Behind The Names In Spirit Dance

Names have always interested me, since generally there’s a great story behind how parents pick their children’s names. I’ve learned that some names evolve from family tradition. Others, originate from a musician, an actress or a celebrity they’ve admired. I’ve also heard parents say “he/she came out of the womb and looked like a…” (Henry, Sam, Serenity…) Recently, I was told that a business traveler read a name tag at a hotel restaurant, and when his wife delivered their second daughter, the moniker topped the baby name list. If our paths have ever crossed and there’s been opportunity to chat, I’ve likely inquired about the backstory behind your name. Through these conversations, I’ve discovered how much thought and passion goes into picking a child’s life label. So when the time came to give the characters in Spirit Dance an identity, I wanted their names to be meaningful.

The main character, Tana Lyre:

My great grandmother was part French; her maiden name being Tonnelier. I grew up hearing Grandma saying “Your Grannie Tonnelier this and Grannie Tonnelier that” so for me, the surname has personal significance—but that’s just part of the story. Although I have affection for my great grandmother’s birth name, in my mind, the main character in this adventure needed a direct connection to one of the themes in Spirit Dance. While brainstorming, I stumbled on the idea of splitting “Tonnelier” into two parts; “Tana” and “Lire.” Tana seemed to fit the fifteen-year-old girl I had written, and after repeating “Lier” out loud over and over again, a super-sized light bulb burned.

“Lier” sounded like “Lear” which just happened to be the first jet I learned to fly. A Lear Jet, 35 model. (Bill Lear founded “Learjet” Corporation which was acquired by a Canadian company—another French connection by the way—called “Bombardier” in 1990.) In my cat brain, Tana Lear sounded awfully close to “Tonnelier.”

Yes! Not only had I carried on a family name, but I’d also connected my protagonist to Spirit Dance’s strong aviation undercurrent. I was pumped. But if you’ve read any of the book, you know Tana’s last name wasn’t spelled “Lear”. Instead, it reads “Lyre” in print. Although flying is a major theme, there is so much more to Tana’s and Trigger’s journey. With this in mind, I chose to up the word-play one more level.

“Lear” reminded me of the word lyric and when I consulted my friends Miriam-Webster, I discovered lyric meant, “expressing the writer’s emotions.” Perfect. Lyric was then massaged into Lyre, encompassing both my first jet experience and how I felt writing this book. The brainstorming behind what created the name Tana Lyre.

Another goal I had while writing book one, in the In the Eye of the Storm trilogy, was to offer insight into topics the reader might find interesting and may not know much about. My background is aviation, which organically leads to an emphasis on math and science. So when choosing a name for Trigger’s dad, the renowned fighter pilot and decorated war hero Lamar Flough, it made sense to make his name a stealth ambassador for these subjects.

“Lamar Flough” is another play on words. Its double meaning refers to a term used in aerodynamics called “Laminar Flow.” According to NASA, this phenomenon is defined as “the smooth, uninterrupted flow of air over an aircraft’s wing.” Why is this important? Because if you achieve this dynamic on an airplane wing you can fly further and use less fuel; which is more cost effective and far better for our planet. Here’s a real simple way to recreate this concept. While riding as a passenger in a car, roll down the window and flatten your hand out in the airstream. Notice how it feels to have the breeze flow equally over both the top and bottom of your hand. As long as you keep your fingers straight and hand flat, the balanced condition will continue. This is similar to how smooth, uninterrupted air flows over an airplane wing. Now angle your fingers down by bending your knuckles. Again, notice how the breeze feels on the top and bottom of your hand. Not equal anymore, right? If you want to exaggerate this example further, flatten your hand in the wind again and, this time, bend your wrist, and then slowly raise your fingers towards the sky. Notice the change in airflow against your skin. The wind’s pressure on your palm lifts your hand and pushes it backward; in essence, slowing your makeshift airfoil down. This is an example of what happens to the smooth airflow over a wing when rivets, hinges, flaps, ice removal devices, and air breaks are added. Although necessary for flight, these add-ons adversely affect the laminar flow. The challenge for design engineers on airplanes is to make the impact of these surfaces as minimum as possible. In my mind, a concept that seemed worthy of a fighter pilot with the best enemy kill record in US history, who also had top marks when it came to minimizing collateral damage. Balance; The aerodynamic principle hidden within the name Lamar Flough.

More insights into Spirit Dance and science to come.

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