Monday, April 27, 2015


Finding a character's 'true' name can be the simpliest thing in writing, or one of the most difficult. In either case, though, for me, doing so is like water: essential.

It's different if I'm reading.  In that case, names matter, but I can also skim over them if they don't work for me.   I'm an inveterate chunk-reader anyway, so I can  hum through any name that feels like a misfit, or that reminds me of the kid in 3rd grade who used to make truck sounds as he went through the cafeteria line every day, spraying the kids on either side of him with the effluvia of his sputtering. (Note: not sexy.)

But as a writer, I'm a lot less flexible on the name thing.   Names matter.   A lot.

It's kind of crazy, but for me, names let me truly 'see' the character.  They're a bit like clothes: they reveal truths about a person, from the fit to the style.  But they not only reveal; they create. 

Names 'find' characters, and then force them to be true to that name.

I've had to use 'placeholder' names for months on end because no name felt right.   Unfortunately, no name = I struggle to find the story, flailing through hundreds of pointless pages trying to find the story and the arc for this wrongly-named soul.  

Names can be pesky things, and catching the right one can be like trying to catch a butterfly in a hurricane.  So sad, for the story, for the characters, for any deadlines I had planned.  

But the moment I 'find' the name, I also find the story.   It's as if the story shakes itself out, like a dog, and the entire character arc appears.
I'm guessing I struggle with names when I haven't 'found' the story yet.  This creates a vicious, if masochistically pleasing, circle.  All I need to do is find the story, and I'll find the name, and vice versa, which is at once hopeful (the story's out there somewhere, right??) and hopeless (I'll never find it.)

A peek into the neurotic freefall of one writer's mind.

How much do character names matter to you?
Do you have any books that you've loved, but couldn't stand the hero/heroine names? 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Removing social media icons from website

Hey kids, this is just a heads up that I'll be removing the social media icons from my website.

While this blog is hosted by Blogger for now (i.e. Google) and there's not much I can do about their tracking, I've grown tired of the incessant tracking and data collection done by organizations & social media, in particular, Facebook.

Even more particularly, a Belgian privacy group had found the Facebook is placing trackers & long-term (i.e. 2 years!) cookies on every user whenever they visit a site that has a FB 'like' button on it. Even if they're not logged in, even if they're not Facebook users.

Eep.  That's just not acceptable to me, that by visiting my site, I'm basically consigning readers to be tracked by Facebook. 

So I'll be taking their 'like/follow' buttons off the website.  You can still find me there, and here's how!

"Like' page:
"Friend' page:

And while I'm at it, I'll remind you to be sure to sign up for the newsletter!

(If you're interested in privacy, there are loads of apps/addons/extentions for every browser that will let you block &/or stop scripts and cookies on websites. Just search your browser's extensions for 'privacy.' Some examples: BetterPrivacy, NoScript (pretty vigorous, so it may take a little time to learn what you want to allow/keep blocking, but it's highly effective), Ghostery, Blur, DisableWebRTC)

Friday, April 10, 2015


Okay, who loves a tourney?  I mean, besides me.

Pennants fluttering off the host's castle ramparts, villagers and nobles mingling in the busy grounds all around, merchants hawking their wares, performers juggling and wrestling.  While up in the lists, knights in shining armour preen and perform for ladies in the stands, who bestow their favors--a sleeve, a scrap of silk, and a smile--on their favorites. 

Originally, though, tournaments didn't much resemble our romantic notion of them.  The 'joust'--two men squaring off and taking a run at each other with lances--yeah, that was a latter addition, and even when the joust came to be part of the tourney, it was a prelude to the main event, the mêlée, a pitched battle with, well, pretty much no rules. 

Occasionally the type of weaponry was predetermined for the mêlée, but other than that, it was basically no-holds-barred fighting.  Lords came with their retinues, often comprised largely of men hired for the sole purpose of helping Lord Such-and-So kick Lord Whos-And-Whats knightly arse.  They came to fight, and to win. 

Oh, and to make a lot of money.  

The big money didn't come from official prizes, though, although those could be quite rich.  But the real prize was...ransom.

First came the cavalry rush with lowered lances, which quickly devolved into hand-to-hand combat, on foot, between the two opposing sides.  Death happened, although combatants were not (usually) killed intentionally.   Why kill a guy, when you can bankrupt him, and enrich yourself in the process?  Capture was a much better business plan. 

The loser had to 'yield,' then he and the victor agreed to the terms of the surrender.  Usually horse & armour were taken, and a price agreed-upon to buy them back.  Remember these horses were worth more money than a villager could make in a dozen lifetimes.  The same for armour.  Terms of the agreement were set down in a contract (yes, they signed a contract, right there on the battlefield, in a section called the 'refuge'.  Recognize it?? Cool, huh?) It was all very official and well-run. 

Except when it wasn't.

Tourneys were a dicey proposition for kings and counts. On one hand, tourneys were good training for war, could be useful for raising money, and for channeling the aggressive tendencies of all those young, male, armed citizens, who were so necessary in times of war, and so...unpredictable at all other times.

But they also wrecked destruction on the countryside and any unlucky villagers caught in the crossfire as the battle raged across the land, including farmland (!!)  Often, two villages were designated as the outer boundaries of the battleground, essentially assuring that armed knights in the heat of battle were going to come roaring through the town and across their tended fields.  Note: No village is on record as ever having requested such a dubious privilege. 

The larger concern for a medieval king was this: tourneys were a breeding ground for petty feuds, vengeance, and, at the top of any medieval lord's mind, rebellion.  

Perfect for romance fiction!  I can feel my brain cells firing up, ready to play with the ceremony and drama of a medieval tournament.  I see a dark-haired, hard-hearted hero, and the conceited, intelligent, alluring daughter of his worst enemy....  

Have you read any books with great tourney scenes??  Spill!