By Any Other Name…? No, I Don’t Think So

namesI’m having a real issue with names at the moment.

Let me explain.

Depending on how you count them, with the release of Kiss Across Kingdoms last week, I now have either 59 books published, or 94 books published.

Why the two numbers?

I’ve been publishing books since 1999.  Up until 2011, I was publishing with traditional publishers, as indie publishing wasn’t a thing until 2007, when Amazon put out their first Kindle.  Indie publishing still didn’t really take off until a couple of years after that.

I heard rumbles about indie publishing about then, too, but didn’t think seriously about it for another couple of years.  I was doing well with traditional publishing—at least, I thought so at the time.  Now I have five years of indie publishing experience that lets me know just how badly off I was.

A couple of unhappy incidences in late 2010 made me look seriously and sharply at indie publishing and in March 2011, I published my first indie title:  Blood Knot

Blood Knot had never been published anywhere else.  Neither had my next two indie title, Fatal Wild Child and Bannockburn Binding.

It only took three books for me to realize that I was absolutely made for indie publishing.  Every day job I’ve ever had provided experience and expertise to help me publishing my own titles and I am geeky enough and anal enough to love the control I have over my own books.  I get to lay the print edition out exactly the way I want it.  I can ask for and get exactly the cover I want (joy!!!), and control the appearance of the interior of the book.

With the release of Bannockburn Binding, I fully committed myself to 100% indie publishing.  I wanted to retrieve all the rights to previously published books and publish them myself, the way they should have been in the first place.  That meant going through a long, painful process of re-acquiring the copyright for each book.

Then I had to re-produce the books all over again.  It might surprise you to know that the production process for a book is long and arduous.  The actual writing of the first draft is the mere tip of the iceberg.  So, even though I had the rights back to books I’d already written, re-releasing them took just as much effort as the first time they were released.

That’s why there’s two book counts.  If you include all the re-releases, I have published 94 titles.  (Full list here if you’re curious.)

But for most purposes, I only count currently-published and available titles.  That’s all my indie titles, of which there is now 59 books.  (And that list is here, although you can also get the same list here – just start at book #35, my first indie release.)

Even 59 books is a pretty decent amount of wordage, and a lot of heroes and heroines.  And that’s where my trouble started.

I was reviewing an older title, something I try to do at least once a year, to brush off the dust, clean up yet more typos, update links in the front and back, and so on.  The book I was reviewing was Beth’s Acceptance, where the heroes of the second book, Mia’s Return, is introduced.  One of the heroes is Alexander.

And of course, I’ve just finished releasing Kiss Across Kingdoms…featuring another Alexander.

Oh, shit.

Honestly, until that moment, it had never occurred to me they both have the same name.  In my mind, they are totally different characters.  They look different, talk different, have far different tastes.  There’s just the matter of identical names, which had not been a conscious choice at all.

Right around the same moment, I was also casting for my next book, Greyson’s Doom, book 1 of the new Endurance series, of which 5,001 is a prequel.  I found a couple of names for the hero that seemed to fit him very well indeed.  But now the niggle in the back of my brain was screaming at me.

So I took an hour or so to go through every single book I’ve ever released, and write down the names of the heroes and heroines I have used, then sort them.

Holy crap!

I’ve used Rhys for three different heroes!!!  I had no idea I was so attached to the name.  Actually, I’ve used Rhys four times, because in Kiss Across Kingdoms, Rafe’s name back in history is also Rhys.

Alexander is the name of three heroes, too.

This whole time, I had not realized I was repeating myself, name-wise, because the characters are all so completely different in my head – and if I’m doing my job, they should all be completely different to you in your head when you read the books, too.

So it’s not the end of the world that I’ve re-used a couple of names.  In the real world, there are a lot of Tracys out there, for example.

But anal geek me doesn’t like that sort of messiness.

It’s impossible to go back and change the names, especially once the story is done.  I spend a lot of time selecting names.  Names all have meanings and histories.  They also have cultures and societies attached to them.  They come with baggage.  So picking a name for a hero or heroine is a serious business.

I can change a name right at the start, if I have to, although I’ll pout about not being able to use the perfect name for a character.  But before the book is written, a name change isn’t a story killer.

Once the story is written, though, that name belongs to the character.  It’s hard-wired into their personalities.  Changing their name would be a disaster.  The story wouldn’t be the same.

Can you imagine Nial Aquila from Blood Knot, for example, being called, say, Gregory?  Ugh.

Once I’d built a list of previously named characters, I found out that I’d already used the name I had picked for the hero in Greyson’s Doom in another story and had to find another name, instead.   I did find another name; Greyson, or Grey to his friends.  Now that the book is nearly finished, Grey is living inside the skin of his name very well indeed.  But I’m so very glad I built the list and checked, first!

Now I have a register of heroes and heroines that I will consult each time I create a new character.  This is one of the complications of having many books out there.

I know, it just sucks, doesn’t it? 🙂

4 thoughts on “By Any Other Name…? No, I Don’t Think So”

  1. I don’t think it sucks at all, lol. My favorite baseball team has 3 Matt’s on it, so I guess to me it seems normal that you would use a name more than once. And if they’re in a different series, what difference does it make? Personally, I never even noticed the multiple use. I just keep buying and keep reading.

    1. Hi Dayna:

      Thanks for stopping by!

      I know it shouldn’t matter, and it really doesn’t in the end — as you say, it’s different series, different people. And there are people with the same name everywhere.

      It’s just a little quirky thing, I guess. I prefer everyone is unique. Besides, there’s always the possibility of doing a cross-over one day, too.

      Although now you’ve given me another idea. What if two characters in the same book DID have the same name? In real life that’s not unusual. It would make for interesting fiction. That’s how TERMINATOR started, too. Three Sarah Connors….




  2. As always I love how you give us information on not only your writing process but thinking as well. Your info on indie versus traditional publishing is very interesting. In your opinion do most writers start out with traditional publishing as maybe going with indie publishing as it seems more daunting when you first start out?

    1. Hi Dina!

      Interesting question. Any writer who started in the business before the turn of the millennium (more of us than we’d like to admit, I’m sure!) was forced to start out in legacy…or die trying. There was no other option. Post 2007, that all changed. These days, there are as many pros and cons for either style of publishing — having been on both sides of the fence, I can say that with assurance.

      I don’t think traditional publishing is “easier” at all. To start with, your chances of actually selling a book are in the single figures. Once you have the contract a whole different set of issues kick in, including the fact that most traditional publishers limit an author to one book a year, and the contract prevents them from selling to other publishers.

      You can see why I am not a good fit with traditional, huh?

      On the other hand, if a writer doesn’t like the idea of writing multiple books quickly, of controlling every aspect of their careers — and paying for those services upfront (instead of having most of their royalties taken at the other end), then traditional publishing is a better fit.

      I am very biased about this issue, actually. I’ve tried to be even-handed, above, but the truth is, I think any author would be freaking nuts to publish with a traditional publisher these days. The contracts are becoming more and more draconian and the number of publishing spots per year shrinking rapidly. Traditional publishers are more interested in reaping profits from adult coloring books (sad, but true). The myth that publishers “take care” of authors is just that — a myth that refuses to die.

      Authors are better off keeping control of their copyright, and publishing as directly as possible to their readers. That means the author can also talk to readers directly and adjust what they’re publishing to suit their reader demands. It becomes a two-way street in a way that traditional publishers just don’t understand. Most traditional publishers don’t even *know* who their readers are, while I talk to mine every day.

      It makes a huge difference.

      Ooops…well, you did ask!



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