Silly Character Names?

Sometimes someone says something to you which makes you see things in a different way. Some recent comments from my readers have had that effect on me.

I’ve always played it safe with character names, trying not to stray into comedy, cause offence or sound reminiscent of anyone famous. I have tried to broaden the geographical spread of my character names, after it was pointed out to me that in my first book everyone seemed to have a common British name, and that has gone some way my character names more interesting. But not far enough.

In real life no-one wants an embarrassing name, a crazy name or a name which sounds like their job (nominative determinism if you prefer), but novels are not real life. In a novel, a character’s name is a flag. No matter how distinctive their appearance, how graphic their description, they will mostly be referred to by just their name. Other characters will refer to them by name. Readers who talk to other readers about your novel will often refer to characters by just their name.

Every character’s name is crucial. It’s the memory key that recalls every other part of their personality and appearance in the mind of your reader. If it’s not distinctive, evocative and memorable then you run the risk of readers becoming confused. If they lose track of which character is which then, no matter how exciting the story is, the whole thing will stop making sense. That’s when you lose the reader.


Astronomicon: Boundary – Free science fiction short story

Astronomicon: Boundary (scifi short story)In between writing the epic Astronomicon novels, I like to try out smaller ideas in the form of short stories. I usually set those within the Astronomicon universe too as it instantly gives me a coherent world in which to place the story. For short fiction, I love to explore those technological pitfalls and the unintended side-effects they throw up. Once you begin extrapolating technology into the future, science fiction is full of potential dangers, traps and ethical problems that are rich pickings for any speculative fiction author.


Astronomicon: Boundary tackles the issue of what could happen when people attempt to cheat death at the end of their lives and the technological consequences that causes a long time in the future.


Click here to read the whole short story for free on Wattpad.com.

I’ve been tagged…my turn to be ‘It’.


Last week Ken Magee tagged me in a post on his author blog. I heartily recommend it, it’s well worth a read, especially if you are an aspiring author.

What does being tagged mean? Well, put simply, I answer the same questions he did, but mine are about my latest book. I also tag three more authors and they’ll post their answers in a week’s time. Here are the authors I’m tagging, they’re all worth checking out.


Barry James

(To be announced)

(To be announced)


I’d like to take this opportunity to say thank you to Ken for choosing to tag me.


What is the title of your latest book?


My new book is named “Astronomicon: Those Left Behind”. I’ve already written three books in the Astronomicon series, but this one is not only better, but also quite different. It’s set around a century prior to the other books in the series, covering a key event that ultimately leads to exciting happenings in the first three books. It very much forms a prequel for the entire storyline of the rest of the series.


Where did the idea come from for the book?

I have had an overall storyline for ten books worth of Astronomicon planned out for over a year. The previous book I wrote, third in the series, Astronomicon: Distant Relatives, briefly described historical events which led to a vast exodus of a population. I had looked at the writing a story about that exodus, but it seemed such a depressing and negative storyline that I truly believed that it could not work as a novel. Once I turned that around in my head and realised that the exodus itself was positive outcome from a situation of total despair, I began to build a storyline that covered the actions and events which made the exodus possible. The resistance activity, acts of bravery and sacrifice which led to millions of people escaping total genocide, was an incredible story which just had to be written.


What genre does your book fall under?


Science fiction. It has all the prerequisites of aliens, spaceships, high-technology etc., but is ultimately an extremely human story of war, love and resistance.


Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?


Ooh, now that’s a very tricky question. I’ve  been thinking about that one for a few days now and I have no firm opinions on this one. I’d probably go for someone like Martin Freeman or Benedict Cumberbatch to play Than (lead male). Christian Bale might make a good Rahtek (Supreme Rules of the Eridani) and Norman Lovett would possibly be good for Amun.


What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?


In the face of  alien invasion, one man’s quest to save his children from the impending annihilation.


Is your book self-published?


Not yet, but probably soon. It’s currently in the hands of Harper Voyager, so I’ll have to wait until they reject it!


How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?


Just 23 days. To explain that, I took three weeks off work to concentrate full time on the writing and the story was so enthralling (for me!) that it almost wrote itself.


What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?


I don’t believe I’ve read anything quite like it. That mostly likely more due to my lack of reading variety, rather that a high level of originality.


Who or What inspired you to write this book?


This is the first book I’ve ever written to a deadline. Harper Voyage announced that, for the first time in years, they would accept unsolicited manuscripts, for a brief two week window. I would be a fool to pass up an opportunity like that, but at the time of finding out about it, I didn’t have a suitable manuscript to submit to them (they did not what a book in a series unless it was the 1st book) so I took it as a challenge to write, check, edit and polish and 70,000 word manuscript in the  27 days I had left before the deadline. “Those Left Behind” was the very best story I had planned but unwritten.


To my amazement my wife and family totally supported my aim to dedicating three weeks to the project. It was a great experience and I am deeply proud of the results.


What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Now that’s a tricky question. What sets this novel apart from my previous ones is that the main character is not a hero, not brave or confident, but has to survive during an invasion of his homeworld and work to ensure the survival of his childen. He has to overcome his all too evident fear and achieve things he would never normally have dreamt of.