Maddie Needs a Rabies Shot or: The Name Game

Maddie relaxing on her Coolaroo—in advance of her recent trip to Betty Ford.

Let me clarify.

This would NOT be the erstwhile Dr. Madeleine H. Stevenson—the uncommonly tall, exceptionally accomplished, amazingly beneficent, freakishly talented, and smokin’ hot protagonist of JERICHO and its soon-to-be-completed (or I will have to enter a witness relocation program) sequel, AFTERMATH.

No. This would be the stalwart Red Dog™ whose strength and goodness inspired the character. HER name is Maddie—or, as I choose to identify her, “The Bestest Dog That Ever Was” (hereinafter cited as TBDTEW).

If you love JERICHO, you need to know about the TBDTEW.

Many people ask me how I come up with names for my characters. Well. My mom asked me the other day on the phone…so I guess that counts. And it’s true: I do name many of them for significant figures in my life. And not all of those are laudatory. For example: Grace Warner, the protagonist of SIDECAR’s “Falling From Grace,” is actually named after my dog, Gracie. And like Gracie, she has a character rife with angst, suspicion and self-doubt—although she does not, to my knowledge, enjoy chewing on smoked cow hooves.

Gracie: implied threats abound.

And Albatross—the Golden Retriever who shares Shawn Harris’s life in SIDECAR’s novella “Bottle Rocket,” is named after my dog Allie (nickname: Miss South Carolina…don’t ask).

And then there’s Grendel, the Nine O’Clock Dog in SIDECAR’s “Falling From Grace,” who shares the affectionate nickname I coined for my former boss. In fact, the “Nine O’Clock Dog” really does exist—it rides past our office building in the open bed of a pickup truck each and every weekday morning at the crack of nine—barking like hell all the way down Main Street. At the first sound of it’s staccato bark, a chorus of “NINE O’CLOCK DOG!” rings out across the building.

It’s nine o’clock somewhere.

SIDECAR’s Patrick—Kate Winston’s dog with the lopsided smile—was named for a jaunty and handsome canine companion from Salem’s life. [n.b. I wanted to include Patrick’s photo, but it is copyrighted on Salem’s blog, TRR. She’s out right now buying sauerkraut at Dollar General—so I couldn’t get her “express written permission” in time to include it in this post.]

Pete, Maddie’s dog in JERICHO, is named for my buddy Jim’s English Sheepdog—a big and burly mountain dog who passed away many years ago.

David’s high strung, high maintenance, high EVERYTHING dog, Astrid—who wreaks abject havoc in Maddie’s household in the JERICHO sequel, AFTERMATH—is named after…. Well. In fact, Astrid isn’t named after anyone. She just kind of showed up in the book with that name. When you meet her, you’ll understand.

Sometimes, I name characters for good causes—like Charlie and Harriet in AFTERMATH. They got their monikers from two good and generous souls who donated buckets of money to a scholarship fund during the recent GCLS Character Auction.

And sometimes, I just invent names that seem to suit the quirky or unique personality of the character. This being the case, you can imagine my surprise when the New York State Thruway toll booth worker who leaned out of her stall to take my $4.15 wore a name tag that read “Roma Jean.”

Allie during a bout of ennui.

Seriously? I guess life really can imitate art.

But having the godlike power to name characters is fun, and it’s one of the most important weapons in your writer’s arsenal. In fact, it calls to mind that wonderful (?) 60s standard, “The Name Game.” Remember that one? Singer Shirley Ellis also called it “The Banana Song”—and we wore our 45 rpm copy of it to a nub. My brother and I used to annoy the crap out of our mother by singing it nonstop in the back seat of the station wagon during those hideous trips to the Green Stamp Store in Jamestown, NY. Here’s how it worked:

Let’s do Maddie.

Maddie, Maddie, bo-batie,

Banana-fana fo-fatie




The permutations are endless.

Try this at work…your colleagues will LOVE you for it.  In fact, I used this VERY technique to amuse Salem during our recent sixteen hour drive home from North Hero, Vermont. And as soon as she emerges from those five-point restraints, she’ll probably blog about it, too.

But today, we take TBDTEW to the vet for her rabies shot. Then we head to the local farmer’s market for blackberries and Silver Queen corn.

It’s gonna be a great night….






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    • S.Marie on September 11, 2015 at 7:54 am
    • Reply

    Ann McMan
    This morning I finished AFTERMATH, of course this after reading JERICHO.

    Loved the books immensely! Please ,Please, Please give us more of Maddie and Syd and their lives.

    You have a new fan in me!


  1. Moi? never! I only needle and prod at you bequest because I know how very much you want to please and delight, not only your very patient editor…but also your thousands of *adoring* fans…

    Back to work AMFA…700+ words is over two pages of lost dialogue…

    • Kay on August 6, 2012 at 7:51 pm
    • Reply

    I adore your blogs on any given day. But one about dogs—extra extra sweet!

    (and educational. I did not know Dollar General had saurkraut.)


    1. Oh, god. It’s the BEST sauerkraut on the planet. If someone tells me that Dollar General discriminates against homosexuals or gives corporate profits to hate groups, I may just have to slit my throat….

  2. Too flippin funny, AMFA!
    Those sweet babies are mighty lucky. Sure was a nice blog, and an awful lotta words….just sayin’

    Keep up the good work, Amiga.

    1. Seven hundred and forty-two words, to be exact. And that’s not counting headline or photo captions. BTW…my editor LOVES the fact that you are busting my butt whenever I work on something that is NOT Aftermath! Are you two in cahoots? It could happen….

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