Friday, October 10, 2008

What's in a Name?

Time: 8:20am (which is kinda early for me to be sitting here writing)
Breakfast: Nothing yet, but the coffee is calling my name.
Music: My iPod is downstairs and I really should grab it because the gardeners are here.

Names are an important part of life. It’s what we answer to and really, who we are. I actually never realized the significance of identifying with my name until recently.

I got married a little over a year ago (June 27, 2007 to be exact), but never got around to changing my last name. First I was lazy, and then things came up in life which stopped me from going through the process …until now. When someone would bring up the fact that I still had my maiden name with being married for over a year, I always complained about having to go to the Social Security office, DMV (EVERYONE hates the DMV, am I right?) and calling every single credit card company, doctor, insurance, bill, etc. to change it. It never dawned on me what changing my name meant.

Now, a month later after starting the process, I feel like I’m in an identity crisis. Paperwork still has my maiden name, others have my new one and I don’t know if I’m coming or going. Each time I have to use my last name, I wonder if I got it right when signing or answering. It’s an odd feeling that I hope goes away soon!

Now to relate my rambling to writing! I’ve come to realize in the name changing game they are just as important to my characters and also to characters in the books I read. When I don’t like a name, it pulls me out of the story each time it’s on the page. Do I want that to happen to my character? Of course not, but I also want a name that stands out and defines who my character is, inside and out. Names speak volumes and can give the reader an idea into who the character is and where he/she comes from.

In my current WIP, my male protagonist has an unusual name, Pence. I came about the name in an odd way. I was watching a baseball game, and a player on the apposing team’s name was Hunter Pence. I was in the middle of writing my first notes on the book, trying to come up with names for each character. I paused when I heard, “Hunter Pence slides into second base”. I instantly thought, “Wow, Hunter Pence, what a great name! I like the ring of it.” Of course, as I pointed out, names need to fit a person and it didn’t fit him AT ALL, but Pence did. I did a little research, realized that Pence was a super rare name and right away my character became Pence McCree. I think it fits him to a tee.

Now that all of my characters for the book have their names solidly in place, I hope the readers will see them as I do, not only fitting with their given names, but also the names shaping their identity.

I pose the question, how do you pick your characters' names?

Monday, October 6, 2008

Sometimes a Werewolf is Just a Man in a Doggie Suit:

Time: 5:30am
Breakfast: 100 calorie chocolate chip Quaker Dipps bar (2 of them)
Last night's exciting moment: watched True Blood - poor Gran

______start of rant______

Werewolves, vampires, witches, and demons are like the four food groups of paranormal fiction, and staples of my laptop’s diet. I'm a young adult paranormal fiction author - under my pen name, Judith Graves, (sounds like a confession, doesn’t it?). I'm just starting out on my writing career. I’m keen. I’m determined. I’m a tad insane (it is 5:30 am in my world).

I just might make it.

I recently had the pleasure of accepting a few author bookings, one for my local public library’s teen book club, and another for a nearby high school. Interactions with the target audience - real live teens! (Here's hoping no one sleep-drools on their desks.)

Faster than you can say, “Are those fangs in your mouth or are you just happy to see me?” my enthusiasm for the upcoming author gigs nosedived. Really, it was my own fault.

Knowing my high school presentation was going to be at a Catholic school, I asked a rather devout-but-open-to-discussion friend of mine her opinion on the paranormal four food groups. (I know, I know…I’m cringing as I type this.) I had hoped to find some common ground with this individual, a mutual recognition of the fact that we were discussing FICTION. But alas, my paranormal plate was picked clean until, apparently, we were no longer talking fantasy, and my writing was promoting the novel and movie rights aspirations of Beelzebub.

I was truly saddened by this. I write dry, sarcastic, witty characters, all of which have normal teen issues. Friends. Boyfriends. Parents. Although I admit, my stories aren’t just about growing up. This is growing up with fangs, fur and hankering for raw meat. (And you thought your high school experience sucked.)

But promoting the devil? I don’t think so. (Have you seen the Exorcist? That’s one scary dude!)

I'm flattered I was tossed into the firery pit with Rowling and her wizard boy, but never expected this kind of reaction before my book has even hit production.

I toss down the gauntlet.

Paranormal and edgy YA authors of the blogosphere – have you encountered any flack for your fiction sustenance of choice? What treats do you have, in your skull-and-cross-bones bag of tricks, to smooth over similar situations?

And in this ghoulish month of October I say to all: sometimes a werewolf is just a man in a doggie suit.

________end of rant_________

Here's a brief excerpt from my book, Under My Skin - one of the scary bits - nothing like a little fangage with your morning Chai.


Every few steps during the walk home, Brit fingered her nose ring.

“God, would you stop already?”

“Why? It’s not like I’m picking.” She flared her nostrils. “Ow,” she gingerly twisted the stud once more. “Ow … “

I tried hard not to retch. Considering she couldn’t participate in gym class, or run two feet without having a seizure, Brit had a strong tolerance for pain. I couldn’t even look at my new piercing, let alone play with it.

“I’ve been thinking. I’m so sorry if I stepped over the line, asking about your parents and everything.” Brit meandered down the sidewalk, nudging a large rock along with her like she needed its company. “I just wanted to get a handle on your situation. Frankly, being parentless has always been a dream of mine.”

“It’s a freaking nightmare.” I cut in front of her and kicked her rock into the air.

“Hey!” Brit’s head swivelled as she watched it rocket into the distance. “Okay, I get it.” She gave me a shove. “Parentless isn’t so fun. But you have to admit, aside from not knowing if your folks are alive, or whatever, you’re in a great position right now.”

I couldn’t believe this was coming from Brit of all people. When she was a kid she had Sammi as a kindergarten teacher, so she knew the amount of cheese I had to live with and she certainly knew how I felt about Paige. I didn’t have to keep that a secret.

“How can living with THEM, be in any way a great thing?” I asked.

“Think about it, Eryn. You’ve got all the power. If I were you, I’d be milking the we’ve-got-to-make-Eryn-happy, she’s-been-through-so-much angle. They should be eating out of your hand.”

I already felt bad enough, hiding out with relatives who had no idea the danger I could be bringing down on their heads. I didn’t want to make things any worse for them, even the thought drove me nuts. “I admit, they may not be the coolest relatives in the world, but they’ve given me a roof over my head, a safe place to crash. Haven’t you heard the expression, don’t bite the hand that feeds you?”

“If the hand is feeding you stale bread and rusty colored water, and makes a big deal about you sleeping over at your best friend’s house, which is so uncalled for - I say, ‘bite’!”

“Their water is not rusty,” I said. “Usually. There was just that one time.”

Thick clouds soaked up the sunset’s final glow until they appeared heavy with blood. A few stars shone through clear patches, and though the moon remained out of sight, I’d never seen a more dramatic night sky.

“Let’s go this way,” Brit said, and I let her haul me down a back lane. “It’s faster.”

When we passed Falcon Road, Brit insisted we cut through the woods behind the school. She had no problem with the dark, the trees, the isolation--of course, she hadn’t watched as many horror movies as I had.

The trail, the same one I’d run with Alec and his wolf, was even creepier in the fading light, but I’d give it the mother-of-all-shortcut awards if we made it to the other side--alive. At the other side was our nice, comfy subdivision with too bright streetlights and busybody old ladies staring out their windows.

Wind swirled through the trees sending a shower of autumn leaves to the earth. Bare branches clattered against each other in the shadows. It wasn’t exactly a pleasant meander through the forest. I glanced over my shoulder and hunched deeper into my coat. Brit did shoulder checks of her own. An owl hooted and we both jumped. To mask our fear, we talked louder, laughed louder, our voices shrill in the twilight.

I couldn’t shake the feeling a sinister badness was closing in on us. We were vulnerable, away from the light, shrouded by the dark. Like playing tag with a serial killer, we were begging for trouble.

I took larger strides. “Let’s pick up the pace.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Brit said, as she struggled to keep up.

I charged ahead and then stopped cold, my whole body on full alert. There was something really nasty in the woods, it stunk to high heaven.

“Wait!” I blocked Brit with my arm.

“Make up your mind!” She slapped her hands against her thighs.

“Don’t you smell that?” I asked, but before Brit could respond, a howl reverberated through the woods. Primal. Eerie. And far too close for comfort.

Brit’s expression changed from ticked off to horrorstruck.

I whipped around to see a dark shape charging from the brush. Straight at Brit.

I let out a crazy girly scream I’d be embarrassed about later. If there was a later. I rubbed at my eyes and stared in shock. I couldn’t have seen what I thought I saw, but Brit had seemed to hover in the air before she was hit, like she could have just shot up into the sky – but didn’t.

In a blur of motion I saw Brit absorb the creature’s impact, wrapping her arms around its chest and grabbing handfuls of fur. Together they rolled in the dirt, and after crashing into the base of a tree, they broke apart. The creature lurched to all fours and shook out its matted fur. My pulse leapt. This wasn’t something easily dealt with, like a rabid dog, or starving coyote. Nope, it was something worse. Paranormal worse.

We were going head to head with a werewolf.