cats, Fantasy fiction, reading, Young Adult fiction

Warriors Update: Power of Three Series

This third sub-series of the Warriors saga was rather different than what I’ve grown used to in The Prophecies Begin and The New Prophecy. Well, in some ways. There are certain things that you’ll always find in every Warriors book — the routine of Clan life, new kits born, apprentices trained, some cats (inevitably or unexpectedly) go to join StarClan. And although I’ve reached the point in the series where new cats are constantly being introduced, and some of my favorites are relegated to supporting roles, at least as a reader I get to visit them, and there’s always the chance to develop new loves.

What’s most, vividly, different about Power of Three is the tone. Secrets are being kept in ThunderClan, and the new narrators really have no clue. Some of that is for their own good (the cats who are keeping the secrets firmly believe that). But the protagonists add many secrets of their own, and this creates an undercurrent of tension that just didn’t exist before.

One of the big reasons for this difference is the change in the location of the Clans. Since they were driven from their home in The New Prophecy, and have to start again in a new territory, their horizons have been broadened. They’ve met new animals and encountered different types of human places or things that they weren’t familiar with. Now they’ve been in their new home long enough that there’s a generation who doesn’t even remember life in the forest, because they weren’t born yet. Despite the Clans trying really hard to keep to the Warrior Code, and carry on the way they did in previous years, some of their old ways are really being tested.

In many ways, I understood why the Clan leaders, deputies, and senior warriors found it important to maintain the traditions and customs from their old home. It kept a sense of stability, of ensuring the future of their society, their families. Although some things had changed beyond their control, this was something that they could decide what happened and how.

There were also many references/throwbacks to the previous series (plural), and it was clear to me that this was considered very important (by the author) to make sure the new cats knew all of their history. A lot happened after they left the forest, yes; but a whole lot happened in the forest. Some cats that we thought had exited the series are back — for example, The Tribe of Rushing Water, the loner Purdy, and most importantly Graystripe.

Now, although I try to stay spoiler-free in these posts, I have to say, in this instance, it’s going to be impossible. One: I really, really feel sorry for Firestar in this series. He’s one of the best leaders any of the Clans have ever known, and he has to worry about his own grandchildren inadverently bringing down the whole Clan structure that he fought so hard to protect and nurture. (Remember what I said about the undercurrent of tension?)

Anyone who’s read through the series to this point understands a couple of very important things: Two:  There are some critical flaws in the warrior code, and it puts a strain on Clan life, and for particular individuals (Yellowfang, anyone? Bluestar, right?). Three:  There is a serious case of history repeating in this series, and it really started to get to me.

Moment of rant: To me, it just seems unnecessary to continue imposing on your society/family rules that appear to be tearing it apart from the inside. Classic example: Four: Firestar receives a lot of flack from the other Clans for taking in loners (in this case, barn cats), and kittypets (cats who used to live with humans). Supposedly, this action will corrupt the “purity” of the Clan bloodlines, and weaken their whole system. While I greatly appreciate that the author creates lots of great discussion points for the reader in this way (allegories for adoption, racism, and prejudice abound), for me, it became a bit frustrating as I read. What about the fact that Firestar is simply compassionate, and in the (not so distant) past, the other Clans know very well they may not have survived the Great Journey to the lake without his compassion?

And, we need to talk about The Tribe of Rushing Water — Five: They faced extinction because of their unwillingness to change the way they’d been doing things “forever.” It shows a powerful lesson that change doesn’t always have to be thought of as a bad thing, and that, unfortunately, sometimes if you don’t change, it results in tragedy.

Okay, end moment of rant.

Six: The Power of Three focuses on a trio of new kits-to-apprentices-to-warriors, Jayfeather, Hollyleaf, and Lionblaze. In their search for answers to some of the aforementioned secrets, they develop a very unhealthy habit of forming more secrets, and keeping them from their Clan leader, their kin, and even each other. It causes them to seek out the aid of a mysterious stranger named Sol, and to try to find more information about “the ancients” (cats who lived in Clans before the term “Clans” was coined).

All of this provides many plot twists, and fills in a lot of gaps in the background (that, as an astute reader, I was wondering about…about 8 books back). But it got rather twitchy for me as I read it, because I realized that the warrior code has become more important to some cats than thinking for themselves, and determining how to figure out what’s right and what’s not based on their experience and conscience.

And it’s also, unfortunately, revealed that there are traitors in our midst — and proof comes to light that keeping secrets not only breeds more secrets, but that sometimes the stakes are raised too high as part of maintaining them.

Overall, this was a rather difficult series for me to read. There were several parts that just made me sad — not in the regular way, because a cat had just died, or because something happened that I didn’t see coming. It made me sad because things happened that didn’t have to — it came about as a result of stubborness, pride, or clinging to ways that probably don’t work anymore, or from not understanding what loyalty really means. It made me ache for cats whose lives had been shattered, when there was no need. And for the first time ever, there were deaths that occurred that I honestly felt the individuals brought it on themselves — and we’re not even talking truly evil cats like Tigerstar. We’re talking cats who should have known better, whose hearts should not have turned that dark, and who deserved to have a happier ending.

As I proceed to Omen of the Stars (the last “regular” series), I know there are some very solemn, and somewhat dark, things brewing — but I’m actually looking forward to it, because I know there’s a serious resolution coming, for old wounds that are still festering in the Clans (remember what I just said about Tigerstar?), and that there will be healing for some of my favorites (Bluestar, Yellowfang, Firestar, just to start with), that desperately needs to come to the Warriors.

 

 

family, Parenting, reading, Young Adult fiction

On The Subject of Desensitization

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I’ve mentioned how I feel about this topic before. But lately it’s really been bothering me. And apparently it is not just me, as there are a lot of reviews popping up around the online world regarding extreme violence and inappropriate content in books aimed at younger readers.

In the past year, I’ve come across a long list (we’re talking a whole arm here) of novels marketed as YA that I would completely and utterly not let my 14-year-old son read. (Not until he’s 18, because then he’s allowed to make more of his own decisions about this sort of thing.) And honestly, as a parent, I’m really concerned that so many teenagers are reading them. I know a lot of college students and twenty-something adults do read YA as well, and that bothers me a lot less, because if this sort of content is intended for people over 17, then that’s a different matter.

But, seriously, what kind of society do we live in when we, mothers and fathers wanting to protect our children, see something labeled as “Young Adult” or “Juvenile,” and don’t check it out ourselves? And don’t give me the argument of, “Well, it passed the ratings board, so it must be fine.” IT MIGHT NOT BE. Do your own research, folks.

Anyway, so onto my major discussion issue for today: What sort of lessons are we instilling in our culture, our families, our future, when we act like gratuitous violence and sex in our entertainment is considered perfectly acceptable for 11-year-olds to stumble across?

And then when people bring up the very reasonable idea that this type of thing really isn’t cool, we’re called “too sensitive” or “overly emotional” and told to “get a grip” and “stop being such a wuss.”

Well, then, I’m a self-declared sensitive, emotional wuss — and I DON’T CARE what the naysayers think.

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And I truly feel I am not a prude for suggesting this is a healthy cultural approach.

I am not one for censorship. Seriously, I’m not. But I firmly believe there need to be stricter social guidelines — particularly around children — on many of these issues.

Remember when we were young (I remember when the Berlin Wall came down; use that as your rule of thumb for guessing my age), and on Friday nights we’d be allowed to stay up and watch something like an old James Bond movie, back when the sexual references were mostly discreet, the language was reserved, and the violence was so clearly stunt men overdramatically collapsing onto cardboard boxes? And after we went to bed, moms and dads would watch, say, Lethal Weapon, which would, by today’s standards, be rather tame?

So, this is the crux of my biscuit: I firmly believe we need to re-evaluate our standards.

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I am an adult; I am very aware of the horrors the real world knows. But choosing to be polite is far from the same as being ignorant. Wanting to keep my 3-year-old innocent a little longer is not overprotective parenting.

I support teenagers being informed. I do not support them becoming desensitized.

If we’re supposed to be teaching our kids to love everybody, then why are we also suggesting that the best way to deal with a disagreement is to blow up somebody’s house with fancy special effects (and stream it live)?

What’s the point of encouraging kids to wait until marriage for certain levels of physical intimacy, and then publish novels — sold next to the Nintendo games — that include graphic descriptions of such actions (between unmarried 16-year-olds)?

We are sending extremely mixed messages to the next generation. And we need to knock it off.

Having a YA novel with violence in it for context — and carefully selecting how we describe the violence — is not in itself bad. For example, what if part of the point of the story covers terrorism, war, a car accident, or a super-spy like Jason Bourne? And if I’m watching a medical drama like Grey’s Anatomy, I don’t mind fake human innards on an operating table, because the show is about surgeons. But would I recommend a 3rd grader sit down and watch Grey’s Anatomy with me? Dear God, no.

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We need to be disturbed when we drive past a car accident where somebody may be seriously injured. We need to dive under the covers while trying to watch Pet Semetary. (By the way, I don’t watch horror, anyway.) We should be concerned (and not laugh) when a 5-year-old repeats the f-word.

I am becoming more aware that many people who should be disturbed by these things are not. And that disturbs me. When we read a book or see a movie that has a scene graphically depicting the violent death of a child or animal, we need to be angry, heartbroken, and questioning why the writers/directors found it necessary to include that level of detail.

It’s why we root for the Winchester brothers in Supernatural, who are definitely not saints. It’s why we designate James Bond as the good guy — because, while flawed, he certainly is not an evil villain. Why we support Jason Bourne beating up a bunch of guys on his way to find the truth — because his ultimate goal is not pure, malicious vengeance.

Why, when faced with the ultimate Time Lord question, to go back and kill Hitler as a schoolboy, White Fang and I concretely say no — because what if, just this once, he turns out to be good?

It’s why I will no longer watch R-rated movies, or read R-rated novels. Why I am not letting my children near them. Why I am teaching them to respect and love people who don’t look like them, or make choices we may not agree with.

It’s why I won’t support (financially or otherwise) authors that are promoting messages distinctly opposite from this.

And why I will still keep them in my prayers.

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books, community, reading

Life Hacks for Bookdragons

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So, you are a bookdragon. You take pride in this (as well you should). But after you embark on this life, you realize there are some things that could be problematic — for example, running out of shelf space, losing your bookmarks, or not having the budget to acquire all of the books. Well, today we are here to save your precious little overwraught selves with some tips to quell the quandaries.

How to not run out of shelf space. Having a designated bookcase (a pre-built, independent piece of furniture) is extremely helpful. But, if you collect several new books a year, they’ll fill up pretty quickly. So it may work better for you to have shelves that can be placed on walls (think with nuts and bolts — do consider your safety), possibly expanding upwards or outwards as needed.

Also, think about getting rid of books every now and again to help make space for new acquisitions. I know, I know, to some ears that will be heresy. But honestly, sometimes we just know we’re not going to read a book again, and library sales and charity shops are more than happy to take on well-treated secondhand books.

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Keep things organized. If you tend to have a long TBR or maybe receive a lot of ARCs, take notes when deliveries arrive. Try having a journal detailing the date of when new books came to your home, or of when you need to post the review by. Place sticky notes on or near your bookshelves or calendar, so that you don’t accidentally start reading this August release before finishing that July ARC.

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Do use bookmarks. Some readers don’t, and it’s really a personal preference, but dog-earing pages is just, well, bad. Infrequent readers tend to commit the even more heinous sin of leaving the book out, facedown on the page where they stopped. In the interest of keeping the binding intact for longer, please do not do this. (Some bookdragons will come after you, and they will not be happy.)

Bookmarks are easy to find for sale in bookstores and on websites. Libraries also often give them away. And you can honestly use old grocery lists or receipts as well (my husband uses index cards). Or you can make your own, if you’re craft-inclined.

If your issue is losing bookmarks, sticky notes will help with that. Or bookmarks with clips that attach them directly to the page.

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Don’t underestimate the power of the public library. Money needs to be spent on a million things other than new books. So, if you just don’t have a spare thousand dollars for all those new releases (and who does?), be patient, and within a few months, many of them will be available through your local library. (Don’t forget about inter-library loans as well. If where you live the library is simply the size of a postage stamp, requesting books from bigger libraries nearby is usually pretty easy and free.)

Take advantage of secondhand bookstores, online sales, and entering giveaways. Self-explanatory, really, when it comes to saving money.

Don’t request ARCs. If your problem is too many books waiting to be read, then reduce your future TBR by discontinuing your requests for advance copies of new releases. Many of us are beginning to feel that the cons of ARCs outweigh the benefits.

Limit what’s on your Kindle. If most of your TBR is physical (rather than digital) it’ll be much easier to keep track of, and trimmed to a healthy size.

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books, reading

Discussion: When Do Series Need To Stop?

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So, after having stated that I’m not doing any top 10 Tuesdays — because I’m truly not, I really don’t have the time right now — I’m still seeing other people’s pop up on their blogs (after all, it is — shocker, in case you weren’t aware — Tuesday).

Anyway, the theme for this week is “Series I mean to read but haven’t started yet.” As I checked out some of these posts, I saw a lot of series that are still anticipating further sequels — and in some instances, they’re already at book 4, 5, or 6. So, I thought it might be a good time to discuss this issue — when is it too much, and time for the author to wrap it up and move onto something else?

As the writer of a series myself, I see many benefits to determining ahead of time that I’m going to create a quartet. In my case, it will be 4 books following the major plot thread/main characters in this setting. (And I think “quartet” has a nice sophisticated sound to it.) I took the whole story and broke it into 4 separate parts, and determined a length limit on each individual novel (between 190 and 200 pages), so that someday they’ll all fit nicely into a limited edition box set, and each installment is not too much at once for the reader.

(Okay, maybe I should’ve switched the listing order of those priorities…)

But it’s the truth for many readers — when a series carries on too long (literally, in terms of years of publishing, and/or the length of each new book), we’re more likely to decide not to finish the series. We just get tired of waiting 2 years for the next sequel, or shelling out money for another 650 pages of continually deteriorating plot and character motivations.

And this is the other major problem — when a publisher insists that a series keep going, even when the story feels that it could have reached a natural conclusion one, two, even three books back, the writing begins to feel stale, trite, unnecessary.

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As a writer, this pains me to witness.

It’s the same as when TV shows keep producing episodes, even though the natural flow of the story died off 3, 4, 5 seasons ago. Or when a movie has just too many sequels. And we the readers/viewers, begin to wonder what the point is anymore, and it makes us sad, and even starts to eat away at the enjoyment we used to have for the whole thing.

Just me? No?

There is a huge benefit to declaring when there will be no more books. JK Rowling could have spent her entire career writing nothing other than Harry Potter (based on the money factor alone). But she established that after book 7, she would be done. Maybe a spinoff here or there (like the screenplay for Fantastic Beasts), but otherwise, no. And she has been apparently happy writing adult murder mysteries since then. So, good for her. I loved Harry Potter, and had a bit of a bookdragon hangover when I finished reading Deathly Hallows, but I also knew that Harry’s story had come to a conclusion, and I did respect the author’s choices, so had to suck it up.

This may be an unpopular opinion, but I’m beginning to think that Americans in general don’t know when to stop.

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Part of the reason I gave up reading certain genres (I’m staring directly at mysteries and romance here) is the tendency for publishers to encourage authors to write for absolutely as long as the series makes money. Regardless of whether the characters still have life in them. It becomes too tedious to wade through.

I honestly don’t mind a favorite series coming to an end if it makes sense to the plot and character arcs. I’m mature about it. And quite frankly, the rest of us should be, too.

The other thing I’m beyond done with is living writers creating new spinoffs for characters written by authors who have been dead for decades. Seriously, folks, let Sherlock Holmes rest in peace, already! What in the seven hells was the point of adding zombies and sea monsters to the works of Jane Austen?! And really, Hollywood, you can’t come up with anything better than yet another remake?

This trend to “just keep going” makes me wonder if we also have an irrational fear of things ending.

Even one of my major favorites, Warriors, which has released new publications continually for the last several years, seems to be reaching its end. But this incredible world-building has certainly been thoroughly explored, and I feel that things would start to get too repetitive if the authors forced out any more 6-book arcs. So I don’t have an issue with it.

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As I see the advertisements for upcoming releases, I notice just how many of them belong to an established series. And I’m late to the party, and the idea of trying to catch up now is honestly draining.

So for the rest of this year, I think I’ll be hunting out more standalones, more indie authors, more set trilogies and duologies.

I’m sticking to my 4-volume completion of my original series, and then there will be spinoffs — but that’s because there’s a ton more in this world that I want to explore, using different characters, different settings, different time periods.

And that’s the whole crux of the biscuit — the entertainment market keeps pushing the same old, same old at the audience, who is clamoring for something different.

Just a few thoughts.

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movies, reading

Discussion: The Book vs. The Movie

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This is an ongoing thing among book lovers — Which is better to do, read the book before viewing the movie? What if the movie of your favorite book is a disaster? Is it ever acceptable to just watch the film and never read the original book at all?

Today I’ll be presenting a variety of thoughts on these very subjects. So, get out the popcorn and soda (or whatever you snack on while at the cinema).

I love to read. But I also love movies. When films are made of books I enjoyed, I get excited. Some book dragons get skeptical, or even worried. Not me — I just go ahead and watch with an open mind. And if I happen not to like the film version, so be it. For me, it doesn’t ruin the book.

Sometimes, I even prefer the movie over the book. I know that sounds like sacrilege to the ears of some; but, think about it, haven’t we all read something and thought, “This could just…have been…better“? For me, How To Train Your Dragon is a perfect example. After White Fang got hooked on the movie, we started investigating the books, and, well, we weren’t impressed. (Sorry, Cressida Cowell.) But we really appreciate the spark of imagination that the original series put in the minds of the filmmakers.

So, is it truly entertainment heresy if you see the film before reading the book? I say no.

There are instances when going to the cinema prior to the bookstore is actually helpful. After all, what if you weren’t even aware that the movie you just watched was based on a novel/biography/real event? If you liked the film, you’ll get interested in a book that you didn’t even know existed until you saw its title in the credits. (This is an especially clever way to encourage kids to read more.)

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Also, there are times when attempting to read (particularly non-fiction) and glean all the information just doesn’t fit into your life. Recently, I watched Hidden Figures on DVD, because trying to read such a text right now (due to children) is a real challenge. But I could manage to set aside 2-3 hours (thank you, Lord, for gifting someone the ability to invent the pause button) to finish the DVD.

And sometimes you like a story, but an author’s writing style really doesn’t do it for you. The Book Thief immediately springs to mind — I couldn’t make it through more than 75 pages of the text, but wanted to know what would happen to Liesel and her foster family. Since the movie isn’t presented like the book, it was a win-win. The story is precious and important, and on screen I didn’t miss it because I couldn’t understand the long metaphorical ramblings of Death as the narrator (when I thought the story was about a little girl in Nazi Germany). (I have many, many issues with this book. Sorry, fans.)

And, in truth, I never could’ve managed to read Lord of the Rings without seeing the films first, and getting all the background on the different places, events, and how in blazes to pronounce everybody’s names. (I’ve actually given up reading high fantasy, because trying to relate to characters whose names I can’t even fathom how to say out loud really dampens the experience.)

And let’s not forget the topic no book lover actually wants to admit to — “What if I just won’t like that story, and don’t want to waste money on a printing I’ll never touch again?” A couple years ago, when “everybody” was reading The Help, and I had serious misgivings about it, I rented the DVD from the library (for free), and quickly (within an hour) discovered that if I tried to read the novel, it’d get thrown at the wall. Mission accomplished.

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On the other side of the coin, if you just can’t stand the screen adaptation of your favorite book, you never have to watch it again. (This definitely holds true for me with The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.)

And there are times when I’ll simply like the movie better. I’m not big on reading drama, or thrillers, but I can rent the film from the library or Netflix, and get the jist of the hyped novels of (insert year here), that I know I’ll never read.

Another plus for me is that often I just can’t picture in my mind’s eye what the author’s describing (especially if it’s a place/event/style of decor I have no frame of reference for). But on screen, I don’t have to know the terminology or the geography; I’ll still be able to understand the setting or the point of that scene.

Are there some books that I just don’t think would adapt well to film? Sure. Just like literature is an art, good filmmaking is an art, and some things don’t necessarily translate from one medium to the other. Example — I think attempting to make a movie of The Scorpio Races would be an epic fail. And there are some authors (like Erin Hunter) who don’t want movies made of their work, and I can appreciate this viewpoint, too.

However, if a film company or student approached me about creating their take on my series, what would I say? Hmmm… The jury’s still out on that one.

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books, reading

Top 10 Tuesday: Bookish Things That Make No Sense

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Warning: This will be a whiny post.

1. Putting stickers on covers that don’t easily peel off. This is a minor annoyance to most of the world who enjoys the text between the covers much more than anything else. However, to the devoted book dragon, we know that this is a smear on the art that is the cover of the book. Artists put time and effort and money into making the covers. So the least the stores can do is put on stickers that won’t wreck the art. (Yes, I mean that.)

2. Making sequels a different size than the original. Again, to the general public, this isn’t a big deal. They’ll determine that there was a reason at the printing press why this decision was made, and leave it at that. They may even simply turn the book on its spine (gasp!! the horror!!) to make sure it fits onto their shelf. But, for book dragons, doing this is just asking to make us cry. (Listen up, publishers…)

3. Comparing new titles to older, unrelated publications. “…for fans of The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner!” “…the next Harry Potter…” “…if you loved The Lunar Chronicles…” We’ve all seen these claims. It’s nauseating. Sorry, folks, but it is anymore.

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4. Changing covers based on the country of printing. Whyyyy?? Especially when I don’t like the covers printed in my own country?!

5. Summaries on the jacket/back cover that don’t actually describe that story. Haven’t we all finished reading a book and thought, “Well, that wasn’t quite what I expected”? And we do have to wonder what was going on when whoever at the publisher wrote that blurb. Maybe they confused that title with another they’d just completed proofreading?

6. Summaries that give too much away. If I intend to read through the whole story in order to find out what happens at the end, then I don’t need the inside cover spilling the beans before I’ve even hit page 1.

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7. When bookshelves aren’t adjustable. You know how those bookcases are sold in kits, where you can assemble them yourself and determine how high each shelf should be? This is brilliant and perfect, because not all books are the same size. Any company that makes non-adjustable bookcases need book dragons to storm their HR department with a list of demands, er, design improvements.

8. When book merch is unaffordable. I am not sorry for the fact that I simply can’t afford tote bags with quotes, or mugs with character silhouettes. Would I like to own some of these things? Oh, yes. But unless stores drop their prices to something less than my grocery budget for the month, I will remain without.

9. The pricing of books. This is why I get so many new releases from the library. Since spare money is so hard to come by in my life, the thought of wasting it on a title I might not like really sticks in my craw. Aren’t we supposed to be encouraging literacy and learning — and yet, I regularly pass by the new hardcovers in Walmart for $25 and $30. These messages do not jam.

10. American-izing the Queen’s English. When a story is written by a British, Australian, Canadian or South African author, and they write it in their native dialect, leave it that way when you export it to other nations, publishers. Quit encouraging American readers to think that the whole world speaks the way you do. It’s not promoting education or tolerance, and it’s infuriating. (Sorry, but not sorry, there it is.)

Congratulations on making it to the end of the whine! Less mardy next time, I promise!

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community, Encouragement, reading, writing

How to Name Your Characters

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This is definitely an issue for writers. When you create characters, you go through the same process that expecting parents do — you want to give your “child” a name that you like, but that also fits in with your family, society, culture and the time period you’re all alive in. And it’s important to get these details right, because it helps your reader relate to the characters — and we all want that to happen, right?

So, here are some tips on how to find great names for your fictional babies:

Consider the time period your character was born in. Not the year you’re setting your story in, but when the person was born — this is mega-essential because most people are given names that reflect what’s going on at the time of their birth, not when you’re actually describing the plot. For example, The Order of the Twelve Tribes (my series) is set in present day, but most of the characters are between 15 and 45 years old, and their names take that into account. A middle-aged man or woman in 2017 would have a name that was popular in the 1960s, and their adolescent children would (most likely) have names that were big on parents’ radar at the start of the 21st century.

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Be sure to decide on your character’s ethnic/cultural background, and remember that when naming. Maybe your story’s set in modern America, but if your people are immigrants or belong to certain religions, their families may have wanted to pay homage to that by selecting a name from “the old country” or a religious tradition.

Fantasy/sci-fi names don’t have to sound “fantastical” or “alien.” Lots of readers struggle with this, especially in sci-fi or high fantasy novels. It can really trip up the flow of reading if you have to stop and sound out a name every other paragraph. If you’re writing about an alien race, how about mixing similar words from foreign languages — example, French and Spanish, or Latin and Italian — but not including too many syllables, to come up with names that sound unique and part of that culture, but that your readers can also pronounce. (Marie Lu’s The Young Elites and Veronica Roth’s Carve the Mark are good examples of this technique.)

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It’s more than okay to use names that aren’t exactly “in fashion” at the moment. When I was researching this subject for my own characters, I discovered that people really seem to like using popular names over and over.

And I’ve found there’s this trend in recent fiction recently, where it’s apparently mandatory to call every heroine a variation of Isabelle, or every hero a version of Alexander. Okay, not every single book/series, but is anybody else thinking this as they read? And quite frankly, it ticked me off, because I really like both of these names and was already planning to include them in my own work. Anyway, after having established several of my characters with classic/common names, I decided to try to “diversify” more with the rest.

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Visit websites and conduct up-to-date research. Nameberry (Google it) is extremely helpful, not just for name origins and meanings, but explaining the history of the name’s use, whether it’s so intensely popular that it could take a break from the cultural public eye, and even offers alternatives. And the site also has lists of popular baby names given in the UK, Ireland, France, etc.

And remember — don’t stress about it. If you feel like you’re about to have a nervous breakdown over getting your characters the “perfect” names, then you’re trying too hard. Trust me, it doesn’t have to be “perfect,” it just has to fit your story, the background, and your fictional friend’s “feel”.

And don’t forget, taste in names is like taste in salad dressing — it’s very subjective, and no matter how marvelous you think your narrator’s name is, there will always be somebody who goes, “Ehhh, I wish she was called Bernadette.”

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