What’s in a name?


Every day, all across the globe, parents-to-be ponder, mull, and agonize over choosing the perfect name for their baby. Some choices are easy–taking a name to honor a family member or a dear friend. Some opt for unique names to help their child stand out. Some give names based on their hopes and desires for the child’s future. And some parents name their baby after characters from their favorite movie, book, or TV show.

I, myself, might have been named Galadriel if my dad had his way. No doubt it is an outstandingly beautiful name, but perhaps it is a bit difficult to pull off for someone less than “the mightiest and fairest of all the Elves that remained in Middle-earth.” Instead, I was named after my mom’s favorite soap opera character…although the official story is that I was named after my great-grandmother so, shhhh, don’t tell! ^_-

As it turns out, authors experience many of the same difficult choices as parents when it comes to naming our characters. Except instead of naming the average 2.5 children, authors have to name every one of their characters. And the cities they live in, the rivers, mountains and forests around them, and every imaginable thing in between. It’s a daunting task. There are hundreds of thousands of options, but which one is the right one for our dear characters?! It has to be perfect. It has to suit them. It has to be easy to read. It has to be meaningful.

It’s the last of those needs that inspired today’s post. Before becoming an author, I never paid a great deal of attention to the subtle meanings or symbolism behind a character’s name (I do now though!). I decided during the planning stages of the series that I wanted to add another level of depth to the story for those intrepid readers who read not only the written words, but also see those between the lines.

relief-pixabaySome of the name meanings are pretty straight forward. For instance, the names of all of the Senka and Ohanzee–with a few significant exceptions–have meanings associated with being a warrior.

Ildiko-“fierce warrior”
Hania-“spirit warrior”
Jarold-“strong with a spear”
Caelan-“powerful warrior”

I had a bit of fun when choosing the names for the twins, Cole and Eloc. I wanted names that made sense as a pair, but I never could find a pair that suited the theme I had in mind for the Ohanzee. Then I found Cole, which has the meaning “warrior,” and I realized that Cole spelled backward–Eloc–sounded like a suitable name for a character in a fantasy story. (I might have had a lot of caffeine that day, don’t judge.😛 ) I’ve only come across one person so far who has realized the connection between those two names on their own!😄

pope-john-paul-ii-2I chose other character’s names based on their personality or to give additional insight into their background. Raysel’s mother has a well-known affection for flowers, and she expressed it by choosing names for her children that are related to flowers: Raysel-“rose,” Aravind-“lotus,” Cattleya-“orchid.”

Other examples are:
Desta-“destiny” (Hence the chapter title “An Encounter with Destiny”)
Echidna-mythological monster, half-woman and half-snake, gave birth to the Sphinx, Cerberus, Hydra, and Ladon, among others.
Ladon-mythological monster,  a serpent-like dragon

Some names connect the character directly to the prophecy:
Alden-“old friend”
Rica-“peaceful ruler”
Casimer-“bringer of peace” or “destroyer of peace”

yinyang-pixabayThe names of cities and villages in Renatus also have significance. Niamh, the capital city of Chiyo, means “brightness,” while Nyx, the capital city of Marise, means “of the night.” The countries’ names also have meaning: Chiyo-“thousand years” or “eternal” and Marise-“infinite” or “endless.” The names tie back to the time when Renatus was divided into two equal countries and are intended to convey the idea of opposites that balance one another.

The name of Darnal, the Ohanzee’s hidden city, quite literally means “hiding place” or “hidden area.”

I’ll admit, I chose Nerissa’s name not because of it’s meaning, but because I’ve had an affection for it ever since I first read The Merchant of Venice. However, the meaning behind her alter-ego, Caeneus, is definitely significant. Caeneus was a hero in Greek mythology who was born a woman and became an invulnerable warrior after being turned by Poseidon into a man.

Those of you who have already read the series may have noticed I’ve omitted several (main) character’s names. It wasn’t an oversight. Some tidbits are too juicy to give away in a blog post, and I’m not about to give away any spoilers here. But if you’re curious enough, I’m sure a quick visit to Google will yield the answers you’re looking for😉

Happy Book Birthday, Harbinger!


It’s been one year since my second book, Reflection: Harbinger of the Phoenix, was published! It took me ten years to write The Stranger in the Mirror, and it took me 5 months to write Harbinger. *blows on knuckles* Not too shabby an improvement, eh? (Thorn took a bit longer at 7 months–but that’s because I cheated a bit on Harbinger by having already written parts of it ahead of time.😛 )

So thank you, Harbinger, for giving me an excuse to eat cake. To continue the celebration, I’ve put, book 1, Reflection: The Stranger in the Mirror, on sale all this week for $0.99 (until midnight EDT 9/23). It’s a great chance to curl up with a good book–or if you want to go all out, curl up with a good book AND cake!

In the beginning there was Charis…

Having now finished the revisions to Book 1 and handed them off to my editor, I’m back to working hard on Book 4. I actually finished the outline and planning stages back in August, so now it’s time to put pen to paper on Chapter 1. It’s a bittersweet feeling to start writing Book 4 since it’s the last one in the first story arc. But it’s also a very familiar feeling.


Because all four of the books start out with the same character–Charis. Since she’s not one of the three main characters, she’s often overlooked but she did get some love from Mei-Mei over at Jedi by Knight. (And Raysel did too–I love the comparison she made to Jeonghan of SEVENTEEN!❤ That made my day!)


In Book 1, Chapter 1–The Heiress of Chiyo, we meet Charis while she drops off her weekly delivery of (smuggled) books to Nerissa. She brought along an extra one to show Nerissa–a family heirloom she sneaked out without her father’s permission. It seems at first to be an average, everyday sort of exchange between friends but ends up providing Nerissa with a clue that is integral to her quest to take back the throne.


In Book 2, Chapter 1–Handkerchief, we catch up with Charis while she is curled up in her favorite reading spot: a cozy nook atop the shelves in the Special Collection Room of the University Library. She ends up being stranded in the nook after an argument with Amon, and is so flustered and angry when she leaves that she forgets to lock the gate behind her…leaving the room wide open for the would-be intruders who appear in Chapter 2.

through the books unsplash.jpg

And in Book 3, Chapter 1–Ink, Paper, and a Secret Meeting, Charis has volunteered for an extra shift at the library to fill in for an ill coworker. She ends up inadvertently stumbling upon an after-hours meeting between Amon and one of King Casimer’s men and spies on the pair via a gap in the bookshelves.


So what is Charis up to in Book 4, Chapter 1? She’s packing her bags for a trip! But where is she going, and why? You’ll just have to read and find out… ^_-


Goodreads Giveaway Trifecta Birthday Extravaganza!


It finally happened! The day has come that I actually remembered one of my character’s birthdays. And since today is the twins’ birthday, technically that counts as two, right?😄

To celebrate, I’m doing a Goodreads Giveaway. (After all, I can’t give presents to fictional people!)  The problem is…I can’t give away one book for two birthdays. And I can’t give away only two books when the series (currently) has three.

So today is the Goodreads Giveaway Trifecta Birthday Extravaganza! (Say that five times fast ^_-)

Login to your Goodreads account and click each of the links below to enter not one, not two, but THREE giveaways. There’s one for each book! All three will run from today through September 5. Good luck!

reflection low res


Click here to enter for a chance to win a paperback copy of Reflection: The Stranger in the Mirror (Records of the Ohanzee Book 1). One copy available, US only.




Featured Image -- 1497



Click here to enter for a chance to win a paperback copy of Reflection: Harbinger of the Phoenix (Records of the Ohanzee Book 2). One copy available, US only.




Reflection: Thorn of the White Rose



Click here to enter for a chance to win a paperback copy of Reflection: Thorn of the White Rose (Records of the Ohanzee Book 3). One copy available, US only.

Music and an Author’s Brain


I was so excited to discover today that one of my favorite artists, Lindsey Stirling (check her and her music out here if you haven’t heard of her), had released a new album. In the interest of full disclosure, I knew she had an album coming out this month–I had just forgotten exactly when this month. What kind of fan would I be if I weren’t keeping up with release dates, right?!

But I digress.

I’ve taken a bit of a break from working on writing Book 4 (don’t worry, it’s not for lack of inspiration) to work on some minor revisions I’ve been wanting to make to Book 1. I want to have the revised version ready before Book 4 releases, so I figured it doesn’t matter if I break now to revise or wait until Book 4 is done.

As I was working and listening to Brave Enough, it got me thinking about other music I listen to while writing. I’ve mentioned songs that inspire me in a previous post, but those are songs that remind me of specific characters. There are many others that inspire my writing in general–usually instrumental pieces without lyrics. Most of the albums are movie/video game soundtracks like Tengami OST (David Wise), Tron: Legacy (Daft Punk), The Last Samurai (Hans Zimmer). But a lot of the others are electronic/epic albums like Makara (E.S. Posthumus), A Hero Will Rise (Future World Music), or Trailerhead (Immediate).

Out of all the music I listen to, however, there is one album–one song, in particular–that stands out above them all. And since I’ve been working on revisions to Book 1, this one came immediately to mind. That song is Myotis from the Batman Begins soundtrack. Check the release date on that one, and you’ll see it came out back in 2005–very shortly after I started working on the series. It was actually that song which captured/inspired the mood and feeling behind Reflection: The Stranger in the Mirror chapters 6-8 (Masquerade, A Rose Among Roses, and The Phoenix Takes Flight).

Even though it’s part of a movie soundtrack, every time I hear it (including the very first time I heard it), the scenes that take place during the masquerade spring right to my mind. Listening to it is like being transported to that time and place in Renatus. If I ever start to feel “blocked,” this song is one of my go-tos to get back into the frame of mind.

I know I can’t be the only one who’s mind reacts to music this way. What are your favorite artists/albums that inspire your creativity? I’m always open to suggestions of new artists to check out!

The Cicadas are Driving me Crazy! (An Author’s Coping Mechanism)


Cicadas. Our periodic “friends” that provide the charming evening sounds characteristic of late summer.

Occasionally (every 17 years or so, depending on the brood), they emerge en masse, leaving semi-transparent husks clinging to trees like the ghosts of cicadas past, flying out of nowhere to tangle unexpectedly in your hair, and becoming embedded on the front ends of our cars while driving on the highway (cicada goop takes forever to get off paint…believe me, I know >_<).

And I can’t forget to mention this one because it’s the reason for this post: during the brood years they sing their no-longer-sweet siren song ALL DAY LONG.

2016 is one of the years for brood V to emerge. I thought that the brood wasn’t supposed to spread this far into Ohio, but apparently that is not the case. At first, I welcomed the sound–I even took a video to capture their chirring.

The cicadas are back! Now playing the official soundtrack of summer 😜 #cicada #summer #nature #naturegram

A video posted by Rachel R. Smith (@rachel_r._smith) on

I told myself to memorize the rise and fall of the sound, the heat and humidity of the air, the color of the sun in the evening sky so that I could use it to inspire settings in my writing.

As it turns out that was not necessary. Oh no. There’s no way I can forget those details. You see, I can now hear them chirping all day long. Every day. Inside the house or outside the house. The sound is so loud that Hubby actually went from room to room trying to figure out which window is open. o_O (Hint: none of them were open–it’s just that loud.)

It’s ok though. I’ve found one place of refuge to escape the sound: the basement. Sure it’s cold and dark, but it’s blissfully silent. If you need me in the next few weeks, you can find me down there. I’ll be swaddled in blankets like it’s December and telling myself to memorize this feeling so that I use it to inspire settings in my writing…and wondering if my dear characters will hate me forever for subjecting them to the incessant chirping as well. (I’m pretty sure Echidna would have me locked up and throw away the key. :P)

Science Fantasy–Not-so-magical crystals part 2

To continue with my series on “not-so-magical crystals,” today’s post is is about the real scientific concepts that inspired Renatus’ magic system. You can read the first post in this series, on the topic of crystal data storage, here.

For those of you who are reading this but haven’t read the series, I’ll start with some brief background information. In Renatus, the basic premise for the magic system is that crystals interact with energy around them–whether it be light energy, energy of movement, heat energy, or the energy of the human spirit–and then transforms that energy to produce create some new effect depending on the crystal’s type. A crystal’s type is categorized by two factors: shape and color.

Below is a guide to the crystal naming convention used :
(Note: crystals are named first by color, then by type.)

Color Shape
Fire: Red/Yellow/Orange Fire: Pointed/Jagged
Water: Blue/Purple Water: Smooth/rounded
Earth: Brown/Green/Black Earth: Smooth/flat
Metal: Metallic Metal: Geometric/90 deg angles
Air: White/Grey/Pastels Air: Fluffy/Cotton-like appearance
Spirit: Clear/Transparent Spirit: Spirit crystals are determined solely by color

So a crystal that looks like this:

Celestite, close-up
Celestite (SrSO4), close-up

would be considered a water-fire crystal because of its blueish color and pointed/jagged shape.

I won’t go into too much more detail here because it starts treading into spoiler-y territory, but the powers of a crystal are both determined by and limited by its specific type. A simplistic example would be that a fire-fire crystal would be useful for (you guessed it) starting a fire, but a water-water crystal wouldn’t.

The above concepts are entirely figments of my imagination, but the basic idea for the system sprang from a real scientific field: spectroscopy. Spectroscopy is the study of how materials interact with various forms of electromagnetic radiation. Electromagnetic radiation (EMR) is a form of energy that is emitted as a result of various electromagnetic processes. That definition makes EMR sound more complicated than it really is: common types of EMR that everyone is familiar with are lasers, sunlight, and even light emitted from light bulbs.

When EMR passes through a material, the atoms, chemical bonds, and/or interfaces that compose the material interact with it and change it in various ways. A classic example you can see with your own eyes is white light being separated into individual wavelengths as it passes through a prism.


Exactly how the energy is changed depends on the specific chemical composition of the material and the type of EMR source being used. Since every material is unique, this phenomenon can be used to characterize materials based on how a known EMR source is altered as it interacts with the material being tested.

There are too many spectroscopy techniques to list here, however if you’d like to learn more about the subject, this list on Wikipedia isn’t a bad place to start.

In the end, it really is true that crystals can interact with energy around them, but the only way you’re going to be able to use that phenomenon to save the world is if you’re a researcher using spectroscopy techniques to characterize new molecules for medicines, discover new materials, etc. But you can always read about Nerissa using them to save the world whenever you want! ^_-





Liebster Award

Thank you to Sarah at The Critiquing Chemist for nominating me for the Liebster Award! Sarah is a fellow book-loving chemist whose blog is filled with fantastically detailed reviews about books ranging from YA fantasy to non-fiction works about Area 51. Make sure you click through to visit her blog as well!

So, on to the award:

Liebster Award Guidelines:

  • Display an image of the award and write about your nomination.
  • Thank and link the person who nominated you for this award.
  • Answer the 11 questions prepared for you by the blogger who nominated you.
  • Nominate 5-11 awesome bloggers who you think deserve this award, and create 11 questions of your own for your nominees to answer.
  • List these guidelines in your blog post.


1. What book(s) are you reading now?

I’m reading Masque by W.R. Gingell.

2.Who else do you think would enjoy reading it? Why?

Since I’m only about 10% in now, it’s too early to make comparisons (but I’m already hooked!). It is a Beauty and the Beast retelling, so I’d recommend it for those who enjoy retellings with a nice mystery twist.

3.Which author would you like to write your life story? Why?

I think my life story would be most accurately portrayed as a mix of science (fiction) and comedy, so although he passed away years ago, Douglas Adams (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) would probably have been just the right choice.

4. Name three authors you would like to invite to dinner. Why?

This is a tough call because there are far too many options. So I’m going to cheat and choose Julia Child, Gordon Ramsay, and Bobby Flay. After all, they are authors in addition to being chefs, which would make for one heck of a meal. ^_-

5. What was the last book you read that kept you up late into the night to finish?

Technically, the last book that kept me up late was Reflection: Thorn of the White Rose, the third book in my series…but I was writing it not reading it. SO many late nights! But there is one particular incident that stands out most to me, however, even though it was many years ago. The day that Stephen King’s Wizard and Glass came out, I rushed to the book store as soon as classes finished. I got home around 9pm and proceeded to read non-stop until I reached the end…which ended up being well past 6am. My eyes were so red and irritated the next day, but it was totally worth it!

6. Have you read a book recently you decided was a waste of time? If so, what is it? Who might like it?

I can’t think of a book that I’ve felt this way about. I don’t absolutely love every book I read, but I can almost always find something I enjoy about it.

7. What’s your favorite genre? Why?

My favorite has always been fantasy, and it becomes more so as I get older. When I read, I want to relax and escape from the real world for awhile, and nothing does that better than fantasy!

8. What genre haven’t you read much of yet?

I tend to stay away from non-fiction works. When I worked in materials science, I used to read texts and journal articles frequently for my research, so I don’t associate non-fiction books with fun reading. (It’s not you non-fiction, it’s me.)

9. What would be a good title for your autobiography?

We’ve already established that my biography would be a mix of science and comedy, so perhaps a title like The Strange, but True, Adventures of a Sparkly Scientist would be fitting?

10. What’s the title of the next book you plan to begin reading?

I think my next read will be The Fold by Peter Clines. Hubby is listening to the audiobook version right now and recommended it. I read one of his other books, 14, last year and loved it.


Thanks again to Sarah for nominating me! Since I’m not sure who likes to participate in blog awards, I’m going to skip nominating anyone this time.