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Sunday, October 15, 2017

What's in a name, anyhow? LOTS! by Suz deMello (#iamwriting #MFRWAuthor #NaNoWriMo)

I'm sure I'm not the first writer to blog about the significance of names, nor will I be the last. There's even a wiki about choosing character names! 

Authors carefully choose names. Why?

First, the right name must fit in with your story. Tolkien wouldn't have called one of his characters John Smith--John wouldn't fit in with Bilbo Baggins or Galadriel. 

Secondly, some names are so famous that popular references have attached. Don't name a character Adolf, Madonna, Elvis or Marilyn--that choice will jar a reader right out of the story, and that's the last thing that an author wants. We want to keep the reader immersed in the wonderful, engrossing world we've created.
But an author can use that to her advantage. In Spy Game, my hero is named Richard Rexford--a conscious aping of Robert Redford. Richard is also a handsome, athletic blond, and I wanted readers to make the association.  

contains Ocean Dreams and
Viking in Tartan
Few readers picked it up, but I named a character in Ocean Dreams Sandi Ricks, after a character in the old Flipper TV show--Ocean Dreams is about a very unusual dolphin.

Also, I try to avoid too many names in a story that start with the same letter, which will confuse a reader, especially if there are a lot of characters introduced quickly. Avoid Martin and Maria, Barbara and Bobby, Jane and Jenny.

I avoid names that are unpronounceable. Readers don't only look at words on the page, but their minds are reading to them. When I as a reader encounter an odd name, I find myself falling out of the book and trying to figure out how the name is pronounced. So I avoid Gaelic names that are confusing. None of my characters will ever be named Airdsgainne or Slaibhin. In futuristics or sci-fi, one often encounters names with accents or apostrophes in odd paces. Avoid these. They distract and may even annoy a reader.
Every name has an intrinsic meaning. Dickens was famous for his interesting names, which often reflected characters' personalities. The Artful Dodger is only too obvious. Esther Summerson (Bleak House) is one of Dickens' most lovely characters, lightening one of his longest and yes, most bleak books. Stryver in A Tale of Two Cities is, indeed, an ambitious striver.

I often take my cues from Dickens. In a book I wrote for Harlequin/Silhouette, The Ranger and the Rescue, the heroine calls herself Serenity Clare, a name she chose for herself after she left an abusive husband. She pursues serenity and clarity in her life.

The hero of Viking in Tartan, Erland Blodson, is a warrior and also a vampire. The name Erland means "leader." Blodson is also obvious.
In my memoir, Perilous Play, I had to rename a man I know in order to protect his privacy. I chose the name Trapper Hart.

It wasn't a very good relationship.
I also look at the sounds of names. In Queen of Shadow, a futuristic, I created a name--Storne--for my hero, using a lot of strong-sounding consonants. 

If you're a writer, how do you choose names?

If you're a reader, what character names are particularly memorable for you?

Friday, October 13, 2017


Friggatriskaidekaphobia: fear of Friday the Thirteenth. We’ve all heard of it. But why?

There are multiple theories on the origins of Friday the 13th as a day of bad luck. A common Christian belief is that it originates from the painting of the last supper, with Jesus and his 12 disciples. The day after the meal, a Friday, he was crucified. But fear of the number 13 may go back far earlier. Just as many hotels skip a floor 13, the ancient Code of Hammurabi skipped the number 13 when setting out its list of laws. In Western culture, 12 is often a number of completion: 12 apostles, 12 days of Christmas, 12 to a dozen, 12 dozen to a gross, 12 tribes of Israel, 12 labors of Hercules, 12 shillings to a pound, and so on. So maybe the number after “completion” just meant messing things up. Odds are, we’ll never know for sure. (Pun intended)

As for adding Friday into the mix, the Bible is often pointed to again with the crucifixion and other bad stuff occurring or speculated to be occurring on Friday. Freya or Frigga, the goddesses referenced in the word Friday neither have any association with bad luck, so it wouldn’t come from there. If we had a Lokiday in the week, then we might have cause to believe the stories. Or, if the association came about later, the Knights Templar were disbanded (and generally sentenced to death) on Friday, 13 October, 1307, which was a pretty big deal at the time.

Superstition doesn’t need a reason, of course. It’s self-propagating. Over time, anything bad on a Friday the 13th was used to shore up the belief.  Sept. 13, 1940, Buckingham Palace was bombed, Nov. 13, 1970, a cyclone killed over 300,000 people in Bangladesh, a Chilean Air Force plane disappeared somewhere in the Andes mountains on Oct. 13, 1972, Tupac Shakur was shot on Dec. 13, 1996 and a cruise ship, the Costa Concordia crashed of Italy, killing 30 on Jan. 13, 2012. All of those were Fridays. Add in the fictional horrors, and you’ve got a pretty well-entrenched superstition.

While I’ve never written a book set around a Friday the 13th, (although now I may have to—it’s a great idea!) I have used a holiday that's also rife with superstition: Halloween, coming up later this month. My very first erotic romance story, formerly titled Between a Rock and a Hard-On, was set at Halloween 2007. In the spirit of the holiday, I’ve re-released it this month as an Amazon exclusive. I had so much fun writing this—I did it in one weekend, giggling maniacally the whole time. I hope you enjoy it too—it was also my first shifter dragon story. And you know I loves my dragons!

Best of luck on this Friday the 13th, and Blessed Samhain or Happy Halloween as you prefer!

* * *

Between a Rock and a Hard Dragon

Story #1 in the Love Me Like a Rock collection.

What happens when you mix a half-dragon, a pixie and a little sex magic in a wooded park on Halloween? Neither Bram nor Twyla have any idea but when it all comes together the magic explodes in a frenzy of hot sex and sizzling romance.

* * *
Major sources used above:

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Greatest Love Stories Ever Told: Marie and Pierre Curi

Marie and Pierre Curie are best known for their scientific discoveries, but their personal story is considered one of the great love stories of contemporary times.
As I've mentioned before, contemporary love stories are more difficult to present because they're well recorded, sometimes by people who knew the players intimately, and tend to lack the same fantasy and shine of myths and ancient legends. In this story, I found it impossible to separate the love story from the science which brought these two together.
Marie Salomea Sklodowska.(Curie) was born in Warsaw on November 7, 1867, which, at the time, was within the Kingdom of Poland, a part of the Russian Empire. It's said she spent her younger years as an impoverished teacher and governess. Still, she managed to study at the Warsaw's clandestine Flying University, where she began her scientific training.
To understand her determination, you need to understand the educational system at the time. In Poland, under Russian control, only state-sanctioned curriculum could be taught, and that curriculum focused on stamping out Polish culture. In addition, women were not allowed to attend the universities at all [which was not uncommon throughout Europe]. So attaining an education in science took a great deal of commitment on Marie's part.
The Flying University started in Warsaw in 1882. Secret classes for women were held in private homes and taught by rebellious Polish professors and historians. Since these classes were illegal, they frequently changed the location from one home to another. Thus, it became known, among those who knew about it at all, as the Flying (or Floating) University. [For more information, go to:]
In 1891. when Marie was 24, she joined her sister Bronia in Paris to study mathematics and physics at the Sorbonne, and earned advanced degrees with top honors in both subjects by 1894. That same year, as she was in process to deciding her doctoral thesis, she was introduced to Pierre Curie by Polish Physicist, Jozef Wierusz-Kowalsku, who knew Marie was looking for a larger laboratory space.
Personality wise, those who knew Marie claim she was an elemental force of nature, and sometime referred to as Pierre's greatest discovery.
Pierre Curie was born in Paris May 15, 1859, and had earned advanced degrees by the time he was eighteen. When he was introduced to Marie, he was an instructor at the School of Physics and Chemistry in Paris. Marie was looking for laboratory space to begin a project. He found space for Marie by taking her on as a student.                 

Pierre was in his mid-thirties when he met Marie, and had been despairing of ever finding a suitably intelligent companion in life. Marie changed everything.

CHEMISTRY [And not the scientific kind]
Although the chemistry between Marie and Pierre may not have been love at first sight, as time progressed and they worked together, their mutual passion for science created a bond between them. They were not only kindred spirits, but they matched each other's intellect. At first, they saw each other to discuss projects; then it was because they couldn't bear to be apart.
When Pierre proposed marriage to her, Marie didn't accept because she wanted to return to Poland. Pierre countered and said he would move with her to Poland "even if it meant being reduced to teaching French."
Marie did return to Poland [alone] for summer break. She believed she would be able to work in her field at Krakow University, but was turned down because she was a woman. She returned to Paris and married Pierre on July 26, 1895 in a non-religious ceremony. Marie wore a dark blue outfit instead of a bridal gown, and later used that same outfit to work in her laboratory.
With common interests in science and intellectual parity, they both enjoyed long bicycle trips and traveling abroad. It was a happy marriage.

They had two daughters, Irene (1897) and Eve (1904). Their work continued and, in 1903, Pierre and Marie Curie and Henri Bacquerel won the Nobel Prize for Physics for the joint discovery of radioactivity. She was the first woman to ever win the Nobel Prize. Later she won a second Nobel for the discovery of two elements, radium and polonium. This relieved the family from the financial hardship they lived with.
Her daughter, Irene and her husband, Frederic Joloit-Curie, shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1935. Irene was the second woman to win a Nobel Prize.
Eve, on the other hand, became an American citizen. She is the only one in the family who didn't go into the sciences, but became a journalist and played concert piano professionally. She became well known for the biography she wrote about her mother.   
TRAGEDY STRIKESAll great love stories seem to involve a tragedy at some point. But then, so does life.
Marie and Pierre's love story ended in April 1906, when Pierre was stuck by a horse-drawn vehicle and fell under its wheels. One of the wheels rolled over his head, causing his skull to fracture and killing him instantly. Marie was devastated by his death and refused the pension the French government offered her.
A month later, the Physics department of the University of Paris decided to offer to Marie the Department Chair, which had been created for Pierre. She accepted and was the first women to become a professor at the University of Paris.            

Four years after Pierre's death, Marie, now 43, became involved with friend Paul Langevin, a married scientist with four children. They rented an apartment where they could meet secretly. Still, rumors circulated. Langevin had been a student of Pierre's and was five years younger than Marie.
Langevin's wife knew he was a womanizer. Apparently his marriage was not a happy one and, it was rumored she had once hit him over the head with a bottle. For some reason, she was infuriated about Marie. She discovered their hideaway, had someone break in and steal Marie's love letters, which Madam Langevin then threatened to expose to the press if her husband didn't break off the affair.                                                                 Paul Lagevin 
Whether or not the affair continued, the wife leaked the letters to the press three days before Marie won her second Nobel Prize, and declared she wanted Langevin's children and his money.
The press jumped on the story, painting Marie as a seductress and saying the affair started before Pierre died, which wasn't true at all. Nonetheless, her name was denigrated, and the Nobel Committee asked her to stay in France and not come to Sweden for the ceremony. She countered with a statement that discovering two elements had nothing to do with her personal life, and she went anyway.
Two duels resulted from the public brouhaha. One was fought between by editors of rival newspapers, over the merits of Madam Langevin's charges. They fought with swords, and when one was injured, they called it off and reconciled.
The second duel was between Langevin himself and a journalist who had called him a "boor and coward." Langevin challenged and insisted on pistols, but it came to naught and there was no blood shed.
Still the damage was done to Marie's reputation, and the French held her in contempt until WWI when she dedicated her work to develop x-rays for medical purposes and contributed a great deal to the war effort.

Marie and Pierre are a couple to be admired. According to  "They were two geniuses destined for each other. The Curies enabled one another to achieve greatness. They were totally dedicated to their work. They lived with very little and that did them just fine. Their love had a life of its own that gave so much to others. They took nothing for themselves and gave the world its first cancer treatment, its first ex-ray units, and three Nobel Prizes.
In the end, Marie's dedication to work cost her her life. She died of leukemia in 1934, at the age of 67, from the prolonged exposure to radiation.

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