Friday, May 23, 2014

Character names

I really enjoy the process of naming my characters. I think a lot about name meanings and research the history of the names before I finally settle on anything for a character. There are a lot of great sites out there for just that purpose.

Sites I like for character names:
(they even do last names - bonus!)
superhero names:

One thing that I really like to do is to read movie credits for people's names - I find it's a great way to get a variety of both first and last names that you might not come across otherwise. Plus you probably strengthen your eyeballs by trying to read all those names as they zip by.

I find it interesting when people just pick names randomly for characters, given how much time I put into naming mine - must be easy to just go with a gut feeling and stick with it.

Given all this time I've spent on researching character names, you'd think picking a baby name would be easy, right? Wrong. Apparently I have to take my husband's opinion into consideration. Weird. And, if I change my mind down the road, I'm apparently not allowed to do a "replace all" in the manuscript and just change the kid's name willy-nilly.

This is why fiction is better than reality  :)

What methods do you use to pick a character name?

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

What an Evil Writer Wants

I am just barely home from RT (Romantic Times Booklovers Convention for those of you unfamiliar), and I'm fairly dead still so please bear with me.

In most any career, people set goals, and authors are no exception. "I'm going to write at least 300,000 new words this year" or whatever. One of the ways in which being an author is different than most careers though is that far too many of our "goals" are outside our control.
- I'm going to hit one of the bigger lists on Amazon.
- Better yet, I'm going to hit multiple lists on Amazon.
- I'm going to average better than 4 stars with this book on Goodreads after 100+ reviews.
- I'm going to have someone so passionate about my book that they leave .gif reviews.
- Fans are going to surprise me with presents at conventions.
- People are going to fangirl over me when they find out who I am.

Those lists aren't really goals though. They're more like wish-lists. Because no matter how hard you bust ass on a project. Arguably, no matter how good said project is...that stuff is all outside of your control.

And the worst part is even once you get some of those things, new ones pop up to take their place. Of the six I mentioned? I've had four happen in the last month. (A fifth is debatable since the gifts were actually for my kids and I just claimed one of them LOL)

Yes, I am over the moon about it. Yes, I feel like other people care about what I do. Yes, I like the external validation.

But it's like a monster. Now I want more things. Other things. Things that are once again outside my control.

And I don't like that. It makes me feel like a diva. I don't think readers would like me if I was a diva. Most people who met me at RT last week liked me because I was loud, irreverent and goofy. Other than loud, those things are kind of the anti-diva. Plus, my readers don't owe me anything. We have an unwritten contract. I write and edit the books, they buy and read the books. That's it. Anything above and beyond that is a bonus (including them forgiving me for not remembering anyone's name--seriously, I forget my own name sometimes.)

So, I am hereby vowing to rid myself of those wish list items. I am going to focus on goals that I can attain.
- Writing 300,000 new words in 2014 (well on my way)
- Doing more and different promotional stuff this year (on my third FB party of the year!)
- Submitting a project outside my comfort zone. (I don't mind rejection, but it's easier to take from someone who will likely love my next project. It's making me complacent and I don't like that.)
- Hitting my deadlines.
- Maintaining my loud, irreverent, goofy self online, even when life starts to get me down. (Not in a don't-talk-about-life way, but more a reality-bites-good-thing-I-like-biters way.)
- Not selling out on personal or professional levels. (I am always nice and polite, but I refuse to be an ass-kisser. It might hold me back in some circles, but I have to wonder if I really want to be in those circles anyway.)
- Not letting the job get in the way of my life.

That stuff is all on me, and it's a far more productive use of my time than dwelling on things I can't control. So, if you'll excuse me, I have to go write.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Vacation, suckers...

Yeah, that's right. I'm going on vacation. Soon. In fact, give me an hour and a half and I'm out of here! But first, tying up loose ends: write this blog post, finish packing, plan what books I'm taking, and oh, yeah, I should probably finish up work (at my day job) while I'm at it.

I'm super excited about vacation, because it'll probably be the last one for a while, since the baby is coming soon. So it's our last hurrah.

But it'll be a working vacation. I have a lot of writing goals to get done. I need to finish up some edits and polish a manuscript for submission, and I should probably write something new. I hear that's good every once in a while.

In fact, I have so much writing stuff I need to get done, I'd probably be better off staying at home for the vacation than actually going anywhere, but I suspect that would defeat the purpose (and plus I'm pretty sure the husband would be annoyed at that).

One thing I do love about vacations is that I tend to step away from social networks - my Twitter checking goes way down, which can only increase my productivity. Some days, Twitter is great at connecting me with other writers and inspiring me to keep at this writing gig. Other days, it's just a massive time suck that could swallow my soul, if I let it (and some days I do).

So what do you guys think? Will I be able to achieve my writing goals while on vacation and still have a good time?  Duh. Stupid question. It's vacation! Of course I'll have a good time!   :)

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Con Prep!

Eep! I looked at the schedule yesterday with an "Oh shit, don't forget to blog." Then what did I do? Completely forgot.

My only excuse is that I have con-brain. I leave in less than 72 hours for the Romantic Times Booklovers' Convention and I'm all mushy with the things I need to get done. Promo, packing, arranging stuff for the kids and dogs...

But I wouldn't change a thing. RT is my favorite con every year because there are sooooo many people I only get to see there. So all the stress and panic is well worth it.

The one thing I haven't really prepped is my liver, but it remembers what alcohol is like, so I should be okay. I hope.

Anyway, if you are going to be in the New Orleans area (or at RT specifically), please look me up (and remind me to eat and hydrate).

I’m actually arriving early in New Orleans, so feel free to say hi if  you are at the convention hotel. Unless I’m otherwise engaged, I’m available for drinks, chats, practice pitches, pretty much anything goes. (It is NOLA, after all.)
Official stuff:
Wednesday 2:30-4:45 — Entangled’s Candy & Spoons Event
Thursday 10:00-11:00–STEAMPUNK:Putting the “Steam” in “Steampunk”
Thursday 1:30-2:30–Clockwork Carnivale Tea
Thursday 6:30-8:30–RT Pub Crawl (I’ll be with Entangled Publishing at Bourbon Heat)
Friday 11:15-12:15–STEAMPUNK: From Aether to Zeppelin (Steampunk Basics)
Saturday 11:00-2:00–Giant Book Fair
Saturday 6:15-6:45--FanTastic Day Party
I will likely be at ALL of the last parties of the night, but that’s not official stuff, so…

One big reminder about book conventions and authors. Most of us are introverts, so we're as nervous about meeting you as you are about meeting us. We have to actively put on our "time to talk to live people" hats when we walk through the door. So, please, come up and say hi because if you don't, we're likely to just stick with our known people...and none of us wants to be seen as that author who ignores fans in favor of other authors. 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Guest Post: Krista D. Ball on Writing Authentically

Hello, evil writers! Today we have a special guest post from author Krista D. Ball.

Krista is not only a fabulous speculative fiction writer, but she also has multiple non-fiction guides for writers. One of them, What Kings Ate and Wizards Drank: A Fantasy Lover's Guide to Food, is currently on sale for 99c. And while you're picking up that one, check her latest release Hustlers, Harlots, and Heroes: A Regency and Steampunk Field Guide.

As an evil writer, accuracy must be important to your writing, because while we might lie for a living, we must make those lies believable. These guides are must-reads for fantasy, historical, and steampunk writers.

Read on for an excerpt from HHH by Krista!


Writing Authentically

When the movie, Belle, was officially announced this week, a lot of people complained about it. Jane Austen didn’t write black people. There weren’t wealthy black people in Britain. Nevermind that Belle is based on a real person…who had a black mother and a white father. I spent two hours explaining this to people before I rage-quitted the internet and opened a bottle of wine.

When I wrote Hustlers, Harlots, and Heroes, I wanted to include a chapter about the non-white experience in Georgian and Victorian London, and particularly Britain’s black population. Throughout the book, I tried to show that they weren’t only slaves, but also servants, businessmen, and even one was an aristocrat. It is tempting and easy to write an all-white world when writing history; it’s all many of us have been taught. Many of the famous paintings that I’ve seen in textbooks were all cropped, literally cutting away history until it was whitewashed.

Too many people justify the lack of people of colour in historical books for being “unrealistic” (nonsense in itself), yet they are perfectly okay with having a thousand single dukes roaming the British countryside. I think we can do better. But where to start? How do we write authentically about people who are cut out of the picture?

One of the most iconic moments in English literature is when Elizabeth Bennet visits Pemberley. She walks through a private gallery, depicting the various family members through the generations. If your heroine encounters such a scene, she will see plenty of great ladies and their young slaves painted in the background. Will your heroine side with the abolitionists? Will the rival anger her by laughing off her concerns about his aunt still keeping a black slave to comb her terrier?

Or what about people hiring the most qualified person, no matter their skin colour? What about let them be themselves and have their own friends? Samuel Johnson’s black servant, Francis Barber (a paid employee, not a slave), would invite his African countrymen over on a regular basis. Barber had an employer who treated him like a human being and this meeting was a sanctioned event within the house.1

One of the street performers interviewed by Henry Mayhew listed the jobs he’d seen worked by black people: errand-boys, coalheavers, shoemakers, tinmen, bricklayers. The list goes on and on; it’s quite extensive.

It wasn’t all sunshine and roses. Racism existed and was overt. There were clearly opportunities, the colour of one’s skin did impact one’s future. One of Olaudah Equiano’s employers suggested he go to Africa as a missionary, but the bishop of London refused to ordain him. Another man was unable to find work as a Schoolmaster or teacher in any form in 1815 because of his “so dark a complexion.”2

How would your heroine react to her family taking her to see Saartjie Baartman? Saartjie was put on display for her large buttocks and Regency gawkers paid 2s a ticket in 1810 to view her. Would your hero agree with The Times when they complained she was being treated like a wild animal? Will your heroine be writing anonymous letters to the Morning Post, complaining Baartman was being displayed like “a prize ox?”

John Ocansey, a black travelling in 1881, said he was generally well-treated but that he understood there was a certain attitude towards Africans that was uncomfortable, sometimes insulting. He had no desire to be in a position where he had to defend his people.3

Diversity isn’t a dirty word, nor is it pandering or political correctness. Instead, it’s just correct.

Do better. Strive higher. Be authentic.


1 Peter Fryer. Staying Power. [New York: PlutoPress, 2010], 69
2 Fryer, 104
3 Gretchen Holbrook Gerzina, editor. Black Victorians/Black Victoriana. [New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 2003]


This is an excerpt from Krista D. Ball’s new novel, Hustlers, Harlots, and Heroes: A Regency and Steampunk Field Guide.

You can find out more about Krista's work at

Recycled Post: Dina Drinks Because You Suck

Dr. Dina is a little busy this month. We've had the Evil for Julie Fundraisers going on, and just because the donation part is over doesn't mean the work is. As such, Dr. Dina is recycling a post from the archives. We'll return you to your regularly scheduled evil at some point sometime. (Nice vaguery there, don't you think?)

Anyway! Today's post is brought to you by 100% recycled material! Enjoy!

Originally written April of 2012, so it's a couple years old.

Dina Drinks Because You Suck

I, regrettably, know one (or two, or five) of the individuals responsible for this rant, and what set me off this time was a particular post by one of them doing EXACTLY WHAT  YOU'RE NOT SUPPOSED TO DO if you wish to become a professional writer.

This person is in the process of querying agents, i.e. they're looking for professional representation in a professional field. Now, said person has a history of fail, but this particular incident takes the cake.

This person blogged about their rejection.

"Well Dina, that's not so bad," you say. "After all, rejection is part of the process. Why shouldn't we blog about it?"

Blogging about being rejected is fine. Utterly fine. Blog away about your fail. But what you don't do –


- is call the agent out on your blog BY NAME.

You don't say "So-and-So of This Agency rejected me. Add their name to the list of people who have."

You do NOT call an agent out on your blog. I don't care what they've done or haven't done. It's bad enough to blog about your rejection, but to blog about it so candidly?

"But Dina," you say. "What's wrong with that?"

A couple things.

1) Professional writers take rejection like adults.

You don't broadcast to the world that someone was fool enough to ignore your genius or however you want to phrase it. It's one thing to blog that you're querying. I know it's part of the process and some people need cheering on or consolation or whatever. All that's fine. But you don't slander (or libel as the case may be - "libel" is in print) an agent or agency just because they told you "no." Bad, bad form, whatever your reason. Which brings us to –

2) Rejection is between you and the agent.

How would you feel if you turned someone down for a job and they went and told the world that you suck for not giving them the job? Agents don't post their rejected queries online (well, not in their entirety and certainly not with any identifying information. I admit I love Slushpile Hell), and authors shouldn't post the list of agents who rejected them online.

Professionals don't do that. Professionals don't even mention they're in the query process until they have something to announce – like an acceptance of representation. Even then, some don't mention it. Some just put a little thing on their contact page of who reps them. Some don't even do that.

Now, given all that, it's your prerogative what you blog about/what you put on your website*. Your blog, your career, your life. If you get your kicks burning bridges, then by all means, post every damned rejection you get online for the world to see. I guarantee you no agent in the world is going to touch you once it gets around what you're up to, and believe me, the Internet isn't as small as you think it is. The publishing world is very small, and someone, somewhere (like me, for instance) is going to notice your douchebaggery and call attention to it.

If you bothered to research how to query properly/how to do things professionally, why don't you also research How Not To Be A Douchebag Author?

Oh, one last thing. Probably a bad idea to blog things like "To Any Agent Reading This Post," and putting your query letter up online and querying them with a URL.

Just sayin'.

*ETA 2014: This also includes your Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter...any of your social networks. The internet is forever, and what you say on it can get you into shit. How deep that shit is depends on how deep the hole you dug was, and how big a shovel you used...

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Thrilling Heroics: ACHIEVED

The evil fundraiser for our own Julie Butcher concluded last night. The final total was...

$12 325!

You guys did that. All of it. Your donations and contributions, your tree-shaking, your signal boosting. You did that.

On behalf of the ELEW, thank you so much for all you've done for Julie and Dances with Chainsaws. That support is just tremendous and will go a long way to help them with medical bills.

Of course, things aren't over yet. There are one hundred and thirty odd supporters owed perks, and I promise we're on top of that. Over the coming week, Dina and I will be in touch with everyone, coordinating perk-providers with addresses. We appreciate your patience while we sort everything out.

Thank you again for your commitment to eviltry. You are all excellent bad guys.

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