Updates to Q&As

Hi friends! I have updated the answers to a couple of my previous Q&As to provide greater clarity. I just wanted to officially note them on the blog to flag them for you, but you will also find them in their places on the Q&A tabs. Thanks!

Q: Do you write Christian Fiction or General Market?
A:  General Market.  For now, I do not feel led to market my books as Christian Fiction.  I am a Christian, and there are Christian elements in my books because I try to write authentically, and faith is such a deep reality for me.  It would be impossible for me to take faith out of my characters’ lives when I am trying to craft three-dimensional figures who reflect real life.  I receive God’s inspiration and seek His guidance as I write.  However, readers should be aware that I do not seek to mold my writing to any narrative generally required of authors who publish and market as Christian Fiction.  I write organically and authentically to myself and my characters, and I am not bound by editorial guidelines as to allowable themes, moral tones, or character resolutions. My books are General Market – Historical Fiction/Contemporary Fiction that happen to have characters who have/grapple with faith.

Q: Does Charleston Tides stand alone?
A: No. You need to start with Book 1, Southern Rain, and continue with Book 2, Northern Fire, to get the full story and understand everything that happens in the series. In that way, the series is a bit like a saga, but I don’t call it that because the word “saga,” in addition to just meaning a long story, which this is, also can mean a highly emotional, heroic tale, which this is not.

The Fall of Charleston

History Behind the Story #5: The Fall of Charleston

THE HISTORY:  Since the Jacksonian days of John C. Calhoun, South Carolina and Charleston, specifically, were known as the “cradle of rebellion” or the “hotbed of secession.”  Many in the Union states felt that there would have been no war if the people of Charleston hadn’t agitated for one.  Charleston was blamed primarily for three things:

Continue reading The Fall of Charleston

Violence Against Women in the Civil War

History Behind the Story #4: Violence Against Women in the Civil War

*Please note: This article recounts history involving violence, which may be disturbing for some. It is a good idea for parents of children under 18 to read first and then decide whether to let your child read.  As always, let me know if you have any questions.  Thank you!

THE HISTORY: When I first decided to write The Torn Asunder Series, I made the decision not to sugarcoat the past.  This was a tough decision because so much of history can be disturbing for readers.  Slavery was a rough and violent institution.  The freedmen after the war faced extreme hardships and violence.  Women, black and white, slave and free, faced horrors from enemy invaders during the war.  I decided that to gloss over any of these truths would be to dishonor those who suffered and tell a falsehood about history. 

Continue reading Violence Against Women in the Civil War

Civil War Naval Quarantines

History Behind the Story #3: Naval Quarantines

THE HISTORY: If you have read Northern Fire, you know that my historical male lead, John Thomas, makes the decision to quarantine his ship when Typhoid breaks out.  When I first wrote Northern Fire, I never imagined a quarantine in modern times.  Then when I did the first read-through edit, the quarantine scene felt eerily familiar to me.  I realized that this is an instance in which history could be very useful to us.  Our ancestors have experienced something that we never have.  I encourage you to look at historical pandemics to see what it was like for those in the past.

Continue reading Civil War Naval Quarantines

The Roper Hospital in Charleston

History Behind the Story #2: The Roper Hospital in Charleston

THE HISTORY: It all started with a bequest.  Colonel Thomas Roper, a former mayor of Charleston, left the Medical Society of South Carolina $30,000, which, along with other donations and city funds, was ultimately used  in 1852 to build the Roper Hospital.  The building was located on the corner of Queen and Logan Streets.  It proclaimed the following mission: “to treat all sick and injured people ‘without regard to complexion, religion, or nation.’”[1] I probably don’t have to tell you that this mission was pretty progressive for its time.  The Roper Hospital was intended to be charitable from its foundation.  In fact, it was specifically intended to benefit “paupers,” the word in that day for financially disadvantaged people.

Continue reading The Roper Hospital in Charleston

The Charleston Fire of 1861

Welcome back to the History Behind the Story Series!  This is a series of articles in which I give you the background on the events that happened in my books or the historical choices I made when writing the book.  There were ten articles in total for Southern Rain, and the following is the first of the five articles that dig into the history of Northern Fire.  There are some fun new features to the series, including different sections called “The History,” “Personal Spotlight,” “Food for Thought,” and “Analysis of Photograph.”  Ready?  Here we go!

Continue reading The Charleston Fire of 1861

Naming Our Characters

Naming characters is one of my favorite things to do when I’m starting a new book. It can also be a really difficult process, though, and I have author friends who get stuck in this phase and throw their hands up in frustration. I’ve been working on honing my naming skills over the past eleven years and thought I’d share some of my techniques!

The most important thing is that the name works for you. It has to wash with the character in your head, or it just doesn’t click. A closely related tip is that the name has to work for the character. Sometimes the name makes the character, and sometimes the character makes the name. Usually, I try to choose names that really suit the person, kind of like you would do if you were naming a pet. An example of this is Shannon’s cousin, Marie, from the Torn Asunder Series. The name just always suited her, so that was easy. An example of the character making the name would be if you had a really bold girl but decided to give her a soft, feminine name, just for the contrast. I’ve seen this work really well.

Using an obviously unsuited name can also work if you want to try out an unusual moniker. I’ve had characters in the past that I’ve done this for, and I think, “Wow, you really pulled that off!” On the flip side, not every name is made for every character. For instance, my historical male lead, John Thomas, was originally Cameron. This is a bit of a modern name, but I knew I could get away with it because it is a surname, and a lot of people gave their sons family surnames back in the day.  However, the name didn’t fit him. It was as though the name tried to make him something he wasn’t. His character even started to change a little from the way I had imagined it in my head. This is the power of naming.

You can also see by my experience with the John Thomas/Cameron debacle that naming can help you get to know your characters when their personalities are still fresh and undeveloped in your head. Through that process, I was able to learn that John Thomas was a little quieter and kinder than I had begun to draw him. The character begins to revolt against the wrong name, and it’s a really helpful tool to keep in your back pocket.

So how did I arrive at John Thomas? It’s hard to remember precisely after so many character names, but I’m pretty sure that John Thomas’s name was inspired by Stonewall Jackson’s. A lot of people don’t know that the famous General was actually Thomas Jonathan Jackson. I always thought the name had a rather nice ring to it. So I kind of flipped it and brushed it up for my character. Why the use of two names? People did this during the Civil War Era. Also, I could never think of one name that fully encapsulated his character.

A name is also a good opportunity to show that you’ve done your historical homework. You probably don’t want a Kayla in 1860. But it’s not always easy to think of good historical names or to know what names were common to your particular era. The best place to start is to pull up census records for the era you want to use. A lot of census records list ages, so you need to look for someone who would have been born in the same decade as your character. There is also a great website that compiles censuses by birth year and lists the most popular names of each decade. It can be found here:

https://www.galbithink.org/names/us200.htm.

I use that site all the time. Remember, if you’re writing a twenty-year-old character in 1850, you need to go back to 1830. Only think how much naming trends change in twenty years in the modern world!  They didn’t change as much, historically speaking, but you can definitely see certain fashion trends as you scroll through censuses. Another tip is to study real people from your era and look at what their children, their sisters, their uncles, etc. were named.

My books also include enslaved characters. For their names, the process is a little different. The censuses also included and counted the enslaved since slave states got a boost in representation in Congress based off the number of slaves held. Obviously, then, you can find historically accurate names for the enslaved from censuses. But you have to find a census from a slave state, and I have often found that historical records from Southern states are a little spottier and more difficult to locate for various reasons. Another good option is to get onto the websites of house museums where there was once an enslaved population. Museums will often do highlights on particular enslaved people or families. The one tough thing about that is that house museums tend to focus on a particular era. For instance, Virginia plantations most all tend to spotlight the Revolutionary Era. So, another thing you can do is read biographies or diaries of slaveowners. Typically, the names of the enslaved will come up. If you have a really hard time tracking down slave records, you can just fall back on the names from the general census from the appropriate era. The names didn’t tend to be too different. For instance, Thomas Jefferson’s rolls list an enslaved woman named Patsy at Monticello, and his daughter was also Patsy.

Okay, so let’s wrap up the conversation on first names with some of my choices from the Torn Asunder Series. Shannon was originally Mary until it struck me that “Shannon” really suited her. Therefore, she became Mary Shannon and is called “Shannon.” Historically, a lot of people gave even their girls family surnames as middle names, so I thought I could get away with that. Frederick’s name just always suited him. “Adeline” (my modern female lead) fit her. It was kind of sweet, kind of quirky, kind of old. Adrian (my modern male lead) kept trying to be “Aidan,” which would have worked for him, but I kept forcing him to be “Adrian” for reasons I can’t now remember!

Now, let’s talk surnames.

I think the most important thing in surnames is remembering that you’re dealing with people who have a family history. I recently read a book that featured a historical character from Tennessee, and he had a last name that was distinctly of Germanic origin. My initial reaction was, “No, he’s not from Tennessee.”  As I sat and wondered why that had thought popped in my head, it hit me that there just weren’t a lot of people of Germanic origins in Tennessee in the era the author had chosen. There were a few, though, and people can obviously move from their original state. I kept waiting for the book to explain the character’s family history, but it never did, and that was when it hit me.  I googled the author’s state, and most of the people there are of Germanic origins. Bingo. It was just an oversight or an assumption, which could happen to any of us. There’s just so much to get right when you’re writing, and it’s impossible to cover it all.

The best thing to do is look at immigration patterns. For historical fiction, unless you’re doing it to make a certain point, it’s best not to stray too much from the area’s human ecology because you run the risk of straying from accuracy in naming. For instance, if you’re writing a book set in New Orleans, it’s best to use mostly French surnames, toss in a few Spanish, and add a dash of English. In Tennessee, immigration patterns show the bulk of the population was from England, Scotland, and Ireland. Always, there will be surnames that stray from the norm, and by all means, it’s great to show those. But do it with intention.

I would just like to make a note here that research should also be done if you have characters who were formerly or currently enslaved. You have a lot of options, including the following: having no surname while enslaved, having a family surname even while enslaved (if permitted), keeping an original African name, taking on an African surname after freedom, taking on a name that meant something special to the individual like “Freeman” or “Ransom,” and taking on the former owner’s surname. You can see the potential for so many wonderful stories and choices. To explore those stories through naming is a particularly profound opportunity.

Also, if your historical story includes a Native American character, similarly there needs to be some research on various naming methods. Sometimes Native Americans would choose to take on a European name either because they were fathered by a European American or as a measure of assimilation. Sometimes Native Americans would choose to keep traditional names.

Obviously, for modern storylines, some of this goes out the window because we live in a much more mobile and diverse society.  But I still think it can’t hurt to do a little research. Even your modern characters have a family story, and I think their backgrounds ring truest when you take a little time to research what that story might have been.

As for my surname choices? Charleston has a strong French Huguenot history, and Ravenel is a French Huguenot name I heard again and again on a nerdy historian’s tour of Charleston.  So I plucked it right from history.  My historical male lead is from New England. Obviously, there were a lot of people of English descent in Massachusetts in the nineteenth century, so I pulled a list of English surnames. “Haley” appealed to me because of Alex Haley’s powerful connection with the history of slavery in light of John Thomas’s abolitionist roots.  So names can also be symbolic or literary while still being historically accurate!  My modern male lead is also a Ravenel due to his family connection back to the historical portion of the series.  My modern female lead is a Miller.  A girl-next-door name, no?

How do you choose your character names? Any good tips? If you’re not a writer, how did you name your kids or pets?

Release Day: Northern Fire!

Happy Release Day to  Northern Fire!  This is Book 2 of the Torn Asunder Series.  The new release’s journey will take us all the way through the Civil War for the historical portion and through the next few months of our protagonists’ lives in the modern portion.  Order Northern Fire now exclusively from Amazon.com!

Click the link below to order, or scroll on down for the synopsis!

Blurb Image

New History Behind the Story Series Announced!

To celebrate the release of Northern Fire (Book 2 of the  Torn Asunder Series) I am launching a new series on the history behind the story for Northern Fire.  For Southern Rain, I ran a similar series that was really fun.  Readers got to learn all about the history upon which I built my storylines.  The topics I chose this time will give you the first glimpse into some of the events and subjects covered in Northern Fire!  If, after reading the book, you have any questions for me about the events in the book or the historical choices I made, let me know, and I am always happy to add an article!

Here are the planned articles:

  1. The Charleston Fire of 1861
  2. The Roper Hospital in Charleston
  3. Naval Quarantines
  4. Violence Against Women in the Civil War
  5. The Fall of Charleston