J Keller Ford: Five reasons why I live and breathe YA Fiction

Today I have a fellow Sisterhood of the Traveling Pens member, J Keller Ford, aka Jenny, guest posting. She is also a fellow J Taylor Publishing author. The similarities don’t end there, but I’ll let her tell you more about herself and why she’s a YA fiction fiend! Take it away, Jenny!


I am 53-years old and I love writing and reading YA books.

When I was young, I was never allowed to be a “teen”.  I grew up in a military household.  You didn’t argue.  You didn’t talk back.  You did as you were told or there was hell to pay.  Don’t get me wrong.  That sort of lifestyle forced me to be a better person, to understand right from wrong.  To value my parents and their wisdom.  However, I lost a little bit of me in all that strictness because I wasn’t allowed to be ‘me’.

Young military brat gives thumbs up while wear...

Young military brat gives thumbs up while wearing pilots helmet at base special event (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When my dad died (I was almost 12 years old), my mom took over both mom and dad roles.  Needless to say, I had strict curfews, and because I was a girl, I was not allowed to do a lot of things most teens do because it might put me in a “compromising situation”.  In short, I was never allowed to be a teen ‘coming of age.”  I was never allowed to stumble, make mistakes or do things that weren’t considered ‘wise’.  Trust me when I say there were plenty of arguments between my mom and me, yelling matches over how she was stifling my youth, and at the age of 18, I high-tailed it out of my mom’s house and I never looked back.

The first novel I wrote was a contemporary fictional piece about a young woman who befriended Elvis Presley before he climbed the ladder of fame and fortune, secretly fell in love with him, and watched him rise to greatness before watching him fall to his untimely death, her secret locked deep inside.  While I loved the story, the book didn’t encapsulate me, my voice, and I truly believed the story fell flat in many ways. (Claire’s rude interruption:  I would totally love to read this!)

I remember avoiding writing YA, even though the genre screamed at me.  Instead, I wrote a bunch of literary short stories, tried my hand at a few adult novellas (writing erotica and/or porn brought out the worst in me, but that’s a whole other chapter in my life we won’t discuss), and then I gave up writing all together because life sometimes has a way of interfering like that.

When I returned to my writing, I followed my passion:  fantasy mixed with YA.  The two together resonate deep within me.  I embarked on a quite ambitious project, a trilogy that I am still working on despite my multiple attempts to let it go.  It calls to me.  It infiltrates my dreams; its characters and story are part of every breath I take.  So what is it about YA fiction that has its hold on me?  Here are 5 reasons why I live and breathe YA fiction:

  1. I wish I could redo my teen years.  I would live them fully, make lots of mistakes, love openly and deal with the consequences later.  By writing YA, I am allowed to relive my youth vicariously through my characters.
  2.  YA is so broad in scope as a genre.  My ‘thing’ this time around may be fantasy, but who’s to say I can’t write YA contemporary, dystopian, or a romance?  Maybe a touch of all three.  I love the freedom YA provides to me as a writer and a reader.
  3. The audience is vast and devoted.  Young children to adults read Young Adult fiction.  People of all ages ‘get’ what YA is all about.  They yearn for adventure, and they are incredibly devoted to their favorite authors.
  4. The characters are sympathetic.  They’re kids. They’re meant to make mistakes and we, as readers, can forgive them, root for them, stand beside them while they’re trying to figure themselves out. As a reader, we’re right there with them, immersed in their trials and tribulations.  As a writer, we can manipulate their ‘lives’.  We can give them whatever barriers we want them to overcome.  Sometimes, it’s a fear deep within the writer, and through their characters, they can triumph.  YA is cathartic for writers as well as readers.
  5. YA is escapism. While I like reading adult fiction, it doesn’t provide the ‘escape’ I crave when I reach for YA, which is most of the time.  In writing YA, my imagination soars.  I can go anywhere, do anything.  I can literally fly if I want.  Reading YA provides me an escape from being an adult.  I forget worrying about paying bills or finding a job, or dealing with family issues.  I can choose to stop being an adult for a brief moment in time and forget about responsibilities that age places upon us.

When J. Taylor Publishing opened their submission doors for short stories to include in their YA anthology, ONE MORE DAY, my tummy tingled, but there were no ideas jumping out at me as something I wanted to write about.  That is until THE DREAM.  With only a few weeks left to submit, I hammered out Dragon Flight, a contemporary sci-fi/fantasy.  I have to say it is one of my favorite YA pieces. I hope you enjoy it as much as I loved writing it.


Would you like to win a copy of ONE MORE DAY?  Make sure you enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway! (click link to go to Rafflecopter site)

Claire, thank you for letting me take over your blog today.  I had fun.

(Claire’s note:  You are more than welcome! As a military brat myself, I totally related to how your military upbringing shaped your behaviors and views. If the physical outlets are stifled, the imagination is more than willing to fill in the void. We’re so lucky you’re able to share your imagination with us.)


 About J Keller Ford:

JKellerFord-web-300px croppedMy bio:  As a young Army brat, Reader’s Choice award winner J. (Jenny) Keller Ford, traveled the world and wandered the halls of some of Germany’s most extraordinary castles hoping to find the dragons, knights and magic that haunted her imagination. Though she never found them, she continues to keep their legends alive.  Her story, The Amulet of Ormisez, is available as part of the MAKE BELIEVE anthology. Dragon Flight, is slated for publication in December 2013.  When not at her keyboard breathing new life into fantasy worlds, Jenny spends time collecting seashells, bowling, swimming, riding roller coasters and reading.  She works as a paralegal by day and lives on the west coast of Florida with her family, three dogs, and a pretentious orange cat who must have been a dragon in his previous life.

Network with Jenny here:

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Naming Fantasy Characters: Ten Points to Remember by Terri Rochenski

A big welcome to fellow J Taylor Publishing author and Pens sister, Terri Rochenski on her blog tour for her book, Eye of the Soul (Pool of Souls #1)! One of my pet peeves about fantasy fiction is the too-difficult to pronounce names the authors often pick. I asked Terri to give us “Ten points to remember when naming fantasy characters, worlds, places, etc.” and she came through! I’ll let her tell the rest. Take it away, Terri!

eyeofsoulAnother tough tens list!! This blog tour is REALLY picking my brain. I’ll just go ahead and dive in, starting with the most obvious and hope others come to mind. Of course, though, these are things which make sense to ME – they certainly aren’t laws. Here we go …


  1. Make the name easy to pronounce. I think pretty much everyone would agree with me here. Name a MC Xerandothondon and I’ll doubtless not even attempt it. ‘X’ it would be!
  2. Naming more than two characters with the same starting letter tends to confuse me as a reader as well. Twins? Fine. Name them Jim & Johnny, but don’t have Jack, Jethro, and Jacob make an appearance later. They’ll all end up running together in my mind.
  3. I love it when a name carries meaning – whether of their character or the opposite. Name the preacher’s wife or local harlot Grace.
  4. The same goes for a world and its geographical locations. In Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series, there are two mountain ranges cutting the world into three parts and both are aptly named The Boundary.
  5. Overly long names – try to avoid those unless the other characters refer to them with an easier nickname.
  6. Alliteration makes a name memorable. Bilbo Baggins is the first to leap to mind.
  7. For worlds, cities, or villages, I pick up my handy little world map book and look up not-so-well-known-by-me places, choose a unique name then change a letter or two – WITHOUT MAKING IT IMPOSSIBLE TO PRONOUNCE!
  8. Epithets work great too. Gandalf the Grey / Gandalf the White.
  9. Don’t use websites that randomly generates a name for you. They’re dull and have no meaning whatsoever. I’ll admit to using them for inspirational purposes, though. Pretty sure I DID name a tavern after one suggested to me. *shame face*
  10. Lastly, this if fantasy, folks. Please don’t reference people and places from earth. Be creative. That’s the beauty of make believe.


Thanks Terri! Here’s more about her book, Eye of the Soul:

Back of the book blurb:


That should be Hyla’s first thought as her people are chained and imprisoned for no imaginable reason.

Instead, Hyla finds herself traveling through a land void of Natives, with human soldiers pillaging in desperate pursuit of her, and in search of the mystical Pool of Souls—home to the one man who can save her people.

Or so she believes.

Led by her faith in the deity Fadir, Hyla is met along her journey by Jadon—a human male and fierce King’s warrior, and his childhood best friend Conlin—one of the few Natives aware of his Fadir-given Talents.

Protected by Jadon, guided by Conlin, and with an unfailing belief in the purpose of her pilgrimage, Hyla carries on.

Like her, though, another searches for the Pool, and should he gain access first, everyone she loves, and everything she knows, could be lost.


Buy Here:


Terri Rochenski
Terri started writing stories in the 8th grade, when a little gnome whispered in her brain. Gundi’s Great Adventure never hit the best seller list, but it started a long love affair with storytelling.Today she enjoys an escape to Middle Earth during the rare ‘me’ moments her two young daughters allow. When not playing toys, picking them back up, or kissing boo-boos, she can be found sprawled on the couch with a book or pencil in hand, and toothpicks propping her eyelids open.

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