The name game

I’ve now written seven novels—five published, one due for release in June, one submitted, fate unknown. And I’ve started on number eight.

As I was thinking of character names for the new story, it occurred to me that in the interest of not repeating myself, I needed a list of previously used names in each book and short story.

So I created a table in a document and slotted in names. There are a lot. And it’s not just people; there are cats, dogs, and horses too. Combining all the characters and pets in The Starling Hill Trilogy, I came up with 37. And I may have missed a few of the minor characters.


The start of the lists

Of the standalone romances, I thought Christmas at Winterbourne would be the winner with 26, but the June book with 35 has topped it. No need for alarm though, readers. There are only six main characters, the rest are the supporting cast, some of whom are only mentioned in passing. But in the interests of being thorough, I’ve attempted to put all named characters on the lists.


The book coming out in June features fish – they don’t have names!

I have had to resort to searching baby name websites at times. But names mostly come to me as I start to write and I get a feel for if the name fits the characters.

This list of the Top 10 American Girls’ names in 1967 was useful and I noted that I’ve used six so far.

Lisa / Kimberly / Michelle / Mary / Susan / Karen / Angela / Tammy / Melissa / Jennifer

This list reminded me—I also named the ten hens and two roosters in Starting Over, which brings that book’s total to well past Christmas at Winterbourne and level with the June release. The residents of the chicken coop at the farm were all named after Roman goddesses and gods: Juno, Ceres, Aurora, Venus, Flora, Fortuna, Diana, Bellona, Minerva, Luna, Apollo and Jupiter.

I’ve mentioned before that I use Scrivener as a writing tool. With having multiple points of view in my novels, it’s very good for helping me keep track of character movements as their interweaving stories develop. By naming each scene, I can easily find out where I left a particular character in a previous chapter.


From Christmas at Winterbourne

Listing the names started out as an exercise to avoid repetition. But it has also served to give me an overview of the number of characters in each book. I was rather overwhelmed to see just how many there were – and, giving you fair warning, there’s more to come!

Christmas at Winterbourne is in print…available on Amazon: Amazon UK / Amazon US


Buying options for ebooks:

Christmas at WinterbourneAffinity eBooks / Amazon US / Amazon UK /Barnes & Noble /Bella Books / Smashwords /Apple iTunes

The Circle Dance: Affinity eBooks /Amazon US / Amazon UK / Barnes & Noble / Bella Books/Smashwords / Apple iTunes

The Starling Hill Trilogy:

Starting OverAffinity eBooks / Amazon US / Amazon UK / Barnes & Noble / Bella Books /Smashwords Apple iTunes

Arc Over TimeAffinity eBooks / Amazon US / Amazon UK / Barnes & Noble / Bella BooksSmashwords / Apple iTunes

Carved in StoneAffinity eBooks / Amazon US / Amazon UK / Barnes & Noble / Bella BooksSmashwords / Apple iTunes


Toxic Chickens

Mytholmroyd is an unassuming little village nestled in the Calder valley with four modes of transport running through it…river, rail, road and canal.

The village’s main claim to any kind of fame is that the poet, Ted Hughes, was born here. He moved away with his parents when he was seven but the memories of the place must have made a deep impression. One of his books, Elmet, (originally published as The Remains of Elmet in 1979) is still in print with the combination of his evocative poetry and the stunning photographs of the landscape and the people captured by Fay Godwin.

Elmet was the old name for this part of West Yorkshire, described in the book’s introduction as “the last independent Celtic kingdom in England”. And before the road, railway and canal were built, the valley had a reputation as a “badlands”; ideal terrain for lawbreakers’ hideouts.

On page 53 of the book, there is a photograph of Scout Rock. This is a tree covered cliff formation, which I can see across the valley from my kitchen window. So, where do the “toxic chickens come in”?

The 2015 Boxing Day flood caused a landslide, which damaged part of the road and everyone living in the houses nearby were evacuated and the primary school closed. It’s long been known that asbestos was dumped in this area and that a landslip like this was likely to happen at some point.


The cleared trees – just above the white strip

However, there’s a story going around that a local poultry business buried their dead chickens on the hillside sometime in the middle of the last century and the floods in December, uprooted not only some trees, but also the graves of these chickens. The problem is that the chickens had a high level of toxins in them.

Some days we see workers wearing biohazard suits working on the hillside. The cleared area is growing but progress seems to be slow. The road and the school are still closed.

I don’t know if the story of the chickens is true but I think it would make a great movie…forget your zombie apocalypse…we have The Toxic Chickens of Elmet.


Not chickens – flock of Canada geese roosting in a field by the canal (and not toxic, as far as we know)


Where to buy these books:

The Circle Dance: Affinity eBooks /Amazon US / Amazon UK / Barnes & Noble / Bella Books/ Smashwords / Apple iTunes

The Starling Hill Trilogy:

Starting OverAffinity eBooks / Amazon US / Amazon UK / Barnes & Noble / Bella BooksSmashwords / Apple iTunes

Arc Over TimeAffinity eBooks / Amazon US / Amazon UK / Barnes & Noble / Bella BooksSmashwords / Apple iTunes

Carved in StoneAffinity eBooks / Amazon US / Amazon UK / Barnes & Noble / Bella BooksSmashwords / Apple iTunes