Sunday, July 24, 2016

Giveaway of the entire FINN FINNEGAN series

Enter for a chance to win the entire four book series!
   Finn Finnegan
Gideon's Spear
The Hound at the Gate
Finn's Choice 
(releasing Sept. 20th)

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Finn's Choice by Darby Karchut

Finn's Choice

by Darby Karchut

Giveaway ends August 14, 2016.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

By Any Other Name by Darby Karchut

What’s in a character’s name? Well, a heck of a lot, really. The perfect name expands your imaginary universe and helps establish the character’s personality. It can be obvious or subtle. For many writers, including myself, characters do not become “alive” until they bear the perfect handle. That holds true for readers, too.

Here are some things to think about when choosing names for your characters:

Respect Your Genre
This is especially important in fantasy and sci-fi and historical fiction. Culturally-inspired names add another layer to your world building and helps ground your work in a real place and time, even if your book is fantastical in nature. And just as period costumes, manners, and vocabulary set the tone for your historical novel, so, too, can the proper name.

If your novel is inspired by legends from other cultures, this is fairly easy to do. Since my middle grade series, The Adventures of Finn MacCullen, is based on the Irish legend of The Boyhood Deeds of Finn McCool, I took the Gaelic spelling of Finn McCool (Fionn mac Cumhail) and Anglicized it to Finn MacCullen. A tried-and-true practice within the fantasy genre, but it is still an effective technique, especially for younger readers who are coming across this stuff for the first time.

Another tip: Use the name to reveal about the character’s essence. In my YA series, Griffin Rising, the hero is a teen guardian angel named Griffin. I gave him that name for two reasons: One, it means “Strong in Faith.” Two, it begins with a hard consonant (more on the actual sounds of names later). The challenge for you as the writer is to find a clever way to weave background tidbits about the name(s) into the story. Some readers will skip over this kind of geekery. Others will eat it up. Sprinkle it in judiciously.

J.K. Rowling, in her Harry Potter series, did a wonderful job taking roots words (many which had a Latin or Greek origin – just screams English boarding school, does it not?) and creating spot on names. For example: Serverus (severe), Albus (white), Draco (dragon). She also used alliteration (Rowena Ravenclaw, Salazar Slytherin, Helga Hufflepuff, etc.) but beware—too much of a clever thing is too clever by half.

Age Appropriate
Is the name appropriate for the age of your character? Check the baby names lists for the year your character was born, not the time period they are living through in your story. For most part, a woman born in the 1950s would have a different name than a teen girl born in the early 2000s.

A New Twist
That said, you might want to make your character stand out by giving them an unusual name (perhaps an old family name). In Stone’s Heart, Stonewall Wheeler is a modern-day farrier living in western Colorado. His son is Beau. Good, solid cowboy-ish monikers, and a tip of the hat to Civil War aficionados, to boot.   

Music to the Ears
Say your characters’ names aloud. How do they “feel” when you say them aloud? A hard consonant (B, D, G, T, etc.) can project strength or power. Softer vowels (A, M, N, O, etc.) might indicate a gentler personality. Sibilant sounds (S, Z, sometimes P or Th) can go either way. One of my characters from The Stag Lord is Shay Doyle. She is a shield maiden, as well as her clan’s healer. So, I chose the softer-sounding ‘ay’ in Shay and paired it with the hard consonant of ‘d’ in Doyle to show both her sides: healer and warrior. Soft and hard.

Ready for something subtle? Take Game of Thrones’ Ned Stark. The name starts off with a softer sound of ‘n’ (a family man, Ol’ Ned was), then it ends in a hard, clipped consonant. The ‘k’ sounds like the snap of a dire wolf’s jaws. Yeah, yeah. I’m stretching it, but you get my point.

Mind Your ABCs
Make sure none of your characters have similar names: Ken/Ben. Mac/Max. Casey/Kaci/Cassie/Kelsey. Olive/Olivia. Jim/Jem. Readers will get frustrated having to pause to figure out who’s who, especially at the beginning of the story.

One way to avoid this is to make sure your main characters’ names start with a different first letter. A lot of readers only skim the first few letters of a name. You want your readers turning pages, not slowing to remember if Mike was the romantic lead or was it Mitch?

I admit that the geek in me takes great joy in researching and selecting just the right name for my characters. It helps me understand who they are, why they are the way they are, and what they want out of life. I hope these thoughts help you, too, in your writing adventure.

Now, if folks would just stop calling me Darcy instead of Darby…

Monday, June 20, 2016

Target Market vs Target Reader: The Importance of Pro Reviews

On the road to publication, there's one moment that never gets old: when the box of ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies) arrives at my doorstep. FINN'S CHOICE arrived in Colorado just last week. I danced a jig, took some pictures, then sent them on their way to the gracious and supportive librarians and bloggers who have followed Finn's journey from the beginning. Very cool beans.
Then, this past Friday, Spencer Hill Press let me know that ARCs had also been sent to the pro reviewers (School Library Journal, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, VOYA, etc). As my publisher said in her email, now we cross our fingers. Oh, man, that's for sure!

You see, middle grade books need the affirmation of those big name reviewers to get the attention of schools and librarians (the book's target market). In many ways, schools and libraries are the force behind a middle grade book's success. They're the ones who will purchase the book and promote it to upper elementary and middle school students (the book's target reader). Schools and libraries have a limited budget, and they must be selective in what books they purchase. So, they depend on the gatekeepers (pro reviewers) to help them use their budget wisely. And, in some cases, to justify their spending.
Because of the volume of books published each month, it's difficult to get a review from the pros. It takes time and money for a publishing house to send the ARCs, and some houses cannot afford it. I was so very fortunate that the first book in this series, FINN FINNEGAN, landed a nice review from School Library Journal back in 2013. It helped. A lot.
And that's why I'm so appreciative of Karen Hughes, and the team at Spencer Hill Press, for all their support of this series, and especially of the final book in Finn's adventures. Who know? Maybe the luck o' the Irish will be with us again. Fingers crossed, to be sure.


Thursday, June 2, 2016

Summer Giveaway: FINN FINNEGAN by Darby Karchut

Spencer Hill Press and I are giving away six (6) copies 
(Book One in The Adventures of Finn MacCullen series)

“Overall, a great choice for adventure-loving readers who prefer their battle scenes with a hefty dose of ancient weaponry, ground-fighting skills, and just a touch of magic."   --School Library Journal

 The fourth and final book, FINN'S CHOICE, will release September 20

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Finn Finnegan by Darby Karchut

Finn Finnegan

by Darby Karchut

Giveaway ends June 19, 2016.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Stone's Heart by Darby Karchut

 No way, blue jay, and never again. That’s the vow Linney Van Horn has made regarding single dads and their adorable children. After all, that’s why she tucked tail and hauled herself and her beloved Arabian horse clear across the country from New Jersey to the small town of Venture, Colorado. To mend her bruised heart—and ego—and start over.

However, the good Lord has a different “do-over” in mind for Linney. She finds herself living next door to Stonewall “Stone” Wheeler, the frustratingly stubborn, but oh, so ruggedly handsome farrier, and his seven-year-old son, Beau.

A widower, Stone has buried himself in his work to avoid the grief of losing his wife. Determined to grow his horse-shoeing business and raise his child, falling in love is the last thing on his mind. Until an equally stubborn—but pretty as a daisy—teacher moves into the cottage besides his, and charms both him and his son.

Divine intervention. Yup, it’s a beautiful thing. 

It’s going to take one adorable little boy, a pair of spirited horses, and a near-fatal accident to convince Linney and Stone a second chance at a Grace-filled forever is theirs for the asking. 
Barnes & Noble (link to come...)