What’s in a Name?


Bonnie Schroeder started telling stories in the Fifth Grade and never stopped. After escaping from the business world, she began writing full-time and has authored novels, short stories and screenplays, as well as non-fiction articles and a newsletter for an American Red Cross chapter.


As I get older, I seem to be experiencing an odd form of dyslexia (I think) where my brain transposes letters in words so that I read something that’s not there. Only on second glance do the letters rearrange into what they’re supposed to be.

This has been a boon for me in one way: character names. For example, I came across the surname “Murdock,” but my eyes thought they saw “Mudrock,” and after my initial annoyance at myself, I thought, what a great name for a character.

I collect names because few things are as frustrating to a writer as creating a new character and not being able to name them, right? First names are easier to come by; I pop open 1001 Names for Baby and can usually find one that works. But surnames? The tone must be just right.

In my novel Mending Dreams, the main character’s last name is Krajewski [yeah, even now I have to look it up in the book to spell it correctly], and that was intentional. I knew a fellow with that last name, and he used to joke about how people mispronounced it. I wanted the character, Susan, to have willingly kept the name even after she and her husband divorced. Her maiden name was Stafford, and it says volumes about her and her feelings about her ex-husband that she kept his name despite the difficulties it could cause.

My list of unusual surnames fills several pages in my notebook. One I’m trying to find a story for is “Evilsizer.” Meaning no disrespect to real people with this name—and I found several via Google—I think it would be perfect for a scheming couturier. Or maybe someone who is really nice. . .

Strong first and last names are essential to me so I can paint a picture in my own mind of the character before I start writing. Names help me visualize characters—sometimes even more than physical descriptions. Names bring with them associations for me personally that color a character’s nature and behavior.

Take the name “Joan,” for example. What does this name conjure up for you? Joan of Arc? Joan Crawford? Joan Baez? For me, it brings back the memory of a woman named “Joanie,” the utterly helpless wife of a fellow I worked for. This woman would call my boss with every little challenge life presented her. If she locked her keys in the car, her first call wasn’t to Auto Club; it was to her husband. I haven’t found a role for Joan or Joanie in my stories yet, but some day I will.

Names and the way they are used in a story also reveal behavior and sometimes emotion.  The main character in my novel Write My Name on the Sky goes by “Kate,” but when she exasperates her mother, she becomes “Kathryn Ann.” How many of you remember hearing the sound of your first and middle name as a cue that you were in big trouble with a parent? And if they added your last name—run for cover!

Sometimes the way a name is mis-used in a story can affect the outcome, too. For example, my flash fiction piece “What’s in a Name?” answers that question with one word at the end of the narrator’s date with the man of her dreams. If you want to check it out (it’s only 532 words), follow the link on my website: http://bit.ly/2En7TJw

Yes, names are important to writers, and to readers. And not just the human characters. The animals in our stories need particular names, too. After all, none other than the masterful poet T.S. Eliot admonishes us to give thought to the naming of cats:  http://bit.ly/2mZ47xQ

How about you writers: do you struggle as much as I do to come up with suitable character names? And, readers: any favorites among your literary heroes and heroines? Any tips for good name sources?


Hot to do Everything by Linda O. Johnston

linda-o-johnston-headshot-1smallerLinda O. Johnston, a former lawyer who is now a full-time writer, writes the Barkery and Biscuits Mysteries for Midnight Ink. She has also written the Pet Rescue Mystery Series, a spinoff from her Kendra Ballantyne, Pet-Sitter mysteries for Berkley Prime Crime.  She additionally currently writes the K-9 Ranch Rescue miniseries for Harlequin Romantic Suspense about a ranch where dogs are trained, as well as the Alpha Force paranormal romance miniseries about shapeshifters for Harlequin Nocturne.  And yes, they all involve dogs. Her most recent release is her 46th published novel, with more to come…soon.

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I’m thrilled that I’m having four novels traditionally published this year.  I love being busy. 

But can you be too busy doing what you love?  Oh, yes!

I’m used to having deadlines, of course, with my fourth book this year to be my 50th published novel, as I mentioned before.  And I’ve always been able to negotiate deadlines that work for me.

This past week, though, was a bit nuts.  I already had a February 1 deadline for the fourth book of the year, which will be my last paranormal romance for Harlequin Nocturne.  I then received some detailed copy edits for my fourth Barkery & Biscuits Mystery, which will be published in May by Midnight Ink–and the revisions also had a February 1 deadline.  And in the middle of this, I had to take time out to come up with some additional title ideas for the second of my K-9 Ranch Rescue romantic suspense novels to be published this year by Harlequin Romantic Suspense.

I also had family things to do, including responding often to my dogs’ requests to go outside while I’m sitting at my computer working.  Obviously that can’t be ignored.  Neither can demands to be snuggled.  Plus, I’m taking my younger dog to her second round of obedience classes and need to practice what she learns with her.  We also had family in town whom we got together with a lot for meals and more.  And then there’s the normal stuff: sleeping, eating, shopping and more.

So how do I deal with it–and how should you, whether or not you’re a writer, handle it all?  For whoever you are, and whatever you’re doing, we all face times when there’s more to do than we hope or expect.

The answer?  Just dig in and do it!  And yes, I recognize that we all have lives in addition to our writing.   Some of us have full time jobs, young families who aren’t only pets, and other responsibilities as well. 

So… expect it.  Plan for it.  Think about it, don’t obsess–but do it.  Schedule things the best way you can, and recognize that those things may change as you go along.  You’ll adapt.  You have to.

So where am I?  Well, I sent in my title ideas and received word that they chose something similar to, but not identical with, one of my suggestions.  I finished and sent in my Barkery edit comments first, and I’m currently finishing the manuscript for my last Nocturne.  I feel pretty good about how I’d been able to work it all out, although all I had to do meant I haven’t had much time to work on two ideas I’ve had in the meantime for some additional stories.  But that’s okay.  February 2 is on its way, and then I’ll only be under a June 1 deadline for my next book. 

Soon it’ll be time for ideas to flow!

And you?  How do you do everything?





Starting the Year with a Blank Page by Rosemary Lord

just-rosie-3Rosemary wrote her first book when she was ten years old – for her little brother. She also illustrated it herself. It was later rejected by Random House!

She has been writing ever since.

The author of Best Sellers Hollywood Then and Now and Los Angeles Then and Now, English born Rosemary Lord has lived in Hollywood for over 25 years. An actress, a former journalist (interviewing Cary Grant, James Stewart, Tony Hopkins, John Huston amongst others) and a Senior Publicist at Columbia Pictures, she lectures on Hollywood history. Rosemary is currently writing the second in a series of murder mysteries set in the 1920s Jazz Age Hollywood featuring Lottie Topaz, an extra in silent movies.


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Don’t know about you, but I am still easing myself into this New Year. We relaxed through Madeline’s ‘betwixt and between’ week and suddenly there it is: a New Year. And, as if running down hill, you gather speed as life takes over once again.

But to get back to the beginning, less than three weeks ago:

At the start of each year, I look forward to the blank page.

Firstly, the clean, empty blank page of a new diary – or appointment book – as I anticipate writing that first entry. The first appointment. What’s it going to be? Something dire or something fun?

This year, it was the dentist, hairdresser, doctor check-ups. Finally taking care of me – so that was a good, healthy start. Then I set meetings about work, about writing: what new people will I meet? What adventures will I start this year?  And in the margins of the new diary page I start to note new ideas, new goals for the year as ‘A Plan’ begins to emerge. “This year, it really will be different, better,” is my theme song.

I determined to get a control of my pathway for the year, before life’s little jokes and challenges intercede.

My favorite blank pages are in my writing books. I have a series of brightly-colored leather-bound note books – a big clue I used in the first Lottie Topaz Hollywood Mystery, by the way… The different colors are for different stories I am working on.

I’ve not been one to dread the empty page, or the stuck-ness (did I just make up a word?!) of no ideas. Quite the reverse. Instead of a frozen, blank mind, my fingers can’t write fast enough. I have an annoying habit of starting a word in such a rush that I finish the next word on top of it, jamming two half words together, missing the middle letters, in my haste to finish the sentence. Then later I attempt to figure out what I was saying! I am trying to slow my thoughts down as they tumble onto the blank page, not always making sense, in speedy disarray. Fortunately, this first draft is always in pencil – there is a lot of erasing later on.

And so I fill up page after page, stopping only to sharpen pencils and grab a fresh cuppa (cup of tea) with no time to eat – just back to convert blank pages into the start of an amazing story.

I also have a collection of tiny, pocket-size notebooks that I carry with me. On those blank pages I make lists of names, lines of dialogue, clues, storyline notes that come to me as I wait in the check-out line, parking the car or waiting at appointments. Mind you, it’s not always neat blank pages of note-books that I scribble thoughts on. How often can you NOT find the note-pad when you need it? So backs of envelopes, register- receipts, shopping lists, coupons suffice. Whatever is handy. The trick is not to lose that scrap of paper! Later that day those bits get transferred to a proper blank page.

So these are part of my arsenal for the start of a new year. First, I have to remember to breathe. Slow my racing mind down. Then take it step by step into my writing world so that I finally finish another book.

Last year, amidst the very productive chaos, I did manage to write the revised, updated version of my first published book: Los Angeles Then and Now. Sadly, so much of historic Los Angeles has disappeared since I wrote the original book. The landscape is so very changed, the sky-line filled with towering apartment and luxury condominium blocks, many still empty.

I updated those original sites that are still standing, and discovered future plans, new focuses in the city. I researched all the new sites I have added, explored fresh archive photographs to mirror the new ‘now’ images. It was a fun challenge.

I also wrote a piece on the Hollywood School for Girls and the Woman’s Club of Hollywood for the Fall issue of Discover Hollywood magazine along the way.

And now my new Los Angeles Then and Now is coming out next month, so I will get busy promoting that. And guess what? A new notebook and new blank pages to fill as I travel that road.


Life is full of blank pages for us all to fill. What would you fill yours with?



Short Story Workshop

Join Mike Befeler and G.B. Pool (Gayle Bartos-Pool) at the Glendale Central Downtown Library (222 E. Harvard Street, Glendale, CA) this coming Saturday, January 20, from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. when they teach a short story workshop for all you writers out there.  anatomy-book-cover

If you aren’t in the area, you can find Gayle’s book, Anatomy of a Short Story Workbook, on Amazon. It covers even more than the class and has oodles of examples.

Hope to see you there!


Gayle and Mike


Miko first contemplated a writing career as a poet at age six. That notion ended four years later when she found no ‘help wanted’ ads for poets in the classified section, but her desire to write persisted. After graduating from New York University, she headed west to pursue a career as a journalist before switching to fiction. She is the author of the A Petal In The Wind Series; Book III – The Great War has just been released and is available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble.  Miko lives on Whidbey Island in Washington.


Happy New Year, everyone. A fresh year, a fresh beginning. Time to dig out that half-finished novel, or start a new one. There’s nothing better than curling up on a winter’s day and writing, which made me think….

Where do you write? For the past year my preferred spot has been a comfy chair in my bedroom, but I have a number of places that suit me, both at home and elsewhere. The reason is simple – I own a laptop computer. This has changed not only where I write, but how I write.

Like many of us in the craft, I began writing when I learned how to in first grade. I’d sharpen my yellow pencil and print words in my composition book – the ones with the black and white ‘marble’ cover – eventually switching to ballpoint pen and spiral bound notebook after I’d mastered cursive and good penmanship. That allowed me to write at home, the library, school cafeteria or a friend’s house, as long as I had a good light source. It worked well, except when story ideas erupted; I couldn’t write as fast as I thought.

I learned to type in high school and purchased a used manual typewriter when I began college. It sat on my desk, set near a window, with a swing arm desk lamp for writing at night. My typewritten work looked more professional, but the carbon copies were awful and my creative spurts still outpaced my typing. I hated making mistakes, a nightmare to fix until I discovered correction fluid in the eighties. However, typing forced me to think about my work since it was tedious to redo significant portions. I usually began with a hand-written copy and transcribed it to typing paper.

The electric typewriter worked much better; I could type faster, which allowed me to keep up with my thoughts. Mistakes were easier to correct, though major changes still required major retyping. Being electric it required a nearby outlet, and it wasn’t portable, so I had to resign myself to type at my desk. I sat with my back to the window for natural light and kept my desk lamp. Pad and pen filled in for other locations.

In the early nineties I worked in a windowless cubbyhole. That’s when I began to use my desktop computer at work for writing. The ability to not only make corrections, but to cut and paste, became a game changer for me. I could let my thoughts pour out, then go back and rearrange them, condense them, or flesh them out with ease. For the first time, I could write faster than I could think. I still had to work in one spot, but pen and pad filled in when I was away from work.

My first personal computer was ‘totable’, about seven pounds that could be moved and operate on battery power for a few hours. Suddenly I could work anywhere, with the portability of a pen and pad and the advantages of a word processor. Lighting wasn’t an issue; in fact, rather than sitting with my back to the window, I could now face it and have something other than a blank wall to stare at while waiting for inspiration to strike. Email allowed me to electronically transfer my work between home and office.

I currently write on a compact laptop that weighs about three pounds and has a battery life of at least six hours, longer if I turn off the wifi. It has its own black ‘jammies’, a padded slipover case to protect it when I travel. The portable computer fits in my larger purses, tote bags and suitcases. I can write anywhere. And I have. In just about every room in my house. On my deck. In hotel rooms, airport lounges, airplanes, boats, coffee shops and friends’ houses. I no longer have to plan out what I’m going to write before I commit it to the page – the ease of changing words, paragraphs and whole chapters means I can work freeform. Get my thoughts down and clean it up later. Of course, it’s also made it easier to constantly tinker with my pages, tweak a word, delete a comma, or cut that wonderful line that doesn’t serve the story.

Technology has changed the way I write in other ways as well. I presently do not have a desk. My handwriting, which used to be neat and easy to read, is neither without great concentration. I’m not as disciplined about organizing my thoughts as I was in the typewriter era, when changes or corrections required a major effort. I must always write a draft version of any notes or letters before committing my words to stationery. Then again, I’m also not obsessed with getting it ‘right’ on the first draft. Storing earlier drafts and critiques of my work in progress no longer requires multiple shelves of loose leaf binders and cartons filled with copies of printed pages covered with hard-to-read scribbled notes. I also love the idea of sending e-copies of my manuscripts to my publisher instead of mailing hard copies.

What about your writing journey? How has technology changed the way you write?


Jumpstart 2018 with Education

Face it. Those brain cells need refreshing. They’ve been hard at work on your work-in-progress, and they need a fresh focus so they can rejuvenate.

Our own G.B. Pool will appear at the Glendale Central Library with author Mike Belefer to teach a short story workshop on January 20th.  anatomy-book-cover

If you aren’t in the area, you can find Gayle’s Anatomy of a Short Story Workbook on Amazon.

Hope to see you there!


Gayle and Mike