I am a collector of names. Have been, ever since I was a kid. Probably because I always wished for a different one, myself. Mine wasn’t really exotic, but it was…different. Cheryl. My parents decided on the pronunciation of “Chair-yl” rather than the more common way of saying it. The way a million other people sad it…with a “SH” sound, “Sheryl,” rather than the hard “CH” sound.
So when I began writing, I knew my characters had to have ‘good’ names—names that fit. Names that weren’t too strange, but not too common. Names that were appropriate for the time period, the setting, and the culture.
The hero, of course, had to have a name that was also something that could be whispered by the heroine in the throes of passion, yet something that would be tough enough on the villain’s lips to strike a modicum of fear in his heart, just by uttering it.
Because I was writing historical western romance, I decided to pull up a chart that would give me an accurate “slice of life”—possible names for my heroes. According to US Social Security records, the top ten names for men in 1880 were: John, William, James, Charles, George, Frank, Joseph, Thomas, Henry, and Robert.
Okay, I could maybe work with the top four. In fact, the first book I ever wrote was about a gunslinger of this time period called ‘Johnny Starr.’
And William could be shortened to ‘Will’—still masculine; but never ‘Willie.’ James—very masculine, and unwittingly, calls up the rest of the line—‘Bond. James Bond.’ At least, it does for me. I could even go with Jamie. Charles is pushing it. George, Frank, and Joe are names I have and would use for a minor character, but I’d never use those for my hero. They’re somehow just too ordinary. Thomas? Again, a great secondary character name, but not a show-stopper. Henry…eh. And Robert is just ‘okay.’
I fast-forwarded a hundred years to 1980. Here are the top 10: Michael, Christopher, Jason, David, James, Matthew, Joshua, John, Robert, and Joseph. Four of the same names were there, though not in the same poll position. By 2008, only William remained in the top 10. John had fallen to #20, James to #17, Joseph to #13. The others had been replaced, not all by modern names, but most in the top 10 were surprisingly “old fashioned.”
2008: Jacob, Michael, Ethan, Joshua, Daniel, Alexander, Anthony, William, Christopher, Matthew.
This told me something. If you aren’t too wild with the names you choose, you have quite a lot of choices! We know that Jacob, Michael, Joshua, Daniel, and Matthew were Biblical names. Just because they weren’t on the “top 10” list in 1880 doesn’t mean they weren’t being used—a lot!
Another source of names for that time period is family records. If you go back through old family documents, it’s amazing to find some of the odd names that cropped up.
Still maybe not ‘protagonist’ material, but your secondary characters could benefit. And who knows? You may find the perfect ‘hero’ name!
No matter what you choose, remember these rules, too:
1. Sound and compatibility—Say your character’s name aloud. Does the first name go well with the last name you’re using? Be careful about running the name together—“Alan Nickerson” or “Dick Keller” may not be good choices. Avoid rhyming names such as “Wayne Payne”—and try to stay away from cutesy names that might make your hero the focus of ridicule.
2. Uniqueness—I’m sure my parents were only trying to be ‘unique’ by pronouncing my name differently than the other 99.9% of the people in the world would automatically say it, but you don’t want your hero to have such an odd name that readers trip over it every time they come to it. Louis L’Amour was a master at coming up with ‘different’ names that were simple. Hondo Lane, Ring Sackett, Shalako, Conagher…and the list goes on.
3. Genealogy—Does it play into your characters’ storyline? If so, you may want to come up with a neat twist somehow on a common name. In my first manuscript, Brandon’s Gold, the gunfighter, Johnny Starr, is named for his father, but the names are reversed. His father was Thomas Jonathan Brandon. He is known as Thomas in the story. Johnny was named Jonathan Thomas Brandon. He goes by Johnny. This keeps a theme alive in my story of the ‘fathers and sons’ of this family, and their relationships. It weighs heavily, because Thomas is dying, but Johnny doesn’t know it. They’ve been estranged for many years.
When Johnny’s own son is born, his wife, Katie, changes the name they’ve decided on just before the birth. She makes Johnny promise to name him after himself and his father, Thomas Jonathan, bringing the circle around once more, and also completing the forgiveness between Johnny and his dying father.
4. Meaning—This might somehow play into your story and is good to keep track of. What do your characters’ names mean? This is a great tool to have at your disposal when you are writing—it can be a great conversation piece somewhere, or explain why your villain is so evil.
5. Nicknames and initials—this can be more important than you think. You may need to have your hero sign something or initial something. Don’t make him be embarrassed to write his initials and don’t give him a name that might be shortened to an embarrassing nickname.
In my book, FIRE EYES, the protagonist has an odd name—Kaedon Turner. I gave him an unusual first name to go with a common last name. I learned later that Caden, shortened to Cade, though not common for the time was not unheard of. Kaedon, shortened to Kaed, was just a different variation. It sets him apart from the other marshals, and emphasizes his unique past in a subtle way.
In my recent contemporary release, SWEET DANGER, my protagonist is half Choctaw Indian. His name reflects both cultures; his Anglo, (Jesse) and his Choctaw, (Nightwalker).
Below are some excerpts from Fire Eyes, available now through TWRP, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble. I hope you enjoy!
EXCERPTS FROM FIRE EYES:
Marshal Kaed Turner has just been delivered to Jessica’s doorstep, wounded and unconscious by the Choctaw Indians. This is part of their first conversation, Kaed’s introduction.
“Just pull.” Her patient moistened his lips. “Straight up. That’s how it went in.”
She wanted to weep at the steel in his voice, wanted to comfort him, to tell him she’d make it quick. But, of course, quick would never be fast enough to be painless. And how could she offer comfort when she didn’t even know what to call him, other than Turner?
“You waitin’ on a…invitation?” A faint smile touched his battered mouth. “I’m fresh out.”
Jessica reached for the tin star. Her fingers closed around the uneven edges of it. No. She couldn’t wait any longer. “What’s your name?” Her voice came out jagged, like the metal she touched.
His bruised eyes slitted as he studied her a moment. “Turner. Kaedon Turner.”
Jessica sighed. “Well, Kaedon Turner, you’ve probably been a lot better places in your life than this. Take a deep breath and try not to move.”
He gave a wry chuckle, letting his eyes drift completely closed. “Do it fast. I’ll be okay.”
She nodded, even though she knew he couldn’t see her. “Ready?”
From Kaed’s POV—Finding out his “angel’s” name!
“I need to stop the bleeding. You were lucky.”
“One lucky sonofabitch.”
“I meant, because it went all the way through. So we don’t have to…to dig it out.” There was that hesitation again, but he already knew what it was she didn’t want to have to say to him. He said it instead.
“All we have to do is burn it.”
She let her breath out in a rush, as if she’d been holding it, dreading just how she was going to tell him. “Right. Sounds like the voice of experience.”
She touched his good arm and he reached up for her, his warm, bronze hand swallowing her smaller one. Her fingers were cold, and he could tell she was afraid, no matter how indifferent she tried to act.
“You’ve got one on me,” he muttered.
“Your name. Or, do I just call you angel?”
He felt the smile again, knew he had embarrassed her a little, but had pleased her as well.
“Jessica Monroe, at your service, Mr. Turner.”
“Don’t go all formal on me.” He paused, collecting his scattering, hard-to-hold thoughts. “I like Kaed better.”
“Better than Mr. Turner?”
He opened his eyes a crack and watched as she gave him a measuring look, her cinnamon gaze holding his probing stare for a moment. “What you’re doin’ for me warrants a little more intimacy, don’t’cha think, Jessica?”
She glanced back down at the seeping wound, worrying her lower lip between even, white teeth. Her auburn hair did its best to escape its bun.
Kaed’s thoughts jumped and swirled as he tried to focus on her, wondering disjointedly how she’d look if she let her hair tumble free and unbound. And her eyes. Beautiful. A man could get lost in the secrets of her eyes.
Maybe he should’ve used a word other than intimacy.
Available at Amazon:
Friday, January 29, 2016
Tuesday, January 26, 2016
By Caroline Clemmons
Jodi Thomas is one of my favorite authors. I loved her western historical romances, her contemporary women’s fiction/mystery, FINDING MARY BLAINE, and her contemporary romances. The contemporary romance RUSTLER’S MOON, released today, carries on in the great tradition of her other works.
If you’re wondering what a rustler’s moon is, here is the explanation straight from the book as told by Wilkes Wagner to Angela Harold:
As they reached the porch, he pointed to the sky. “See that quarter moon? That’s called a rustler’s moon. Enough light for rustlers to slip onto a ranch and steal cattle, but not so much that anyone on guard would see them clearly.”
She leaned back and stared up at the sky. “And what would you do, Wilkes, if you could move unseen beneath the rustler’s moon?”
“I might steal your heart, pretty lady,” he answered, halfway kidding.
She laughed. “Not likely.”
“Then I’d settle for a kiss.” The words were out before they’d passed through his mind.
RUSTLER’S MOON is primarily the story of Angela Harold and Wilkes Wagner.
In Florida, Angela Harold’s father left her a cryptic note written minutes before he died. “Disappear,” he told her. She realized he’d been preparing her to leave for months. Accepting the job as curator of a small North Texas museum on the edge of Palo Duro Canyon, she immediately loads her car and heads for Crossroads, Texas. She can’t outrun trouble, and someone stalks her. She believes she has nothing of value and can’t imagine what the person can want—unless he intends to kill her.
Wilkes Wagner is the last of his family. His elderly great-uncle Vern nags him about marriage, but Wilkes is not certain he wants to marry. Vern is a bachelor who flirts with every woman he meets. Wilkes’ parents have no wish to live on the Devil’s Fork Ranch and have left Wilkes in charge of the ranch—and Uncle Vern. Wilkes loves the ranch and his uncle, but lately he’s feeling restless and as if he’s missing something.
Like all Jodi Thomas books, there are numerous subplots running through the story. Yancy Grey is inexplicably drawn to the supposedly haunted Gypsy House. Carter Mayes searches the canyon for the cave with prehistoric drawings he saw as a child. Lauren Brigman wants more closeness from Lucas Reyes. All of the threads running through the book are woven into a lovely tapestry that will delight you. You’ll long to move to the small, close-knit town of Crossroads, Texas near the characters you’ve come to love.
Although each of the books of the Ransom Canyon Series stands alone, I hope you’ll do yourself the favor of reading the two previous novels in the series. WINTER CAMP is the historical detailing the founding of the town. RANSOM CANYON is the first contemporary of the series.
The RUSTLER’S MOON buy link at Amazon is http://amzn.com/0373788622
|Jodi Thomas, Author|
Jodi Thomas is a fifth generation Texan who chooses to set the majority of her novels in her home state, where her grandmother was born in a covered wagon. A former teacher, Thomas traces the beginning of her storytelling career to the days when her twin sisters were young and impressionable.
She has won many awards available to romance authors, including receiving the Romance Writers of America RITA award four times and being inducted into the RWA Hall of Fame. (The RITA is the romance industry equivalent of Hollywood’s Oscar.) In addition, she is a USA Today and NY Times bestselling author.
With a degree in Family Studies, Thomas is a marriage and family counselor by education, a background that enables her to write about family dynamics. Honored in 2002 as a Distinguished Alumni by Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Thomas enjoys interacting with students on the West Texas A & M University campus at Canyon, where she currently serves as Writer In Residence.
Commenting on her contribution to the arts, Thomas said, "When I was teaching classes full time, I thought I was making the world a better place. Now I think of a teacher, or nurse, or mother settling back and relaxing with one of my books. I want to take her away on an adventure that will entertain her. Maybe, in a small way, I’m still making the world a better place."
For more information, please check Jodi’s website at www.jodithomas.com.f
Sunday, January 24, 2016
People often ask me which is of my books is my personal favorite. I usually answer with the one I’m writing now. That is the truth, mainly because that is the story I’m most focused on, however, each book has something special about it. Whether it’s how the story came to be, the research behind it, a character that reminds me of someone, etc. etc. Saving Marina, which will be released February 1st, is no different. This book is special because of my family history.
I’d heard for years that there were ‘witches’ in our ancestry, but didn’t think much about it. All families have ‘skeletons in the closet’ and tidbits that may have grown into ‘wives’ tales’ over the years. It wasn’t until my son was exploring Ancestry.com and told me that my eight times great grandmother was arrested as a witch during the Salem Witch Trials that I took a deeper note of all those family stories, and the Salem Witch Trials.
During that tremulous time, which lasted less than a year, fear engulfed many communities, and along with that came self-preservation. People accused others of witchcraft in order to simply protect themselves. There are many theories behind the witch trials. Some I read amazed me, others were staggering, and then there are those that, although incredulous, seem understandable considering the time period and the beliefs and ways of life back then.
My ancestor’s name was Elizabeth Dicer, and though I dug up as much material on her as I could, there isn’t much. It seems she was arrested after accusing several others of being a witch—which wasn’t uncommon. From my understanding, it was late in the year when she was imprisoned, and cold. Her son-in-law, whose name was Richard Tarr, (my paternal grandmother’s maiden name was Tarr, and Richard would have been her several times great grandfather) petitioned the courts to release not only Elizabeth, but several others because they would never survive the cold winter in the jail which had no heat. Just the previous month, The Court of Oyer and Terminer, which had been specifically created to try accused witches, had been overturned, or dissolved, by the Superior Court of Judicature which specifically outlawed the use of spectral evidence in any of the hearings. Richard obtained Elizabeth’s release by paying her bail and promising to return her to the courts for a set upon hearing date the following spring. Between the date of her release and trail date, additional changes and orders came about which led to the end of the accusations and trails, therefore Elizabeth, as well as several others, never needed to return. A few years later, monetary reparations and public apologies were granted to some families for false proof and wrongful deaths.
Although I used my family history and Richard Tarr’s name in my story, I did not use Elizabeth’s premise. Marina, my heroine, has her own reason for believing she is a witch.
I certainly enjoyed writing a story set during the Salem Witch Trials, and had lots of fun writing a series set during the Roaring Twenties, but westerns will always remain my favorites. Both to read and write. I’m excited to share I’ll have three of those released in 2016. April will bring Western Spring Weddings, an anthology including my story, When a Cowboy Says I Do. June will bring Her Cheyenne Warrior. My November title is yet to be determined, but it is a Christmas tale set in Colorado.
So…is there an old wives tale in your family that has proven true?
Friday, January 22, 2016
From a Hollywood standpoint, the movie was all it promised to be - the story of a man struggling for survival while bent on revenge, and some really wonderful cinematography. Sadly, it fell short on historical accuracy (as is most often the case with Hollywood movies) as well as with survival accuracy.
It is a rather gory movie - it is hyped as being "realistic", and in that regard, it is very realistic. However, here is where I had some problems with the movie: Hugh Glass did not set out on a journey of revenge for the death of his son (whether he had an Indian wife and son is up for debate). The more I read about him, the more it came to light that he wasn't even seeking revenge against the men who left him for dead (as I have written in this post originally - I decided to leave it and didn't change it). All he wanted was his rifle back from Fitzpatrick, who took it from him when he left him to die.
For dramatic effect, Hollywood decided to kill off several historical figures long before their time in this movie.
The survival scenes weren't all that accurate, either. The movie took place mostly in the winter, and I can speak from experience that it's not as easy to start a fire when it's cold and wet out as they make it seem in this movie.
Hugh Glass in the movie survived the bear attack just like the real Hugh Glass, but for as many times as he found himself in a frigid river, he should have died of hypothermia several times over. I guess the movie makers were trying to stay true to the theme of "revenant." The final straw for me was when he gutted a horse, and slipped inside the animal's cavity in order to stay warm for the night. That scene came right out of Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and was very out of place. I didn't see the need for him to strip out of his clothes and seek shelter inside a dead animal (a survival strategy, for sure, but very much out of place in this particular scene - the horse had just gone over a cliff with him on it. How he survived that fall is anyone's guess.)
I'm glad I went to see the movie, but I left feeling rather disappointed. I was hoping that it wouldn't be based quite so loosely on what really happened. Here's a little of the true story of Hugh Glass:
The story of Hugh Glass has to be one of the most amazing stories of survival in the history of the west. The man practically became a legend in his own time.
He’d led a life as a pirate before he decided to become a fur trapper in the early 1820’s at the age of 40. He signed on with William Ashley and Andrew Henry, who led an expeditions up the Missouri River in 1823. When they reached the Grand River near today’s Mobridge, South Dakota, they left their boats to head toward the Yellowstone on land.
During this journey, in which many of Ashley’s men were killed by Arikara Indians, Hugh Glass surprised a grizzly sow and her two cubs. He was away from the rest of his party at the time, and the grizzly attacked him before he was able to shoot his rifle. He fought the bear with his bare hands (no pun intended) and a knife, and nearly killed it, but he was badly mauled during the fight.
His companions heard his screams and came running. They found a bloody and badly maimed Glass. He was barely alive, with the grizzly lying on top of him. They killed the bear and pulled Hugh’s body from underneath her.
Everyone knew that there was no hope for their friend. They bandaged him as best as they could, and waited for him to die. The danger of Indians discovering them was a constant fear, and Hugh’s moans and cries of pain would certainly give them away. William Henry decided their group needed to move on. It wasn’t worth risking their lives for one dying man. He asked for a couple of volunteers to stay behind and bury Glass properly once he died.
John Fitzgerald and Jim Bridger agreed and immediately began digging the grave. They waited. Three days later, Glass was still alive. Fearful of Indians, Fitzgerald persuaded Bridger that they should leave and follow their comrades to the Yellowstone.
Fitzgerald picked up Glass's rifle, knife and other equipment and dumped him into the open grave. They threw a bearskin over him and shoveled in a thin layer of dirt and leaves, leaving Glass for dead.
But Glass did not die. It’s not known how much time passed, but he regained consciousness. He was alone and without weapons in hostile Indian territory. He had a broken leg and his wounds were festering. His scalp was almost torn away and the flesh on his back had been ripped away so that his rib bones were exposed. The nearest help was 200 miles away at Ft. Kiowa. His only protection was the bearskin hide.
Glass set his own broken leg and began crawling toward the Cheyenne River about 100 miles away. Feverish and fighting infection, he was often unconscious. It is said that he used maggots to eat away his infected flesh. Then, according to legend (or tall tale at this point, take your pick) he woke up to find a grizzly licking his maggot-infested wounds which could very well have saved him from further infection.
Glass survived mostly on wild berries and roots. On one occasion he was able to drive two wolves from a downed bison calf and eat the raw meat.
It took Glass two months to crawl to the Cheyenne River, where he built a raft which carried him downstream to Ft. Kiowa on the Missouri.
After he was nursed back to health over many months, Glass set out to find the two men who had left him for dead. He found Bridger at a fur trading post on the Yellowstone River but didn't kill him because Bridger was only 19 years old, and just following Fitzgerald’s orders. Glass later found Fitzgerald but changed his mind about killing him because Fitzgerald had joined the Army.
Glass eventually returned to the Upper Missouri where he died in 1833 in a battle with hostile Arikaras Indians.
Besides The Revenant, the story of Hugh Glass has been made into a movie before in "A Man in the Wilderness" in 1971 staring Richard Harris and John Huston. A novel, "Lord Grizzly" also recounts the story.
Peggy L Henderson
Western Historical and Time Travel Romance
“Where Adventure Awaits and Love is Timeless”
Award-Winning Author of:
Yellowstone Romance Series
Teton Romance Trilogy
Second Chances Time Travel Romance Series
Blemished Brides Western Historical Romance Series
Wednesday, January 20, 2016
By Lyn Horner
Look for big news at the end of this post!
I briefly mentioned the Katy Railroad in a post about
|Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railway (Katy) map, circa 1918|
First, some back story:
By the end of 1861 nine railroad companies with about 470 miles of track operated within
Five of the railroads centered around Texas .
None were long lines and most ran from either a seaport or river port. Although
all of the companies operated for relatively short periods of time, they
brought about improvements in travel and transport in Houston . Texas
A writer to the
Tri-Weekly Telegraph recalled a 35-mile trip by stagecoach that took a
day and a half in December 1854 following days of rain. Less than two years
later, a similar trip aboard the Houston and Texas Central was accomplished in
one hour and forty minutes. Houston
Previous to 1876, when prohibited by law, individual cities and counties issued about $2.4 million in bonds to aid railroad construction. The state provided major incentives in the form of land grants and loans.
Although three railroads were completed and opened after the outbreak of the Civil War, other operating companies, such as the Houston and Texas Central, were forced to halt construction. Many were unable to resume building until much later. Most existing
railroads did not suffer the destruction caused by war as in the rest of the
South, but all were in bad physical condition when the conflict ended. Texas
After the war, railroad building in
was slow until the 1870s, although the
Houston and Texas Central did resume construction in 1867. Building northward,
the H & TC reached Texas Corsicana in 1871, Dallas in 1872, and the Red River
in 1873. But it was not the first line to cross the Red and connect with the rest of
the nation. That honor went to the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railway Company (the
M-K-T or Katy.) Texas
The M-K-T’s predecessor, the Union Pacific Railway Company, Southern Branch, was chartered in 1865 by the State of
Kansas to build from ,
to the state's southern border. Investors grew highly interested in the road
after the federal government pledged that right-of-way through Indian Territory
( Fort Riley, Kansas ) and
a liberal bonus of land would be given to the railroad that first reached the
Territory's northern border. Oklahoma
In 1870 the railway's name was changed to the
Missouri, , and Texas Railway Company, making
clear the railway's planned service area. Its purpose was to carry goods and
people from Kansas Missouri, Kansas,
and points north and east across Indian Territory into . The Katy, advertised as the “Gateway
to Texas Texas,” bridged the Red River at Colbert’s
Ferry, entering Texas near the site of , where the first
regular train arrived on Christmas Day, 1872. Denison
However, no land in
Territory except the right-of-way was given to the company. The
courts ruled that Congress had no authority to give land to the railroad that
belonged to the Indians. Nevertheless, the MKT prospered, acquiring other small railroads while reaching Dallas in 1886, Waco in
1888, Houston in April 1893 and in 1901. San Antonio
When the Katy reached
|MKT Ad 1881|
Over the next few decades the MKT acquired several more railroad lines, allowing the company to service other portions of
Texas and . Between 1915 and January 4, 1959, the Katy in combination with the Oklahoma St. Louis – San Francisco Railway (known as the Frisco), operated the Texas Special from St. Louis to Dallas, Ft. Worth, and . The rail cars bore names including Sam Houston, Stephen F. Austin, David Crockett and James Bowie. San Antonio
|The Katy Limited circa 1910|
Since then much of the
Missouri track line
has become part of the Katy Trail State Park
and the . In downtown Missouri State Park Dallas
(location of the Katy’s last headquarters) a 3.5-mile-long section called the Katy Trail
is a multi-use trail running from White
to the .
In 1997 the segment linking American Airlines Center Katy, Texas (named after the railroad) to downtown was abandoned and
soon stripped of rails. Another section was purchased by the Texas Department
of Transportation in 1998 for the expansion of the Katy Freeway. Houston
Now for my exciting news. Rescuing Lara (Romancing the Guardians, Book One) has been nominated for a Reviewer's Choice Award by the Paranormal Romance Guild. It's in the Paranormal Erotic / Romance Suspense Thriller Novel category. Quite a mouthful, right? By the way, I don't consider my books as erotica but evidently the reviewer does. I don't mind. She gave me 5 stars!
If you would like to help me win, you can vote here:http://www.paranormalromanceguild.com/prgawards2015.htm