It's really happening! How it started: NaNoWriMo, of course. After far too many years of people (mostly my aunts) telling me, "You should write a book," I picked up a copy of No Plot? No Problem! and pledged to do the impossible: write a 50,000-word novel in a month. I did it, because deadlines are sort of my thing, and after I'd put it away to rest for a month (as they tell you to do), I picked it back up and thought that maybe there was something there. I rewrote, edited, added, subtracted... reworked the whole thing for five months, then queried it with #PitMad. From there, I sent my query to two interested parties, then followed up with the full manuscript... and "suddenly," I had a publisher. I didn't know, then, that that was just the beginning. More rewrites, more edits, more consultation, but all in the best possible way. Even though I grumbled, I knew that my story was getting stronger and better. The Lights Out team have been wonderful and supportive. How it's going: This morning, a box arrived for me. This one's mine, but you can get your own here .
What does 'home' mean to you? Home is a concept that most people understand, but it's not the same for any two of us. Whether it's where you hang your hat, where your favourite people are, or whether it's the house that your family has lived in for generations, such a familiar term has a different meaning to everyone. As an expat that will be returning to the motherland this year (fingers crossed!), to a house and a street that I barely got to know before we left, but to a city where friends and family are close by, my own concept of home will be shifting again soon. Until I turned 15, I moved every two to three years, so home was wherever my family lived at that time. When people ask me where I'm from, it's easier to just say I'm nomadic, a navy brat: I was born on one coast, spent six years on the other (in two, three-year intervals), and have bounced around in the middle the rest of the time. But where am I really from? Where's home ? I settled in my adopted hometown when I was 15, and my parents are still there, though they left for a while when I was in university. I lived there for 15 years in a row, but left it again as an adult with a family of my own, twice now; I guess it counts as home. I hope to return there this summer. But forever? I'm not sure.
I've had so much time to consider home over the last two years of writing and editing Ground Control . My protagonist, Sarah, is trying to come to terms with leaving. She's leaving Earth -- the largest concept of home possible right now -- but also her house (that she'd only lived in for two years), and her parents, who still live in the house she grew up in, in another city, a home that she really left fifteen years before. She thinks about her kids, and how she wants them to have a home. She looks back to her own childhood and the joy she remembers of riding her bike and feeling the wind in her hair, playing outside on summer nights till the lights came on, climbing trees, and spinning round and round until you fall down on the grass and the whole huge sky whirls around your head. These are things that I remember from when I was little, and things her children will never know: they'll grow up inside a biodome on Mars. She struggles with deciding which mementos to bring along: collections of photos? Which trinkets will capture the places she's left behind? Her journey, and mine, when I think of it, follows the change that happens when you get ready to leave a home: from loss and regret, to the thought of adventure and a new life, to acceptance that wherever you end up, in whatever becomes your community, eventually becomes home again. These themes also come to play in my next novel, which is underway, where the elements of Cate's home -- family, friends and community -- are far different than they first seem (but stay tuned). Join my newsletter for updates on my books
Creating characters and worlds is a necessity for fiction writers. It can be so easy to see them, hear them, and even imagine them in action. But naming them? Stop right there. You are either a name-junkie, or you avoid it like the plague... like you'd rather cut off your left ear or run naked through the mall. I'll confess, I'm not only a name-junkie, I am a super-name-junkie. Creating names for my characters is one of my favorite things to do! I'm thinking of offering a service creating character names for people. I love it! But what makes naming characters difficult for people? If you are a plague-namer, read on! I have some ideas. Does this sound right? art by Flex Dreams "I have a character who is gun-slinging, cyborg nun from Pluto. I was thinking of naming her Mariposa Exeldorf. Grunnepas - a blend of Spanish, German and Norwegian. Does that seem like a good fit?" Don't get me wrong - I think I'd love a story about at gun-slinging, cyborg nun from Pluto (quickly scribbles this into my "need to write this" notebook), but keeping names memorable helps a reader connect with the story. Another idea is to use that cumbersome monster of a name, but find a way to use an acronym or a nickname you can tie to it. That way, Mariposa Exeldorf Grunnepas becomes M.E.G. - sooo simple and easy to remember (and kind of clever, too!). I'm all for unique, but consider that if your reader needs to continuously refer to a pronunciation chart, their connection with the story might become fragmented. However, if they only need the pronunciation guide the first time they encounter the new name, fantastic! This means your story's language rules are easy to follow and remember. Way to go, Worldbuilder! How did you come up with that? I'll confess. I really love my characters' names. But did I snatch them from some unbelievably deep wellspring of creativity within my mind? No. Okay, sometimes. Actually.... I am a HUGE fan of the website Fantasy Name Generator . They have a name bank for mountain ranges, monsters. cities and even tribes of elves. I don't use the names I find on the site as-is, rather I do a sort of onomatological surgery, combining a syllable or two from different names until it feels right. Basically, I'm the idiot sitting in the coffee shop with my headphones on, repeating a bizarre name over and over until I find just the right sound. Look for me in a Starbucks post-Covid, 2021! Creating and developing memorable characters is one of the beautiful things about being a writer. It is an honor to bring these amazing people to life. But there's a fine line between a unique, memorable name and a unique cumbersome mouthful. Mariposa Exeldorf Grunnepas may be a gun-toting, cyborg nun from Pluto, but M.E.G. is a bad-ass, Plutonian warrior with a conscience. We all want to read about her! Art by SKenson