Sunday, May 12, 2013
I'd combine names and make up names, sci-fi sounding names like Hysy Sigee and silly names like Constance Prattle.
I bought a baby name book and used that to name characters, but then I discovered the Social Security Administration's list of baby names. It is nirvana for name nerds like me, especially if your novel takes place in the United States.
The SSA released the data for 2012 this week and while the big news is usually the most popular names (Jacob and Sophia), there is a cornucopia of name goodness throughout the website.
First of all, the database goes back to 1880, when the most popular names were John and Mary. And you can find the most popular names up to the 1,000th (Layton and Eula in 1880; Dangelo and Katalina in 2012).
You can also find the most popular names by decade. I write contemporary YA, so my characters would have born in the 1990's. I can see that Michael and Jessica were the most popular names during the era of grunge.
If you want to get specific by geography, you can also check most popular name by state, up to the 100th(ish) most popular. Say I have a character born in Alabama in 1997. The most popular names were William and Hannah. Colby and Sabrina were 100th. Nationally, William was 19th for that year and Hannah was at 5th. Colby was at 229th and Sabrina 53rd.
If those kid were born in Texas instead, the most popular were Jose and Ashley. The 100th were Joel and Angela. Nationally, Jose was 32nd and Ashley was 3rd. Joel was 126th and Angela was 93rd.
Of course, there are other things to consider when naming a character. Such as the sound, the meaning, the connotations of a name. But if you're writing historical or contemporary fiction, then the Social Security baby name database is an incredible source of information to help you make the best naming choice.
And if you're looking for a last name, you might want to check out the genealogy data from the U.S. Census. It has data of the most common surnames from the 1990 and 2000 censuses.
Sunday, May 5, 2013
|"The Diviners is the cat's meow!"|
While I got very little reading done, I did get a chance to listen to some wonderful audiobooks. (I have a feeling I should change this monthly post from Reader's Corner to Listener's Corner.)
First of all, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern is absolutely magical. There's a love story and a coming-of-age story, but really, it's about a place so special that everyone who reads the book wishes they could go to the Night Circus while wearing a red scarf to meet other people who know how special it is. The Circus itself is a character, the most important character of all, built from love and pining and loss.
The other audiobook I listened to was The Diviners by Libba Bray. Evie O'Neill is a flapper in 1920's New York who has the ability to "read" objects and see the past. She lives with her Uncle Will, who runs an occult museum, and together they investigate a series a horrific murders.
But The Diviners isn't just about Evie. It's a huge, sprawling novel that introduces many characters who also have special gifts. This is the first in a series, so most of these characters are incidental to the main plot but you know they'll have their own storylines in future volumes.
Even though there's a lot going on in the novel, it doesn't seem bloated with unnecessary detail or story threads. In fact, the historical details are entertaining, as well as thorough, and really bring 1920's New York to life.
Also, The Diviners is as scary as hell.
The Diviners book trailer:
Sunday, April 28, 2013
NetGalley is a website where librarians, teachers, bloggers, book reviewers -- basically anyone who reads and shares those books with other readers -- can get free downloadable advanced reader copies.
This is a valuable tool, especially for librarians, for several reasons. First, it's a great help as a selection tool, so you know what's coming out and how good of a read it is. Second, print ARC's can be a pain in the ass. Yes, it's awesome to get them in the mail directly from the publisher. But you can't put them in the collection afterwards and you can't have the Friends of the Library sell them. I give them away to the kids in the Teen Zone, which is cool, but sometimes the ARC can differ significantly from the final work, and that kid may never pick up the final copy.
So NetGalley fits a much needed niche. By having the ebook available for a limited time (usually 60 days), I can read an advanced reading copy and then have it go *poof* from my ereader after that. I think it's a lot more earth-friendly than printing a bunch of ARC's.
If you're a librarian, it's super-easy to sign up and get approved. Just make sure to include that you're a librarian in your bio, and if you're a ALA member, include your membership number and you're pretty much automatically approved.
If you're a blogger, it may be a little harder to get approved, but it's certainly worth it to try. If you're not a blogger, but have thinking about starting a blog to review books, maybe this will motivate you to start one!
Sunday, April 7, 2013
Author: Kathy McCullough
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: November 8, 2011
Reading copy via author
Kathy McCullough, author of Don't Expect Magic, donated the paperback copy of this book to the public library where I work. My supervisor gave it to me to read to evaluate whether or not we should include it in our YA collection, since we already have the hardcover edition our JTeen collection. The difference between our YA and JTeen collections is, generally speaking, the difference between high school and middle school. Although there is some overlap, anything with "racier" content is in YA. John Green is in YA. Ellen Hopkins is in YA. You get the picture.
Don't Expect Magic is a "clean" read, no bad words, no sex. But I think it has YA appeal, so I'm going to recommend that it be included in the YA collection. Delany Collins is the protagonist of Don't Expect Magic, a high school student who's suddenly transported from New Jersey to too-sunny, too-perfect southern California after her mother dies. Her dad is Dr. Hank, a self-help guru who she's never really spent much time with, and neither one has any idea how to act around the other.
Then Delaney finds out that Dr. Hank is more than just a self-help guru. He is wand-carrying, wish-granting fairy godfather. And Delaney. Can't. Even.
Dr. Hank is convinced that Delaney couldn't possibly have inherited the f.g. gene, but Delaney does. Now all she has to do is grant her first big wish and earn her wand.
Delaney's a fun character, with lots of attitude and snarky humor. There's even a budding romance. Don't Expect Magic a quick read and I would recommend it to readers who enjoyed Cinder by Marissa Meyer or Anya's Ghost by Vera Bosgol.
Don't Expect Magic Book Trailer:
[DISCLAIMER: Kathy McCullough is a friend of a friend of mine. I've never met her, but I hope to someday because she seems pretty cool.]
Sunday, March 31, 2013
|"I don't think Elphaba's that bad."|
I finished reading Scarlet by Marissa Meyer and now I'm almost done reading Don't Expect Magic by Kathy McCullough (review forthcoming).
In audibooks, I listened to the delightful (and incredibly short) I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith.
I also listened to Wicked by Gregory Maguire. I haven't seen the musical, but I know a few of the songs and have a rough idea of what it's about. The book is substantially different from what I thought I knew. The novel's world-building is phenomenal and its characters are rich and complex. Elphaba grows up to be the Wicked Witch of the West, but "wicked" is a dubious term. The novel starts shortly before her birth and continues to her inevitable death. Elphaba is outcast from the moment she's born because of her green skin. But when she makes the wrong choices, does it prove that she's wicked or merely human?
Maguire was clearly influenced by both the original L. Frank Baum book and the 1939 movie of The Wizard of Oz, and yet clearly makes Wicked his own.
Bonus Video: Gregory Maguire discusses the origins of Wicked: