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Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Name Game

What's in a name? Everything I say. I can't start on a book until I've figured out the perfect name for my characters. Never mind that I know very little about the story or about where I'm going save for a very vague map of where I'll end up.

But I have to have names.

I've been getting some feedback about my newest release, a science fiction erotic romance, A TOUCH OF LILLY. People love the story. What they're not enjoying are the odd descriptions of aliens and names of planets and such. Interesting. It never occurred to me that I could drive readers away from a story by coming up with new alien names.

Kind of silly that I didn't think of that since I'm one of those readers that actually "says" every word I read in my head. I have a hard time enjoying a story if I can't decipher the pronunciation of every character. But here's the thing I think that makes writing different. I created the characters/places/aliens. They're logical in my head. Crazy I know. But there it is.

Here are some of the aliens and names in "A Touch of Lilly" ...
ba'alkin dagger
Pteran Omega
Beta Mrenn
Krystallos Three
That's most of them. I'm sure there are more. What do you think? Difficult to pronounce? Would they drive you crazy as you stumble through them in a romance?

What's really interesting is that I pride myself on finding new and inventive words when I'm creating a new world. My intention is not to create a stumbling block--just the opposite in fact. I just want to create a something new and different that the readers can fall in love with. But now I'm wondering if I've gone a bit far. What do you think? Have you put down a book because you couldn't get past the names the author chose?

And since we're chatting about my newest release, how about I throw in the blurb and a short excerpt. (Oh, you soooo knew I was going there didn't you? *vbg*)

Ex-Chicago detective LILLY D’ANGELO has a secret she doesn’t share with anyone. A master of the one night stand, she’s given up ever finding a soul mate and thrown herself head first into her career. That is, until she captures the wrong alien. Kidnapped and sold into the sex slave trade, she’s shipped into deep space. Barely escaping with her life, Lilly now travels the galaxy working as a bounty hunter using her secret talents to bring down criminals and seeking revenge on the one male who ruined her life. 

Agent DALLAS SAWYER works for deep space’s version of the FBI. After a disastrous mission that left several of his team members murdered, a president executed, and Dallas near death, he’s determined to take down the assassin targeting government officials. When a sexy human female gets between him and his goal, Dallas and his alien partner find themselves on the receiving end of a passionate night they won’t soon forget and a proposition that may very well blow up in their faces.

Because in deep space … true love can happen with just a touch.

Lilly D’Angelo wasn’t expecting a trip down memory lane when she sauntered into the dingy tavern, but the acrid stench and gruff hum of the Friday night crowd carried her back to one of the seedier establishments on Chicago’s south side nonetheless. Except for the clientele, the owner had managed to replicate nearly every detail right down to the blue haze of cigarette smoke and the soft crooning of a jazz band on the corner stage.

Pushing the sour thoughts of home from her mind and focusing on the job at hand, Lilly morphed her features into her sexiest vixen pout and moved gracefully toward the long bar on the other side of the room. Her voluptuous breasts, spilling temptingly from her silk blouse, led the way. The eyes watching her leather-clad ass sashay around the battered tables were clustered on various life forms—none of them human.

Yeah, definitely not Chicago. Hell, this wasn’t even Earth for goodness sake.

“Regent’s ale, straight up, hold the brenic.” Lilly ordered the local brew in English, hoping the two-headed alien behind the bar had a cochlear translator in one of those eight holes that passed for ears. Satisfied when one head nodded, she settled on a stool, making sure her fur jacket and blouse parted just enough to offer a seductive view of her cleavage. She shifted, allowing the black leather skirt to ride up her thigh and expose a little more silky real estate. The reflection she saw in the mirror behind the liquor bottles was every inch a working woman on the prowl. She wasn’t trying to attract anyone in particular, just hoping to mislead the locals into thinking she was some female making a living with her body—which was true—just not as the human streetwalker she impersonated.

Undercover work was what kept food in her belly and a roof over her head. But it was the cold-hearted need for revenge that had driven her to flaunt her feminine wares on distant planets. Walking among low-life criminals—most of them of the non-human variety—was a small price to pay for the opportunity to avenge the calamity that had become her life.

Lilly wasn’t a xenophobic bigot by any stretch of the imagination. It’s just that six months in deep space, working as a bounty hunter in these kinds of joints, wasn’t really long enough to become accustomed to the scenery. The Nebulae Galaxy’s spaceports overflowed with aliens of all sizes and genders; from two-headed Xericks, like the bartender, to the gangly-limbed Znedus and oversized Ka’al with their mahogany skin and flat noses. The twelve planets of this galaxy had become a melting pot of sorts for all types of aliens.

Only that wasn’t really a fair term here in deep space.

Alien inferred the life forms didn’t belong. On the contrary, it was humans who were invading their territory. The treaties of 2253, signed well over forty years ago, had guaranteed the safe travel of humans in deep space. After the snafu of ‘34, which saw the first major battle over territories since light travel had been discovered, humans had insisted on protection for their species. They’d formed some bullshit board of security, guaranteeing humans could run roughshod over the universe like everywhere else. Though they were technically called Q’orstan Aerlheit Lunivarsium, most people referred to them as QAL. Lilly nicknamed them the alphabet mafia. At one point in time, she’d actually considered working for them. Then they’d discovered who she was—or more specifically what she was—and she’d had to detour from that career path. It didn’t matter. They could all go take a flying leap into the lava pits of Beta Mrenn for all she cared. Just because they didn’t appreciate her gift, didn’t mean Lilly couldn’t use her talents to bring down the bad guys.

Of course in deep space, bad was a relative term.

There was the kind of bad that got a person lost on the polar ice caps of Dallas Eight without a backup plan. Or the bad that forced someone to stow away in the engine room of a Drikspa alien tanker bound for unknown destinations, praying not to get caught. Or the bad that got a human female imprisoned as a sex slave on the mining colonies of Krystallos Three, hidden from even the long arm of the QAL. Lilly shivered at that one. Even her talents wouldn’t free her from that kind of torture.

She was just happy to be here on Garalon Five where bad meant nothing more than crossing paths with every brand of space pirate, ex-con or fugitive looking for a new start. As one of the more recent colonies in the Nebulae Galaxy, the G-5 government turned their collective back on past offenses on other planets and allowed anyone to start a legitimate business. It’s what had actually brought her here to the dark planet.

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Good morning, Nina. Naming is hard and sometimes, I name and at the last minute, change. Your names are interesting, but I'm sure appropriate for your book. Happy reading!

Sandy said...

Okay, Nina, I tried to read one alien book, and it was because of all of the weird names that I quit reading it and never picked up another one.

I think your story is intriguing enough to make me try again.

jean hart stewart said...

I agonize sometimes until I find just the right name. Not happy about the heroine's name in my new book, still looking for the right one. I admire your inventiveness. Love aliens... Great excerpt.

Nicole Morgan said...

Great post, Nina! I agree with you. The naming of our characters can be a huge task. Like Vicki I've even changed mine later on. :)

Melissa Keir said...

Great blog. I know that when you create a world, it's important to have it realistic to the features of the world. I don't really pay attention to names. They aren't reasons to keep me from a book. When I read the first couple of Harry Potter books, I couldn't say Herminone's name to save my life.. I just said it how I thought it was in my head.

Nina Pierce said...

Vicki - LOL! I know, they're a little out there.

Nina Pierce said...

Sandy - I think you're like many readers and the names may just be enough of a stumbling block to turn some readers away. I'm also producing this book in audio format and perhaps more people will enjoy it with a narrator doing the pronunciations.

Nina Pierce said...

Jean - It's so hard when the name doesn't fit the personality of your characters. I hope the name of heroine comes to you soon.

Glad you enjoyed the excerpt.

Nina Pierce said...

Nicole - My names are so important to me that once I've got them I can't change their names without changing the story. Weird, I know. But there it is.

Nina Pierce said...

Melissa - So funny you should mention Hermione. It wasn't until someone was talking about the Harry Potter books and said her name out loud and was like ... who?

And yeah, I don't stop reading a good story either, but I make up my own pronunciation and just keep going.

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