Saturday, December 30, 2017

The fun of discovering names to use for character titles and surnames

I’ve spoken before of my obsession with names. Agonising over what title to use and what surnames to bestow upon my characters is another time-wasting phenomenon chez Bailey.

Really, I could just pick any name to go with the chosen Christian names. But not a bit of it. When beginning a book, I pore through my various sources and not only name the main characters, but make lists which I can dip into for minor characters who are bound to pop up. I need aristocratic sounding names for titles as well as names that will sound well on a valet, butler, maid or footman, or a shopkeeper. Perhaps a Bow Street Runner.

Names have got to suit the character, and very often their occupation too. So not just any name will do. The fact that it gives me so much pleasure to choose names is merely by the way, of course. Once chosen, though, it makes sense to check any name applied to the main titled characters against Google search, in case it turns out to be a real title currently in use.

I have three sources for surnames. Following the tradition set by Georgette Heyer, the main one is an old Road Atlas of the British Isles. 

An absolute treasure trove of wonderful names that roll off the tongue and are just a joy to pronounce. Just check out this little corner of one page of said Atlas.

Can’t you just see the characters popping up?
Miss Wimpstone, the governess
Marston, the butler
Paxford, the landlord of the inn, or he might be a groom
Lady Honeybourne, the dotty great-aunt
Viscount Idlicote, the annoying suitor the heroine can’t get rid of
Annabella Darlingscott, the reigning belle who is waspish and jealous of our heroine

See what I mean? Any more of this and I’ll have to excuse myself to go off and write the story.

For my next trick, there’s the invaluable Leslie Dunkling Guiness Book of Names. He’s got a wealth of wonderful surnames listed by county. Here’s the list for Oxfordshire.

I’ve already got Miss Flook from this list – she’s my widow’s companion in the current Regency Romantics anthology story, Widow in Mistletoe. Pegler is my lady’s maid in an upcoming Lady Fan. And I’ve got a definite hankering to use Bubb, Croome and Stinchcombe. I’m pretty sure I’ve already used Tuffley, but Gazard and Wintle are calling to me as well.

My last source is the fabulous Stufflebeem, Brockway & Sturt, by Shelley Keen (see top image). This gem of a book gives the origins of names, which can help with character as well as simply providing lists of names alphabetically. This comes in handy when I’m in danger of having too many names starting with the same letter. I can locate an unused letter and browse through that list to find a name that fits. 

The only name from this snippet from the book I’ve used is Lord Hetherington, the hero of the third in my Brides by Chance series, Knight for a Lady.

As an illustration of how fascinating and useful a map can be, I give you the bluestocking set in my wip, Taming the Vulture (Book 10 in the Brides by Chance series). These were picked wholesale and are genuine double-barrelled names of towns.

Pelham Ferneux, the handsome, showy literary type who actually produces next to nothing
Moreton Pinckney, the critic who panned my hero’s last work of poetry
Stanford Dingley, the historian and friend of my hero
Carleton Rode, the respected essayist
Aspatria Glasson, the champion of the rights of women

Honestly, could I have thought these up by myself? I rest my case.

Elizabeth Bailey

Friday, December 15, 2017

Regency, WW2 and 2017 - How Christmas has changed.

 In the Regency the lesser folk would have been fortunate to have anything different to eat at Christmas. However, those with money and status might well have celebrated in style.
If one was lucky one would be invited to a house party arriving before 21st December. A Yule log would be brought in but the greenery would not be put up until 24th. Christmas Day one would attend church and eat a turkey dinner. Similar to today -although I doubt many attend a service nowadays. Gifts were not given until 6th January -but not in the excess we see today.

The first Christmas of WW2  - 1939 - was the same as any other. Paper decorations, tinsel and candles on a tree, and a stocking for the children. However, there would be one present under the tree - not dozens. As the war progressed and rationing and shortages kicked in, the population did their best, but children would be lucky to get more than a few homemade gifts.
A chicken would be a luxury for many, especially those living in the cities. Country folk fared better as they could grow their own vegetables, keep chickens, and often had a shared interest in a pig.

How different it is today. The shops are full of festive things from September and families borrow money they can't afford to make sure their children don't feel disappointed on Christmas Day.
We all spend far too much, buy too much, and over indulge. I love the decorations, look out for doors with wreaths and lights outside, and enjoy peering into front windows at brightly decorated Christmas trees.
I am not religious, but love the nativity story.
For me it's a time for being generous in kind and in spirit, for reaching out to old friends and being close to family.

I wrote a light-hearted Christmas novella, Christmas at Devil's Gate in two weeks in order to give something to my readers. It's priced at $0.99 & £0.99 and is available on Amazon.

I wish you all a happy holiday, merry Christmas and a peaceful New Year.
Fenella J Miller

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Christmas, Advertising and.... Biggles!

Léon-François Comerre - The Flower Seller
CHRISTMAS is a time when we are besieged with advertisements. Things to buy, things to eat, programmes to watch.  This week I have been thinking about advertising, how we market our wares, and how that has changed over the centuries.

Shopkeepers have always used signs outside their premises to attract custom, as can be seen in this print by Hogarth (below). At one time, signs hanging over the streets were banned, because of the danger of them falling down and causing injury.

And those with trades to sell might also place ad advertisement in a newspaper, like this lovely, short piece in the London Evening Post in 1746. It appears Mr Grainger promise to teach pupils to "write well in a Month"(many of us would be pleased to have such guarantees in education today!).

The advent of moving pictures early last century was an exciting development in entertainment, and it wasn't long before advertisers recognised the potential. Who doesn't remember sitting through "Pearl & Dean" while waiting for the big picture to start?

Television gave advertisers the opportunity to bring their products right into the home, and boy, did it become an art form! For a while (until modern technology made it possible to fast-forward through the breaks) adverts were in danger of taking over from the main event- indeed, some were much better than the programmes they interrupted (although possibly not the one shown here).

Books have never been subject to quite such a hard sell. After all, as readers we like to take our time and browse, don't we? But authors  want to get the message out there, so they have to advertise, too, and we do. Via our publishers, or personally, via social media.  But it's not new.
This came home to me earlier this week, when I was trying(unsuccessfully) to reduce the number of books on my overcrowded shelves.  As a girl I fell in love with Capt W E Johns' flying ace, Biggles, and my collection of Biggles books has remained with me ever since. For years I spent my hard-earned pocket money on Biggles books, reprints like this...

....or second hand copies, purchased room an Aladdin's cave of a bookshop on the historic Christmas Steps in Bristol.  It was in one of these old books, a 1950s edition of "Biggles Works it Out", that I found a note from Capt Johns himself.   It had been fitted into the front of the book, whether by the publisher or by the book's original owner I do not know, but here is the note .

Perhaps it is because I am now an author myself, and battling constantly with demands of modern media, but this really struck a chord with me. It makes that personal, direct appeal to the reader, just as we are urged to do today.
This book, along with its message, is going to remain on my shelves for a long time to come.
Merry Christmas, everyone, and happy reading.

Melinda Hammond

You can read my homage to the WWII flying aces in my short story,

Or, if you want a little Christmas treat, you might like The Duke's Christmas Bride.