Wednesday, July 16, 2014

What's In A Name? More Than You Might Think

In Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare wrote, “What’s in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” As we soon learned, Juliet's name was extremely important. She was just any Juliet; she was a Capulet, mortal enemies of Romeo's Montagu family.
copyright 2004 Art Explosion
As any writer knows, finding the right name for your character is important, esp. the first name. Personal names come with expectations, even the historically improbable ones. Can you imagine Amber St. Claire of Forever Amber as Mary or Nancy? I didn't think so.  I read that Poppy was one of the names Margaret Mitchell considered for her southern belle before she came up with Katie Scarlett O'Hara. Somehow Poppy O'Hara just doesn't have the same ring to it! Poppy sounds more like a servant girl.

Names have ethnic, class and sometimes religious connotations. Algernon and Reginald, for instance. Not exactly common working men’s names.

What do Sean, Ian and Ivan all have in common? They’re all variants of John, but you wouldn’t name a character Ivan unless he’s from a Slavic country or background. In historical times, the same was true for Sean and Ian. Sean was Irish; Ian Scottish, and historical romances notwithstanding, no upstanding English aristocrat of the past would have allowed his son to be christened Sean or Ian. The priest wouldn't have allowed it. The parish register would have shown the name as John.

In past centuries, the personal name stock was much smaller than it is now, though not necessarily the same. Prior to the Protestant Reformation, saint names were common. The stricter Protestants rejected many saint names in favor of Biblical names, like Hester and Ezekiel, and even more obscure names. They also invented the so-called virtue names: Faith, Hope, Charity, Prudence, etc.

When choosing names for a historical novel, I look in a book like The New American Dictionary of Baby Names by Leslie Dunkling and William Gosling that gives some historical context for the names. Plus I love the authors' surnames. I keep thinking it should be Duckling and Gosling, though.

Surnames came into general use in the Middle Ages, and usually come from one of four sources: place of residence, occupation, nickname or patronymics, such as Johnson, Anderson, Davison. In Scotland, Mac at the beginning of a name means son of. In Ireland it’s Mc or O. Patronymics are common to many European countries. The Scandinavian countries also used matronymics, ending in dottir.

When writing an aristocratic character, I look for a less common place name, as the nobility and gentry were usually landed and were likely to take their surname from (or have given it to) the name of their estate. However, the older aristocratic were most likely descended from the Norman invaders and you can find a list of Anglo-Norman names at Wikipedia. Interestingly, Montaigu is one of the names listed.  You can also find lists of British titles at Wikipedia, among other online sources. Burke's Peerage is one of two definitive guides to the aristocracy, but it's extremely expensive (over $800). You might be able to find an older copy at a local library. The other definitive source on the nobility is DeBrett's Peerage.

Occupational surnames usually indicate humbler origins. Nearly every village had its baker, blacksmith, cooper, carter,  miller and tailer. A few noted exceptions are Stewart, Spencer and Chamberlain, occupational titles of highly placed employees in the royal courts. The royal Stewart ancestors held the title High Steward of Scotland from the 12th century until Robert II became king in the 14th century.

Names based on nicknames, originally called bynames, were used to distinguish two people in a village with the same first name. Bynames include handles like Short and Littlejohn. These were not originally intended as long-term family names but evolved into that.

In the late nineteenth century, Henry Brougham Guppy made a study of farmers’ surnames as he considered them the most “stay-at-home” group in the county. In 1890 he published Homes of Family Names in Great Britain in which he categorized names by how common or unusual they were. He found that certain names were “peculiar” to primarily one county. Those are referred to as Guppy’s “peculiar” names. His book is now available from Project Gutenburg and Google Books.   

American surnames come from all around the world and provide a great deal more variety for the novelist than other countries.  I became fascinated with names when I was researching my family history. Hunting down my German ancestors was a challenge because the surnames were rarely spelled the same way twice. One of my ancestors started life as Conrad Buchle in Wurttemberg, Germany. A few generations later, his descendents last name was Beighley. 

When I started writing around 1988, I collected every name book I could find that had any value for writing historical romance, and boy am I glad I did. Most of them are now out of print, but may be available as used books or in your local public or university library. You'll find a brief list. I'll hunt for more. I'm going to be speaking at OCCRWA on writing historical romance in August.

Name Sourcebooks:

American Surnames by Elsdon C. Smith, Genealogical Publishing Company, 2009.

Burke's Peerage, Baronetage and Knightage, Burke's Peerage, 107th Edition 2003

A Dictionary of First Names, Patrick Hanks and Flavia Hodges, 2nd ed., Oxford Paperback Reference, Oxford University Press, 2006. Out of print.

The New American Dictionary of Baby Names, Leslie Dunkling and William Gosling, Signet, 1985, 1991. Better than the average baby name book because it gives some historical context for names. Out of print now.

New Dictionary Of American Family Names by Elsdon C. Smith, Gramercy Publishing, 1988, out of print.

The Oxford Dictionary of English Christian Names by E. G. Withycombe, Oxford University Press; First American edition edition 1947, paperback 1986. Out of print.

The Writer’s Digest Character Naming Source Book, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Writer’s Digest Books, 1994.  Available at

Linda McLaughlin

Sunday, July 13, 2014


I spend more time editing a novel than writing it. Writing is done in a fit of passion, fingers flying furiously over the keyboard as I create heart-palpitating dialogue and brilliant flash-bang action that is never as good as I think it is. It’s sort of like a first date with an absolutely gorgeous human being who is funny and wise and wonderful – only not. What I might have seen in a sultry, shadowy bar after two glasses of wine is not what I face in the light of day. The sooner I acknowledge that, the better.

Editing is the day after the first date. It is addressed with objectivity, reserve, and grave consideration of the future of my novel. Okay, maybe it's not as grave as assessing a man the morning after a first date but I’m darn serious about it.  It’s taken me years to discipline myself and admit that my writing is never publishable after the first - or even third - go-round.  In fact, it’s so hard to be objective that I made a list of bottom-line, life-and-death edits, so that I wouldn’t be seduced by my own pretty phrase, an arrogant word, or ridiculous scenario.

Here are the 6 edits I can’t live without (and neither should you).

      1)   Same Word Edit: If you use the same word over and over, learn a new one. Words lose their potency just like spices. It is sort of like whining, after a while it’s just another high-pitched sound.

       2)   The Thesaurus Edit: Don’t use big words, vague words, or unusual names. Readers will trip over them, be upset that you are taking them out of the story, and, worse, that you made them feel stupid.  A book is like a float down a river, you never want a reader to run aground.

        3)   The Logical Movement Edit: Move characters from point A to point B with sensible purpose and the story the same way. If you don’t, the reader will be puzzled and spend more time wondering how things happened rather than accepting that they happened.

       4)   Love or Lust Edit: Characters make love if there’s reason to be in love. Be clear about why your characters deserve to be cherished and admired. If they are just in lust, be clear about that too. The two ‘L’ words should never be confused.

        5)   I’m Tired Edit: Readers can tell when an author gets tired. Step away and recharge. Come back at it in full form. 

        6)   The Consistency Edit: A character must stay in character, details build a scene, red herrings need to be revisited and wrapped up. Life in a novel should be tidy at the end even if it’s a marvelous mess of storytelling.

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Red Bra by Jina Bacarr

We writers are notorious for writing in our pajamas and bathtubs au naturel...

And we love to give our heroines a killer wardrobe...and those stilettos, wow!

But what about her underwear?

You've heard of the red shoes...why not the red bra?

When I found this ultra sexy photo on, I knew I had to write a poem about a lady's obsession with her underwear...

The Red Bra

Intrigued am I by underwear
A subject we don’t often dare
To discuss
But we make such a fuss
About what goes under our baby tees
It’s a form of modern striptease

We wiggle and shake, squeeze and tug
Hoping our lover will not shrug

But search for his prize
Under our T-shirt disguise
What will he find to please his eye? 
And makes us giggle, laugh, and sigh?

A lacy bra so pretty and red 
And then it’s off we go eagerly to bed

No losers here when all is said and done 
It’s a game we play and so much fun!


Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Accidents Happen by Kitty Bucholtz

John buying his new motorcycle
You may know that my husband John was in a motorcycle accident four months ago. He broke his leg badly but, as I'm fond of saying, his brain and internal organs are all in their original packaging. He's alive, and that's all that really matters to me.

That being said, I was on a major writing roll when the accident happened, and I've written very little since. I had my year planned out with my production schedule, speaking schedule, etc. all posted on my calendar in color-coded sticky notes. Those of you who have taken my goal setting and time management class know what I'm talking about. And you also know what I have to do now - hit the restart button and move all the stickies to new dates.

The thing is, that's not the only hard thing that has happened this year. John's current project ended (he works in the entertainment industry); we're packing up our apartment in preparation to move to the next job even though we don't know when or where that will be; our car decided it can't go on any longer; and we had another death in the family so we had to put plane tickets on a credit card. There are days when, as blessed as you know you are, life just sucks.

But then one morning as you're lying in bed trying to figure out how to juggle the day's tasks, you remember that despite not having been on some of these roads before, you do know what to do. You accept that accidents happen in life - life happens - and you hit the restart button.

You remind yourself that you only have to move through the now. You don't even have to be sure how you're going to handle the afternoon. You only have to decide the first thing to do today. Maybe even the first three things. You tell yourself that you choose to be positive in spite of life's difficulties - because we all know that going through difficult times with a bad attitude only makes it worse.

You keep doing the next thing that needs to be done. On a To Do list that feels a mile long, when you don't know which is the most important thing to do next, you just choose one. You keep moving. You remember to be grateful for the things that go well, no matter how small. And before you know it, you've made it through another day. Not just survived, you had a few moments of thriving - you smiled at a stranger, had a short but nice conversation with a friend or neighbor or family member, you got a few things done that needed to be done.

And soon, you realize that a week has gone by, a month, four months, and you're still standing. The things that haven't gotten done, including the book that was to be published months ago that still isn't finished, they will be done eventually. Life has ebbs and flows, sunny days and storms, accidents and accomplishments, and you have what it takes to get through them all.

You do.

Kitty Bucholtz decided to combine her undergraduate degree in business, her years of experience in accounting and finance, and her graduate degree in creative writing to become a writer-turned-independent-publisher. Her novels, Little Miss Lovesick and Unexpected Superhero, and the free short story, "Superhero in Disguise," are now available at most online retail sites. Superhero in the Making will be released this summer.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Time Passes

Hi.  This is Linda O. Johnston.

It's July already, and I'm a bit obsessed about how quickly time has been passing this year.  Not that it hasn't in other years.  But I also blogged this week on the same topic at one of my other blogs, Killer Hobbies. 

I didn't blog here at a Slice of Orange last month, unfortunately.  I'd mentioned in my May post that I had family coming to visit, and their delightful presence not only prevented me from doing much writing for a couple of weeks, but it erased some of my concentration.  I didn't get to the OCC meeting at all, and I neglected to even write my blog. 

And now it's July 6.  The year is a little more than half over.   

I still have a lot to accomplish in 2014.  I have several important writing deadlines to meet, as well as editing stuff I've written, some before I turn it in and some after getting feedback from editors.   

Then there's promotion.  I'm delighted to say that I have a new Harlequin Nocturne being published next month, LOYAL WOLF, my second this year.  And October 2014 is the publication date of my first Superstition Mystery for Midnight Ink, LOST UNDER A LADDER.  I want to make sure the world knows about both of them!  Plus, I recently self-published my first story, a novella in my Pet Rescue Mysteries, CHIHUAHUA CHAOS. 

One thing that I hope will help is that I now have a street team.  It only started a couple of weeks ago and I've lots to learn, but so far it's been fun. 

I'll be at OCC this month.  And at the end of the month I'll be at RWA National in San Antonio, which should also be fun. 

How about you--will you be at RWA National?  What do you have to accomplish by the end of this year?

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Cover Magic & Farrah Rochon brings in a touch of New Orleans!

OCC/RWA Meeting Reminder
“The Cover: From Muse to Magic” & Farrah Rochon brings in a touch of New Orleans!

OCC/RWA Chapter Meeting: Saturday, July 12, 2014
Door open at 9 a.m., and meeting starts at 10 a.m.

First-time guests are $10

Susan Squires & Skylar Kade

Author First Chapter Critique:

Lauralyn Thompson & Skylar Kade

MORNING SESSION:                    Jenn LeBlanc           

"The Cover: From Muse to Magic

How do you stand out in a crowded marketplace of thousands? Your blurb won't get you anywhere, neither will your title, if you don't get the reader to click on the cover.

But what if your cover is just another one of those run-of-the-mill covers? How do you manage to stand out without paying thousands for custom design?

It's entirely possible to get an ORIGINAL, CUSTOM, ONE-OF-A-KIND cover for under $1,000 and even closer to $500.

With the right designer you can get a completely original and amazing cover for under $200.

Is it worth it?

—- —- —-

Jenn LeBlanc is the creator of the Illustrated Romance The Rake and the Recluse. She is also the brain and eyes behind Studio Smexy, currently shooting covers for authors world-wide. She lives in Colorado where the winters are confusing and the summers are jealous. Jenn lives and thrives off chaos and the constant flow of the creative process. You can find her on Twitter and Facebook sharing eye candy (NSFW) and being a total rock star.

AFTERNOON SESSION:              Farrah Rochon  

"New Orleans: It’s More than Just the French Quarter

Ten ways to make your romance novel set in New Orleans come alive.

The romance of New Orleans’s famed French Quarter has long seduced romance writers into setting their stories there, but there is much more to the Big Easy than the Quarter.

Learn about the city's many unique neighborhoods and traditions that make it a great setting for a romance, and learn how to use the city’s history and culture to breathe life into your story.
—- —- —-  
Farrah Rochon, award-winning author of the popular Holmes Brothers series, hails from a small town just west of New Orleans. She has garnered much acclaim for her New York Sabers football series for Harlequin's Kimani Romance imprint.

Farrah was named Shades of Romance Magazine's Best New Author of 2007, and her debut novel, Deliver Me, claimed the prize for Best Multicultural Romance Debut. She has been nominated for the prestigious RITA Award from Romance Writers of America and an RT BOOK Reviews Reviewer's Choice Award. She spends way too much money on chocolate and Broadway shows.

Order lunch from the Corner Bakery-Brea

Online Class:

Note: No July class
Aug. 11 – Sept. 7, 2014:

Writing the Short Story for Anthology Call-Out
Louisa Bacio

Beginning writers are often told to: “Write the story you want to read, not what someone else might want to see.” This class, instead, deals with catering a short story specifically to a publisher’s request for submissions. Regularly, editors and publishers list upcoming anthologies and the types of stories they’re looking to include.

The course will explore current call-outs, and students will be encouraged to write specifically for one anthology and to submit the work at the end of the course. Basic crafting of a short story, such as development, characterization, plot structure & dialogue also will be covered. Since most short stories fall within 2,500 to 5,000 words, we’ll also look at ways to making word choice count and address the editing process.

End Goal: Come prepared to write! Student should write at least one new story during the course and actually send it out for submission. We want to see some publication success with this course.

A Southern California native, Louisa Bacio can’t imagine living far away from the ocean. The multi-published author of erotic romance enjoys writing within all realms – from short stories to full-length novels.

Bacio shares her household with a supportive husband, two daughters growing “too fast,” and a multitude pet craziness: Two dogs, five fish tanks, an aviary, hamsters, rabbits and hermit crabs. In her other life, she teaches college classes in English, journalism and popular culture.

For more information, or to register, visit

Meeting information can be found at

Hope to see you on the 12th!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014


Isn't that a remarkable word?

I was sitting with a writer friend--a literary type--and we were talking about things in general, delving into personalities, actions, motives,  assumptions...speculating on scenarios.  And in the midst, she noted, "Perhaps I wonder too much."

Hmmmm.  Well for her, in many ways wondering was her job, as it is for most  writers.

And I have to admit, I wonder too.  Life is filled with so many mysteries, so many different perspectives, so many different layers of truth.  Such richness.  Indeed, such wonder.  Can there be too much? depends how much time you have to spare wondering.  Because it can be a fairly time consuming habit!  Indeed, it can expand to encompass all time.

Here's my most recent wondering experience (alas, not a nice one):

Yesterday, I had the unpleasant--I think almost entirely female experience--of going to the Womens' Room in a restaurant and sitting on a wet toilet seat (lighting was low).

Now I have spent years wondering why a woman who clearly is overly obsessed (in my opinion) about GERMS would decide the right thing to do is urinate all over the toilet seat such that someone else may sit on a seat they have fouled.

Really?  You couldn't lift the seat with your foot and hover over the bowl? It's excellent for tightening those flabby thigh muscles!  Or just use the often available toilet seat cover?

The good news is that urine is almost always sterile, so as disgusting an experience as it is, the likelihood of any harm (aside of rather strange wet spots on the back of one's pant legs) is minuscule.

But the hypocrisy of this germ-phobic human dumping her waste so that others may sit in it just boggles my mind.

Perhaps it's an aggressive act? Like a hacker sending a computer virus just for the fun of messing up strangers' lives? That at least offers me some logic.  Perhaps the world is filled with angry souls, acting out in small ways.  Perhaps, as I wipe myself, I should send a silent pitying prayer to the offender, rather than a not-so-silent curse! Perhaps....

Though I have to admit, I am, in general, very pro-germ.  If I pause to reflect (yes, OK, wonder) on where obsessive cleanliness will get you, it is not a place I want to be.  I want my body trained--like an athlete--to handle germs easily, without breaking a sweat.

Hey, I eat things I've dropped on the floor, and I'm still alive. No, I'm not allergic to anything--my body is a finely tuned germ-ingesting instrument! For me, the germ phobia road leads to a version of becoming David, the bubble baby.

I celebrate a world filled with good things and bad things.  And I wonder....

Isabel Swift