Tuesday, May 29, 2012

What's in a Name?

We all know that names are important. We love our name or hate it enough to change it once we reach legal age. Women are less willing than their grandmothers to change their last names when they marry, hence the advent of the hyphenated surname. 

I have told people that I don't name my cats, they tell me what their name is. On occasion I've named a cat only to change it later when the cat subtly let me know his displeasure.

It's the same with characters in books. Sometimes the name comes into my head immediately. Other times I have had to search long and hard for the right name. One of my favorite places to find an unusual but apt name is in the obituaries. Of course, I don't take the entire name and plop it in my book, I am as averse to being sued as the next writer. I mix and match.

Baby name sites in the Internet are good because they give you the meaning of the name. Do you want your character to be manly? a leader? wise and good? You can find appropriate names here.

And, at a pinch, I turn to the telephone book.

The lead character in my current WIP is named Marcie. I wanted her to be kind and sympathetic, almost to a fault. Mercy would be too obvious, but Marcie--I hope--leads the reader to subconsciously translate this quality from her actions. The male hero is Adam Shepherd. He's a minister. 'Nough said.

A secondary character is named Moon. It isn't a nickname, Moon was born in the sixties of a Flower Child mother named Light. She called her three daughters Sun, Moon and Star. When Moon complains that Sunny and Star got the best of the deal, while she was always subject to teasing, she is asked why she doesn't change it.

"Because it's my name," she says incredulously.

That's one that popped in my head. Maybe as I revise it will be abandoned. Or maybe not.

One name I had to change was Beth's husband, Dan, in "The Lunch Club". I originally called him Dave. Then I  realized that was the name of the main character in Linda Evan's Book, "Jobless Recovery." Both Daves are out of work. My Dave was older and married, but I still felt badly about stealing her name. So I changed it. Dan will always be Dave to me, though.

How do you come up with names for your characters? Do they pop into your head or do you spend hours finding just the right one?

Remember, Margaret Mitchell originally called Scarlett O'Hara "Pansy." Would a Pansy have sailed virtually unscathed through the Civil War?

I think not. And neither did Mitchell.


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Meet Beth

Introducing Beth, the fourth member of "The Lunch Club." Dan's refusal to face the reality of the job market has led to yet another fight.

 “When are you going to stop being mad at me—and everything else?”
“What makes you think I’m angry?” His tone was level, but his eyes told another story.

“You are. And you know what? I don’t want to live like this anymore.”

After a long silence, Dan asked, “What are you going to do?”

“Oh God, I don’t know. Get a job, like Bobbi said. At least I’d be out of the house.”

Dan snorted. “Like getting a job would be easy. Haven’t you seen how hard I’ve been trying? Your degree is in library science and you haven’t worked since we moved to North Carolina. Good luck with that.”

Beth drew a long breath. “First of all, I’d be realistic. I’ll search for something available, like a sales clerk or receptionist. And I won’t make the mistake of turning my nose up at a job because it doesn’t have the cachet of say, a plant manager.”

“So you think some perverted kind of snobbery is my problem? I won’t take available jobs because they’re below my dignity?” He spoke without inflection, which frightened her a little.

“That’s what I think, yes.”

“So—I should go into the nearest pizza place with a sign out front saying they need drivers and go in and apply?”

“Why not?”

“You know what they pay?” He sounded both amused and incredulous.

The danger past, she relaxed and essayed a joke. “No, but I bet you’d get lots of free pizza.”

When Dan didn’t reply, Beth stood. “I’m going to bed now.” She left without waiting for him to follow.

After a few minutes, she heard him pad down the hallway. She continued dabbing on her night cream. Dan’s face loomed behind her in the mirror, like a rising moon. He watched her for a few minutes, his face devoid of expression as an egg, and then backed out, leaving her alone.

She hadn’t expected an apology—Dan never apologized—but he could at least have offered a civil “Good night,” Beth thought. She felt her eyes sting with tears. It had been so long since he had kissed her goodnight or even offered a hug. Sex wasn’t even on the horizon.

She picked up her brush drew the plastic bristles through her hair, hoping to prevent the inevitable snarls that appeared during the night. She tried to understand Dan’s reaction to her revelation that she had enjoyed her night out. He not only acted like he didn’t care, he acted like he would have been happy if she said she was leaving him. Are you going to see him again? A few months ago, the statement would have been ludicrous. Now, it showed how far they’d drifted apart.

Maybe he was tired of her. Maybe she was the symbol of his failure, and he hated looking at her, reminded of the man he’d been. Feeling old, ugly and unloved, she threw the brush down on the sink edge, not caring if the handle cracked.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Meet Melody

You have met Harriet and Jane Anne of "The Lunch Club". Today you will meet the third member of the group, Melody. As the scene opens, Melody now feels comfortable with the man she met on the Internet  and has invited Tony to her home for dinner. They have enjoyed a home-cooked meal and are settling down to watch a movie.

The book cover you see is the mock-up of the proposed cover for "The Lunch Club." What do you think? I love the colors. 
They cleared away the remnants before starting the movie Melody picked out, Leatherheads. Melody assumed Tony would like the sports theme, and she liked George Clooney. But she didn’t have to tell Tony that.

As the movie neared its finale and the approach of the second hurdle of the evening, Melody got more and more nervous. She’d planned what to say over and over during the last few days, but now the time was here, she wasn’t sure how her proposal would be received. She forgot her fears when Tony’s arms slipped around her shoulders and his lips met hers. After a few kisses, his fingers touched her breast. Melody’s hands found their way to his shoulders, and then his body melded into hers, legs entwined. Somehow, his hand now touched bare flesh. They realized they were on the edge of a precipice. Tony pulled away first.

“I guess I’d better go,” he said, his dark eyes shadowed with desire.

“You don’t have to,” Melody said, knowing the same longing was reflected in her eyes. “It’s a long drive back to Charlotte and it’s late. You should stay here and go in the morning.”

Tony looked at her for what felt like an eternity, but was in reality a few ticks of the clock on the mantel over the fake fireplace. “You have a spare bedroom?” he asked.

“Yes. But that’s not what I’m saying.”

“You’re sure?” Both knew what he was asking.

“Very sure,” Melody said. “I keep a fresh toothbrush in Charlie’s bathroom, and toothpaste. And Charles’ shaving kit is there, too. And towels,” she added, remembering another inducement.

 “All right, then.”

She smiled. “I’ll go and put on my nightgown while you change. There’s a robe, there, too.”After he left, Melody allowed herself to sag in relief. He hadn’t acted as if she were some kind of wanton woman, throwing herself at him. He’d been the gentleman she’d come to expect. Then she smiled. There was one more thing she’d placed in the small bathroom. She hoped he’d notice the condom. She hadn’t fallen off the turnip truck yesterday. She knew if she slept with Tony tonight, she’d be sleeping with every woman he’d ever slept with, and their partners, too.

By the time she’d changed into a simple sleeveless cotton gown, Tony stepped into the bedroom, wearing Charlie’s old blue robe. He smiled and shook his head at her. “Everything a man could need,” he said. She laughed and held out her arms.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

"The Lunch Club" -- Jane Anne

A few weeks ago I introudced Harriet, a member of  "The Lunch Club" (coming soon from Draumr Publishing). Today, I would like you to meet Jane Anne. In this excerpt, Larry and Jane Anne are in the car when Larry almost has an accident. Jane Anne wonders how she can insist on taking the wheel without causing a scene:

To her relief, when they reached the car he got in on the passenger side. “I’m not driving anymore,” he said. He handed her his keys. “Here. Throw them away or something.”

She took them and dropped them in her purse. Thank you, God, she prayed. She’d thought she’d have to get Kris and Karen together and talk him out of driving, but he had seen for himself he wasn’t responsible. Of course, he might forget by tomorrow and want his keys back, but she’d handle that when and if the situation arose. She started for home, wondering how a day that started out so promising could go bad in a few short hours. Larry sat and stared out of the window. She didn’t know what he was thinking.

Once home, she shooed Larry into the living room so she could put away the groceries and start supper. When she put her casserole in the oven, she sat at the kitchen table, not wanting to join him yet.

She thought back to when they met. Larry taught a required course in Romance poets and she decided three weeks into the semester she was going to marry him. She was a junior with two years to go before she graduated. There were rules against a professor dating a student, so she bided her time, garnering every scrap of gossip about the handsome bachelor professor. Every time his name was linked with this or that woman her heart sunk. But then, weeks or months later, the rumor would go around they had broken up, and Larry would be free once more.

On the day of her graduation, she excused herself from her parents, who had driven over a hundred miles to see their only child receive her diploma, and gone to Larry’s office.

“I want to take you to dinner tonight,” she’d said.

He’d looked up in bewilderment. Then he’d shrugged. “Why not?”

Later, she decided Larry was too unmotivated to court any of his lady friends with any serious intent and so they gave up hope and moved on. Her daring pursuit had intrigued him.

She’d marched back to her bewildered parents and told them instead of following them home in her tiny VW she was going to stay and find a job near the college. She’d soon found out a degree in English literature opened no doors, so she took a job waiting on tables at O’Hanrahan’s, a bad imitation of an Irish pub. She and Larry married in the fall.

She quit her job and enrolled at Remount Community College where she earned an associate degree in medical record keeping. Upon graduation, she’d taken a position at Remount Community Hospital and gotten pregnant with Karen, in that order.

Surprisingly—not to Jane Anne, but to everyone else—they had been very happy. Every year on their anniversary he thanked her for yanking him out of his academic rut and showing him what life could be. He adored his children, and he adored her. Now, she had to ask herself if it had been worth it.

She sat there until the timer buzzed, jolting her out of her reverie. Then she walked into the living room to call her husband for dinner.