Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Guest Blogger: WHAT’S IN A NAME? by Kat Martin

Note: Kat is giving away a signed copy of AGAINST THE EDGE to one lucky poster.  Post a comment for a chance to win. 

     In the course of writing more than fifty books, I can tell you that a character’s name can be extremely important.  I spend hours pouring over lists of names:  American, English, Italian, French, Japanese, Russian, Chinese, etc. 

     Months before I start a story, I work on choosing the right names for my hero and heroine.  It’s my way of getting to know them.  Choosing their names is the way I begin to find their identity.  

     I like names that evoke an instant picture.  Ben Slocum, for example.  Ben is the hero in AGAINST THE EDGE.  Dark and slightly brooding, Ben’s a hard-edged man who’s been hurt before and is determined to protect his heart and never fall in love again.  I can’t imagine a man named Ben Slocum being a guy with a weak chin.

     Jake Cantrell in AGAINST THE SUN stands six feet five inches tall and weighs two-hundred thirty pounds.  Jake is no wimp.  He is a body guard, a former Marine.  His name resonated with me from the moment I said it out loud.

     Alex Justice in AGAINST THE ODDS is solid as a rock.  He’s extremely intelligent and though he’s an exceptionally good-looking man, he’s tough when it counts, and wildly protective.

     Women’s names are almost as tough to choose.  I find them unconsciously popping into my head as I begin to mentally work on the story.  Sometimes I try to change a name, but it never feels quite right.  Claire Chastain was Claire from the start and I couldn’t make her be anyone else.

     I like to choose the names way ahead so that I have a little more input in what they are (as opposed to the character demanding a name and refusing anything else.  Okay, I know that’s crazy, but...)  I try to pick two different first letters so they don’t confuse the reader.  Ben and Claire instead of Ben and Bonnie or something, though occasionally, as I said, a name will come to me so strongly I don’t have any other choice.

     I wrote a book called THE DREAM.  I knew it was going to be Jack and Jenny, nothing I could do about it, so I changed the spelling and made it Jack and Genny, and that solved my problem.  

     I don’t like weird spellings of names.  It bothers the reader the entire length of the book.

     As for secondary characters, that’s when it gets to be fun.  The villain in AGAINST THE EDGE uses a number of aliases.  Each one is a clue that leads Ben and Claire closer to finding him.  It’s a wild ride that eventually puts them into a race to survive, a journey that ultimately leads to a powerful love.

     I hope you’ll watch for AGAINST THE EDGE and that you enjoy Ben and Claire’s story.  

     What are some of the names of your favorite heroes and heroines? 
     Very best and happy reading, kat  

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A child he’s never met.

A danger he’s never known.

That he’s a father is news former navy SEAL Ben Slocum was not expecting. But once the initial shock wears off for the confirmed bachelor, he takes in the rest of what social worker Claire Chastain tells him: that his son Sam is in the custody of an abusive criminal, that they’ve disappeared . . . and that Ben is now the child’s only hope.
As Ben and Claire band together to track the two down, their concern for the boy draws them closer, each fighting feelings there’s no time to explore. Ben’s got one chance to take back what’s his, and in one gunshot he could lose it all . . .

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Houston, Texas

His head was pounding.  Too much Jack Daniels last night.  When Ben Slocum pulled his big black SUV into the driveway in front of his garage, the only thing on his mind was getting a couple hours of sleep. 
Reaching up to hit the garage door opener on his visor, he spotted a silver Buick with Hertz rental plates parked in front of the house.  His gaze swung to the porch where a woman in a conservative yellow business suit stood rapping on his door.
Ben groaned.  Last night two of his best friends, Alex Justice and Sabrina Eckhart, had gotten married.  Alex, one of the other private investigators in his Atlas Security office, had fallen hard for the pretty little redhead.  Ben had never seen a guy look happier about getting hitched. 
Their early October wedding had turned into good news for Ben, who’d gotten lucky with a slinky little blonde from Dallas he had met at the reception.  He’d spent the night in her bed at the Marriott, and neither of them had gotten much sleep. 
Still dressed in the black tuxedo he’d been wearing last night, Ben glanced at the porch, shoved the Denali into park and turned off the engine, cracked open the door and slid out from behind the wheel.  His slacks were wrinkled, his white pleated shirt haphazardly buttoned and opened halfway down the front.  His black bow-tie hung loose around his collar. 
Company this morning was the last thing he wanted.
He took a long look at the woman whose attention was now fixed on him as he crossed the front lawn.  She was tall and slender, with dark brown hair clipped back at the nape of her neck, and a very pretty face.  High cheek bones, a heart-shaped face, and full lips.  Too bad they were currently thinned in a disapproving line.
He wondered what she was selling.  Whatever it was, he wasn’t buying.  He just wanted to hit the sheets.  
Ben strode up on the porch.  “’Fraid nobody’s home,” he said, hoping she would just go away.  He wasn’t in the mood for another female, no matter how good she looked.
“I can see that,” she said.  “I’m looking for Benjamin Slocum.  I presume that’s you.”
He lifted a black eyebrow.  “And you would be?”
“My name is Claire Chastain.  I need to speak to you, Mr. Slocum, on a matter of extreme importance.”
“I’ll be in my office this afternoon.  Why don’t you stop by...say three o’clock?  We can talk about anything you like.”
“This can’t wait.” 
Of course not.  She was a woman.  Everything was a matter of critical meltdown.  “Is this business or personal?”
He let his gaze drift over her, taking in the soft curves.  Slender and elegant, but there was plenty of female wrapped up in the pretty package. 
“Do we know each other, Ms. Chastain?”  As in have we spent the night together, maybe I drank too much and don’t recall?  
But he hadn’t done that since he’d left the SEALs.  Since then he had pretty much behaved himself.  Well, more or less.
“No, we’ve never met.  Please, Mr. Slocum.  This is important and I would rather not discuss it out on your front porch.”
Irritation filtered through him.  “Angel, this had better be good.”  Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out his house key, stuck it in the lock and opened the door.  He went in and turned off the alarm, stepped back to allow Claire Chastain into his living room.
Ben closed the door.  “Look, lady, I just got home from a wedding and I need a shower.  There’s a coffee pot on the counter in the kitchen.  Coffee’s in the cupboard overhead.  If you want to have a sensible conversation, I suggest you make us a pot.” 
The woman’s dark eyebrows shot up.
“And don’t be afraid to actually put some coffee in the pot.” 
Her mouth dropped open.  Ben chuckled to himself as he turned and headed for the bedroom.

Of all the nerve!  Everything she had heard about Ben Slocum appeared to be exactly correct.  The man was arrogant and overbearing, down right rude.  In his rumpled tuxedo and smelling of sex and perfume, it didn’t take much imagination to know he had spent the night in a woman’s bed. 
Clearly he’d been out carousing, doing God only knew what. 
He was a navy SEAL, she reminded herself.  That had to count for something.  They had a reputation for being tough, brave, and honorable.  Still, from the information she had, he had been out of the military for the last five years, a medical discharge at twenty-eight after a combat wound in some godawful jungle in the Philippines. 
She had no idea the sort of man Ben Slocum had become.  One thing she knew.  He looked even better than the photo she had seen of him when he was twenty years old.  At least six-two, maybe a hundred ninety-five pounds of pure masculinity. 
Beneath his black tuxedo jacket, a set of ridiculously wide shoulders tapered down to a narrow waist and a pair of long legs.  Jet black hair cut short enough to hide a faint curl, and the stubble of a night’s growth of beard just made him more handsome.  She tried not to think of the glimpse of chest hair she’d seen beneath his unbuttoned shirt.
And those eyes.  So pale a blue they looked otherworldly.  She had seen a pair like them, but on a nine year-old, the effect just wasn’t the same.
Thinking of the little boy and the help he so desperately needed set her feet in motion.  Making the arrogant jerk a pot of coffee tweaked her ego, but that was hardly important.  She took down the can of Folgers and began the steps necessary to get a pot brewing.  Once the coffee was on its way, she took a moment to check out the house.
Neat was her first impression.  The dishes clean and put away, no crumbs on the round oak table in the kitchen.  No messy stacks of papers on the white ceramic tile counters.  Decidedly male was her second thought.  Brown leather sofa and chairs in the living room, oak end tables and pottery lamps.  A big flat screen TV on the wall, and a stack of hunting and fishing magazines sitting on the antique oak table in front of the sofa.
She felt something soft brush against her and looked down to see a big gray tomcat winding between her legs.  His golden eyes looked up at her as she bent down to scratch his ears. 
“Well, aren’t you a big fellow.”
The cat began to purr.  Ben Slocum was a cat person?  She was more a dog lover herself--not that she actually had one--but she liked all animals.  From the look of the cat’s glossy gray fur, he was definitely well cared for. 
The sound of a door opening caught her attention.  Claire looked up to see Ben Slocum striding down the hall, towel-drying his not quite wavy black hair.  In jeans and a black T-shirt that stretched over the muscles on a very impressive chest, Ben was a formidable presence.  Claire had to force herself not to take a step back as he walked into the living room.
“Smells good.”  He paused long enough to lean down and run his hand over the big cat’s thick fur.  “I see you’ve met Hercules.”
“You like cats?” she blurted out before she could stop herself.
“Herc’s a great guy.  I like animals in general.  I tend to prefer them to people.”  He continued on to the kitchen.  “Coffee looks good.  You want a cup?”
She definitely needed something to bolster her courage.  “Yes, I think I do.”
Ben took down a pair of mugs and poured them full, handed one to her.  He didn’t offer her cream or sugar.  He took a drink, seemed to approve. 
“What’s so important it couldn’t wait till this afternoon?”
“Why don’t we sit down?”  She started for the oak table in the kitchen, but Ben caught her arm.
“Why don’t you just tell me what the hell is going on?”
Her patience was thinning.  “Why don’t I just show you?”  Ignoring his request, she marched into the kitchen, set her coffee mug down on the table and sat down in one of the oak captain’s chairs.  Pulling the strap of her purse off her shoulder, she reached inside to retrieve Sam Thompson’s fifth grade class picture. 
Slocum walked over, crossed his arms over his impressive chest and stood eyeing her from a few feet away.
Claire looked up at him.  “I’m here, Mr. Slocum, because of your son.  His name is Sam, he’s nine years old, and he needs your help.” 


Laurie G said...

AS an avid reader I read a lot of books. I agree with you on the straight forward names with the easy pronunciation and spelling, or a nickname.

I read a book recently with Nia, sweet and simple, but is it pronounced Nigh a or Nee a
to rhyme with Mia.

As for strong hero names I like Luke, Alex, Jason, and Nick. Ben works for me too.

Women: Eve, Lara, Grace, Lauren, Kate

Maureen said...

I definitely don't like names that I am not sure how to pronounce or when multiple characters have similar sounding names. Other than that I don't think too much about the names.

CrystalGB said...

Against the Edge sounds great.
I like names that are easy to pronounce.

Jane said...

Can't wait to read Ben's story. I do have a thing for names staring with J like Jack and Jeremy. I also like the name Bryony which is the heroine's name in Sherry Thomas' "Not Quite a Gentleman."

bn100 said...

Alex, Jack

Don't like weird, made-up names that are hard to spell and pronounce

Na said...

I also like names that evoke something in me right away. It's hard to explain but a strong and good name just stands out, while a weak one doesn't.

- Na S.

Kathleen O said...

I like a name that gives me a strong sense of the character of the person... Kat always uses great names..

Martha Lawson said...

I can't wait to read this one, it sounds great!! I'm a big fan of your books. Thanks for the chance. I also like simple names, I hate trying to figure out how to pronounce them..

catslady said...

I so agree that names you aren't sure how to pronounce pull me right out of the story. I spend the whole book changing my mind. I like simple names like Matt, Adam, Jake or Lily, April, Kate.