Friday, January 29, 2016

What's in a name? No, seriously. There's a right answer. @SouthernMagicRW

Shakespeare may have had it poetically correct, but he might also have been fundamentally wrong. A rose would still smell like a rose if it was called a rocket. But then it might explode in your face.

Names hold great power. We see it in our daily lives and in the books we read, but some of my favorite examples are in the Bible. Jabez, the guy in First Chronicles who's famous for his prayer, was named so because he gave his mother great pain in childbirth. His name literally means pain. Ouch!

God even changed people's names to go with their purpose. Many years after he swindled his brother Esau (hairy) out of his birthright, Jacob (the supplanter) had his name changed to Israel (God prevails) as a token of blessing. Abram (high father) was changed to Abraham (father of a multitude). Naomi (pleasant) wanted to be called Mara (bitter) after she lost her family. Jesus told Simon (he has heard God) that he'd be called Peter (the rock). And y'all thought this guy was the first one.

I'm a little preoccupied with names. I'm sure it's due to my own unique name and frequently being asked its meaning. I explain it on my website in case you've never had the pleasure. Click here for more.

I think names can give people (and the characters we write) strengths, weaknesses, and destiny.

When I first joined Southern Magic, it was shortly before the reader's luncheon where Sherrilyn Kenyon was the key note speaker. Some awesome author mentioned that Sherrilyn had a book on character names, so I hopped on the 'Zon and ordered myself a copy. Here are my affiliate links if you want to check it out. First one is Kindle, second is paperback.

This book has been extremely valuable to me in naming characters, particularly those whose ethnic roots influence their behavior. I have a yet to be published novel in the rough draft stages where the heroine is from a strong Italian family. I named the entire family from this resource. LOL

In the Character Naming Sourcebook, the chapters are divided into about forty-five countries of origin, so if you're writing characters with Irish heritage, you can look up surnames and given names (male and female) and their meanings. Pretty cool, huh?

My name is even in this book in the Native American section.

If you're looking to name a your villain, instead of naming them after someone you dislike, you can check the book or this fun website I found by doing a Google search. Or you can look up the name of the person you're least fond of and see what their name means.

See how much fun this is? I could waste a lot of time looking up name meanings, but the whole point is that names have power.

Even yours.

Google it and post the meaning in the comments.

We can all benefit from the knowledge of what's in a name.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Confession of a Pantser

I am a total pantser and have many times started a story with only the name of one of the characters and a sentence. It's always a miracle that I can get more words as I go along. :)  I spend a lot of my time in the car traveling for work and when I hear a song on the radio that speaks to me for some reason, I make a note of it and when I have about 15, I make a playlist. Once that is done, I immerse myself in those songs and most of the time, a nucleus of a story comes to me.

For example, I heard Please Mister Please by Olivia Newton John for the first time in years right before November. Suddenly, I had a character named Olivia who owned a bar called Ollie's. And since I am not a country music fan, I had her own this bar in Texas and hate the music. AND so, I was off on my #NaNoWriMo story that ended up being 65,000 words. :)

Now comes the confession. I offered to help a friend brainstorm a new book even though I am in the middle of my own with some issues and even though it's the time of year I have to do annual reports for 2015 for the day job.  But, I figured I had plenty of time to help before the book is due and agreed with her to setting some time to do it in February.

I went to bed last night in the midst of a crazy storm. The lightning must have triggered something in the old synapses because I woke up with an awesome first scene in my head. I also had backstory on both main characters and their goals and motivations. Even some internal and external conflict.

Writing all this down took 5 pages in my notebook. I had a plot and a plan. For someone else. What was going on?  AND would she hate it? LOL.  So, I confess. I CAN plot. Shhh,don't tell. It'll be our secret.

** oh and here's a creepy thing. I am listening to as I wrote this and guess what song came on???**

Wednesday, January 20, 2016


 Miss Frankie, the librarian on the Lee County Bookmobile, opened up the world of books for me. When I was six, I thought she must be at least a hundred years old. Though she smelled ancient, a combination of baby powder, breath mints and the glue used in book bindings, she had the lively mind of an avid reader.  And she knew how to put exactly the right books into the hands of a six-year-old Mississippi farm girl in love with words.
My house was one of the “stops” for the bookmobile. I was always on the front porch waiting for Miss Frankie. She’d help me fill a cardboard box with books then tell me to share them with the kids in the neighborhood. I did, but only after I’d read them first. I learned to read very fast so I’d have at least four books finished before Mama notified the neighbors that our monthly stash of books had arrived.
By the time I was in fifth grade, I was not only reading voraciously, but I had also learned how to project myself into the story and become the characters. Mrs. Cynthia Pickens, or “Miss” Pickens as we called her,  believed in stretching little minds with great literature. She introduced us to Mark Twain by reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to us at story time. 
In country schools, it was not uncommon for students to advance through the grades without learning more than the basics of reading. A little kid who could not only read well but make the characters come alive was rare. So “Miss’ Pickens often called on me to read at story time. It was my first taste of standing before an audience presenting the work of an author, and I was hooked!
After a meandering journey that took me through two children, more dogs than I can remember, graduate school and the literature of great Southern writers – Eudora Welty, Tennessee Williams, William Faulkner, Flannery O’Conner, Walker Percy – I made the transition from reader to published writer.
           Eudora Welty (Why I Live at the P. O.) and Mark Twain helped me find my comedic voice.  It took nearly twenty years and several genres before I realized  my true voice is that of a basset hound who thinks he’s Elvis reincarnated. 
          It’s not easy being a dog. For one thing, I prefer the entire steak to just the bone. But as Elvis says, “Give me a good Cuban cigar and a shot of bourbon in my dog chow, and even I can write a book.”
             Do check out the latest book in the Southern Cousins Mystery Series, Elvis and the Rock-A-Hula Baby Capers!

Peggy Webb is the USA Today Bestselling author of more than 75 books, including romance and the comedic Southern Cousins Mystery Series. She also writes literary fiction as Elaine Hussey.  Peggy’s two dogs send an urgent message to race out and buy her books so their human mom can keep them in faux fur pillows and Pup-Peroni.  Do visit her at her websites, and as well as on FB and Twitter. Watch for her great giveaways for Valentine’s Day!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Getting the most out of your research

No matter which genre or subgenre you write for, you usually end up having to do research about something. If you write historical fiction, you spend a lot of time researching. If you do your job well, readers won't notice all of the research you have done, because you have woven it so naturally into your narrative. Still, you sometimes feel as if you want to scream from the rooftops: "Do you know how long I researched Victorian cookbooks just so I could write a dinner scene?"

This happened to me a few years ago. What started out as reading a nineteenth-century novel, becoming obsessed about a particular author, and drafting a story about her, eventually turned into two articles, helping with a documentary film, writing a book chapter for a scholarly press, and giving several presentations. After doing so much research, I decided to publish an article about my subject in a state history magazine. That first article opened so many doors, and I got so much more out of my research experience than I ever planned.

Research takes commitment and time--lots of time--and you want to make that time count. If you are writing historical fiction, of course your ultimate goal is to write a historically accurate novel, but you can also put all of your research time into other publication opportunities once you finish the novel. Once you have completed your manuscript, think about other ways you can get credit for your research. Perhaps you can publish an article in a history magazine or on a website. Maybe you can give a presentation to a local or national historical society or history group. Or, if you are so inclined, maybe you can even publish an academic article or book about your subject if you find something new and earth shattering! In other words, don't let all of your hard work go to waste. Get as much as you can out of those hours you spent searching books and digging through archives.

Susan Sierra is a historical and contemporary romance writer. She loves books and old letters, adores her dog and family, and has a deep and committed love affair with coffee. She spent time as an undergraduate studying (having fun) in Mexico, went on to work for a large regional magazine as a copy editor, and then decided that she hadn’t tortured herself enough in she went to graduate school. After many years, she walked away with a PhD and an unhealthy relationship with Charles Dickens. She hopes to complete her first full-length novel in 2015. FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER!

Friday, January 15, 2016

The Emerald City

Being a published author is like being Dorthy going to the Emerald City. You want to get to that beautiful, magical place of having your wonderful story presented to the world.  You have to go through trials and detours that are scary with flying monkeys always trying to hold you back, but when you finally arrive, it takes your breath away. It's more than you ever imagined. You're fascinated by all of the exciting activity and how everyone is wanting to make your story pretty as possible.

And then you go to see the wizard (booksellers).  Still a little scary, but you know this is what you want and you're determined to show how brave you are. Then with a lot of clanging and smoke billowing, you find out the truth.

It's what is in you that makes you successful. Not all the hoopla or even the polishing, your writing is all that counts and will bring you to where you should be. So simple, yet so difficult.

So what movie would best represent your path and beyond to being published or any special goal in  your life?


Carla Swafford loves romance novels, action/adventure movies and men, and her books reflect that. She's married to her high school sweetheart and lives in Alabama.

Twitter:  @carlaswafford
Facebook: CarlaSwafford, Author
Amazon: Carla Swafford Books
Barnes & Noble: Carla Swafford Books

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

To New Beginnings

So it's a trope. The New Year means new beginnings, new plans, new goals, and new dreams. We can't stop ourselves from making New Year's Resolutions.

Every year at least half of the United States makes resolutions on January 1st and only twelve percent actually keep them throughout the year. Writer Emrys Westacott says that New Year's Resolutions "represent the triumph of hope over experience."  Hopeful Americans all vow to lose weight, get out of debt, or reach their full potential.

And people have been hoping for a long time. Emperor Julius Caesar moved the New Year celebration from the Babylonian March date to January first in honor of the god of new beginnings, Janus. But those Babylonians were the ones that gave us resolutions. They regularly made promises to their gods at the new year in order to obtain favor in the coming months.

So what does this have to do with romance?

The romance novel is the genre of new beginnings and of hope. It is the perfect book with which to celebrate the new year.

Think about it--

The most basic plot is boy meets girl and they fall in love. A new love, a new relationship.

Another favorite plot is boy meets girl, boy loses girl, and then years later they meet to fall in love all over again. A new beginning to an older relationship. Hope supplants despair.

So this year while you're trying (and hopefully succeeding) to keep your New Year's Resolutions, try reading a romance and celebrate a new beginning and a new hope.

And if you're looking for one, I just happened to have published a book last month that fits that bill. Spindrift Gifts is about my characters Teo (of the tentacles) and his lover Jimenez settling on Teo's home planet of Celos. Their new beginning is a little rocky but ultimately hopeful.

The sequel to The Klockwerk Kraken is now available from MLR Press.

Spindrift Gifts
by Aidee Ladnier

When his memories endanger his happily-ever-after on Celos, Jimenez is forced to choose between forgetting his lover Teo, or accepting the sometimes painful gifts of Spindrift. 

Scars and a tattoo may be the only physical reminders from his years as a slave, but when Jimenez suffers a setback in his medical treatment, the only option is a therapy that will wipe away all his memories of the past including his time with Teo. Teo, torn between supporting his lover's decisions and the good intentions of his family, sets out to teach Jimenez about Spindrift Gifts and how memories are celebrated on Celos even when they are painful. Can Teo and Jimenez weather the storm to find their happily-ever-after on Celos?

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