V Is For… Volodya, and Other Unpronounceable Names

VNames are tricky.  I’ve worked with internationals most of my career, and the first difficult name I encountered was Nguyen, which is a very common family name of Vietnamese origin.  It’s pronounced, by the way, like “Win.”  Currently, I live and work in an ethnically diverse neighborhood of Chicago; there are seventeen different languages just on my block – people from the Americas, (English, Spanish, French, Haitian Creole, Jamaican, and a whole host of smaller regional languages); Europe, (French, German, Romanian, Polish, and Russian); the Middle East, (Arabic, Farsi, and some other languages); Africa, (Ghanan, Nigerian, Swahili – which is, itself, a trade language and not of any one ethnic group); and Asia, (Korean, Vietnamese, Japanese, and Chinese – which isn’t a language but a whole host of them, most common of which are Mandarin and Cantonese).  We also have a large Jewish population, and its a varied one in and of itself – some of its members speak English, others Yiddish or the language of their country of origin, and many, many of them speak Hebrew.

One thing I’ve noticed about Americans is how chauvinist we are about names.  We have trouble with foreign words, much less names, and I’ve met many, many people who only speak one language who insist they cannot possibly say such a foreign-sounding name as [insert name here].  For example, I worked with a lady who insisted that the last name “Bougoulas” was “Boogaloo.”  The gentleman whose name it was acted very graciously and didn’t appear offended, but I have to wonder how many times he’d encountered people unwilling to say “Boo-goo-lass.”  And that’s not even a “difficult” name.  Try saying some of the names from Africa, that use consonants next to each other in ways American English speakers aren’t familiar with – Mkuto, for example.

When Rachel and I wrote Burning Bright, the main character’s original name is Volodya, which is short for Vladimir in Russian.  We were advised to pick a different name, because it was felt that Volodya was too difficult for readers to enjoy.   We selected Sasha, which is short for Aleksandr in Russian.  It worked and we’re used to it now, but it was a hard choice to make.

What about you, Dear Reader?
Do you prefer familiar names, or do you like a touch of the exotic?

A to Z Challenge, Day 14: N Is For Neal

Your first love.  You’ll always have that special place in your heart for your first one.  Rachel and I wrote Burning Bright and I pitched it at my first writing conference, before I even knew what pitching a book really meant.  I knew business, of course, and that books are business, but somehow the concept of pitching a creative project made my knees turn to water.

Neal Harrison is the hero of Burning Bright.  An ex-Marine, he brought the survivors of his unit back from the mountains of Tora Bora after an operation to find Bin Laden failed and they found something far more deadly:  a Siberian tiger shifter, half-mad with blood-lust and the desire for revenge.  Left behind by the Soviet invaders, he attacked the Americans with a fervor that no one anticipated and wiped out a highly-trained squad of Marine Reconnaissance fighters.

Neal decided to open a restaurant called The Factory.  As business grew, he expanded to a gay bondage club downstairs, called The Basement.  In the process of writing the story, we needed to know where things were in the physical space that made up both businesses.  We scouted around the city so Rachel could get an idea of common building construction here, and we found a candidate (the real building that houses our imaginary restaurant is located not far from my house, as a matter of fact).  Then it was time to get down to business and draw out the space itself.

Doing this allows us to mark where things happen in the books, to develop a more clear idea of the space, and also keep stuff straight while we’re writing – and when we go back, months later, to edit a project.

What are your favorite “tools of the trade” for whatever hobby or avocation you pursue?

Tiger Tiger and NaNoWriMo

Photo from The Ultimate Guide to the Largest Cats on Earth

TIGER TIGER is coming from Samhain Publishing in July, 2013. We’ve signed the contract and will start edits in January, after the holidays. We decided to share a bit about the process for those of you who are curious.

First, a short blurb: TIGER TIGER is the second in the Chicagoland Shifters series, which started with BURNING BRIGHT. brings us back to the world of animal empath and veterinary surgeon, Doctor Sasha Soskoff.  Sasha has found a sense of belonging with Neal Harrison and his small band of Siberian tiger shifters.  When a mangled body is found, clearly the victim of a tiger mauling, they must find the rogue tiger before it destroys everything they’ve built and causes a war between the tiger shifters and the jaguar shifters.

Since we’ve already worked with our acquiring editor at Samhain, the submission process involved sending the manuscript directly to her.  It still required a synopsis and blurb, like a normal synopsis “over the transom”, but had a little less pressure since we knew she knew it was coming.  That didn’t mean she’d accept it, just that she knew to look for it and review it when it came.

The submission process can be scary for any writer, but it’s not the mystery some make it out to be.  Publishing is a business, not an art, and the acceptance of a new manuscript isn’t just about whether the editor likes the piece or believes in it.  It also involves what other manuscripts the publisher has already accepted, what similarities it has to pieces already in the publisher’s catalog, and the upcoming releases that are scheduled.

Now that we have the contract in place, it’s a matter of starting the editing process.  It takes an average of nine months from acceptance to publication and we will start our edits in January.  There are two rounds of content edits where we will work with our editor to fine-tune the story and tweak or change elements as she believes it necessary.  Once that’s done and everything is as ready as we can make it, it will go to a final read-through with a beta reader.  They will look at it from the point of view of a potential customer and see if there are any plot holes or continuity errors that need to be fixed.  This is also an opportunity for final line edits.  The final step is to review the galleys, which is the final chance to see if there are any minor grammar or spelling errors.

In the middle of this process, the cover art will be given to the author.  We get a chance to submit ideas of what we would like it to be, and then the art department does their magic with it.  This is also the time to do the marketing paperwork, which includes the blurb.  The blurb, or the material that goes on the back cover of the book, is critical to the success of the book.  Once we draft our blurb, the Blurb Magicians do their work and it comes out as a finished product.

In the meantime, we’re working on NaNoWriMo.  National Novel Writing Month, every year in November, involves writing 50,000 words or more on a draft of a novel.  This year, we decided to write the rest of EMERALD KEEP, our sequel to EMERALD FIRE.  Of course, what came out of the keyboard is totally different and is a new novel, a science fiction war thriller with a working title of “In the Lane.”  It’s been loads of fun and is totally different from anything we’ve done before.

Are you working on NaNo?  How is the experience for you?  Tell us in the comments.  We’d love to know!


Photo from “Siberian Tigers,” by Alex and Gregory.com, the Ultimate Guide to the Largest Cats on Earth, website URL http://www.alexandgregory.com/siberian_tigers.html Accessed 11/18/2012

Join me at the Samhain Publishing Blog today!

I’m at the Samhain Publishing blog today, talking about writing with a collaborator.  I hope you’ll join me!

Our First Interview!

Please join us at Sweet ‘N Sexy Divas for our first-ever interview! (It was lots of fun to participate in their blog, and to be interviewed!)

Release Day is Coming!

BURNING BRIGHT is out this Tuesday! Launch partay in da howse!!

It’s two days to go until Release Day (technically only one, since it’s so late on Sunday…). I have so many mixed feelings! I feel excited, a little scared, and don’t know what to expect. Excited because it’s our first book, scared that I won’t do ‘it’ right (not sure what ‘it’ is, but the worry is still there), and I don’t know what to expect for Tuesday. Will I feel different once the book is out and available?

It feels strange to have a book published. It doesn’t feel like something is done, and over; it feels like the work has only just begun. We are hard at work finishing the sequel, as well as working on a couple other projects and researching publishers for them. We’ve learned so much over the past year and a half and aren’t the same writers we were when we started. We are closer as friends, inside each others’ heads a lot more than we were even when writing BURNING BRIGHT. I’ve met some amazing folks in the business, launched a non-profit, and really think of myself as an author now instead of only a writer.

It’s been an amazing journey and we are now waiting to watch our little baby make its first steps into the world. Cigar and champagne, anyone?

We are featured on the Nine Naughty Novelists!

Greetings, readers! We are grateful to report that Rachel and I are featured on the Nine Naughty Novelists blog, where they kindly allowed us to write a guest post. We decided to talk about writing m/m romance as women, and hope that you enjoy! Visit their blog, here.

Visiting July 19 through July 27

The Taurus Twins are visiting July 19 through July 27, and going through the Author Review Copy (ARC) of BURNING BRIGHT. While that delays the next chapter of NEW WORLD ORDER, we are so excited to report that…


BURNING BRIGHT is available for pre-order now, and will be out Tuesday, 09/13/2011. We’ve made it through the editing process and can see the finish line. Once the author review copy is turned in, it’s a matter of biting off all our nails in a show of calm anticipation.