Tag Archives: History

What’s in a name?

I was a chapter and a half into a WIP when I realised something wasn’t working. After redrafting and editing and still getting nowhere with what I knew could be a great story it dawned on me the problem wasn’t with the story but with the heroine. I just wasn’t feeling her (unlike the hero who was more than happy to have a go much earlier than I was expecting him to, though that’s another story…) and I realised it came down to one reason: her name.

I had inadvertently chosen the name of a real person I had once known and instead of picturing my heroine I had a subconscious mental image of someone who most definitely didn’t deserve to get her hands on my hero.  As soon as I went back to the drawing board and renamed the character the scenes began to come together.

Names are funny things. However much I plan, I can’t get down to the business of writing the story unless I’ve found the right name. I estimate I’ve spent as much time choosing names for my characters as I did for my children*, though for them I had the whole of history to go at rather that medieval England. I try to use authentic names for my characters.  I can happily spend hours poring over documents from the time for inspiration so you’ll never find a Lady Chardonnay or Sir Kevin but I’ve also developed a few rules too.

Rule 1. Heroines can have two syllable names but heroes should be called something short, or a name that can be shortened (nicknames and dropping titles is a way I like to show the growing intimacy between the characters).

My first hero, Hugh in Falling for Her Captor was named after Hugh Jackman – which probably indicates where my mind was while I was writing. I like single syllables that to me at least sound a bit tough and masculine to say out loud: Hugh, Will, Hal. Rhett… Han… Jon… Thor (?!?)…

Four books in I’ve already broken this rule with the hero of The Saxon Outlaw’s Revenge with a hero called Aelric who goes by the alias Caddoc but finding a one-syllable Anglo-Saxon name proved almost impossible (and be thankful he isn’t called Aethilberct).

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I’ve slightly backed myself into a corner with my next book to be released because when I wrote The Blacksmith’s Wife I didn’t intend Roger to be anything more than the villain (perhaps having a name that became slang for penis is part of the reason he was so bitter).  Now he’s got his own book as readers were intrigued by him and is saddled with a less than heroic sounding name even though the Germanic origin means ‘renown + spear’ which fits his ambition to be a great jouster well. Isn’t that a lucky coincidence!

Rule 2. After hours spent with my spellcheck trying to change my second hero Will Rudhale’s tenses, I added a new which is never use a name that is also a verb (‘Do you mean ‘will try’ not ‘Will tried’? No I ****ing don’t, nor did I the last 27 times!)

Rule 3. Avoid the Dickensian ‘Mr Nastyb*stard, official puppy kicker of London Town’ method of indicating character through names.  Having said that I’m having to seriously resist following the suggestion of Baron Longden Hardthrust of Broadshaft Hall.

Rule 4. The biggie. Avoid the names of friends and family. Especially men. Mainly because I have a low embarrassment threshold and don’t ever want to have the ‘so that’s me in the book is it?’ conversation (which amazingly I’ve had even when the names don’t match). Chances are if I know you then you are in there somewhere because all writers are magpies and collect mannerisms, features and conversations but whether you’re the love interest, villain or comic relief I absolutely refuse to say!

*One named for a series of inventors, the other after a character in Buffy the Vampire Slayer if you’re interested.

Do you have a favourite character name, or one that turns you straight off the book? Do share in the comments.

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Medieval Monday – Bambi Lynn

I love being able to share excerpts from such wonderful authors.  Today I’m sharing Bambi Lynn’s Marek.

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Boring accountant, Kitty Petty, struggles to get through each day one at a time since the brutal murder of her husband. She spends every free moment caring for her young daughter, until the night she wakes to find her bed on fire.

Kitty doesn’t know how she got to the year 1196, much less how to get back. But if she doesn’t, her daughter will be institutionalized. Having failed to save her child from the clutches of a madman. Kitty vows to protect her future. But going back to her time means risking her own life and separating her from the knight she has grown to love.

Marek Stone wants to protect his wife from the people of Stonebridge. Katherine has been declared a demon after her miraculous rise from the funeral pyre, and the villagers want justice.

Kitty doesn’t know how she got to the year 1196, much less how to get back. But she must if she has any hope of saving her daughter. However, the knight who loves her will do anything to make her stay.

 

Marek’s family sat with them, although Bryn sat at one of the trestle tables, a better vantage point for grabbing the backside of every passing serving girl. As she looked around the great hall, Kitty thought every villager in Stonebridge must be in attendance. Many had never been to a feast as grand as this.

There was no corn or sweet potatoes, but Vale and Bryn had managed to hunt down a flock of birds remarkably like turkeys. There was no end to the bread stuffing, gravy, even stewed cranberries. Kitty herself had been guiding the cooks for a week to prepare enough food for everyone. They had even baked over one hundred pumpkin pies for dessert.

“My lady,” Bryn called from the floor below. “Tell me again the name you have given this feast.”

“Thanksgiving,” Kitty shouted back to him. “While you’re eating, you have to go around the table and tell about something you’re thankful for.”

Marek reached over and squeezed her hand.

Thane, who sat next to Bria, leaned behind his niece to speak to her. “Sister,” he said with a lowered voice only she could hear. “I have been forced to contend with talk of you among many of the villagers. It is not wise for you to suddenly appear out of a fire. I can only do so much to protect you. I beg you not do it again.”

Kitty smiled at him. “I promise.” She reached beneath the table and pulled out one of the carpet bags she’d brought with her. “I have something for you.”

When she handed him the portable Play Station, he looked at her like she might indeed be from the devil. Kitty smiled. “It’s a game. Watch.” She pushed the little machine beneath the table and away from prying eyes.

Thane nearly dropped the PSP when it lit up. “Shh. You’ll have to keep it secret. This is an easy game called PacMan. You have to move him through the path and eat as many of these little dots as possible. But don’t get caught.”

Kitty left Thane to the wonder of electronic video games and moved to sit next to Remi. He looked at her skeptically, but over the last few days, his animosity towards her had dimmed some. She reached into her bag and pulled out a portable DVD player. She had already loaded the Robin Hood movie.

Remi barely breathed as the credits started. “Don’t watch it now. If you’re caught, we might all be burned at the stake. But pay particular attention to the parts about Prince John.”

She caught Bryn’s attention as he was in between wenches and motioned for him to join her. She pulled a handful of Legos from her bag and spread them out on the table, hoping no one nearby was paying them any attention. “Look…you can snap them together, pull them apart. I have a whole box of them for you in my room. They come in all sizes and colors and you can build anything out of them.”

Adin and Vale were enveloped in ladies, so Kitty decided their gifts could wait. Vale would not need his bullet-proof vest for several months yet. Adin would have years to perfect his technique with help from the pristine copy of The Karma Sutra she’d gotten him.

By midnight, Bria had crawled into Thane’s lap and fallen asleep. Kitty would have to give her the Barbie doll later. Vanesa, however, was having the time of her life. She leaned forward to peer around the massive form of her stepfather. “Mom!” When Kitty looked across at her, Vanesa held up her goblet of weak ale. “Huzzah!” They both laughed as Kitty toasted with her. “This is so much better than the Renaissance Festival.”

“What is this ‘renaissance’?” Marek asked.

Kitty smiled and shook her head. “Come carry Bria up to bed. I have a gift for you.”

Buy a copy of Marek here

Medieval Monday- Sherry Ewing

I’m delighted to be taking part in Medieval Monday where each week (guess which day) I’ll be sharing a cover and excerpt from a different medieval novel.  The overall theme is ‘celebrations’ and I’m starting off with ‘Hearts Across Time’ by Sherry Ewing.

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The golden sun began to peek over the ocean horizon, splashing the morning sky with a thousand shades of pink and orange. The further it rose, the more color splattered across the cloudless sky until all traces of the earlier shades vanished. ’Twas obvious, the perfect day was a gift from the heavens and a priceless tribute to the woman Riorden would call his wife for the rest of his life.

Riorden was in no rush to head down to the Great Hall. There was no need. Katherine and her ladies had insisted ’twas bad luck to see the bride afore the wedding. He had never heard of such a custom, but who was he to tempt fate? Nay, he dare not look upon her, if such an occurrence would displease God, and in His wrath, He would wrench Katherine back from whence she had come.

Patrick brought Riorden a small repast, along with water to wash and fresh garments Lynet had lovingly sewn for his wedding. He was not surprised when he saw the tunic. Gilded fabric had been embroidered and used as trim on the deep blue cloth Katherine herself had chosen, saying the color would match his eyes. He smiled, wondering how she would look in the golden material he had chosen for her. He supposed, he would find out soon enough.

A knock roused Riorden from his musings of his lovely lady. Opening the door, he saw Aiden standing there, also dressed in his finest.

“What…no sword?” Riorden inquired in jest. He also was to leave his sword within his chamber, although he stowed a small, serviceable blade in his belt.

Aiden appeared completely ill at ease. “Nay! Amiria refused to allow such in the chapel. God’s wounds, Riorden…I feel as if I am only but half dressed.”

A chuckle rumbled inside Riorden. “Do not be so troubled, my friend. The mass and ceremony should be no longer than an hour or two. Surely, your sister will allow you your blade afterwards.”

“Ha! Easy for you to say. She made it clear she does not trust me.”

“Let me guess,” Riorden mulled over. “She hid it from you, did she?”

“My twin knows me only too well, I am afraid,” Aiden muttered miserably. “Dristan has hidden hers, as well. At least he managed to get her into a dress, instead of boots and hose.”

“Knowing Amiria, I am sure she will in no uncertain terms let me know of the sacrifice she has made, on the behalf of my lady, to appear in such.”

Aiden at last smiled knowingly. “You can count on it.”

“Why are you here? It cannot be time, as yet, is it?”

“Damn, I almost forgot my purpose,” Aiden cursed. “Dristan asked that you come to his solar. He will then accompany you to the chapel at the appointed hour.”

“Then let us be on our way, since I am all but done here,” Riorden said, and they made their way up to the third floor.

He had just taken the last step on the tower stairs, when he halted his progress to peer down the passageway toward Lynet’s chamber. Intent on listening to the bubbly laughter of his soon to be wife and her friends, he began to hear a strange haunting melody, most likely coming from the machine Kat called a cellphone. She was so close, and he found he had missed her company this past eve, more than he would have thought possible.

He took a step in the direction towards where, in his heart, he wanted to be until he felt Aiden tugging at his arm.

“Come on, Riorden. You shall see her afore you know it.”

 

Blurb:

Bestselling author Sherry Ewing presents this special edition box set getting 5 star reviews that is combining Katherine and Riorden’s complete story from For All of Ever and Only For You in Hearts Across Time: The Knights of Berwyck, A Quest Through Time Novel (Books One & Two).

Sometimes all you need is to just believe…

For All of Ever: Katherine Wakefield has dreamed and written of her knight in shining armor all her life. Yet, how could she have known that when she and her three closest friends take a dream vacation to England that they’d find themselves thrown back more than eight hundred years into the past? Riorden de Deveraux travels to Bamburgh answering the summons of King Henry II. But nothing prepares him for the beautiful vision of a strangely clad ghost who first appears in his chamber. Centuries are keeping them apart until Time gives them a chance at finding love. Will the past of one consume what their future may hold, or will Time take the decision from them and hurdle Katherine forward to where she truly belongs?

Only For You: Katherine de Deveraux has it all but settling into her duties at Warkworth Castle is not easy and downright dangerous to her well-being. Consumed with memories of his father, Riorden must deal with his sire’s widow. Yet how could he know how far Marguerite will go to have the life she feels they were meant to live? Torn apart, Time becomes their true enemy while Marguerite continues her ploy to keep Riorden at her side. With all hope lost, will Katherine & Riorden find a way to save their marriage?

 

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1066 and that stuff

Today is the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings where William of Normandy defeated Harold and changed England’s politics, culture and language forever. It also provides the background for The Saxon Outlaw’s Revenge which opens with the execution of a displaced Saxon thegn and all but one of his sons (I wonder if anyone can guess who the surviving son turns out to be).  The remaining chapters deal with the reunion of the Saxon, Aelric, and Constance, the sister-in-law of the Norman who condemned his family.  It takes place after the Harrying of the North which was William’s response to uprisings against his rule.  It was an act that devastated the North of England and the aftermath is touched on when Aelric and Constance reunite after an absence of seven years.

1066 is one of the dates that most people in England can remember, probably having been taught it in school.  I’ve been on both sides of the desk and remember lists of unpronounceable names and descriptions of the battle which did little to capture the significance of the event.  I did what I considered a very good comic strip of the battle aged 12 and still have a textbook from the 1980s knocking about somewhere, though looking back my art was well below the level of the Bayeux Tapestry.
Even without the schooling, it’s an event that has been in my consciousness from an early age thanks to two sources (other than the Bayeux Tapestry which any fule kno is really an embroidery). The wonderful 1066 And All That by W. C. Sellar and R. J. Yeatman (look it up, it has 103 Good Things, 5 Bad Things and 2 Genuine Dates) which kept me in stitches and was instrumental to developing a love of history, and Stanley Holloway’s monologue including the description of Harold ‘On his ‘orse with his ‘awk in his ‘and’. Here it is for your amusement, read by Tom Baker, aka the fourth Doctor.