Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Guest Post by Lori L. MacLaughlin

Today, I'm so excited to welcome my friend Lori MacLaughlin to my blog with a guest post that is perfect for St. Patrick's Day. Lori is celebrating the release of her first novel, Lady, Thy Name is Trouble. I am almost as excited about its release as she is. Lori and I are members of the same writer's group, and I have been watching this novel grow for many years. Reading the final version has been a wonderful and emotional experience, especially recognizing little details that I suggested Lori weave into her tale. For example (and Lori is probably going to kill me but I can't not mention it) the issue of bathing. I am a water-obsessed freak, and I was constantly pointing out how dirty her characters were getting, especially after wallowing around in the Bog for days. She insisted that readers would assume the characters would take advantage of opportunities to clean up and she didn't need to point it out every time. I brought up the fact that even Tolkien had the hobbits bathe when they reached Crickhollow. So you all can thank me for Lori adding the lovely bathing scene after they leave the bog!

Welcome, Lori!

The Magic of Names

In my new fantasy adventure novel, Lady, Thy Name Is Trouble, the heroine of the story is Tara. The name Tara, in Irish, means "rocky hill" or "tower." It refers to the ancient seat of Irish kings in County Meath, where stands the Lia Fial — the Stone of Destiny, which legend says was the coronation stone for the ancient High Kings of Ireland.

While this is all very fascinating and appropriate for a St. Patrick's Day post, I didn't think about any of it when I gave my main character her name. I named her Tara, because I loved the sound of it. I thought it beautiful and strong, yet feminine. To me, the name captured Tara's personality perfectly.

My habit always has been to choose names for my characters that sounded right to me. I never looked up the names to see their meanings beforehand. However, when it came time to choose names for my children, I went by both sound and meaning.

Since then, I've paid more attention to the meanings of names, but usually only after the fact. I'll pick a name or create one I like, and then sometime later, I'll look up what it means, just to make sure it's not something undesirable. For example, in my 35,000+ Baby Names book, the name Swinfen, listed in the boys' section, is said to mean "swine's mud." I mean no offense to anyone out there named Swinfen, but that would be a name I'd have to change.

Choosing a name that fits your character is not an easy task. An Internet search provides lots of advice. Two of the sites I found useful are listed below.

If you've picked first and last names for your characters, it's smart to search those name combinations online and see what comes up. I did that once and discovered that the name I'd made up belonged to an artist living in California. I changed my character's name slightly to avoid any conflict.

What's really uncanny, though, is when you choose a name, then look it up later and find it means exactly what you imagined for your character. In Book 2, Trouble By Any Other Name, there is an ancient race of magical people I named Kamarians. They are sky Aiykshaav'n, with elemental powers drawn from the aether and starlight and moonlight. A few months back, when I was double-checking names in Lady, Thy Name Is Trouble, I also checked the names in Book 2. According to my name book, "Kamaria," in Swahili, means "moonlight." Magical.

How do you choose your character names?

Photo source: Wikipedia


Trouble is Tara Triannon’s middle name. As swords for hire, Tara and her sister Laraina thrive on the danger. But a surprise invasion throws them into chaos... and trouble on a whole new level. Pursued by the Butcher, a terrifying assassin more wolf than man, Tara and Laraina must get a prince marked for death and a young, inept sorceress to safety. There’s only one problem – eluding the Butcher has never been done. Aided by a secretive soldier of fortune, they flee the relentless hunter.

Gifted with magic and cursed by nightmares that are all too real, Tara must stop an army led by a madman and fend off an evil Being caught in a centuries-old trap who seeks to control her magic and escape through her dreams – all while keeping one step ahead of the Butcher.

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Lori L. MacLaughlin traces her love of fantasy adventure to Tolkien and Terry Brooks, finding The Lord of the Rings and The Sword of Shannara particularly inspirational. She's been writing stories in her head since she was old enough to run wild through the forests on the farm on which she grew up.

She has been many things over the years – tree climber, dairy farmer, clothing salesperson, kids' shoe fitter, retail manager, medical transcriptionist, journalist, private pilot, traveler, wife and mother, Red Sox and New York Giants fan, muscle car enthusiast and NASCAR fan, and a lover of all things Scottish and Irish.

When she's not writing (or working), she can be found curled up somewhere dreaming up more story ideas, taking long walks in the countryside, or spending time with her kids. She lives with her family in northern Vermont.

Lori L. MacLaughlin 
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  1. I don't really know how I name characters. The name and the character are inextricably linked and usually take shape at the same time. I rarely have to change a name later. One of my biggest problems is not using a name of a student I've worked with at school. After fifteen years in a public high school, that rules out a lot of names! Way easier to write fantasy where I can create my own.

  2. Yes, I can see where that might be a problem. Making up names is more fun, too.

    Thanks again, Kari Jo, for having me as a guest!

    1. You're most welcome, Lori. Thank you for including me on your tour. Go ELFS!

  3. A terrifically timely post--and wonderfully intriguing to boot, Lori. I spend an enormous amount of time on names--but usually only for my historical fiction. Accuracy and the need to sound current within the time frame is key.
    It was lovely to get a peek inside your naming process--and to find new links to explore.
    Here's to great success with the book--of which I have no doubt will be the result.

  4. Thanks very much, Shelley! Choosing names for historical fiction would be a lot more difficult because of the need for accuracy, as you said. It would be an interesting challenge.

  5. I find it a bit of a challenge coming up with the right names for alien characters. They have to not sound human, but be pronounceable in some way. It's tricky!

    1. I think that would be harder than fantasy names, particularly the pronounceable bit.

  6. I love when that happens. You pick a name and it fits your character. It feels almost destined. Great post.
    To Success,

    Juneta @ Writer's Gambit

  7. Destined — that's a great word for it. Thanks, Juneta!