Guest Chick: Denise Swanson

Jennifer here, offering a warm welcome to Denise Swanson! She’s here to share about the fascinating hunt for great names. Thanks, Denise!

The Name Game

I’ve always been fascinated with names. Maybe because I always hated my first name. Granted, Denise is better than the one my parents first considered—Ernestina after my father. But I would have much preferred a more elegant name like Kathryn or Laura, which were my grandmothers’ names.

As a teenager, I used to write down the names of characters from books that I read. I had a system where I would group the names under heroes, heroines, and villains. I still have those index cards and find that my taste has changed a bit, but not too much.

I also collected baby-naming books, which turned out to be quite a shock for my mother when she discovered my cache. She was convinced I was pregnant, and since I was thirteen at the time, she nearly had a heart attack.

Once I started writing, I finally had a legitimate reason to continue to buy baby-naming books. Two of my favorites are Beyond Jennifer and Jason and The Baby Name Personality Survey. But I like the traditional ones, as well.

One of the best parts of starting to write a new book is picking out the characters’ names. Until I find the right name for a character, he or she doesn’t come alive to me. And even though names are important to me, I really goofed in my first book, Murder of a Small-Town Honey. If I’d had any idea that Wally was going to become a love interest for Skye, I would have chosen another name. Like the Johnny Cash song goes—Blake or Caleb or Max—anything but Wally. The worst part about choosing Wally is that I went to kindergarten with a Wally and everyone is now convinced I was secretly in love with him. Geesh!

Another lesson I learned from early books is that like clothes, names go in and out of fashion, and it’s important to give your characters names that are appropriate for their ages. For instance, most Debbies, Nancys, Barbaras, and Denises are from the Baby Boomer generation. I’ve made a few goofs in this area, as well. But luckily, I found an online site that lists what names were popular during a particular year and try to make sure I check it out before I commit to a name.

Still, I love names. And in writing The Right to Bear Charms, the newest book in my Forever Charmed paranormal cozy mystery series, it was a ton of fun to select the character names. They all have a certain significance and give a hint as to that particular character’s secret power.

In the first book of the series, A Call to Charms, my sleuth starts out as Lexie Green, but finds out she’s actually Alexandra Ravenscraft. And if that wasn’t enough to blow her mind, she also learns that she’s the Ravenscraft Shield. An entity that wields magical powers to be used for the benefit of the citizens of Echo Springs, her new hometown.

How would you feel if you discovered that you weren’t who you thought you were?


New York Times Bestseller author Denise Swanson was a practicing psychologist for twenty-two years. She writes the Scumble River, Devereaux’s Dime Store, Chief-to-Go, and Forever Charmed mysteries, was well as two contemporary romance connected series and apocalyptic novels. Her books all feature small-town heroines with lots of heart.

Denise’s books have been finalists for the Agatha, Mary Higgins Clark, RT Magazine’s Career Achievement, and Daphne du Maurier Awards. She has won the Reviewers Choice Award and was a BookSense 76 Top Pick.

Denise Swanson lives in rural Illinois with her husband, classical composer David Stybr.

For more information, please check her website. or find Denise on Facebook at!/DeniseSwansonAuthor or follow her on twitter at DeniseSwansonAu


Who says murder can’t be stylish?

The whole idea of even owning a business, let alone one that had an out-of-the-ordinary sideline like producing charms for those in need, is still new to Lexie Ravenscraft.  A few months ago, out of the blue, she’d received a letter informing her that she had inherited her great-aunt Pandora Ravenscraft’s estate.

Unfortunately, she’d soon discovered that her old life had been one big lie and the picture of herself as a wealthy heiress was about as far from reality as her name.

Turns out, she wasn’t Lexie Green, she was Alexandra Ravenscraft. And if that wasn’t enough to blow her mind, she was the Ravenscraft Shield. An entity that wielded magical powers to be used for the benefit of the citizens of Echo Springs, her new hometown.

Although Lexie is beginning to settle into her new role, there is still a lot she doesn’t understand. While she’s aware that having supernatural skills is apparently the norm in the community, it’s considered impolite, or maybe even dangerous, to ask what type of abilities her fellow Echo Springians possessed.

Which is why rescuing her mother from the Wizard of Washington, figuring out how said Wizard ended up dead, and keeping Echo Springs from the dark magic is so difficult.  





25 thoughts on “Guest Chick: Denise Swanson

  1. Welcome, Denise!

    I always check the Social Security listing for a particular year before choosing a character name, but I like to pick one further down the list.

    And there are days I wish I was someone else!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Lately I’ve been writing ripped from the headlines-type books, so I’ve been selecting names for my villains using the initials of actual persons. In my latest book, Sister!, the villains are Jerome Ellis and Geraldine McCauley. Who are they based on?

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Denise, I completely agree with you about characters not coming fully alive until they have the right names. I absolutely cannot write them until I’ve chosen something “perfect” (well, in my mind, anyway). My dad badly wanted to name me Bridget. Funny, because lately I’ve been creating characters for a new Irish series. None named Bridget so far.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for being here, Denise! I think it’d be weird to not be the person I thought I was all along…but maybe exciting as well?

    As for the name game, I also collect baby books and old phone books. Plus, I look online and also find myself scanning the credits list after a film.


      1. My husband gets annoyed with me because I ALWAYS want to watch the entire credits. Some great names there!

        I also use obituaries and the “Character Naming Sourcebook” put out by Writer’s Digest and Sherrilyn Kenyon. It’s organized in a zillion different ways like by country of origin, surnames, meaning of names, top ten most popular from the 1800s … really useful.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks for hanging out today with the Chicks. Some characters come to me fully fleshed out — complete with a name. Maybe that’s what happened with Wally, and you really didn’t have a choice about his name. I also check the Social Security name lists.
    Sometimes I’m well into a manuscript before I settle on a name for a character. I was two-thirds into My Fair Latte before I decided on a name for the victim. I just referred to him as DG (Dead Guy) for a long time!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That made me laugh, Vicki, since I do the same. In my new series my placeholder was PITA (for pain in the ass reporter). When I finally decided on a name, I used CaPITAno for their last name, mainly so I could remember it!

      Liked by 2 people

  6. I was just talking about naming characters at a book reading I did last Saturday, and about how much fun it is. I love going online to baby-naming sites, or to one about surnames in Liguria (where my protag’s family hails from). And sometimes I simply stare at my bookshelf until a name strikes me. I once even named a character after a new product line I saw at my local Safeway grocery store.

    Thanks so much for visiting the Chicks today, Denise, and congrats on the new book!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Denise, what a great post! That’s hilarious about your mother’s reaction to your baby naming books – in hindsight, I’m sure! I commiserate with you re: what your name could have been. My mother agreed to follow my dad’s Jewish family’s tradition of naming after a late relative… until she heard the name she’d be giving me was Edna. No way! she said. So they compromised and used the first initial. Hence, I’m Ellen.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Yay to lists. And give the unlikely names like “Wally” a chance. I’m sometimes tempted to use real names when they’re unforgettable, like Sandy Beach (someone in my grade school).

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Hi, Denise! Naming characters is such a unique adventure. I’ve had some of my characters go through three or four names before I land on one the character and I can both agree upon. Cheers!


  10. Denise, I looooooooooove the character name game! Naming characters is one of my favorite things to do!

    I sort of found out I wasn’t who I thought I was. After my dad traced his Armenian lineage, he discovered that his grandfather had changed both is first and last names. The former was in an effort to Americanize, but the latter is a mystery since it’s also an Armenian surname!


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