Naming Characters

First off… Happy Halloween!

But that also means tomorrow is November 1st. Nanowrimo begins!

I’ve dubbed the month of October Nanoplamo – National Novel Planning Month. For the entire month I haven’t written any new words on a story, I have only laid out scenes and built character profiles. But I came across a large obstacle in my plans; Naming Characters.

This issue was odd to me. In the past, I’ve had a pretty easy time naming characters. Baby name sites are really handy in this regard. I typically search the site by name meaning and then choose the name that feels right.

I started my naming tasks the same way with this book. But no matter how many various sites I visited, I just couldn’t find anything that felt right. My story this time is a fantasy novel, and the names just felt too plain. Which, I suppose since they exist to name a kid in our modern world is kind of the point. But that left my usual source out, so I went searching for another way.

A Google search produced a list of random fantasy naming engines. Most are pretty simple, you just choose a sex for the character and let it rip. But I was never satisfied with the names. Most just felt like hollow names formed from a random arrangement of vowels and consonants (which I think is exactly how they work).

Not good enough. I like my names to have meaning.

So I started looking at names of different angels and deities. Meh, been there, done that. Nothing jumped out at me.

Then I seized upon a new idea. I Googled Online Translator. Naturally, Google presented its own version at http://translate.google.com/. But this worked surprisingly well.

I entered in English an attribute that I associated strongly with the character. Then I translated it into the 63 different languages available.

Here’s the cool thing. While the translator shows you the word written in that language’s native alphabet, you can click on a symbol at the bottom right that will show it spelled out phonetically in a Latin alphabet. A lot of the translations even offer a button that you can hear the word pronounced.

I’ve managed to name most of my characters this way. What I like is that it is still “fantasy” sounding, but it has meaning in our modern world. And that meaning is tied directly to the characters themselves.

If you’re stuck for a unique sounding name, I recommend giving it a try!

Letting Go of Reality…

While The Veil contains fantastical elements, it is set in our modern world. So I haven’t had to create physics or biology. I’ve had to keep a lot of the story rooted in reality so the reader can buy into it. But I realise this has created a problem.

My new work that I’m prepping for Nanowrimo is a fantasy set in another world. But I’m still thinking in terms of how machines work, how we fuel our vehicles, how our own history in Medieval society functioned. I realised last night that I’m severely limiting myself.

I don’t have a lot of experience in world-building. It’s also starting to dawn on me that I haven’t exercised my childhood imagination since, uh, childhood.

What a horrible thing we let go of. I watch my youngest son who is unhampered by my adult weight of bills, parenthood, social graces, etc. To him, no world is too far away, no imagining embarrassing or too outlandish. I really need to get back to that. I want this book to fill readers with a sense of wonder and joy. Actually, I think even more than that, I want it to make me feel that way.

I suspect that this is the only way to make this story work. And I am desperate to make it work. As much as The Veil felt like the right book to write, this one feels like the book I must write. But it’ll only happen if I let go.

News of My Death Has Been Greatly Exaggerated

Wow, a month and a half since my last post. You’d think I’d forgotten this blog existed.

Truth be told, I just haven’t had much to share with the world. The Veil has stalled in edits. I mean, it’s getting there, just a lot slower than I had hoped. But with all things The Veil, I shouldn’t be surprised. That book has always taken longer than I hoped. And perhaps the reason is that I’m not ready for it.

I had a lengthy discussion via email with a fellow writer named Regan Leigh. We were comparing notes on the YA series we had in progress. As I outlined the scope of The Veil, I realised that this thing is big. Maybe too big. With every edit and passing day, I seem to throw more into it. At present, I have 1 book written, another book started & plotted, and two more books with very rough outlines. And that doesn’t even end the blasted thing!

It dawned on me that if I self-published The Veil Book One, I’d be making a deal with my readers that the series would be completed and done so in a timely fashion. Am I ready to dedicate myself to seven years or more on one series? If I’m honest, I’m not. Regan gave me some sage advice; Set aside The Veil until I learn to manage my writing time more efficiently. Stick to more standalone stories until I’m more proficient at organising my thoughts and then I’ll be able to write the Veil series.

It made sense, but was scary at the same time. Because writing a book, it’s like nurturing a child. And when you’ve finally got it to a point where it can walk, stand and think on its own, it’s hard to let go. But I know I need to do that. I’m just not ready to tell that story yet.

Which is not to say writing it was a waste of time. I’ve learned a great deal from it. I’ve also gained the confidence that comes from knowing that I have finished a novel.

In a convenient twist, an idea for a book struck me the other day and I’ve fallen in love with it. It’s a fantasy. I’ll be doing some world building and telling a single story in the one book.

And to push myself to the limit, I’ve signed up for Nanowrimo.

If you’re not familiar with it, that’s National Novel Writing Month, which is in November. The idea is to write a first draft of a novel equaling at least 50,000 words within the month’s time. That works out to approx. 1,667 words a day. Which is a lot more than I’m used to.

To get ready, I’m planning ahead. That’s right, the pantser/write-like-it’s-chess boy is planning ahead! Because that’s one of the lessons I’ve learned from The Veil. The better I had planned a chapter, the faster it was to write. I did have days where I hammered out 2,000 words in a single session. If I plan a whole novel, I’m hoping I can do the same.

During Nanowrimo I’ll be doing more frequent updates here on the blog. Yes, I do intend to breathe some new life into this poor, neglected corner of the web.

I feel great about this new book. It feels like a winner. Hopefully I still feel that way by the end of November.

A Video Game Should Be FUN

Last night, I finished a major rewrite of the most problematic chapter in The Veil. I decided to unwind by playing some Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (Number 1. I just picked it up for a bargain).

I’m a child of the 70’s. Star Wars was the first film I recall seeing in a theatre. The toys were the only thing every kid in our neighborhood could agree to playing with. There’s a very special memory of my mom tied to the Star Wars series. When I say Star Wars is important to me, I’m making an understatement.

So it’s natural that a game that supposedly ties into the Star Wars story should intrigue me, yes? And since I can now play it with the glorious graphic capabilities of the PS3, it’s even better.

So I sit down and start to play. I confess, it kept me up until 3:45am. But here’s the thing, I didn’t have fun. Yes, the story was engaging. In particular a certain plot twist early on that changes your perception of the whole original trilogy was pretty sweet. But the story was the ONLY reason I kept going (that and I’m cheap & don’t want to waste $20).

The most annoying aspect is that you can fall anywhere. I mean, if you’re standing next to a river and 20 enemies attack you, they can push you to your death into the water. WHAT? Since when did an action RPG do such a thing? I played the far superior Castlevania Lords of Shadow and it never allowed for you to die so easily. It understood that when you involve combos, jumping and enemies that can push you back, it’s pretty unfair for you to die just cause of a ledge. Especially maddening in Force Unleashed because you have to start a hella long way back. It gets frustrating that you can complete all these tasks, battle hordes of enemies and then you get hit with a laser blast and since you were too close to the ledge, kiss your ass goodbye. The frustration level elevates more when you consider that if you do get hit, your character is useless and takes some time before he’s responsive to the controls.

I only stopped because it was the fourth time I had been pushed into water and died and I was about to do harm to my PS3.

As I stomped up to bed (OK, not stomp exactly, didn’t want to wake the kids) I thought this was a good lesson about writing. Story is important. Hell, it’s why we write, but what if it isn’t fun for the reader? Yes, I know, we don’t always want the reader to have fun, but the reader should be having an emotional experience that is complementary to the story. They shouldn’t be frustrated with odd language usage or poor formatting, or for us indies, poor editing. Playing that game last night reinforced in my mind what I said yesterday about needing patience. I have to make it right. I have to ensure my audience feels what they should be feeling. I don’t want them throwing the book because it’s needlessly frustrating to get through and they got pushed in the water again.

Even An Indie Needs Patience

When viewing people’s reasons for self-publishing, one I often see is ‘I can get my book out faster.’

Today, I have to say this feels like bullsh!t to me.

In some ways, I’d rather a gatekeeper hold on to my book and say “No, you can not release it, because it hasn’t had enough edits/beta reads/marketing etc.” Instead, I need to be the sole person who tells myself that.

And it’s not easy.

I received a book on InDesign CS4 in the mail today. My wife’s had the program for two years and I finally have a reason to use it. Looking at its power, knowing I can set up my book the way I want and have it printed that way is empowering and very tempting.

In the back of my mind I think, “I have a finished book. It’s had some editing. Why not get this party started and publish the damn thing?”

But my calm, rational self has to intervene. It says “But you want this to be a long game. If you put out trash and kill your reputation from book one, this whole dream is over.”

Still, a boy and his toys are a hard force to control.

I’m probably more frustrated because my rewrite of Chapter Four is being a bear; that I woke up during hibernation season.

Don’t poke the sleeping bear….

I have to keep repeating my mantra,

“Better to have it ripped apart in Betas and put out a finished project people will love.”

I have to consider my GI system’s feelings when it reacts to a review on Amazon that could’ve easily been prevented if I had just taken a little more time.

And that’s what it boils down to, time.

I need to have patience. I need to tell myself that these steps are making the book better. Refer to the old saying, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Will my book see the light of day faster than a traditionally published book? Yes. But just as I need to learn some things about marketing and book construction from the Traditional industry, I also need to learn from them about taking my time.

Becoming a Publisher

During my post on my decision to go indie, I mentioned that I had also decided to create a publishing company, Red Bucket Publishing.

I’m going to discuss this decision and some of the hoops I’ve found while working on this the past few days.

First off, I’m in Ontario, Canada. My initial decision was whether I go all out and incorporate a new company or whether I just register a Sole-proprietorship in Ontario.

Had to give this some thought.

Incorporation

Incorporating a business means that, as far as the federal government is concerned, it is a separate and “living” organisation. This means you need to file taxes for the company itself. It also means that any judgements of liability rest mostly on the company’s shoulders. On another note, when it comes to dealing with suppliers & such, being incorporated can add a bit more weight to your credibility.

However, the incorporation process is more involved. Most people will suggest you have a lawyer walk you through it (although, you can do the whole process online yourself if you wish). Since the corporation is a separate entity, regardless of income, you must charge, and remit to the government, taxes.  It also means that should you end your business, there’s more paperwork to file to cancel the whole thing.

I incorporated a business years ago. The business never went anywhere and I found the constant additional obligation of the corporation a bit of a strain.

Sole Proprietorship

The simpler, cheaper, choice. For $60, you can register a business online with the Ontario government. This allows you to operate under the business name, but all the income is declared on your own taxes. It also means that so long as you keep below a $30,000 a year income level, you do not have to charge your customers taxes.

You do not gain the same level of cred with a sole-proprietorship that you do with incorporation. You also don’t have the same legal rights and protection for your company name.

In the end, I decided to go with a sole-proprietorship. It was cheaper and for now, since I don’t know how big this thing will get, easier to manage.

The other thing I realized is that dealing with the suppliers I am, they really don’t care a bit whether I’m incorporated or not. Library and Archives Canada has no care whether you are a sole or inc. All they care is what you are publishing. Lightning Source? Same thing. In fact, Lightning Source is meant for indies and small presses as opposed to big corporations.

For now, Red Bucket Publishing is a sole-proprietorship. But, if the business gets large enough, I will give serious consideration to incorporating. Incorporation does provide some legal shields that being a sole does not. Also, if the money really comes in, I don’t know if I want my personal taxes taking that kind of a hit. Being an incorporated business does allow some tax perks that being an individual does not. But for now, I’ll wait to see if that comes to pass.

Finally, let me say that my decision to start a “publisher” was not born out of necessity. As far as I can tell, there’s no reason you need to do this if you want to self-publish. For me, it was a decision based on who I am and what I want to become. My wife is a photographer. I would one day like to publish her work. I also hope to produce a variety of series and novellas. I wanted a single point of contact for all the works we intend to produce and I didn’t want it to be this website. I’ve also longed to own my own business. Red Bucket Publishing fulfills all those desires.

However, it also means I not only have to market myself, my latest writing, but it also means I need to promote a company as well. More work? Maybe, but I think the rewards in the end will outweigh the extra effort now.

I’m still working on things, but if you want to bookmark for future reference, or just see the work-in-progress, you can head over to redbucketpublishing.com

So fellow indies, what do you think? Do you have your own publisher imprint?

Getting ISBNs in Canada

Self-publishers have it good in Canada. We can get our ISBNs for free.

If you’re unfamiliar, ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number and is a unique number used to identify your book. Most places that you will publish, be it physical or Ebook, will require you to provide an ISBN for your work. As I understand it, some companies will allow you to pay an additional fee and they will provide you with an ISBN.

In Canada, the process is rather simple.

Go to http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/ciss-ssci/index-e.html and click on Join CISS on the left hand side. There’s a form you need to fill in that asks about your publisher information as well as one of your current or upcoming publications. Once you’ve submitted that form, you wait. They say it can take up to ten days, but I think I waited for three.

An email arrives with your username and a temporary password. You login to their site, and fill out some more paperwork. The process is simple and can be done all online. If you need an ISBN, you just login, provide information about the book and within seconds, you have an ISBN.

If you’re using a service like Lightning Source, you will need at least one ISBN in order to complete the signup process on their website. The great thing with the Canadian system is that since it is all online, you can complete information for your first book before it’s published, yet you can go back and edit that information at any time. This means you can obtain an ISBN for signups, but go back and edit it when you know actual details like book size, weight & page count.

As I said, an easy and painless process in Canada. Dear readers, how are things done in your part of the world?