What’s in a Name?

Kathleen DelaneyKathleen Delaney, author of Murder Half-Baked and other books, retired from real estate to pursue writing full time. She’s here today with her thoughts on selecting names for characters and how important the choices can be.

Murder by Syllabub, fifth in the Ellen McKenzie series, is available in bookstores now. PureBred Dead, the first in a new series, will be out in the spring of 2015.

Shakespeare was quite eloquent when he put those words in Juliet’s mouth, as was Romeo’s answer as he declares himself willing to give up his family name if it means they can be together. Name was all important, it identified who they were, who their families were, where they lived, and untimely why they died.

Names don’t seem to have the ability to inflame the way they did in Shakespeare’s time, or in the time of the Hatfield’s and the McCoy’s. Today we pick other reasons to shoot each other. However, names still carry meaning. They still say something about who we are, who are parents are, and where we come from.

No one is more conscious of that than the writer of novels.

The name we give our characters is your introduction to him/her. It sets the picture of the character in your mind. If I introduce you to Maria Gonzales, you may assume that she speaks Spanish, comes from, or her parents come from, a country somewhere south of the US border, and that the story will somehow center around her ethnicity. This may be an extreme example, but you get the idea.

Novelists, as do movie makers, try to come up with names that evoke a common image in people’s heads. Not an easy task, as there are precious few names that produce the same image in every one. However, we try.

Sam Spade, for instance, just wouldn’t have had the same clout if he’d been called Evan Turnbull. Not that Evan isn’t a good name, but it lacks the grittiness Sam Spade evokes. Think of Scarlett O’Hara. Would you still picture the smoky sexuality, the ruthless desire to get what she wanted no matter what, if her name had been Mary? Or Judy?

I’ve always thought Stephanie Plum is a perfect name for that character. It’s cute but not too cute, a little sexy but not overly so, and doesn’t seem out of character when she’s called cupcake. Or babe. I don’t think it would work quite as well if she was a Hannah, however.

The setting for the story and the family background play a large part in choosing a character’s name. You wouldn’t expect the male lead in a book featuring an Amish family to be named Cody. Or the girl Cassidy. However, you wouldn’t be surprised if Cassidy turned up in San Francisco, or Cody ran a cattle ranch in Texas.

Murder Half BakedI write traditional mysteries. They feature ordinary people who get caught up in extraordinary events, like murder. The town they live in is on California’s central coast, in the heart of wine country, but it is still a small town, where almost everybody knows everybody else. I wanted the names I used to reflect that, so they got pretty ordinary names. Ellen McKenzie is the main character in the first five books. The only extraordinary thing about her is she keeps finding dead people. Other than that, she struggles to bring up her daughter as a single mom, sells real estate to pay the bills, including her daughter’s, Susannah, college tuition, has a romance with the local police chief, Dan Dunham, and has an aunt named Mary McGill. People just like the ones who might live next door to you. Or would if you lived in a small town.

It’s not only the main characters whose names matter. Minor characters play a big part of any story, and those that reoccur need to be remembered. You don’t want to stop the story while the reader tries to remember who Allan is and where he appeared earlier.

character who plays, without intending to, a major role in the solving of the crime. She is middle aged, frumpy, dour, and deadly efficient. She is dedicated to her husband, her children and to what she considers her duty. She appears several times in PureBred Dead, the first in a new series due for release spring of 2015. I needed a name that easily identified her.

I named her Joy.

Book Review: Cornered by Alan Brenham

CorneredCornered
Alan Brenham
Black Opal Books,
ISBN 978-1-626941-38-0
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

He’s haunted by the memory of a kidnapping case gone wrong…

Not wanting history to repeat itself, Detective Matt Brady struggles to solve the disappearances of seven young women, but he quickly finds himself pitted against a criminal organization that knows as much about police procedure as he does-an organization that will do whatever it takes to stay one step ahead of him. His troubles are compounded when a young veterinarian injects herself into the investigation and is targeted to become victim number eight. When he tries to protect her, he finds himself in the crosshairs of a professional cop killer. Can Brady solve the case in time to save his new love, or will this investigation be the death of both of them?

Kidnappings are often difficult to solve but when there is one after another with no real apparent connection other than the physical type of women involved, investigative leads are few and far between. Such is the case Brady finds himself up against and he has no idea going in of the damage that will be done or the manipulative brilliance he’ll have to somehow overcome.

Betrayal is at the core of Cornered, the kind of betrayal that evil-minded, greedy people are more than willing to carry out against others. Another kind of betrayal hits Brady close to home and could lead to the end of his career. Which betrayal is worse? Certainly, these young women suffer the most but the second type is more personal and can also have longlasting effects. Brady needs to be strong enough to not let his circumstances get in the way of bringing these horrific crimes to an end but he also has to acknowledge the part he has played in all this. An uncomfortable position to be in, indeed.

A few things pulled me out of the story  temporarily. For one thing, there really isn’t a whole lot of money being made by these criminals, nowhere near as much as I would expect considering what they’re doing. Also, a conversation between Brady and Detective Ruiz regarding Brady’s personal life didn’t ring true, mainly because her comments are ill-considered and unnecessarily mean with no provocation. Still, I enjoyed Cornered on the whole and will be interested in trying more of Mr. Blenham’s work starting with his first book, Price of Justice. (Note: these two books are both standalones at the present time but I understand Price of Justice is the first of a series and, in my opinion, Cornered has left Brady in position to return in future volumes.)

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2014.

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“Alan Brenham’s Cornered is a taunt thriller filled with murderous twists
and turns that will satisfy readers who love good crime fiction. As a cop
and a lawyer, Brenham has been there and done that and in this, his second
outing, the authenticity of his storytelling ability continues to shine through.”
- Michael McGarrity, New York Times Bestselling Author of Hard Country & Backlands

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About the Author

 

Alan BrenhamAlan Behr served as a law enforcement officer and criminal investigator for seventeen years before earning a law degree from Baylor University. After obtaining his law license, he worked as a prosecutor and criminal defense attorney for twenty-two years. His personal and official travels took him to several European and Middle Eastern countries, Alaska and almost every island in the Caribbean. He has lived in Berlin, Germany while working with US military forces. After retiring from government service, he has authored two crime novels – Price of Justice and Cornered – under the pen name of Alan Brenham. He is presently working on two more novels. Alan and his wife, Lillian, currently live in the Austin, Texas area.

 

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Book Review: Time of Ruin by Shauna Granger

Time of RuinTime of Ruin
Ash and Ruin Trilogy Book Two
Shauna Granger
Shauna Granger, June 2014
ISBN 9781492759799
Trade Paperback &Ebook

From the author—

The world has ended, and hope is the most dangerous thing left.

Battered and bruised after barely escaping San Francisco with their lives, Kat, Dylan, and Blue press north – desperate to reach the possibility of a new home.

But strange, monstrous ravens are tracking the remaining survivors, food is becoming scarce, gasoline is running short, and people are becoming suicidal, making survival almost impossible.

And the Pestas are growing bolder. Somehow, their numbers are growing.

The further north they go, the harder it becomes to ignore the signs that they’ve made a fatal mistake. Kat must face the impossible truth that there is no escape, there is no safe haven, and their worst nightmares don’t come close to their new reality.

Shauna Granger was so kind to send me a copy of Time of Ruin after I lamented on her blog that I had missed her offer to reviewers. How have I repaid her? By taking endless weeks to write this review, even though I read the book within just a few days of getting it. And why is that, you ask? Well, truth be told, I’m not at all sure I can do it justice. Sigh :-(

The first book in this trilogy completely captivated me for a number of reasons and I couldn’t wait to read the second one while I also feared (slightly) that I’d be disappointed. You know how it is—even if the author doesn’t suffer from “sophomore slump”, there’s still the chance that the magic discovered in the first book just won’t be there in the second, for whatever reason. I’m delighted to say that didn’t happen with Time of Ruin; if anything, it’s better than the wonderful World of Ash and that’s as it should be.

Kat, Dylan and Blue are on a quest of sorts, one that’s common—and entirely credible—in many post-apocalyptic novels. It’s in our nature as humans to find other humans in a time of great crisis and, in this case, the trio’s quest is to get to Kat’s uncle, her only remaining family. The journey they take is fraught with peril of all sorts from those who are desperate or who seek to take advantage of others and they also must cope with personal stress such as hunger and injuries and loneliness. Looming in the dark is the presence of the terrible Pestas, creatures of death. They’re not zombies but share some of their characteristics and take it a step further by seeming to be able to think. These Pestas are enough to give one nightmares because, unlike zombies and other evil creatures, they are nebulous and little understood, not easy to visualize. They are the embodiment of pestilence just as the name suggests and yet we still don’t know what they really are. Not knowing is the worst.

Amidst all the despair, Kat and Dylan find themselves growing ever closer and mindful of each other’s needs. The care and love they show towards one another is uplifting as is the mutual adoration between them and Blue, probably one of the most wonderful fictional dogs ever. The three need to be thankful they have each other, especially when a most disheartening truth begins to come to light.

Time of Ruin is not all doom and gloom. Yes, it’s a dire situation and humanity is at risk of being annihilated, but there are times when we see that many people are still kind and generous and compassionate in spite of their circumstances. Ms. Granger also treats us to flashes of humor:

“I gather up some more gauze and all the tape and wipes I can find. I shove them into the pack and see that he managed to get a few cans of creamed corn and pudding cups—one item with no nutritional value and the other full of sugar. We’re doing this apocalypse right.”

Moments such as this lighten the mood but, when you get right down to it, Time of Ruin is a tale of humanity’s resilience in the face of horror and sadness and fear. Now we have to wait for the third and concluding book to find out whether Kat, Dylan, Blue and so many others will triumph over the darkness and what it will take to get there. And then there are those mysterious and ominous ravens…

Well done, Shauna Granger!

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2014.

Book Reviews: In the Morning I’ll Be Gone by Adrian McKinty and Brooklyn Graves by Triss Stein

In the Morning I'll Be GoneIn The Morning I’ll Be Gone
A Detective Sean Duffy Novel;
The Troubles Trilogy, Book Three
Adrian McKinty
Seventh Street Books, March 2014
ISBN: 978-1-61614-877-5
Trade Paperback

This, the third novel in his Troubles Trilogy, is the darkest and the most complex. It is not devoid of humor. Sean Duffy, a cop in the protestant Royal Ulster Constabulary, (RUC) has finally seen his attitudes and conflicts within the police hierarchy come back to haunt him. He’s chucked out of the force on a trumped up charge. A few weeks later, MI5 comes calling. So right away readers may wonder about that charge of hit and run.

This all sets the tone of this dark novel about the conflicts between warring sides in the Irish Troubles of the Nineteen-Eighties. Duffy, a Catholic in a protestant-dominated landscape, sees old school friends escape from prison, sees them die in fights with occupying British Army units and the RUC and wonders about the morality, the ethics of it all, and he sees the ruination of a society he truly loves.

A master bomber of the IRA, a dangerous man Duffy knew well, escapes from prison and Duffy is recruited to find him before his potentially high-profile act of ultimate destruction can be carried out against Her Majesty’s Government. Will Duffy find the right threads? Will his fascinating interactions with old and new characters result in success? Or will he become a witness to horrific failure?

Well-written, well-organized this taut dark novel is truly a gripping experience. McKinty is a fine writer with penetrating insights into the makeup of all kinds of people involved in the Irish scene at that time. It is fiction, but the stunning climax will remain with many readers for a long time. As it should. For though the novel is set in the previous century, it has much to say about our troubles of the present time.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, August 2014.
Author of Red Sky, Devils Island, Hard Cheese, Reunion.

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Brooklyn GravesBrooklyn Graves
An Erica Donato Mystery #2
Triss Stein
Poisoned Pen Press, March 2014
ISBN: 978-1-4642-0217-9
Hardcover

This novel is the second Erica Donato mystery, and, like the first, Brooklyn Bones, it’s not all about a contemporaneous crime, but involves the past.  In a way, this is fitting, since the protagonist is working on a PhD in history.  As in the first in the series, it takes place in Brooklyn, NY, home of the Green-Wood cemetery, where many Tiffany windows adorn mausoleums, and Brighton Beach, home to numerous Russian immigrants and nicknamed Little Odessa.

The plot involves the murder of a Russian immigrant, Erica’s friend and the father of her daughter’s friend, whose second job was as a night watchman at the Green-Wood cemetery, and the theft of a Tiffany window from one of its mausoleums. This gives the author the opportunity to delve into history, as she reviews century-old letters of an artist who worked for the famed glassmaker.

The story moves a bit slowly, weighed down by Erica’s personal life, complicated by her widowhood, the pressures of her studies, her own insecurities, and the raising of her 15-year-old daughter.  But in the end, as Thomas Wolfe wrote, “Only the Dead Know Brooklyn.”  Yet Triss Stein is carving out that territory as her own.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, May 2014.

Cover Reveal: Walled by Anne Tibbets

Walled

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Title: Walled 
Series:The Line #2
Author: Anne Tibbets 
Published by: Carina Press (HQN)
Genres: Dystopia, New Adult
 

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Synopsis:

Freedom means brutal choices.

Rebel lovers Naya and Ric have survived one year in hiding, raising
Naya’s twins from infants to toddlers in the shadow of the brutal Auberge
dictatorship. They’re alive, and they’re together, but the city is crumbling
around them and the haunting memory of Naya’s dark days on The Line
have never fully left them. Living in isolation won’t be an option forever.

When a mysterious revolutionary seeks their help to infiltrate  Auberge’s
electronic heart and shut it down, it’s an opportunity—it’s risky, yes, but
if it works they’ll get out of the city and taste freedom for
the first time. Naya needs this. They need this.

Beyond the broken walls of Auberge, Naya and Ric find the paradise
they’ve always longed for. But with anarchy reigning and Naya’s children
lost amidst the chaos, they’ll need to forfeit their post-apocalyptic
Eden…or commit an unspeakable act.

Goodreads

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About the Author

 

Anne TibbetsAnne Tibbets is an SCBWI award-winning and Smashwords.com Best Selling author. After writing for Children’s television, Anne found her way to young/new adult fiction by following what she loves: books, strong female characters, twisted family dynamics, magic, sword fights, quick moving plots, and ferocious and cuddly animals.

Along with Carrier, Anne is also the author of the young adult fantasy novella, The Beast Call and the young adult contemporary, Shut Up.

Anne divides her time between writing, her family, and three furry creatures that she secretly believes are plotting her assassination.

Find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/AnneTibbetsAuthor or on Twitter @WriteforCoffee. To contact Anne, visit www.annetibbets.com and click the ‘CONTACT’ tab.

 

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Book Blitz: The Last Mission of the Living by Rhiannon Frater

The Last Mission of the Living Blitz Banner

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Title: The Last Mission of the Living 
Series: The Last Bastion
Author: Rhiannon Frater 
Publication date: August 28th 2014
Genres: Adult, Horror, Post-Apocalyptic, Zombies

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Synopsis:

Humanity teeters on the brink of extinction…

Vanguard Lindsay Rooney has faced the undead hordes of Inferi Scourge
and lived to tell the tale, but she has also suffered horrible losses. Like
millions of other civilians, she had hoped that The Bastion would recover after
a team of modified soldiers eradicated the undead hordes of Inferi Scourge
that infested their valley. Yet the city still crumbles around
them, along with any chance of survival.

Lindsey’s growing friendship with Torran MacDonald, an officer with the
Science Warfare division, is her only solace as the decline of the city
continues. When food riots fill the streets, martial law is enacted, and the
upper echelons of government battle for control of the city, Lindsey is
conscripted by her superiors to embark on a dangerous mission into the dead
world beyond The Bastion. To add even more complications,
Torran and the SWD join the squad.

Soon, Lindsey realizes that her mission is more than what it seems, and
there are secrets that could both destroy The Bastion and take her life.

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An Excerpt from The Last Mission of the Living

“Sir!” Goodwin breathed.

“I see the readout.” It was impossible to conceive that the others were gone. Opening the comm to the soldiers in the building, Torran said briskly, “Everyone report. Respond now!”

Strange guttural noises were his only answer.

Torran hit his wristlet, again switching the comm to contact Rosario’s group. “Smyth, report.”

The Last Mission of the LivingAs the other half of the squad was added to his helmet visual, he sucked in a deep breath. They were also reported as Killed In Action. Stunned, he swallowed the hard lump forming in his throat. What was going on?

“Sir?” Jonas queried his voice unsteady.

“Watch that door! Smyth, if you can hear me respond now!”

Through the static came the sound of someone choking.

The line hissed and buzzed for a long second, then a woman’s voice that was not Rosario’s said, “Don’t worry. She’ll come for you.”

A wave of horror washed over Torran and plunged him into the blackest depths of despair. They were all dead. Just like before outside the wall when the expanding perimeter fence had failed and the Inferi Scourge had swarmed the soldiers.

“Sir?”

The sound of Goodwin’s voice tugged Torran’s attention back to the present. Staring at the empty doorway shimmering in an ominous pale gray in the night vision filter, Torran gathered his thoughts, and then switched the comm again. “Base, I have lost all communication with my squad and they’re being reported as KIA. We are under attack from the abnormal Inferi Scourge. We need immediate backup to this location.”

The popping and static echoing through his helmet sent a surge of adrenaline through his system. For several seconds, he feared there wasn’t going to be a response, but then a voice said, “Master Seeker, you’re to hold position until we can send a tiltrotor with reinforcements. All units are all presently engaged.”

“We can’t hold this position,” Torran answered curtly. If the rest of the squad was dead, then he had to save Goodwin and Jonas as well as himself. He’d been a sole survivor of a squad before and the burden of that label still weighed on his soul.

“You have your orders to secure and hold that area,” came the reply.

“We’re dealing with a pocket of the Abscrags–”

“You have your–”

There were footsteps in the hallway.

“–and we are about to be overrun!”

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About the Author

Rhiannon FraterRhiannon Frater is the award-winning author of over a dozen books, including the As the World Dies zombie trilogy (Tor), as well as independent works such as The Last Bastion of the Living (declared the #1 Zombie Release of 2012 by Explorations Fantasy Blog and the #1 Zombie Novel of the Decade by B&N Book Blog), and other horror novels. In 2014, her newest horror novel, The Mesmerized, will be released by Permuted Press. Dead Spots will be published in 2015 by Tor. She was born and raised a Texan and presently lives in Austin, Texas with her husband and furry children (a.k.a pets). She loves scary movies, sci-fi and horror shows, playing video games, cooking, dyeing her hair weird colors, and shopping for Betsey Johnson purses and shoes.
You can find her online at:
Website: rhiannonfrater.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/astheworlddies
Twitter: twitter.com/rhiannonfrater
Blog: http://rhiannonfrater.com/myblog/
Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/rhiannonfrater/
Email: rhiannonfrater@gmail.com

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Cover Reveal: AlibiZ by Karice Bolton

 

AlibiZ

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Title: AlibiZ 
Series: Afterworld #2
Author: Karice Bolton 
Publication date: October 2014
Genres: New Adult, Post-Apocalyptic

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Synopsis:

Rebekah vows to expose the truth behind the RecruitZ that are killing
the innocents. These creatures must be stopped, but so should the
people controlling them. When Rebekah uncovers who is
behind the uprisings, her own life becomes in danger.

Rebekah knows that she is not alone in this fight but vengeance
alone won’t help her and the others to victory. Forced to build a battalion
with the very creatures she needs to destroy, it is up to her to uncover the
truth for the public before the world is turned over to an elite few.

Regardless of what may happen to her, she knows it’s a race against
time to destroy these creatures and the monsters controlling
them before there is no one left worth saving.

Goodreads

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About the Author

Karice BoltonKarice received an MFA in Creative Writing from the U of W. She has written fifteen novels and has several exciting projects in the works. Karice lives with her husband and two English Bulldogs in rainy Washington.

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Books currently available:

Sins (Book 1), Buried Sins (Book 2) – coming soon
Beyond Love Series: Beyond Control (Book 1), Beyond Doubt (Book 2), Beyond Reason (Book 3), Beyond Intent (Book 4), Beyond Chance, Beyond Promise, and Beyond the Mistletoe coming soon
Afterworld Series: RecruitZ (Book 1), AlibiZ (Book 2) – October 2014
The Witch Avenue Series: Lonely Souls (Book 1), Altered Souls (Book 2), Released Souls (Book 3), Shattered Souls (Book 4)
The Watchers Trilogy: Awakening (Book 1), Legions (Book 2), Cataclysm (Book 3), Taken Novella (Watchers Prequel)
The Camp

 Author Links:
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