Tag: fiction writing

The Importance of Picking Names: Phlebotomists in Love

danger in the vetch

I can’t stop thinking about my new book which is in its infancy.  While I don’t want to reveal too much about the actual story as it’s in a delicate stage of its creation, I am coming up with names for my characters and brought this up on Facebook asking for some input.

Tess and Flynn.  Most people were not crazy for the name Flynn.  Everyone who commented liked Tess.  So I set about to consider some other options for Flynn that were suggested and that I could come up with.   It has to be a name that is suitable for a lanky skinny nerdy phlebotomist.

Kelly, Matthew, Clive, Trent, Silas, Nathan.

I have to like a name enough to write it over and over again and it has to suit the character OR it has to not suit them so much that it actually plays a part in their story.  Then there’s the question of reality.  How much would you be able to believe in a story where every character had a really unusual name?  You have to think about this in the creation of a world.  If it’s science fiction you have more leeway but if it’s regular fiction you have to think about the impact of every character being named things like Olivia, Connor, Madison, Apple, Miley, and Brooklyn.

I made one naming mistake in Cricket and Grey – using the name Sariah for the Mormon child bride.  I did research to find a distinctly Mormon name for her and I succeeded.  It’s an unattractive name – reminding everyone of “psoriasis”.  I chose it because when I first started writing her character I didn’t like her and she was going to be a minor character and not a recurring one.  However, as I wrote her I started to really like her friendship with Cricket.  I started to simply like her and I plan to bring her back.  So now I’m stuck with her unpleasant name.  I think I’m going to have to have the other characters give her a nick-name.

Here are the names used in Cricket and Grey: Cricket, Grey, Peter, Mairead, Julie, Tommy, James, Mary, Malakai, Jack, Natalie, Shockey, “Butterfly”, Mitch, John, Matthew, and Jeb.

Here are the names used in Jane Doe: Jane, Isaac, Galina, Tim, Luca, Carl, Pat, and Letta.

As a side note, looking over the manuscript for Jane Doe (my very first novel, still unfinished) is SO BAD and yet has such potential.  The good bits are really strong and powerful and the rest of it is embarrassingly shitty.

While I am planning to start writing the second Cricket and Grey book soon I can’t help but work on notes for this new novel while the ideas and inspiration are coming.  I think I’m going to need to spend some time with phlebotomists and interview a bunch of them – it’s not going to be easy to work up the nerve to do it.

Here’s just a little bit about my two main characters so far:

Tess is a junk-food junkie of medium build, grown-up goth style, habit of dying her hair, and all she ever wanted to be was a phlebotomist.

Flynn is scarecrow thin, wears glasses, always has dark circles around his eyes, writes math-based poetry, and “fell into” his work as a phlebotomist.

If you write fiction – please share how you pick names or what kinds of things you think about when considering names for characters.  If you don’t write but you love reading fiction – do you ever notice the names of characters in particular?  How important do you think names are in fiction?

All I Want – Meeting My Purpose

compact hero

Those of you who have stuck with me for a long time are familiar with my constant wavering of purpose.  Do I try to make money with my blog(s)?  Do I try to write a non-fiction book?  Do I try to sell things on Etsy and blog?  Do I try to become a novelist?  For so long I didn’t even bother talking about being a novelist because I had literally given up that dream  before I ever had a blog.  And then I got past the barrier that was keeping me from writing novels and while writing fiction I was in my element, the same way I am when I draft patterns.

Which isn’t surprising because fashion and writing are my two main passions in life.  Pattern drafting is creating just like fiction is, though obviously it has a more practical application.

When I was draping and drafting the apron for the “A is for Apron” book I felt the same way I do writing fiction.

That I am meeting my purpose.

It’s the writing that is essential to me though.

Writing this blog is vital to me for clearing my head and my heart and my spirit.  This is where I expend the energy that gets in the way of the more focused writing.  This, and facebook.  Writing Stitch and Boots is important to me to keep a journal of the food I’m making and the urban homesteading projects I’m getting up to.  But it’s also become a stress because I’ve tried to treat it like a professional blog.  I started another blog project and it’s a great idea and I could totally pursue it…

But it is a distraction from what I really want.

I want to write novels and be an urban homesteader.

I want to make enough money as a novelist that I don’t need a second job.

I want to write my blogs as way to let off steam and keep a journal of my activities and my thoughts.

And that is all I want.

Treating Stitch and Boots as a professional blog takes too much time.  Starting a whole new project that isn’t a novel takes too much time from my goals.  From what I really want.  So why do I keep doing it?  Why am I forever trying to think of how to make Stitch pay or coming up with new ways I could make a living?  To make Stitch successful as a business I would need to give up writing fiction.  Turning blogs into a source of income takes a lot of work – it’s a job.  It doesn’t matter how much you like doing it – IT TAKES A LOT OF TIME.  That’s the bottom line.  And even when I was spending all that time I never was able to make a go of it.

Which is, I believe, because it has always been a substitute for what I really wanted to do.  To be.

I have spent countless hours rewriting what I have come to refer to as “chapter twenty-fucking-three” because it’s what I want to spend my time doing.  Meanwhile the thought of recipe testing to get more content up on Stitch sounds tedious.  What I really want to do is just post the pictures I have of the mushrooms that we found growing on the property.  I don’t even have the energy to do big research on them but I’d like them on the blog so I can refer to them at a later time.  If I treated Stitch as my personal urban homesteading journal I would just do that.

And so that is what I’m going to do.  I’m going to BE a novelist and an urban homesteader.  Right now I have a second job (which is desperately important) but some day I will make a living writing.

I need to wear a sign around my neck to remind me not to create diversions from what I want.  The only person who keeps getting in my way is myself.  The only reason I keep following these other ideas and complicating things for myself is because I’m afraid.  I’m afraid that I’m going to find out that I can’t write novels well enough to make a living writing them.  I’m afraid of failing.  So I keep trying to figure out how I can develop an income to support writing for a hobby.

But I am not a hobbyist writer.  I never have been.

When you really want something you have to walk towards it with intention every single day.  You have to push obstacles out of your path.  Sometimes there are big obstacles.  You have to ask yourself at all times if what you are doing is supporting your goals or hindering them.  If what you are doing is hindering them – stop doing it.

I’ve finished one novel and almost finished publishing it here on this blog.  I have another novel half finished and the outline for the next Cricket and Grey book.  I have books to write.

Yesterday I entered Cricket and Grey in the Amazon Breakout Novel Award contest.

Whatever it is you most want – set your coarse and don’t veer from it.*

*Unless what you want changes along the way – which happens sometimes and it totally fine.

Flash Fiction Challenge: “Christmas in a Strange Place”

I saw Chuck Wendig’s post today that’s  flash fiction challenge.  I wasn’t going to participate but then something came into my head and wouldn’t leave me alone.  If you are interested in challenges like this and in reading other people’s contributions to this challenge – read them here on Chuck’s blog.  Only one little note to anyone reading this – I can’t indent my paragraphs when copying and pasting from Word into this blog.  Formatting gets messed up.  Just so you know.

The Christmas Closet


It wasn’t the closeness of the dark that bothered him the most.  He was used to the walls pushing in at him and he had learned to breathe the hot woolen air without suffocating.  The trick was to imagine it was fresh and not get too greedy.  What bothered him was his mother’s body propped up in the opposite corner.  He only saw her for a moment when the light from the outside room flooded the coats as the old man dragged her in.  That was three days ago.  At first the smell of iron, thick and rich and sticky, overwhelmed him until he threw up.  It got better after that.  But now she was beginning to smell different.  He tried to remember her smiling.  He tried to feel something for her.  He closed his mind to the present to remember something good about her: a happy day, a happy hour, he’d take a happy minute if he could find one in his memory.

The anger he’d learned to push into his diaphragm came boiling up – why should he try to remember anything about her at all?  She let the old man lock him up, she let him beat her, she let him – she let him – she let him – SHE LET HIM.  All he could remember was her face of infinite apathy.  He knew the fear that lived carefully sequestered underneath her grey skin but he was still too young to articulate why that made him feel so uncomfortable, as though his skin were made of scabs he must pull off until he was nothing but muscle and bone and then not even that.

It was so quiet out there that when the old man’s favorite Christmas song flared up as loud as their crappy-ass stereo could blast it he felt a moment of relief.  It was better to know where the old man was, to know what part of the yearly ritual they were at because it gave him reference points to count down.  He knew exactly which songs he’d have to hear before the old man passed out somewhere in the house.  Probably on the dull brown plaid couch.  It was always the same.  He knew how long it would be before the old man woke up to vomit.  He couldn’t say how many hours, he knew it by the hunger in his belly, he knew it by how much his bladder hurt because by the time the Christmas songs started the old man was much too drunk to give him food or take him to the bathroom.

“I saw mommy fucking Santa underneath the Christmas tree…” he heard the old man belting out.  He would already have the Santa costume on.  He would be into the liter of vodka now.  He would be past the beer.  He would be past pretending he was just having a couple of holiday drinks.  It was the same every year.

The growing odor of putrefaction reminded him that it was not the same this year.  At least not for mom.  It was over for her.  He felt a sick stab of jealousy that she no longer had to pretend she was going to leave the bastard.  She no longer had to pretend the closet was reasonable punishment for him crying for something they couldn’t afford when he was five years old.  That was so long ago and the comfortable lie she kept telling every year, that he didn’t get Christmas because he wanted things and wanting things was a pain in the old man’s ass.  She didn’t say it like that.  He wished she’d started new lies because he wasn’t stupid like they thought.  She no longer had to lie to the neighbors about him going to his grandma’s house for Christmas. He comforted himself imagining how much worse it would be to spend Christmas with the old claw and hammer.  The closet was better.

As “The little Dumber Boy” started up he began the usual cataloging of his options.  Now mom was dead he didn’t have to feel guilty leaving.  Now she was dead he wouldn’t be leaving a chicken in the house of a hungry dog.  It was the same every year except that every year he was a little older.  He didn’t let himself ask the question burning holes in the dark.  He ignored it.  He ignored the speaking decay.  He ignored the fear gnawing at the patina of apathy he’d learned to wear like his mother.  He couldn’t go to the police.  He couldn’t go to shelters.  He couldn’t go to friends.  The old man had found him every single time and everyone always believed the lies he offered eagerly.  They wouldn’t have believed the bastard if they could see him in the soiled Santa suit.  But no one ever did.

There wasn’t any safe place.  It became starkly simple: he would walk out or crawl out or limp out or run the fuck out and he would never stop moving, running, walking.

The smell got too strong.  He found something musty to breathe through to stifle the dry heaving.  Morning was close.  It would never reach the closet with light but that’s when the lock would move.  That’s when the door would open and he’d crawl out as he always did.  Blind from so much dark, smelling of fear and sweat and sometimes piss.  His head was losing control like it always did.  It got so he was working so hard not to think, not to feel, not to count that all it would take was one weak match to light his head on fire.  His nose started bleeding.  It didn’t matter.  He let it bleed.

The lock moved.  The door swung open.  His mom’s body tipped out sideways.  The old man nudged it back in with his black Santa boot.  “Get out.” He said through a lush belch.  “Merry fucking Christmas, son.”