The Name Game


What’s in a name? Why is it so difficult to decide what to call someone? Cliff and I didn’t know if we were having a boy or a girl, but wanted to see the baby before naming it. When red haired, blue-eyed Carla was born, we gave her the middle name Beth, as my mother had requested before she passed away. When our black-haired, black-eyed second daughter came along, she looked spunky and we named her Krista. Not sure how Lynn, her middle name, happened, but it went together nicely. Today, many babies are given funky names that, unfortunately, they have to live with.

Naming the characters in my books is a big deal because it’s a series. It takes me a long time to choose a name. It has to feel right. I considered using a big X in place of a name while I continued writing, but that didn’t work because the name has to fit the character’s gestures, reactions, and traits. If I need a bland person, then I will give him/her a vanilla name. My main characters have to have names I love and are unforgettable for the reader because I plan on them being around for a while. There are names I’ve read in books that I love but don’t use because I would have that character in mind instead of my own.

The main character in my series has to have a memorable name and easy to pronounce. Cait Pepper, an ex-cop/crime analyst, is impatient, honest, claustrophobic, determined, and a romantic. Think of Stana Katic (Detective Kate Beckett) on the TV show Castle.

The name Royal Tanner, a Navy SEAL in my series, popped into my head one day. Friends call him RT. It’s a strong name for someone in a position of command. My readers say it’s an easy name to remember. Or maybe it’s because they think he’s a hunky guy and a touch of a romantic.

My secondary characters get as much attention as the main characters, unless the reader won’t see them more than once or twice. Then I refer to them for the job they do, such as “the clerk” or “technician.” Fumié Ondo is a Japanese-American college graduate waiting to become a park ranger. I combined the first and last names of professional ice skaters. She’s a keeper.

The chocolate lab who makes his first appearance in the second book in my series, is called Niki because my niece’s husband said I had to name him after his lab. We’ve had two Schnauzers. My husband named the first one Archimedes after the Greek mathematician. We called him Archie. The second one came to us with the name Abbey.

For my work in progress, I’m struggling over names for a brother-sister team who are in trouble over drug dealings at their winery. I may have to use that X factor I mentioned above.



With the advent of each New Year and a fresh new calendar, I reflect back over achievements, disappointments, or goals I set and procrastinated about. This year, two achievements stand out: I received a contract for Sour Grapes, the second book in my Shakespeare in the Vineyard mystery series. It will come out in 2014. I also managed to hike the Pinnacles for the third time. It gets harder with each passing year.

My readers always want to know how long I’ve been writing, so I thought this might be a good place to reflect back thirteen years to when it started. That’s peanuts to those who have been writing all their lives, but better late than never. I’ve always read, mostly comic books as a kid, but still about places I wanted to be, some fantasyland where the world appeared perfect.

When I retired from Sandia National Labs in 1998, and then again in 2000 as a DOE contractor, murder never entered my mind except in the mysteries I loved to read. I attended Penny Warner’s book signing, later joined her critique group, and wrote my first novel set on Martha’s Vineyard. Updating that book and hopefully seeing it in print one day, is one of my goals for 2014. When I started writing, I struggled to perfect my work before showing it to my critique group, Which now I realize was a mistake. Just write it and edit it later. Typing “The End” on a piece of work you’ve written, is a great achievement. Never let anyone tell you you lack the skills to write a novel.

This past November, my library offered a host of support services for National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo as it’s known. It was jump-started with a kick-off on October 30. I was part of the panel with three other authors. We discussed how to get started on a novel and how to weather the ups and downs of the creative writing process. In the audience was a young boy (he was 12) who shared a negative response he’d received during class from his teacher. He was told he would never be a writer and that he should find another passion. Yet there he was, willing to devote time to write a book in one month.

I have more ideas for my mystery series and a few short stories waiting in the wings to be written. Here are a few quotes I’d like to share:

“And since you know you cannot see yourself,
so as by reflection, I, your glass,
will modestly discover to yourself,
that of yourself which you yet know not of.”

—William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar

“Reflect upon your present blessings — of which every man has many — not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”
― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

“One of the saddest things in life, is the things one remembers.”
― Agatha Christie




Collaboration is working together to achieve shared goals. My critique group is a good example of this. Without them, I wouldn’t be published, obtained necessary resources, or recognition. Take a look at other examples of collaboration:

Although relatively rare compared with collaboration in popular music, there have been some notable examples of music written in collaboration between classical composers. Bellini’s opera, I Puritani, was written and first performed in 1837. Two well-known contributors were Franz Liszt and Frederic Chopin. Musical collaboration also occurs when musicians in different places or groups work on the same album or song. Collaboration between musicians, especially jazz, is often considered the epitome of complex collaborative practice.

In towns big and small all across the country, you see artists sharing space and administrative functions. Some of these galleries have programs in experimental theater, literary performance, new music, and sound art. Financial savings is a huge advantage because of their shared space. They share equipment such as phones and Internet services, coordinate mailings, and develop a sense of trust and respect for each other. These galleries have become a support system for problem-solving and practical help, and have changed the concept of art into something that can be engaged in by more than one artist.

Collaboration in education brings knowledge and experience together by interacting toward a common goal in the best interest of students for their future success. Students achieve team building and communication skills and have the ability to practice real-world communication experiences. Schools and teachers benefit in a variety of ways when teachers work together, and there’s evidence that shows a positive relationship between teacher collaboration and student achievement. Unfortunately, our daughter had an unpleasant situation when she was a middle school special education teacher. She felt these kids were put into embarrassing situations by the principal.

Law enforcement:
I discovered this while researching my next book: Global law enforcement collaboration netted the largest synthetic drug takedown. The Project Synergy enforcement operations in thirty-five states targeted the upper echelon of dangerous designer synthetic drug trafficking organizations, including retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers. The investigations uncovered a massive flow of drug-related proceeds to countries in the Middle East and seized more than 1,000 kilograms of synthetic drugs at express consignment facilities. The largest U.S. seizure of synthetic drugs, commonly marketed as herbal incense, bath salts, jewelry cleaner, or plant food, involved hundreds of law enforcement actions and nearly $15 million in cash and assets. It culminated last week with the collaboration of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and other U.S. and international law enforcement partners. These drugs pose significant public health risks.

Since 9/11, federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies have worked collaboratively to detect and prevent terrorism-related and other types of criminal activity. This represent a willingness to share information among agencies and across all levels of government, which allow each organization to retain its own information and, at the same time, make it available for others to search and retrieve. Some of the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services are: National Crime Information Center, Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS), and Uniform Crime Reporting Program.