"Vigorously told deceptions and battle scenes." ~Publishers Weekly review of Eolyn

"The characters are at their best when the events engulfing them are at their worst." ~Publishers Weekly review of High Maga

Friday, December 7, 2012

Guest Author: Karen L. Azinger

Friday, December 7, is the last day of classes at Avila!  One week more of finals (and grading grading grading), and we are DONE. 

I am very excited about the weeks between now and Christmas Eve, as we have a lot going on both here and on Heroines of Fantasy.  There will be games, giveaways, blog hops and more surprises; opportunities for you to win books of all genres -- even book bundles! --as we get closer to the year's end.  It is shaping up to be a very exciting holiday season, so please stay tuned to learn how you can join the fun.

Today, it's my pleasure to welcome Karen L. Azinger, author of The Silk and Steel Saga. 

Karen has always loved fantasy fiction, and always hoped that someday she could give back to the genre a little of the joy that reading has always given her. Ten years ago on a hike in the Columbia River Gorge, she realized she had enough original ideas to finally write an epic fantasy. She started writing and never stopped. The Steel Queen is her first book, born from that hike in the gorge.

Before writing, Karen spent over twenty years as an international business strategist, eventually becoming a vice-president for one of the world's largest natural resource companies. She's worked on developing the first gem-quality diamond mine in Canada's arctic, on coal seam gas power projects in Australia, and on petroleum projects around the world. Having lived in Australia for eight years she considers it to be her second home. She's also lived in Canada and spent a lot of time in the Canadian arctic. She lives with her husband in Portland Oregon, in a house perched on the edge of the forest. The first four books of The Silk & Steel Saga have already been written and she is hard at work on the fifth and final book.

Please join me in welcoming Karen L. Azinger.

What's in a Name?

What’s in a name? Everything! Names evoke mystery, menace, magic and wonder. Whisper a single name and readers are instantly transported to another time and place. Arthur…Camelot…Excalibur…Frodo…Mordor…Voldemort, these names shimmer in our hearts and dreams like magical touch-stones. Some evoke wonder while others embody dread. More than any other genre, fantasy tasks authors to create unique and interesting names, but these names should not be a jumble of alphabet soup, impossible to pronounce and even harder to remember. For my medieval epic fantasy, The Silk & Steel Saga, I took great care in choosing the names for my main characters, striving for names that are both unique and memorable and reflective of my characters’ prominent traits.

Liandra, the Queen of Lanverness, is one of my favorite names in the saga. Naming this character was one of my top priorities. After discarding half a hundred mundane names, inspiration finally struck. As soon as I thought of Liandra, I knew I had the perfect name. Lyrical and feminine, yet it has an underlying strength, a fitting name for a queen who uses “beauty to beguile, spies to foresee, and gold to control.” Liandra is a unique name, one I’ve never seen used in fantasy, perfect for my Spider Queen.

Kath, the princess of Castlegard, is a strong female character who is often underestimated and frequently overlooked. Because she is ignored and overlooked, I wanted her to have a common girl’s name, but I also wanted my character to be bold enough to name herself. Katherine is her birth name, the name her father calls her, the name of a princess destine to wed for the good of her kingdom, but my character rejects that destiny and therefore rejects that name, choosing instead to be called Kath, a unique and catchy twist on an otherwise common name.

The Mordant is the name for my darkest character. This name pays homage to the land of Mordor in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, but instead of an eye wreathed in flame, the Mordant is a very real, very complex character who has lived for over a thousand years. One of the unique aspects of The Silk & Steel Saga is the way the reader gets to view the world from the perspective of a very malevolent evil. It is through the Mordant that my books explore the mechanisms of evil.

Sir Blaine is my classic knight, always striving to be worthy, determined to be a sword wielding hero. This character required a very “knightly” name. When naming a knight, one instantly thinks of the Knights of the Round Table, but authors need to steer clear of stereotypical names like Lancelot, Galahad, Gwaine, Percival and Tristan. Instead I chose a name that sounds like it belongs among Arthurian legends yet is fresh and unique. Blaine rhymes with Gwaine, the perfect original name for my classical knight.

In epic fantasy, the names of settings deserve just as much thought as the character names. If you get stuck, just glance at any world map for inspiration. For example, Inverness is a city in Scotland and also in New Zealand. I’ve never visited either place yet the name always struck me as lyrical, magical, even mystical. Putting my own twist on the name, Inverness becomes Lanverness, the only kingdom of Erdhe ruled by a queen. For the capital city of Lanverness, I chose the name Pellanor, a twisted spelling of Pellinore, a king from Arthurian legend who is famous for hunting the Questing Beast. Choose the names of your kingdoms, cities, and castles with care. Names can instill a touch of classical legend in your epic fantasy.

And last but certainly not least, writers must choose the names for their books. A book’s name should infuse an instant sense of genre. The name should attract attention, create expectation, and be easy to remember while being distinctive. The name of my first book, The Steel Queen, was chosen by my London editors. They wanted a name that could work as a cross-over title to attract both fantasy and historical fiction readers. After a month of e-mailing long lists of names back and forth, they finally settled on The Steel Queen. Once I broke free from my London editors and reclaimed the rights to my books, I chose the rest of the titles as well as the saga name. To “brand” the titles and identify them as part of a saga, I patterned all the titles after first book, resulting in, The Steel Queen, The Flame Priest, The Skeleton King, and The Poison Priestess.

Choosing a saga name is similar to choosing a book name, but with an added twist. In the fantasy genre, epic sagas are often referred to by their acronym, so The Lord of the Rings becomes LOTR. One of the things I love most about my saga name, The Silk & Steel Saga, is that the acronym is SASS. I hope my readers will agree that the women in my saga have a lot of sass!

What’s in a name? Everything! Choose wisely!

About The Poison Priestess

While Kath and her companions chase the Mordant into the far north, the southern kingdoms erupt in Flames. The Lord Raven marches south, unleashing a holy war against Lanverness. Vastly outnumbered by a ruthless enemy, Queen Liandra spins desperate gambits in a dire struggle to save her kingdom. New alliances and new awakenings hatch deeper levels of intrigue. The Oracle Priestess and the Lord Raven form a tenuous alliance, while deep in the Southern Mountains the Kiralynn monks stir, revealing more than prophecy. Armies clash, battles rage, and cities fall, as lives, loves and crowns hang in the balance, but swords are not the only way to wage war. Treachery, deceit, assassins, and the power of seduction will face-off against steadfast courage, forgotten magic, and the power of truth. The Poison Priestess is the fourth book in this epic tale of Light versus Dark.