Books by Melissa Bowersock

Saturday, August 8, 2015

A Rose is a Rose: What's in a Name?

Phone Book photo by Melissa Bowersock phonebk2I’ve just started writing a new book. I’ve had the main idea swimming around in my brain for a month or two, but just in the past couple weeks have I put together some research that is vital to the story, plus some ideas of who the main characters are and what the arc of their story will be. So far I’ve got a couple thousand words down, and within that short period of time, I’ve changed several characters names two or three times.
I love this phase of writing. I love naming my characters. At this point, I will happily, almost giddily, watch the news, a golf tournament, any sports channel with a crawler just so I can peruse the names that flow by. I could very literally sit down and read a phone book for a couple hours and be happy as a clam. For a woman who’s never been pregnant, I have an obscene number of baby name books.
Mahan, Riggs, Spieth, Charleston, Wertzel, Howland, Grogan. I love playing with the names. I test out several for each character, some monosyllabic, some polysyllabic. Why does the number of syllables matter? Let’s play a game. What sounds better?
Rhett Smith
Rhett Butler
Rhett Farthington
Of course we’re all going to recognize Rhett Butler and most likely that sounds the best to us primarily because that’s the name we know. But note how the various full names roll off the tongue, how we emphasize one syllable over another and how it all works together — or not. A couple books ago, I had a character named Lasta (long story, but it’s in the book). For her last name, I wanted something short and rather harsh to match her difficult life. I finally settled on Beck. Lasta Beck. I liked the punch of the last syllable, the hard edge to it. Lasta Purcell would have softened her name and would not have worked near as well for what I wanted, which leads to another consideration.
The sound of the consonants in the name is important. The name of Severus Snape in the Harry Potter series gives us clues about his personality before we ever see him. The sibilance of the name and the similarity of Snape to snake all work to suggest someone evil, menacing, and manipulative. The shortness of Snape gives it a brittle quality (like snap), as if he might lash out at any time. And of course finding out later that Snape is not the untrustworthy snake-in-the-grass he was made out to be provides tension and revelation later in the series.
Which leads to another point. Do we want the name to reveal something about our character? Or do we want to set up something of a smoke screen? If my main character is a private detective named Rip Bolger or Clash Callahan, we get a certain idea from those tough, manly names. But what if I name him Alfonse Dardanelle? Or Willis Altamonte? It all depends on whether I want to lead the reader toward the real person behind the name or not. If I don’t want to give anything away, I might name him something rather bland — John Carpenter — and let his character develop organically from the story.
Another consideration is if the character’s nationality or heritage is important to the story. If I give my character a last name of O’Neill, Weiss, Gunther, Xi, or Chopra, that might be enough to quickly give a suggestion of the character’s physical or emotional make-up. Again, as above, it could be a clue to the character’s personality — or not. Mixing nationalities — Padraig Nguyen — could actually point up a conflict in the character’s background, or an interesting story about his beginnings. That’s the fun thing about names. They can add a huge amount of depth to our characters and really make them memorable.
I’d love to have you tell me some of the best (and worst) names you’ve used or seen. And in the meantime I’ll leave you with a little game of what might have been in an alternate universe.
So what’s in a name? You tell me.
Famous TitlesFamous NamesFamous Lines
The Great GillenhamReggie ButlerCall me Rupert.
The Picture of Dorian GerberCindy O’HaraSonia! Hey, Sonia!
Leonard, King of the ApesCaptain ApplebyElementary, my dear Winkleman.
Monica of the d’UrbervillesAtticus PheasantOpen the pod bay doors, Alvin.
Susie’s ChoiceFrank ChristianToughy, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.
The Mystery of Edwin DoobyHester PiffelBond. Freddie Bond.
Dickie CopperfieldShelby HolmesMrs. Dingle said she would buy the flowers herself.
This article was originally published on Indies Unlimited on June 3, 2014

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Shake Up Your Summer Doldrums

Mid-summer blahs. All the big holiday weekends are gone except one. School looms. Jobs are veering into the no-vacation months. What to do?

How about an unexpected ghost story to shake up your summer? 

Matthew Stone doesn't believe in ghosts … until he meets one. He owns a successful business in Lake Havasu, Arizona, home to the famed London Bridge that was brought over stone by stone and rebuilt over the Colorado River. He has a gorgeous girlfriend, a doting mother, and more money than he needs, but no time for stories about the ghosts who were transplanted from England with the famed bridge. When a chance encounter with a female ghost leads to unexpected friendship, Matt and the ghost are forced to rely on each other as they confront the pasts that haunt them.

Sound interesting?

For three days, August 5-7, my e-book Stone's Ghost will be on sale for only 99 cents. I've taken the book out of Kindle Unlimited because it's also available at other outlets, so this is the cheapest you'll find it. If you haven't scooped it up yet, now's the time. 

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Author Interview: Bill Munns

Today I’m sitting down with William (Bill) Munns, author of When Roger Met Patty. No, it’s not exactly a romance. It’s actually a very intensive non-fiction investigation of the famous Bigfoot sighting in Northern California in 1967. You may not remember hearing about it back then, but I’m pretty sure you’ll recognize the most iconic frame of the video that was shot that day.

So, Bill, can you give us a quick rundown of the events of that fateful day as they were reported?

Munns: Roger Patterson had a strong interest in researching the Bigfoot phenomenon for over seven years, and he spent a tremendous amount of time exploring wilderness areas where sightings and trackways were known to have been. Bob Gimlin was a very experienced horseman and had some tracking experience as well, so Roger frequently enlisted Bob’s participation in these excursions. In August, 1967, a trackway was found in the Blue Creek Mountains near Bluff Creek, CA. and Roger was told of this so he decided his next trip would be Northern California in October. Bob Gimlin agreed to come along and other men were invited but couldn’t be away from home for several weeks. So Roger and Bob began exploring the Bluff Creek region in early October and spent weeks searching but finding nothing. On that fateful day, October 20, 1967, they were on horseback riding north along Bluff Creek when they encountered “Patty” (as she is known to Bigfoot researchers), an apparent female Bigfoot. Roger had a 16mm camera loaded and set to film on a moment’s notice, and he grabbed it, chased Patty and filmed as he ran after her, capturing the most controversial home movie in history, the Patterson-Gimlin Film.

What’s the genesis of this book? What made you want to tackle this very controversial subject?

Munns: My interest in the film, and Patty, has been casual since the filming was announced in 1967, because I was in college and studying filmmaking and makeup for films. There was immediate suspicion the film was a hoax, and Patty was just some guy in a fur ape suit, and because I was learning about “creature effects” and ape suits, I was curious about why Patty didn’t look like any ape suits I was aware of. But it wasn’t until around 2008 that I thought about contacting one of the prominent Bigfoot researchers and simply offering my appraisals based on my work as a “creature guy” (a makeup artist who does creatures and special makeup effects). But once I actually researched the film images in depth and the controversies around the filming, I felt that I could make a valuable contribution to this research. Once I applied myself to this project, I soon became recognized as a researcher who could bring a unique perspective and professional expertise to resolving the controversies.

The arguments for and against this being real are very complex. What expertise do you bring to this discussion?

Munns: My expertise in the special makeup effects profession was initially what I felt I could contribute, but as I studied the film controversy more, I realized that there were issues of cameras, lenses, film editing and image analysis that I could also apply to the analysis of this film and the suspicion of hoaxing. In my seven-year effort, I also assembled the finest film image scan database of research material ever held by any researcher, and so I was able to study and analyze issues that no prior researcher could resolve.

I believe the general public thinks the sighting was faked. Can you tell us why you disagree?

Munns: The subject figure in Patterson’s film (called a creature by many) is a real biological entity as she appears, and is not a human in a fur costume, to a certainty. There are many specific aspects of her anatomy which could not be accomplished with a human in a fur costume back in 1967. The most compelling are: (1) The head shape and size presents a challenge for a costume mask that no makeup artist creating ape suits has ever successfully done, even now; (2) the breasts have a fluidity and natural shifting of form when she walks that no costume prosthetics in 1967 could replicate, and this has been tested scientifically; (3) the skin along the side of the torso going down the leg to the knee has an elastic shifting that occurs on real human anatomy, but no fur materials of the 1960s could replicate; (4) the contours of the back and lower spine area have a shape that was never designed into costumes but perfectly matches human anatomy, when the combination of muscle mass, adipose tissue deposits, and posture are all factored together.

All of these considerations scientifically support a real biological body and refute a fur costume worn by a human performer.

There are also many subtle but meaningful facts that can be revealed by analysis of the film simply as filmed footage, and what the camera operator did, and these facts also verify the event was spontaneous, frenzied, and not staged or planned.

What would someone have to do to prove this is all a fake? What would they have to do to prove it’s real?

Munns: To prove the film is a fake, one simply has to find evidence in the film of some kind of act of deliberation on the part of the filmmaker, editing the original before copying, taking more time than just a minute or two for the whole event filming, or some discontinuity between the actions of the camera operator in relation to the actions of the filmed subject. Any of these would be an absolute and factual proof of a faked film, a hoax. But the film has been meticulously examined for such and no evidence was found.

The primary proof that the film is real lies in the analysis of the filmed subject figure, “Patty”, because there are many subtle aspects of her anatomy that simply could not have been created with a human in a fur costume in 1967 (and some couldn’t even be done today). But the proof requires an extensive knowledge of makeup effects technology of the 1960s and few researchers today truly understand how things were done back then. I started makeup work in 1967, so I can confidently say I am truly familiar with the materials, processes, and effects that could be accomplished then.

You’ve got some very technical arguments in your book. Would you say this book is more written for film insiders or for anyone who has an interest in this fascinating subject?

Munns: I tried to find a balance between the general reader and the more technically astute reader, and give both an explanation in layman’s terms, as well as a more detailed and technical explanation. But for the more technical matters, I also tried to include some foundation knowledge to educate the reader as to the basis for the technical discussions. So in many respects, the book is an educational text as well as a remarkable investigation into one of the great mysteries of the 20th century.

What else are you working on? Any more books in the future?

Munns: I am considering a follow-up book with a higher level of technical discussion of the research work, and a primer for future researchers and people wanting to study this in depth. But I also have interest in other varied factual topics, and do enjoy writing fiction stories based on humanistic themes and offering some measure of hope. I am intrigued by what people can accomplish, and I am attracted to ideas that inspire people to reach for the highest accomplishments they are capable of. But this book, this whole endeavor, is quite unique, because there is no other controversy quite as profound and bizarre at the same time. My satisfaction dwells in the confidence that I made a difference, and helped find a truthful answer to a question people have been asking for 48 years.

Bill, thanks very much for taking the time to explain to us about your book and the fascinating mystery it's based on. If people want to find out more about you and the book, where should they look?