Posts Tagged ‘starbuck’s card’

A fiction writer’s resolutions….


Pen with flowers


You know….I’ve got a lot of things to work on. I could make resolutions that number into the thousands. As a writer, it’s important for me to take a break from my never ending deadlines and focus on how to improve myself in the coming year.  So here it comes…Mentink’s top three writing resolutions for 2015.

1. Stop writing. What are some ways to ruin your health? Sit for hours at a stretch, drink too much coffee, and stare at a computer screen until your eyes go fuzzy. Uh oh. Big trouble here because sitting, coffee and computers are necessary ingredients in the production of three novels a year (my personal goal.) So what’s a sedentary fiction writer to do? I’m going to dust off my pedometer and try to get those 10,000 steps per day in. Besides, taking a walk might just help me break through that next fictional stumbling block!

2. Read outside my genre. I love mystery and suspense, I really do. I can read dozens of these types of books without missing  a beat, but as any great writer will tell you, reading EVERY kind of quality writing improves your own work. I can learn a lot about pacing from reading thrillers, characterization from romance novels, dialogue from literary fiction. Bring on the books!

3. Give back. This profession has been very good to me. I’ve met amazing people, traveled to places I never would have imagined, made good friends in person and online. It’s part of my job as a working writer to give some back to this wacky writing world, hence, I’m going to be a judge for the Romance Writer’s of America RITA contest. It’s a small way to reinvest some time in an industry that’s given me so much. Time to encourage some other writers!

Got any resolutions for this year? Would you like to share? Giving away a Starbuck’s card and signed book in January.


Top three writing obstacles.




Ah the perks of the writing biz are great, to be sure, but let’s not sugarcoat it. There are some serious obstacles to making a go of it in this strange business. Here are a few I’ve faced personally.

1. You need an agent to get published… and an agent is looking for published writers.

Uh oh. Most publishing houses will not accept unagented submissions and most agents prefer a client with some publishing credits under their belt. That’s an obstacle, now isn’t it? How does one get around that? I published a three book series with Barbour before I was acquired by my agent. There are still a few houses (like Barbour and Harlequin) who will take unagented work, so you can try to build your career that way which will make you more attractive to an agent. You can also build your writing credits by contributing to magazines, ezines, blogs, etc. and even self publishing if you’re enormously committed to marketing that ebook. Every publishing credit can only make you more attractive to an agent.

2. Hours in….money out. It’s a time consuming business to write a book. The fastest I’ve ever managed is three months. As my agent says, “A good book is better than a fast book.” That said, the time investment is huge on a book that may never see the shelf. So what’s the remedy for that? There isn’t one, really, except to stagger your work and make sure there are several income producing projects afoot at one time. Also, books can be self pubbed, of course, but the quality needs to be just as amazing as it would be in a traditionally published novel.

3.  The “write what sells” vs. “what I want to write” dilemma. I know folks who absolutely love what they write and it sells like hotcakes. Me? Not so much. I tend to write “quirky” I’m afraid, and that doesn’t always translate into mainstream sales. Obviously, my publisher and I both want my books to fly off the shelves, but I can’t justify writing about topics just because they are popular. So what’s the answer? Somehow, I need to find that balance. I need to hear from my publisher what they feel is going to appeal to their readers (and they have a keen sense of this) and I must write my own story that balances both what the readers want with what I am comfortable writing. Best case is we hit upon a winner that makes us all happy.

What obstacles do you have in your work or daily life? How do you overcome them? Giving away a Starbuck’s gift card, a signed book and a fall treat this month.


Reviews…good, bad and excruciating!

imageAh reviews. We authors live and die by them. A five star review on Amazon? Woo hoo! That link is going to be posted everywhere in my cyber world. A measly THREE stars from Romantic Times? Grrrr. That’s not even going to make my web page. Glowing reviews or horrible ones, the truth is usually somewhere in the middle. While I’d love to believe that I am the amazing author I imagine myself to be, in reality I’m just a hard working gal who’s trying to get a bit better with each book. The same is true of the horrifying reviews (“Mentink should never be allowed within spitting distance of a keyboard again!”) If the review is a personal attack, I’m going to discount the vitriol, but generally there’s a kernel of something in there which is the truth. Characters a little flat? Ouch, but I’m going to remember that when I dive into my next novel and try to improve. I’m not going to tell you it doesn’t hurt. I can read ten five star reviews, but the one that’s going to stick with me is the one suggesting that my dog could have penned a better novel. Reviews come with the territory and nine times out of ten there’s something to be learned from them (even the bad ones!) Below I’ve posted links to two of my reviews (one good and one not so good) so you can see what I mean. The second is from a reviewer who felt that I focused too much on plot to the detriment of the romance. It hurt to hear it, but it made me want to improve in that area.

Do you recieve criticism in your work or personal life? How do you handle it? Giving away a Dana Mentink and Alison Stone book this month and a Starbuck’s gift card. Appreciate your comments!






Show me the money…a writer’s expenses .

moneyIt’s cheap to write books, it really is. All you need is a keyboard or a notepad and pen. Selling them, on the other hand, is the pricey part. I am fortunate to write for Harlequin who does an incredible job marketing my books. Still, I need to do my share to help in that endeavor, so here are a few things I feel are worth the money.

1.  A professional author photo. Yes, you need one. That selfie you took in Disneyland is not going to send the message that you are a serious author.  Trust me.

2. A website and someone to design it. Yes, there are people so amazingly talented that they can design a professional website without paying someone else to do it. I am not one of those people. My website guru designed my site and updates it for me. If I have any more children, I am going to name them after him. This will be awkward for baby Jason, if she is a girl. but that can’t be helped.

3. Conferences. Yes, they can cost thousands included travel expenses. Yes, they are worth the money for the learning and more importantly, the networking. Be sure to pick a well respected conference that’s been around awhile.

4. Memberships. I belong to Romance Writer’s of America and American Christian Fiction Writers. I get neato magazines and internet access to all kinds of people and information. Well worth the money.

5. Giveaways. The jury is out on how cost effective these are, because mailing fees are a killer, but I like to send out books and goodies to people. I really am incredibly honored that folks read what I write, so sponsoring giveaways on blogs, Goodreads and my own FB and blog makes me happy. And there’s no price on happy, is there?

Outside of basic living expenses, what is something you spend a significant amount on? Do you recoup the value in dollars or in some other way?

I need a fictional vacation! How about you?

Imagine you’ve won an all expenses paid vacation! Woo hoo! The only catch is, your destination must be a fictional place from a book. Passionate readers have encountered all manner of fictional settings that come alive in the pages. Would you enjoy hanging out with the Prince and Princesses of Narnia? Maybe Miss Marple’s small English village might be the spot for you? Or would the harsh world of the Hunger Games novels be more up your alley? There’s always Hogwarts School for those academics in the crowd. Here are my top two fictional vacation destinations.

1.Oz. I know there are naughty witches but really, who wouldn’t want to visit a place where there are Doodlebug professors and talking chickens? (You can tell I’ve read all the Baum novels, can’t you?)

2. Moose County. Those Lillian Jackson Braun novels (The Cat Who…) really made me long for the quiet country life, 400 miles north of everywhere, a place where everybody knows everybody and people live in converted apple barns.

So where would you go on your literary fictional vacation and why? Do share! Giving away a Starbuck’s card this month. Dog with suitcases

And the August winner is….

Jane S. ! Congrats, Jane. Hope you enjoy the Starbuck’s card! prize

Killing adverbs and adjectives? A painful writing tip!

Ah those lovely adjectives and adverbs. I adore them, don’t you? Unfortunately, overusing the little darlings produces weak writing. Oh, I know. It pains me, too. Why wouldn’t we want to pepper our work with those lovely adjectives and adverbs that help our readers see exactly what we want them to? Problem is, they help a little too much. Excessive use of adjectives and adverbs slows down the story and, dare I say, bores the stuffing out of the reader. Consider the sentence below.

The tiny brown mouse with white whiskers and pink feet crawled slowly to the trap and hurriedly took the yellow cheese before he ran away.

Okay. I’m getting a picture of this mouse and the scenario, but it’s somewhat unnecessary. Most folks know what a mouse looks like and they will fill in their own mental picture. They don’t need a bunch of adjectives. What is required is strong verbs that stand alone without the aid of adverbs. Instead of took and ran, let’s try something stronger. How about snatched and skittered?

The wee mouse snatched the cheese and skittered away.

Can you visualize the scene? Did we convey the same mind movie in a more streamlined, elegant way that didn’t bore you? And we did it all with only one adjective and nary an adverb. In the words of Mark Twain, “If you see an adverb, kill it!” Thoughts? All comments get you entered in next week’s drawing for a Starbuck’s card. blog motivational

Ignoring school writing lesson #2…the truth about spelling!

The deeper I get into professional writing, the more I realize I’m busily “unlearning” rules from my school days. The second rule I heard growing up was that you should spell things correctly when you’re writing. Nope. Calm down, teachers. Hear me out! You absolutely have to spell things correctly when you’re editing and revising and that final copy had better have some impeccable spelling and grammar sprinkled throughout, but the time for that is not when the words are flying fast and furious and the writer is in the middle of a creative explosion. As a matter of fact, concentrating on perfect spelling while you’re drafting stymies the creative flow and slows down the process. I tell my third graders to do the same thing I do. Write like crazy! Don’t worry about that spelling. Circle the word if you think you’ve botched it and MOVE ON! We’ll get to that next step of perfecting the spelling later. To this day, I cannot seem to spell the word rhthm? rythm? Rithim? Oy! It defeats me, but I don’t let it stop me. I soldier on and make sure that the final product is going to be spelled correctly (once I have the rhythm down!)☺

What kind of spelling instruction did you have in school? Did you like it? Benefit from it? Do cover

From Jules Verne to World War Z, those zombies are everywhere!

This summer, the movie “World War Z” explodes onto the big screen. A zombie apocalypse threatens, in this adaptation of the best-selling book by Max Brooks. At the surface, it’s your basic apocalyptic scenario, a threat of global proportions, the ineptitude or perhaps corruption of the political system and the commentary on the human condition. Oh yes. And there’s Brad Pitt. It comes on the heels of a plethora of “the earth is in big trouble” movies. Have you noticed the prevalence? After Earth, Ender’s Game, Oblivion. I was surprised to stumble upon a much older offering in the bookstore, which is being billed as the original zombie book, The Castle in Transylvania by Jules Verne.

I was surprised. I had thought all this zombie end-of-the-world focus was the product of a modern pessimism, but Verne proves me wrong. Still I wonder about the fascination. We just love our end of the world movies, it seems. What do you think is the appeal? Is it the overall planetary pessimism? Or does it speak to a deeper fear that we humans need to express cinematically? What do you think, cyber friends?Dana Mentink 3 sm

Books make the best movies…or not!

Ah summer at the movies! Have you attended any great cinematic extravaganzas? It’s always interesting to see how many of the silver screen offerings were first born on the pages of a book. It’s also interesting to hear people’s reactions to the print vs. screen products. I recently attended Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters with two fifteen year old specimens. I thought it was quick moving, some nice humor included and certainly a great message (the hero was the humble, self sacrificing one who valued his friends more than his fame.) Satisfied, I trickled on out of the theater, only to hear my teen passengers rip the movie apart. Why? Because they are Percy fans who have followed him from book to book and they could relate in chapter and verse a litany of places where the movie did not stay true to the book. Yet, in the same outing, we saw previews for Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, which is a complete invention, only peripherally related to the original kid’s picture book. This, they are eagerly looking forward to. Interesting!

So what do you think about the books to movies that you’ve seen? Do you have any that impressed you? Any that disappointed? Posts get you entered in the August drawing for a Starbuckmovie‘s card.