Wednesday, 19 December 2012

RTW: Naming Characters

Road Trip Wednesday is a "Blog Carnival" where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing-or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This week's question is:

How do you decide on names? Would you ever name a character after a friend/family member/ex?     

My WIP is sci-fi and takes place about thirty years from now, so I wanted to find names that weren’t trendy and current, but also not so bizarre that they sounded really futuristic. What worked for me was to comb through lists of names from different cultures. This opened up a lot more variety and also added to a global feel in my story. I did use a few traditional names, mainly because those particular characters seemed to emerge from my imagination with their names already attached.

It’s amazing how many hours can be put into searching for just the right name to reflect a character’s personality, or how a unique name can actually help a character take shape. Sometimes I’ll tentatively choose a name and find that the character sort of grows into it, and then I can’t imagine him/her being called anything else.

More often than not though, I have an idea of what I’m looking for in terms of the sound of a name or what sort of image I want that name to project. In certain cases I get hung up on quirky things, for example, in my current WIP I wanted my mc to have a name that began with “N”. Don’t know why, but that just seemed right to me. Another character I could only picture with a floral name. Maybe that’s odd, but I think it’s my gut telling me what sort of name will compliment a character, even if I can’t put my finger on the exact name yet.

As for the second question, I prefer not to name characters after anyone I know. I want to associate my characters’ names with their personalities and not with real people. The exception to this is last names. I did use the surname of an ancestor in my family tree for a character in a contemporary romance I’m writing. That’s not so distracting though, seeing as I didn’t actually know my great-great-great-great-great grandmother. And I really love the name, so I couldn’t resist. :)

So how do you go about naming your characters? Any tips or quirky hang ups in your decision making process?

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Book Review: Grave Mercy

It’s been a while since I’ve read some good historical fiction and Grave Mercy made me realize just how much I miss that. In fact, I enjoyed it so much it’s now on my list of favourite books. At 549 pages it’s a large novel, but it certainly didn’t feel like it. I didn’t want to put it down, but with ONE chapter left to read, we had to leave for a Christmas function. Bah! That’s tantamount to medieval torture! I can honestly say I couldn’t think of a single thing I disliked about this book. Not one! But there was so much I loved about it.

For starters, I loved the protagonist, Ismae Rienne. Through some very undesirable circumstances, Ismae finds herself at a convent dedicated to the service of the god of death, St. Mortain. She trains as a handmaiden of Death, and devotes herself to killing according to Mortain’s will, which is directly tied to protecting her home of Brittany. While Ismae is an assassin, the author gave her certain believable vulnerabilities that humanize her. I enjoyed the evolution of Ismae’s character, seeing her go from blindly obedient to someone willing to choose for herself, even if it means making sacrifices or angering those in power over her.

The plot of Grave Mercy surrounds protecting the young duchess of Brittany from dangerous suitors and the threat of a takeover by France. Although the fate of the duchess is central to the plot, I still always felt this was Ismae’s story. This book has lots of political intrigue and betrayal, which I’ve since learned is based in fact, and yet the author didn’t bog the story down with boring historical details. The tangled politics make Ismae’s role all the more difficult because she doesn’t know who to trust. Even the integrity of the convent of St. Mortain comes into question, meaning that Ismae must try to discern the truth for herself and also how to act on it.

Integral to the story is Ismae’s relationship with Gavriel Duval, which is complicated to say the least. The tentative alliance between them begins as a convenience and is constantly strained. As if it’s not awkward enough that she has to pose as his mistress in order to gain access to the Breton court, Ismae has to decipher his true motives. He presents himself as honourable, but there are others who label him untrustworthy and question his loyalty to the duchess of Brittany, who happens to be his younger half-sister. Because of the mystery surrounding Ismae’s role as a handmaiden of Death she can’t be entirely open with Duval about the secrets of her sect, which naturally makes him suspicious of her. There’s also the fact that Ismae’s past has made her wary of men. As life at court becomes increasingly dangerous and threats to the duchess increase, Ismae must decide whether to truly join forces with Duval.

I loved the relationship between Ismae and Duval, because there was nothing straightforward or easy about it. Both characters are stubborn, intensely focused on their goals, and often abrasive, which makes any bit of tenderness between them all the more enjoyable. Robin LaFevers did an amazing job of weaving their relationship together with the plot. It wasn’t an appendage to the main plot, rather the two were inseparable. And as to whether Ismae and Duval become inseparable, you’ll have to read the book yourself to find out. ;)

The setting of Brittany in the 1400s is fascinating, as is the blending of the old gods with Christianity. There’s a broad cast of characters, most of whom readers will be suspicious of at one point or another. One particular scene toward the end of the story had me choked up, as Ismae has a personal revelation about her service to Mortain and acts upon that revelation.

Apparently the next book in the trilogy will be about a different character from the convent. While I’m eager to read about that character as well, I can’t help but hope that Robin LaFevers continues to write about Ismae, as I felt there could be plenty more to her story. If you like historical fiction, political intrigue, dark brooding love interests, and a strong female protagonist, definitely give Grave Mercy a read. You won’t regret it!

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Scholastic Warehouse Sale

This evening I had the opportunity to go to our local Scholastic warehouse sale. Seeing as I’d never been before, I had no idea what to expect. To be honest, half the reason I planned to go was because I was curious what the inside of the warehouse looks like. I thought maybe I’d come out with a few books. That’s before I found out that everything in the warehouse was 50% off the lowest tagged price. Yeah, that “few” books turned into a grand total of twenty-eight. We’re talking a whole box of brand new books for dirt stinkin’ cheap. Buying books is always fun, but nothing beats buying books for a good deal.

This is what the inside of the warehouse looks like. Yes, I know, it's a typical warehouse, but it's filled with BOOKS! The bottom two shelves in every aisle were stacked with the sale books. I was ridiculously excited about rooting through everything.

This is a sampling of what we bought. I had to exclude several titles that will be under the Christmas tree for my son. I figure it’s best not to post pictures of his Christmas gifts on my blog. Kinda takes the surprise out of it. There were also a few Star Wars titles that didn’t make it into the pictures. That’s okay, because Darth Maul is freaky looking and I really don’t want a picture of him on my blog anyway.

Hardcover Maggie Stiefvater books for four dollars! That’s cheaper than the bargain table at the bookstore, especially seeing as book prices are higher in Canada than the States. (You Americans are so lucky!) We even came away with a few books we’d never heard of before. I wish they'd had the entire series of some of these, but that's okay. We can fill in the blanks later.

They also had a nice selection of free posters: The Hunger Games, TRON Legacy (Yay!), and a couple NHL ones that will probably end up on our rec room walls.

It was an evening and money well spent. :)

Monday, 3 December 2012

You Got the Look

Elodie at has tagged her readers with the “You Got the Look” meme. During NaNoWriMo, I read a lot of great snippets from other people’s WIPs and I figure I need to be brave enough to post a tiny segment of mine.

This is how it works: Search your current WIP and find the word “look”, then post some of the lines around it.

So here’s a paragraph from chapter 3 of my sci-fi/romance, which is tentatively titled ENVISION:

When I glimpse myself in the mirror, I’m mortified to discover I look like a Cirque de Soleil reject. I scrub away smears of glittery makeup and the mask of my former identity washes down the drain. I can only imagine how pathetic they must think I am. There’s no toothbrush I can use, so I make due with swishing some mouthwash, then rip through the knots in my hair with a comb. I should feel refreshed, but I don’t. Hurt and confusion coat me, a layer of grime I’m not sure will ever rinse away.

Nothing huge, but a little peek at my mc. I’d love to see more from your WIPs, so if you read this, consider yourself tagged.

And check this out…

This is the lovely bundle of books my husband gave me for my birthday. There was some conspiring via text going on between him and Jaime to finalize the titles. He cut into the Christmas list with Grave Mercy but that’s just fine by me. So excited! Now I need to set aside some time for a cup of tea and a shiny new book. :)