What’s in a Name? #guestpost

What's in a Name?
by Shannon Work

Character names are very important to me. They have to feel just right for a particular character—they either work, or they don’t. Sometimes character names come easy—while I’m outlining the story. Other times, I struggle to find the name that fits just right. And I try to make sure none of the character names are too similar in the same book. I want it easy for the reader to remember who is who!

I’ve always believed that character names should be as well thought out as book titles. They should reflect something of the character’s personality. Many of the most famous literary characters have memorable names. Who could imagine a character by any other name than Harry Potter, James Bond, Hercule Poirot, or Jay Gatsby? It’s obvious the authors put a lot of thought into naming their main character.

There are numerous resources authors can use to help create character names. There are even name generator websites that some authors use, although I haven’t. Resources I have used include lists of popular baby names for the years my characters were born. I have also googled lists of cultural surnames and searched through burial lists from local cemeteries.

A particular fun resource I have used to create character names in each of my novels is the book Agatha Christie A to Z, which lists the names of every character (major and minor) that Agatha Christie used in her novels and short stories. Agatha Christie is a literary hero of mine, and each of my books includes variations of names taken from this book.

I hope that, now, with some insight into the work that authors often put into naming characters, you will think about them while you’re reading. Does the name provide insight into the character’s personality? Does it work for you? Or does it sound like the author merely plucked it from a telephone book? But I hope you will never again take for granted what’s in a name.

Shannon Work grew up in Del Rio, a border town in the dusty wilds of West Texas. When she graduated from high school, she moved east to College Station and graduated from Texas A&M University with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and a master’s degree in Land Economics and Real Estate.

Most of her working life has been spent developing real estate, earning a national Best in America Living Award for one of her developments. After two failed starts at writing a novel while raising three kids and working, she retired to pursue her dream of writing mystery novels full time.

Shannon and her husband are recent empty nesters and split their time between Houston, Texas and Telluride, Colorado. Always with their laptops and dogs in tow.

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The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager #BookReview

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TITLE:      The Last Time I Lied

Paperback Release Date: April 2, 2019

AUTHOR:               Riley Sager

GENRE:                 Thriller

PAGE COUNT:       370

Story: ★★★★★
Writing: ★★★★★
Characters: ★★★★★
Appearance: ★★★★


In this New York Times bestselling thriller from the author of Lock Every Door and Final Girls, a young woman returns to her childhood summer camp to uncover the truth about a tragedy that happened there fifteen years ago.

Two Truths and a Lie. The girls played it all the time in their cabin at Camp Nightingale. Vivian, Natalie, Allison, and first-time camper Emma Davis, the youngest of the group. But the games ended the night Emma sleepily watched the others sneak out of the cabin into the darkness. The last she–or anyone–saw of them was Vivian closing the cabin door behind her, hushing Emma with a finger pressed to her lips.

Now a rising star in the New York art scene, Emma turns her past into paintings–massive canvases filled with dark leaves and gnarled branches that cover ghostly shapes in white dresses. When the paintings catch the attention of Francesca Harris-White, the wealthy owner of Camp Nightingale, she implores Emma to return to the newly reopened camp as a painting instructor. Seeing an opportunity to find out what really happened to her friends all those years ago, Emma agrees.

Familiar faces, unchanged cabins, and the same dark lake haunt Nightingale, even though the camp is opening its doors for the first time since the disappearances. Emma is even assigned to the same cabin she slept in as a teenager, but soon discovers a security camera–the only one on the property–pointed directly at its door. Then cryptic clues that Vivian left behind about the camp’s twisted origins begin surfacing. As she digs deeper, Emma finds herself sorting through lies from the past while facing mysterious threats in the present. And the closer she gets to the truth about Camp Nightingale and what really happened to those girls, the more she realizes that closure could come at a deadly price.



You probably recognize the author’s name, Riley Sager. I recently reviewed his book Final Girls, which I loved. It was the first book in a while that I actually gave a 5 out of 5-star review. Well, he did it again with The Last Time I Lied. It was amazing.

STORY (★★★★★): This story follows Emma, who at the age of 13 goes to summer camp at Camp Nightingale and bunks with three other girls who end up going missing and the camp is shutdown. This book takes place 15 years after that event and Emma is now an accomplished artist in New York City who secretly paints the three missing girls into all of her paintings, hidden under layers of paint.  Basically, she suffers from anxiety because of this tragic event that happened during her childhood and she uses her art as a form of therapy.

During her art show, at the gallery, Franny the owner of the camp shows up and asks her to return to camp for the camps re-opening. She wants her to come and be an art instructor at the camp. Emma eventually decides to go hoping for closer, and also hoping to maybe do a little investigating and find out what happened to the three girls.

WRITING (★★★★★): The pace of this story is great. It’s a very fast read, I think I finished it in just a few days.

The structure is interesting, it jumps back and forth between the past and present a lot. This allows us to not under understand what Emma is going through today but also what she experienced 15 years prior and how that colored her world as she grew up.

This book was so much fun to read. Sager is great at putting suspicion on so many of the characters making it hard for the reader to trust anyone. Usually I can figure out ‘who done it’, but with this one I didn’t know the end until the twist happened and the answers are given.

I really like how Riley Sager writes and I love his vivid settings and descriptions. He uses a lot of similes in his comparisons that just paint a wonderful picture for the reader. I love his plot twists and the big reveals – like in Final Girls, the reveal in this one really surprised me.

I love how Riley Sager is able to tie up all the loose endings by the end of the book. It makes for a very clean story with no plot holes, which I like when it comes to single story books as opposed to series. In a series, I want to be left with a cliffhanger until the last book.

CHARACTERS (★★★★★): There are so many characters that I wanted to trust, but couldn’t. You even find out things about the lead character, Emma, that make you question whether or not she is the “good guy” or the “bad guy”.

Since this book is told from the perspective of a female character, there are a number of scenes where the author, being a man, could have really messed up. However, Sager is really good at writing from the female perspective and capturing the emotions that come along with the events that happen throughout the story both in the past as well as present day.

APPEARANCE (★★★★): The cover, designed by Alex Merto with photograph by Aaron Smith, is beautiful and haunting, although the photo doesn’t look like the character of Emma.


“Sometimes the only way out is through.”

“My future is quite literally a blank canvas, waiting for me to fill it.”


Riley Sager is the pseudonym of a former journalist, editor and graphic designer. Now a full-time author, Riley’s first thriller, FINAL GIRLS, became a national and international bestseller and was called “the first great thriller of 2017” by Stephen King. Translation rights have been sold in more than two dozen countries. His second book, THE LAST TIME I LIED, was a New York Times bestseller. His latest novel, LOCK EVERY DOOR, which is currently on my TO READ LIST, was an instant New York Times, Publishers Weekly and USA Today bestseller. A television adaptation is being developed by Paramount TV and Anonymous Content.

A native of Pennsylvania, Riley now lives in Princeton, New Jersey. When he’s not working on his next novel, he enjoys reading, cooking and going to the movies as much as possible. His favorite film is “Rear Window.” Or maybe “Jaws.” But probably, if he’s being honest, “Mary Poppins.”

Check out my YouTube channel and the video review below… and make sure you hit subscribe so you never miss a video.


Disclosure: When you purchase a book using a link on this site, I earn an affiliate commission. All commission earnings go back into funding my books; editing, cover design, marketing, author events, etc.

WHOOMP! WHOOMP! WHOOMP! (4 Chapter Short Story)

Whoomp! Whoomp! Whoomp!

The Day the World Stopped Making Sense

by Nina Soden

Dedicated to Wayne and Tanja Miller

©2019 Nina Soden

Based on the character Lynne Loveless and the fictitious facts of the play BAMGILA written by Wayne Miller the leader of Evil Cheez Productions


I’m sure you’ve heard the story of the tragedy that befell Southern Alabama on the day Bamgila made his way out of the bay. It was over twenty years ago, August 2019, and I still remember it like it was yesterday.

Thousands were killed, more were injured, and hundreds were left homeless as billions were reported in property damage. It was a miracle how the community came together, over the five years following the tragedy, and rebuilt the city from the ashes left in Bamgila’s wake.

In order to explain what happened, I first have to tell you how it was that I came to live in Southern Alabama. I wasn’t born there, nor did I choose to make Mobile, Alabama my home; it was forced upon me. The journey had started ten years before Bamgila’s invasion in the summer of 2009. My husband, David, moved me, and our then 4-year-old daughter, Darby, from our home in Northern Washington to the depths of Alabama.

David’s work was transferring him, whether I liked it or not. He had cheated and I had considered letting him go without us, but for Darby’s sake, I decided to give our marriage one more chance. I had hoped that a new start would do us both some good. Besides, I had learned that my best friend from high school, Susan Miller, now Susan Garrison, had moved down to Mobile, Alabama about fifteen years earlier after marrying her husband. I hadn’t seen her in over twenty years, but we still talked from time to time and of course, we kept in touch through social media. Susan was a very successful real estate agent, with her own firm and a wall full of awards. She helped us find a home, my dream home, with a wrap around porch and a backyard pool.

Susan’s husband, Gill, helped get me a job at WCHZ, a local radio station. I quickly made a name for myself at the station and my co-workers became my family. I worked as an anchor, along side Walsh Chandler, one of the world’s most conservative republicans. He made Rush Limbaugh look liberal. Walsh and I never really saw eye to eye, but I suppose our disagreements made for entertaining radio. Deep down, I always knew Walsh had a soft side. That night, in the basement of the station, Walsh showed his true colors. He proudly exited the closet and came out to all of us while declaring his love for his secret lover, Douglas. If only he hadn’t died that night, I think we would have become fast friends.

Working in media, you’re trained to hold your composure. Don’t show fear or emotion, that’s the number one rule. It’s to easy to evoke mass panic if the audience hears fear in your voice or see’s it in your eyes.

It’s hard… It’s hard trying to encourage others and spread hope when you know people all around you are dying, if not already dead.

That night, the world grieved for the loss of thousands, but in that basement, we grieved for the loss of our co-workers—our family.

Until you’re in a situation like the Bamgila Invasion, which is what the history books are now calling it, you can’t possibly understand the pain and suffering that comes with such a loss. The decisions I made, hoping to keep myself and those I loved alive, and the relationships lost in those endless moments of fear will forever haunt me.


The day started like any other Tuesday, except instead of dropping Darby off at school on my way to work she came with me. She was suspended, three days for skipping class. I suppose I can’t blame her; kids tend to lash out when their feeling stress. Darby’s life had been turned upside down, not once but twice. The most recent being the summer before she started ninth grade when her father decided to leave, moving into a flat in the city with his twenty-three-year-old mistress, Bambi.

Bambi had been Darby’s nanny, up until she turned twelve, and had spent many family vacations and backyard BBQs with us over the eight years she worked for us. It turns out her benefits package was better than my own. She walked with a new condo, money in her pocket, and my husband at her side. I got the house, 75% custody of Darby, and no alimony because David lost his job a month before our divorce became finalized.

When I found out Gill was cheating on Susan, with Crystal one of the stations anchors, I lost it. I gave him an ultimatum, tell Susan before their next anniversary or I would. That gave him five and a half months to decide how to do it, but it didn’t take that long. About two months later, Susan had cornered him in the den, demanding to know the truth. In Gill ultimate wisdom, he confessed thinking he had no other choice. It turns out, Susan had no idea about the affair and only wanted to know how he could possibly spend $2500 on golf clubs without talking to her first. I’m only thankful that Susan didn’t have to live with that pain for too long.

The very next day, Bamgila came walking out of the bay. I won’t go into the gory details of how Susan died, I don’t want to relive those memories. Over twenty years later and her death is still just as painful today as it was then. In fact, I’m tearing up just thinking about her now. If you had known Susan; her passion for life, her extraordinary lust for excitement, and her never ending love of friends and family, you’d understand the gaping hole her death left in all of us.


Darby and I made it into the station about seven o’clock, in the middle of Sunny Storm’s morning weather report. She was a twenty-something, brunet with dreams of one day becoming an actress. The problem she ran into wasn’t a lack of talent, no, it was that no one was looking for fresh talent in L.A. That’s lower Alabama to those of you who haven’t lived in the south, not to be mistaken with Los Angeles, California.

Sunny’s personality was much like her name, sunny. She was eager to learn and although many of the men in the office saw her as a ditz, I knew better. She was a social media wizard. She had over ten thousand followers on Instagram and double that on Twitter. I’m not sure why they were so fascinated by pictures of what she ate for breakfast, lunch, and dinner which she posted on a daily basis. However, I will admit I often found myself getting lost in her ramblings whenever she posted videos.

Gill was always the first one in and the last one to leave at the end of the day. He greeted Darby and I moments after we walked in. I could tell something was wrong, but with Gill you never know if it’s a stubbed toe or a plane crash, everything is over the top with him. Either way, I had my own drama going on, trying to deal with Darby and her recent acts of defiance. By the time I got Darby out of the lobby and settled into a quiet place to nap before hitting the books, Gill was half way into his story about how Susan had pulled the truth out of him. I wont lie, I was glad she finally knew. I hated lying to her.

By the time Gill was done ranting, I had barely finished my first cup of coffee. Kenny Kramer, the WCHZ office intern, came bumbling into the lobby in a very Cosmo Kramar way. If you’ve ever seen Seinfeld, the early 1990’s sitcom, then you know what I mean. The irony that his mother named him after Michael Richard’s character Kramer is not lost on anyone who meets him.

Kenny proceeded to bombarded Gill and I in the lobby, going on and on about something he found amazing and world altering. It wasn’t until Gill turned on the television and the image of Bamgila filled the screen that I realized Kenny had no idea how right he really was. Now, don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t excited about Bamgila’s existence, not like Kenny was. No, I was terrified, much like the rest of the world.

In a matter of hours, less than twenty-four, Bamgila had appeared as if out of nowhere. He walked out of waters of Mobile Bay defying all laws of physics and whether maliciously or not, wreaked havoc across the state. Fire exploded from his mouth, vehicles and buildings were crushed under the weight of his mass, and lives… so many lives were sacrificed to his will. The whole city fell under his shadow. We were all at his mercy, but Bamgila showed no mercy.


Skip Starke was the sports anchor back then. No one really took him to seriously, though. He presented himself like a has been football player who thought he should have been more. To be truthful, the only reason I even remember his name was because he had professed his feelings for me only thirty minutes before Bamgila took his life. He didn’t go without a fight though.

Charging toward the fire breathing monster, Skip managed to put two bullets right between the monster’s eyes. It didn’t make a difference, they barely penetrated the skin, but that isn’t what mattered. What mattered was that he had done it, bravely and selflessly, in an effort to save us all.

The weather girl, Sunny Storm, or rather Ethel Eugenia Furbish as we learned that night, was never found after the attack. Members of the National guard were sifting through bodies for months, identifying those they could and contacting family members if any were still living. Sunny’s body never turned up. There have been reports, over the years, that she had run out of the building, heading west, and never looked back. Some even say she kept running until she reached the Pacific Ocean. Considering she only owned four-inch heels, I find it hard to believe she could have run that far. I’m sure she called an uber as soon as she was out of the state, but you never know. Secretly, I hope she did make it all the way to California. I hope she changed her name, again, and took up acting out on the golden coast.

Crystal and Gill ended up throwing a huge party a few months after the event. They called it a funeral, to honor Susan’s memory, but it was a party. The only thing Susan would have liked about the party was all the alcohol. Everyone was drinking in her honor and somehow it felt like she was there too. I couldn’t stomach it, I still missed her too much. Life just wasn’t the same without my friend. I ended up leaving thirty minutes in, just after Crystal announced she was pregnant… with twins. Somehow that didn’t stop her from taking shot after shot of Gill’s expensive tequila thought.

Kenny, the WCHZ intern, who Walsh had hired must to my chagrin ended up being my hero. When Darby and I attempted to get away from Bamgila, I lost hold of her hand. She slipped right out of my fingers. I searched through the rubble for what felt like days trying to find her. Then, after hours of interrogation by General Stone of the U.S. Army, Kenny brought her back to me. I will forever be grateful to him.  In the twenty years since the incident, Kenny has continued with WCHZ, moving his way up the ranks until just five years ago, I heard he had been promoted to General Manager in charge of all programing. He has turned into a fine man and has done the station, and all of us old-timers, proud.

The high school my daughter attended, like most of the city, was demolished. She ended up completing the year, and her next three, through a virtual academy out of Texas. She graduated with honors and moved back to Washington to attend university. She came down every few months to visit, but once she got married, I decided it was time to pack up and move back up north too. I let go of my wrap around porch and backyard pool, in exchange for living just down the street from my two beautiful grandchildren; Sydney and Ethan. I wouldn’t give that up for all the world.

Whoomp! Whoomp! Whoomp! ©2019 Nina Soden


woman reading book

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com


• Cover Design – YES, people do judge books by their covers! The cover is your books first impression, if people don’t like it they aren’t going to pick it up to read the back blurb (2nd impression).

• Detailed Editing – The more editing the better! Readers will give your book on average 1-3 chapters to impress them, often less.

• Strong Story – Some editing issues can be forgiven as long as your story is strong.

• Marketing – You should start marketing your book at least 6 months prior to the actual book release date.

I want to know your thoughts too!!! Comment below and share your suggestions for ensuring a successful book launch and consistent sales after your book has been published!


fashion woman girl women

Photo by Negative Space on Pexels.com


• A strong opening – Right from the start of your story the setting should set the mood and tone for your readers.

• Balance – You need to have a balance between SHOWING through strong, but not overwhelming, descriptions and TELLING through script-worthy dialogue

• Diverse, well-developed characters – Keep in mind that not everyone is beautiful, people have scars (emotional and physical). Your characters should all be uniquely themselves, with their own back-stories, personalities, etc.

• Conflict and Resolution – Every good story needs conflict, it’s what allows the characters to develop, adapt, and change, throughout the story.

• A satisfying conclusion – This doesn’t mean a Hollywood “happy” ending, it just means that all the plot holes have been filled in and questions have been answered… that is unless you’re leaving your readers with a cliffhanger! I have to admit, I love a good cliffhanger. 

What else do you feel are key ingredients for a strong story? Share your thoughts and comments below!