Naming Worlds

I like coming up with fantasy worlds for my novels, but I’ve never named them, like I notice some people do. Oh, I give them a reference point mentally (the wizard world or the troll world) but not really a proper name. Part of my thinking is, these people don’t know they’re in a different world, so why would they have a name?

In science fiction, people would be aware of many planets and so would name each one, but unless my fantasy world has alternate dimensions, they wouldn’t call it something in particular. What’s more likely to come up in the story is the name of the countries or ethnic groups of people involved.

Still, there’s no harm in having a name for you world for an overall series. And I have a real difficulty sometimes coming up with country names that I like the sound of, so I’ve been considering having a more precise name for some of them, even if it’s not one I use in the book itself.

Some friends of mine over at Holy Worlds were discussing this very topic, and someone pointed out that our name for our world/planet is simply the same word for the ground, Earth. And it was suggested that a fun an easy way to name another world might be the word “earth” in a different language. Tsahraf made this fascinating list of the word earth in different languages.

Albanian: tokë
Armenian: երկիր – erkir (jɛɹkiɹ) yeh-rkeer
Arabic: أرض – uraḍ (ʔuradˤ) oo-rod
Azerbaijan: torpaq
Basque: lurra
Latin: terra
Mandarin Chinese: 地球 – Dìqiú
Croatian: Zemlja
Slovenian: Zemlja
Russian: Земля – zemlya
Czech: Země
Swedish: jord
Finnish: Maa
Filipino: lupa
Italian: terra
French: la terre
German: Erde
Greek: γη – gē (gɛː) gey
Haitian Creole: sou latè
Hungarian: föld
Icelandic: jörð (jœrð̠) yoh-rh-dh
Indonesian: bumi
Indonesian: dunia
Irish: domhan
Lithuanian: žemė
Slovak: zeme
Polish: ziemia
Romanian: pământ
Spanish: tierra
Danish: jorden
Turkish: toprak
Vietnamese: trái đất
Norwegian: ddaear

Some of these are really lovely sounding. I just might either steal them for a world/country name, or modify a few of them. It’s also a great reminder that we don’t just have one name for Earth, even if I’d be careful how many names I gave something in a novel. We don’t want to confuse the readers!

If there’s any other words for earth to include, let me know and I’ll add them.

Ninja vs Aliens

I’ve always had a soft spot for those little machines you put coins in by the doorway of the grocery store.  Granted, the excitement wondering what you’re going to get is about five times more fun than the actual object you get, but now and then you get something really fun.  I used to collect the football helmets as a kid (in those days only 25 cents, now they’re 50 cents… doesn’t that make me feel old).

In varies places I’ve lived I use them as incentives to get myself to walk places. I’ve found some pretty good ones, with little animals, saints, or those little picture bracelets.  When I don’t have that as an excuse, I’ll reward myself for grocery shopping if I see anything that looks particularly good.  Lately they’ve had aliens for 25 cents at Winco.  Why these aliens are all holding sport utensils (golf club, baseball bat, tennis racket) I don’t know.  Either they were out of ray guns or it’s a sinister plot to infiltrate organized sports.  In any case, I now have three of them.

Then yesterday at a Chinese restaurant I spied an unmarked little machine, not one of the organized chain ones you see at the store, with what looked like very random, and possibly quite good contents.  Ignoring the husband eye roll, I got out a quarter and took a chance—and got what has to be the coolest thing I’ve gotten out of a little machine in a long time.

Ninja!

An extra cool rather rubbery ninja with two knives.  I was very excited.  He can now defeat the invading sports aliens and possibly save all the little rainbow animals was collecting before if I can find them.  They got lost in the move.

If I can come up with a good one, I will write all four of them a story.  Either that or they will happily distract me from getting stuck on my current work in progress.

Review on Nayu’s Reading Corner

Nayuleska has give Chosen Sister a 9 out of 10 at Nayu’s Reading Corner.  I really like her way of suggesting other similar books at the bottom because I haven’t read either of those and they look great.  It makes me think I should try to list out all my favorite books with fun sibling relationships.

As the oldest of eight children, my ups and downs with my brothers and sisters growing up is something I remember quite well.  I like stories that show those sorts of family relationships and explore them, one reason I came up with the whole idea for “Chosen Sister”.  When one of my younger brothers or sisters got to do something special I was always jealous, but easily moved to be protective if they ran into trouble.  While I grew up with stories like Joseph and his brother’s in the bible, I could never imagine of being so jealous of my own brothers and sisters that I would want to harm them like that.  I feel like most older sisters and brothers would be more inclined, despite the disappointment of not getting the special treatment, to look out for their younger siblings.  I had fun exploring the emotions and limits of that though in my novel.

Good Book Alert Reviews Chosen Sister

Cindy Borgne at Good Book Alert has give Chosen Sister four stars.  This wonderful blog, started by members who also belong to the same excellent writing workshop site I do (Critique Circle), has also reviewed a number of novels I’ve critiqued and greatly enjoyed.   Their comments are insightful and the blog well worth following.

I do have to agree that the 9-13 aged crowd was my audience.  As lovely as the cover is, I can see their point that it might look more like it was aimed at teenagers, but it’s my publisher’s decision to go with it.  I’ll keep it in mind though since I’m looking to offer print copies of the novel hopefully in a few months.

 

Quarter Finalist on Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award

“A School for Villains” is a quarter finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.   I got two very helpful and friendly reviews from the Vine Reviewers and I was quite pleased.  I’m also thoroughly bouncy about the idea of getting my first professional review from Publishers Weekly.  Too bad April 24 is so long away!

Here’s a bit about my novel:

Thirteen-year-old Danny is astounded when his father decides to send him to Dark Lord Academy to learn to be a villain. Pa claims it will make him stand out and fulfill his own lost childhood dreams. Being evil doesn’t appeal to Danny, but he’s always been a good and obedient son, so he goes.Dark Lord Academy’s not just unappealing, it’s downright terrible. His advisor dyes Danny’s blond hair black and changes his name to the unpronounceable Zxygrth. He can’t get the hang of maniacal laughter, his second-in-command servant is a puke-colored monkey, and the cafeteria lady enjoys serving stewed cockroaches or fried bat wings. A run in with a hero results in hate mail and he gets caught up in a rivalry with the school bully. Danny’s determined to get expelled, but when he accidentally kills Professor Screkvox, his History teacher, he’s given an award instead.Screkvox, revived by the professor of Necromancy, is now out for revenge and a failing grade in History hardly qualifies. The only way for Danny to stay alive is to find his inner villain.

Here’s some snippets of what my reviewers had to say:

“The light, slightly tongue in cheek tone of this excerpt is fun and a joy to read. This is a great twist on Hogwarts and why shouldn’t there be an academy for villains? Love the details–like the the Dark Lord Academy’s brochure, only first, third and seventh sons need apply to the hero academy, and that it’s twice as expensive.”

“The novel concerns The Dark Lord Academy, a school for villains set in a mythological, perhaps parallel universe. Danny, a young thirteen year old boy, stumbles across a recruiting pamplet for the Academy. The pamphlet is hilarious. It dispels Dark Lord myths one by one in the manner one would normally see from a snake oil salesman. If this novel keeps up and further develops the funny tone, and avoids taking itself too seriously, the novel will be a funny read.”

An excerpt is now available for download on Amazon Kindle as well!

The Dreaded One returns to Updating

After a move and a bunch of other boring real-life stuff, I have returned to my poor website with some updates.  No reviews yet, but some of those will be forthcoming.  I’ll be trying to clean up the site and figure out the wordpress software again, I’m a bit slow at that.

I’m working on several writing projects, novels as well as some short stories.  Thanks, Merc for pointing  out “Chosen Sister” is on Good Reads.  I also have a forth coming story this summer in Sorcerous Signals, which I’ll post again about in a couple of months when its up.  Currently, while it’s old news, now, I’ll make up for not posting by mentioning that “Once A Thief” is still available in Arcane Whispers 2, and I’m really fond of the art on the anthology.  Merc is in this one too.

Mini-reviews

I’ve been reading a lot.  I call it research.  I have to know what’s going on in my field, right?  This gives me an excuse to work through my huge stack of former library books I bought at the book sale, plus a bunch of current library books.  Sweet research, how I love thee.  However, I’m much to lazy to do a full review of all of them, so I’m doing a stack of mini-reviews.
“Wild Boy” by Thomas Fall
Genre: Historical fiction set in the U.S. during the 1870s
One sentence synopsis: Roberto, half-Mexican, half-Native American tries to figure out where he fits in between cultures on the southern Texas border while lusting after catching the killer mustang stallion Diablo.
This reader’s take:  Killer wild horse, angry American soldiers, angry Comanche warriors, and a boy with a lot of grit, what’s not to love?  Who cares if it was published back inn 1965?  The 1800s haven’t changed any and this one reads easy and well.
Bottom line: major win for the action adventure reader with a few things to actually think about tossed in
“What the Birds See” by Sonya Hartnett
Genre: YA literary, although no young adults are involved, this one should’a been sold as an adult book
One sentence synopsis: Nine-year-old Adrian is a neglected child with a depressed girl for one friend and a sell-out for another, who spirals deeper and deeper into wanting someone to need him until *gasp* all ends in tragedy.
This reader’s take: Someone wanted to be poetic and very very literary by writing the most stupidly depressing book imaginable.  The dead bird on the cover should have warned me.  The flap talking about kidnapped and dead children should have warned me.  I stupidly read it.  I still I want my wasted hours refunded.
Bottom line: Major fail, can we re-institute book burning for this one?
“The View from Saturday” by E.L. Konigsburg
Genre: MG literary
One sentence synopsis: The tale of four sixth graders, their teacher, and the complex human relationships behind their unprecedented rise to win the Academic Bowl in New York State against eight graders.
This reader’s take:  This is what a literary kid’s book should be like.  Humor, pathos, inner and outer struggles, all five POV characters (that’s right five, who says MG can only have one?) are full of depth and give us a new view of the situation.
Bottom line: Major win, which it did… the Newberry award.  Obviously those people have some sense.
“Shiva’s Fire” by Susane Fisher Staples
Genre:  MG/YA fantasy
One sentence synopsis: Parvati has always been different, surrounded by omens that make her rural Indian village people regard her with suspicion and awe, but her true gift and calling lies in dancing.
This reader’s take:  The fantasy elements are very subtle, so much so I couldn’t tell if we were dealing with just people’s beliefs or real magic at first.  The Indian setting and Hindu religion are so well woven in, it feels as if it could be just a cultural book until it unfolds farther.  Very lovely.
Bottom line: Not this author’s best (that won a Newberry) but certainly well worth reading.
“Storm Rising” by Marilyn Singer
Genre: YA paranormal romance
One sentence synopsis: Storm meets the alluring but troubling Jocelyn who seems to want to collect him as one of her “strays”, something he uselessly resists a while before caving.
This reader’s take: In my state they’d call this relationship statutory rape and emotionally abusive.  It’s Twilight in reverse, as stalker girl with magic powers wins her man… er… boy.
Bottom Line: Major fail, where’s the brain bleach?
“Spotting the Leopard” by Anna Myers
Genre: MG novel
One sentence synopsis: H.J. is wrapped up in his sister’s battle with her parent trying to go to college, his uncle’s marital and business problems, and most of all “Lucky” a leopard who escapes his miserable existence in zoo captivity and everyone is trying to hunt down.
This reader’s take: The leopard dies, need I say more?  Honestly, I’ve had it up to here with “Old Yeller” stories about noble but doomed animals and the poor saps who love them.  Not to mention it’s trying the literary thing really hard and failing.  If we must have this sort of book, stick to “Old Yeller”, nothing new here.
Bottom line: Yawn, but not worth book burning or target practice or anything.
“Flight of the White Wolf” by Mel Ellis
Genre: YA novel
One sentence synopsis:  When Russ’s pet wolf accidentally kills a prize dog and runs off, everyone is out to shoot it, and Russ has to try to help the wolf escape to national park where he can fend for himself.
This reader’s take: Sort of like “Hatchet” meets “Call of the Wild”, and well done too.  This is what an animal story should be like.  While the fact that Russ’s parents hardly blink at him leading a wolf past posses of armed and angry men and skipping half a year of school while doing it is a bit far fetched, it did nothing to ruin a fine action/wilderness survival novel with a very appealing wolf character.
Bottom line: another great action adventure book that even makes you think now and then
“The Forgotten Beasts of Eld” by Patricia A. McKillip
Genre: YA fantasy
One sentence synopsis: Emotionless wizard Sybel is brought into politics when a stranger dumps the future heir of the local realm on her doorstep, and Sybel ventures first into love and then into hate, discovering both what it means to feel and who she is in the process.
This reader’s take:  Someone put a sticker on the spine that said “fairy tale” which was exactly what this was, especially in narrative tone.  After I adjusted to it and accepted it as a classic fairy tale, I had a good time.  While the MC can be annoying in places the forgotten beasts of he title more than made up for it by being very cool.
Bottom line: Well worth a read if you like classic fairy tales or fantasy.
“The Story Teller’s Daughter” by Cameron Dokey
Genre: YA fantasy
One sentence synopsis: Shahrazad, socially outcaste daughter of the Grand Vizier fights to break the curse put on the sultan by his executed and traitorous wife without getting beheaded by him.
This reader’s take: I was skeptical… another Shahrazad retelling, and it starts really grandiosely and navel-gazing as well, but after the pathetic prologue it turned out decent.  While it mostly tosses out the actual Arabian Nights tale, it has a well developed world-building, magic, and internal logic.  Most importantly the stories interwoven by Shahrazad are always relevant to the plot and characters and keep the flavor of the original Arabian tales while being entirely new.
Bottom Line: Isn’t going to win any awards, but definitely readable enough for a YA fairytale retelling.
“The Crystal Garden” by Vicki Grove
Genre: MG novel
One sentence synopsis: Eliza is forced to move to a hick town when her mother follower her loser boyfriend there and struggles to chose between the sweet but geeky girl next door and the popular girls in junior high who seem to be inviting her to join them.
This reader’s take: Put every cliche possible together, and while well written, this one tended to make me yawn.  Gosh, a small town is a nice place to live?  Wow, geeks can be good and faithful friends?  Oh my, the popular girls are just using her?  I’m shocked.  Maybe it’ll be new to the 12 year-olds, but all the cliches killed me by the end of it despite well-developed characters.
Bottom Line: If your kid is into these books about outcast girl vs popular girls, go ahead and hand it to her, it’s decently well-written, but there’s nothing new here.

I’ve been reading a lot.  I call it research.  I have to know what’s going on in my field, right?  This gives me an excuse to work through my huge stack of former library books I bought at the book sale, plus a bunch of current library books.  Sweet research, how I love thee.  However, I’m much to lazy to do a full review of all of them, so I’m doing a stack of mini-reviews.

“Wild Boy” by Thomas Fall

Genre: Historical fiction set in the U.S. during the 1870s

One sentence synopsis: Roberto, half-Mexican, half-Native American tries to figure out where he fits in between cultures on the southern Texas border while lusting after catching the killer mustang stallion Diablo.

This reader’s take:  Killer wild horse, angry American soldiers, angry Comanche warriors, and a boy with a lot of grit, what’s not to love?  Who cares if it was published back inn 1965?  The 1800s haven’t changed any and this one reads easy and well.

Bottom line: major win for the action adventure reader with a few things to actually think about tossed in

“What the Birds See” by Sonya Hartnett

Genre: YA literary, although no young adults are involved, this one should’a been sold as an adult book

One sentence synopsis: Nine-year-old Adrian is a neglected child with a depressed girl for one friend and a sell-out for another, who spirals deeper and deeper into wanting someone to need him until *gasp* all ends in tragedy.

This reader’s take: Someone wanted to be poetic and very very literary by writing the most stupidly depressing book imaginable.  The dead bird on the cover should have warned me.  The flap talking about kidnapped and dead children should have warned me.  I stupidly read it.  I still I want my wasted hours refunded.

Bottom line: Major fail, can we re-institute book burning for this one?

“The View from Saturday” by E.L. Konigsburg

Genre: MG literary

One sentence synopsis: The tale of four sixth graders, their teacher, and the complex human relationships behind their unprecedented rise to win the Academic Bowl in New York State against eight graders.

This reader’s take:  This is what a literary kid’s book should be like.  Humor, pathos, inner and outer struggles, all five POV characters (that’s right five, who says MG can only have one?) are full of depth and give us a new view of the situation.

Bottom line: Major win, which it did… the Newberry award.  Obviously those people have some sense.

“Shiva’s Fire” by Susanne Fisher Staples

Genre:  MG/YA fantasy

One sentence synopsis: Parvati has always been different, surrounded by omens that make her rural Indian village people regard her with suspicion and awe, but her true gift and calling lies in dancing.

This reader’s take:  The fantasy elements are very subtle, so much so I couldn’t tell if we were dealing with just people’s beliefs or real magic at first.  The Indian setting and Hindu religion are so well woven in, it feels as if it could be just a cultural book until it unfolds farther.  Very lovely.

Bottom line: Not this author’s best (that won a Newberry) but certainly well worth reading.

“Storm Rising” by Marilyn Singer

Genre: YA paranormal romance

One sentence synopsis: Storm meets the alluring but troubling Jocelyn who seems to want to collect him as one of her “strays”, something he uselessly resists a while before caving.

This reader’s take: In my state they’d call this relationship statutory rape and emotionally abusive.  It’s Twilight in reverse, as stalker girl with magic powers wins her man… er… boy.

Bottom Line: Major fail, where’s the brain bleach?

“Spotting the Leopard” by Anna Myers

Genre: MG novel

One sentence synopsis: H.J. is wrapped up in his sister’s battle with her parent trying to go to college, his uncle’s marital and business problems, and most of all “Lucky” a leopard who escapes his miserable existence in zoo captivity and everyone is trying to hunt down.

This reader’s take: The leopard dies, need I say more?  Honestly, I’ve had it up to here with “Old Yeller” stories about noble but doomed animals and the poor saps who love them.  Not to mention it’s trying the literary thing really hard and failing.  If we must have this sort of book, stick to “Old Yeller”, nothing new here.

Bottom line: Yawn, but not worth book burning or target practice or anything.

“Flight of the White Wolf” by Mel Ellis

Genre: YA novel

One sentence synopsis:  When Russ’s pet wolf accidentally kills a prize dog and runs off, everyone is out to shoot it, and Russ has to try to help the wolf escape to national park where he can fend for himself.

This reader’s take: Sort of like “Hatchet” meets “Call of the Wild”, and well done too.  This is what an animal story should be like.  While the fact that Russ’s parents hardly blink at him leading a wolf past posses of armed and angry men and skipping half a year of school while doing it is a bit far fetched, it did nothing to ruin a fine action/wilderness survival novel with a very appealing wolf character.

Bottom line: another great action adventure book that even makes you think now and then

“The Forgotten Beasts of Eld” by Patricia A. McKillip

Genre: YA fantasy

One sentence synopsis: Emotionless wizard Sybel is brought into politics when a stranger dumps the future heir of the local realm on her doorstep, and Sybel ventures first into love and then into hate, discovering both what it means to feel and who she is in the process.

This reader’s take:  Someone put a sticker on the spine that said “fairy tale” which was exactly what this was, especially in narrative tone.  After I adjusted to it and accepted it as a classic fairy tale, I had a good time.  While the MC can be annoying in places the forgotten beasts of he title more than made up for it by being very cool.

Bottom line: Well worth a read if you like classic fairy tales or fantasy.

“The Storyteller’s Daughter” by Cameron Dokey

Genre: YA fantasy

One sentence synopsis: Shahrazad, socially outcaste daughter of the Grand Vizier fights to break the curse put on the sultan by his executed and traitorous wife without getting beheaded by him.

This reader’s take: I was skeptical… another Shahrazad retelling, and it starts really grandiosely and navel-gazing as well, but after the pathetic prologue it turned out decent.  While it mostly tosses out the actual Arabian Nights tale, it has a well developed world-building, magic, and internal logic.  Most importantly the stories interwoven by Shahrazad are always relevant to the plot and characters and keep the flavor of the original Arabian tales while being entirely new.

Bottom Line: Isn’t going to win any awards, but definitely readable enough for a YA fairytale retelling.

“The Crystal Garden” by Vicki Grove

Genre: MG novel

One sentence synopsis: Eliza is forced to move to a hick town when her mother follower her loser boyfriend there and struggles to chose between the sweet but geeky girl next door and the popular girls in junior high who seem to be inviting her to join them.

This reader’s take: Put every cliche possible together, and while well written, this one tended to make me yawn.  Gosh, a small town is a nice place to live?  Wow, geeks can be good and faithful friends?  Oh my, the popular girls are just using her?  I’m shocked.  Maybe it’ll be new to the 12 year-olds, but all the cliches killed me by the end of it despite well-developed characters.

Bottom Line: If your kid is into these books about outcast girl vs popular girls, go ahead and hand it to her, it’s decently well-written, but there’s nothing new here.

Review: Writing Magic

I had this review back at the “Toasted Scimitar” blog before it died,  and thougth looking it over I’d like to share it here too.
I’m excited to share about “Writing Magic” by Gail Carson Levine, a well-known children’s author. When I opend this book as a Christmas present, I admit I was a bit skeptical. A children’s book on writing? What was I going to learn from that? I’ve been writing seriously for the last five years and sold my first novel last year. After reading scores of books on writing, I already have my favorite two books on craft, “Writing on Both Sides of the Brain” and “The First Five Pages”. Add the classic Stunk and White “Elements of Style” for grammar and “Steering the Craft” by LeGuin for inspiration when floundering, and I figure I’m pretty well set. I check the same books out of the library constantly.
“I know you know everything in this book,” my mother said as I stared at it. “She’s just such a joy to read and I though you’d enjoy all her stories about rejection letters. I found them heartening.”
After giving the book a try, I have to say that Levine’s book is the best book for kids on writing that I’ve read and certainly worth any beginner in writing picking up. Her friendly narration and hopeful and encouraging tone are quite infective. Plus, she’s just plain fun. What other books on writing encourage you to rewrite Little Red Ridinghood with everyone staying eaten at the end (the chapter about making your characters suffer) or encourages you to describe in detail what brushing your teeth is like (the chapter on description)? The writing exercises are as quirky and enticing as everything else.
No, I didn’t learn anything I didn’t know before, but I sure had fun being reminded about it.
“The best way to write better is to write more,” Levine insists throughout the book and promptly gives you more than enough prompts to do immediately that. Every chapter prods the reader in this direction. Humor might be the vehicle, but Levine is also deadly serious with all her suggestions and right on target with what makes writing good. A short 161 pages with large type (but nicely indexed for reference), this book is brief but welcoming, and exactly what I wish could have existed back when I was ten or eleven and convinced writing was “too hard” for me. As an adult and a published author, I really do enjoy the warm and fuzzy feeling I get reading it, the feeling I could write anything, and just might, if only I’d sit down and try it.
And I’ll happily take her writer’s oath again before getting back to work on my projects.
“I promise solemnly:
1. to write as often and as much as I can,
2. to respect my writing self, and
3. to nurture the writing of others.”
Do that, and we can’t go astray.