Tag Archives: writing

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).

SOR front

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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Sneak peek

With less than a week to go until the release of The Blacksmith’s Wife I thought I’d share a snippet.  This is the first meeting between Hal and Joanna.  Joanna has talked her way into the tournament grounds, hoping to find Sir Roger, the knight she is in love with.

Joanna made her way to the courtyard where makeshift stables and workshops had been assembled. She had given up hope of finding Sir Roger when, through a sudden parting in the crowd, she saw familiar black curls and glimpsed the line of his jaw just as he turned away.

A thrill of anticipation rippled through Joanna as she eased her way towards him. It had been six months since Sir Roger had last been in York. Despite the urge to run to his arms Joanna stood back and watched in admiration.

Sir Roger was facing away from her, sharpening a sword with slow, sure strokes. He had removed his armour and padded woollen tunic, but instead of the customary fitted doublet of fine wool he favoured, he was dressed in britches and a shapeless tunic drawn in at the waist with a thick belt. As Joanna watched he laid the sword on a trestle table, rolled his head from side to side and stretched his arms high.

Intending to surprise him Joanna crept behind him. She reached on tiptoe to whisper in his ear, her lips close enough to brush against his hair.

‘Greetings, my lord, I’ve been searching for you.’

He stiffened and turned to face her. Joanna found herself gazing up into Sir Roger’s eyes.

In the face of a stranger.

Her mouth fell open and she stumbled backwards away from the man, dropping her bag. Explanations and apologies tumbled unintelligibly from her lips.

‘I didn’t know… I thought you were… I mean… I’m sorry!’

The man folded his arms across his broad chest. His lips curled into an amused smile. Joanna took another step back, her mind whirling with confusion and embarrassment. Her voice tailed off. Her heart was pounding so loudly she would swear it must be audible. She covered her face with her hands in an attempt to conceal the blush that was turning her pale complexion scarlet and peered through her fingers.

It was little wonder she had mistaken the man for Sir Roger. From behind they shared the same build and unruly curls. Facing her there was still a resemblance. She noticed for the first time that what she had taken for a belt was a long leather apron tied about his waist. Whoever he was, the stranger was no knight.

‘I beg your forgiveness!’ Joanna said, wincing with embarrassment.

The man ran a hand through the tangle of black curls that fell to just below his ears. He eyed Joanna with an open interest that made her heart thump.

‘No forgiveness needed. I thought Lady Fortune was finally smiling on me but alas it seems not,’ he said with an exaggerated note of regret. ‘It’s been so long since I have had such a greeting that I believe I should be thanking you for the experience! Perhaps I will do as a companion?’ he suggested.

If that has whetted your appetite then the book is available at Amazon, B&N, Kobo and other online retailers. Preorder now

I also have an Amazon giveaway running until May 2nd which is open to readers in the US Enter here

 

 

Reviews advance readers

Shameless self-promo

Harlequin are running a contest to find the Harlequin Hero of the year.  The hero has to appear in a book published between October 2014 and September 2015 which means both Hugh and Will are eligible.  The top sixteen heroes will face off to find hero of the year (and who wouldn’t want to watch those scenes acted out) and it would be lovely to see a Historical hero in the mix.  If you’ve enjoyed my books and think Hugh or Will have what it takes please nominate them.

You can Vote here by leaving a comment or tweet to Harlequin Books using the hashtag #HarlequinHero including the name of the hero, book and author.

Nominations end on September 20th.

A month down the line

A Wager for the Widow has been out for a month.  Yesterday I had a wonderful review on Cataromance which described the book as ‘a fantastic historical romance that sweeps readers back to the past and enchants them with its intoxicating blend of intrigue, adventure, passion and pathos.’

I’ve had an amazing response for the book and I’d like to thank everyone who has taken the time to read and review or share news about the book or comment on my Facebook page or Twitter feed.  If you haven’t already, come over and say hello. As always its talking to readers and finding out what you think about my writing that keeps me going.  Every comment means a lot to me.

I know there have been issues with availability in America thanks to Amazon gremlins but these are sorted now so if you haven’t been able to get hold of your copy now you can Buy it here on Amazon.com

I’m going to be taking a break from the internet as I’m embarking on a road trip around France and Spain, taking in the Picos de Europa which I’ve always wanted to visit.  I’ll still be hard at work editing my work in progress and starting to plan my fourth book.  Maybe I’ll even find a handsome Spaniard to inspire me!

The Ideas Shed

When I wrote the story that became Falling for Her Captor I was really pleased with it as an idea. I had to be because it was the only one I had. When I got offered a 2 book contract I had a bit of a panic about whether I could actually write another book or whether that would be my one and only idea. Fortunately I had stuck a chance comment by one of the characters in FFHC about the hero’s parentage. This had given me an idea for a second book which I had already started playing around with when I got The Call. That turned into A Wager for the Widow which is my July release.

‘Where do you get your ideas?’ is a question writers get asked all the time. I’ve read some brilliant responses and I’ve answered it myself in a few interviews. The answer for me at least is they just sort of fall into my head. It’s a bit of a rubbish answer but also an alarming one because what happens if the ideas stop dropping in?

So far I’m relieved that doesn’t seem to be happening. In fact I’m finding I have more ideas demanding their turn. Sometimes a song sets them off, or visiting a new place that makes me wonder who might have lived there. Even a trip to the pub with a friend has given me a new plot to mull over (once I can decide what is in the mysterious box). About 3/4 of the way through writing A Wager for the Widow I wondered what would happen if the heroine did make the unwise decision she doesn’t make in that book (no spoilers just yet). That became the basis for my current work in progress.

Frantically scribbling a few sentences into my notepad (I used the last page yesterday. Must get another.) before I forgot an idea the other day it struck me that I’ve gone from one story via having a couple of plots in my head to now having a whole folder with Word documents. They vary from one line descriptions to a whole page outline of stories I want to write one day.
It’s going to fun deciding which one to do after I’ve finished my current book and the fourth proposal that I’ve sent to Harlequin.

Not that I’m complaining, I’d rather have a waiting list than none, but whatever happens, Taming her Ofsted Inspector is still at the bottom of the list.

On deliveries- expected and unexpected.

On Wednesday my book is finally released. I’m finally going to let my baby wander out into the world and keep my fingers crossed that people like it (all reviews welcomed- Goodreads and Amazon. If you like it tell me, if you don’t, then feel free to lie…) It’s been a long road and for a long time I never thought my pet project would get anywhere other than my laptop and an audience on Wattpad who left me great comments (thanks guys, you kept me going).

The date is doubly sweet for me because it’s also my son’s birthday.

This time nine years ago I wasn’t expecting to give birth. The fact that my waters broke on 30th September, five weeks early, was a complete shock. I hadn’t even finished work to start my maternity leave but, having decided not to go out on what would have been my last night out with the staff at my school, I unexpectedly went into labour.

I gave birth to Alexander early on the morning of October 1st. He wasn’t well. His lungs didn’t work but he had hair and fully formed fingernails- go figure how we’ve evolved to prioritise that! He spent ten days in SCBU being looked after by wonderful staff while I stayed in hospital, in shock, and tried to get my head round the fact I was now a mother. I learned the joys of the milking machine, how to get a premature baby to latch on, and just how far a boy baby can wee through the holes in the side of an incubator.

Eventually the hospital decided he was out of danger and let us go home and the learning curve began. For a long time I was just a mum. I tried to survive on no sleep. I had another baby -19 months later and planned -what WAS I thinking???, moved house and settled into a routine of toddler groups, mediocre housewifery and getting through the day. My son has Asperger’s (so does my daughter but she doesn’t yet have the all important piece of paper to prove it). He’s amazingly funny, loves 1970s synth pop, Lego and Minecraft, all of which are beyond me. He took ages to learn to ride a bike and is still rubbish at trying his shoelaces. He’s pedantic and literal but he is also extremely bright and tries hard to face the world that he doesn’t really ‘get’. He loves stories and one day I promise I really will write the one about the crocodiles down the toilet. I can’t believe he’s 9. He’s nearly as tall as I am!

Eventually I went back to work part time, found myself again amid the Playdough and fruit puree (Hey! People want to talk to me! Some of them even seem to like me!) and started to want to think about things again.

So I thought of a story. I don’t even remembered when or how it started but gradually it developed into a workable manuscript and that rest of that tale I’ve already blogged about. A lot of the people who were with me for the birth of my children also held my hand virtually through SYTYCW and right the way up to publication and to them I owe huge thanks that all the in-jokes, silly posts and Benedict Cumberbatch as an otter gifs can’t repay.

I’m posting this now because on Wednesday I’ll be doing my best to keep an eye on both of my creations. I hope people love the story and want to read more. I hope the book sells and gets glowing reviews.

Whatever happens, me and my boy will be going for cake.

Limbo!

I haven’t updated for a while because I’m in a strange period where I’ve done everything I can do and the book is now out of my hands.  It’s unsettling because I’m a control freak, nosy and impatient.  The October release date feels a long time away.

I received a formatted document of Falling for Her Captor a couple of weeks ago which looked like the pages of a ‘proper’ book and gave me no end of excitement.  I had to read through and add any comments or changes and respond to the ones the copy editors had added.  Once I stopped swearing at the Track Changes function I enjoyed that, added a few notes, found some typos and sent it back.

The art department are busy designing my cover which I’ll be very excited to see when I get it emailed through to me.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed they get me a Tom Ellis-alike to model (and crossed even harder they’ll invite me to the photoshoot to meet him).

Book two is at seven chapters now and over 20k words (I didn’t even notice that milestone).  I’m really enjoying writing it and have sent it so far to my editor to see what she thinks as well reasoning that if I’m going to have to make changes, which I am sure is inevitable, I’d rather do them early on than once I’ve finished it completely.  I’m now waiting to hear back so crossing more fingers.

Apart from that I’ve been amusing myself with trying to get to grips with social media.  I’ve bought a domain name Elisabethhobbes.co.uk.  As soon as I work out what else I can cross I’ll try link it to WordPress and hopefully not accidentally lose everything in the process.

 

Not a madrigal in sight

One of the things I found early on when I started writing was that I needed it to be quiet otherwise I couldn’t concentrate.  That’s why practically all of my writing is done when the kids are in bed.  I also do a lot of the pre-getting-everything-down-onto-the-laptop thinking while I drive (while still concentrating on road conditions, traffic, speed limits and other useful disclaimers) and when I drive I always have music on.

Round about chapter eight I was trying to get into the head of my hero.  What had started off as a small project was turning, against my expectations, into something larger and a lot more complicated.  People on websites were leaving comments.  Nice ones.  I had decided not to write any further until I had gone back and sorted out a few of the initial corners I’d written myself into.  I also wasn’t sure exactly who the characters really were or what motivated them other than vaguely stereotypical descriptions of spirited heroine, brooding hero of the Aragorn type who looked foul but felt fair (and looked pretty damned fair too for that matter).

 

Then this song popped onto the iPod and suddenly I had my Hugh*.

*I’m going to look pretty foolish if this doesn’t work.  Half the reason for this post is to check if I can do this.

It’s a great song, full of ominous chords and lyrics that sound medieval – shhhh, you didn’t hear the line about the phone – and for the first time I had a clear picture of my hero striding around, sweeping Aline off her feet and his dilemma of going it alone while his life falls apart. Whenever I’d get stuck on a point in the story I’d stick the song on and try work my way through it.  It turned out pretty well I think.

As an aside, Swords of a Thousand Men by Tenpole Tudor did not help the writing but is a hell of a fun song to imagine a battle to.

Now I’m five and a half chapters into book two.  I have learned a little from my mistakes.  I have a synopsis and even some character notes.  I think I’ve even found one of the songs for my new couple.  It’s very different to the last one, but then again, the story is a lot lighter too (so far).  And let’s face it, who in their right mind wouldn’t love a gravel voiced rock legend from New Jersey serenading them as they dream?

What’s in a name?

Choose a pen name.  Easy right?  My original pseudonym – DeeDee Elle- came about as an in joke based on an online mum’s group when I needed something to hide behind on Wattpad (my day job is teaching so it was a definite necessity).  It was a good name, it did the job, the women who knew the connection thought it was fun, and occasionally people would ask where it came from.  A male friend finally admitted he had wondered if it was my bra size.  I became quite fond of DeeDee.

However, when I got The Call from Sarah at Harlequin, she asked was I going to use that, my real name or something else entirely.  It was time to change.

Now, I’ve named two children and neither has objected to what they’ve been saddled with so this should have been a doddle.

Think again.

Alliteration?  Nope, too comic book heroine.

The old ‘name of first pet and name of street’?  Baggins Barfield.  Try again.

Where was I when I got The Call?  On a ferry approaching Dover.  Something White?  Something Cliff.  Chanelle Ferry? Nope.

How about combining the name of a family member and someone famous?  Youngest daughter’s middle name is nice.  I’ve just been skiing and Chemmy Alcott is a pretty good female role model  Yep.  Louisa Alcott.  That’ll do nicely.  Oh…

Friends and family were exceedingly helpful and I’ll be forever grateful for the suggestions of Hooty McBoob, Lavinia Lustworth, Monica De Plume and others far too indecent for public viewing!

At this point my husband got out the map and we started on the bad puns.  Say almost hello to Heather Alderley, Olivia Yorke and Louisa Canterbury.  Historical maybe, but not very romantic.

The children decide to join in the game and draw on their extensive knowledge of CBeebies characters, but I don’t think Katie Morag Tumble is quite the image I’m going for.

I’m tearing my hair out and wondering if I’ll ever be able to reply to Sarah or if I really will be going with Anne Onymous after all.

And then the cat wanders in.  Old, arthritic, getting bonier by the day and the only one the children didn’t land with something utterly ridiculous.  Most of my writing takes place with him slumped across my legs or lying across my arm with his head on the laptop (I blame him for the typos).  So in tribute to him I’ve stolen his name.  The other half is one of mine.

I’ll leave it to you to decide which is which.