M. K. Theodoratus, Fantasy Writer, blogs about the books she reads--mostly fantasy and mystery authors whose books catch her eye and keep her interest. Nothing so formal as a book review, just chats about what she liked. Theodoratus also mutters about her own writing progress or ... lack of it.


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Have You Picked the Right Name?

While we don't pick our personal names, everyone picks up naming rights along their life's journey. Nicknames. Business names. Pseudonyms. Blog Names. The question: How adaptive are the names you've picked for your endeavors? As an example, having the last name of "Fagg" wouldn't be very adaptive in junior high unless you enjoy being bullied. [Yes, there is a book by someone named "Fagg" sitting on my coffee table.]

Thought of names a lot while I read Susan Wittig Albert's China Bayles novel, Nightshade. While I haven't read all of the series, I do pick them up at used book stores, mostly because I've driven over the same empty Texan landscape many times while visiting kids in college back when Texan universities were known for quality.

China Bayles is a former lawyer, turned herbalist, and amateur sleuth. Wittig Albert creates a community of interesting characters. Even though I'm a sporatic reader, I found myself remembering even the secondary characters and their problems. I think that might be the key to creating realistic, three dimensional characters -- give them all a problem that gets solved during the course of the book. Of course, if you're writing a series, you have to leave some dangling ends to lead into the next book.

In this book, Bayles is still reeling from her father's death and the fact she has a step-brother. First the emotional problem: Her father cared for his secondary family more than his primary one, which meant she felt neglected even though she didn't know about the other family.

The book problem: the half-brother is convinced their father was murdured [because his mother, the father's legal secretary, thought he was murdered], and hires Bayles private detective husband to investigate. When the half-brother is murdered, Bayles and husband investigate and solve the mystery, in prime cozy mystery fashion.

The secondary problem: a feud between two of Bayles' friends over a misunderstanding left over from previous books.

While she ties up a lot of plot lines, Wittig Albert leaves enough unanswered questions that you feel that her characters are living real lives. I'm having problems sticking with the next book in the series, Wormwood, in spite of my interest in Shaker communities, though. I didn't mind her inserting a dual plotline of Shaker life & problems into Bayles' trip to Kentucky. Did mind how garrulous the opening scene of the boo was. Seemed to me that the backstory interrupted the beads of the story with too much string.

Now for the silliness. I'm always confusing Susan Wittig Albert with Rosemary Aubert, another mystery writer. The dyslexia has me reading both names the same as seen on the book covers.

Found some interesting info on Naming Your Blog by Chris Garrett. It's all about writing a blog title that will scan well in the search engines, ie. have good search engine optimization. It also helps if people remember the title and are hooked into reading it for the benefits the title suggests.

Of course, my blog title's all wrong even though I talk about what it says, like yakking about what I learn from my reading. I've fiddled with my blog title before. Should I change it to Writing Lessons from My Reading? Whatcha think? How about: What I Do Wrong: Writing Lessons from My Reading. Seems too long to me.

Oh, why I thought Naming Your Blog interesting. Many of the checkpoints for writing blog names also apply to writing titles for articles, books, and stories.  So says she who just changed the title of her Half-Elven novella [Somant Troubles] to Troubles With Traitors. See, blogs can be handy for more than building a platform. You can talk out loud to yourself ... and maybe people won't think you're crazy.

Happy New Year's 
Hope the Breaks Fall Your Way
I don't make new year's resolutions since they're mostly worthless. Oh, maybe I resolve to stumble along the best I can, given the circumstances. Still, a codified list of what's wrong with me? I'm so old that even my faults have become as comfortable as old shoes.

Alex Marcoux wrote a blog on 2012 New Year's Resolutions for the New Paradigm that got me thinking after I thought "good point". She takes a positive spin on the coming Mayan doomsday and how we should respond to it. Rather than get all hysterical about the end of the world, she considers the event more of the end of one era and the beginning of another. Maybe another chance at designing The Age of Aquarius? 
Give the blog a read. My reaction was too bad more people don't incorporate her principles into their own lives.
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