was, he remembered blearily, Monday, perhaps? Or maybe Tuesday. Did it matter?

The window was open to the Hampstead sunshine and also admitted birdsong. Every once in a while he heard the sound of a distant siren, reminding him of...of…?

Oh yes, the dead girl.

Melanie.

He supposed he ought to call 9-9-9 and get an ambulance, though judging by her total lack of movement and warmth, the authorities would get to her too late. Far too late.

He rolled to the side, reaching for the bedside table where his mobile reposed. Something jabbed his arse, and he threw back the sheet to find a used syringe. A needlestick from an addict’s rig. Oh, shite, I’m fucked. He grabbed the thing and flung it across the room, then called for help.

*****

She’d been called Foxy Roxy for as long as she could remember, but she hadn’t embraced the nickname until her fifteenth birthday. That day she’d visited a charity shop with friends. One had spotted an old fox stole on a mannequin and bought it for Roxanne Fox as a gift. She’d worn that fox pelt around her neck on cool days until it had fallen apart, then bought another and then another. Only from the charity shops, though—she wouldn’t be directly responsible for the death of an innocent animal. Later she’d found a source for high-quality fakes, which fit her vegan habits far better.

This morning, she was nibbling a gluten-free currant scone slathered with soya cream cheese whilst enjoying her second flat white of the day (made with soya of course), reading a fairly interesting case file about a fellow who had been recorded by the many CCTVs roundabout London. Unfortunately for the client, he’d been taped with his zip open whilst fondling an impressive erection. Even less fortunately, the Crown was not amenable to letting the incident go by even though he claimed he’d been “pissed legless.”

Roxanne’s secretary stuck her head into the open doorway, her eyes round. “That prat Darlingside has gotten himself arrested again.”

“Oh, happy day.” Roxy wiped her mouth with a hanky. “What is it this time? Dead drunk? Car crash?”

“No, it’s more serious. Unless someone’s having a go at us.”

“Not chundering onto some poor copper’s shoes?” That had been a memorable case.

“No, murder.”

Roxy sat up straighter. She’d been White, Cheshire and Queen’s criminal defense specialist for four years, having left the Crown Prosecution Service to pursue more lucrative options. At WCQ, she’d had the opportunity to sample a more varied menu of cases than she’d expected. Along with the anticipated tax avoidance schemes and family squabbles regarding bequests—which occasionally devolved into wine-throwing and fistfights—a prominent client occasionally committed the odd sexual peccadillo, like the fellow diddling his dong in Notting Hill.

And then there was Peter Fortune, the Earl of Darlingside, who seemed intent upon imitating his parents’ strikingly self-destructive ways.

Bless him—he’d brought her a case she could really sink her teeth into. “Where’s
he being held?”


*****
If you like what you read, find the entire anthology in which it appears here:

http://a.co/fCrNKEd (Amazon) and at just about every other etailer.

Happy reading!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Yet Another Opinionated Post about Writing Craft--Setting and the Novel (#iamwriting #romantic suspense)


Outstanding books are memorable for a variety of reasons. Perhaps in one it is the romance we find so compelling.  In another, the characters stay with us for a long time. 

But for many readers, the sense of "being there" is the aspect that draws them into the book and keeps them there despite distractions.  I call this a sense of place, or setting.

Its importance can't be underestimated.  Some genres, such as certain subgenres of romance, are based totally on a unique or special setting, such as the English Regency or American West.  Some readers will purchase nothing but books placed in their favorite setting. People will read books in their favorite setting--Middle Earth, Hogwarts--over and over again just because they want to again experience the feeling of being there.

While I was editing professionally, I sometimes came upon a submission in which it was impossible for me to know where the book was set because the author assumed way too much. In one, for example, I had to go to the author's website to discover where her werewolf/vampire series was set. 

Fortunately for any of my readers who like to feel deeply grounded in a book, I love to travel and then put my observations and experiences into my writing.

http://a.co/j79CdEA
I set a couple of recent re-releases in the San Francisco Bay Area, where I lived for about five years and still visit frequently. Here are a couple of snippets from those books:

...she took the handset and walked to the window, hoping to see a street sign so she could tell her partner where she was. Unfortunately, the view four stories below showed only a small back garden, typical of homes in San Francisco. It was beautifully landscaped with Japanese maples and azaleas, which were in bloom. A small stone bench sat by a pond.

The above is from Phoenix and Dragon, a novel set in San Francisco, and the description of this courtyard is based on one I saw years ago, in the Marina District, I believe. 

And here's one from Spy Game, which takes place farther south. This clip describes Skyline Drive, which is off Highway 17 between San Jose and Santa Cruz, which I call Santa Laura in the book. It's best not to be too tethered to reality when writing. Otherwise one gets letters from irate readers stating that "I've been there and it's not like that!"

http://a.co/eklA2RJ
The wooded, two-lane road wound up a hill past a playground and a park. A swing set and a jungle gym were nearly invisible in the night, lit only by a few dim streetlamps. At the lane’s crest a row of mailboxes sat with a whimsical stuffed or carved animal perched atop each. A wooden bird with brightly painted, outstretched wings roosted on the box marked #2730...a little cottage that screamed “hippie heaven.

I would never have dreamed up the mailboxes with the sculptures, so visiting the area while I was writing was a really good idea. Touches like those add a sense of reality to a book, which is really an imaginary construct even if it's a contemporary set in a recognizable place.

It's hard to make it as an author these days, and every aspect of the writer's craft must be well-honed and perfect, including setting in the novel.