Janet Sumner Johnson
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My Fabulous Summer Giveaway

Aug 12, 2013 Uncategorized 14 comments

So when I making plans to travel this summer, I had this conversation on Twitter:

So look who else I met this summer!

Yep, the one and only Elana Johnson (@ElanaJ), who may or may not be a long-lost distant relation (I mean, hey, if we go back to Noah, we for sure are!). She is just as cool in person as she is online. The type you want to cozy up with on a couch while eating a big plate of bacon while you watch crazy movies.

Right now she is up to her ears in WriteOnCon, which STARTS TONIGHT!! (Though the forums are already in full swing. Go check it out if you haven’t.)

I also met the amazing Kasie West (@KasieWest)! (And her super cute daughters). If there hadn’t been a line of people behind me waiting to get their books signed, we might have chatted all night.

And and and . . . I got to meet the super sweet Jenn Johansson (@JennJohansson), the crazy cool Natalie Whipple (@nataliewhipple), and the fabulous* Bree Despain (@breedespain).

Seriously, these are my people. And see that black bag in my hand in the picture with Kasie? Yup, totally swag I won. It even came with “Insomnia Pills”**

So of course, to celebrate having met so many amazing authors in one shot, I wanted to do I GIVEAWAY!! One lucky person will win their choice of any one book currently published by any of these authors:

This giveaway is open to anywhere The Book Depository delivers and is open through the end of August 2013. I’ll announce the winner the first Monday of September. Good luck!

I’m being all kinds of modern and using a rafflecopter, so just fill it out and I’ll cross my fingers it all works the way it’s supposed to.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

So what book would you choose if you won?

* Yeah, I couldn’t think of another good “F” word to go with “fabulous” to keep it all parallel. I debated “freakishly fabulous,” but that wasn’t quite right. “fascinatingly fabulous” was better, but a bit of a mouthful. “flailingly” just doesn’t fit, same with “flinchingly.” “Flightily” is really stretching things, “fantastically” felt a bit overdone . . . Well, you see my dilemma.

** Jenn Johansson ASSURED us that they were CANDY. Not real pills. And she was 100% correct. Candy. Not pills. 🙂

Rockin’ My Summer

Aug 05, 2013 Uncategorized 16 comments

I’m back!! And I have so much I could tell you. So much that you’d be astounded by my amazingly full summer. These events might include but are not limited to:

  1. The losing of my dignity when not one bottle of orange soda, but TWO, exploded in my car and all over me. (And yes, children are involved.)
  2. The entering of the wrong sex bathroom . . . and not noticing until exiting the stall to find a MAN at the urinal that I also failed to notice.
  3. The forgetting of my wallet as the only money-bearing person of the travelling group . . . and NOT noticing until I have driven beyond the point of no return. (This “not noticing” thing seems to be a trend)
  4. The epic battling against a swarm of mosquitoes that invaded our vessel when we pulled over for an emergency of the unpleasant-smelling kind.
  5. The helpless watching of my son who not only puked all over the McDonald’s booth, but somehow managed to splatter everyone in our very large group.

Yep. My summers are always epic, and I have rules to share and everything. But I am not going to talk about these things today.


Because today I actually have a GOOD experience to talk about. And not just good.


Have you ever met someone online who is the bomb? The kind who inspires and lifts and makes you want to be not just a better writer, but a better person? And then you learn they are not only the bomb, but a kindred spirit . . . and not just any old kindred spirit, but one who GETS your crazy, AND has the same crazy herself?!! Someone who would do this (not to mention this and THIS) for the sake of solidarity and connecting with others?

When Amy Sonnichsen and I “met,” we lived on opposite sides of the country and I never thought I might get the chance to meet her in person. But this summer the stars aligned and it actually happened!

She is even more fun in person. We had a blast together, and as co-founders of the Hacky Sack Club, you KNOW we had to video something. *Big grin*

Alas, blogger is stubbornly refusing to let me post said video, but you can watch it here or here.

Have any of you gotten to meet a blogging/twitter/online friend? How’d it go?

Running on Empty

Jul 01, 2013 Uncategorized 13 comments

Have you ever hit that point when you’ve got nothing left? You’ve written your little heart out, given it your all, but when you try to keep going the mojo is gone. You just can’t think past the blank page in front of you.

Yeah, me neither. 😉

But if that ever does happen, I present you with . . .

5 Tips for Moving Forward on Empty:

1. Use a bullet point list (suggested by the fabulous Margo Berendsen).

2. Read a book.

3. Take a shower (Because all good ideas come to people as they shower).

4. Go running (or participate in another physical activity).

5. Join the Hacky Sack Club! (Heehee . . . you should do this anyway!)

What do you do?

Finally, with summer here, I’m all over the place with the kids, so I will be taking a blogging break until school starts mid-August. Have an AWESOME summer, and here’s to happy writing and an endless flow of ideas!

Winner of ONE

Jun 24, 2013 Uncategorized 5 comments

Thank you to everyone who entered and tweeted about my giveaway of ONE by Leigh Ann Kopans. Without further ado, I give you the winner:

Christopher Alonso (@ChrisRAlonso), come on down!!!

Woo hoo! Congratulations!

Use that shiny “Contact Me” page up there and I’ll get your winnings sent off. 🙂

On to other things, I just wanted to share with you one thing I learned this weekend:

Playing with an app that makes silly pictures never gets old. It just doesn’t.

What crazy things do you like to do?

Giveaway: ONE by Leigh Ann Kopans

Jun 17, 2013 Uncategorized 9 comments

If you were anywhere on Twitter this past week, you surely know that the super fun Leigh Ann Kopans (@LeighAnnKopans) just released her debut novel, ONE. It’s been climbing all the Amazon charts, and has debuted with a smashing success! So excited for Leigh Ann. 😀

My luck pool has been filling up of late, and recently it splashed over the edges to land me a copy of my own. Woo hoo for me, because it’s been on my TBR list since I first read the pitch:

When having two powers makes you a Super and having none
makes you a Normal, having only one makes you a sad half-superpowered freak.

It makes you a One.

Sixteen-year-old Merrin Grey would love to be able to fly –
too bad all she can do is hover.

If she could just land an internship at the Biotech Hub, she
might finally figure out how to fix herself. She busts her butt in AP Chem and
salivates over the Hub’s research on the manifestation of superpowers, all in
hopes of boosting her chances.

Then she meets Elias VanDyne, another One, and all her
carefully crafted plans fly out the window. Literally. When the two of them
touch, their Ones combine to make them fly, and when they’re not soaring over
the Nebraska cornfields, they’re busy falling for each other.

Merrin’s mad chemistry skills land her a spot on the Hub’s
internship short list, but as she gets closer to the life she always wanted,
she discovers that the Hub’s purpose is more sinister than it has always
seemed. Now it’s up to her to decide if it’s more important to fly solo, or to
save everything – and everyone – she loves.

And now woo hoo for you, because I’m going to give away the copy I was planning to buy! WOO HOO!!

So if you want to win a copy of ONE, just leave a comment, and I’ll enter you into the drawing. Spread the word in any way (twitter, facebook, blog post, sidebar, word-of-mouth, etc.), and I’ll give you +5 extra entries. Just tell me what you did (or will do) in your comment. No need for a link, I trust you. 😉 Important: Please leave me a way to contact you, should you win.

Enter by Saturday, June 22nd, and I’ll announce the winner on Monday, June 24th. Good luck!

Keeping it in Context

Jun 10, 2013 Uncategorized 6 comments

After last week’s post, I couldn’t get the idea of “Context” out of my head. It’s not something I’ve thought about consciously as I write, yet it’s kind of important.

First, what is context?

My good friend, Merriam-Webster says it’s “the parts of a discourse that surround a word or passage
and can throw light on its meaning.”

Blah, blah, blah, what?

On a basic level, this means that context is the sentence before or after a given piece of information. For example, suppose I said “I ate the little boy.” Sounds kind of gruesome, doesn’t it?

But if I give you some context (i.e. the sentence before), the whole meaning can change: “We made a pancake family for dinner. I ate the little boy.”

Relieved to know I’m not cannibal? Me, too.

And while this is fascinating stuff, Merriam-Webster also gave a second definition that is especially important to authors: the interrelated conditions in which something exists or
occurs : environment, setting”

Environment. Setting. Sound familiar? It’s what drives every character’s reaction to every event in your book. And when we ignore Context, or simply fail to consider it, we have credibility issues.

I personally learn from examples better than explanations, so here we go.


1. Let’s suppose we are writing an historical fiction that takes place in the 1500’s.

Our mc is a 16-year-old young woman. Of course, we all want a strong female lead, so she gives her hair pink streaks, and secretly sneaks out at night to burn corsets and rails against her father (and every other male she meets) about the repression of women and how she should be allowed to become a Blacksmith if she darned well pleases.

You see the problem? This character is not believable. She is shouting ideals of a time period well-beyond hers, and participating in activities that were probably never thought of back then.

Now, make this into a fantasy or dystopian . . . in other words, change the Context . . . and you’re on your way to some great world building. Context changes everything.

2. Let’s make this one a contemporary chapter book.

Our mc is a 5-year-old boy who loves frogs and dirt. He loves worms and bugs, and catches grasshoppers for fun, but he always lets them go. He looks at spiders through magnifying glasses, makes match-box beds for pill bugs, and hosts a sit-in protest when his mom tries to spray an anthill in her flowerbed. Then one day, he sees a garden snake and takes his mom’s hoe and hacks it to death.

Ummm . . . yeah. See the problem? In the context of this character, this is not something he would do. It just isn’t.

Now, create a circumstance that gives a new context for that action, and you might have some interesting tension and inner turmoil going on. But without that, you will lose your reader if your character doesn’t act within his own context.

3. Finally, we have a MG fairy-tale retelling.

Our mc is the 37-year-old wood-cutter from Little Red Riding Hood. The book explores the graphic details of his murderous past before he faces his own mortality and the mercy he receives from a little old lady. In a display of symbolic irony, he redeems himself by slaying the beast who ravages that little old lady and her dear grand-daughter, Little Red Riding Hood.

Now could this be a good book? Absolutely! But given the context of our audience (Middle Grade), this book misses the mark. No middle grade editor is going to read past the description. It is simply isn’t Middle Grade. Make it adult fiction, and you might have something.

Context helps define our characters as well as the setting. It outlines plausible events, and keeps us focused on our audience and genre.

Now, I am definitely not saying that you can’t mix things up a bit. But if you choose to ignore a context that you, as the author, have previously established, you risk breaking a trust with your reader.

Have you ever stopped reading a book because of context issues?

Out of Context

Jun 03, 2013 Uncategorized 8 comments
I was parking my car, when lo and behold, what should I find? You guessed it, a personalized license plate. And this one especially caught my attention because, well, just look:

I know, right? So of course, I immediately assumed that this is a kindred spirit, a fellow writer, because that’s MY context.

MG = Middle Grade.

But then I realized . . . ummm . . . I could be wrong. Duh, duh, duh . . . [Those are the 3 notes of impending doom you hear after some nefarious revelation in a movie . . . just trying to create an atmosphere here.]

So first, I wanted to say something pithy about creating context for your characters, etc., etc. But it’s the end of a long weekend, and, well, you can guess what I’d say, right?

About the quarter?

And the chocolate cake?

And that other thing that I don’t even need to mention?

I thought so.

More importantly, I wanted you to fill in the blank for me. What does “MG” really stand for?

Life of a Shiny New Idea (in pictures)

May 27, 2013 Uncategorized 10 comments
Once upon a time, a shiny new idea popped into my head, and I was like:

And to all my friends I was like, “Yeah, I got a shiny new idea.”:

But then I had to think a lot:

And I was like, “I thought shiny new ideas came all assembled!”:

But I wrote and I wrote until I was like:

And, “Squirrel!”:

And “Oooh! Housecleaning!”:

I was going to get back to it, but then I saw this book that looked MUCH more interesting than mine:

And wait, “Is that another squirrel?”:

And then Darling Husband asked how my book was coming, and I’m like, “GET OFF MY BACK, I’ll get to it!”:

“I just really like housecleaning.”:

And then I’m like, “What am I saying?”:

“There are way better ways to waste my time!”:

So how do ya’ll stay on task?

Winner and Thoughts about “The Journey”

May 20, 2013 Uncategorized 9 comments

Finally! After all the debates and hullaballoo, we have a winner!! *throws confetti*

Amy gathered the names. Her daughter, very fairly, drew a name from a hat. And the winner is . . .

Susanne Drazic


You can email either me or Amy and let us know which prize you choose:

1) TWO 10-page critiques (1 from Amy & 1 from me)


2) The SURPRISE package!!!

Thank you to everyone who entered our contest and passed along congratulations to our amazing friends. 🙂

So I’ve been thinking a lot about this whole writing journey lately. I remember when I first started writing with the idea of getting published. So much excitement! Every word on the page was magic, and everything I wrote was brilliant.

I didn’t stop to consider the reality of the publishing world and all the hurdles I’d have to overcome to get my book in print. I just wrote. And I loved every minute of it! I subjected my (then new) husband to first drafts and he laughed in all the right places and told me he just knew I’d be published some day. (See why he’s a keeper?!) 🙂

Good times, those.

But, of course, that doesn’t last forever. The rejections came. I still remember my very first conference critique by a real live editor. “It sounds like you haven’t found your voice,” he said.

Oh, but that hurt.

And then my first critique group. My perfected chapters came back covered in ink.

That first rejection from that first query. I think it took a little under an hour to receive it in all it’s “Dear Author” glory.

And the list goes on.

More often than I care to express, I wondered if all this effort was worth it? With all the rejection, why did I think I could ever reach that shiny goal of seeing my words in print, and my name on the cover?

Two things kept me going.

First, was remembering why I started writing in the first place. Remembering the sheer joy of bringing a world alive and watching others react to it. How could I give that up? WHY should I give that up just because I hadn’t been published yet?

Second, was this quote:

“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising
every time we fall.”
551 — 479 B.C

Success is not achieving something we can’t control. Success is moving forward in the face of difficulties. It’s not giving up just because something is hard.

And that my friends, is pretty awesome. Because we can control that.

I’d love to hear about your journey, and how you define success, too.

Too Close to Call

May 15, 2013 Uncategorized 5 comments

We tried.

You tried.

But the consensus? It was just too close to call.

We can’t tell who ate more ice cream!

Besides, it’s like Theresa Milstein said in her comment, “How can anyone lose in a game of ice cream?”

Which is GREAT news because now everyone who voted for either person will be entered in the drawing! Hurray! *throws confetti*

We’ll announce the winner Monday, so be sure to come back to find out if it was you!