Naming a character is like naming your first-born child. You agonize over very detail, even go so far as to pronounce the name under your breath to test the inflection. Lucky for you, you’re more concerned with how it looks on paper rather than how it sounds spoken in the real world. Who would ever have you pronounce these names out loud anyway?
You agonize over whether the character will be made fun of at the school of Goodreads and Amazon, or even on book review blogs. Maybe the clever internet will turn it into some kind of pun that you’ll laugh and smile about…until it wakes you up at 2am with anxiety and you kick yourself mentally, mulling over how you could ever think that would be the right name for your character. Especially after all the pronunciation work you did in the beginning.
The character’s name can’t be too confusing either. Your reader might read Amieriel and just settle on Amy, instead, for ease of comprehension. It’s a delicate line to balance, especially in the science fiction/ fantasy worlds of Lothlórian and Arrakis and Cthulhu. You desire to use that sweet name you uncovered in the depths of lore you spent hours researching. The one with the Latin root and the Germanic ending, but with the accent of the French. You want to ensure the character’s name has meaning and is central to the plot as an Easter egg for your most enthusiastic, devoted fans.
You name her Amy after all. Amieriel gets hard to type after a while. Is it i before e?
You find the name doesn’t fit. You try different ones on like clothes, writing long paragraphs to test them out. Something just isn’t right. The other characters won’t cooperate. The dialogue doesn’t flow. They stand around the battleground of your imagination, hands on their hips, saying, “Amy? Really? Is that the best you can do?”
You end up using a simple letter to denominate the character’s name so you can keep writing. The most basic thing—a name—can’t stop you, the proficient writer that you are. Yet, 2am creeps around, keeping you up pondering the truth behind a name, mulling over the meaning behind what you call someone you created out of thin air. How can these characters be so defiant, so demanding of your poor brain?
You find the most glorious name of all the names. It means “titan of the dawn.” There’s even lore behind it that ties in with another facet of your tale—hint, it has to do with resurrected split personalities—and then later on down the road when you’re mid-way through your 100th novel revision, Canon comes out with a camera sporting the same name.
Stupid cameras. You’ve come this far. You can’t rename your baby, now. Eos stays.
You utilize names that correspond with legends. You delight in the background of the names. You learn that the main characters in your book end in an “-el” which means “of God.” You find that the one angel who’s been cast from grace, who has become more of an elemental being rather than God’s creation of fire, has lost this important, yet small, name ending, You delight in how the names all seem to fit together, how things begin to come together. You uncover an old martyr, somewhat forgotten, and can’t stop the smile that spreads across your face when you understand the possibilities of a once-minor character. This prince of the realm has so much potential, now.
You pick up baby name books at the grocery store while you wait in line. Sometimes, those standing in line with you will pat you on the back with smiles and you grin back, never thinking for an instant that they might be congratulating you. You’ve just uncovered your next character’s first name—and it fits like a perfect puzzle piece.
About The Falling Dawn: Celestial Scripts Book One
Emerging from the dregs of society to become a celestial warrior, Eos soon becomes immersed in a world of ancient texts and falling angels, tasked to find the sacred Book of Raziel and stop a war in heaven. The secrets of the Book will lead Eos down a path of betrayal, pitting her against those she loves. All the while she must cling to her own crumbling sanity as her psyche is split by the emergence of another entity, heralded by the onset of Eos’ new powers. Soon, Eos finds herself in the clutches of the Master of the Oceans, where she must convince him to give her the sacred book. His price? Her soul.
The Falling Dawn is available online wherever books are sold! Find your copy here.
About Gwendolyn N. Nix
Raised in the wilds of countless library stacks, Gwendolyn N. Nix has forged her skills in writing and science in the shark-infested waters of Belize, by researching neural proteins, inducing evolutionary pressures in green algae, and through the limitless horizons of her own imagination. A born seeker of adventure, she saw her first beached humpback whale on a windy day in New York, met a ghost angel in a Paris train station, and had Odin answer her prayers on a mountain in Scotland. Her short fiction appears in The Sisterhood of the Blade anthology. The Falling Dawn is her first novel. She lives in Missoula, MT.
Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and on her author website, www.gwendolynnix.com.
Dear Greg (in 1986),
So you’ve just turned fourteen, and you’ve just entered your freshman year of high school. I wanted to send you…well, not a pep talk, exactly. You’ve never liked or trusted those; they’re treacherous, and too often they’ve been empty promises, or outright lies. But I’ve got perspective now, perspective you don’t yet have, and God knows you could use some. I remember that year.
I would be lying if I told you the months ahead are going to be easy. In fact, in a lot of ways they’re going to be brutal. You know as well as I do how out of step you often feel these days, gangly and uncomfortable in your own skin, a book-lover and game-player and role-playing enthusiast and all the other things which are the opposite of popularity-producing. You like people, but they don’t always like you—or at least some of them. (You think it’s most of them, but you’re wrong there. And you’re not the only one feeling that way.) Those people will make fun of you a great deal, and worse. You’ll be bullied, hit in hallways, pushed in lockers, have your lunch spit in, your backpack ripped, your glasses broken. And you’ll be so goddamned passive (everything in that last sentence was done to you, enacted upon you) when all that’s happening, so uncertain of how much is your fault (just so you know: none of it is. None.), wishing you could use your intellect and general good will to override the anger and hatred and vitriol. You won’t be able to, though. You’re not old enough, and neither are they.
Mom and Dad won’t be able to help. They’ll mean well, and they care about you, but in some ways they’re as awkward as you are, as uncertain what to do with your messy emotions (and Christ, are they messy) as you are. Other adults—teachers, principals, other figures of authority—will do what they can, when they’re not busy blaming you for being punched in the stomach or slapped or unceasingly, mercilessly, unendingly mocked and humiliated. And you will have some friends, some places of refuge in the storm. Take shelter with them as often as you can.
And take heart—because the real reason I’m writing this is to tell you to hold on. You won’t see it now, but you’re building something within yourself; knowledge, wisdom, and a fundamental understanding of what real strength actually is. You’re developing empathy, and the ability to transform that empathy into advocacy for others. Don’t give up your music (ever!); don’t give up your writing (never!); don’t give up your reading, or game-playing. The Dungeons & Dragons Red Box you bought a couple of years ago? When you get older, you’ll meet some of the people who worked on that. The map of the Forgotten Realms you’ve got on your wall? The man who created that will become not only a friend but a colleague. You’ll do readings with him eventually; you’ll work with him on projects. Believe it or not, he’ll invite you to become part of a new world he’s created; he’ll publish a trilogy of your books, and he won’t do so out of pity, but out of genuine respect for your skill as a writer and a desire to draw upon your own base of readers (you’ll have one!). He’ll call your book good, even great—in public, in front of everyone! And others will agree.
There’s more. You’ll have a wonderful and growing group of friends, on and offline (you’ll understand the online part later—give it maybe ten years or so), and you’ll play games with them, and laugh and have fun just like you (sometimes) do now. You’ll have a wonderful family—not seamlessly perfect, but loving and caring and warm, with two wonderful children, and a house, and a job as a writer and teacher, like your mother and father, able to learn from their example in both strengths and weaknesses. And most of all, Greg, you’ll be able, thirty years from now, to talk about this, to open yourself up to others without fear or uncertainty or doubt (okay…maybe a bit of doubt, but you’ll get past it). And maybe talking about it will help others who feel the same way you often do now; maybe it will help them think of a future beyond, well, whatever this is. It can’t hurt.
So…be well. Take care of yourself. Trust in your path. It will be rocky and rough and difficult. But you have people who do and will care about you. Have faith. It is often hard to see, even harder to feel. But it is also, sometimes, rewarded. I promise you it is well worth the chance taken. Until then, remember this: you matter, all of you, now and in future.
Greg (in 2016)
About Gregory A. Wilson:
Gregory A. Wilson is Professor of English at St. John’s University in New York City, where he teaches creative writing and fantasy fiction along with various other courses in literature.
His first academic book was published by Clemson University Press in 2007; on the creative side, he has won an award for a national playwriting contest, and his first novel, a work of fantasy entitled The Third Sign, was published by Gale Cengagein the summer of 2009. His second novel, Icarus, will be published as a graphic novel by Silence in the Library Publishing in 2015, and he has just signed a three book deal with The Ed Greenwood Group, which will be publishing his Gray Assassin Trilogy beginning with his third novel,Grayshade, in 2016.
He has short stories out in various anthologies, including Time Traveled Tales from Silence in the Library, When The Villain Comes Home, edited by Ed Greenwood and Gabrielle Harbowy, and Triumph Over Tragedy, alongside authors like Robert Silverberg and Marion Zimmer Bradley, and he has had three articles published in the SFWA Bulletin.
He is a regular panelist at conferences across the country and is a member of the Gen Con Writers’ Symposium, the Origins Library, Codex, Backspace, and several other author groups on and offline. On other related fronts, he did character work and flavour text for the hit fantasy card game Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer, and along with fellow speculative fiction author Brad Beaulieu is the co-host of the critically-acclaimed podcast Speculate! The Podcast for Writers, Readers and Fans, a show which discusses (and interviews the creators and illustrators of) speculative fiction of all sorts and types.
He lives with his wife Clea, daughter Senavene–named at his wife’s urging for a character in The Third Sign, for which his daughter seems to have forgiven him–and dog Lilo in Riverdale, NY.
Visit Gregory’s personal site: http://www.gregoryawilson.com/ and check out his book, Grayshade.
Short stories are my first love. As much as I enjoy writing novels and novellas, I keep coming back to short stories. That’s why my first collection, The Voices of Martyrs, means so much to me. But as I’ve reflected on the long journey in getting here, I keep coming back to one thought: rejections are a part of a writer’s life.
Number of short stories I have written: 87
Number of times I’ve sent stories out: 594
Number of acceptances: 67
Number of rejections: 527
By my rudimentary calculations, I have about a 13% acceptance rate over the history of my career. I have no idea where this ranks in terms of being typical. I’m no Jim C. Hines or Tobias Buckell or else I’d crunch these numbers to death. I know that if I were to grant my acceptance rate over time, you’d see an ascending curve as the acceptance rate in my first five years is quite different from my most recent five years. When I was first starting, I was sending stories out to every market I could think of. It took a while to get a feel for what kinds of stories particular markets were looking for. So being better at matching stories to potential markets helps.
The other thing that has helped is that I get invitations to submit to projects. While no guarantee of an acceptance, it helps the odds (like an editor already familiar with my work wanting me to write something tailored to them). All that said, that’s still 527 times I’ve received a rejection. Five hundred twenty seven times I’ve had to read “no” and feel that sting that you never get used to.
There can be a difficult learning curve to rejections. It takes a while to emotionally realize that the rejection was of the story, not of you. Different kinds of rejections tell you different things. A lot of quick arriving form rejections may be telling you that the story’s not ready (or tat the market is brutally efficient). I have sold every story that I wrote in college. The last one sold five years ago (well over a decade since I first wrote it). They’ve gone through maybe ten drafts each. I stuck with them because I believed in them and because the rejections went from forms to personal comments. Those stories which never moved past the form rejection stage, after a dozen send outs, I took a hard look at. They simply weren’t good and have been trunked (there are ten short stories that will never see the light of day).
Over the last couple weeks I’ve sent three stories off into the wild. One I’ve already heard back on with a “maybe … if you’re willing to edit.” The other two I’m simply waiting to hear back on (read: I’m working on new stories to distract myself). I’ve also sent out rejections to all but a dozen or so authors for the April issue of Apex Magazine which I’m guest editing. I’ve had to reject some great writers and close friends whose stories simply didn’t work with what I was looking for.
You will be rejected. It’s part of the writing life. It feels personal (especially when you’ve poured your soul into it, bleeding over each page), but it’s not personal. It’s about the work. Not every rejection means the same thing. Before you reach to drown the grief of your baby being rejected, parse it for what it means to you and where you are. Rejection can refine us, letting us know when a story is not ready. But that rejection could just mean “not for us.” Or “we ran out of room.” Or “we just brought a story similar to this.” Rejection can teach us things, but sometimes the biggest lesson is about perseverance. About getting up, dusting yourself off, and sending your story out again. Because, like much of life, a successful writing career is about determination. Those eventual acceptances are how collections get made.
About The Voices of Martyrs:
“An outcast in the distant past struggling to survive. A religious captain rationalizing away the evil of the slave ship he commands. A future biomech warrior in a literal culture war. The stories in The Voices of Martyrs again prove why Maurice Broaddus is one of the most exciting writers of today’s genre fiction. His vision spans space and time while staying grounded in the stories–in the very voices–which make us fully and tragically and hopefully human.”
–Nebula Award-nominated author, Jason Sanford
We are a collection of voices, the assembled history of the many voices that have spoken into our lives and shaped us. Voices of the past, voices of the present, and voices of the future. There is an African proverb, “Se wo were fi na wosankofa a yenkyi,” which translates as “It is not wrong to go back for that which you have forgotten.” This is why we continue to remember the tales of struggle and tales of perseverance, even as we look to tales of hope. What a people choose to remember about its past, the stories they pass down, informs who they are and sets the boundaries of their identity. We remember the pain of our past to mourn, to heal, and to learn. Only in that way can we ensure the same mistakes are not repeated. The voices make up our stories. The stories make up who we are. A collected voice.
The Voice of Martyrs is available online and wherever books are sold. Order your copy here!
About Maurice Broaddus:
With sixty seven stories published, Maurice Broaddus’ work has appeared in Lightspeed Magazine, Weird Tales, Apex Magazine, Asimov’s, Cemetery Dance,Black Static, and many more. Some of his stories have been collected in The Voices of Martyrs. He is the author of the urban fantasy trilogy, The Knights of Breton Court trilogy. He co-authored the play Finding Home: Indiana at 200. His novellas include Buffalo Soldier, I Can Transform You, Orgy of Souls, Bleed with Me, andDevil’s Marionette. He is the co-editor of Dark Faith, Dark Faith: Invocations, Streets of Shadows, and People of Colo(u)r Destroy Horror. Learn more about him at MauriceBroaddus.com.
You gotta do what you gotta do… And for me, that’s writing science fiction adventure stories. Why? The answer has to do with my boyhood. My mother was an avid reader. That meant weekly trips to the local library. And, in a house without television, books were my only source of entertainment other than running free, like latchkey kids could safely do back in those days. (Well, sort of safely.)
And my mother didn’t believe in limitations where my reading was concerned. I read three or four books a week. So, after exhausting the kid’s section, I made a move on adult books. I remember plopping a stack on the library counter and having the librarian chase my mother down. “Your son wants to read some very adult books,” she said. “Is that okay?”
“Absolutely,” mom said. “Let him read anything he wants. If he has questions he’ll ask me.” Now that was freedom! And I made use of it to sample all sorts of stuff. Non-fiction (military mostly), mysteries, pirate stories, you name it. But the section of the library that really captured my attention was science fiction. That’s where I met Asimov, Heinlein, Norton and all the other greats.
It didn’t take long for me to discover that adventure stories, especially military adventure stories, were what I liked best. And it was at some point during that time that I made a vague ill-defined commitment to be a writer someday. A science fiction writer, or so I hoped.
Years passed… No, decades passed. By then I was a writer. A news writer, a television writer, and a marketing communications writer. Everything except a fiction writer. All the while promising myself that I would write a book by the time I was 40.
Well, when 39 rolled around and I hadn’t started, I knew it was time to man up. So I wrote a book called War World, later changed to Galactic Bounty, and sent it off to ACE (now part of Penguin) where, after sitting in the slush pile for a few months, a young editor was kind enough to read it. The rest is history. I sold my first book on my first try. And here’s the connection between that Galactic Bounty first novel and Into The Guns.
Although it is about a futuristic bounty hunter rather than a young female army officer, and the soon-to-be president of the United States, the major themes of Into The Guns are consistent with the content of Galactic Bounty. Those include the eternal battle between good and evil, the virtues of courage, loyalty, and honor, a man who’s willing to fight for what’s right, a woman with the capacity to lead during a time of tremendous danger, a romance forged within the heat of war, a willingness to make a commitment, and the characters (good and bad) who surround and have an effect on them. That’s the kind of story I love, and that’s what readers should expect when they read Into The Guns.
Here’s the set up: On May Day, 2018, sixty meteors entered Earth’s atmosphere and exploded around the globe with a force greater than a nuclear blast. Earthquakes and tsunamis followed. Then China attacked Europe, Asia, and the United States in the belief the disaster was an act of war.
After meteor strikes decimate the nation’s leadership, surviving elements of the armed forces are left to try and restore order as American society descends into chaos. While refugees battle the military over scarce resources–corporate oligarchs seek to restructure the country for their own benefit.
The story centers around a young Cavalry officer named Robin Macintyre, and United States Secretary of Energy Samuel T. Sloan. Macintyre, better known as “Mac,” must struggle to keep her troops alive during the post impact chaos, even as Sloan makes his way home from Mexico, only to fall into the hands of the oligarchs. Both characters will meet eventually. And when they do, it will be in the context of a battle that will presage the coming of a second civil war. Each volume of the America Rising trilogy will have its own story. But the overarching plot story will continue with volume 2, Seek and Destroy, and volume 3, Battle Hymn.
Thanks, mom… And a special shout out to librarians everywhere.
Into the Guns is now available on-line, on audio, and in bookstores in the U.S and the UK. For more about me and my fiction please visitwilliamcdietz.com. You can find me on Facebook at:www.facebook.com/williamcdietz and you can follow me on Twitter: William C. Dietz @wcdietz.
About William C. Dietz:
William C. Dietz is the national bestselling author of more than forty novels, some of which have been translated into German, Russian, and Japanese. His works include the Legion of the Damned novels and the Mutant Files series. He grew up in the Seattle area, served as a medic with the Navy and Marine Corps, graduated from the University of Washington, and has been employed as a surgical technician, college instructor, and television news writer, director, and producer. Prior to becoming a full-time writer, Dietz served as director of public relations and marketing for an international telephone company. He and his wife live near Gig Harbor, Washington.
About Into the Guns:
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Legion of the Damned® Novels and The Mutant Files comes the first novel in a post-apocalyptic military science fiction series about America rising from the ashes of a global catastrophe…
On May Day, 2018, sixty meteors entered Earth’s atmosphere and exploded around the globe with a force greater than a nuclear blast. Earthquakes and tsunamis followed. Then China attacked Europe, Asia, and the United States in the belief the disaster was an act of war.
Washington D.C. was a casualty of the meteor onslaught that decimated the nation’s leadership and left the surviving elements of the armed forces to try and restore order as American society fell apart. As refugees across America band together and engage in open warfare with the military over scarce resources, a select group of individuals representing the surviving corporate structure makes a power play to rebuild the country in a free market image as The New Confederacy…
We’re pleased to feature Lee Murray, who will be writing a Kaiju story for our Kickstarter anthology, Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters II! Support the anthology here!
When editor N.X. Sharps approached me last year to commission a story for Kaiju Rising II, I assumed it was because he’s been a fan of my military fiction novel, Into the Mist. A kaiju tale of sorts, it’s a story of a group of scientists and civilians who journey into the East Cape’s misty Te Urewera mountain ranges where they encounter a primordial monster, one which features strongly in New Zealand legend and culture. For me, it was the perfect set-up for lots of bloody, monstery action, set among the gnarled beeches of our native forest, and calling on local living mythology. But as an editor myself, I know putting together a kick-arse anthology isn’t just a case of collecting stories which reflect a particular theme—in this case, colossal monsters on the rampage—you also need a good balance of stories. To that end, I asked Nick if he was looking to me to provide some New Zealand flavour.
“Some NZ flavor would be awesome!” he replied. “Definitely, some of that, please.”
Lucky for me, New Zealand simply oozes atmosphere. Perhaps it’s because darkness and danger lurk just beneath the surface of our every day. As my Hounds of the Underworld co-author, Dan Rabarts, put it recently:
“That underlying current of creeping dread is a part of [New Zealand] life. We live on a string of major fault-lines, on the spines of any number of volcanoes, surrounded by violent and unpredictable oceans and everything they bring with them, including regular floods, cyclones and tornadoes. We live with a constant sense of isolation, both in our rural and suburban communities, and even within our own neighbourhoods.”
And it seems even looking in from the outside this omnipresent foreboding is evident, with American scholar William Schafer observing that “a common cultural link between Pākehā [non-Maori] and Māori is a belief in the hauntedness of the landscape, the sense that Aotearoa New Zealand is a land of sinister and unseen forces, of imminent (and immanent) threat, of the undead or revenant spirits.” (Schafer, 1998).
Well, that sorts that, then. All I needed to do was look to the landscape for my inspiration. I chose my childhood home, a small township perched at the edge of a crater on shores of Lake Taupō. A quiet place in the winter months, Taupō is a tourist destination, attracting thousands of visitors every year. They come to visit the mighty Huka Falls, the steamy Craters of the Moon, the evocative Mine Bay Māori rock carvings, or stay a night or two in the sleepy little hamlets that line the edge of the lake. These iconic landmarks would be the backdrop for my story.
And as for the monster? Which oversized creature or spirit might rampage across the pages? A giant golem? A basilisk? Something more traditional?
Despite Peter Jackson’s best efforts to introduce elves and dwarfs, New Zealand hasn’t been readily settled by the pretty fairy folk of Europe, something that 19th century Scottish poet, Alexander Bathgate, lamented in his poem, Faerie:
Our craggy mountains steep are full of fear –
Even rugged men have felt their awful spell.
Yet lack they glamour of the fairy tale,
Nor gnome nor goblin do they e’er recall,
Though Nature speaks, e’en in the wind’s sad wail.
But Bathgate is right, because down here in Aotearoa, Nature does speak, and through a host of local folk creatures all associated with the landscape. I looked to New Zealand’s mythology to find them. There are the kahui-tipua, bands of cave-dwelling shape-shifting ogres, who hunted with packs of two-headed dogs. The first to occupy the South Island of New Zealand, the kahui-tipua were “giants who could stride from mountain to mountain and transform themselves into anything animate or inanimate.” (White, 1911)
There are the porotai, two-faced beasts conjured from both flesh and stone. There are manaia: creatures that are part-bird, part-serpent and part-man, who carry messages to the living from the spirit world. And then, of course, there are the water dwelling taniwha, man-eating lizard monsters, that can be benevolent or evil as the whim takes them.
But we mustn’t forget New Zealand’s natural fauna, almost kaiju themselves, species which roamed the land, swam in our seas, and inhabited our skies. Take, for example, the giant moa with its deadly ratite claws sufficient to disembowel a man with a single swipe, now hunted to extinction; the shy colossal squid, which still haunt our waters and whose brethren leave their calling cards on our beaches every now and again, or New Zealand’s Haast eagle, Te Hōkioi, the heaviest eagle species ever described, weighing up to 17.8kg (40 pounds) and with a wingspan of up to 3 metres (10 feet), and talons the size of a tiger’s.
So, which monster did I choose? If you want to find out, stop by the Kickstarter and pre-order yourself a copy. Suffice to say, for Kaiju Rising II, I was able to dredge up a revenant kaiju from the landscape itself, and from deep in the heart of New Zealand’s conception mythology.
William Schafer (1998) Mapping the Godzone.
John White (1911), Ancient History of the Maori, Vol. III., p. 124
About Lee Murray
Lee Murray is an award-winning writer of fantasy, science fiction, and horror. She lives with her family in the Land of the Long White Cloud where she conjures up stories for readers of all ages from her office overlooking a cow paddock.