It’s All in the Name

Bish Denham is here this week talking about creating characters and giving them their names. And how sometimes they name themselves.

HOWEVER...Late Sunday night, Bish emailed me that "Due to circumstances beyond my control I'm not going to have any internet connection for a few days. Don't really know how long. I'll be there when I can."

So I'll be filling in for her here until she gets reconnected. Y'all will just have to deal :)

UPDATE: Bish is here after all! YAY!!!

Here's Bish.

Thanks for letting Marvin and me visit your blog, Carol! Marvin is really digging hanging out at the Tiki Hut because it reminds him so much of the islands. (Thanks, Bish! You and Marvin are always welcome here.)

It’s All in the Name
People ask me where I get my ideas and how long it’s taken to get something written. Well, A Lizard’s Tail has been simmering for a long time.

It began around 1977 in the Virgin Islands while I was working for a friend who had a ceramics shop. She made souvenir ceramic mugs and other touristy things, for wholesale. I helped with pouring slip, cleaning, and glazing. One slow days we’d sit around playing with clay, making small sculptures, beads, or hand-molding bowls.

One day I “sculpted” a lizard. When it was dry, I glazed it and fired it. It came out looking quite mischievous and obviously needing a name. Another employee, who helped pack and deliver orders to the various stores, was a nice, humorous guy name Marvin.

He saw the lizard and liked it so much I decided to name it after him, to which he replied that Marvin needed a last name. Right then a wind chime tinkled. From out of the blue his full name came to me. Marvin P. Tinkleberry. What the “P” stood for I had no idea, but we all agreed the name suited my little lizard sculpture quite well.

I knew immediately that I had a character for a story.

Early notes indicate that I was thinking of making him a kind of story teller that explained things like, why hibiscuses are red or why lizards do push-ups. But none of those ideas felt right.

And so Marvin slumbered. Later notes talk about him being vain and full of himself. I was getting closer. Then, about ten years ago, the actually idea for a story came to me. Marvin had to have conflict, what greater conflict could he have than dealing with a dangerous feral cat?

Thus, A Lizard’s Tale began to take shape. I wrote the first rough draft in short order. It was the revising and rewriting that took a long time. I did it in bits and pieces, in fits and starts, because for me, revising is the hard, boring part, though I’m getting better at it.

After I self-published Anansi and Company, I was determined to put Marvin out there too. And now, here he is in all his glory, a vain, young lizard who believes he has a destiny.

What, you may ask, does the “P” stand for? Well, you’ll have to read the story to find out.

A Lizard's Tail
by Bish Denham

From the moment he hatches, Marvin P. Tinkleberry knows he is destined for greatness. For one, he has a marvelous, well-groomed tail. For another he can puff out his throat pouch in the most spectacular way. Maybe the other lizards in his colony don't take him seriously, but he knows the truth. It lives in the marrow of his bones; he's going to be a hero.

When a feral cat threatens the lives of all who live at Stone Wall in the Garden by the Sea, Marvin knows it's HIS destiny to get rid of the fearsome beast. Travelling Over the Hill to find help should be as easy as snapping up a sleeping moth. But it doesn't take long for Marvin to see that the world beyond Stone Wall is not the same as his pampered life back at the garden. From the deadly Sucker Cactus Forest to deadly mongooses, danger lurks around every corner and Marvin will have to decide if he's willing to be the hero he's long bragged about being.

Bish Denham was raised in the U. S. Virgin Islands. Her mother's side of the
family has lived in the Caribbean for over one hundred years and she still has plenty of family there whom she visits regularly.

She says, "Growing up in the islands was like living inside a history book. Columbus named the islands, Sir Francis Drake sailed through the area, and Alexander Hamilton was raised on St. Croix. Then there were the pirates who plied the waters. Life for me was magical, and through my writing I hope to pass on some of that magic."

Bish has known many lizards in her life. Marvin and Leeza are based on two that lived in her bedroom.

She is the author of Anansi and Company: Retold Jamaican Folk Tales which you can also find on

Twitter: @BishDenham


This is the last week to enter the contest to win a copy of one of Nancy G. West's humorous mysteries about Aggie Mundeen. Click the WIN button at the top of my right sidebar, and enter for a chance to win. See for details and information on Nancy's books. Winner will be drawn after 6 p.m. Saturday night. Good luck to all!


I know!
I bet that guy was excited when Marvin got his own story.
L. Diane Wolfe said…
We're so happy you went back and wrote Marvin's story because it's adorable.
Bish Denham said…
Ha!!! I still have a connection! So, I will still be able to use my kindle while my main computer is at the geek hospital.

Alex and Diane, Marvin would not let me go. it was like when we were kids and we'd catch lizards and the make them bite down on our noses... whoever's lizards dangled from the tip of our nose the longest won. One time I had a lizard that would NOT let go. As I tugged on him to pull him off, he bit down so hard he actually took off a small piece of skin!

Marvin was just like that lizard
so glad Marvin gets his tale!!
Carol Kilgore said…
Yay, Bish! Glad you're here :)
Julie Flanders said…
What a great story behind the name. Now I definitely need to read the book and find out what the P stands for. :)
Bish Denham said…
Me too, Carol!

I hope you do read it, Julie. I bet you'll enjoy it.
Jay Noel said…
That's a great way to come up with a character's name.

I've always wondered what it was like living in the US Virgin Islands. I bet it's pretty amazing.
What a great story behind a great name. Marvin P. Tinkleberry is probably one of the best names I've ever heard. Love the quirkiness.
cleemckenzie said…
The Anansi tales are so revealing of human nature, and Bish has captured that in A Lizard's Tail. A fun story for everyone to enjoy.

And she's right about having Marvin at your place. The insects and bugs disappear. That's what she posted on her blog and I know it's true.
Arlee Bird said…
One of my best friends is named Marvin. It's an interesting character name I think. Add P.Tinkleberry and it's definitely clever and funny. Great story of origins.

Arlee Bird
A to Z Challenge Co-host
Tossing It Out
I love hearing the origin stories. This one had a long path before it blossomed into a story. But cool story of the story and story. --You know what I mean.
Marvin P. Tinkleberry just sounds like the perfect name... and the middle letter P is the finishing touch... really clever.
Anonymous said…
What a wonderful childhood you had, Bish, knowing such wonderful "characters." You describe beautifully the process a story usually takes. And what a wonderful name for a lizard. I hope the story reaches many, many appreciative readers.
Barbara Fisher said…
What a great name for a lizard and I love the artwork on the cover. Now I just need to find out what the P stands for. :-)
J.L. Campbell said…
Marvin's been a long time in the making. Such a distinguished last name too. ;)
Helena said…
As you know, Bish, I won a copy of A Lizard's Tail right here Under the Tiki Hut and you kindly sent me a copy. I'm looking forward to reading it (and Secrets of Honor) in the next few weeks. Thanks!
What a terrific background story behind Walter's name and origin, but not nearly as good as HIS tail tale. I won a copy through Carol's blog, and thought it was absolutely adorable.
Lexa Cain said…
I love the name of your lizard! And it came to you so easily, too. It takes me forever to name my characters and searching through countless online name sites. I hope your internet troubles go away. :)
Bish Denham said…
Jay, Growing up in the VI had its advantages and was a lot of fun.

Thanks A Beer For The Shower! That's a very nice compliment which I'm sure Marvin appreciates.

Lee, Between Marvin and Anansi, anyone they visit can be assured of being in a bug-free zone. :)

Thanks, Arlee. His name is definitely his own.

I do, indeed, know Southpaw!

Thanks, Michelle!

I'm sure, Ann, that growing up the islands is responsible for many things that fall out on the page!

Barbara, you will have to read the book to find out!

Oh Joy, Distinguished!? You'll swell Marvin's head even more than it already is! :)

Helena, I do hope you enjoy the story!

So glad you enjoyed it, Susan!

Lexa, most names do seem to just come to me. It's when I do the research on the name, it's meaning and such, and learn how relevant and appropriate it is, that I really get blown away. Don't ask me how that happens, I don't know. Computer problem has been solved!
Lady Lilith said…
What a way to name a lizard :)
Anonymous said…
That's amazing how some ideas stick with us and take shape. I adore Bish's animals stories.
dolorah said…
Ah, cute backstory for his name.
I agree that Marvin P. Tinkleberry is a delightful name for a lizard! You are so creative, Bish!

Crystal Collier said…
Yay for Marvin!

I'm so glad you got a connection in time, Bish. I love learning where characters/names come from.
Very good to meet you, Bish :)
Kelly Steel said…
What a great story Marvin has! Well done.
Carol Kilgore said…
I'm guessing Bish's email connection has temporarily said goodbye. Hopefully she'll get it back before the week is up.

Great to see all of you here.

I do love Marvin's name :)
LD Masterson said…
I haven't read Marvin's yet. I think it's time.
Bish Denham said…
Lady Lilith, Almost as good an adventure as the one he goes on!

Thank you so much, Medeia. You're liking my little stories means A LOT to me.

Dolorah, Hopefully as cute as Marvin it!

I don't know about creative, Empty Nest, just used what came to me. Thanks.

Crystal, connections been on and off. Thanks for stopping by. Every story has a backstory.

Nice to meet you Optimistic!

Thanks, Kelly. Marvin's story has been a journey for sure.

Thanks for filling in for me Carol!

I hope you enjoy his story, LD!

Thanks EVERYONE for stopping by.

Nas said…
Great to see you here Bish.