That which we call a rose

 

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When I started the not the same river project, there were no websites to help me find interesting names. There was no internet at all. It was the year Eastenders arrived on the telly. The year Roger Moore stopped pretending to be James Bond. The year the wreck of the Titanic was found. The year of Live Aid. The year we said hello to Keira Knightley, Lewis Hamilton and Wayne Rooney.

There were no websites at all.

There was no internet.

NO INTERNET!

If I wanted to play a computer game, I had to plug a cartridge into the back of the keyboard or use a tape recorder. If, as a writer, I wanted to find names for my characters, I watched the telly, listened to the radio, or read magazines. So as you’ve probably worked out by now, the year was 1985 (thanks Wikipedia).

My character sketches were simple and some of the names I came up with were pretty bonkers. Or at least they were back then. Having checked the Nameberry lists of popular names, I was surprised to find so many of my character names there (not just the bonkers ones). Even the car’s name is on there. Yes, cars can have names too.

So here’s where the names I chose rate in 2017 and where I got them from in 1985.

 

7. Silas – Silas Marner by George Eliot

18. My MC, Violet – named after one of my great aunts

20. Elizabeth – the childhood friend who inspired Violet

25. Caleb – from stories my grandad used to tell me in his Northern Irish accent (not from a book)

32. Elijah – a holy book

43. Soren – boy from infant school whose name I thought was Sorry for ages (I have never met another Soren, for which I am sorry)

51. Ezra – a holy book (nobody was called this in real life)

55. Archer – BBC Radio show, The Archers (nobody was called this in 1985)

57. Daniel – childhood friend’s brother

61. Adam – biblical first man

62. Luke – Star Wars

76. Magnus – Magnus Magnusson

78. Serafina – childhood friend’s cat

79. Wesley – boy from school

87. Gabriel – archangel

101. Harvey – childhood friend’s massive dog (think it was a Boxer)

125. Noah – guy with the ark

154. Amos – Seth’s sidekick on Emmerdale (nobody under the age of 70 was called this)

180. Eden – a holy book

186. Arlo – I was convinced I’d made this name up because everyone, EVERYONE, told me it wasn’t a real name in 1985, but I guess I must’ve heard it somewhere.

322. Albert – German royal family (only old men were called this)

325. Piper (female only) – my Piper is male – Pied Piper of Hamlin story (simply was not a name in the UK)

341. Mara – Irish folklore

388. Seth – ITV show, Emmerdale (or as it was known back then, Emmerdale Farm)

404. Benedict – an order of monks who made a herbal liquer (Cumberbatch was still in short trousers)

419. Rhiannon – Fleetwood Mac song

461. Leia – Star Wars

760. Goldie – included because it’s the car’s name – a gold Ford Capri, named after Goldie Hawn

807. Jed – The Beverly Hillbillies (old man name)

 

Other character names not on Nameberry (some for good reason)…

Kite – type of bird from the Osiris myth (Egypt)

Jess – Postman Pat’s cat

Boxer – because he’s a pugilist

Old Bones – because he’s an augur

War – because he’s the son of the angel of peace – 32 year old irony at work

Cedar – tree

Maggie – Maggie Philbin (who had terrible hair for at least a decade)

 

It’s great that there are so many resources out there to help us find interesting or authentic names for our characters. It’s greater still when you discover later that the names you chose have greater significance for the characters and their arcs than you first realised. I love those discoveries.

Nameberry

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Photo Archive

Some old photos from my corner of Kent.

Chatham Riverside. Taken on Vivitar Ultra Wide & Slim film camera.1908347548_d7fc659f7a_b

Welcome to Chatham2052594385_e42dbebd2b_b

Magpies on Rochester Castle walls2198594046_42769af77b_b

Shopping ghosts2219084371_c4536a94de_b

Tap N Tin. Chatham.2224674294_dcc919fd5f_b

Six Books

i wrote six books by accident

Today is the third anniversary of a very special beginning. It was the first time I’d taken part in a NaNo event. More importantly, I wrote the first words of a writing project that had been brewing for thirty years.

That first book evolved into more. A second, a third. Definitely no more than four. Or six.
Today I’m writing the closing scenes of the sixth book. I’m wrecked. I’m overjoyed obviously. But also there’s fear. I’m almost done. I’ll have to do something with these books now that I’ve written them. There’s also a desperate sense of loneliness because I’ve been living with these people of mine for so long. As long as nobody forces me to interact with *gulp* real people, we’ll be good.

So there it is. Three years. Six books.

Now what?

NaNoWriMo: Day 19

So I typed these words today.

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The end of part two came a bit faster than I thought it would. It leaves me somewhere between a tiny pickle and extreme happiness. I’m only at 43.5 thousand words, leaving me 6.5 thousand short of the NaNoWriMo target. This in itself is not a problem. Book four is ready to go. It doesn’t have a full outline yet, but I know where it starts and I know where it ends. I have some early scenes well-outlined. I don’t foresee any problems with wading straight in.

The problem begins when I try to stop writing at the end of November, which I will have to do, since the end of November heralds the start of December. December is the time for cleaning frantically, watching shitty movies that would cause me to kick my telly in the face at any other time of the year, and pretending that I’m going to make all that Pinteresty stuff. I’m totally going to make all the things this year. So yes, I’m going to start enthusiastically writing a new book later today, then after eleven days, I’m just going to stop. I’m not going to stop, am I? My house will look like Primark on Boxing Day. But it’s okay really, I’ll be way too happy to notice.

 

NaNoWriMo: Day 18: Sneaky peeky

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Another first draft extract from book 3. The scene is a long one so I’ve just included a few paragraphs about the experience. Violet finds herself in the Himalayas for what War calls “pinballing” but the local wildlife has to get used to their presence first.

The sun cast its gold over the mountains in the distance, dripping down slowly like yolk from an egg, swallowing the shadows made by the mountain beneath my feet. Part-buried lumps of snow-striped rock leapt from the mountainside like giant, angular zebras. Wispy clouds hung above them like puffs of breath.

*****

I was about to ask who they were when I heard them. Just a few at first, warbling and chittering. Fat little birds, round and speckled, with pale brownish bodies, veering towards a rusty red at their upturned tails. Then more came, chirruping and whistling so fast they vibrated. A wall of puffy little birds, yellow diamond mouths open in chorus, sang to us. In the mountains. Musicals begin this way.

*****

“What are all these other birds?” I said, waving my hand delicately to our left, trying not to offend anything. I turned at movement behind us. “And what the hell is that? Is it a yak?”

A golden, shaggy thing stood on the rock above us, about twenty feet away, all horned and majestic.

“Some kind of goat, I think. Or maybe a sheep. But those over there…” He pointed to our right. “Those are yak.”

They looked like horned, black cows that had been over-fed, squashed until their shoulders humped over, then draped with shaggy carpet. They slouched away, unimpressed. The majestic enormo-goat still stood behind us, staring down in silent rebuke.

“So what are the birds?” I said.

“Do I look like David bloody Attenborough to you?”

*****

NaNoWriMo: Day 15: Sneaky peeky

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Another extract from the first part of book 3. It’s still in its first draft, but I’m pretty happy with it. It’s hard to fight an enemy that’s become part of someone you love.

Caleb was in the lounge, sitting beneath the window in a puddle of glass and blood. His black hair was wet with it. Rusty red streaks had dripped and dried on his chest, his arms and his cheeks. His abandoned t-shirt crouched at the edge of the puddle, sucking like an animal.

“Jesus, Caleb,” said Daniel, squatting down in front of him, his boots grinding the glass into dust. “What the fuck are you doing to yourself?”

Caleb didn’t even look up. He drove a shard of glass into his palm, then pulled it out again, letting the blood drip onto the floor. And when the wound healed, he did it again. And again.

Albert and Daniel exchanged a look and I stepped back. They each grabbed one of Caleb’s arms and hauled him upright. His eyes were dead. His mouth flatlined. He crushed the glass in his fist.

“Can you get rid of the glass, Violet?” said Daniel, as he held Caleb against the wall.

I peeled his fingers away and the shard hit the floor. He seemed to notice us then. His head rolled back and his eyes blazed with something wild and untameable. Sobs tore up his throat, shoving past his gritted teeth. He pistoned his shoulders into the wall, trying to shake Daniel and Albert loose. While they struggled to keep him still, he threw his head forward and nutted Albert, knocking him on his butt. I rammed my head under Caleb’s chin, then dug my right shoulder into his chest, and wrapped both my hands around his wrist. He wriggled, but he wasn’t going anywhere. He tried to kick, but I stomped on his foot.

Daniel grabbed my shoulder and the world blinked. The three of us landed in the bath. It felt like an ugly poem. We pushed Caleb down, smearing blood across the tiles. I sat on him, pinning his arms with my knees, while Daniel stepped out and turned on the shower above Caleb’s head. He spluttered beneath the spray, shaking his head from side to side, as his legs cycled furiously behind me. When he tried to buck me off, I grabbed his throat and squeezed. He went still. His face was hopeless. The sadness in his eyes carved its way into my chest, hollowing it out so that every heartbeat felt raw and unloved.

“Pins and needles,” he whispered, wriggling his fingers beneath my shins.

“If you try anything funny, Caleb, I swear I’ll murder you,” said Daniel.

I rocked back a bit, releasing Caleb’s hands. He gave them a shake then ran them through his dripping hair. Together we washed the blood away. I laid down, resting my head next to Caleb’s, letting the water cool me down. It was too damn hot anyway. He wrapped his arms around me, and Daniel sighed. Then he wandered off to perch on the toilet.

“It’s not even lunchtime, Caleb,” I whispered, rubbing the last of the blood from his hair. “What time did you start drinking?”

“Before I got up. It’s the only way.”

His voice was ragged with whiskey burn.

“It’s not the only way. I’ll find you a better one.”

“You can’t fix everything, angel.”

“I can fix you.”

“I’m not broken, I’m dead.”

“That’s the exact opposite of what you are.”

“Do you have to argue?”

“Do you have to ask?”

He chuckled into my hair. “I didn’t drink all that much today.”

“You were unresponsive, Caleb. You were making holes in yourself.”

“I know. I was trying to go somewhere else.”

“Where were you trying to go?”

“I don’t know. Some place where nobody expects me to hold on. Where I can get washed away in peace.”