N is for Names

In choosing names for The Manx I used surnames that were listed in the census logs of the Isle of Man. I went as far back as I could find records for so that the names were as authentic as I could make them. Kaitlin Manning is named for the island, Mann (as it is sometimes spelled). Her first name is not of Manx origin, but she was born in America so I leaned toward something that would fit here in the states. Donal Kennaugh’s surname is one of the oldest I could find, plus I just liked it. His first name is of Manx origin and means “world conqueror.”

The book also takes us back into Manx history. King Magnus the Barefoot was king of Norway 1093-1103, during this time he was on the Isle of Man. King Magnus was ruthless in the battles he waged. He dominated much of the coastal area around the Irish sea. He had forts built on Man and he spent much of his time there while he was busy conquering the Irish Sea. His daughters, Ragnhild and Tora (I changed this name to Thora in the book), will play major parts in the past as well, along with a few other characters from his court.

The extent of historical accuracy does end there. I have used the names from the past  and taken a lot of artistic liberty with their characters. I also followed some of the historical narrative to build personalities for them, but that’s about it.

There have been days that I spent hours looking for names getting lost in the histories and the side trips of the internet. I am still building new characters so if you are Manx and know of a few good places, or people, that you think should be included. Leave a comment. I’d love to learn more.

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This post inspired by – N

O is for Osran

Writing a Book Review

Writing a book review is not just about how much you liked or disliked a book, but an opportunity to have a more in depth look into the writing itself. When you are asked to write a book review your first step, obviously, is to read the book. Every word of the book. No matter how poorly it is written, you still have to read the book in its entirety.

As you read, take notes to jot down some of the areas you found to be thought provoking, or if you notice your emotions being tickled in some way. If you come across a passage that is quote worthy, write it down to have in your final written review. Consider what the author is trying to accomplish in the story. Here are a few questions to consider as you are reading:

  • How does the story flow?
  • Does it carry you along on an unforgettable journey, or are you pitched about with no rhyme or reason?
  • How invested are you feeling?
  • Do you care about any of the characters, where they are, and the challenges they are facing?
  • Are there any gaps or unexplained holes in the story?
  • In the end, are all the loose ends tied up?

Once your reading is done, review your notes then set it all aside for a day or two. You may not feel comfortable doing this because you might loose the spark and excitement you felt while reading the book. Or, you might find that this is a good time to breath and allow the story to sink into all the nooks and crevasses. You may find yourself more objective in your review.

You have taken the time you need to absorb the book and now it is time to write a review. Most reviews contain the basics: Title, author, publisher, date of publication, genre, page or word count, ISBN. Once the basics are in, then tackle the body of the review. Be sure you are reviewing the book that was written, not what you wish had been written. To whine about what you wanted defeats the whole purpose of a review, which is to inform a potential reader if this is a worthwhile book to read.

Tell your audience what you thought of the book and why. Just saying “it’s a good/bad book” is not much help. Give examples of what made it good or bad (remember the notes you jotted down?). Were there so many grammatical errors your head was spinning, or did the story sweep you away to another planet where you could taste the grit and feel the oil in the air? These added details will give the reader a better idea of why you liked/disliked the book.

Many reviewers will include a brief synopsis of the story so the reader has an idea of what the book is about. If your review is going to be listed on Amazon, Goodreads, or Bookbub, you may not need the story intro because it is already there. But, if you are reviewing it on a blog or for a magazine it is a good idea to give a quick introduction to the story.

Including something about the author is another option. Is it a debut novel, or the final in a 10 part series? Maybe the author usually writes scifi and this is a break out historical fiction. These little tid-bits add interest for the reader and will keep them reading your review. In turn, they will read the book you have just reviewed and the author may ask for another from you.

Keep your comments as balanced as you can. No matter how horrible a book is, there has to be something good worth mentioning. Authors have pretty tough skin, but make an effort not to send them out to the slaughter. They have spent months – or years- on it. Give them some nuggets they can grow with as an author. Your review should teach as much as criticize.

Your review is not about you and your taste in genres. It is a way to help a possible reader know what a book is about and why they too might like to read, or pass to the next choice.

Writing on a Schedule

Schedules are funny things. We have them for so many aspects of our lives: work, deadlines, appointments, school, etc. We keep our lives orderly by keeping a schedule, but does keeping a schedule keep us happy? For some people a schedule is a heavy weight hanging on a thin thread ready to crash down. For others, it is a salvation that steers the ship through each day.

I was recently asked, “What steps have you taken, or plan to take, to put a schedule in place for your writing and publishing?” My reply every time is, “Nothing.”  I hate schedules so when someone asks if I have one for my writing I really cringe at the thought of making one.

It isn’t that I can’t meet deadlines. Give me one and I’m there. Need a story tomorrow about widgets in the 20th Century? I’ll have to you early. Want a blog post about modern kitchens by January 30th? You’ll have it by the 25th. Ask me to creatively write on a schedule? Well, that’s a different animal indeed.

Writing creatively, on a schedule, is like asking a painter to have their masterpiece done by Tuesday. And, by the way, they have to paint on Wednesday from 6:00 am to noon and Friday 5:00 pm to midnight. Final touch-ups have to happen on Sunday, leaving Monday to let it dry. Really?

Creativity doesn’t happen on a schedule. It is more like a flow of energy that comes in waves and currents like the rapids and eddies along a river. It trickles through pebbles during dry spells and when the rains come it turns into a raging force that can’t be stopped just because it’s not on the schedule.

No. I won’t be making a writing schedule for 2018, but I do have some deadlines I want to keep. The Manx is long overdue for completion, and I have too many other projects zinging around in my head that are dying to get onto paper. So, my plan is to get The Manx finished, submitted, and published, without a schedule (dare I say this?) by the close of 2018.

BAM!

 

Many thanks to the Insecure Writers Support Group for their continued inspiration and support. You all keep me writing!!

Another thank you to our wonderful co-hosts for the January 3 posting of the IWSG who are Tyrean Martinson, Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor, Megan Morgan, Jennifer Lane, and Rachna Chhabria!

It’s Almost Over, Saying Goodbye to 2017

What many people may not realize about being a writer is that it can be nerve wracking. We writers pour our hearts and souls into what we do, and if there is a single misspelled word we feel failure. It is not an easy job, but one that we all feel crazily compelled to do. We can be an insecure bunch of people, but we are not in it alone.

I am a member of The Insecure Writers Support Group, and every month we are given a question that we can answer in our IWSG post. These questions may prompt us to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. This month, the last in a very long year, our question is:

As you look back on 2017, with all its successes/failures, if you could backtrack, what would you do differently?

The only thing I would do differently is to wrap my entire family in bubble wrap. Without going into detail, let me just say that seeing the inside of nine emergency rooms in twelve months is more than anyone should have to go through. (No one died this year, so there’s that). To say the least, this put a huge crimp on my writing progress. Getting a story out has been the last thing on my to-do list.

It wasn’t all bad though. I did manage to complete a couple of short stories, several blog posts, and I wrote everyday for NaNoWriMo. My debut novel, The Manx, is shaping up with characters that are living and breathing entities in a brilliant world. I also attended two writing conferences (PPWC and RMFW) where I reconnected with writers across the country and re-energized my creative battery. I also had the pleasure to meet one of my favorite authors, Diane Gabaldon.

At book signing during RMFW2017

My advice to anyone who is in the thick of life’s challenges? Get through it anyway you can. Writing does not have to be at the top of your to-do list, but sometimes it should surface to the top just so you can have a few moments of sanity. It is okay to let the words fall by the side of the road while you are trying to maintain a straight direction with four flat tires.

Say goodbye to 2017 because 2018 will be a better year. It has to be.

Thanks to our awesome co-hosts for the December 6 posting of the IWSG, Julie Flanders, Shannon Lawrence, Fundy Blue, and Heather Gardner!