What’s in a Name? – Picking Character Names

We have a furry addition to our family – a female black cat that we adopted yesterday from the local animal shelter. We’ve had a bad run with pets over the last few years but, ever hopeful, we’re giving cat ownership another go. Which leads us todays post, because of course our new furry friend needs a name.

In this case we decided on Blackie. I know it doesn’t win awards for originality. Thank goodness animals are the only ones to get names based on their appearance, other wise both my boys would be named Scrawny Pink Thing.

Names are a funny thing. When I was teaching I came to associate a certain type of kid with their name, thus I’ve never met a Lewis who wasn’t lovely while I have a weird aversion to boys with J names (thank you, all you Jakes, Jordans, Jacksons and Joshs). Of course some of the ‘J’ brigade were lovely, but it’s the little…well, you know, that stand out.

As far as characters go, I struggle to name them. My protagonist in Child of War is Jedda, a name that I hoped was strong and not too main stream – but not too out there. It’s a j-name obviously but he and I get along pretty well.

And while they may seem superficial, the names characters have help to form a picture in our mind, they both draw on and add to our previous experience to create meaning. After all, would we picture Shakespeare’s Juliet the same if she were called Ursula? Romeo and Ursula? Or would we now imagine all girls called Ursula differently? I knew a couple who named their new baby daughter Ursula – my immediate mental image was not flattering.

If you were being set up on a blind date with a man called Homer, would you picture a distinguished Greek poet or a jaundiced over-weight family man?

Do you have any favourite character names? How important are names to you?

From the Heroine’s Journey to Misogyny – A Short Journey

It’s funny how the web and a inquiring mind can take you on an interesting journey. One minute you’re reading about writing ideas and half an hour later you’re knee deep in misogynist ranting.

I read with extreme interest a post on Writers in the Storm (my favourite writing blog) by Laurie Schnebly Campbell about the ‘heroine’s journey’, a companion to the ‘hero’s journey’. Actually, I had never heard of the heroine’s journey before and after reading the post did what every gen-y girl will do when their interest is peeked, I googled it.

This led me to a post by Sarah Perlmutter about why she doesn’t like the heroines journey concept. Her take on the heroine’s journey was different to Campbell’s, my understanding of Perlmutter’s point of view was that it was an unnecessary distinction based on gender, where as Campbell saw the two concepts as being external-conflict vs internal-conflict. Personally I found Campbell’s analysis more helpful.

Perlmutter’s post lead me to a post by Quintus Curtius on Return of Kings. The premise of his post was that women are, by nature, weak at best and cowardly at worst, and that portrayals of woman as heroic or in positions of leadership in fiction are implausible and contrary to a woman’s true, innate, nature.

I’ll be honest, it was the sort of writing that has the power to make your insides shiver. I had no doubt of the passion and conviction behind his words. Such misogyny is as frightening as the misandry found in some women’s speech and writing.

What was interesting for me was the differences between people’s perception of gender and it’s role. Even in this tiny sample found in a half hour spent fiddling around on the net, they varied wildly.

What was more interesting was where you can go and what you find with a little bit of curiosity.

Meet the Kids’ Book Publishers & Find Out What They’re Looking For


If you are a writer or illustrator the you’ll probably be interested in this initiative by Dee White and Alison Reynolds. It’s called ‘Meet the Kids’ Book Publishers’ and it could be the opportunity you’re looking for. Check out more on Dee’s blog.

Originally posted on DeeScribewriting Blog:

Alison Reynolds and I are planning a MEET THE KIDS’ BOOK PUBLISHERS event in Melbourne next May, 2016.

Screen Shot 2015-08-16 at 10.26.43 amIf you’re a Kids’ book writer or illustrator from anywhere in Australia, this will be your chance to meet major publishers.

The event is in its planning stages but we anticipate there will be publisher panels, pitching opportunities, manuscript and folio assessments.


This Professional Development Event will be for NEW and PUBLISHED writers and illustrators,


There will be discussion about pitching to publishers, what they are looking for in a pitch and what’s hot in kids’ book publishing in Australia at the moment.

We also plan to offer one-on-one assessments where you get to speak with a publisher or editor about your writing and/or your folio.


There is no obligation but if you think this is an event you might like to…

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When’s a Dick not a Dick? When it’s a Rick!

I want to start this rant post by saying that I didn’t enjoy the Far Away Tree when I was little and I don’t now. I did like Noddy. Whether or not Big Ears and Noddy were gay (and I don’t think they were) is no one’s business but theirs. And I liked the Wishing Chair. I don’t think any of these stories have aged particularly well but that’s just me.

My kids (aged 3 and 5)  don’t know that a dick is a colloquial word for penis or that fanny is a colloquial term for vagina (here in Australia and also England) or bottom (in America). With this in mind how can it be necessary to change the names of two major characters?

It’s Dick and Fannie,  not Rick and Franny.

There is no Lilly Bobtail in Peter Rabbit which might explain why Benjamin Bunny marries his cousin (Peter’s sister).

Tom Kitten’s mum smacked him, okay?

Sheep are either black or white, they are not rainbow coloured.

How can we sexualise children’s clothing on the one hand and then run riot with political correctness on the other? Are we, as a society, losing our minds?

As adults we do need to be careful of the messages we give our children but surely honest discussion is more valuable than censorship?

Censorship of this sort not only puts adult perceptions on things meant for children, it also removes chances for children to learn how to use their discretion, ask questions and make judgments when faced with new ideas. Ba Ba Rainbow Sheep doesn’t invite discussions about racial injustices in history and without these discussions our children aren’t prepared to deal with it if they face it in the present day.

What do you think? Do I have too much time on my hands or do you agree with me?

War, Violence and Brutality

In rewriting Child of War I’ve been drawn back to researching. Google is my best friend. During the first draft many (many, many, many) months ago I researched topics ranging from what it’s like to get high (I had a sheltered adolescence), to the effects of a bullet wound, to internal state violence and the impacts on the population. I find this sort of stuff fascinating (and yet I’m not a riot at a party…strange).

My most resent researching has been in an effort to portray the experience of my protagonist, Jedda, more accurately. Why, in civil wars, do civilians become targets of violence and abuse? What forms does this take?

This answers were simultaneously fascinating and horrifying. Stories from African countries featured frequently in the articles I read. The testimonies of boys and young men who had been abducted and sexually, physically and psychologically abused were heart wrenching and sickening as were the stories from girls who were taken from their homes to be used as ‘entertainment’. It’s difficult to believe that these young people will grow up to be whole, healthy and happy adults.

As I sit in my warm, safe, home I wonder what I can do. I was drawn to this topic for my book because I hope to create awareness and , through awareness, perhaps action and change. I feel pathetic and impotent just writing that last sentence.

I have no answers.

Do you? What do you know about this topic and what are your thoughts and feelings? I would love to hear them.

Can you help me?

I’m currently doing a rewrite on Child of War, the manuscript I’ve been trying to find a good home for. After rejection number four (or is it five?) and some reading to improve my skills (may I suggest The First 50 Pages by Jeff Gerke) I decided to put my current work in progress away for a bit and do some tweaking on my ‘finished’ manuscript.

With that as background, I’m looking for your comments. I’ve copied the first 200 words below and I would be grateful if you would read them both and let me know which (if any) you prefer and why.

Be brutal (but constructive). I’m keen to know what you think.


Hunger slapped Jedda awake, clawing at his insides. His eyes snapped open, and he sat up. Nothing ruined a good sleep like the knife of hunger twisting in your stomach.

Pale yellow light sliced through a gap between the thin floral curtains, and caught in the dusty cobwebs that looped down from the corners of the room. There was a cat-shaped damp patch on the wall behind Jedda’s bed and he gave it a friendly pat, “Morning Flossy.”

Jedda stretched, pushing the tips of his toes out from the end of his bed, and swung his legs over the side. Cain’s bed was already empty, the thin covers pulled up over his pillow, his sketch pad and nub of pencil resting on the corner of the narrow set of drawers the divided their beds. Jedda stood up and shoved the edges of his blanket onto the mattress. He dragged a pair of jeans and a t-shirt out from under the bed, gave them a quick sniff, and pulled them on. With a yawn he headed for the kitchen.

Mum was standing at the sink, steam rising from the water and condensing in the curls of hair around her face, her cheeks flushed pink from the heat. She was scrubbing a cast iron pan and the water slapped and gurgled in the basin. She glanced at Jedda with brown eyes that matched his own.


Jedda was going to die. He knew it. His heart, smashing against his ribs like it wanted to break out from his chest, knew it. Even his fingers, curled around a rough skinned branch,  stiff-jointed and burning, knew it. He was going to die at seventeen, and a virgin, and when he fell to his death it would be all Cain’s fault.

He edged his foot upwards, searching with his toes for another branch that he could use to lift himself higher. The slick, worn, sole of his sneaker slid on the damp bark. A shower of pine needles pattered over his hair and fell down the back of his coat collar where they bit at his skin. He hugged himself closer to the tree trunk and tried not to look down.

“Jesus Jedda. Could you hurry up?”

Jedda gritted his teeth. “I can’t find a foothold.”

“Just a little bit higher. Keep going…keep going. There. Can you feel it?”

Jedda’s foot connected with the stump on a broken branch. He wriggled his foot forward until it poked into the arch of his foot and his knee was almost in his chest. He bounced, once, twice, on his other foot, sending another fall of pine needles to the floor, and pushed up with his other leg. His chest scraped against the tree, sweat pasted his fringe to his forehead. With a final grunt he was standing on the stump, his other leg dangling free.

So. Which is it? 1 or 2? And why?

Chickens Are Like Babies…

Want a weird observation?

Take a small (about 1kg), whole, chicken.

Wash, pat dry, and remove skin. Snip off ends of wings at the joint.

Coat with seasoning mix (I used Tandaco Southern Chicken – if you want to know).

Pick up chicken underneath the wings. Notice how the little arms flop over your hands and the legs sort of hang loose.

Isn’t it disturbingly like holding a new born baby?!

It is! Yikes! It’s creepy, creepy, creepy!

What are you meant to do with an observation like that? Why have an observation like that?

Let’s play a game…try and write the nude chicken/new born baby analogy into a scene/piece of flash fiction. I would LOVE to see what you can all do!

PS I’m not really into dinner tonight, just so you know.


I love that word. Zest. Sharp, surprising, exciting. My children are full of zest. Let me give you an example.

6am: My husband and I wake up. We groan. We roll over and pull the covers higher. We stretch. We half roll, half fall, out of bed and drag our feet zombie-style to the bathroom or kitchen where we try to jolt ourselves to life with hot water and strong tea (respectively).

Compare with…

6am: My children wake up. One calls out, “Are you awake?” and the other calls back, “Yes. Is it morning?”

“Yes. It’s morning, it’s morning.”

“Yay. It’s morning. Let’s get up.”


I’m not paraphrasing.

Now where can I get some of that enthusiasm, that zest for life?

Repeat after me. 6am is the best part of the day. My novel is a satisfying challenge. Rejection does make you better.

Feeling zesty.


Writing Through the Fog…Or Not.

Heard the saying, “the best laid plans of mice and men…”? It’s a beautiful phrase from a beautiful but (I think) a profoundly sad poem by Robert Burns. We’re all like the little mouse, doing our best to prepare and plan for what is to come, not realising that very soon our plans could be changed drastically (although I hope that your and my plans don’t go as awry as the poor little mouse’s).

My plan was to send my completed novel ‘Child of War’ out into the world and, while I waited for someone to realise that they just had to publish it, finish the first draft of my current novel in four months. Enter some health concerns, medication changes and a general feeling of ‘humpf’ and I find that I haven’t written for weeks. So much for completing my first draft by the end of this month.

So, I’m curious (and a little desperate) how do you shift your mood when you’re feeling a bit ‘beige’ and your plans have been ploughed up?