Thursday, 25 August 2016

Other People's Events by Tamsyn Murray

I don't know about you but I love going to author events. Apart from hearing about the fabulous books they've written, I get to spend an hour or so among an audience of (usually) like-minded peoplease.  Bookish people.

Often, the author is a friend and I want to be supportive. Very occasionally, they are a literary hero of mine (see Susan Cooper) and I sit like a gibbering, awestruck heap while they talk. And always, I learn something. That's one of the reasons I go, actually: to see what other authors do and to be inspired into improving my own events.

Last weekend, I went to Just So Festival. In amongst the fantastic programme of circus skills and storytelling and drama, there was an amazing array of author talent. I was disappointed to be thwarted by traffic on Friday, so I missed Curtis Jobling and Phil Earle, but I did manage to attend events by author/illustrator Nadine Kaadan, Paul Stickland, Jo Cotterill and John Dougherty, plus a musical storytelling session that had me crying with laughter.

Nadine had her young audience wrapped around her little finger as she showed them how to draw scenes from her book, The Jasmine Sneeze, making me wish I could draw too. Paul taught us how to make a pop-up dinosaur (memo to me: write dinosaur book so you can use this). Jo explained how electricity worked using some very independently minded audience members; she also acted out a scene from Electrigirl complete with sound effects supplied by the audience.

John had his guitar and sang some hilarious songs; his Stinkbomb and Ketchupface readings were a masterclass in comic timing.

And the musical storytelling session (I didn't catch the performer's name as it wasn't in the programme and I didn't know him) impressed me so much that I wanted him to repeat the performance immediately so that I could take notes (I was far too busy cackling to do this the first time around).

The key thing about all these inspiring events was audience participation. I do love getting kids (and sometimes adults) involved in the story. All the events I attended at the weekend were memorable, not just for the skill of the author in engaging their audience but because we all felt part of the story. And that's what reading a brilliant story does - puts us right in the middle of it. So I'll be borrowing some tips and tricks I learned this weekend (memo to self: buy guitar. Yes, another guitar. Learn to play guitar this time) to enhance my own events, because three days later I am still smiling about the authors I saw. And that's the kind of feeling I want my audience to have too.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

It's that time of the book again - Liz Kessler

Dear Fretting Liz

Oh look, here you are again. Finding it all a bit hard and wondering if you’ve lost your writing ability and it’s all over. Let me guess…half way through writing a new book? Yup, thought so.

OK, the great thing is that because I am in fact you, I know how you tick. I understand totally how you’re feeling, and I know the kinds of tricks that usually help you recover your mojo. So how about you stand back from being you for a minute, imagine you are a writing buddy in trouble, and see if you can give them the kind of advice that you would like to hear yourself?

Ah, forget that. I’ll do it for you. Here goes. Ten of my (and your) best getting-back-in-the-zone tips and tricks…

1. Re-read that blog you wrote years ago about the Seasons of Writing, and remember, sometimes you think that the spring has started and a few wintry days come along and take you by surprise. That’s nothing to worry about. It’s nature, and it will pass.

2. Take a few days off. Don’t argue. You can afford to. In fact, you can’t afford not to. Go on an Artist Date. Your well is depleted and needs restocking. Get out there and fill it up with some lovely creative energy.

3. Rewrite your writing schedule so that you can see in black and white (or red and blue and green) that you can afford the time to play out for a bit and still meet your deadline.

4. Get out in the fresh air. Go for lovely windy coastal walks. Surf, sail, kayak. Blow those cobwebs away.

5. Ask your wife to read what you’ve written, then go out in your van together and spend the afternoon talking about how you can fix it.

6. Make collages, draw pictures of the plot, flick through magazines for pictures of your characters, do some writing exercises. Y’know, the stuff you advise others to do when they tell you they're stuck.

7. Try to avoid calling your agent and telling her that you can’t do this writing lark any more. She will remind you that you’ve been here before and will suggest you see how the next week goes and that if you still feel this way in a week’s time, you can talk more. So cut out the middle man and save her a conversation. See how the next week goes, and if you still feel this way in a week’s time, you can talk to her then.

8. Tidy your office. You know you can’t expect your mind to feel clear and clean when your office looks like a particularly messy burglar has ransacked the place.

9. Meditate. Don’t say you haven’t got time. Just do it.

10. Write a blog about how you’re feeling, so that others can a) hopefully make use of some of your tips and b) possibly contribute some of their own.

OK, I think that should do it. Now, go have some fun. And when you’re done, get back to work. Trust me, your characters will be just as happy as you to have had some time off. When they see how chilled and happy and raring to go the new you is, they will welcome you back with enthusiasm and open up to you a lot more than they have been doing.

Good luck!

Wise Liz
(The part of you that knows you know all this anyway, but also knows you need reminding from time to time.)

Follow Liz on Twitter
Join Liz's Facebook page
Check out Liz's Website

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

A Whole Childhood World of Adventure Part Two by Steve Gladwin

Part Two- Battle of the Giants.

Previously on A Whole Childhood World Of Adventure.

I decided to revisit an old childhood favourite, the Hal and Roger Hunt adventures by Willard Price. I wanted to see how they stood up against more modern issues about zoos and conservation. I also decided to read, (finally!) Gerald Durrell's 'My Family And Other Animals', to see how the Hunt boys compared with 10 year old Gerry's very individual approach to the same subject, and for good measure to include modern day adventurer, conservationist and naturalist Steve Backshall's more modern take in his Falcon Chronicles Series.   

There is an old joke about a man going into a pet shop and requesting an unusual pet. Eventually he settles on an octopus, having promised the pet shop owner that he will not let it out of the tank and – should he disobey and can’t get it back in its tank - he promises to phone him for help.
Well of course the inevitable happens and – having soon got bored with a pet that can’t go anywhere, he lets the octopus out of its tank whereupon it flollops off in such a slithery manner that he can’t catch it. Worse still, every time he manages to grab a tentacle to push it back into the tank, another two slither back out. Eventually he has no alternative but to ring the pet shop owner, who turns up very quickly armed with a mallet. What on earth does he intend to do with that? The man soon finds out the answer when the pet shop owner lures the octopus with its favourite food, before whacking it smartly on the head with the mallet. The man then watches in astonishment as the poor octopus, yelling the octopus equivalent of ‘owch’, puts all its tentacles on his head, whereupon  the man from the pet shop sticks it back in the tank.

Giant Cuttlefish from Wikipedia. Roger Hunt lassoed it in Arctic Adventure  (which was probably cheating).

I’ve always loved this joke and was bizarrely reminded of it not just once but twice in Arctic Adventure, the last of Willard Price’s Hal and Roger Hunt series. In the first instance Hal and Roger capture a giant cuttlefish by cornering it in the depths of the icy ocean and Roger casts a lasso over it’s head, tightening it so the tentacles cannot move. Later on Roger also manages to capture a huge sea lion by bopping it on the head with a club every time it comes up for air, thus depriving it of its vital surfacing dives for breath so that it eventually blacks out!

Alas it is certain that there are several less than humane moments in the Hunt boys adventures and I have to say that I have real issues with the finding and feeding of live prey to the bigger animals, even though I can accept that its necessary. I got a really uncomfortable feeling in Amazon Adventure when Hal fed a live manatee to an ananconda, but worse still perhaps are the platitudes about animals being happier in captivity than in the wild. The most outrageous example of this I've read so far is in Arctic Adventure where the captured killer whale should – according to Hal – be positively looking forward to its new life performing tricks to the general public!

I will always love the books for the excitement they gave me in childhood and for Willard Price’s honest attempt to educate children not just about wildlife but humanity and the different ways it can exist together. By far the most interesting sections, (because Willard Price is never gripping) are those which involve the customs of the Inuit, who were called Eskimos in those days, (1980 when the last of the books was written). But the problem with the books – and I’d be interested in whether young people nowadays would pick up on this as much – is that Willard Price seems incapable of building tension. It’s almost as if he – like the Hunt boys – has a shopping list of animals and encounters to get through and therefore can’t spend long on anything. Price was a journalist and foreign correspondent so perhaps he was too accustomed to writing copy to make the transition to novel writing successfully. His villains too are cardboard in the main and you really can’t believe in any peril the boys are in because they’ll either brush it away or – if the peril involves animals – Roger will end up doing his Doctor Doolittle act, rendering it as gentle as a lamb.

No if you want genuine peril with a conservation message then Steve Backshall’s Falcon Chronicles surely fit the bill better. Steve has had a reputation for a number of years as a he-man adventurer chasing some of the world’s most deadly species in – often – some of its least inviting environments. But Steve is far more than a muscle man who wrests slimy or bitey things to the ground while showing off his pecs. One of the things I really like about Steve is that he doesn’t mind saying just how he feels. In Lost Land of the Volcano for example, he goes off with a caving group in a completely new cave system in New Guinea and half way through is struck down with fever. He has no qualms here or at other times, sharing his feelings, telling us he’s scared or in pain or needs to go and change his trousers. He's recently once again gone against his he man reputation with his unashamed blubbing when his fiancee Helen Glover and her rowing partner won Olympic gold.

In a Guardian interview Steve Backshall told us that his favourite childhood reads were Gerald Durrell’s My Family And Other Animals, Jack London’s Call of the Wild and Willard Prices Hunt boy adventures. In the first of the Falcon Chronicles, 'Tiger Wars', Steve goes a long way towards proving himself one of the natural inheritors of Willard Price’s crown. Here there is the same emphasis on culture and wildlife lore and the same message about the industrially sized evil of poaching as Price explored in Safari Adventure, (and which therefore made it such an exciting entry in the series. And crucially Steve provides us with both boy and girl teenage characters to root for who are thrown together by accident and have to survive untold perils. Saker the boy is a member of a mysterious group of teenage boys who have been trained in secret in the forests of Eastern Europe and forgotten their past, performing what almost amount to black opps for an unforgiving master called The Prophet. All of the boys are named after animals, such as Polecat, Bear, Wolf and Margay  (a small wild cat) and Saker’s own handle comes from the Saker hawk. He himself has gone AWOL after an attack of conscience following his shooting of a female tiger before discovering she has orphaned cubs. Sinter’s story is much less complex but in its own way just as deadly. Brought up as a strict Brahmin, she discovers one day to her horror that her father has promised her in an arranged marriage to a tubby doctor in his forties. The crushing disappointment and sense of betrayal makes her question everything that has happened in her life since her mother died and sets her up perfectly for being accidentally kidnapped by a desperate Saker when she runs into him fleeing other members of the gang.

Apart from the sort of wide ranging knowledge and perceptive and humane attitude that you’d expect from someone as well traveled, Steve Backshall does know how to build up tension and although one peril follows another very much in the same frying pan into fire manner of Willard Price’s books, he is thankfully not so much in a hurry to get to the next item on the shopping list. Instead we are given chance to care about the main characters because they are believable and – crucially – we also get to hear the perspective and grey area motivations of the other members of the gang who are chasing them. I'd be happy to read both of the books that follow in The Falcon Chronicles.

Steve and the rest of the team from Lost Land of the Jaguar - courtesy of

Long before this, on a magical island far away, the man who so influenced  Steve Backshall, Sir David Attenborough and so many others, was a ten year old discovering many of the jewels of nature in his new back yard. Young Gerry Durrell was the youngest of the Durrell clan which also consisted of his twenty two year old novelist brother Larry, (waspish, completely self -centred and withering in the extreme), his seventeen year old sister Margo, (fey, wispy and completely unprepared for the sometimes harsh realities of life), and brooding eighteen year old brother Leslie, who shoots anything that moves and if you’re a member of his family that might even include you. In addition to the four Durrell siblings there is also their long suffering and absent minded mother Louisa – another accident waiting to happen.

Having finally read My Family and Other Animals, (and why did it take me so long because it is quite wonderful), I’m just a bit sorry that I didn’t do so before watching ITV’s recent dramatization of all three books, The Durrells, with a wonderfully alternatively dazed and frazzled Keeley Hawes as mother and – what appeared to me at least – entirely appropriate casting unless you want Larry to be blonde rather than dark and local taxi driver cum fixer Spiros – very much a Brian Blessed type character in the books - to be actually played by the great man as he was in the first TV adaptation in the 60’s, rather than more accurately by a Greek actor. There is no doubt that Simon Nye adapted his six part version in fairly broad strokes – sort of Family Behaving Badly - but most of the happenings in the book and a good few of the magical moments, were there. Perhaps the saddest and most inevitable absence – were of young Gerry’s wide eyed continuing search to find, study and often capture Corfu’s natural world in all of its infinite variety. Like Steve Backshall’s Tiger Wars, MFAOA has limited dialogue which – more often than not – involves Larry being totally unreasonable while Mother begs him not to be.
Somewhere in the middle Margo witters her various disappointments with men  and Leslie comes in and thrusts a bloodied bag of the unfortunate local wildlife on the kitchen table. The other sections of dialogue tend to involve Gerry’s on-off education and the brave men who try to teach him. The most important of these was the polite and nervous doctor Theo Stephanides, who remained a life-long friend and who is given a special dedication in the introduction.

But I promised you a Battle of the Giants and it's with that dear reader that I must finish. Some of the most hilarious bits of MFAOA come when various creatures are kept in environments which clearly don't suit them, or else create fatal rivalries with other creatures, of which the rather splendid but ultimately tragic battle between the giant gecko Geronimo - who has long been resident in Gerry's bedroom and doesn't respond well to incomers - and the latest incomer, a giant mantid christened Cecil - is a fine example.. If you're of the sort of nervous disposition that doesn't want to be acquainted with the green mantis of Corfu, (still resident) please look away now.

Giant Corfu Mantis. Thanks to

It is in too many ways an uneven contest and has an inevitable conclusion. In a freak fall both creatures end up bloodied but unbowed on Gerry's bed.

'Cicely had a wing crushed and torn and one leg bent and useless, while Geronimo had a number of scratches across his back and neck caused by Cicely's front claws.

Eventually a now tail less Geronimo munches down on Cicely's left forearm, and - now weakened - she cannot prevent her head and thorax following suit. It has indeed been - and my cursory description nowhere near does it justice. - an epic battle, and it occurs to me that it is the sort of battle that - for all the effort he might have made with his 'shopping list' style of animal capture - Willard Price was never quite able to describe. It's interesting that Gerald Durrell actually published MFAOA in 1956, barely five years after the first of the Hunt boys adventures, Amazon Adventure, was published, but reading them both now they couldn't be further apart. While one man was setting up one of the first and most important conservation projects in the world at Jersey Zoo, the other - no matter how honourable his intent - was perpetrating all too familiar myths about animals being happy in captivity after being charmed into submission by 14 year old boys. Of course it's fairer to say that Price was more a man of his time, (as were say David Attenborough, the BBC and Zoo Quest - and Gerald Durrell - as he went on to consistently prove - was way ahead of it.  

For all that there's plenty of room for both. However I'll leave the last wise words to Gerald Durrell himself, (and friends)

'But the world is as delicate and complicated as a spider's web. If you touch one thread, you send shudders running through all the other threads. We are not just touching the web, we are tearing great holes in it.'





Monday, 22 August 2016

Be Prepared - By Dan Metcalf

I'm writing this from a damp, hot and sticky campsite in North Devon where my children have gone feral and I have given up hope of ever seeing civilisation again. It is times like this that my thoughts fall, not unfairly, to dystopian fiction. There is a dystopic, end-of-the-world saga in my head somewhere which is currently arguing with itself over what format it wants to be; comics? Novels? Long form spoken word podcast? I try to leave it alone to sort itself out but occasionally I have to top up the brain with a dram of research. It's no tea party, I can tell you. I once started a dissertation on dystopias in film, but abandoned it after the viewing got too bleak (I chose sitcoms instead). I've read books on the apocalypse and novels that depict the end of humanity. Key titles would be Z for Zachariah, Brother in the Land and any zombie related title. But it's the non-fiction research that really freaks me out.

Out there in the world are a community of people with one thing in common; a fervent belief in the end of the world as we know it - or TEOTWAWKI as it is handily abbreviated online. These people call themselves Preppers, as in, being prepared (probably ex-scouts taking the motto to the extreme, I dunno). They arm themselves, they stockpile tinned goods, they place caches of ammo and gold in secret places and build huge underground bunkers in their back gardens.

There was a time when we were all Preppers of course. The aforementioned novels play on the idea that the world would soon be bombed to hell by warring nations and the little people would be the ones having to make the best of life in a never ending nuclear winter. Indeed, I am of a generation that can distantly recall the testing of sirens in the street. Some may even remember the next-to-useless duck and cover advertisements that 'prepared' us all for a nuclear warhead dropping on our heads (thinking about it, they were entirely useless).

The modern day Preppers are a tad more organised, and mostly distrust the governments of the world to advise them. The cause of a modern TEOTWAWKI is less clear; terrorist action? Climate change? The big money (if you'll pardon the expression) is on a massive financial collapse on a global scale, driving people onto the streets and making scavengers of us all. The Preppers in this instance take their families and dive underground, where their state-of-the-art bunkers have air and water recycling systems, big screen TVs and a massive amount of tinned goods. (If you're interested, the Netflix series Doomsday Bunkers is an eye-opener)

The real thing that shocked me about the Prepper community is how much sense it made. While some are clearly delusional, some Preppers have science and reason on their side. Keeping a can of petrol in your car? Makes sense. A small stash of bottled water and food? Makes sense. Wrapping tin foil around your head to drive out the electronic signals? Okay, makes less sense, but I stand by the first two. Hey, it wasn't long ago that the UK government issued a leaflet to all households on how to prepare for an emergency. How many still have it and have the emergency store they recommended?
Remember this?

And going underground for 6-12 months? Sounds partly like hell, but the writer in me kind of likes the idea. Imagine the writing I'd get done! I could read all those books I'd been meaning to read! And no facebook and clickbait! Preppers stock their bunkers with libraries and DVDs, but if you're a real reader like me, what do you choose to take with you into Armageddon? I'm reminded of HG Wells' Time Machine, where the time traveller takes just three books with him to the future, never to return. What would you take?

The reason all this appeals to me as a writer? I like the idea of world building. I want to create a society from the ground up, and to start anew. Isn't that what we all do when we write a story? We create leaders, hierarchies, enemies and allies. We create friends and support systems, as well as challenges and disasters. The real reason people like dystopic fiction is because it provides us a glimpse into a world which has had to start again.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go and stop my sons from going full-on Lord of the Flies. 



Saturday, 20 August 2016

Done and Dusted? by Joan Lennon

It's an odd time of year.  Endings, beginnings.  Summer is finishing, and there are already hints of colour change in the leaves.  Here in Scotland, primary and secondary terms started this week.  Exam results have been causing the nation's tension levels to spike. And I'm going on a journey.

I call it a journey instead of just a trip, because it is, for me, HUGE.  I'm going to Jakarta to visit my son, in his New World.  When I get back I'm starting a new job, as an RLF Fellow at Dundee University.  This is also, for me, HUGE and quite a bit New Worldish. But before I leave, I have this pressing, oppressive desire to finish absolutely every piece of writing I've got on the go - down to the last dotted i and crossed t - all of it, done and dusted.   

Chelsea porcelain inkstand, 
including a pounce box for sprinkling sand or pounce, a powdered gum, 
used to dry the ink on the page (Wikipedia)
- the "dusted" of "done and dusted"

It ain't gonna happen.  But the importunity of the desire made me think about some of the things I've learned over the years about different authors' writing styles - how some writers positively embrace the concept of leaving things unfinished to come back to.  So I thought I'd ask around.  

Dear Writers, 
At the end of a working day or week or time unit of choice, do you
a) like to have written everything you have in your mind?
b) like to stop partway through a scene, thought, or even sentence?

I'm an a) - no surprise - but I can see the wisdom in b).  Please pop an a) or a b) in the comments below, in the interests of, well, interest.  Cheers. 

Leonid Pasternak The Passion of Creation (Wikipedia)
painful pausing ...

Woman with wax tables and stylus (Wikipedia)
thoughtful pausing ...

Joan Lennon's website.
Joan Lennon's blog.
Silver Skin

Friday, 19 August 2016

The African Story Stick - Lucy Coats

As some of you reading this will know, as well as being a writer, I am also a shamanic practitioner, and have been for very many years. The two things are not mutually exclusive - I use shamanic techniques of journeying and vision in workshops, and also to facilitate my own work. My 'creative napping' technique uses the dreamworld to access answers to writing problems. I've studied shamanic practices with teachers from many cultures, and I'm always interested to see the common mythological links in stories from many different lands. It all goes to reinforce my belief that wherever we come from in the word, we are all joined together by the same threads. 

Last week I was in Africa, where I came, quite by chance, into possession of a very beautiful carved stick. It was made by a man who names himself Stephen (though I suspect he has a different name within his tribe). He is apparently a shy person, who lives near the banks of the Zambezi not far from the Kariba dam. That is all I know about him, apart from the fact that he honours the gods of his ancestors, and is a proper craftsman. This is the stick he carved with love and attention to detail, and which I have now brought back here, very far from Africa. 

The stick tells a story, which is one of the reasons I was drawn to it. The head represents the river spirit and god the BaTonga people call Nyaminyami. Nobody has ever seen him, nobody knows how big he is, but he is rumoured to have the head of a snake and the body of a fish. He and his wife live in the Zambezi, but she has never been seen and her name seems to be a secret.

The next part of the stick represents the flowing waters of the river which (before the Kariba dam was built) gave life and sustenance to the BaTonga people, sustenance represented lower down by the fish and the tree. In return for this bounty, the people poured beer into the river, and worshipped him with singing, dancing, drumming and rattling on the namalwa, ngoma and muyuwa. 

Next come the rings - sometimes worn round the necks of BaTonga women as a tribute to the god's own long neck - then the ball containing the magical seed which wards off evil spirits. 

This is held up by the hand of the female shaman or sangoma, whose wrist narrows into the sacred pipe, made from a calabash and used in ceremony to promote visions, as with many other shamanic traditions, notably in North America. 

It was the female hand that was the other thing which made me feel the stick was right for me to have. My own hand fits over it almost exactly, one female shaman to another. 

It's a long, long way from home now, my nyaminyami story stick, but I sent a message to its maker, hoping that it will get through to him. The stream which flows through my garden, runs on to the sea, joining the oceans of the world. The note I sent to Stephen said this: All Waters are One. I will think of him and his people respectfully every time I touch the beautiful object he has made, and hope that in time, the stick will share some more stories with me, or help me find others of my own. 

OUT NOW: Cleo 2: Chosen and Cleo (UKYA historical fantasy about the teenage Cleopatra VII) '[a] sparkling thriller packed with historical intrigue, humour, loyalty and poison.' Amanda Craig, New Statesman
Also out:  Beasts of Olympus series "rippingly funny" Publishers Weekly US starred review 
Lucy's Website - Twitter - Facebook - Instagram

Thursday, 18 August 2016

What's in a name? --- by Linda Strachan

NAMES - they are such personal things.

You may (or may not) like the name you were given by your parents, but of course it can be changed with greater or lesser degrees of difficulty.  Some names appear to place you in a certain group, either by nationality, geography, culture or even social status. Is that a good or bad thing, or merely interesting?

New parents sometimes have real problems when deciding on names for their children, and if you have ever been asked to sign books you quickly discover how many spellings there are for what would appear to be very ordinary names.    It is also strange that some names are almost too 'old' for  a new baby but the same name would seem fine in an adult.  Some names are fashionable for a short while trending when parents name their children after celebrities or characters on TV or in books.

Do you have a different name when you are writing?  It occurs to me that it might cause a problem when you start signing your books, do you sometimes use your own name by mistake, or worse what happens when you have been signing a lot of books with your pseudonym and soon afterwards you are asked to write a cheque or give a signature for something legal; is it difficult to remember who you are supposed to be?  It conjures up all kinds of possibilities for comedy, and perhaps more serious consequenses in this security conscious world.

How you spell your name can be an interesting conversation point or is it just an eternal irritation when no one gets it right?

I recently received an email from a young lady called Seonaid and when we met up I realised that I had no idea how to pronounce her name.  I only discovered later that it was pronounced  'Shona'. Thankfully it did not matter at the time as I never had to say her name, but although I love the way she spells it,I cannot help but wonder how it would feel to have to correct people all the time?

I admit that I am terrible at remembering names, but a greater problem happens when I get the wrong name for someone into my head and cannot shift it.  A few years ago I met a friend's husband and for some reason I was sure his name was Paul - he also looked like a Paul (to me - don't ask!)  But his name was not Paul, it was Bill.  The problem was he never looked like 'Bill' to me and still doesn't.

This happened again to me very recently when I had quickly read an email and mistook the name Philip with Peter and it didn't help that his surname also began with P.  And now the poor chap will, it appears, be forever Peter in my head. Yesterday I met him for the first time and he seemed, thankfully, not too upset with my mistake and occasional slip as I tried to remember NOT to call him Peter, until eventually it became a point of humour. Luckily he has a great sense of humour (Phew!)

Character names can create a difficulty, especially if you are wanting to make up a name, perhaps for a fantasy or other world story.  I am fascinated by the fact that some names just don't sit right with particular characters. Others I need to use for a while to get used to them, as if the character grows into it.  There are name generators, but that always feels like cheating!
But if too many characters start with the same first letter it can be confusing for the reader, but not nearly as confusing as it is for the writer, when you decide to change character names well into writing the book, or if an editor advises it.

Do you have a problem with names?  Do you have a pseudonym, and if so, why? 

How do you choose your character names?  Does what someone calls you really matter (as long as it is not insulting)?


Linda Strachan is the author of over 60 books for all ages from picture books to teenage novels and a writing handbook - Writing For Children.

Linda is currently Chair of the SOAiS - Society of Authors in Scotland 

Her latest YA novel is Don't Judge Me . 
She is Patron of Reading to Liberton High School, Edinburgh.

Her best selling series Hamish McHaggis is illustrated by Sally J. Collins who also illustrated Linda's retelling of Greyfriars Bobby.

blog:  Bookwords