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Neespaugot: Legend of the Indian's Coin by John MugglebeeNeespaugot: Legend of the Indian’s Coin by John Mugglebee

Publisher: Brandt Street Press (May 29, 2017)
Category: Historical Fiction, Native American Fiction, African American Fiction
Tour dates: Sept-Oct, 2017
ISBN: 978-0974260792
Available in Print & ebook, 378 pages

Melba Blue Jay, sixteen, scrambling up a snow-filled mountain path, her knife at a child’s throat. Archie Chung at the helm of the South Pacific Belle, foremast snapped like a toothpick, barreling toward a coral reef. Spindly Lydia Freeman, skin the color of dark ale, feeding tea made of birch bark to an Irish murderess. Zeke Roxxmott teetering at three hundred feet on the five-inch ledge of his penthouse, bent on a flawless destruction.

Adventurers, inextricably linked by a bloodline… and an Indian’s coin.

Where history and imagination meet!

John Mugglebee’s Neespaugot is based on the real-life exploits of his own ancestors.  A sweeping historical saga of his Native American, African American, Scots-Irish, Chinese, Russian Jewish family, it spans three centuries with adventures that keep you turning page after page.  You’ll fall in love with these characters, who stay with you long after you’ve put the book down.

Interview With John Mugglebee

TR: Hi John, welcome to Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus.  Please tell us something about the book that is not in the summary. (About the book, character you particularly enjoyed writing etc.)

JM: Neespaugot, the eponymous fictional city where the story takes place, is an Algonquian word meaning “two waters”, a reference to the city’s twin bays. Hoping to mirror that image, I had originally intended to develop twin themes as well: Transcendence, the idea of generational sacrifice for the benefit of future generations; and Preservation, the challenge of preserving the memory of those who had sacrificed themselves for the rights of others. In the end, my publisher and I decided that each theme would be better served by its own book.  So, while transcendence remains the theme of Neespaugot, a second volume, due out next year and titled The Onion Road Legacy, will be dedicated to the theme of preservation.

It’ll come as no surprise to anyone who has read the book that my favorite characters are women.  Melba Blue Jay, Lydia Freeman, Della Osborne and Ruth Roxxmott embody the nobility of spirit that I like to write about.  Steadfast, selfless and on their own, these strong women confront head-on the obstacles which threaten to severe any hope of transcendence.   

TR: How much time and effort went into your research for the book?

JM: Loads. The story spans 400 years of American history and required a good deal of preliminary reading and referencing to line up dates and events and recreate the sights and sounds of the different historical periods covered in the book.  It was actually a lot of fun to immerse myself in the mores and parlance of the racial and ethnic groups being described, from early colonial times through 19th Century Irish and Chinese immigration.

TR: What is your favorite scene in the book? Why?

JM: Well, this is like being asked to choose your favorite kid.  Nonetheless, I do have a tender spot for the scene in which a very pregnant Kate Coughlin crosses town on foot to deliver a stolen pound of meat to Lydia Freeman. The scene works as a slow motion video of the city: the opulent mansions on Pickworth Point Peninsula, the stretch of land separating the north and south bays; Grover Wharf bustling with ships and foul-mouthed sailors; the historic Sentinel Hill and its Revolutionary-period cannons trained on the Atlantic.  Also, I like the contrast between the nostalgic atmosphere and Kate’s cutthroat scheme to hoodwink Lydia Freeman.

TR: Tell us about your cover. Did you design it yourself?

JM: The cover, a rich tapestry of old photos, was the brilliant idea of my publisher Anita Kulina of Brandt Street Press.  My idea had been to display only the “Indian’s coin”, the artifact engraved with the seal of Massachusetts Bay Colony, which ties the story together and represents its overarching theme of transcendence.  Fortunately, Anita’s vision prevailed.  The snapshots speak volumes about the country’s history of race relations and immigration.  By the way, the seal actually did make it onto the cover – it is the “O” in title.  A final anecdote: when the cover design was finished, the publisher informed me that the hands cupping the photographs belonged to a woman of Italian descent, thus adding another layer to the ethnic tapestry that is Neespaugot.

TR: What kind of message do you try to instill in your writing?

JM: Tolerance, hope and the indomitable human spirit which, as I mentioned, is best typified by strong selfless women.

TR: I always enjoy looking at the names that authors choose to give their characters. Where do you derive the names of your characters? Are they based on real people you knew or now know in real life? How do you create names for your characters?

JM: Generally, I write out a character’s profile before affixing a name, then wait for inspiration while the personality develops.  However, such was not the case with many of Neespaugot’s 19th century characters, whose names I drew from a copy of my own genealogical tree.  The document, stretching back to 1794, was full of names belonging to ancestors I knew nothing about. It was highly rewarding for me to flesh out their respective personas and give them voices.

About John MugglebeeNeespaugot: Legend of the Indian's Coin by John Mugglebee

John Mugglebee is a racial and ethnic jigsaw puzzle. His heritage, in chronological order, includes Native American, African American, Scots-Irish, Chinese and Russian Jew. John has said there were two major factors that shaped him as a person and a writer. One was “Being colored but not knowing which color.”

The other was upheaval. Born in Massachusetts, at age eleven he was uprooted to Southern California in the midst of the ’60s race riots. Growing up, John was told family stories that had been passed down for generations.  Neespaugot is loosely based on those stories.

He currently lives in the South of France, where he heads a language laboratory for French Civil Aviation. John graduated from Dartmouth and earned a master’s in creative writing from Colorado State University. His previous novel, Renaissance in Provence, was published in 2004.

Facebook: www.facebook.com/john.mugglebee
Twitter: https://twitter.com/MugglebeeJohn

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Giveaway Neespaugot: Legend of the Indian’s Coin by John Mugglebee

This giveaway is for the choice of a print or ebook copy of the book.  Print is open to the U.S. only and ebook is open worldwide.  This giveaway ends on October 31, 2017 at midnight pacific time.  Entries are accepted via Rafflecopter only.

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Neespaugot: Legend of the Indian's Coin by John Mugglebee


 White Lies by Susan BarrettWhite Lies by Susan Barrett

Publisher:  Create Space (August 30, 2016)
Category: Literary Fiction, Women’s Fiction; Contemporary Fiction; Family Saga
Tour Date: April/May, 2017
ISBN: 978-1536806847
Available in: Print & ebook,  164 Pages

White Lies

The story is told from three perspectives: that of Beth, the natural mother of Tess, Liz, the adoptive mother, and Tess herself.  The reader’s sympathy is engaged with each woman in turn, as the intricacies of the plot demonstrate how nature and nurture interplay in the formation of personality.

Beth is a guest at a wedding. The bride is Tess, her natural daughter, who’d been adopted as a baby. During the moments leading up to the marriage ceremony, Beth remembers the lifetime events that have led to her present state of sick fear. Recent revelations have made her suspect that the bridegroom is the first child she’d given up for adoption, and therefore Tess’s half-brother. Will she speak of this impediment to matrimony, as invited by the priest, or forever hold her peace?

White Lies gives the answer in a way that reveals the complexities of truth-telling in the context of parenthood and adoption.  An entertaining page-turner, the novel also traces the social changes in family life over the last fifty years.

Praise for White Lies by Susan Barrett

“A beautifully written study of motherhood, loss and what makes us who we are. The characters are deftly drawn and the writer clearly knows her subject. The narrative is expertly woven and fast-paced, delivering pain and joy blow by blow. Sharp and incisive, heartbreaking and so relevant to today.”-Vanessa de Haan

“A beautifully written, sensitive, yet amusing, and intriguing, tale around a subject that is rarely covered in literature. A delight to read.”- Amazon Customer

“This is a gripping read. It is not only relevant to those who have been involved in adoption but to all of us. It raises questions about families, about the fragility and power of maternal bonds, about love and disappointment. It charts with particular accuracy the difficulties of the tangled web of secrecy and complication that was characteristic of adoption in the mid-twentieth century. It keeps you guessing to the very end!”-Sally Woods

“I’m looking forward to seeing how the book group I belong to find this.   I was quickly gripped by it, feeling for the central characters, all of them very real. I partly wanted to read slowly to enjoy it, confident there would be a satisfying, un-folding, but partly wanted to race to find out what happened. Will enjoy reading it again.”-Amazon Customer

Interview With Susan Barrett

How much time and effort went into your research for the book?

I’m not one of those writers who spend a great deal of time and effort on research.  I don’t write the sort of books that need to be firmly rooted in a historical period or a particular environment, outside and beyond the author’s immediate knowledge and experience.  My material comes from my own lifetime’s experiences.  That doesn’t mean my writing is autobiographical.  Rather, what I’ve learnt, where I’ve been, who I’ve met, the experiences I’ve had – all raw material goes into the pot, gets cooked and forgotten, only to emerge, maybe years later, transformed to suit the fiction.

 White Lies, in particular, is drawn from the first-hand experience of being an adoptive parent.  My interest has always been in the interplay of nature and nurture in the development of personality. Also, I wanted to show the different perspectives of the triad, those of the natural and adoptive mothers and the adoptee.  Another aspect I wanted to describe was the different attitudes to adoption, and the circumstances which lead to it, over the last fifty years. 

What are you currently working on?

Before Christmas I began a new novel which I call “Greek Gold”.   So far I have written the first three chapters, about 11,000 words of what is likely to be an 80,000 word novel.  The previous novels I have written have all been around this length.  The plot of “Greek Gold” is fairly well outlined in my mind but I know it will develop and change as I write.  I find the fiction I write takes shape much in the way a river takes shape from the rivulets that appear at its source before they all come together in the main body of water.  Unfortunately, the flow of this present novel had to stop in February with a visit to our son in New Zealand, followed by an emergency admission to hospital for me.  Now I’ll be getting back to it, and I’m looking forward to that, in an apprehensive sort of way.  Will the streams have dried up in the interim?

 What is your favourite scene in the book?  Why?

Using my memory as a prompt, I might have chosen a scene when Tess, now adult, remembers gathering greens with a local friend on the Greek island where she lived as a child with her adoptive parents.  I like to recapture snippets from our own past to fictionalise as they need to be for the novel.  However, riffling through the book, I came upon a more substantial scene, conjured entirely from my imagination.  In this, Tess, the adopted daughter of Liz, meets her natural mother Beth in a café in London.  This was a challenge to write.  It’s hard to imagine what it must feel like to be adopted, as Tess was, or to have to give your baby up for adoption, as Beth had to.  

I’d written the first section of the book from the point of view of Beth, so I felt I knew her well.  Tess was more difficult.  The scene lies near the beginning of her section, which is the final one.  Still, she’d begun to gather substance in Liz’s section, and she was ready for the page.  Now, looking back at the novel, I consider the three characters are drawn vividly and credibly enough to convince a reader of their fictional reality. 

 How do you create names for your characters?

 Usually the names come easily when I conjure up the character.  The factors that I take into account are their age, their background, the context of the time, and their parents.  I ask myself – what would the parents of this character have wanted to call their child?  That raises the question: do people become the sort of people who are called by that name?  Another question to consider is: would this character have changed his name?  A girl called Willow by her alternative life style-leaning parents might want to become much more ordinary as a schoolgirl by calling herself Ann.  Vice versa, too. 

 A writer can convey a great deal about a character through their name and their attitude to it.  The name Clyde comes to me now, as in this example of how a name can inspire an image:

 Clyde is obviously an insurance salesman living in Columbus, Ohio.  His hair is thinning but he can train a handful from low down on the right hand side of his scalp to the left.  In the mirror this does the job.  However, by peering at his reflection, he’s made two deep lines pucker between his eyebrows and the worry of that makes him worry even more.  Yesterday, his boss, back at main office, made a remark about age in Clyde’s hearing.

 Writing this answer, I’m reminded that I don’t always find names easy.  In my present novel, “Greek Gold”, I’ve changed the main character’s name several times, and I’m still not entirely happy with it.   He started as Denys, and then became Steve.  Now he’s Alex.  He’ll stay Alex for the next chapter and he may persuade me that he is an Alex.

 Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from “White Lies”

There’s an actress who appears in television dramas over here, Olivia Colman, who would make a good adult Beth.  She wouldn’t be able to play the teenage Beth, though.   A more widely known American actress who could play the part would be Renee Zellweger. 

 If you could meet 3 people living, dead, or fictional, who would they be?

 Barack Obama, for his gift for speaking and writing.  I read his autobiography as soon as he became president.

Jane Austen, for her quiet modesty, wit, gentle satire, character descriptions, understanding of human nature and her writing style.  Visiting her home in Chawton, you can feel her presence.  I would love to have been a friend of hers, living round the corner.

My last person is Tess of “White Lies”.  In my imagination, she is not a bit like my own daughter (by adoption).  I had to forget Sophie when I thought up Tess.   If I met her, I’d be able to ask her if I got her right.   A strange idea, to ask a fictional character how real I’d made them!

Susan Barrett, March 15th 2017

About Susan Barrett White Lies by Susan Barrett

Born in Plymouth, Devon in 1938, Susan Barrett began writing fiction in the 1960s while living on a Greek island.  Her first novel was published by Michael Joseph in 1969.  Film rights were sold and renewed over several years. She went on to write six more novels which were published with mainstream publishers in hardback and paperback in UK and USA.   A book on Greece’s landscapes, flora and fauna, illustrated in watercolours by her artist husband Peter Barrett, was published by Harrap Columbus in 1986.  They have also produced many children’s books together, published in the US.  In the 1990s she trained in humanistic counselling and gestalt psychotherapy and has practised as a counsellor for the last twenty years.  Her latest two novels and a work of non-fiction are available as ebooks and in paperback editions.

Website http://www.aliveinww2.com
Twitter @SusanBarrett192
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/writersreadersdirect
Google+ https://plus.google.com/107631556274786388597

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Giveaway White Lies by Susan Barrett

This giveaway is for 2 print copies and 6 ebook copies of ‘White Lies’, for a total of 8 winners. Print is open to Canada, UK, and the U.S. only however, ebook is open worldwide. This giveaway ends on June 1, 2017 at midnight pacific time. Entries are accepted via Rafflecopter only.

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White Lies by Susan Barrett

Blue Hour by Vicki RighettiniBlue Hour by Vicki Righettini

Publisher: Mill City Press (Nov 17, 2015)
Category: Historical Fiction, Romance, Pioneer Woman, Strong Female Character, Western
Tour date Mar/Apr, 2017
ISBN: 978-1634138291
Available in Print & ebook, 560 pages

The Blue Hour

Description of Blue Hour by Vicki Righettini

IN THIS EPIC TALE of love, loss, and redemption, the year is 1861, a time when women are expected to be married by a certain age. At 26, spinster Emily Wainwright has no reason to believe her sheltered life will ever change—until the charming Samuel Todd unexpectedly crosses her path.

Samuel yearns to homestead and start a family in Oregon, but he first needs to find a wife. Blinded by Samuel’s good looks, and grasping at her final chance to have a husband and children, Emily accepts his marriage proposal. However, Samuel is not the man she thought he was, and her marriage becomes a cold, cruel prison, offering her no solace amidst the hardships of farm life.

When Samuel dies and a second chance at love and happiness arrives in the form of farmhand Cole Walker, Emily must overcome her bitter past—or risk losing Cole and the life she has always dreamed of having.

Praise for Blue Hour by Vicki Righettini

“All of Righettini’s characters are well-rounded, in particular Emily herself, whose personal growth throughout the novel is richly detailed and memorable.”-Historical Novel Society

“This novel is about second chances and the courage needed to take them.  The most compelling aspects of The Blue Hour are not the vivid, expansive descriptions of life on the vast (and seemingly never-ending) Oregon Trail or the well-drawn characters who dance (and often trudge) between hardship and hope. Instead, the brightest lights burst forth from nuanced moments tucked throughout the story.
Read this book if you want to immerse yourself in the wilds of western America in the 1860s or get lost in the even denser wilderness of love and loss. Maybe this recommendation needs to be simplified even further – read this book. It’s exhilarating to root for a character who is trying to navigate uncharted territory and make the greatest discovery of all.”-Underground Book Reviews

“The Blue Hour is one of the finest historical novels I’ve ever read. You will love the author’s writing and the detailed historical references. The characters are vividly portrayed, and I felt as if I knew them well. Long after I’d finished reading, I still thought about the story. It’s part adventure, part love story, and part survival. Highly recommended.”-Ann Creel, Author

Interview with Vicki Righettini


1- Which character do you love to hate?

It would have to be Samuel Todd. Despite the fact that he is thoroughly despicable, or maybe because of it, I enjoyed being inside his head, hearing his thoughts, seeing the way his mind worked. It reminded me of times I’ve played unlikeable or villainous characters onstage – the audience may hate them, but you as an actor don’t have that luxury. To create a multi-dimensional character, you have to understand and justify their choices, no matter how heinous, and that creates a sympathy with the character you can’t get watching from the outside. If readers dislike or even hate Samuel, I’ve done my job as a storyteller, but I also hope they see a glimmer of decency in him, however faint. It was sad for me when he’d served his purpose in the story and it was time to let him go. Simply put, villains are fun to write.

2- Where did you get the names for your characters in The Blue Hour?

Emily is named after my maternal great-grandmother, who lived to the age of ninety-six; I was lucky to have her in my life until my mid-20s. Emily was supposed to be my name, too. As the story goes, the whole time my mother was pregnant with me, it was “Emily, Emily, Emily.” But when I was born and the maternity nurse asked her what she planned to name me, without missing a beat she said: “Vicki.” She never explained why.

Andrew was the name of my father’s older brother. My mother wanted to name my younger brother after him, but my Italian grandmother insisted it was bad luck to name a baby after someone who was killed in WWII. So Mom named my brother David. (Just think, we could have been Em and Andy.) Norman is the first name of my maternal great-grandfather (Emily’s husband). I decided to use it for Andrew’s surname.

I’ve always believed I chose Samuel’s name at random, but have since changed my mind about that. Samuel’s character is a composite of three men I have known, but he’s largely based on my father, who had an identical twin named, you guessed it: Samuel. The two were so identical that as a kid I couldn’t tell them apart. I think perhaps my subconscious mind was at work when I chose Samuel’s name.

3- How much time and effort went into your research for the book?

In some respects, I’ve been researching this book all my life. As a child I was fascinated by the Western Expansion and the pioneers. I also come from a pioneering family: my mother’s side came to Pennsylvania from Germany in the 1700s; then moved to Kentucky and Illinois in the 1800s; then in the 1940s my mother and grandmother came to California, where I was born. I always imagined I’d have been one of those hardy pioneers, but after researching the book, I’m no longer so sure!

When I started the book in 2001, I wrote the prologue and the first couple of chapters before doing any formal research. Once I realized I had a story, I knew I had to put it into historical context, and to get my facts right. I began by visiting the End of the Oregon Trail Museum in Oregon City, where at the time there was a wonderful exhibit on childbirth practices of the era, home building, and details of daily life. I took copious notes and came home with a stack of books from their bookstore, including maps of the Oregon Trail, 1860s cookbooks, and books on Victorian era customs and style of dress. I also raided local bookstores for herbalism manuals, 19th century poetry, and more books about the Trail. My great-aunt also shared a journal from a family member who lived back then, which gave me a feel for the daily life and speech style of the period.

In all, I spent about six months poring over these materials and cataloging my notes, then about a year finishing the first draft and doing bits of additional research as questions arose. (For example, I wanted Samuel and Emily to celebrate Thanksgiving in Oregon, until my research showed that it wasn’t a national holiday until much later.)

During revisions I was aware that the second part didn’t adequately portray the hardship and sacrifice of the journey. Frankly, it sounded no more difficult than driving cross-country in a car without air-conditioning. So, I spent another year researching and rewriting that section until I was satisfied. Together, the writing, research, and revisions took about seven years from start to finish (not counting the eight years the first draft sat in a drawer, waiting for me to gather the courage to work on it). I was still fact-checking right up until publication, certain that some expert on the Oregon Trail would nail me on some tiny detail. It hasn’t happened yet, but…

4- Tell us about your cover. Did you design it yourself?

The cover was a joint effort between the designer at the publisher and myself. I knew I didn’t want covered wagons, women in gingham and bonnets, or cabins in the distance with tendrils of chimney smoke. In other words, no pioneer clichés. I was advised that omitting these images might confuse potential readers, but I felt strongly that Emily’s story is universal enough to appeal to a wider readership than just fans of pioneer tales.

It was challenging, however, getting the designer to deliver what I did want; not because he didn’t understand, but because it’s impossibly hard to describe a vision. It’s like trying to describe music, or flavor, or scent. He delivered some great artwork, just not what I envisioned.

So I took the bull by the horns and spent hours scouring the internet until I found the perfect image. Once the designer had that in hand, the rest was easy. I love the cover and think he did a terrific job. And the argument that it would confuse readers? I’ve had more people tell me they were drawn to the book precisely because of the beautiful cover. A picture really is worth a thousand words.

5- What are you currently working on?

Several readers have asked for a sequel to The Blue Hour, and it thrills me that they care deeply about the characters and want more. I made a stab at it, and have about forty manuscript pages, but the story wasn’t grabbing me. If I’m going to spend five or so years working on a book, it has to be something I’m obsessed with. Also, in writing The Blue Hour, I set many family and personal issues to rest. Now that I’ve done battle with those ghosts, I feel the need to move on. Perhaps with the passing of time, I’ll revisit Griffin Gulch and its denizens.

Right now, I’m switching genres and working on a mystery series that takes place in Portland, Oregon, a city I know and love. My amateur sleuth is Camilla Reed, a free-lance singer and voice teacher. Camilla is a transplanted Texan: funny, earthy, and smart, with a heart as big as her home state. But she just can’t seem to get her love life together. Her next-door neighbor, Ted Sullivan, a retired Boston cop and fellow transplant, would like to be more to her than just a friend, but he seems to mainly end up helping her with cases and house repairs.

An added detail is that Camilla is prone to migraine headaches. This puts her at a disadvantage, but it also grants her unusual powers of perception. Her heightened sense of smell, hearing, and other sensitivities, especially right before an attack, turn out to be remarkable sleuthing tools. This fits into the category of “write what you know.” As a chronic migraineur, I have years of personal experience to draw from. I’m enjoying turning this affliction around and showing it in a positive light.

In all, I’m planning a series of three books. The first manuscript is finished, and the second is underway. I’m having a blast writing these stories, so stay tuned.

6- I always enjoy looking at the names that authors choose to give their characters. Where do you derive the names of your characters?  Are they based on real people you knew or now know in real life? How do you create names for your characters?

I place tremendous significance on names and their meanings, including images a name conjures up. As stated earlier, I specifically chose names from my family for the central characters in The Blue Hour. But for the rest, and for naming in general, I use several methods:

  1. Pick something out of the air. I trust my intuition and this works most of the time.
  2. When that fails, I check one of one of three retired address books I keep in my writing desk. Many names in The Blue Hour came from there.
  3. If neither of those work, I pull out my book of baby names and page through until I find a name that fits the character’s personality and status.
  4. If I need a name from a specific culture or era, I’ll search the internet, looking for names with unambiguous pronunciation, and that won’t be too tricky to spell repeatedly.

Whichever method I use, I always check the origin and meaning. It’s uncanny how close I often get to the character’s traits without realizing it. For example, Emily is German for “industrious;” Andrew is Greek for “strong, manly, and courageous;” Darwin is English for “dear friend.”

Honestly, I can spend an entire day just on names!


About Vicki RighettiniBlue Hour by Vicki Righettini

Vicki Righettini is an award-winning, nationally produced playwright, and her recently-published historical novel, The Blue Hour, was a badge winner and Pitch Perfect Pick at Underground Books. Originally from Los Angeles, Vicki lived in Oregon for over twenty years, where she developed an abiding love of the land and the Oregon way of life. Before turning to full-time writing, she worked for forty years as a singer/actress and performing arts instructor. Her blog, Between a Book and a Hard Place, focuses on the ups and downs of the creative process (http://www.vickirighettini.com). Vicki lives in San Diego with her software-developer, Jeopardy!-champion husband, and the world’s shyest cat.

Facebook: http://bit.ly/2h2UZGy
Twitter: https://twitter.com/VRighettini

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Giveaway Blue Hour by Vicki Righettini

This giveaway is for the choice of one print or ebook.  Print is open to Canada and the U.S. only however, ebook is open worldwide.  This giveaway ends on April 28, 2017 at midnight pacific time.  Entries are accepted via Rafflecopter only.
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Blue Hour by Vicki Righettini