Wednesday, May 30, 2012

What's in a name?

"We should be aware of the MAGIC contained in a name and realize that this single item is wholly and completely owned by the person with whom we are dealing...and nobody else. The name sets the individual apart; it makes him or her unique among all others." (I think this was from Dale Carnegie).

The most beautiful sound in the world? A persons name.
If someone says your name you respond, even if it's not you they're talking to. If you have to find your name on a page of 500 other names, you usually can spot it right away. Am I right or am I right?

Have you read a book where the names mean something to you? Honestly, I didn't pay attention much before Harry Potter. Then I only thought it was obvious that the characters got certain names like Draco (dragon), Goyle (gargoyle), Filch (steal things), Minerva (Goddess of wisdom & war), Skeeter (mosquito), Severus (severe), Narcissa (narcissistic), and Voldemort (flight of death).

This leads me to ask about character names. Do they name themselves? Most of my characters name themselves as I write the story. After I realized many authors purposely find meanings for their characters, I tried it too on my latest WIP:

The dad, Hank = ruler of the home.
The boyfriend, Aiden Shields = Fiery Protector.
The BFF, Monica Stillman = Quiet advisor
Angelica Savage = (any guesses??) (my critique group helped me name my MC)

While names are intriguing and thought provoking, there have been times a name has been distracting. For instance, the spelling throws me or it's a forgien name I can't figure out or ridiculous names. How about Harry Pitts? I have a friend named Rob Roe. No big deal, right? How about his brother named Rocky? Or sister, Sandy? Or dad, Skid?

What does it amount to? The name has the potential to take the reader out of the story. No writer wants that to happen. Choose carefully my young padawan writers.

How do names affect you? 
How do you name your characters?

Monday, May 28, 2012

Critiquing someone elses work

After a writer's conference, many writers engage in a critique group. It's the best idea!
You soon realize you become an editor for someone. It can be intimidating. Not to mention, having your own work critiqued.
Here are some ideas to help you as you become the best editor you can:

*This is not your book. It is not your job to tell them how to write their story. It's your job to help them write the book they want to write.

*You're not helping by being too nice. Of course, every writer wants to hear how awesome they are. Your job is help them make their story better. Unless all they really want to have the reassurance they should carry on. Then you can tell them how awesome they are and should keep writing.

*You're not helping by being mean either. Remember, we writers have fragile egos. Be gentle. Be kind. Make suggestions that are helpful.

*Be positive. Critique as you would want to be critiqued.

Do you belong to a critique group? Do you have helpful tips or ideas?? Please share!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Reading will make you a better writer...right?

Today I want to talk about reading. I. Love. To. Read. I really do. This past week, while on a road trip, I read/finished four books. I enjoyed three of them and wondered if some day I would really learn the craft of writing to take someone's breath away.  (My reviews are on The Book Addict).

I began reading in first grade. As soon words formed sentences and made sense to me, I was hooked on reading. I remember the first time I 'understood' what reading was all about. I was in the car, running errands with my parents. All the street signs, billboards and store names came into crystal clear focus. They were telling me something! Talking to me. I'm sure I drove my family crazy as I read everything that came into my view out loud.
A reader was born.

I have heard several authors and writer advise us unpublished newbies to READREADREAD. Pick up a book you love and disect it. What do you love about it? The characters? What about the descriptions, settings, writing? I have marked many books that a sentence or idea have jumped off the page and startled me into reading it again. I've closed the book over the words "The End" only to be unsatisfied with my retention of the amazing story that lay within the covers. I needed to read it again. Then I ask myself, "how can I make my writing better?" Or "I want to write like this!!"

I have also heard several published authors say they don't read. They claim they don't want to mess up a good thing (meaning their writing flow, I guess). To these authors, whose books I have read, I want to say, "maybe that's why all your stories sound the same." Because they do. Same style. Same trouble. Same characters.

I attended a writers conference with Julie Daines (who is a very talented, and soon to be published, writer). She showed me her marked up copy of A THOUSAND DAYS by Shannon Hale. She said this book helped her a ton in her writing. She got the chance to kneel before Shannon and tell her how much her writing helped. Julie showed Shannon the book. Shannon was touched. I was impressed.
I want to write like that! Until then, I will read and read and then read some more.

We must read to renew ourselves and our writing.
Renew. Restore. Rejuvenate.

Go read a good book right now then come back and tell us all about it!

Monday, May 21, 2012

SUFFOCATE by S.R. Johannes is out today!

It is May 21st and guess what that means?

S.R. Johannes’ Suffocate is out today!

Suffocate is the first novelette in THE BREATHLESS series. It is a 15,000 word young adult thriller that combines the dystopic and science fiction genres.

Here’s a little about the novelette…

“For centuries, the world outside the Biome has been unlivable. Today, marks the first time anyone will attempt to leave the suffocating ecosphere. Eria is not worried because her scientist father has successfully tested the new Bio-Suit many times. It's a celebratory day until something goes horribly wrong. In the midst of tragedy, Eria uncovers a deep conspiracy that affects the very air she breathes. 

If those responsible find out what she knows, they won't stop hunting her until she takes her last breath.”

The 2nd novella in the series, CHOKE, is scheduled for Fall 2012. The 3rd, EXHALE, is scheduled for Winter 2013.

You can purchase Suffocate for only 99 cents at

Also you can add it on Goodreads! -

And in case you were wondering here is a bit about the author –

S.R. Johannes is author of the Amazon Bestseller Untraceable and a current nominee of the Georgia Author of the Year in the Young Adult category. After earning an MBA and working in corporate america, S.R. Johannes traded in her expensive suits, high heels, and corporate lingo for a family, flip-flops, and her love of writing. She lives in Atlanta Georgia with her goldendoodle Charley (notice he is listed first :), her British-accented husband, and the huge imaginations of their little prince and princess, which she hopes- someday- will change the world.  You can find her hanging out online and visit her at

Tweet about it!
“Today is the release of @srjohannes’  novelette, Suffocate! Check it out on (insert your blog link here)”

Monday, May 14, 2012

It's about opportunity~Yours!

I haven't read any of Lee Child's books but his story impresses me. According to his official biography, he was fired at the age of 40 as a result of corporate restructuring. Then he went out and spent $6 on paper and pencils.

And wrote an international bestseller.
He was fired at 40 and become a millionaire within ten years.

There's a couple of ideas here that made me sit up, straigthen my shoulders and carry on:

  • He was close to my age when he got fired.
  • It took him ten years (ten!) to get noticed.
  • I've been writing only four years.
  • Fear, betrayal, pain didn't stop him.
  • Writing is the cheapest hobby ever.
Carry on, brave writers. You. Can. Do. This.

“If you’re fired at 40, it’s not all about hurt and betrayal and fear. It’s about opportunity.” Lee Child

Monday, May 7, 2012

One-Sentance Summary

Do you have a one-sentence summary of your story? 

Here is what Randy Ingermanson says about them:


From Randy Ingermanson:

Here is my one-sentence summary of THE HUNGER GAMES:

"A 16-year-old girl volunteers to take her sister’s
place in an arena where twenty-four teens will battle
each other to the death."

That's 25 words, which I consider the upper limit for a
one-sentence summary. I prefer to see a one-sentence
summary in the range of 10 to 15 words.

The goal is to tell the main idea of the novel in as
few words as possible. Shorter is always better, if it
captures the story.

The shortest one-sentence summary I've ever seen is the
summary for my friend Tosca Lee's forthcoming novel
ISCARIOT. Here it is: "Judas".

That's one word and it tells you everything you need to
know about Tosca's book.

The purpose of a one-sentence summary is to tell people
whether they're interested or not. That's all.

Notice that I didn't say that the purpose of the
one-sentence summary is to sell your book. That would
be crazy. Most people are not in the target audience
for your book. If they're not in your target audience,
they probably won't like it, and there's no reason you
should want them to buy it.

You want a one-sentence summary that immediately gives
the hearer enough information to know whether they're
in your target audience or not.

Here is mine:
No one wants to be friends with 17 year-old Angelica because they might die, like the nine before.

What about yours? Tell me in the comments!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Welcome Suze Reese! An ExtraNormal blog tour INTERVIEW

Welcome Suze Reese! I met Suze at my BFF-from-high-school's birthday party. I was new to the writing and publishing world and she regaled me with her journey and advice. I'm excited for her new book! Let's get to know Suze a little today.

Hi, Suze! I'm so excited you're here. Let's jump right in!

Give us your elevator pitch.

ExtraNormal is about a teenage girl from another planet, though she does not like being called an alien. She visits Earth on an assignment from her government, and even though she should be totally excited, she's actually scared to death. She doesn't know how to do the simplest things, like use her cell phone or talk like a regular teenager, and she fears she's coming across as a dork most of the time. Things go from bad to worse when she falls in love, which is absolutely forbidden. She's not even supposed to talk to boys. Then when someone starts trying to kill her friends, she has to figure out who and why before she's forced to go back home and leave her friends--and her new love--defenseless. 

What is your most memorable high school experience?

Ooh - I love this question. The word memorable (as opposed to favorite) leaves the door open for all kinds of embarrassing memories. And there are so many. I don't know what it is about high school that causes such on imprint on the brain. There was the time that as a sophomore a friend decided it would be funny to announce that I had a crush on the captain of the football team, a senior who was dating the head cheerleader. The result was that all the football players thought they had free reign to tease me and all the cheerleaders decided to hate me. Oh the drama.

Then there was the time a boy put my shoes in a tuba in the band room and I got in trouble while searching for them. Or the time I got light-headed after donating blood and a football player I barely knew took me to my classroom. And if you haven't noticed a trend, most of my memories involve boys. I dread the day I die and my kids find my journals from that time. (And yet I can't bring myself to toss them.) They read something like: "Sat next to John in first period. Bill waved to me on my way to second period. Sarah tells me Mike is going to ask me out. I think I'd die."  Sigh. I'm not even exaggerating.

But to my most memorable, I'm going to have to say the time our football team won the state championship. The game was in the pouring rain at night. We sat on the freezing bleachers huddled in blankets and plastic bags--drenched and frozen. We knew every player by their number and  position and every single one of us lost our voices from the screaming. And somehow when they won we thought it made us the coolest people in the entire world. Can't buy memories like that.

Is there one book or author who changed your life/viewpoint/writing?

For some reason the book Good Hope Road by Lisa Wingate really struck a chord with me. I'd been writing for years when I read it, but that was the book that made me decide to try to tackle a novel, with the hope that I could communicate strong emotions as well as she did. The other credit would have to go to Alex Haley and Roots. I was only eight when it came out, but the country was so taken with it I read it cover-to-cover. (Approximately 1 million pages.) I didn't know what half of it meant, (WHAT did that slave earner do to that slave?) but I was so amazed at this entire world that I hadn't known about that I couldn't stop reading, or stop thinking about it when I wasn't reading.

What is your favorite spring ritual?

For years I've tried planting pretty bulbs in my yard, but I live in an area infested with moles (like gophers) and they eat those little bulbs faster than I can plant them. But I do love getting out in my yard and digging in the dirt.

What is your favorite snack?

That's easy. Chocolate. Peanut M&Ms (which I realize is also chocolate.) And an occasional box of Red Vines. (Which you'll recognize if you read ExtraNormal.)

What was the first book that turned you into a reader?

That would have to be Laura Ingalls Wilder with her Little House on the Prairie books. Stop laughing. My big sister gave them to me in a boxed set (there were about seven of them) and I thought they were the most amazing thing ever.

If you could have a day to do whatever you wanted, what would you do?

Lie on a tropical beach with my hubby. A couple hours would have to be spent riding the waves. (Another thing you'll find in ExtraNormal.) I grew up in Southern California and that was (and possibly still is) my favorite thing in the world.

What is one piece of advice you would give aspiring writers?

You've heard it said to read, read, read & write, write, write. I would add study, study, study to that. I've always been a competent writer, and even earned a college degree in journalism. But it wasn't until I started studying the art of story structure that I really figured out how to write a novel. There are books available on Amazon called things like: Scene & Structure; Beginnings, Middles & Ends; Plots; Characters & Viewpoint, and so on. They're often sold used for literally pennies. I bought a dozen or so of them several years back and devoured them. I marked them up, used post-it notes to mark important sections, and read them over and over until I really understood the information. I still get some of them out to review every year or so.  They made all the difference for me.

If a movie was made about your book, who would play the main characters?

I tried answering this once before and really wasn't satisfied with the answer. All the characters were either too short or too old. But when that movie deal comes in I'll start thinking...

Any other books in the works?

Oh yes. There are at least two more books in the ExtraNormal series. And I might branch out and tell stories from the other character's viewpoint. I also have a story in mind about a girl whose friends keep dying. She becomes a recluse, until she meets a boy who has the same problem. Together they try to figure out what is going on, and whether they have the ability to change people's destinies. If not, they're forced to consider whether one or both of them is destined to die.

What are you goals now?

Write! Actually my biggest goal is to stay alive. As you know I just finished battling advanced-stage breast cancer. So being with my family is the biggest blessing you can imagine. Anything I do on top of that is just gravy. But I do plan to stick around long enough to get all these characters out of my head. They're driving me nuts! =)

That's it! Thanks so much for having me Taffy. The questions were awesome!
You're welcome, Suze! It was fun getting to know you better!

Want to buy ExtraNormal then click HERE.

Here is the list of blogs you can hop to win prizes (questions? Click HERE):

April 24: Jenny's Imaginary World                 Review
April 25: Pidgin Peas Book Nook                  Character Interview
April 26: Emily's Crammed Bookshelf             TBA
               Books With Bite                             Review
April 27: With All Things Fabulous                 Character Interview
               From the Shadows                          Author Interview
April 30: Book Whales                                   Author Interview
May 1:    Mom Zunas                                     Giveaway & Review
May 2:   The Haunted Rose                             Guest Post
May 3:    Taffy's Candy                                  Author Interview
May 4:    Artsy Musings of a Bibliophile          Giveaway & Review
               Book Whisperer                              Review

A few of my favorite things I'm doing

I'm reading: Fiction: The Light After the War by Anita Abriel  It is 1946 when Vera Frankel and her best friend Edith Ban ...