What’s in a Name? On Naming Characters

Naming a character, especially the main character of a story, is one of the hardest things a writer does. Oh, sometimes a name pops into your head and you build a story around it. Usually, the story and a character or two come to you first and you have to find appropriate names for them. As a writer, I want names that fit the locale, the nationalities and the ages of my characters, but more than that, I want names that have meaning and resonate with my readers. I’m sure most writers feel the same.

Cover of Steel City Confidential

My Morelville Mysteries series is well established. Those characters live in a fictional country village modeled after the one I live in. They sport last names common to people in this area and its surrounds. The most I usually have to do for a new book in the series is name a few new suspects and maybe a never before seen villager or two.

Now that I’m starting an all-new series based in a large, ethnically diverse city, I find myself starting all over to name all of the characters I’ve identified so far in the plot I’m building.

The Name Game

So far, I have 13 key characters I need to name for Steel City Confidential. There’s the lawyer and the employees of her law firm. There’s her client. Of course, there’s a victim. With victims and prosecutions come prosecuting attorneys, a judge, investigators and so forth. Then, each of the key characters (lawyer, client and victim) have family members. That amounts to a lot of names! What to do?

I threw up my hands, of course. No really. I sent out a newsletter to a large portion of my subscribers last week and asked for help:

“I haven’t named my lead attorney yet or her law firm. Help me find an appropriate Pittsburgh ethnic first and last name and/or law firm name (typically the attorney’s name) for a female attorney in her early to mid-forties.”

Name game children

Now, I did offer a bit of incentive for this request and boy, did it ever pay off. I’ve received dozens of names. I’ve gotten so many, that not only can I name the attorney (there are a couple of very strong contenders), but I can name most of the other female characters I know about so far and even a couple of the men.

The beauty part? Many of the readers who submitted names told me why they picked the names the did. This led to some interesting discussions with a few of them on family history, genealogy, entomology and ethnicity. It also led me down some serious rabbit holes of research.

I’ve decided, I’m going to use several of the names suggested and make it right with all of those readers. Oh, and the little contest is still open. Have a name you think is a winner? Go ahead and send it along. I might just use it and give you the credit.

P.S.: Please don’t submit the name “Sarah” or any variation of it. While I agree it’s a lovely name, multiple readers already think I should use it.

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Steel City Confidential Revealed

Introducing my upcoming legal thriller, Steel City Confidential. A few days ago, I mentioned I was working on the plot for the novel I was challenged to write. That novel is Steel City Confidential, the first book in the all-new Steel City series.

The cover for Steel City Confidential

‘Confidential’ will be released in April. A blurb is forthcoming, but rest assured, the book will include all of the original challenge elements:

Women Age 40+, children/families, investigators, outlaws, heroes, action and adventure, and of course, thriller elements.

Is this your first time hearing the title or seeing this cover? Yes? Then you must not be a subscriber to my email list. Subscribers learned about the book a couple of days ago and got notice of a very special contest involving it. Subscribers also get free books and other deals available only to them. Interested? Just fill in the info under “Get Anne’s Newsletter” on the right if you’re on a PC or tablet. You can also click this link, to sign up.

Stay tuned here and check out future newsletters for more insight into the story and into future Steel City Series books.

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New Year, New Books

Happy New Year! I know, you’ve already heard it a thousand times. I’m betting every author you follow has blitzed you with a blog post or an email full of resolutions, new book releases or what’s on the horizon. You’re probably thinking, you’re really late to this party, Anne!

I’m late for a reason. 2018 was a tough year for me and my family. We got through it. Because it was so tough, I only got done about 50% of what I intended to do on the writing and publishing front. Many of my plans got pushed to the side. I’m raring to go this year with a head full of ideas and not one, but three new books already in the works.

New Books

Steamboat Reunion Cover

I’ve been promising the Barb and Janet romance, Steamboat Reunion, for it seems like forever. It’s coming, I promise! It was originally supposed to be out early this month. Look for an early February release of it, instead. Those two ladies will finally get a little closure, but it’s not going to be a smooth ride, downhill…

The Cover for Tennessee Bound

Also coming is the twelfth Morelville Mystery which will answer the questions, “What’s Mel going to do? She’s not resigning is she?” The book, titled Tennessee Bound will be out in very late April. And yes, that title has multiple meanings. No spoiler’s here!

Before Tennessee Bound comes out, that ‘challenge book‘ will be coming out. Stay tuned for a cover reveal and a blurb on that and watch for that release in early April.

It’s getting pretty busy here!

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Two Big Sales for Book Lovers

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! It’s been quite the year here, and not always in a good way, unfortunately. But, all of that is behind me and my family now. It’s time for a new year and a new beginning, including a few new books for your reading pleasure. Before those come along though, it’s time for a sale. In fact, it’s time for two big sales.

One of Two Big Sales - Smashwords

First up, we have the annual Smashwords Year End sale. It’s going on now through January 1st with thousands of ebooks, in all genres on sale. All of my ebooks, in all formats, are at least 50% off. Not only that, my good friend Elizabeth Andre is offering many of her books at discounted prices too.

Mega Lesfic Holiday Sale

That’s not all…not hardly! There’s also a Holiday Mega Lesfic Sale going on, courtesy of the hard work of the amazing T.B. Markinson. Once again, she’s pulled together several dozen authors who are offering up women loving women themed books in many genres for the holidays.

Hurry! This sale only runs through the 30th, so scoop up the deals while you can.

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Winter Hearts: 13 Festive Tales for Women Loving Women

Surprise! Winter Hearts, the ‘book’ I’ve been hinting at for months, is finally out. Whew! This was a hard one to keep under wraps for so long!

The Cover of Winter HeartsThirteen authors, myself included, got together and contributed a longish short story or a novella to this effort. The works are all holiday and women loving women themed; over 860 pages of reading joy!

Your authors and their stories are:

Eliza Andrews – Her Holiday Song
Lila Bruce – Easier Said Than Done (A Love Bites Christmas)
Giselle Fox – The Perfectly Imperfect Storm
Anne Hagan – A Sweetwater Christmas (yours truly with a greatly expanded version of my short story, Sweetwater Texas)
Jea Hawkins – Full Circle: A Must Love Chickens Christmas
Cara Malone – Christmas in Angel Valley
TB Markinson – A Christmas Miracle
Susan X Meagher – Family Matters
A.E. Radley – Holly Hollydays
Adan Ramie – Drive Me Wild
Emma Sterner-Radley – Greengage Holiday Cheer
Em Stevens – The Gift
Natasha West – Stock Take

The best part? All proceeds – every dime, every dollar, every pound, every Euro, goes to charity. Receipts generated from sales of this collection will be divided between Stonewall and The Trevor Project.

You can pre-order Winter Hearts right now for just $.99 from most major retailers. It will load to your preferred device on November 16th. Hurry, the $.99 price is for a limited time!


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Writing Relic My First Novel

The post that follows in part of a blog hop with several other authors of lesfic. Read here, all about how I came to write my first novel and then follow the link below for another great post by the lovely and amazing author, Robyn Nyx.

On Discovering Lesfic

I discovered lesbian fiction the way so many of us did, via fan fiction. Through fan fiction, I found the stories of Kim Baldwin; stories mostly based on romance but often with an air of suspense or with dramatic tones. When Kim published Hunter’s Pursuit, it was the first lesbian paperback I ever bought. That you could buy such works in actual book form was startling. I had no knowledge back then of lesbian presses and of the shining stars out there writing women loving women fiction. It was a real wakeup call.

I’d like to say I went on to discover many of my favorite lesfic mystery authors after I discovered there was more out there than fan fiction. I’d like to say that, but I can’t. I was still married to a man back then, and I never intended to come out of the closet and live my truth. I didn’t go looking for any more books.

On discovering more lesfic mysteries…sort of…

Mystery Novelist Ellen HartLater, divorced and living on half of my former household income, I stopped buying any sort of books and started visiting the library a lot. That’s when I discovered Ellen Hart’s, Jane Lawless series. A few of her books caught my eye, not because I’d ever heard of her, but because of the purple triangles on the spines. What a revelation they were to me! I grabbed them up, took them home and devoured them in two days. Then, I got online and ordered all of the rest to be delivered to my local library that were published at the time. Some were available and came in right away. Others, because the library system only had a copy or two, I had to wait for.

My wait was agonizing. I sped to the library and checked out each book as soon as I was notified it was in. When I’d run through all of those, I resigned myself to waiting a year for the next one, much as I was doing with mainstream authors like Sue Grafton and Janet Evanovich. Now, the internet was going through quite the growth spurt then, but the world of ‘published’ lesbian fiction, by and for lesbians, not pulps meant for men, wasn’t noticeable out there …not yet.

Fast forward to 2013. By then, I’d found more lesfic in bookstores and I’d bought things online from Amazon and Barnes and Noble. I even had an LGBT book review blog. People mailed me their books and begged for reviews. eBooks were still the hot new thing. Many LGBT authors weren’t doing them.

My son graduated from high school that year. My wife and I moved, late in the year, to the tiny village she grew up in. The nearest public library? Nearly a half hour away, in the county seat of a rural, ultra-conservative county. Their collection was small. It took weeks to get things there through interlibrary loan. I had to continue relying on online retailers for my paperback books. And eBooks? They were really just becoming a thing in lesfic. I dropped the blog and moved on.

A writing seed is planted

The Lost Women of Lost Lake by Ellen HartIn the spring of 2014, I finally laid my hands on the latest couple of books in Hart’s Jane Lawless series, Rest for the Wicked and Taken by the Wind. I read them with relish then fell into a funk. Hart and the other lesfic authors I was growing to love couldn’t produce mysteries fast enough for me, even the indies who put out more than a book a year in eBook form. Women loving women romance novels came out in droves, and I read some of them, but most didn’t appeal to me. I wanted mystery, suspense and adventure mixed in with my ladies who loved ladies.

I stared at the cover of the Hart book, The Lost Women of Lost Lake, one of the few that I own outright in trade paperback, for a good long while. Honestly? I thought to myself, I’ve read hundreds of mysteries like this. I could write this stuff and write it with lesbian characters. Could became should, and I started writing.

Relic: The Morelville Mysteries - Book 1Relic, the first book in what would become The Morelville Mysteries series, had a rocky start. My first draft was awful. In it, Sheriff Mel worked alone, with only her family for company, outside of work. She was a lesbian, sure, but she had no love interest, no female foil; unlike the various women who moved in and out of the life of Jane Lawless.

Dana was born in my second draft. Twining two stories, two cases together, and having the two women bouncing off of each other as they pursued leads and got in each other’s way, made the story better.


Publishing Relic

I self-published Relic in November of 2014. A trusted friend, a college composition professor by trade, pointed out some major formatting issues and a small plot inconsistency but the story was largely unedited. I had few expectations for it.

I sold four copies of the book, overnight, that first night. It became a number one best seller within 48 hours of going live. I was in shock.

It wasn’t all a rosy picture. Readers began pointing out errors and I corrected every one that got a mention except for changing it from first person to third person, as a few readers mentioned. I eventually did a light edit of the story, on my own, as I learned about such things and then had it formatted for print.Admittedly, it’s never been looked at by a true professional editor. I know it still needs edited for passive voice and misplaced punctuation, but I’ve never had the heart to go back to it and redo it. It was my baby, my firstborn, imperfections and all.

Over time, I’ve developed a team of beta readers and proofreaders. I’ve gotten better at formatting, editing and story structure. Still, I think back to where it all began, and I have to smile. Without Relic, we wouldn’t have Mel and Dana and their crazy, loving, supportive, (did I say crazy?) extended families and all the spin-off stories that story and the series of books that followed has spawned. I banged my head into the desk a few (many) times after that lousy first draft, but I’d do it all again.

Meet Robyn Nyx:

Discover how Robyn Nyx found the love of her life through writing her first novel, Never Enough at robynnyx.com

Robyn Nyx lives in England but enjoys traveling all over the world in search of inspiration. She loves to create complex characters to weave into stories that remind us of the darker side of human nature in the hope that we might cultivate the light.

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Halloween Hop Giveaway

Hi all! I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted. I took a much needed and long-planned family vacation two weeks ago; a cruise for myself, my wife and 25 additional extended family members to the Bahamas. I came back refreshed and renewed and went right back into the hellfire currently known as ‘my day job’. Just a few more weeks of the crazy hours…then we move into the truly busy season…sigh.

Wife and great nephews at Princess Cays Here are a couple of my favorite vacay shots. The first is of my mom and son, standing at the rail as we depart Charleston, South Carolina for our adventure. The second is a shot of my wife and two of my four great-nephews playing in the surf at Princess Cays a couple of days later.

It was beautiful out there; in the 80’s/90’s and sunny every day, most of the day. Back here in Ohio, I’ve had to defrost my car each morning before I could leave for work. Again, sigh…

The Litring Halloween HopOn a brighter note, there’s lots going on right now and something really special coming up in the near future, but more on that in another post. For now, I wanted to let you know about this: It’s the Litring Halloween Hop Giveaway. There are lots of books to fill your goodie bag with. To enter the giveaway, all you have to do is follow the authors who appeal to you on Amazon or Bookbub and you’ll get entries to win Amazon gift cards. It couldn’t be simpler. Trick or Treat! 


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Lesfic Book Party – Just Because

There’s a massive lesfic book party happening on Facebook on Sunday, September 30th for authors and readers of lesbian fiction. To date, sixteen authors have signed on to take over the party for an hour and talk books and more with readers. They are as follows:

*** All times are US Eastern (New York) ***

Lesfic Book Party7am: Emmy Engberts
8am: Tamsen Parker
9am: A.E. Radley
10am: Elizabeth Andre
11am: Maria Siopis
12pm: C.L. Cattano
1pm: Barbara Winkes
2pm: Eliza Andrews
3pm: Angelic Rodgers
4pm: KC Luck – Author
5pm: Vanda
6pm: Annette Mori & Ali Spooner
7pm: Alison R. Solomon
8pm: Anne Hagan
9pm: E.A. Kafkalas

Some authors will be using Facebook Live to read from their books and answer reader questions. All authors will be giving something away for free including both eBooks and signed paperbacks!

Everyone is welcome to join in. Come and go all day to talk with your favorites and to meet new to you authors. I’ll be hosting an hour from 8:00 PM to 9:00 PM Eastern time then I’ll hang around a moderate the conversation for my good friend EA Kafkalas during her hour from 9:00 PM to 10:00 PM. Be sure to join me for lots of giveaways and to ask me anything you want to know.

See you Sunday!

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The Fall Into Books Giveaway

Just a short note today to let you know about a great giveaway with only a few days left to run. It’s getting cooler in the northern hemisphere. You know what that means, right? It means the annual, Litring ‘The Fall Into Books Giveaway’ is back. Litring has gathered over 100 authors across many genres for you to cozy up to and check out their books in the Giveaway.

The Fall into Books GiveawayAfter taking a look at these new authors, be sure to enter for your chance to win one of FIVE $50 gift cards. You can use that to buy several books to cozy up with during the colder months ahead. All you have to do to enter is follow authors you like on Bookbub. What could be simpler?

There are lots of authors to choose from in genres like romance and mystery and so many more. My fellow lesfic authors Vanda and Clair Highton-Stevenson are both listed with me in the LGBT main category because we could only pick one. Vanda has been interviewed here on this blog. She writes some amazing historical fiction. Clair writes contemporary romance with a twist. You can follow all three of us and get at least three chances to win one of those gift cards.

Hurry! This giveaway is only open for a limited time. You have 4 days left!

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Finding Sheila is Out

Finding Sheila, the 11th book in the Morelville Mysteries series is now out, and available almost everywhere eBooks are sold. This book finds Dana in a world of hurt when she’s deputized to do a seemingly simple job – transport a prisoner from Tennessee to Ohio – and she manages to lose the prisoner. Of course, the ‘prisoner’ is Sheila Ford, the Morelville woman convicted of manslaughter for killing her husband’s illicit lover when her shot missed him and hit her instead. You had to figure I wasn’t going to leave that whole mess alone, didn’t you?

The Full Blurb for Finding Sheila:

A woman, imprisoned for manslaughter, disappears without a trace during transport between states and it’s all up to Dana to find her.

Finding Sheila: The Morelville Mysteries - Book 11Sheila Ford traveled to Tennessee planning to commit an act of pre-meditated murder on her husband. Her lone shot at him misses and kills his lover instead. After pleading guilty to a manslaughter charge, she’s locked away in a Tennessee prison for women. Everyone back home in Ohio wrote her off. She wasn’t eligible for a parole hearing for seven years.

When Jennifer Coventry calls begging Sheriff Mel Crane to bring her ailing mother home to Ohio to serve out the rest of her sentence in the county jail, close to home, Mel is reluctant but gives in. The only problem is, she’s short staffed and can’t send a deputy to do the transport. She deputizes Dana to do the duties.

Dana planned to go to Tennessee anyway, to look at a vacation cabin for herself and Mel. A little detour over to Nashville to connect with Sheila and the ambulance transporting her to Ohio won’t be hard, she thought…until everything that could go wrong does, ending up with Sheila disappearing during a rest stop. A multi-state manhunt is on to find the escaped convict and return her to prison, but the circumstances of her disappearance go far deeper than anyone could have imagined.

This book is great together with Books 1-10 of The Morelville Mysteries series but it can also be read as a stand-alone mystery.

This resolves a thread left hanging in Book 10, Sullied Sally, but it calls some things into question, especially for Sheriff Mel. Stay tuned for the future debut of Book 12, Tennessee Bound.



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