Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Optimize Me, Baby!

You may remember (or not, it was a tad bit ago), me rhapsodizing about a character-naming website called the Baby Name Wizard. Although why they call it the Baby Name Wizard and not the Character Name Wizard, I'm not sure. It might have something to do with wacky people using it to name actual living humans instead of figments of their imaginations. Sounds crazy, I know, but hey--I don't make this stuff up.

A character's name is of course enormously important. For example, if your protagonist is a half-feral, demon-killing maiden of the Sacred Sword of Arnooth, who has sworn bloody vengeance against the spawn of Beezelbub who slew her mother lo these many years past (now, that I made up) you don't name her Pickles. Actually, you don't name anyone Pickles. That's a Rule. Write it down.

I hear you whispering back there. You think the example I just gave is easy. Because obviously the perfect name for a half-feral, demon-killing urban fantasy protagonist is Shzaghatha of the Rampaging El. What novelist worth her salt needs a website for that?

Well fine, smartypants. Name me this: a boy's name that means warrior.

With no more than two syllables.

In Arabic.

Ha! Not so easy now, is it, my pretty?*

And yet--it is. Writers,** say hello to the Baby Name Optimizer. Make your choices among 17 variables--not only ethnicity and number of syllables, but style (trendy, timeless, exotic), popularity (Top 100, less popular, unusual), origin (Biblical, Buddhist Zen, Muslim, Sanskrit, Saints, Shakespearian, among a slew of others). Want a celebrity name? A name that conveys your character is athletic? Dark? Graceful? A name that is associated with animals? A place? A gemstone?

The Optimizer, it is a veritable garden of geeky delight, my friends. A garden! We're talking wild climbing roses and birds of paradise and lilies of the freaking valley here. Not to mention, it's a procrastinator's dream.

And remember: Once you've optimized your character's name, pop over to the Baby Name Wizard and find out how popular it's been in every decade since the 1880s.

Sigh. And they say we can't find heaven here on earth.

Okay, enough geeking out (although really, can one ever truly get enough?) But I gotta get to work. Just as soon as I plug in a request for a four-syllable Teutonic girl's name meaning "peacemaker" that does not end in the letter a.

Axelle. Ah well--four out of five ain't bad.

*I have got to stop watching Wizard of Oz late at night. Oh, BTW, the Arabic boy warrior's name? Shamar. Nice, huh?

**Yes, I suppose you expectant-parent types can use it, too. But don't you dare take Axelle. That name is mine.

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Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Geek Fun

Wanna write a novel but the idea of slaving for years over deathless prose leaves you cold?

Baby, welcome to NaNoWriMo.

If you're a writer, you probably know what I'm talking about. If not, then consider yourself hereby informed: NaNoWriMo is shorthand for National Novel Writing Month.

National Novel Writing Month is not, as some people assume from the name, a month set aside for the appreciation of novel writers. (Although that would be nice--can we talk about that? I nominate the month of May, and further stipulate that said appreciation be in the form of cheese popcorn and/or Skittles. But that's just me.)

NaNoWriMo is about writing. Specifically, writing an entire novel (minimum 50,000 words--which is actually a pretty skimpy novel, but I digress) in the month of November.

Is it a contest? No, because there aren't any judges. Are there prizes? No, except for the glory and honor of completing a novel in 30 days. Am I participating? No, for a variety of reasons, mostly because I'm already deep in a novel and that doesn't lend itself to the kind of madcap seat-of-the-pants invention you need to write 1,666.67 words per day, every day. But hey, just because I'm a stick-in-the-mud doesn't mean you have to be. Limber up those fingers, put on the thinking cap (never mind, forget the thinking--there's no time for that!), click here for some inspiration, then let `er rip!


In other late breaking news, one of the Words of the Day this week (courtesy of A Word A Day, a site so insanely geeky it makes my heart flutter):


Noun: meaning the part of the body one cannot reach to scratch.

Pull that one out of your linguistic hat the next time someone asks you to scratch their back. Instant awe and admiration! Right? Am I right?


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Wednesday, April 08, 2009

All A Writer Needs Is A Little Freedom

All over everywhere, folks are squeeing about Freedom. Apparently, this is a computer program you download from the internet that gives you freedom from...

(wait for it)

...the internet.

Freedom from checking your email every few minutes. Freedom from checking the comment trails on your favorite blogs. Freedom from Twitter, Facebook, your book's ranking...

not that I ever look at my books...umm...hardly ever, I mean...*cough* short: Freedom to do some actual work. The way Freedom works is, you set it for a specified time and during that time, the program prevents you from accessing the internet for any reason--even to check March Madness results (Cher bracket) on Go Fug Yourself. You can't argue with can't reason with it. It knows no mercy.

If that's not a writer's godsend, I don't know what is. It's just too easy, when hitting a bump in the fifth circle of hell known as the First Draft, to say I must know, at this very instant, how to say "hurry up" in French! Before I even know it, Google is activated and I'm knee-deep in French-to-English translation sites. And then I remember that I wanted to know what sort of fabric is crepe, exactly, and by the way, wasn't The Road with Viggo Mortensen supposed to come out last November? Where hast ye been, Viggo? And then...

No! No more! Where do I get this Freedom? I cried, cursor poised, ready to click through to my deliverance. And then I saw the fine print. (Why, why is there always fine print?)

Freedom is for Macs only.

*foam quietly at mouth for a moment*

Fine. Maybe it's just that Mac users don't have the self-discipline that we PC-ers do. So yesterday, I devised a little Freedom of my own: I disconnected my laptop from the internet. (I was surprised at how long I hesitated before clicking "disconnect." As if the mouse was a cleaver held over my sole supply of oxygen.) Every hour and a half, I allowed myself ten minutes surf time. (Okay, fifteen. And once was thirty minutes, but that was lunch.) Overall, I was pretty pleased with myself. And today?

Mm. Well. But look: the 2009 Go Fug Yourself March Madness champion, with video!

And cute cats!

And...and...Aarghh! I can't make it stop! Fred Stutzman, savior of Mac users, hear us! Are we not also helpless in the face of a strong wireless signal? Do we not also have work to be done? Where's our PC Freedom?!

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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

A Word a Day...Here to Rock Your World

If you’re a word nut like me, you need to know about A Word A Day. Sign up for its newsletter, and every morning a new word arrives in your email inbox. (yay! hands clapping)

The subscription is free, and it runs forever until you tell it to stop. AWAD is a veritable fountain of verbal fun—plus, you learn stuff you never suspected. Take yesterday’s word:


MEANING: noun: A design feature copied from a similar artifact in another material, even when not functionally necessary. For example, the click sound of a shutter in an analog camera that is now reproduced in a digital camera by playing a sound clip. (boldface mine).

That familiar, comforting click…is a sound clip?

My world is rocked. I know the word for those useless metal rivets on my jeans. Hmmm. We'll call it a draw. (Apple fritters are still real, right? I can deal with fake clicky noises...just tell me the apple fritters are still genuine.)