What’s in a Name?

I have all kinds of baby name books. I’ve always been fascinated by names. Even in elementary school, I would take name books out of the school library. There were a few pages of names in the back of my parents dictionary. They were in tatters because I studied the names so often. Even now, with the Internet and the great Social Security website for names, I still like to peruse books.

I just finished writing a book in which the heroine had two different names before I decided on a third.  Once I  had that name, the rest of the story flowed. I know several authors who have experienced the same phenomenon: until the character’s name is right, the writing goes poorly.

I knew I’d always have a difficult time naming my children, especially when my husband and I have such different tastes in names. If our second child had been a boy, I doubt very much he would have a name even now. Fortunately, she wasn’t.

When I was bearing children, we didn’t know the sex of the baby until it was born. ( I knew them, because of my dreams, but that’s another blog post.) We settled on a girl’s name almost immediately (and used it a couple of years later when our daughter was born–except we did give her a different  middle name). Agreeing on a boy’s name was challenge.  We had a list of criteria: the naming traditions of my husband’s culture; no names with multiple spellings (something that has haunted both my husband and me throughout our lives); Biblical names, but not one of the weird ones; not too popular, but not unique; names our children could use in the boardroom or on stage or on the spine of a book; something traditional.

My husband and I leafed through baby name books in stores. There was one that said the name Woody was the past tense of the name Willy. I cried. I also cried when I realized that if we had a son, no one would call him by is first name because our surname was  so easily converted to a guy nickname. My husband assured me only once did someone do that to him.

At the time I was pregnant, big corporations were purchasing naming rights to everything from massive sports complexes to Little League fields. My husband and I decided to name our baby, if it was a boy, after a college in exchange for an education. How would we approach these institutions of higher learning with our generous offer? My tears turned to giggles as we contemplated the names Canisius,  Cornell, and Colgate.

We finally settled on a good name: his grandfather’s name. We used my great-grandfather’s name for the middle name. Strong names. Manly names. Everything we wanted for our son.




#UpbeatAuthors: A Movie About Perseverance

One of my favorite movies of all time is Galaxy QuestI loved the original Star Trek series, so a movie spoofing the show is a sheer delight.

Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, and the incomparable Alan Rickman head an amazing cast. In a nutshell, the movie is about an TV program that has been off the air for a while, but which has a huge, obsessed fanbase. Tim Allen plays Jason Nesmith, who played Commander Taggart on the TV show, a Captain Kirk knock-off. The problem is the TV show is bouncing around in outer space (along with every other TV show) and one alien culture believes they are “historical documents.” And so the fun begins.

The script is filled with delightfully quotable quips.

Nothing is sacred: the actors, the scripts, the fans who attend conventions.

Why am I writing about a 19-year-old movie? Because the motto of the character played by Tim Allen’s character is “Never give up! Never surrender!”

It’s all about perseverance.

My Portable Office

I freely admit I stole this idea from a friend, who had an “office in a box” she kept in a recipe card file. Brilliant idea, I thought.

At the time I put mine together, I was carrying my WIP (Work in Progress) around in a three-ring binder, so I opted to use a pencil bag made for a binder.

Pen, pencil, highlighter, and index cards.

The outside mesh zipper pocket contains paperclips, binder clips, an eraser, a Sharpie, staples, rubber bands, sticky notes, and a lighter. Yes, a lighter. An author never knows when she needs to light a scented candle.


The big zipper pocket contains tape, a stapler, scissors, another Sharpie, note pads, larger index cards, a protractor, and a compass. I think I also used to carry an extra floppy disc, but times have changed.

This is all very compact and has come in extremely handy on many occasions. I carry it in my CNYRW go bag and in my retreat go bag.

#UpbeatAuthors: Knowing When to Quit

Perseverance is a good thing. But sometimes it’s better to know when to quit.

I used to drink coffee. But every year on a religious fast day, I went through caffeine withdrawal. About ten years ago, I realized if my body was going through withdrawal, then I was addicted. I’d quit smoking a few years earlier. If I could quit one addiction, I could quit another. So I did.

Other things not worth hanging in there for:

  • bad/abusive relationships
  • a hated, dreaded job
  • an eating plan that leaves you hungry
  • a beer chugging contest
  • a TV show that makes you uneasy
  • a bad movie in a theater
  • the same first three chapters of a writer’s WIP that keep getting entered in contests–and nothing more is ever written on the story.




Dishwashing Mantra

I could swear I blogged about this topic before, but I can’t find it, so I’m going to blog about it now.

I was raised in a home with no dishwashing machine. My mother had two dishwashers: me and my younger sister. (Why did my younger brother not have to wash dishes or set the table? My sister and I had to mow the lawn…)

The way we were taught to wash the dishes was: glasses and silverware first. “Glasses” included tea mugs.  The theory was that those items went into our mouths, so it was best to wash them first, while the water was still clean and hot, in the hopes of sanitizing them.

Next came everything else except the “tin dishes”, which is what my parents called the pots and pans. Except for the frying pans (usually cast iron), tin dishes were washed last.

To this day, that is how I hand wash dishes.