Sunday, December 11, 2011

REVIEW | Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

I decided to branch out and try a YA novel for a change in my reading pattern.

In Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson peels away the layers of a broken heart and traces its step-by-step journey to find emotional healing. Anderson chose to work within a first-person narrative. The prose is blunt and contains minimal window dressing. Anderson made a wise choice: when someone endures the type of mental and emotional turmoil the main character endures, she wouldn't feel motivated to go into detail. In fact, narrative is external (words) and mimics the main character's struggle to gather the courage to vocalize the hurt and rage that boil within.

Anderson digs deep to expose complexity in the simple. She delves into the psychology of the victim. The novel seems to reveal little in its first half, but again, this mimics real life: the main character finds it difficult to trust, so she spends the first half of the book building trust with the character. As you listen to her daily observations on life, she begins to trust the reader a gives a glimpse of her inner pain. In fact, I believe a second read would reveal depths in the first half that seemed insignificant the first time around.

Effective, heartfelt. Speak is a winner.

Today's playlist: Icon (The Cranberries), My Christmas Wish (BeBe Winans).

Monday, October 10, 2011

REVIEW | In Sheep's Clothing by Michelle Sutton

Michelle Sutton's In Sheep's Clothing was a delight to read. I loved it. The novel begins with a nice balance of humor, which made me want to sit back and join the characters. Sutton layers her characters well. By the novel's halfway point, through a blend of romance and suspense, she had drawn me into such a well-crafted web that I found myself racing through the pages. I tend to read slowly to absorb everything, but I flew through this book in about five hours.

The novel centers around Stephanie and Jacob in the early stages of their relationship, and a deceptive friend, Brittny, who seeks to gain the upper hand. It's a story of deception and trust. As the story progresses, Stephanie must sort through each. Too often, I find such novels predictable. The author must have had a reader like me in mind as she crafted the book. Perhaps the strongest quality of In Sheep's Clothing is in how the author plants seeds of deception. Sutton does an excellent job of planting coincidental seeds early in the book to keep the reader guessing between truth and misinterpretation. In so doing, she draws the reader into the same confusion and search for facts in which Stephanie finds herself. If I had to find a weakness, I would have desired a little more perspective on Brittny's psyche, but the author even covered that base to some extent with the featured presentation on the "movie night." The book's earlier half seems stronger than its latter half, but Sutton provides a roller-coaster finish.

Just like Stephanie and Jacob's relationship, the book begins with innocent effervescence and morphs into a web of suspicion. Sutton also weaves in another interesting parallel: The circumstances in which Stephanie "meets" Jacob are similar to how Stephanie's nemesis "meets" Stephanie, yet their motives are completely opposite.

And, in true Sutton style, she doesn't shy away from the passion of romance.

Bold, fresh and addictive. Although classified as Christian fiction, it's a heated love story and creepy thriller. Michelle Sutton has crafted a winner with In Sheep's Clothing.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

NEWS | Book Signing - Sept 24

This Saturday, September 24, I'll be signing copies of From The Dead at the Barnes and Noble store in Springfield, Illnois, from 10:00 to Noon. It's a store event highlighting several regional authors. I'm looking forward to it. If you're in the area, come on by!

Never give up!

John Herrick

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Latest Update - Next Novel

Momentum has begun to build for the next novel now that the foundation is in place. Just passed 20% of the goal length for the draft.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

South Bend Thanks

Had a great From The Dead book signing in South Bend, Indiana, yesterday. Always love to meet new readers at these signings. Thanks to South Bend, Barnes and Noble, and all who came.

Visitors included two people named Ashley and Craig. I later met Ashley's mother, who thought she'd be forgotten, so a special shout-out to Ashley's mom. :)

Friday, August 12, 2011

NEWS | From The Dead Reaches Bestseller Status

Well, it's official. Amazon included From The Dead in a promotional effort. The novel hit some of Amazon's Kindle bestseller lists, #1 on the Religious Fiction list and also #1 on the Suspense list. What this means is that the novel has become a bestseller. What an amazing privilege. Thanks to all who have read and supported the book.

Never give up!

John Herrick

Sunday, August 7, 2011

NEWS | Book Signing - South Bend

If you're in the South Bend, Indiana area, I'll be in town signing copies of From the Dead on Saturday, August 13, at Noon. Swing by Barnes & Noble - University Park Mall location and say hi! Looking forward to it.

Never give up!

John Herrick

Thursday, July 21, 2011

NEWS | Chapter 2 Complete

Well, I've started the first draft of the next novel and am happy to report I'm finished with chapter 2. One interesting aspect of starting a new book is that you and the characters are strangers at first, much like the characters are strangers to a reader who starts to read a new book. As a result, my pace seems to start slow when the process begins. Besides the lack of action during the introductory scenes, it feels awkward getting to know who the characters are, how they speak and respond to each other, and their mannerisms. At that point, plowing through two or three pages can take a while. Soon, however, everything seems to fall into place and the per-day pace can triple or quadruple.

On another front, I've returned to my first (unpublished) novel and decided to put it through yet another revision during my lunch each day. After completing two books, you tend to grow as a writer and recognize how much polish that first book requires!

I plan to keep everyone updated on the progress for this third book.

Never give up!

John Herrick

Today's playlist: Let's Get It On, Marvin Gaye (No, that's not a joke.)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Musical Friends

Years ago, I remember having read about screenwriter/director Cameron Crowe, who keeps a journal of the music he listens to while writing a screenplay. In other words, he assembles a "mix tape"--to borrow some Gen-X lingo--of the songs he listened to while working on the project. He documents the sounds that influenced his mental and emotional state while writing.

I've long believed the same thing. When I write a novel, I'll discover a particular song or album resonates in my heart and provides emotional inspiration that will help fuel the story or characters. The novel is not modeled after the songs. The lyrics don't influence the story. In fact, the lyrics often tell of a completely different story. But a lyrical phrase or bits of instrumentation will emerge as something to which the characters can relate--how they want others to treat them, or the emotions that drive them to act the way they do.

For From The Dead, Casting Crowns' album Lifesong , Bruce Hornsby's Greatest Radio Hits, and REM's Out of Time and Automatic for the People all emerged as as musical friends to the story for one reason or another. While none of the novel's content was derived from the songs, the songs themselves helped keep me in the emotional state necessary to see the novel through to completion.

Having completed the outline for the next novel--and by outline, I really mean a detailed, 50-page sketch!--I've noticed the main character would relate to Rascal Flatts' Greatest Hits Volume 1 album. It's one CD she would play over and over in her car.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

NEWS | Next Novel Update

At long last, the outline for the third novel is finally done! A little more research, then I hope to begin the first draft later this month or early next.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Final Day - Disaster Relief Special

Friday, June 10 is the final day to take advantage of the 99-cent Kindle book version of From The Dead and have all author earnings go toward Service International's disaster relief efforts. If you're interested, it's a great opportunity and a great cause. Thanks to those who have responded!

Amazon page:

All best,

John Herrick

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

My New Listen

After years of waiting and well worth the wait, I got to download Joy Wilson's new album Four from iTunes. A terrific musician, she won me over as a fan with her last album, the meantime--to such an extent, I wanted to give her a cameo in one of my books. So if Joy's name sounds familiar, you might have "seen" her in chapter 8 of From The Dead. On their way to Santa Monica, Jesse and Jada popped her CD into the car stereo on the 405. :-)

Joy's website

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Disaster Relief - From The Dead Proceeds

I wanted to let you know that from now until June 10, I will donate 100% of my From The Dead author earnings from Kindle sales toward disaster relief. Currently my novel is priced at 99 cents for maximum convenience. No special coupon codes are required; Amazon provides authors with a tool to monitor Kindle sales, so I can easily locate the total.

As a St. Louis resident, my state and others across the nation have experienced an onslaught of disaster, including floods and tornados. As I write this message, news footage of the Joplin, Missouri, tornado is mind-boggling and the deadliest U.S. tornado in more than 50 years.

For years, part of my attraction to writing books was the hope that I could encourage people and help charity projects. This is my first real opportunity to put it into action. I will donate my Kindle earnings to Service International, a St. Louis-based relief organization. I have participated in Service International projects in the past, have seen its impact firsthand, and believe in it firmly.

From The Dead Kindle link:

Service International link:

Thank you for your consideration, and enjoy the book!

All best,

John Herrick

Monday, May 2, 2011


Are you an individual who doesn’t fit in with the majority? Did you grow up on the sidelines, an outsider looking in on cliques and groups? Or did you just have a nagging sense that you didn’t fit in?

Perhaps you do things in a way others don’t understand. We seem to celebrate outside-the-box solutions—but not way out there!

If no one’s ever told you this, then I have some good news for you …

You weren’t born to fit in. You don’t want to fit in. You were created unique.

I’ve heard it said that every story has already been told. What makes a story fresh and new is the unique blend—characters, plot details, background and so forth—the author introduces to an old story.

Pick any well-written story and you will discover the main character has a trait that makes him or her unique. Whether a physical trait, an emotional struggle, or an unusual background or life experience, something will set the character apart from others you’ve grown accustomed to.

This is what intrigues us about the character. We look for different. We actually seek it out.

In other words, if the main character doesn’t stand apart from characters in other novels, we tend to gravitate away from the book. Why? Frankly, typical is boring.

We love to cheer for the underdogs. This seems amplified among Americans due to our historical heritage.

We love to see someone break away from the pack or overcome an obstacle.

And such is the case in life.

If you don’t fit in, keep it that way. Maintain your God-given uniqueness. Foster the qualities that cause you to stand out from the crowd.

That’s the type of person about whom stories are written.

Never give up!

Today’s playlist: Gin Blossoms, Major Lodge Victory

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

NEWS | Kansas City Book Signing

If you're in the Kansas City area, I'll be stopping by for a From The Dead book signing this Saturday, April 2, at Noon. I'll be signing copies of the novel at the Barnes and Noble - Country Club Plaza location. See you there! For more info, visit

The following week, I'll stop by Columbia, Missouri. Details to come.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Film Reco - Breadth of Hope

A friend told me about Breadth of Hope, a documentary about ALS, so I ordered it. Just finished watching the film and it's terrific. Inspiring and life-affirming.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Signed Copies Available

A number of people have asked about this, so here you go! I have a limited quantity of From The Dead available to autograph and personalize to you or someone else. Details on my website:

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

INSPIRATION | Reviving Dead Dreams

Did you bury a dream years ago?

Maybe it was a childhood dream or an idea for a new invention. Deep inside, you sensed it wasn’t a mere silly fantasy. Something told you your dream was within reach.

But somewhere along the way, your dream died. As each year creeps along, a piece of you grows dry, like you thirst for water but don’t know how to quench your thirst.

From time to time, maybe that dream has resurfaced in your heart—a dim, subtle glow that emanates from your core. But the ember fades again.

At some point, you might have said, “That dream is dead to me.”

I’ve been there. It can feel as if a part of you dies on the inside. Yet the concept seems too abstract to take action. If you’re in that sort of rut, you probably don’t know what to do.

The answer might be rather simple: Do something. Start somewhere.

Oftentimes, the plan will come together—but we need to take that first step of faith. We don’t know what comes next. Then again, maybe we don’t need to know what comes next.

Don’t feel like it? The good news is, feelings don’t count—they really don’t!

So do you have a dead dream? What can you do today that will get you one step toward your dream? It might be a simple step, but it counts. Each step adds up. One step can turn into 1,000 steps if we stick with it long enough.

If you’ve shared your dream and some people don’t understand, there’s a reason: God didn’t give the dream to them. He gave it to you. It burns in your heart, not theirs.

Do you have a dream to write? Write a poem. Try keeping a journal. Brainstorm some story or song ideas on a napkin.

Do you have a business startup idea? Start some research. Grab a book from the library and learn more about the market. Chances are, a niche will surface eventually.

In other words, prime the pump. In a short while, you’ll find yourself more fired up. I’ve found it to work. And even today, I return to the same principles. I needed the reminder today!

You’re not alone. You’re not defeated. Hang in there and revive a dead dream!

Today’s playlist: Bruce Springsteen, Greatest Hits

Thursday, February 17, 2011 - MAKE A WISH Boy's Wish to become Published Author Comes True!

I love this. Make-A-Wish Foundation fulfills a wish in honor of a young author from Hudson, Ohio, the town where From The Dead takes place. - MAKE A WISH Boy's Wish to become Published Author Comes True!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Thursday, January 20, 2011

NEWS | Next Novel Update

When planning my novels, I tend to prime the pump with brainstorms, outline attempts, and so forth. It starts out with my feeling like I'm at a standstill. But in time, something unlocks and pieces of the puzzle come forth. It's a long process, but I've learned it's worth the wait because the resulting novel tends to be written from the heart, driven by a passionate hunger.

I'm thrilled to report that, at long last and to my relief, the unlocking seems to have occurred! So the next novel continues to build. My goal for 2011 is to construct an outline, conduct research, write the first draft, and complete the first revision by December 31. If all goes well, the final manuscript should be ready by spring of next year--about 14 months away.

Thanks for everyone's support!

John Herrick

Tonight's playlist: New Beginning by Tracy Chapman

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

From the TBR Pile: From the Dead

From the TBR Pile: From the Dead: "It was an engrossing tale that drew me in from ..."

Thursday, January 6, 2011

WRITING TIP | Flame or Fire?

Should a character yell or roar? Consider or muse? Ask or plead?

As you read a novel, have you noticed one word can change the entire tone of a sentence?

Word precision has proven one of my most valuable tools as a writer. After all, a story is a collection of words which set the tone for the reader’s experience. The words an author uses hint at where readers should set their expectations. The right word can transform a sentence into an art form.

If you think about it, word selection reflects how we live our lives. How many times have we chosen a word in conversation to avoid offending someone? For that matter, how many conversations have turned ugly because we picked a word we later regretted?

I must credit my brother for introducing me to word selection. I spent years as a songwriter by hobby. As a teenager, I’d written a love song and used the word “fire” in one of its verses. My brother read the lyrics and pointed out, “Actually, if you’re writing a love song, you probably want to use ‘flame’ instead. ‘Fire’ sounds aggressive, but ‘flame’ sounds more romantic.”

My brother thought he’d pointed out a detail. But his observation revolutionized my world as a writer. Never again did I view words—or their effect—in the same light. I’ve incorporated this concept into every project since.

What’s the context of the chapter? Does it highlight the main character’s first kiss? Or does it follow the character as he escapes a crazed murderer?

This can apply to individual letters as well. On a comical note, I put this to the test in college. When writing a term paper for a political science class, I tried using alliteration—a string of words that begin with the same letter—to try to make the reading experience more pleasant for the instructor. If I recall correctly, I struck together several “s” words to make the sentence soft and pleasant, and several “t” words to make the corners of her mouth turn up in a smile. (“Why do I enjoy reading this paper so much?” :-) Did the word selection help? No idea. I did receive an A on the paper!

In all sincerity, though, I gave similar consideration to the words in my novel From The Dead.

In chapter 19 of From The Dead, the scene of Jesse’s suicide attempt, I opted for words that contain harsh consonants or invoke harsh imagery: ink blackness, agony, blade, agitate, writhe, streak.

But in chapter 47, a gentle love scene lent itself to softer words and romantic imagery: aural glow, nuances, embrace, palm, balmy, swathe, gasp for breath.

Try to find some interesting word choices in books you've enjoyed over the years.

Never give up!

John Herrick