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In Defense of YA

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017

Hello, readers! For my time at Beaufort, I have chosen the nom-de-plume of J.K. Beauling because: A. Harry Potter shaped me as a writer and a dreamer, and B. most of the good pseudonyms were already taken. I am a Texas-native, a writing, literature, and publishing major at Emerson College, a pretty standard millennial, and now, a Beaufort Books intern and budding New Yorker.

When asked about my favorite genre of books, I used to panic and scramble to come up with the most impressive answer I could without sounding too disingenuous (I’ve learned that people usually know you’re lying when you claim Ernest Hemingway is your favorite author). Lately, however, I’ve been answering more simply and honestly with: young adult. While I wouldn’t go as far as saying that I prefer YA over every other genre, it’s the one I frequently find myself passionately defending, and the genre I hope to work with throughout my career in the publishing industry.

I’ve found that embracing YA, especially as an adult, is usually frowned upon. It’s one of those things that you’re allowed to enjoy as long as you do it under the guise of a guilty pleasure, like double cheeseburgers or Katy Perry songs. By trivializing YA literature, we are belittling our youth and implying that art that is designed for teenagers is inherently inferior.

As an adult, or as someone in the “in-between” phase, I’ve learned how to see past adversity. I’m aware of my strengths and weaknesses, and I have a general idea of what I’m doing with my life (don’t quote me on that, though). As a teenager, however, feelings of perpetual sadness and discomfort in my own skin were loud disruptions to my previously blissful childhood. I walked my high school’s hallways feeling like an anomaly among my contemporaries, although I later learned that they felt just as confused as I did. The complexities that we develop in our teenage years are the most difficult to comprehend, and stories about these universal struggles can serve as survival guides as we develop our own coping mechanisms.

Harry Potter helped refine my imagination, and taught me the art of escapism through literature. The Hunger Games gave me Katniss, who continues to inspire me as a strong female role model (it should also be noted that YA has more female protagonists than any other genre—how much longer are we going to keep minimizing teenage girls and glorifying dead white male authors?). The Perks of Being a Wallflower helped me understand depression, and John Green’s novels gave a sense of purpose within the monotony of my suburban teenage years.

As I get older and stumble into my 20s, I feel a growing sense of nostalgia upon reading YA novels. They don’t feel quite as familiar as they did just a few years ago, but they remind me of the days when time seemed endless. So, while I acknowledge that reading Hemingway is important, I encourage all readers to go ahead and indulge in vampire romance fiction, or any other book that has been deemed lesser by default of their intended audience. Literature can be consumed for intellectual growth, but it can also be a companion amidst hardship. Growing up is hard and uncomfortable, and books can help make the journey a little less lonely.

Until next time,

J.K. Beauling

Me at 15 during my first trip to New York. This outfit was planned weeks in advance, and I begged my mom to take pictures of me all day.

This is a shared blog post for Spencer Hill Press and Beaufort Books.

Social Media and the World of Publishing

Tuesday, May 2nd, 2017

When I was eight years old I decided I was going to be an author. A dream that is pretty standard and not unusual within the Publishing Industry. However, fast track to college, and, being a person of mostly realistic goals, I opted for Global Marketing as a major. At the end of the day, I could still work in publishing and (let’s dream) one day even write something myself. 

While looking at the industry, and searching for possible internships, I noticed that small publishing presses have been popping up particularly in the United States. Many journalists are even calling this their “golden age,” however, as a college Junior who has had to write more than one paper on ROI (Return On Investment) I wondered: How can they afford to stay in business?  The answer to my query presented itself on yet another very long paper I had to write for school; “Evaluating Social Media Initiatives in the Publishing Industry.”  After a lot of research and opened tabs on my browser, I found that Social Media enables a lot of self-published authors and very small, independent presses to run without a Marketing or Publicity department which saves them enough money to stay afloat and focus on the actual work.Platforms such as Facebook and Twitter allows promotion of work with little to no cost, and Instagram and Tumblr even have communities ready to devour whatever new information publishers can give fans about upcoming books written by their favorite authors.

However, most authors do not know how to take full advantage of these tools, and often end up asking their publishers for help. Other authors, the really smart authors, create a brand for themselves based on their work, and end up being desired by publishers based on their Social Media fame (Fifty Shades of Grey anyone?).

At the end of the day, while we were all looking at eBooks and dreading the change that these devices would sweep us up with, we forgot to look at Social Media. Now that the future with eReaders is less uncertain, everyone can focus more on the marketing side of things, and realize that even if it saves money and it looks like a relatively easy tool to use, it takes time, and it takes effort. Scheduling tweets on Hootsuite, or even Facebook posts, for a whole week in a day, can be mentally exhausting. Instagram is even worse, because there are certain emoji’s or filters you can only access if you use the application on your phone. Now with “Insta Stories” it’s even harder since you have to upload them as they are happening. On top of it all, the fear of “what if they don’t like what I post?”

So yes, Social Media is an amazing tool, and yes, it is changing the Publishing Industry (drastically, in my opinion) and the way we sell our work, and ourselves. Yes, it IS free! Free of monetary cost, but don’t be fooled: it will consume your time, and exhaust you too. To publishers, authors and all my lovely fellow interns: take Social Media with ease, and care. Even though it looks like something easy, simple and fast, each post should be given the same attention to detail as any manuscripts you write, edit or read. It is a great tool that has to be used responsibly, with a lot of care, and lot of patience.

Happy posting!

-A Marketing Intern

Shared Blog Post with Spencer Hill Press and Beaufort Books

Find Your Voice! by J.L. Spelbring

Monday, April 10th, 2017

I remember when I finally decided to walk down the writing road after years of wanting to pen a book, but (insert excuse here) kept me from sitting in front of computer. I had hopes. I had dreams. I had a goal.

My first completed novel was bad and, if truth be told, passing time hasn’t changed that fact. It’s still bad. I’ll admit it…really, really bad.

Part of the reason was I had tried to stick to all the English rules completely; therefore, my book read like a textbook, dry and boring. (Yes, I had a few beta-readers tell me just that). After a long cry and, what I thought was just a dead end and a waste of time, I realized something. My betas were right. The book did read like a textbook. My characters were like robots. The scenery was lengthy and not compelling for the reader to step inside my creation for a visit.

I hadn’t learned the most important part of writing—voice.

But how can you learn to write with voice?

I hadn’t the slightest clue.

I pondered and pondered this question, and then, I picked up books from my favorite authors and read. I didn’t read for pleasure. I read for information.

I asked myself a flurry of questions. “How did they paint that picture in my mind?” “How is it they made me hate this character and love that character?” So on and so on.

I started to examine how the sentences were worded. I studied how punctuation was placed. I began to realize that these great authors didn’t always follow the rules. Once in awhile, there was a comma where it didn’t belong. And over in that sentence, it’s…fragmented. Wait, what’s that? A dangling modifier.

And you know what else I learned? It’s okay.

The rules of writing should be followed, or you will end up with a sloppy book, but here and there, it is ok break the rules. For instance, a misplaced comma is nothing more than the author wanting you to pause for dramatic effect.

An author’s voice is what brings the book alive. It fills it with vivid colors and scents and touch. It sparks emotions and heightens responses.

It was a wonderful lesson to learn, and a lesson that led me to another understanding.

Writing with your voice is a skill that must be practiced as each word is typed on a page. It’s a continuous process, and one that is not meant to be tamed. It is an ongoing learning experience that always improves but is never aced.

For each book you write, it is different. Different characters. Different worlds. Different situations. Different relationships. Different conflicts.

With all the differences, how can you possibly write with the same voice?


J.L. Spelbring lives in Texas, where she wanders out in the middle of the night to look at the big and bright stars.

Besides knocking imaginary bad guys in the head with a keyboard, she enjoys being swept away between the pages of a book, running amuck inside in her own head, pretending she is into running, and hanging out with her kids, who are way too cool for her.

She is the author of Perfection and Flawed, which can be found at Amazon / Amazon and Barnes&Noble / Barnes&Noble.

Spelbring will be at the YART Young Adult Texas Tea event on April 21st.

How Taking Photos Can Have a Profound Influence On Your Writing

Monday, March 20th, 2017

Photographs were a critical part of writing my realistic contemporary YA novel, Hello?. My priority was to create authentic scenes. Without a camera to capture the details of the places mentioned in the novel, I wouldn’t have been able to go home and write scenes that leapt off the page. In addition, photos often inspired the plot and action. Here are some examples:

One of the main settings for Hello? is Washington Island, Wisconsin. Two of my characters live there, Tricia and Brian. I spent several weeks on the island, meeting locals, learning about the flora and fauna, and exploring as much of the area as I possibly could. One of those places was the cemetery. I found this worn marker on one of the old graves. At the time, I had no idea if it would have any significance for my novel, but it touched me deeply, so I took a photo. Weeks later, it turned into a pivotal scene in Hello?.

Sturgeon Bay is another critical setting for Hello?. Emerson, Angie, and Brenda—the three other main characters and narrators—live in Sturgeon Bay. The photo below was taken at Grant Park. Then high school student Savanna Townsend pointed to a spot on the Washington Street Bridge—one of three drawbridges leading into Sturgeon Bay. Savanna explained that locals would strip to their underwear and jump into the bay from the bridge. Near where she’s standing is a ladder. That’s where jumpers would swim to and climb out. I was fascinated by this story and eventually it became an important part of the novel.This photo helped me to add extra details and make the scene come alive.

This next photo was taken at Sunset Park in Sturgeon Bay. That’s Little Lake behind the geese. Sunset Park became a major part of the novel when I wrote several scenes that took place here. As a matter of fact, this very spot is where Emerson broke up with Angie. It’s where she dragged their picnic blanket into the lake and where she fell into the water. Later in the novel, Emerson returns to Sunset Park.

I’ve returned to Sunset Park on many occasions. This bench swing became the place for Emerson to eat lunch and look over the bay. It, too, became an important moment in the novel.

I even took photos of roads and street signs!

This zigzagging road was an important part of Hello?. Anyone traveling by car to visit Washington Island must use this road. Not only do I describe it in the novel, but it’s also a metaphor for life. It twists and turns and rises and dips. In other words—life! I haven’t met anyone who’s ever had a smooth, perfectly straight journey, and so this road has extra meaning in the novel.

It may only be a street sign, but in the novel, Boyers Bluff becomes the setting for Tricia’s lighthouse and where much of the island action takes place for the characters. I also gave Tricia the last name of Boyer.

This is part of Boyer’s Bluff. It leads to a light tower and the most spectacular views on the island! This photo, along with many others, helped me capture and describe the flora and fauna for the novel.

This last photo was taken at Jackson Harbor at sunrise. Since then, I’ve watched many sunrises on Washington Island from this pier. It became the inspiration for where Tricia and Brian had their first kiss and it also was the model for one of the drawings included in the novel.

I can’t imagine ever writing a book without taking photos to utilize for inspiration. Even if you don’t have a scene in mind yet, take those pictures! They can transform your work and add rich, authentic details that will make your scenes come alive. Happy snapping!


Liza Wiemer is the author of Hello?. Find her book on Amazon and Barnes&Noble.

The Art of Storytelling

Thursday, March 16th, 2017

I grew up in Bronxville, New York in an old Victorian house that my mother claimed was haunted. Every night, she would tell my brothers and I stories about the ghost who lived in the empty rooms on the third floor. The ghost was supposed to be friendly, and as the legend went, had even put out an electrical fire in the kitchen that should have burned down the house. But still, he was a ghost, and very scary.

Sometimes at night, I would wake up to the sounds of creaking floorboards coming from above. Someone, or something, was up there. I knew it wasn’t my brothers—they were as terrified as I was of the giant, claw-footed tub with rusty stains, the sheet-covered furniture, and the dusty, painted shut windows. I would look over at my cat for comfort, but she would also be staring up at the ceiling. Together, our gazes would follow the sound of the footsteps as the ghost walked, eventually descending the creaking staircase, passing by my bedroom and then vanishing.  Was this real or my imagination?

Storytelling in my family has always been a tradition. From making up stories to recounting true ones, whenever we gather, especially at holidays, we love to tell our favorites: the time my father blew up the front lawn when he lit a gasoline-filled mole hole; the day my oldest brother was sent to stand up to the neighborhood bully; the time my mother saw a theatre dummy hanging from a tree and called the police because she thought someone had hung himself. Sometimes these tales get a little stretched. It doesn’t matter, they connect us in a way stories can.

As a storyteller, my mother knew how to weave truth with fiction, reality with imagination. Even more than this, she knew how to draw my brothers and I into her nightly tales, and not just as passive listeners. We seemed to enter her world. Even when she finished, the echoes of the stories stayed with us. She understood the connection between the storyteller and the listener, the power of a well-timed pause. Her bedtime stories opened the door to a magical world where anything was possible. This was both terrifying and thrilling to me back then and an important lesson for me now as a writer. Think big and bold and fearlessly step into the world of your imagination.

My family sold that house in Bronxville many years ago, but I went back once to see it. Although completely updated, I could still see the shadow of a stain on the right hand side, and a strange reflection in the attic window. I couldn’t help but believe that sometimes at night, the sound of creaking floorboards could be heard as the ghost keeps his watch.


Kim O’Brien lives in Texas with her husband, daughters, and four-legged friend Daisy. She worked for many years as a writer, editor, and speechwriter for IBM before becoming a full-time fiction writer.

She is the author of Bone Deep, which can be found at Amazon and Barnes&Noble.

Kim will be at the YART Young Adult Texas Tea event on April 21st.

Messages from L.B. Simmons

Thursday, March 2nd, 2017

In my author biography it states, “L.B. Simmons doesn’t just write books. With each new work, she composes journeys of love and self-discovery so she may impart life lessons to readers. She’s tackled suicide, depression, bullying, eating disorders, as well as physical and sexual abuse, all the while weaving elements of humor into the storylines in effort to balance the difficult topics.”

I pride myself on this statement, because to me, my books are not just books. They are my very personal messages to every person out there who needs a voice, who needs to be heard, and who needs to bear witness to the fact that they are not alone. I feel that as I found my own voice through writing, it’s imperative I use that voice to make a difference. By way of my characters, I can show people who feel irrevocably broken that they too can heal. And while romance does play a part in my storylines, it is always associated with the same central message: You cannot truly love someone else until learn to love yourself. Flaws included. Because in truth, it’s those imperfections that make you . . . well, flawless, because they are you. And you’re perfect just the way you are.

Every time I speak with someone who has traveled the healing journey with one of my characters, who closes the book with renewed strength and a smile on their face, my heart swells knowing my voice was heard and one or more of many messages successfully delivered.

This is why I write.

YOU are why I write.

And I am so thankful to the publishing industry for providing me a platform in which to speak, and to those readers who dared to listen.


L.B. Simmons is the author of the Chosen Paths series, two of which are available for pre-order now.

Into the Light: Amazon | Barnes&Noble
Under the Influence: Amazon | Barnes&Noble
Out of Focus: (release date – November 2017)

20,000 Leagues (& Books) Under the Street

Friday, February 17th, 2017

Having now curated and posted photos for Beaufort and Spencer Hill social media accounts, coming up with artsy pictures and a quick caption for books is harder than it looks, so Bookstagram culture is pretty impressive. That’s why when I came across “Books on the Subway” during my first week of working as an intern here, I was immediately intrigued. There are tons of blogs and social media accounts dedicated to people reading, but my personal favorites are the pictures of people reading on the subway. From bringing fake book covers on the subway to get a rise out of the public (one cover read something silly like “How to Hold a Fart In”) to, quite honestly the best, “Hot Dudes Reading” an Instagram dedicated to good-looking men reading on-the-go, there are enough books and steamy pictures to satisfy everyone.

However, a free platform to share the books you are reading is not something you come across on a daily basis, especially through a quirky Instagram. That’s what’s so great about “Books on the Subway.” Started in 2012 by Hollie Fraser in London, originating as “Books on the Underground” and expanding to five other cities around the world, “Books on the Subway” is kind of like a public library. A public library on the metro. A public library on the metro to discover new reads and get so caught up reading you miss your stop.

Hollie and Rosy Kehdi, the originator of the New York City branch, put fun stickers explaining the idea behind the organization on some of their favorite books and leave them on subways all over the city for someone to pick up. It is like a library, a secret santa, and a wonderful surprise all wrapped into one beautiful book that is yours to cherish and read, and then return to a subway station to leave for another unsuspecting victim of good luck. Five to 20 books are left a day on the subways of this crazy metropolis and a photo of the books and their locations are Instagrammed daily.

The Books on the Subway Instagram post from January 16, at the Cortlandt Street station.

As someone who is a self-proclaimed sociologist (which is just my fancy way of saying I am an avid people-watcher) checking out what other people are reading on the subway has turned into a game practically, finding the best books to eventually read. Most of the time I am not-so-subtly trying to peer over a shoulder or twist my head to the perfect angle just to read the title of the book a passenger is enjoying. That is why when people post about books it is so much easier to check out the titles they are reading.

While “Books on the Subway” may just seem like a fun thing to check out if you find a book lying around the dingy floors of a subway station, for me it is a book lover’s dream come true, next to kindle apps and fanfiction. I take the subway at least four times a week and on these long rides on the D train, if I’m not listening to a new podcast, I’m reading. I’m usually reading books for school, which can be fun sometimes, depending on if I understand what is being theorized, but subway rides give me the opportunity to read books that I wouldn’t have time for otherwise. I read for fun, something that I haven’t been able to indulge in for a while now.

Since living here for school, New York City has become something like my own personal library whether reading in coffee shops, the NYPL Rose Room, or on the subway, which has now just gotten a little more interesting. Hopefully, my tbr list will actually be read this semester. Hopefully, I will spot a free subway book some time soon.

This is me on my commute to Beaufort! Or at least this is the book I’m reading right now.

– Amanda, Intern

This is a shared blog post for Spencer Hill Press and Beaufort Books

Making Faces Sneak Peek

Tuesday, January 31st, 2017

Fern Taylor from Making Faces by Amy Harmon, asks the question in every human heart with her poem,”If God Made All Our Faces .”

In the book, each character has to come to terms at some point with who they are, what they look like, and how that affects their lives.

From a boy with a degenerative muscle disease to a boy who returns from war physically changed, Making Faces will have you looking at beauty in a whole new way.


If God makes all our faces, did he laugh when he made me?
Does he make the legs that cannot walk and eyes that cannot see?
Does he curl the hair upon my head ’til it rebels in wild defiance?
Does he close the ears of the deaf man to make him more reliant?

Is the way I look coincidence or just a twist of fate?
If he made me this way, is it okay, to blame him for the things I hate?
For the flaws that seem to worsen every time I see a mirror,
For the ugliness in me, for the loathing and the fear.

Does he sculpt us for his pleasure, for a reason I can’t see?
If God made all our faces, did he laugh when he made me?

– Amy Harmon, Making Faces


Amy Harmon is a New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling author of ten novels. Her books are now being published in 12 countries around the globe.

She knew at an early age that writing was something she wanted to do, and divided her time between writing songs and stories as she grew. Having grown up in the middle of wheat fields without a television, with only her books and her siblings to entertain her, she developed a strong sense of what made a good story.

Order Making Faces today: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

The Infinite Pile

Friday, January 20th, 2017

I have just started to work here as an intern at Beaufort and this is my first publishing job ever. Being in this environment has made me take stock of books and how they have shaped my life. Ever since I could remember books have been stacked sky high in my household. Growing up I would always see all of these old books around my house. Some books were placed on rickety shelves that were dipping due to the sheer weight of Hemingway and Fitzgerald and others were stacked in strategic places around the house, piles that went all the way up to my chest. At first, the idea of reading these books was daunting. I saw them as unreadable and too complex. But, as I got older and reading became a passion, I tried to read as many books as I could. I became fascinated with these authors on my bookshelves. I learned about new authors and bought more and more books. I collected more books than I could read. But I couldn’t stop sometimes. When I patrolled the aisles of my local book stores I kept finding new books that I wanted to read. It didn’t help that some of my favorite authors would release new books some years.

Reading all of the books I have spread around my house became a task at some points, like homework. It was hard to read my books during college due to the schoolwork I had. So, every break I had, Christmas break, summer break, spring break, Easter break, Presidents weekend, Columbus Day, etc., I tried to read as many books as I could. I became disappointed when I didn’t hit a certain amount of pages some days or didn’t read as many books as I would’ve liked to. I learned that I was sucking the fun out of reading when I looked at it like this. Over this Christmas break I set out to finish a good chunk of books. I made a list of all the books and was ready to check them off. A revolving door of family members came through my house during the break. I also traveled to see others and began working at my internship. All of this hurt my prospects of checking off the books on my list. When I got to my next book on the list, Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections, I realized that I might not finish by the time the semester starts. I have come to grips with this. Reading shouldn’t be a chore. I should be able to pick up a book and allow it to envelope me. I am going to come back to The Corrections throughout my semester and finish it at my own pace. I am going to pick up other books during this time and start them. I feel like I need to learn to pick up books whenever I have a chance and read any amount, whether it is five pages or a hundred pages. I also feel like I need to put down books that I am not interested in and don’t like. I shouldn’t feel obligated to finish a book; it is just a waste of time. Besides, I may come back to a ditched book and find that past me was an idiot for not liking it. I hope that this new approach will allow me to tackle more books on my reading list and most importantly allow myself to enjoy reading even more.

-Matt, intern at Beaufort Books

This is a shared blog post for Spencer Hill Press and Beaufort Books.

Lesson Learned

Wednesday, December 21st, 2016

Lesson learned: No winner is predetermined.

“Nobody wins the warm-ups!” one of my gymnastics coaches used to tell (or rather, scold) us when the competition wasn’t going so well. For him, that translated to “you look like a bunch of fools now that the judges are watching.”

Except I’ve found that phrase to mean something else entirely. It’s easy to count yourself out before you’ve begun, to look around the room and think, Wow, everyone here is better than me. Why am I bothering? It’s so easy to let the vestiges of your confidence shrivel.

But you can never truly predict the results.

April, 2008: After sixteen hours in a van, my teammates and I rolled into Greensboro, North Carolina for Nationals. Our presence intimidated exactly no one. Heck, we couldn’t even tie-dye our team shirts correctly; instead of our school’s bold red, they turned out a cheerful peach. Rather than dreams of glory, the team was driven by a common love of gymnastics.

As luck would have it, we’d drawn the same subdivision as Penn State. Earlier in the season, they’d come to our turf and destroyed us, and they sure looked ready to repeat that show as they warmed up at Nationals with superior difficulty and excellent execution. Not only that, but they were up first on floor exercise and we’d follow them.

We knew we had no shot at any kind of a team award, unless there was a special category for “excellence in taking group handstand photos.” However, I had my own secret goal: to qualify to finals. In order to do so, you needed to place in the top three on an event in your subdivision. Floor was my best shot, and I wanted to be in that top three. Badly.

I watched each Penn State routine closely. If someone fell or stumbled, the door might open for me. Instead, the girls hit and hit. And the judges were unimpressed. The scores flashed on the scoreboard. 8.75. 8.80.

The jitters I already had quickly turned to crushing self-doubt. I can’t beat them. Not only was my tumbling weaker, but so were my body parts; I was tumbling on a reconstructed ACL and meniscus, the foot I’d broken last year, and a rib I’d cracked two months before that I hoped was healed (it no longer hurt when I breathed, so that was good, right?). I had no chance against these girls. I was less than, period.

I can’t. I can’t.

I waited for the head judge to signal for me to begin.

I didn’t have the difficult tumbling. That was a fact. I had generally strong execution – that is, giving away no deductions by having straight legs and pointed toes. That would help. I also had one other possible advantage. After difficulty and execution, judges evaluate artistry: the relationship of the choreography to the music, the emotional connection, the extra something that turns heads and makes the routine memorable. I’d always been a performer, and my hope rested in captivating the judges.

As a senior in college, this could well be my final competitive routine. As soon as I saluted and lowered myself into my opening pose, the jitters solidified into steel. No matter what happened – no matter what score the judges threw me –  I was going to put on a hell of a show.

I pantomimed swinging a sword to my Pirates of the Caribbean music, earning whooping cheers from my teammates. I smiled at the judges as I frolicked past them, kicking my legs over my head into an aerial. I landed my final pass, the one that I’d blown out my knee on three years earlier, and threw my head back triumphantly.

By the time I jogged off of the floor, I was exhausted, but smiling. For better or worse, I’d done all I could, and there was something beautifully satisfying in emptying the tank.

Then my score went up: 9.20.

It held through the rest of the subdivision. It wound up being good enough for third place and qualifying to finals.

Good enough, period.


Diana Gallagher’s debut YA novel Lessons in Falling will be published by Spencer Hill Press in early 2017. It is now available for pre-order at Amazon.

Demystifying Publishing (and Finding Sparkly Party Dresses)

Thursday, December 15th, 2016

I think a lot of people are under the impression that a career in the publishing industry means reading literature for hours on end, meeting charming and clever writers, and discovering the next great American novel. Unfortunately, publishing isn’t all sipping fancy lattes and perusing brilliant submissions. Like any job, there are highs and lows. (Lows: spreadsheets. Highs: reading submissions). As an intern with Beaufort Books and Spencer Hill Press, I am given projects in many areas of the publishing world, so I’m here to give you some insider info on the ups and downs of an internship in this industry.

As an intern in publishing, you will have to power through some duller projects projects wherein Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets will become some of your most familiar friends. At Beaufort and Spencer Hill, I have sifted through binders and spreadsheets to catalogue payments, packed countless boxes, and scanned and re-filed endless contracts. These projects don’t often require a whole lot of creative thought and can be a bit dull, but over the months that I have interned I have been able to see their impact on our office and our authors.

My favorite intern tasks are taking photos for our social media accounts, maintaining the website, and (of course) reviewing submissions. With these projects, I get to flex my creative muscle and see myself making a more direct contribution to our companies: a well-composed photo on instagram, a neater and more effective website, and submissions getting nudged along to our editors.

Although the bulk of my work is less-than-romantic, every project I am given connects to creativity. If I am cataloging payments, that means that people are getting paid to do their dream jobs. If I am packing boxes, that means that our sales teams are able to get books into book stores and into the hands of readers. If I am filing contracts, then we are going to be able to liaise more easily and be more effective in our distribution of all kinds of books.

Aside from interning at Beaufort and Spencer Hill two days a week, I work part-time at a resale clothing store. An intern’s gotta eat, right? At my retail job, there are certainly boring projects: hanging clothes, printing tags for new merchandise sent from corporate, and (ugh) organizing the dreaded purse wall. But, my responsibilities also include buying in clothing from customers looking to sell to us and creating a lot of the store’s visual displays.

As I’ve been gaining confidence in both my position here at Beaufort and Spencer Hill and at my retail job, I’ve been seeing parallels between my creative duties at both workplaces. Buying clothing feels like reviewing submissions. Because I am only an intern here and I am still in training as a buyer at my retail job, my input on submissions and clothing buys is valued, but is only preliminary.  It doesn’t take long for me to figure out how I feel about a submission – sometimes within the first few pages it is clear whether or not I would give a manuscript a thumbs up or down. Things as simple as grammar, spelling, and sentence flow can take a manuscript pretty far. For clothing, grammar is to good condition as sentence flow is to trendiness; it doesn’t take long when looking at a garment to determine if it will sell. Broken zipper? No thank you. Underarm wear? I’m gonna have to pass this one back to you. But oh, a sparkly party dress perfect for New Years Eve? I’d be happy to take that one off of your hands. When reviewing manuscripts, I look for the sparkly party dress of submissions: something compelling that draws me in that is in good enough condition to suggest passing along.

Publishing may not be as romantic a world as is commonly thought, but without doing the work of organizing W-9 forms or scanning contracts, there would be no foundation from which we would be able to build to publishing those eye-catching sparkly party dresses.

—Mallory, intern

*This is a shared blog post for Beaufort Books and Spencer Hill Press.

Too Many Books and I Still Need More

Thursday, November 10th, 2016

Who doesn’t love books? If you don’t, you’re probably lost. Raise your hand if you have more books than you have time to read or space for. I don’t think I could raise mine any higher.

Where do you get your books? Are you a regular at your local library? Do you love walking around bookstores and running your fingers along the books on the shelf until they stop on something interesting? Do you have an online book shopping addiction? I do. Anytime I hear about a story that sounds captivating, I have to check it out, and for me, that means obsessively clicking “Add to Cart.”

I shop on several different websites. Firstly, Amazon is obviously one of the easiest places to shop for books. If you have Amazon Prime, you get free shipping! If you don’t, just spend at least $25 in books and your shipping cost will be slashed. It’s not a very hard thing to do, believe you me.

Another place I like is BookOutlet. This is actually one of the first places I check for books. Most everything listed is used, but in great condition, and the prices are extremely low! You might even spend more in shipping than on the actual book! Occasionally they’ll list books that are scratched or dented, which is not my favorite option if the book is mostly a cover buy (they say don’t judge a book by it’s cover, but who really listens?), but it’s a great option if you simply want to read the story. One of my favorite things they offer is SIGNED books! You have to be on your toes, because the good stuff is gone quickly. I have their Twitter updates sent to my phone because they’ll tell you when exciting stuff comes in.

Have you ever heard of a book subscription service? Many of them look different. Book of the Month club sends 1-5 books a month (duh!) and you can chose which ones to get. This is one of the only that I know of where you can choose the book. Most other book subscription boxes send you a surprise book or two, often new releases, sometimes giving you an option to pick the genre. Many will send book merchandise too, creating a specific theme every month. One of my favorites is Owlcrate. In past boxes, I’ve gotten exciting new releases, signed book plates from the author (like a sticker you can put in your book), jewelry, pencil pouches, hats, candles, and even a bath bomb. You never know what you’re going to get and that’s part of the fun! There are other companies that send signed books, such as Fairyloot.

I also get books for free occasionally! Spencer Hill Press has sent me books because I work with them, but I’ve also gotten ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies) from authors to review on my blog. This is a little tricky because I don’t want to encourage people to start book blogging solely to get free books. There should be an excitement to contributing to the book community by helping people know whether or not to buy a book. However, it’s definitely a perk, as well as building relationships with authors!

Now that you have all these options to get books, what do you do with them? Like I said, I have more books than I have room for. I tend to stack them around my room as they wait for their turn to be read or have their picture taken for bookstagram. It’s a little chaotic because I never quite remember where I put the book I need. I also identify with Rory Gilmore from the Gilmore Girl’s TV show as I almost NEVER leave my house without a book. Let’s hope I can read faster than I buy them, but who am I kidding? Good luck defeating your TBR list!

— Rebecca

The Trouble With Falling

Friday, October 28th, 2016

As you wait for the judges, feet sweating on the blue mats, you mentally rehearse your routine. You prepare a perky smile for when the judges signal for you to begin. No matter how confident you are, there’s still that whisper in the back of your mind: Don’t fall.

After all, the deduction for falling in gymnastics is formidable: .5. Theoretically, if the rest of your routine is perfect, your maximum score is now a 9.5. If you’re an elite gymnast like Simone Biles and Laurie Hernandez, the deduction is a full point. Ouch! (Now McKayla Maroney’s “not impressed” face makes perfect sense.)

Gymnasts aim for perfection, but as the Olympic commentators repeatedly reminded us, the balance beam is only four inches wide. So really, falling at some point is inevitable. Being afraid to fall isn’t unreasonable; sometimes, the aftermath is downright dangerous. Like Savannah, the main character in Lessons in Falling, I landed a tumbling pass and instantly tore my ACL, MCL, and meniscus. Now, as a coach and judge, I see the way a gymnast falls and grabs her arm or clutches her knee, and I can immediately tell she dislocated an elbow or tore a ligament.

Other times, falling is more of an insult to one’s pride than physically painful. It keeps you off of the awards stand when the rest of the meet was going so well. It occurs on a skill you could do in your sleep. Or, worst of all, it happens on the first element of your routine. Now you need to complete your routine knowing you’re already .5 in the hole.

Often, falling leaves you with a choice: you can either give up and go through the motions until you dismount. Or you can attack the next skills with a new fervor, refusing to let that bring you down.

Here’s the thing: I remember the falls the most.

I remember when I lost a skill on beam and got it back in time for Level 8 States. I’ll never forget the time I knocked over my coach during warm-ups as he tried to spot me on bars (sorry, man!). In middle school, I ran too far for my tumbling pass and ended up landing on the wooden gym floor. In college, I crashed on a jump series in my floor routine and dramatically waved my arms around, pretending I’d meant to do it all along.

The best stories, the ones gymnasts bond over and laugh about for years, are not the gold medals but the failures. Perhaps you were so surprised you caught your new release move that you let go of the bar and landed on your butt (been there, fell on that). Maybe, like my high school teammate, you crashed into the vault while your new boyfriend and the rest of the football team looked on.

You lived through it, though. You climbed back on the beam or jumped to the high bar. You continued dancing on floor like nothing had happened. You saw it through to the finish, and at the end of the day, that’s what counts.

And the leotards. You never forget those, either. But that’s a story for another time.


Diana Gallagher’s debut YA novel Lessons in Falling will be published by Spencer Hill Press in early 2017. It is now available for pre-order at Amazon.

NaNoWriMo: The Calm Before the Storm

Friday, October 21st, 2016

NaNoWriMo_2016_WebBanner_ParticipantYou may be looking at my title thinking, “what is this word, is that even English?” In answer, yes and no.  NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month (see what they did there?) and is a non-profit organization that promotes creativity and the arts.  Their main event takes place during the month of November, although they have other, smaller, events like Camp NaNoWriMo in the summer, and more.  During November, their event, which the organization is named after, is more of a challenge.  A fun, yet maddening challenge, that pushes writers to create a 50,000 words draft of their novel.

Ever heard someone say “one day, I’m going to write a novel?”  This challenge is a direct response to that age old statement, which let’s admit, people rarely following through with.  The founders of NaNo felt that this was a travesty and that these writers were denying their true potential.  They want writers to know that they can do it! They have the power and the ability, if they only sit down and actually do it.  Let me repeat that for the people in the back SIT DOWN AND ACTUALLY DO IT.  Just write. Write anything.  Let it flow from within you.

All joking aside, putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) is really important.  It doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad, that’s for proofreading and editing down the road.  The key is to have something to edit.

Alright, I think I’ve made my point, you get it, write, write, write.  On to the scary logistics; 50,000 words.  Did you gasp? Raise your eyebrows? Make an incredulous expression?  Well I understand, it’s a lot.  A. Lot.  But that’s the fun of it! If it was easy, it wouldn’t be a challenge right? It has been done successfully by tens of thousands every year.  There are tons of tips and tricks to getting that winning word count.

The daily goal, which is really just 50k divided evenly over 30 days, is 1667 words.  The real challenge is keeping this up through Thanksgiving.  With travel, spending time with loved ones, and of course gorging yourself on turkey and other delicious holiday specials, it really cuts into your writing time.

I, a senior college student and intern at Beaufort Books, have competed 4 times and won twice.  Unfortunately, one year I got sick around the holidays and was down for the count which is yet another threat looming over your keyboard.  Winning and losing doesn’t matter, and the people over at NaNo are very clear that the goal is to end up with a workable manuscript, even a half finished one is better than none at all.  Fifty thousand words, they want you to know, is an arbitrary number, and they have compared it to the average word counts of popular novels.

Adults, students, authors, and more all around the global compete in this challenge to support writing and novelization as a whole.  Through the NaNo website you are able to choose the region where you live so that you can get updates about events in your area, and even see the progress that people around you are making.  NaNo doesn’t have to a solo adventure.  Each region has liaisons, people who organize events like meet-ups and write-ins, where groups of NaNo-ers pile into a Panera or library, and write in comfortable companionship.  The website also has forums where there are all sorts of topics up for discussion, from tips and strategies, to coffee and tea, and wacky plot twists and dares, tons of fun things to keep you and your novel going.

For more information check them out on their website, where if you are so inclined, you can join me and many others as we write ‘til we drop next month!

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-Madeline, intern Beaufort Books

This post is shared between Beaufort Books and Spencer Hill Press and can be found on their various blogs.

Why Do I Write?

Thursday, October 20th, 2016

Why do I write? People ask me that as though I actually have a choice. I don’t. Not writing isn’t even an option because writing is something I love to do. It’s a part of me. I often joke that I have voices in my head, bit it isn’t really a joke. It’s true. Every single day characters scream at me to tell their stories, some louder than others, and often times those are the ones I write first.

But, okay, really, why do I write? I mean I have so much going on already, right? I work full time as a family Nurse Practitioner, I have three children, a husband, a home … I’m a busy girl. Writing keeps me sane. It’s how I relax at the end of a crazy busy day. Some people go fishing, others read a book (which I sometimes do), I write. I purge the voices from my head, releasing all the emotion and stress from the day into my stories.

Don’t get me wrong, there are times when my life becomes overwhelming and I have to choose between getting a few hours of sleep or writing, and I choose sleep. Because let’s face it, I have to function. But more often than not, I choose to write because it’s who I am.

I am a …

Mother
Wife
Daughter
Sister
Friend
Nurse practitioner
Housekeeper
Chef
Chauffer
Tutor
Coach

The list is endless … but my favorite parts of the list are the last two things …

I am a writer
I am an author

And it’s my writing that keeps everything else in balance.


KL Grayson is a USA Today bestselling author. She is coauthor with BT Urruela of A Lover’s Lament.

Archetypes in Middle Grade and Teen Literature

Wednesday, October 5th, 2016

Recently, I had the pleasure of spending two days hanging out with seventh graders. The English department at Cheyenne Mountain Junior High (Go Thunderbirds!) had contacted me and asked if I would be interested in talking about literary archetypes in teen literature with their students as part of their unit on literary elements and characteristics (the Colorado Academic Standards/Common Core State Standards for Reading: Standards 2.1, 2.3, and 3.1, if you want to know).

Are you kidding? A chance to hang out with the age group for whom I write? To talk about reading and writing and favorite books? To chat with future authors during break about the struggles and joys of writing? An opportunity to use my Lord of the Rings lunch box that comes with its own matching Thermos?

Yeah. I couldn’t say yes in fast enough.

First of all: What is an archetype? To paraphrase several Jungian experts: An archetype is a constantly recurring or repeating symbol or motif that represents universal patterns of human nature. It is NOT a stereotype (which takes a general type of person and oversimplifies their qualities into predictable or clichéd types).

The psychologist, Carl Gustav Jung, used the concept of archetype in his theory of the human psyche. He believed that universal, mythic characters—archetypes—reside within the collective unconscious of people.

Male Archetypes:

Warrior

  • Brave, honorable, self-controlled, with moral and physical courage
  • Takes responsibility for actions, magnanimous to defeated rivals
  • One of the strongest symbols used in the opposition of evil
  • Example: Sunrise Over Fallujah by Walter Dean Myers

Pilgrim

  • Searcher, wanderer, full of hope, faith, need to improve life, wanderlust, a soaring spirit
  • Must give up comforts of familiarity to find that which he seeks
  • Adolescence is a metaphor for a pilgrimage
  • Example: Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen

Wildman

  • Lustiness, unpredictability, independence
  • Oneness with nature
  • Can evoke host of negative images
  • Example: Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

Lover

  • Caring, giving, deeply empathic, sensitive to pain and joy
  • Primal energy and passion, and appetite for all human hungers such as for food, well-being, reproduction, creativity, and meaning
  • Example: Larry and the Meaning of Life by Janet Tashjian

Patriarch

  • Responsibility, firm correction, moral principles, care, nobility, self-sacrifice
  • But also a sense of fun
  • Most “father-like”
  • Example: London Calling by Edward Bloor

Healer

  • Mystical, spiritual
  • Bringer of wholeness to people and societies
  • Cures the physical, emotional, spiritual illnesses of the tribe/society
  • Example: Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis

Magician

  • Intuition and cleverness
  • Use of right brain
  • Connected to their subconscious
  • Example: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by JK Rowling

King

  • Greatness, trustworthy, wise
  • Inspires excellence in others
  • Composed in the face of danger
  • Able to make difficult decisions
  • Example: The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien

Prophet

  • Spiritual figure who battles falsehoods
  • Truthbringer, even if a painful truth
  • Full of spiritual virility
  • Example: Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli

Trickster

  • Impish side of the masculine spirit
  • Often satirical, funny, irreverent
  • “Snarky”
  • Example: Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

Female Archetypes:

Maiden-Mother-Crone (the essence of the feminine changes through time)

  • Innocence and purity (Maiden)
  • Nurturing maternity (Mother)
  • Wisdom and collected knowledge (Crone or Wise Elder)
  • Example: Searching for Silverheels by Jeannie Mobley

The Innocent

  • The naive, wide-eyed traditionalist
  • Eternally optimistic, faith based, saint-like
  • Yearns to do the right thing
  • The nice girl-next-door
  • Example: Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

Waif/Orphan

  • A “regular girl,” often working class, desires to belong and be loved
  • Typically down to earth with solid morals and empathy
  • Striving to fit in/find her place in the world
  • Example: One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Spunky kid/Jester

  • An optimist at heart, finding levity and laughter in heavy situations
  • Cheerful, loyal and likable
  • Her life’s strategy is to find playfulness in all things
  • Gets into scrapes, but gets herself back out
  • Example: All Four Stars by Tara Dairman

Seductress

  • Uses feminine knowledge and feminine sexuality/sensuality as a tool to achieve a goal
  • Can be viewed as either a positive or a negative
  • Example: The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu

Librarian

  • Seekers of truth and knowledge, self-reflective
  • The “quiet reader girl”
  • Often academics, philosophers, or teachers
  • Values the intellectual world over the physical world
  • Example: Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Rebel

  • Often thought of as the “bad girl” or trouble-maker
  • She is also the one that brings change to a society, for good or for bad
  • Willing to take risks and stand apart from society
  • Thinks outside of the box
  • Example: I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai

Nurturer/Creator

  • Desiring to save, protect and feed
  • Puts everyone else’s needs before their own
  • Believe in compassion and generosity, while also making themselves the martyr
  • Altruistic, protective and supportive
  • Example: The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm

Now, please keep in mind that there is no hard and fast rule about the number or types of male and female archetypes. Some archetypes, too, can be both male and female: magician, pilgrim, warrior, and ruler. And, certainly, many characters will be a blend of several types. But, no matter how they are use, these universal motifs can be a powerful tool for writers.


Darby Karchut is an award-winning author, dreamer, and compulsive dawn greeter.  A native of New Mexico, she now lives in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, where she runs in blizzards and bikes in lightning storms. When not dodging death by Colorado, Darby is busy writing for children, teens, and adults. Darby has recently been chosen as one of nine Mentors for the SCBWI-Rocky Mountain Chapter’s 2016/2017 Michelle Begley Mentor Program. She will be working one-on-one with an aspiring MG or YA writer for 6 months starting in January. Darby is represented by Amanda Rutter at Red Sofa Literary.

 Website | Blog

Purchase Darby’s newest book in the Finn Finnegan series, Finn’s Choice.

Reclaimed by Sarah Guillory

Wednesday, October 5th, 2016

“October had tremendous possibility. The summer’s oppressive heat was a distant memory, and the golden leaves promised a world full of beautiful adventures. They made me believe in miracles.” Reclaimed, Sarah Guillory


Fall is my favorite time of year, and October, my favorite month. Living in south Louisiana, October is the first month we can take a deep breath and shrug off the oppressive humidity. It means football season and bonfires and boots, and if we’re really lucky, we’ll get a little gumbo weather.

It’s also my birthday month, and I haven’t yet lost the excitement of being another year older. I garner those years like a well-earned treasure because they’ve brought me adventures and experience and hopefully, a little wisdom.

October was also the release month of Reclaimed, my debut, the physical embodiment of the dream I’d had since I was a child. I’d wanted to be an author for as long as I could remember, but at a very young age had convinced myself that I wasn’t talented enough. Reclaimed’s release proved that, while I might not be talented enough, I am indeed stubborn enough. My debut came about through nothing less than old-fashioned hard work.

It makes me so happy to see how many people have responded to Reclaimed’s opening lines. I spent much time writing, rewriting, and revising those lines, and there’s nothing better than seeing my words paired with my favorite month, a sort of “Welcome to Fall” sign just for me.

I hope your October is tremendous. There truly is so much possibility in the world–if we want something enough, if we commit ourselves to believing in ourselves long enough to put in the hard work. October embodies all of that for me. That in change, like the shift that brings crisp mornings and vibrant foliage, there is beauty. That no matter your age, there are plenty of adventures still to be had. That over time, we can gain wisdom. And that, no matter what, I will always believe in miracles.

— Sarah Guillory


Reclaimed Book Trailer created by Skye Norwood

Reclaimed’s Solitude Point Trailer created by Skye Norwood

New Here

Friday, September 2nd, 2016

I’m new here. “Here” as in Beaufort Books/Spencer Hill Press/Midpoint Trade Books, but also “here” as in New York City. Aside from a term abroad in London, I have never lived in a big city—I grew up in a small town in New Hampshire, attended college in Upstate New York, and now have landed myself in one of the biggest cities in the world, with only Google Maps and my phone’s battery life standing between myself and the tangled maze of subway lines and subterranean architecture that is my commute.

As you can probably understand, I found the subway system to be very overwhelming. The sounds, the smells, the rush hour crowding, and the awkward eye contact with and uncomfortably close proximity to large businessmen did nothing to calm my small-town nerves. On one of my worst days, I lost my balance on the 5 train and fell into the laps of a very surprised and less-than-pleased older couple. In my short time commuting I have also: taken the A train in the wrong direction for several stops, apologized to a garbage bag for stepping on it, and sat in mystery subway juice. Delicious.

Despite my rocky start, I have slowly been settling in to the public transportation life. My advice to fellow newcomers: arm yourself with a pair of headphones and carry at least one good book with you at all times. I’ve been able to find oases in subway seats, reading poetry and listening to my favorite songs. I’ve also found the courage to journal in public, though I usually reserve that for when I don’t feel like I have a car full of people looking over my shoulder.

Although I do want to untangle my mental map of the city and leave my nerves behind, I hope that I retain my small-town sense of wonder as I make the transition from baby Brooklynite to savvy city slicker. One of my friends told me that I’m “cute, but so not a New Yorker” because I got genuinely excited when a group of street performers started dancing in our train car. That’s okay by me—being cute seems like it’s more fun, anyway.

—Mallory

*This blog post is being shared on both Beaufort Books and Spencer Hill Press.

Bookstagram

Saturday, August 27th, 2016

Lately I’ve been dipping my toe into the world of bookstagram. What’s bookstagram you may ask? Basically, it’s a community of book lovers on Instagram.

One day, I stumbled across some bookstagram accounts and my summer was forever changed. Okay, that’s a little dramatic. First I decided to start reviewing books on my blog. As I looked around at other reviewers to learn the structures people usually use, I discovered that many book reviewers had Instagrams that were specifically about books. After exploring even more, I followed a bunch of these accounts and decided to make one of my own – and it’s been so much fun!

As I said, bookstagram is a community. People don’t just post pictures hoping to get a certain amount of followers or likes, though these are always a plus. It’s more about the content of their pictures and the pictures of those they follow. Users comment on each other’s pictures, get excited about books, recommend them, fangirl/fanboy about them, and host giveaways. We’re a bunch of book nerds.

Most bookstagrammers put a ton of effort into their pictures. Many have an overall theme that makes their entire feed look coordinated. In bookstagram pictures, you can often find props used that are related to the book(s) shown, flowers, and fandom things like candles, Funko dolls, word art quotes, buttons, etc. There is planning involved in almost every picture. Plus, you have to get the lighting right in order to display the book(s) in all its glory!

One thing I’ve taken away from this experience so far is a deeper love for books and a greater To-Be-Read (TBR) pile. Being in a community with people who get excited about books has been so rewarding and has cultivated a deeper love for books.

Thank you, bookstagram!

Here are some of the pretty feeds I follow:

pagewithaviewFullSizeRender-2lostinlit_becca

 

 

 

 

 


@pagewithaview
@thepaige_turner
@lostinlit_becca

You can also follow mine at @junereadsbooks. As I’ve mentioned, I’m still new at it, so bare with me.

Thank you for reading about my latest hobby!

– Rebecca, alumni intern

By Any Other Name

Wednesday, August 24th, 2016

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.

Graphic provided courtesy of Donnell Ann Bell, editor at Pike's Peak Writers

Graphic provided courtesy of Donnell Ann Bell, editor at Pike’s Peak Writers Blog

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 the 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…

 

About the Author:

Darby Karchut is an award-winning author, dreamer, and compulsive dawn greeter.  A native of New Mexico, she now lives in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, where she runs in blizzards and bikes in lightning storms. When not dodging death by Colorado, Darby is busy writing for children, teens, and adults. She is represented by Amanda Rutter at Red Sofa Literary.

www.darbykarchut.com

www.darbykarchut.blogspot.com

Purchase Darby’s newest book in the Finn Finnegan series, Finn’s Choice

This blog post originally appeared on July 20, 2016 in the Pikes Peak Writers Blog