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Elizabeth Kerner Author of the Kolmar series featuring Lanen Kaelar. Currently Kerner is working on the next of three more Kolmar novels.

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Old Oct 15 2009, 05:01 PM   #1
Litwolf
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Default About names of persons and places in the Kolmar Chronicles

Lanen, I have a question to ask you that I hope you could help me with.

I am rereading your trilogy for a third time and I can't help but think about the names for characters and locations you have come up with. They are so unique, beautiful, and always seem to fit the character or location they are given to. Naming characters and locations has always been a difficulty for me, especially unique and interesting names that would suit a fantasy story. How did you come up with the names in your story? Do you have any tips to share?

Thanks for any advice you can give!
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Old Oct 17 2009, 07:50 AM   #2
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Hiya Litwolf - thank you for the kind comments! I tend to agonize over names - I guess every writer does to some extent - and it really cheers me to hear that I get it right now and then.

As for where they come from - hmm, that's a tricky one. Maran Vena came to me in that form when I was 14 and thinking about my own mythology, only just being created and very Tolkien-derived at that time. (25 years later I met a German gal called Maren, and was disappointed to realise that it's fairly common in Germany!) The name of her daughter Lanen Kaelar came to me later, but again, in its entirety.

Many of the other names are just slightly unusual variants of standard names - Willem, Walther, Marik and Jamie are Will, Walter, Mark and James, just from different countries.

Vilkas, as a name and a character, has existed from a very early stage of my development of Kolmar (I even drew a portrait of him way back then, and I can't draw!). He hasn't changed one iota since that time, except that he acquired his patronymic ta-Geryn when Aral got ticked off at him. I first "met" him when he was a lot older and less angst-ridden. Varien - and yes, I was worried about having two "V" names for major characters! - just appeared as a use-name for the changed Akhor when I wrote the end of Song in the Silence.

As for the Kantri names - they are from deep inside my poor mad mind. Akhor's true name showed up in its entirety, believe it or not! For many of the others, I would get the use-name first, and then had to play around with various syllables (out loud) until the true name sounded right. Also, Kantri names tend to grow with time. Shikrar's full true name used to be rather different, but after so many centuries of teaching, the "Hadre-" (teacher) particle became attached to him for good. And I don't mean this literally (honestly, I'm not crazy), but I find that if I listen to what my characters are telling me about their names and their personalities, I am likely to come up with something that has more depth than my conscious mind would have hit upon.

As for other minor characters, I sometimes dive into my Anglo-Saxon and Middle English sources - dictionary, glossary to Sweet's Anglo Saxon Reader, glossary to Early Middle English Verse and Prose, that kind of thing. I tend towards northern names in any case - Anglo-Saxon, Middle English, Old Norse, Finnish - but I tend not to use them unchanged. I'll alter an ending, or shorten them, or just use a generic name and give it a twist.

Heh - one character from Redeeming the Lost, Chalmik, was in fact based on a person I met online. I used to frequent a board called Imladris, now the Council of Elrond. We had chatted a lot over the years, and he challenged me to put him in my next book. On a whim, I did. His username on the boards was Mik, so I just found a particle that went with it and Chalmik was born.

Placenames are a bit different - Elimar has, I suspect, elements of Elsinor (where Hamlet hung out!) and Shalimar and goodness knows what else from my subconscious. Rowanbeck, where my dear Will is from, is just a slightly older way of saying "stream with rowan trees on the banks" - lots of old British placenames are descriptive in nature, and I find this works if you can, as it were, disguise it a bit. Use an older form or an obsolete/archaic form (e.g., using "beck" instead of "stream" or "river" - yes, I know they mean different things, but hey, a little poetic licence here!) to get across a feeling of antiquity. Eynhallow, on the other hand, is a straight lift from a map, there's a tiny island in the Orkneys called Eynhallow, and the moment I saw it I knew I just had to use it. Steven and I stayed in a B&B just across the water from it this summer (I'd never seen it before). The name of the Trollingwood came, again, from a real place - somewhere in North Carolina, I think - though its origins in Kolmar are entirely different!

I have no idea if any of this will be of any use to you or not. The only thing I do that you might not is to say the names aloud when I think I have them right. That keeps me from making too many mistakes. Usually.

Heh - thanks for asking, and I hope I haven't bored you to bits with the answer.
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Old Oct 17 2009, 10:26 AM   #3
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Bore us? Bore us? What a silly notion! This is a treat! How very special to have the actual author's views and anecdotes about some of the names appearing in the Kolmar books. You'll never bore me with this kind of stuff. Honestly.

Being a genealogist I admit to having a fascination with names of all things and how they came to be, be it in real life or in the literatre I love.

Sigh. I wish Anne could remember more and had copious notes on this I could borough! One of her best anecdotes is that of the fan writen computer program that generated dragon names
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Old Oct 17 2009, 10:26 PM   #4
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Default Re: About names of persons and places in the Kolmar Chronicles

That is helpful when trying to come up with names for a book I am working on. Thanks.
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Old Oct 18 2009, 11:56 PM   #5
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Default Re: About names of persons and places in the Kolmar Chronicles

( Thanks for who ever made this a new thread )

Lanen, thanks so much for answering my question. You did not bore me at all, I was really interested to see how you name things.

I'm glad to see that there are other writers who dig up dictionaries of old languages for names. I have used a few choice Latin words for names but I love your combination of words. That's a great tip, thanks.

Also, saying names out loud. I rarely read books out loud so I always just say the names in my head. But it would be good to have pronouncable names if you want people to talk about your stories Do you have your own idea of how each name is pronounced and go crazy when someone says it wrong?

I seem to get in disagreements with the pronunciation of names all the time. Like in Shakespeare class a few weeks ago, we read 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'. All my friends pronounced the Fairy Queen's name (Titania) like they were saying 'titanium' and I said it the totally different way I had heard it when I helped with a performance of the play as well as a television show that had her as a character. I kept trying to correct them but they stuck to their own way. Do you ever correct people's pronunciation of names in your books?

PS - I must say that I got a personal kick out of one name: the village of Beskin. This was the first time I had reread the series since I entered college. And, one of the new students last year who has become a good friend of mine, has the last name of Beskin! In fact, her first name is so common on our campus, we usually just call her 'Beskin'. When I read it a few weeks ago, I beat the dinner rush to the dinning hall to find my friend and show her her name in the book. Beskin laughed and thought that was the coolest thing.

PSS - I think it is the best thing in the world to be able to pick the brains of my favorite authors. Thanks for letting me pick at yours! Wait... ew, I think it's too close to Halloween for me to make that comment without picturing zombies

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Old Oct 20 2009, 07:21 PM   #6
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Hiya Litwolf - as Douglas Adams' doors say, glad to be of service!

I love that you have a pal called Beskin! Hope she reads the book and likes it...

I so seldom get to meet real human fans in person, I've only had one or two chances to hear people pronounce my characters' names. And yes, I do correct them! I know exactly how they sound - even the dragon names, because I can "hear" them pronounced by those vast jaws, resonating in the faceplates... That said, I don't think anybody has yet had the courage to try to pronounce the dragon names in my hearing. Heh heh heh. (I'd like to hear 'em try, she sniggered, rubbing her hands in glee. )

And I agree - too close to Halloween to be talkin' about picking people's brains.
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Old Oct 21 2009, 03:57 AM   #7
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I well remember that marvelous reading you gave us i that hotel lobby in Denmark in September 2007. I'll never forget that special moment. I've said it befre and will say it again: you could hear a pin drop and even arriving guests tiptoed to the desk and spoke in a low voice

Anyway, when I heard you pronounce the full names of Akhor and Shikrar I remember thinking: ah, so that's how they are pronounced
I know everybody was in awe of your pronounciation and the rolling r's They must have been thinking the same!
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Old Oct 21 2009, 01:35 PM   #8
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Dear Hans -

You are so kind! And what a grand memory for me too - it was such a privilege to read my work aloud. That is my final check, when I'm about to submit a manuscript - I read it aloud, usually onto tapes for a blind pal of mine. Though when this next book is ready, I think I'll try a WAV file! In any case, that helps me to find the awkwardnesses in the language and smoothe them out. Theoretically!

Actually, I can't tell you how honoured I am to be complimented on rolling my r's by a Nederlands speaker! wow! My pal/teacher used to laugh at me when I tried to pronounce Dutch words properly, I almost never got those lovely liquid r's right no matter how hard she tried to get me to practice. She always said I sounded like I was from Belgium. That said, when I sing along with Herman van Veen, it's a lot easier to try to match his gorgeous pronunciation. Er - at least, I've been led to believe it's gorgeous pronunciation...?
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Old Oct 21 2009, 03:44 PM   #9
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The compliment is well deserved, and I mean it.

And don't take Herman as an example of Dutch pronunciation. You must know we don't usually speak like he does

Sounding Belgium? That's usually said when people make their G's too soft and less guttural than the Dutch do. I'll pay attentio to Belgian R's next time I watch the Belgian TV
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Old Oct 23 2009, 03:10 PM   #10
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Maybe I'll take my courage in both - er, lips! - and try to say something in Nederlands to you and Marjon next time we meet. You just have to promise not to laugh too hard. Or reply at high speed. Or with words that a 3-year-old wouldn't understand...
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Old Oct 23 2009, 06:54 PM   #11
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So then; words like 'nappy', 'bottle', and 'NO!!' ?

I guess 'coochie-coo' sounds much the same in any tongue.
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Old Oct 24 2009, 09:38 AM   #12
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Gosh, P'ter, I must hang out with brighter 3-year-olds than you do!
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Old Oct 24 2009, 11:58 AM   #13
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Plus I heard once that using baby language (well, substitute words if you know what I mean) is very bad for your baby. Marjon and I never used it and I dare say the difference was soon noticeable between Niels and others in his peer group.

That wasn't the only thing we did but still, I feel it contributed to his early used of language and his large vocabulary.
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Old Oct 24 2009, 12:02 PM   #14
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Right, back on topic!

Lanen, a WAV file! Now wouldn't it be terrific if we could use that as a teaser? You reading a few pages of the new book. But only when we are much nearer to publication of course. After all, publishers often publish a certain amount of text when publication of a new book is imminent. So why not a wav or other audio file? We must remember to ask the nice (relevant) people at Tor if we can do that...
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Old Oct 24 2009, 03:24 PM   #15
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Unless you want informed crit from us in which case do it early.
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Old Oct 24 2009, 05:50 PM   #16
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P'ter, I'm sure nothing is definite yet (despite being written) and you don't honestly think she'd "throw" a file on the internet this early, do you?
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Old Oct 25 2009, 05:48 AM   #17
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No. She would have to e-mail or snail mail it to carefully selected bods.
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Old Oct 25 2009, 06:03 AM   #18
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That wasn't anywhere near the subject, P'ter. We were talking of audio files and pronounciation.
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Old Oct 25 2009, 10:53 AM   #19
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P'ter, thanks so much for your kind interest, but my contract is actually really strict about what I can and cannot do in terms of letting the publishable material out of my hot little hands. Ditto having a .wav file on the website in advance of publication, Hans, though I am quite happy to approach The Suits (TM) at Tor about this. After all, I quite enjoy reading my own work out loud, and I'm the only person in the world I can trust to pronounce those pesky Kantri true names correctly. Certainly I should think that after publication it would be a fine hook, er, I mean, idea! Maybe I can eventually coerce Tor into letting me make audio books of my own work, if that isn't too self-aggrandizing. Now, I do not put myself in the same league by any means, but imagine if we had some way of hearing Tolkien read his work, even parts of it...

The problem, P'ter, is that I cannot put any work online until long after it has been published - it's actually pretty iffy even then - and in any case these chapters are all under construction up to the time that I am forced to abandon the galley proofs.

As for the offer of a crit, I appreciate the kind gesture, but after all this time I already have my readers. They tend to be trusted friends of around 30 years' standing, some of whom are published writers themselves, who have provided critiques that appear to work for me. Those particular bonds of trust have been established over many years and 3 and a half books. Letting anyone apart from my editor and these trusted readers see this stuff makes me feel extremely vulnerable , so no, I will not be mailing material to anyone! Sorry.
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Old Oct 25 2009, 12:27 PM   #20
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Lanen, I was thinking along the lines of something done as a publicity stunt, which would mean only a few weeks before actual publication. Or maybe after, like Amazon when they offer a few pages of a book as a teaser, get my drift?

Ok, back to pronunciation of names!

We actually were planning to make an audio pronunciation guide for Pern on Anne's site once when her son Alec was still managing her site and bulletin board and Bobbsy, a professional sound technician and member at the Old Kitchen Table site, was already asked and invited to Dragonhold. Unfortunately it never came to be, which was a real pity. Anne was to read names of persons and places and I would have made a clickable list for a special page on the website.

Hmm, that makes me think... whoever decides if a book is ready/popular enough to be made into an eBook?
Now isn't that a grand idea? You yourself reading Song in the Silence to be an eBook?
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Old Oct 25 2009, 01:15 PM   #21
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I know the sort of thing you mean, Hans. I just don't honestly know if Tor would allow a sneak preview a little while before publication. I will ask if you like - the worst they can say is no, right? And publicity is GOOD! Though would it be more fun if I got permission for a wee bit of reading rather than written pages? Might have the appeal of being something different.

What a darn shame that great scheme with Anne fell through, what a great idea! It was such a privilege to hear Anne reading The Ship Who Sang - my favorite of her works, always - at Eurocon. What a gift...

And I LOVE the idea of doing an audio book! In fact you can - or could - download Song in the Silence as an e-book, just not an audio book. I would love to read SitS, or indeed any or all of my books, as audio books. I have no idea how the decision is made as to what is worthy to be made into an audio book, still less notion as to whether I would be allowed to do it myself. I don't have an Equity card, after all! It might be that only professional actors are considered good enough to do audio books - though surely having to fight with the dragon names would keep even the pros away and improve my chances!
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Old Oct 25 2009, 01:29 PM   #22
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Lanen: I didn't hear Tolkein but one of my mother's cousins did. He was her tutor at Oxford. She used to read him her latest essay: he used to read her the latest chapter(s)
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Old Oct 25 2009, 01:36 PM   #23
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Please read audio book where I said eBook... Silly me!

I only can find Song in the Silence as a Palm eBook. I sthat correct, Lanen? Have you any knowledge of the formats your book is published in?
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Old Oct 25 2009, 02:30 PM   #24
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Hans - I knew about the Palm e-book, but haven't heard if it has been issued in any other e-formats. Heck, they only occasionally let me know if it's being reprinted!

P'ter, you can officially colour me incredibly jealous. Wow! Now *there's* a philology tutorial you wouldn't want to miss!
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Old Oct 25 2009, 02:52 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hans View Post
We actually were planning to make an audio pronunciation guide for Pern on Anne's site once when her son Alec was still managing her site and bulletin board and Bobbsy, a professional sound technician and member at the Old Kitchen Table site, was already asked and invited to Dragonhold. Unfortunately it never came to be, which was a real pity. Anne was to read names of persons and places and I would have made a clickable list for a special page on the website.
Mike Freeman is also a very good sound engineer, and he visits Anne regularly. I wonder if Mike has ever recorded Anne?
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Old Oct 25 2009, 02:55 PM   #26
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Drat! I haven't been able to find a copy and I haven't a Palm Reader.
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Old Oct 25 2009, 04:30 PM   #27
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Default Re: About names of persons and places in the Kolmar Chronicles

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Mike Freeman is also a very good sound engineer, and he visits Anne regularly. I wonder if Mike has ever recorded Anne?
I don't know, Steven, but I don't think so.

It's all water under the bridge now becaise Todd stopped all ongoing project when he took over from Alec and discontinued Anne's website, bulletin board and chat.

I did start extracting bits Anne read on the two tapes she recorded herself (All the Weyrs of Pern and Nerilka's Story). But the fragments always come out wrong because they are part of a sentence and the intonation is always wrong.
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Old Nov 7 2009, 01:49 AM   #28
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Default Re: About names of persons and places in the Kolmar Chronicles

Oh Lord Elizabeth...what a fantastic idea...any one or all of your books being read by you would be incredible for your fans.
After hearing you read one of them in Copenhagen, and being totaly spellbound by it...I can say that you reading your own books would be the best idea for selling them...you have a lovely reading voice.

Oh I loved reading the above post about how you picked your character names...I have to agree with Hans...Boring, you must be kidding. Getting to hear or read those special tid bits of your personal how to's or how you did's...is incredibly interesting. I would think that all your fans would enjoy reading about those behind the covers bits.

I would dearly love to have all your books on CD's...I love to listen to my audio books when I'm working at my easel...and listening to the going on's in Kolmar would be lovely.
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Old Nov 8 2009, 09:04 AM   #29
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Thanks for your kind words, Lady Maelin!

There again, there may be something in this whole 'reading one's own work' idea. I read one of the early chapters of the current book to Steven last night, and he confessed at the end that he'd barely heard what I was saying because the *character* was so upset that I was crying as I read it and he was worried about me! (I am a bit of an actress, after all) I am considering reading that chapter into a .wav or MP3 file and sending it to my editor, in the vain hope that she will consider enquiring into my being able to read my own work for an audio book. Fingers crossed! Though I need to FINISH the book before this becomes an option.

Thanks for the votes of confidence, folks. I really appreciate them.

Back to it...
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Old Nov 8 2009, 03:37 PM   #30
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Can't decide whether to laugh or be serious about your first bit of news, Lanen! Poor Steven But all of us who heard you in Copenhagen will understand!

And when you do send in that sound file I really hope your editor will see, uhm... hear?, the beauty of your reading voice and also the advantage of having an author with such a voice reading her own work. It will become a collectors item just like the tapes of All the Weyrs f Pern, Nerilka's Story and the LP with part of the White Dragon have become!
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Old Nov 8 2009, 05:44 PM   #31
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Default Re: About names of persons and places in the Kolmar Chronicles

If it'll help, tell your editor that you have a group of fans that has heard you read and would love to buy an audio version read by you. I think all of us that heard you in Copenhagen would be happy to write a letter to whomever to say your reading is fabulous.
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Old Nov 9 2009, 06:08 AM   #32
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Hear hear!!

Didn't some of us contact somebody's publisher saying we wanted more books?
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Old Nov 9 2009, 06:59 AM   #33
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Youse guys is da best...
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Old Nov 9 2009, 03:49 PM   #34
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Uhm, I might have started one or two messages on the TOR message board, just to get peeps wondering who that Elizabeth Kerner is

And I'd also love the second and thrid books of the first trilogy (hmm, sounds nice all those numbers ) as ebooks as well!
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Old Nov 10 2009, 12:39 AM   #35
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Cheryl...what a fantastic idea...I would certainly be more than happy to write a few choosen words to help get such a lovely book tape onto the market....and into my collection.

This has me all excited again about the new book...and the wonderful adventure we are going to find in it.
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Old Nov 10 2009, 05:48 AM   #36
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Cheryl...what a fantastic idea...I would certainly be more than happy to write a few choosen words to help get such a lovely book tape onto the market....and into my collection.
Bless you Cheryl, Hans, Maelin! I am so blessed in my friends.


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This has me all excited again about the new book...and the wonderful adventure we are going to find in it.
I surely hope so! I'm a bit stymied at the moment - my monitor has died! So I'm relegated to the laptop, which is uncomfortable to use and has too small a keyboard (I touch type and it's making me crazy!) so I can't write. ARGGGH! And I was just getting into the baddies' bit, darn it. Never mind, will have new monitor by the weekend at the latest. arggh arggh arggh ...
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Old Sep 4 2010, 10:10 AM   #37
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Default Re: About names of persons and places in the Kolmar Chronicles

It would be absolutely wonderful if clickable list of names and Kolmar terms on your site were at all possible, Lanen... I think I have a reasonable approximation in my head since the vowel values look pretty close to those of Finnish (with the notable exception of Kaelar, where Kae in Finnish wouldn't rhyme with sky - a as in father, e as in ethics, pronounced separately rather than as a dipthong).

I find Lanen's matronymic Maransdatter fascinating, mainly because matronymics are rare in literature and I suspect even rarer in real life. I hope she isn't the only woman in Kolmar who uses (or used) it. In my country, family names only became commonplace in the entire country as late as the late 19th century, until then, patronymics were commonly used, particularly among the peasantry. Never matronymics, though, children born to unwed daughters would automatically receive her father's name as a patronymic, and in fact would sometimes be entered in the books as the child of the grandparents (which is why you find women supposedly mothering children past 50 on the books) and in any case would usually be raised by them, perhaps never learning that a woman they thought of as a sister was in fact their mother.
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Old Sep 4 2010, 11:13 AM   #38
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Don't they still use patronymics and matronymics in Iceland? True, if they have inheriticance through patrilienear lines they will have patronymics ending in -dottir but it would make the use of matronymica easier in case of partner not being married or a mother without a husband.

In my country (no, no patro- or matronymics in use anymore) the children have the right (after the same right initially goes for the parents) at age 12 and finally 18 to chose the family name of either the father or mother. There's equal rights for ya!

Granath is correct in my opinion that it's nice to see matronymics used in literature
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Old Sep 5 2010, 07:11 PM   #39
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Don't Russian names have matronymics too--the ovna vs. vitch ending of what is usually called a patronymic?
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Old Sep 6 2010, 03:55 AM   #40
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That's not really patronymic v matronymic: it's denoting the relationship (son v daughter) of a person to their father. Like Paksanarrion being Dorthansdatter.
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