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Joseph Campbell, author of The Hero with a Thousand Faces, was born on this day in 1904.

Although he published the book in 1949, his interest in mythology, particularly Native American mythology, was sparked by a visit as a kid to Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show at Madison Square Garden.

It’s from his work that the concept of the Hero’s Journey derives, something Campbell describes as

A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.

Yes, it sounds like Tolkien, but I love it as a reality check for writing fiction, and one of the few writing books I like is Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey.

Here are a few more quotes from Campbell I thought you’d enjoy. To my very great amusement, when I followed the link to Campbell quotes, the first thing I read was:

Sensuality Redefined
The New
Push Up
Demi Bra

with an appropriate illustration, before it rearranged itself as an ad at the side of the page. Here are the real Campbell quotes:

Computers are like Old Testament gods; lots of rules and no mercy.Find a place inside where there’s joy, and the joy will burn out the pain.

Love is a friendship set to music.

I’m off fairly soon to the New England Romance Writers Let Your Imagination Take Flight conference, where I’m doing a workshop on servants, signing, hanging out with other writers, and shutting myself away to write.

Pam Rosenthal, who was nominated for a Rita (go Pam!) for The Edge of Impropriety, is having a contest–the prize, a copy of my August 2009 release A Most Lamentable Comedy. Go read an excerpt and enter now!

What are you up to? Reading, writing, nominated for a Golden Heart or Rita? Tell us!

Hi, Djenet Mallani here.  I’m pleased to announce that my Little Black Dress titles have been published in Russian and I had lots of fun working out which was which–unsuccessfully, as it turns out. You can see all three of them here in their old school glory on amazon.

I can read the cyrillic alphabet but if you can’t, this is called Prekrasnaya vodova. What I can’t do is speak any Russian, other than hello, goodbye, thank you, cup of tea, please. All I need to know in any language, really. This, I believe, since one of the blurbs referred to ledi Elmherst and Nikolasa Kongrivansa has to be A Most Lamentable Comedy. The man and woman are pretty good other than floating in an odd almost heart-shaped bubble, but what is that item behind them? A rolltop desk? A primitive computer? A beehive? You tell me.

So that one was pretty straightforward. Now onto mystery book #1, Schastlivoe nedorazumenie. I believe this is Improper Relations since it has characters called Sharlotta Heiden and vikontom Shadderli. He looks like some sort of eurotrash lounge lizard, she looks like his aunty, and I can’t figure out where they are. They seem to be outside but they’re on the wrong side of what I assume to be a balcony railing. They’re teetering on the outer ledge. Possibly he’s threatening to push her off if she doesn’t tell him where the drugs are.

But it’s this one, Skandalnaia sviaz, which really confuses me. Since it stars the aforementioned Sharlotta Heiden and vikontom Shadderli it seems to be another version of Improper Relations. Why does he have a small woman emerging from his butt?–or is it a disembodied head impaled on the wrought iron thing he’s sitting on? It certainly seems to be floating her boat. Is that a lampshade to the left or are they in the fabled Amber Room of the Catharine Palace near St. Petersburg? Thoughts?

So naturally I did a search on the title and came up with this gem:

Eurovision Song Contest participant from Ukraine admitted to sexual relations with a soloist of the group VIA Gra.


Also a link to google books and Nabokov’s Invitation to a Beheading.

I’m confused. Can anyone out there speak Russian? Help?

And I’m guest blogging at Lady Scribes today, talking about the new Dedication and giving away a free download, so please come on over and chat!

This is what a finished book looks like.
Last night I finished Improper Relations, my next Little Black Dress book, and this is the entire manuscript dropped on the floor as I went through it page by page after a hard copy edit.

Whew! I’m still catching up from Nationals and then a Mullany expedition to the beach last week where I thought I’d have internet but didn’t. Here’s a pic of my mother in law Rosie Mullany to whom I dedicated A Most Lamentable Comedy.

But today is the birthday of Emily Bronte (1818-1848) so I thought we should talk about Wuthering Heights. I consider it an odd, difficult novel, full of shifts in time and narration. Where Jane Eyre (by sister Charlotte) has a clear legacy in popular fiction (plain, poor, virtuous heroine–check; brooding dark hero–check; brooding dark house–check; unspeakable secrets–check), what influence has Wuthering Heights had?

It’s almost as though Wuthering Heights stands alone, the odd cousin who smells of elderberries and talks to herself in a corner at the family gathering. We know she’s there, we know she’s part of the family, but she doesn’t quite fit in. Somehow she takes things to extremes–Heathcliffe is dark and brooding yet psychopathic; the heroine dies; the bleak landscape is the star of the show.

And what about the movie versions? Do you think any of them crack the Wuthering Heights code? There’s the 1939 classic with Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon (left); the 1992 version with Juliette Binoche (whom I love, but why??) and Ralph Fiennes with bad hair.

The most recent is the 2009 PBS adaptation with Charlotte Riley and Tom Hardy (both of whom look far too clean in this pic and yet another bad Heathcliffe wig). And according to this article Keira Knightley and Lindsay Lohan are battling it out for the role of Cathy in yet another remake.

But to me, the most brilliant adaptation is this one by Monty Python (it starts about a minute in after some silly stuff with a policeman but this was the only one I could find without Spanish subtitles):

What do you think? Is there a movie version you like? A book you feel that is particularly influenced by Wuthering Heights?

My blog tour continues tomorrow with a visit to the Word Wenches and more next week–visit my website for the whole schedule (and enter the contest, which is ending soon, while you’re there).

I am Everard Dominic Benedict Ashford Alexander Artichoke FitzGrennan, Duke of Hawkraven, known and feared as Satan’s Elbow, but you may address me as…Cuddles. Top Ten Things, Rules of Gentility

Part X, because this is something we write about again and again–how to find names for characters that don’t sound hideously 21st century, that somehow represent a quality of the character, and lend themselves to different forms of address. How would your hero’s mother, sister, mistress, best friend, etc. address him? (Other than as “sir,” of course.)

This is something on my mind at the moment because I’m considering changing the hero’s name in a book that’s pretty much written. For one thing, his nickname, a shortened version of his title, is a sort of fish. And yes, he’s a retired naval officer, but even so… His first name is pretty much nonedescript because no one ever uses it. Everyone close to him uses his nickname, even the heroine. As far as fish names go, I can think of better ones–Hal, short for Viscount Halibut–but there are also minor characters called Henry and Harry. Not that he has to have a fish name–I’m trying to get away from the fish motif, you understand. And it bothers me that somehow, in not having the right name, I don’t have the proper handle on the character. Eeek.

So I did a bit of research on favorite names and it’s a small but level playing field in the 18th-19th century: lots of Johns and Williams. There’s a list at but I’m not sure how accurate it is in relation to usage then or or now, and some are specific to the US. For a list of popular English girls’ names in the eighteenth century, there’s some good information in Female Names over the Centuries.

I like old-fashioned interchangeable male/female names like Evelyn and Joslyn. (Did you know that John Wayne’s real name was Marion Michael Morrison and he adopted the nickname Duke in his youth?)

The book Bad Baby Names by Michael Sherrod and Matthew Rayback,was reviewed in the NY Times by John Tierney:

By scouring census records from 1790 to 1930, Mr. Sherrod and Mr. Rayback discovered Garage Empty, Hysteria Johnson, King Arthur, Infinity Hubbard, Please Cope, Major Slaughter, Helen Troy, several Satans and a host of colleagues to the famed Ima Hogg (including Ima Pigg, Ima Muskrat, Ima Nut and Ima Hooker).

The authors also interviewed adults today who had survived names like Candy Stohr, Cash Guy, Mary Christmas, River Jordan and Rasp Berry. All of them, even Happy Day, seemed untraumatized.

A contest that followed the review for the worst modern name came up with this winner:

Iona Knipl. The judges chose it because, in addition to being an embarrassing pun, it also set up an inevitable reply from people imagining they were being wittily original. I called up Miss Knipl and asked her how many times she had heard someone meet her and reply, “I own two.”

As for names that seem to have implicit meaning, if you read Chuck Shepherds’s News of the Weird, you’ll know that the name Wayne has unfortunate connotations and the column has regular Wayne updates.

So I won’t be renaming my hero Wayne.

Here’s a short story I wrote in 2001 at the writing site Toasted Cheese, all about the different forms of names and what they can say about characters.

The hero in A Most Lamentable Comedy is called Nicholas Congrevance, because I like the first name and his surname is a French Arthurian name I came across that seems suitably foreign and exotic. The heroine was originally named Mary, which I found a very stultifying good girl name (although her first appearance in The Rules was as a very bad girl indeed) so I changed it to Caroline, and she took off. The book is released July 23 and you can order it with free shipping from And don’t forget the contest at my website!

Compulsory promotion over, what are your favorite names in fiction and in real life? Is there an interesting story behind a character’s name in one of your books?

First some vaguely related but blatant self-promotion: I’ve just found out that A Most Lamentable Comedy‘s release has been pushed back to July 23 which is great news because I’ll be a beach read and possibly sign at the 2009 “Readers for Life” Literacy Autographing in Washington, DC, July 15.

I’ve been trying to figure out what makes me buy a book and looking back over my buying/reading habits. The last two books I bought were at Heathrow Airport by two tried and true authors, Kate Atkinson and Nicci French (mystery/suspense writers) and not yet available in paperback here. There was a bookstore promotion of 50% off the second book and I had cash to use up.

So I don’t think that really counts. Besides, the real question is why you would take a chance with squandering your hard-earned cash on a writer or book you don’t really know anything about.

Do you think reviews, official and reader comments on such sites as Goodreads help?

Yet another lack luster Regency romance. I don’t know why I persist in reading these.

Awesomely funny book. Fast read, but so enjoyable.

Uh, probably not. Yes, they are talking about the same book (The Rules of Gentility).

Friends’ recommendations? My major going to bookstore and drinking cups of coffee friend and I have polar opposites in reading tastes– so far we agree only on a few, and even fewer that I have recommended. So far our only 100% agreement is Naomi Novik, my recommendation after she and her husband had read all of Patrick O’Brien’s books.

Back cover blurbs? Maybe…

Transported to a surreal landscape, a young girl kills the first person she meets and then teams up with three strangers to kill again.

Yes, I’m cheating. That was a one-sentence summary of The Wizard of Oz, created, with his tongue firmly in cheek, by Rick Polito of the Marin Independent Journal, according to this movie trivia page.

Covers? Oh lord no. Just try doing a google image search on bad romance covers and see what you come up with. (Does the one on the right remind you of an old-fashioned butcher’s shop? I had trouble even defining what part of the male anatomy it was).

I’m somewhat influenced by cover quotes from other writers and also by those helpful signs on Amazon, and in bookstores and libraries of If you liked this… although sometimes I find them wildly off mark.

My suspicion is that we’re manipulated far more by website and distributors than we really like to think. How many times have you wandered into a bookstore thinking you might possibly just buy one book and then find yourself leaving with an armful? Or cranked up your Amazon order to meet the free shipping amount?

What do you think? And share with us the last new author or book you took a chance on, and, if you can, why you did.

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