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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

What's in a Name?

Have you ever wondered how the names of your characters affect someone's perception of them?

I read a book recently where every character's name started with the letter "J": John, James, Jerry, Jane, Janet... By the time I was a few chapters into the book, I'd become confused with the similar-sounding names and found it greatly changed my image of them - they all started to look alike in my mind until they melted into two characters, one male and one female.

When I see an ensemble cast in a bestselling series, I notice how dissimilar their names are. Take the Sookie Stackhouse books by Charlaine Harris and the resulting television series spinoff, True Blood, for instance. There's Eric, Bill, Sam, Alcide, Jason, Lafayette, Hoyt and Terry... The women are Sookie, Tara, Arlene, Jessica, Pam, Holly, Nan, Debbie... The very different names allow you to easily separate the characters in your mind's eye and prevents confusion.

Thanks to the Internet, I use several resources for both first names and surnames.

A lovely way for me to find last names is through the Surname Database at www.surnamedb.com. By clicking on "Index" and a letter, I can view scores of last names and read about their origins and meanings. I might want some characters to be ethnic and others to be typical American. When I am searching for a last name for a new character I am introducing, I try to think of the names I've already used and pick a letter that is quite different. This ensures that I am selecting something entirely different as I scroll through the list of names.

There are dozens of websites for first names. One I use quite often is www.babynames.com. I can click on Girl Names or Boy Names and scroll through them, clicking through to view their meanings.

My last three books have Irish characters and by googling "Irish baby names" I found www.babynamesofireland.com, which allows you to select Girls Names or Boys Names or view by the first letter of the name. There are similar sites for almost every country.

And by searching for "Girl Name" or "Boy Name" followed by a year, you can view the most popular names of that year. This was especially useful to me when writing about Ireland in 1839.

I've also heard of some authors visiting cemetery websites, especially if they contained graves that were from a specific period, such as the Revolutionary or Civil War. One horror author said she frequently visits cemetery websites from the Transylvania region and finds perfect names for her gothic series. A great place to get started is www.findagrave.com/.

If you're a writer, how do you find the names for your characters, both major and supporting? If you're a reader, how do the names affect your image of them?


p.m.terrell is the award-winning, internationally acclaimed author of more than 15 books. Her latest, Vicki's Key, is a finalist in the 2012 International Book Awards and a nominee for the 2012 USA Best Book Awards. Her next book, Secrets of a Dangerous Woman, will be released this fall. For more information, visit www.pmterrell.com. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Kala Ambrose - Ghosthunting North Carolina


One of the pleasures in working with Book 'Em North Carolina is meeting new authors and discovering new books. We have a wide variety of authors represented at each Book 'Em event, from non-fiction (inspirational, how-to, biographical, autobiographical) to the fiction world: mysteries, romance, horror, paranormal, drama, suspense, comedy... And I always enjoy discovering the areas in which various authors are inspired to write about.

This week, I profiled one gem in The Robesonian newspaper. Kala Ambrose is a talk show host, inspirational speaker, and a columnist for various publications, including The Huffington Post and The Examiner. She has also appeared on every major network TV: ABC, NBC and CBS and is an award-winning author.

Follow this link to read the full article as it appeared in The Robesonian on Sunday, June 17 about Ambrose's book, Ghosthunting in North Carolina. Of particular interest to me was the story about the Lost Colony of Roanoke because the Lumbee Indians in Robeson County claim their ancestors were from the Lost Colony. There are more than two dozen wonderful ghost stories in Ambrose's book. I highly recommend it.

Please make plans now to attend Book 'Em North Carolina on Saturday, February 23, 2013. Join more than 75 authors, publishers, literary agents and book promoters. Our headliners are New York Times bestselling author Mary Alice Monroe and Hollywood producer Chuck Williams! Admission is free and open to the public.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Finding Inspiration

I am frequently asked how I am able to keep up the pace with my writing and I can honestly say I have never experienced writer's block. I find inspiration in a photograph, something someone says in conversation or even in songs.

I love music and I often listen to various songs while I am working. Right now, sandwiched in between two books in my Black Swamp Mysteries series, I am writing a romantic suspense from a male point of view. Recently divorced, the main character finds himself dreaming of the perfect woman; his soul mate. And when she appears to materialize almost before his eyes, he becomes obsessed with her until reality has blended so seamlessly with his dreams that he is unable to distinguish between the two.

I was running errands today and listening to a new CD by my favorite male voice, Alex Band, when I came across his song, Tonight. I've been an Alex Band fan since he released Wherever You Will Go with The Calling and now this song cements his standing in my eyes. And it's the perfect song for the scene in my book when the main character sees the woman of his dreams in the flesh for the first time...



What songs do you listen to while you write? What songs and what voices speak to you?

p.m.terrell is the internationally acclaimed, award-winning author of more than 14 books. Vicki's Key is a finalist in the 2012 International Book Awards and a nominee in the 2012 USA Best Book Awards. The sequel, Secrets of a Dangerous Woman, will be released this fall. For more information, visit www.pmterrell.com.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Pros and Cons of Blog Book Tours

Our guest today is David Pereda, the award-winning author of six novels, dozens of articles and poems. His latest romantic suspense novel, However Long the Night, published by Eternal Press in February 2012, continues to receive rave reviews. Visit www.davidpereda.com for additional information on this up-and-coming author!


With the proliferation of digital technologies like the Kindle and the Nook, which have fueled an exponential growth in electronic publishing, there has also been a mushrooming in companies organizing blog book tours. Since more authors are choosing to publish electronic versions of their manuscripts, it makes sense for book tours to go digital too. In fact, if your work is only available as an e-book, what other choice do you have?

What if your prize manuscript is available in both print and e-book format? In that case, you have a choice. As you know, publishers nowadays are allocating little or no money to promote a new book, and are leaving the marketing aspects to you, the author. If you are a well-to-do writer with plenty of idle time in your hands, you could, of course, do a traditional book tour and a blog book tour. If you are like most of us, a starving writer with a shoestring budget and a day job causing you time constraints, you might want to consider a blog book tour as a practical alternative.

Here are the pros and cons of five criteria, five Cs, to help you evaluate whether blog book tours are right for you:


  1. Convenience
Pros: in a traditional book tour, the author must travel to a physical location, often by plane or car; in a blog book tour the author doesn’t have to leave home and can respond to questions and comments via computer at any hour of the day or night
Cons: a traditional book tour allows the author to meet people in other areas of the country and network with bookstore owners to encourage sales; this type of networking is not available in a blog book tour

  1. Calendaring
Pros: unlike a traditional book tour, where an author has to set time aside in order to visit a limited number of book stores once to do signings or readings, a blog book tour can be scheduled at practically any time and offers nearly limitless visits.  Interviews and guest blogs can be accessed for as long as the sites exists
Cons: a traditional book tour typically provides intense local media publicity that often generates a strong buzz for the author’s book; blog book tour organizers concentrate on promotional activities in the social media and the Internet

  1. Consistency –
Pros: there are hundreds of Internet hosts eager to interview authors and review their new book offerings. Blog book tour organizers match the author’s book to the appropriate blogger. If the book is a romance, they make sure not to send an invitation to a blogger who specializes in thrillers. This attention to detail -- a rifle shot approach -- gives consistency to the digital tour and guarantees that the potential readers are the correct ones. A traditional book tour is more like a shotgun approach. The author never knows if the people attending are there because of the reading or because they stopped at the book store to have a cup of coffee and rest a while
Cons: in a traditional book tour, you always know what to expect. Major brick-and-mortar bookstores like Barnes & Noble or Books & Books usually assign professional, courteous and reliable personnel to escort you around and help you with your needs. A blog book tour is based on Internet connections with a myriad of bloggers in outer space. While blog book tour organizers try to screen out those who might not meet their quality and reliability requirements, there’s always the possibility, although rare, of a missing interview or review on the day promised  

  1. Cost –
Pros: not counting time spent in preparation and travel, a traditional book tour with fifteen stops can cost anywhere between $750 to $3,000, minimum, depending on whether the locations are within the same state or in different states. A blog book tour with fifteen stops costs around $100. Need I say more?
Cons: none -- unless you like to spend money, or have an ulterior motive for the tour, such as traveling with your new squeeze

  1. Cream-on-Top – What’s this?
Pros: It’s an extra that comes associated with a blog book tour and is mostly non-existent in a traditional book tour: reviews. In a typical blog tour, several bloggers review your book and post those reviews on their sites as well as on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
Cons: none. We all need book reviews on Amazon, don’t we?

How do you go about finding the right blog book tour organizer for you and your specific requirements? Hey, this is the digital age – Google. To get you started in your search, here are three reliable companies that have been doing successful blog book tours for a while and have a good reputation in the marketplace:

  • Pump Up Your Book (http://www.pumpupyourbook.com/). This company has been around longer than anyone and has repeat customers, so they must be doing something right.
  • Novel Publicity (http://www.novelpublicity.com/).  Novel Publicity is another of the well-known companies in this field.
  • Goddess Fish Promotions (http://www.goddessfish.com/). This is the one I use. Partners Judy and Marianne are extremely professional and do an outstanding job organizing blog tours for every type of book and budget.

I used to do expensive and time-consuming traditional book tours while dressed in elegant suits, often with live background music accompanying my readings. Of course, with all the promotional budget cuts at traditional publishing houses, I had to pay for most of it. Nowadays I only do occasional readings and book signings, usually without music. I concentrate my efforts on doing blog book tours, mostly in my pajamas. I find them considerably less expensive and time-consuming, and infinitely more practical.


David Pereda is the award-winning author of six novels, dozens of articles and poems. His latest romantic suspense novel, However Long the Night, published by Eternal Press in February 2012, continues to receive rave reviews. Visit www.davidpereda.com and www.bookemnc.org - and come by to meet him at Book 'Em North Carolina on February 23, 2013!