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The ‘Howevermany’ Commandments for Writers

1 Sep

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a first-time published author will automatically become a source of magical information to all his/her writer wannabe friends – so that they, too,  may become published ASAP!  With all due respect to Jane Austen who wrote a similar opening sentence to one of the BEST books ever published  – Pride and Prejudice  –  for the revised version above, which I first put on paper in February, 1996. Yep. 1996. My first book had been published some 2½ years previously, and for some reason that seemed to gain me ‘instant oracle’ status in my writing circles.

So, my first thought then (as it still is today) was ‘I could write a book about that.’  I did start one, too, and have been playing with the notion since then.  One thing that’s not changed in all the intervening years is the title for this gem: The “How to Write a Book” Book.

I was then, and still am for that matter, totally amazed by how many people approach me to say they want to write a book, but don’t know how to get started. It always seemed easy to me, even if I didn’t do it myself all that often. You plunk yourself down in front of a (then) typewriter or (today) computer, and have at it!  Sure beats writing with a feather, as the Sainted Jane did two hundred years ago!

My original thought was along the lines of ‘The Ten Commandments for Writers.’ That didn’t last very long, as my list almost immediately expanded to Fifteen Commandments.  Finally, I settled on ‘howevermany’ as the best description. And I’m going to stick with that!  I’m still working on this book, but of course, the almost twenty years since I started it have seen a revolution in not only writing instruments and methods, but also the publishing world.

However, no matter how you slice it, there are still many very basic and important things that have not changed one little bit.  (By the way, I’m still working on this book, and it will see daylight in 2016, or else!)  Actually, when I started this blog in April, 2010, it was with the intention of using some of the blog posts for the book.  Following is the list I comprised in 1996.  What do you think?

First Preliminary Outline for Contents of: The “How to Write a Book” Book     2-4-1996

The 15 (or howevermany) commandments for writers. Or, how to produce a salable manuscript, assuming, of course, that you really can write.

(Not necessarily in this order, either.)

1  Learn to write in English. If you live and write in this country, or intend your work for an English-speaking country:            grammar, spelling, punctuation, plurals / possessives, to use or not to use?  The dangers of dialects!

2.  Figure out what you want to write, then read, read, read, and read, some more. Read all varieties of things, but especially in your chosen area.

  1. Show, don’t tell. Keep the reader as an active participant.
  1. Viewpoint. Who’s telling this story, anyway? (Viewpoint has nothing to do with tense, or voice.)
  1. Homonyms. One of two or more words that have the same sound, and often the same spelling, but differ in meaning.
  1. Styles. This can be a rather tricky one, but many writers wouldn’t think of putting a word on a page without a manual of style readily at hand.  Each publisher has its own style regarding punctuation, grammar and continuity.  So, if you gear your work toward one publisher and end up going with another, you may have to make lots of fixes, depending. Sometimes the difference is in words: toward  and towards being a common glitch. Fiction and non-fiction may also differ, but not usually within the same house. Some of the more common manuals of style are:  Chicago Manual of Style, New York Times Manual, AP Manual and The Elements of Style by William Strunk.
  1. Reference material, research, resources. How and where to find what; how to use what you’ve found, and how much to use.
  1. Basic presentation – putting it on the page. Plus – what’s the difference between a synopsis and an outline, and which do you use when?
  1. Using real people in your fictional world.
  1. Writer’s groups. Finding the right one for you, and just how helpful can they be, anyway?
  1. Sense(s) and sensibilities:  touch, taste, sight, sound, smell.  Mixing genres. Details, details and more details.
  1. Editor turn-offs and pet-peeves.
  1. Do you really need an agent? How do you find one?
  1. Suspension of disbelief. Yours, ours, theirs.
  1. Other markets and types of publishers.




Commercial publishers

Subsidy/vanity publishers


Epilogue – a Reminder –

What’s past is prologue,  now it’s up to you!

That last has NOT changed.

Questions?  Additions?  Comments?  Write to me at:   Thanks


A new book-of-the-month plan?

19 Aug


I nearly fell out of my chair earlier this month when I saw this cartoon (FREE RANGE by Bill Whitehead ©2015, distributed by in our local paper. Why? It brought back the memory of a letter I wrote in June, 2001. (Yes, 2001.) Before the ubiquitous cell phone and/or e-book/reader, etc., proliferated to the point that many people have multiple devices at hand on which they can read a book, listen to music or watch TV or even a movie! Obviously some things have changed: some have not. My sentiments have not changed in any way. I meant it then and I still mean it today.

This particular letter came about because of a dispute between The Association of American Publishers (to which it was sent) and public libraries regarding the copying of copyrighted materials.  But at least libraries pay for the material they acquire. If anyone is concerned about copying material, then all copying devices of whatever variety—book, audio/video cassettes or any other facsimile—should immediately be outlawed.

Back then, I was on my high horse about the abundance of Used Book Stores – the kind that advertised a book for sale as used, the very day it was released by the publisher. Or maybe even the day before! My campaign at that time (which I still propose, by the way) is that no book should be sold as ‘used’ before it’s at least a year old. Why?

Simple. People seem to lose sight of the fact that the author/writer(s) of the book, who have literally exuded blood, sweat and tears plus sleepless nights over the production of their progeny make not one penny on the sale of a used book, in the United States. Other countries are more protective of their creative artists, and ensure that at least a token payment is granted to the creator of the sold item.  In addition, in the UK, for instance, authors earn a royalty from every book borrowed from a library.  Imagine that! Why can’t we do something like that in this country? Don’t tell me that it’s too hard to keep track of things. Believe me, there’s a computer program for EVERYTHING imaginable. Or maybe it’s an App. Who knows?  I refuse to believe that one or other of these so-called Smart Phones couldn’t do this, with one hand tied behind it’s back!

I just really think the author should be entitled to his/her share of the book sales at least until the book has its first birthday. After that it will probably not sell enough copies to be harmful.  After all,  just consider please – without authors, there would be NO NEED for publishers, editors, cover artists,  publicists and the myriad other employee categories created to share the author’s work with the rest of the world.

Well, that was then. This is now, and not everything has changed.

Of course, publishers also suffered through that ‘used book’ craze. And the publishers would have been right to protest. But they didn’t. They went in another direction. In order to jack up the sales, they started paying mega-bucks as an advance, and higher royalties, thus making it even more difficult for the author to earn out.

If this practice is allowed to continue, here is a little peek into the future. Let’s say it’s now June, 2010.  (Sorry, I was a bit ahead of myself with that date!) The new load of book is now available at the bookstore. Yes, that is book. Singular. So which author is the author for this month? It is certain to be one of these or the newer version thereof; Stephen King, Mary Higgins Clark, Sue Grafton, Danielle Steele, John Gresham, and others of that ilk. There will, of course, will be only one publisher, publishing one (paper, not e-type) book per month. Genres will take turns: one month, mystery; the next suspense, etc. One month of the year might be devoted to non-fiction, such as biography. All of these will naturally be in hardcover.

The price for this book will be a minimum of $100. (US) of which the author may get a whopping $2.50, because, of course, the distributor for these books will demand a discount of 75% off the cover price, leaving the publisher the pitiful balance, out of which must be paid the acquiring editor, who will probably be the publisher, himself. There will, of necessity, be no editing or proofing done, as it isn’t cost-effective to do so. Disgusting, to put it mildly. Since there will be only one book per month, there is no need for cover artists or promotional staff. The text will go straight from the author’s computer to the type-setting computer, thus eliminating several more persons from the chain. There is probably no need for bookstores either. Libraries will, however, still function, and still be buying books, probably hundreds or more copies of each title, to satisfy those readers that are still left out there, but who can’t afford to actually buy a book. Imagine the waiting lists!  Eegads.

But. Out of the ashes of this fiasco, there are sure to be rebels who will fight and resist and go back to doing things the old way. The old way, in which the reader was the most important element in the process. Books are published for readers, after all. Aren’t they? Wouldn’t it be great if all these organizations found their way back to reality? And treated authors with the respect they deserve? After all—no authors equals no new books. What an awful world that would be!

And finally, I would be very wrong to not mention the Kindle Library that is available through  When you publish your book as an exclusive Kindle e-book, and allow them to put it in their library system, you will earn royalties as people borrow your book to read. This is as close to the UK library system as anything I’ve seen in the last few years, and I freely admit, I’m all in favor of it.  Now, if only Amazon would stop with the used print books before their time, I’d be almost entirely happy with the behemoth.

Comments, quibbles or questions?  Please write to me at  bookmechanic AT

Projecting confidence —

5 Aug

I think by now y’all know I am a big-time sports fan. Even if I really don’t know much about them, or understand their reason for being, I can still appreciate the time, money and energy invested in the effort to be the best in the world at whatever it is that you do. This applies in life, too, especially for someone in a creative endeavor.

You cannot succeed in any measurable fashion without such an investment. Of course, you don’t run around telling anyone who’ll listen “I’m the BEST!!” Well, unless you are, of course. But you’d better be able to back up your statement.

In 1992, when I was a member of Romance Writers of America, their national conference was held in Chicago. I was pleased beyond words to have a ribbon attached to my badge that said “First-time author” or something similar. Maybe it was “First Sale”. As I walked through the Literacy Book Sale (which I hoped to attend the next year, with my own book for sale) I stopped to buy a book from Nora Roberts.

I will never, ever forget her attitude when she saw that ribbon on my badge. Her face lit up as she smiled and said “Hey, Congratulations on your first sale! What kind of book is it, and when will it be available?” Holy cow! The queen of romance was interested in me – and my book? Well, if she wasn’t really, she was certainly a top-notch actress, as her enthusiasm surely seemed genuine. I literally floated through the rest of the conference. I know I stood straighter after that, and walked the same way. Ms. Roberts made me feel as though I’d just been nominated for a Pulitzer!

My Mama would have been proud, had she been able to see me, after all her years of admonishing me to “stand up straight!” Ms. Roberts gave me a wonderful gift that day. She instilled in me a sense of confidence in myself as a writer. I’m not sure it had really hit me yet, that by next year’s conference I’d have a book of my own to sell.

I’m forever saying that even just writing a book (and finishing it!) is not easy. Getting it published is even more of a task. But you have to believe in yourself and what you’re doing or you’ll never succeed. Has everything I’ve written been published? Mostly, yes. Those books or stories that I’ve finished, have been published.

Last weekend, ESPN was all about a fight between two women for a major title. The expected winner certainly did just that. In 34 seconds this time. Her last four fights have totaled exactly 130 seconds from start to finish. Eeegads! From looking at her, you can easily tell that she’s very serious about her training, etc. She’s also drop-dead gorgeous, but that’s beside the point.

One of the many fringe stories about her was her support group – they were labeled ‘the four horsewomen’, in a photo. Even with no caption, it’s easy to pick out the champion. Her bearing, her posture shout it out. She really is the best in her world right now, and I expect for the future, as well. Her confidence radiates from her, and why not?  What do you think? Which one is the champ?


So, start thinking about yourself and what you do. Are you successful? If not, do you want to be? Think about it for a while, then put your shoulders back, and your chin up, and look at the world head-on. Stand in front of a mirror and tell that image, “I AM good.” The sooner you believe yourself, the sooner you will be just that. (You can substitute the word ‘great’ for good in that statement, if you wish.)

Questions? Comments?  Please write to me at: bookmechanic AT

P.S.  Ronda Rousey is on the right in the above photo. The other UFC fighters are from left, Marina Shafir, Jessamyn Duke, and Shayna Baszler. (Screen shot taken from – photo credit: Hans Gutknecht/Los Angeles Daily News.)

Punctuation: friend or foe?

21 Jul

Last time out, I talked about re-reading something I’d written a long time ago, and my astonishment at what I’d written.  Then, I ran into a slight road-block on my way to re-publishing this book by its original title That Room at Ardenwycke rather than the shorter title selected by the publisher that first time around: Ardenwycke Unveiled.  I needed a new cover, and couldn’t think of one. So I went to the second of the two books  – this one being the first book I ever wrote (and completed – important distinction, that) Bertie’s Golden Treasure.  It’s a Regency Romance, and a cover illustration popped into my head almost immediately, so I decided to go with that one first, and then come back to Ardenwycke.


A funny thing happened as I re-read Bertie, using the file from which the previous print book was made. I have always been profligate with punctuation, especially commas. To my distress, there were almost no commas in this book! Sentences were either really short, or ran on for seemingly forever before they finally came to a full stop. I put a lot of commas (and some other punctuation, as well) back in there.

It dawns on me that very likely the use of punctuation is an ‘age’ thing. Most older folks learned how to speak in an understandable fashion (not at a rate of 500+ words per minute) and write comprehensibly, because they  also learned the proper use of punctuation. Then the minimalist trend hit. ‘Why is that comma there? It isn’t needed, so get rid of it!’

To me, however, it is needed there. For someone who reads aloud, or is on radio or even TV, punctuation is a necessity! It tells you when to breathe! It’s that simple. No wonder many of us older folks are continually telling all-too-many  younger folks to ‘slow down, please’ or ‘I’m sorry, could you please repeat that?’  (Hopefully, us older folks also know the value of ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, when used appropriately.) And yes, I do believe that last comma there is in the right place. Commas do not always go inside quote marks.

(As a for instance here. For fifteen years, I read for the Cleveland Sight Center, which operated a small, closed-circuit Radio Reading Service for the visually-handicapped community. For two hours each Wednesday evening, with a partner, we read from the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. Shortly after beginning this venture, I also began to record books for the Library of Congress Talking Books Program – and at least one of them is still there!  Through those years, I taped more than 100 books for the Sight Center and Cleveland Public Library. Also for a while, I was the Saturday announcer on our local classical music station. Later, as a writer, I was selected to be one of five or six reviewers chosen to attend classical music performances in the area, and then write a review, which would be taped the next day at the station for broadcast during the coming weekend. It took me little time to learn that – at my reading speed – 475 written words equaled just less than 3 minutes pf spoken words – the max limit. Actually they were to be 2 minutes, 57 seconds worth.  Believe me, the value of punctuation was never more apparent than during this exhilarating adventure!)

If you write mainly for yourself, you may, of course, do whatever you wish, even if you self-publish. If you wish to be published by a commercial publisher, however, that publisher will have already established its own ‘style’ of punctuation and other elements of the written word. This may include font, font size, spacing on the page and whether headers and/or footers are used, etc. In this case, the publisher wins the argument, and a wise author will agree.  It’s really quite simple. If you don’t agree, you may forfeit the right to be published, or possibly, the changes will be made without your knowledge or consent. Not fair, but thems the rules!

Just for fun,  the cover for Bertie, which I hope to have available at Amazon’s Kindle site later this week – or early next is shown at the top of this post. Ardenwycke is still in the proof-reading/create-a-cover process.

As always, questions or quibbles should be sent to me at:     Thank you!

Did I really write this?

8 Jul

Just as parents are supposed to love all their children equally, there are times when it doesn’t happen that way. Authors are thought of in the same way. Not true.  Not all kids are loveable all the time, and it’s when they’re the most unlovable that they need the most love.

Books, however, are a tad bit different. They’re not all created equal, and I suspect it would be a strange author who didn’t have a favorite of their works, even if there were only two of them!

I did love my first book, a Regency titled Bertie’s Golden Treasure. I loved Regency (still do – big time!) and this book came about in such a strange fashion, it was hard not to love it. The next book is definitely not my best, so we’ll just ignore it. Maybe it’s the step-child off in the corner, but I don’t think it’ll ever get to another ball.

The next book was the first of mine to be published. Secret Shores was a joy to write, mainly because of all the research I did for it. I had a list of more than 60 books that I’d consulted by the time I was ready to start writing. And other than a short hiatus while I recuperated from a ruptured gall bladder, the book progressed fairly smoothly, other than a very pushy mother of the hero. I promised her a book of her own if she’d just please retire to the other room and me let get on with it. She did as I asked, and I fully expected the next book from me to be her story. She was Windsong.

A funny thing happened however. The day after I finished Secret Shores was the chapter meeting of our local RWA Chapter. . . .   In case you’re thinking, “gee, this sounds familiar,” you’re right. I wrote about this on March 23, 2011. Four years ago, already. It’s here, in case you missed it the first time around.

Well, last year my most recent publisher Ellora’s Cave decided to phase out their non-erotica lines, and all of my books fell into that gap. So I now have the rights back to all of them, and will definitely be re-issuing at least Ardenwycke Unveiled and Bertie’s Golden Treasure during the next month or so. And therein lies the foundation of this particular post.

Having been going through the manuscript, checking for formatting and other glitches, I’ve been reading it as I go along, and I keep saying, “WHERE on earth did this come from?” Darned if I know. I can’t believe some of what’s in here. It absolutely belongs, and I think it makes the story much stronger, but how did I know some of this stuff? I mean, I’ve led a fairly sheltered life, and to the best of my knowledge have only encountered a ghost two times. And that ghost was nothing like the ghost in Ardenwycke!

Well, to be very honest, I haven’t a clue. But I still really like this book a lot. I think it is my favorite of all my books. At least so far.  It’ll be ready to go sometime in early August I hope. I’ll keep you posted! By the way,  I’m changing the title back to my original one – That Room at Ardenwycke. I think it makes more sense, although it is longer, but that’s okay, too.

Questions or comments? Please write to me at

Almost everything I ever needed to know I learned from a romance novel!

24 Jun

This makes perfect sense to me, if you consider that I never went to kindergarten! I started right into first grade at the age of five, and began learning right from the start!

But I was well along into my adulthood when romance novels became the big thing – in our world and in publishing. It’s amazing how such a female-driven force can be so poo-poohed by the male half of the population, which is slightly less than the female half. If they only knew – they, too, could learn a lot from these books.

The first thing they’d learn is that a GOOD writer can create worlds that are so believable you can practically reach out and touch them. No, I’m not saying that only women can do this. You’ll notice I used the word ‘writer’. I’m not prejudiced, except toward incompetence in either sex. There was a fabulous writer of romance novels in the 90s or so published under the pen-name of Leigh Greenwood, an androgynous name which served the author well. I said of his books, ‘if you didn’t know it was written by a man, nothing in the story would indicate that it was.’

In the second place, these novels are not just about love or romance, although they may have started life that way, these days, they mirror life in other respects, especially reality. They don’t tolerate brutality or sexism or racism, all the while extolling the virtues of honesty, faithfulness, integrity and civility. Can’t complain about that very much, can you?

I don’t much care for the word ‘bad’, so in this context, as in most things, I’ll just say there are good examples and not-so-good examples of writing, story-telling, editing and proof-reading – all readily apparent in the publishing world today. When all of these stars align in the heavens – the result is pure magic! (And you stay up way too late reading, because you simply cannot put the book down!) There are more categories of romance than you would imagine, unless you’re the category person for any of the many contests available to aspiring writers. Used to be there was contemporary and historical. But, of course, there are multiple sub-genres for each of those.

I learned that every place there is — on earth, is wonderful – to someone. If a well-done story can make you think that the place you previously considered to be the armpit of the world isn’t really that, but instead is paradise on earth, then who am I to argue? I think that every state in the US, and many other places must have at least one really strong adherent for that locale, and they write so winningly about it, you want to hop in the car and go see for yourself.

True, romance novels do tend to illuminate the lives of women – and how when they’re handed lemons, these sometimes down-trodden women figure out how to make terrific lemonade, or some other fabulous concoction. They’ve shed light on nearly every possible career choice, and probably created more than a few new ones (previously unknown) to help the heroine support herself and possibly her children as well, if that’s what it takes.

Sometimes, the stories deal in a considerate, yet explicit manner about health issues – for either sex of any age. My big epiphany came in early June, when I read ‘All You Need Is Love’ by Marie Force. This isn’t the first of her books that I’d read, but it’s one I’ll never forget. As the heroine Cameron wanders through these pages, accompanied by her internal monologues about life, career and men, more than once I thought ‘how did this author get so far into my head?’ I was dumbstruck as each one could absolutely have been an episode from my life. And then, Ms. Force put the hammer down, as Cam confessed to her new guy that she had ADD, and explained how she realized this and what she did about it.

Holy cow! I mean, seriously. When I was of school age, no one had ever heard of this condition. To be sure, my grandmother who had charge of me from age 9 to 13 used to continually tell me I had no ‘stick-to-it-ive-ness’ because I would flit from this to that to the other, enjoying myself immensely, and almost always excelling in the process. I thought it was natural at that time, because I’d always been that way, having no siblings, and being cheerfully encouraged by my Dad.

Of course, I drove everyone around me nuts by this, and still do, I’m (maybe) sorry to say, but for the most part I’ve had a very interesting life. Not always happy, but then whose entire life ever is?  I learned to overcome these momentary bumps, and keep going. But this was something else entirely. Immediately I turned to the web to see what it was really all about. This is what I discovered. Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: A chronic condition including attention difficulty, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness.

I think I must be the poster child for this condition. It’s so me, it’s not funny. But it makes such sense, and answers so many questions I’ve had in my life, it’s unreal. ​ That old saying ‘jack of all trades, master of none’ might have been written about me.​ I never knew that this was not the ordinary way of life!

Now that I’ve had a couple of weeks or so to think about this and the ramifications of it all – you’ll never believe my first reaction. It is R E L I E F. It’s one thing to be something, but it’s an entirely different thing to know it, and then to know why. I find myself much more relaxed and calm. Even when the phone and the internet went kerflooey for the better part of a week, I managed to keep my cool! I’ve also been able to lower the ‘hyper’ part of my life, and it’s so much nicer to be able to actually stop and smell the roses! I don’t feel like I have to be doing something amazing every minute of the day! And, I’m sleeping much better – fewer interruptions for lines from a poem, or a musical phrase or the idea for a new book waking me up at 3 am.  There’s more than enough hours in the daytime for them, and that suits me just fine!

I’m not going to pursue any medications for this – not at my age! But, I do try to keep this knowledge firmly in the front of my head, and pay attention to what it’s telling me. I’m also trying to lessen my impulsiveness and compulsiveness – both of which will happily conspire to drive you nutso if you let them.

I am beyond grateful to Marie Force for having written this book, and what better title for a book to change your life – All You Need is Love. Indeed. We all need love. It’s just that some of us need more of it than others do! As I used to tell my daughter – “When you most need to be loved is when you’re the most unlovable.”  Remember that, please.

Questions or comments? Please write to me at

What’s In a Name?

9 Jun

When you plunk yourself in the chair in front of your computer, and begin to write your story, do your characters emerge full-grown, complete with names and full IDs, or do they hide behind walls and refuse to show themselves to you without a formal introduction?

Generally, my characters tell me who they are before I start writing, but the minor players are sometimes bashful, and I have to go seeking their identity. Names come from various sources, and places, so it’s needful to pay attention. Sometimes more than others.

For contemporary stories, however, you can sort of let your imagination take wing. Or use any of the very helpful guides available to help new parents choose a great name for the addition to the family.

Androgynous names can be helpful, too, as I can easily attest – Kelly being one such. In one workplace thirty years ago, which never had more than a dozen workers at any one time, there were two named Kelly and two named Kim. The odd part was that one of each pair was male and the other obviously, female. None of the four of us had ever before encountered another person with the same first name, so if either name was called out, we all turned to see which one of us was being called for. It was SO weird! But fun  in a way, to suddenly become part of a world with seemingly too many persons named Tom and/or Jane.

It’s mostly men who are tagged with a number after their name, as in II, III, or IV. I think the only one that goes higher than that are European Monarchs of past years, who had great fondness for certain names: George comes to mind, as does Charles or Henry. In this day and age, however, I suspect that number is more of a burden than anything else, although it does demonstrate a family’s longevity.

Some names imply character traits that may or may not exist in your character. If you are determined to go against type, you would do well to provide a sentence or two explanation. For instance, an acquaintance of mine was named for a dear friend of her mother. However, the two women who shared that name never met. The younger one (let’s call her Blanche, to avoid getting tangled up in all the pronouns) hated her name, and couldn’t wait until she was old enough to change it legally. Which she did, and has been happily re-named since that time. A funny side issue: Blanche’s Mom accepted the new name with no trouble, and always referred to her daughter by the child’s chosen new name. Blanche’s mother-in-law, who herself had a nick-name totally unaffiliated with her own name, flatly refused to accept the change. This didn’t exactly make for happy family gatherings, always providing additional tension to a situation already filled with more tension than needed.

If you expect your character to have a happy old age, give a bit of thought to how well that name might age along with the person.

Movie studios in the 1930s were notorious for re-naming their up-and-coming stars. Think Roy Rogers, John Wayne and Gene Autry. Chances are they’d not achieved their manly star status under their birth names: Leonard Franklin Slye, Marion Mitchell Morrison and Orvon Grover Autry, respectively.

And then there were Judy Garland, Rita Hayworth Joan Crawford and Marilyn Monroe. Hmm. Maybe there is something to this naming thing. These ladies were christened (in order): Frances Ethel Gumm, Margarita Carmen Cansino, Lucille Fay LeSueur and Norma Jeane Mortenson.

And of course, there was that wonderful song made famous by Johnny Cash:  A Boy Named Sue. It won Grammy Awards for Best Country Song as well as Best Male Country Vocal Performance. An interesting side note: in 1969, when it was recorded, the word ‘damn’ was edited out of the last line before the recording session. Imagine that!

If you’re writing a historical novel, you’ll find wonderfully unfamiliar and currently unknown names for your characters by delving into novels written during the time in question. Maybe there’s a ‘family’ name that’s always used for the first child, but maybe also, it could be used as a middle name rather than the first name. Tradition was much stronger and more important to the family in centuries past; much more so than it usually is in these unbuttoned times.

And, if you pay attention (a wee bit of research will help with this one) you can be fairly safe in naming female characters after flowers — the research is to be sure the flower actually was available in your country and year of choice. Males can almost always be named after a monarch.

A creative writer can usually think of some justification for nearly anything to be included in her/his book, but inventing names does require a bit of extra thought. On the other hand, it seems that real families of today – at least in Ohio – are delving into the past for baby names, which you can see by this article in our daily paper from last month.

So — Happy Name Day! — everyone!

As always, questions and comments may be directed to: