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The Inside Story Heartwood Excerpt Bloodstone Excerpt Foxfire Excerpt



What's in a Name?

When I began writing Heartwood, I came up with a system for naming characters that I thought (Hey, it was my first novel. And I thought it would be a stand-alone.) Once I'd started my rather esoteric system, I felt the need to stick with it.

The names for the children of the Oak and Holly are based on ancient Celtic tree ogham and Gaelic. Darak’s is derived from the Scottish Gaelic for oak (Darach). Tinnean’s comes from the tree name for holly (Tinne). 

For Struath, I chose to compound the ogham names for blackthorn (Straiph) and willow (Huath). Both trees carry symbolic overtones of death and rebirth. The blackthorn’s bitter sloes were used to produce a dye whose deep red color is synonymous with death in ancient legends. The willow, which grows at the edge of streams, represents a typical borderland in myth. Spiritually, willow represents the beginning of one's journey to self-knowledge, while blackthorn represents the acceptance of death and self-sacrifice.

Not that ANYONE except me would recognize that!

The world of the trilogy exists centuries before the Celts appeared on the pages of history. And I drew as much from Norse mythology – and my own imagination – as Celtic legend. Still, this naming process became a useful tool for delving deeper into my characters.

Renaming became just as important as naming. How can you call an herb pennyroyal in a culture without pennies or royalty? Or describe sails and masts when your people have never seen them?

In terms of herbs, proved to be a great site. The Modern Herbal (written more than seventy years ago) provided a ton of information, including descriptions of herbs, medicinal uses, and alternate names that better suited my culture. 

In Bloodstone, I had to look for ways to describe things that were commonplace to the reader, but utterly foreign to Darak and Keirith. Thus, sails became wind-cloths, masts were compared to pine spars, and oars were described simply as long paddles.

For me, the name game was one of the most enjoyable aspects of world-building. For an interesting site on the etymology and history of first names, check out


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